3. Painting Abstracts   (6:15)

music © 1990 by colin nicholls & walter nicholls
lyrics © 1990/2011 by colin nicholls


Chorus in 7/8 time, verses in 4/4. Pulsing guitars, sustaining keyboards, offbeat bassline, jazzy middle section. Walter and I collaborated on the chorus lyrics, which are perhaps a little too busy. Over the years I threw out the mediocre verses and replaced them with new ones that actually told a real story. Much improved.

I am very proud of the jazzy piano in the middle section, it took a lot of practice. Walter could have played something more interesting in just a few takes, I expect, but he wasn't around to do that.

Production Notes


XLN Addictive Drums VSTI, sticks on a Roland SPD-20 pad controller
Tabla (a patch on the Korg TR-Rack)


The Chapman Stick (10-string) holds down the bass line everywhere except for in the bridge, where the Carvin BK5 takes over. Some players might be able to pull off a brisk walking bass line on the Stick, but I'm not one of them.
The Novation PEAK hits some low notes every now and then.


Fender Telecaster (rhythm chords and "spooky" leads);
Gibson L6-S (lead)
Ovation acoustic steel string


Arturia CS-80v VSTi does the "GX-1" style stabby power chords
Arturia Mini-V VSTi does the lead synth
Roland VK8 produces the Hammond Organ
PianoTeq 4 VSTi does the Piano

Early Stages

Since 1988 we've been recording our jam sessions on tape cassette. In 1999 I digitized the archives for reference. Any moments of magic relevant to this track, I've extracted and present here.

The first relic features a Roland Jupiter 6 and Korg Polysix. I don't own the Jupiter anymore (stupid, stupid...) but I think Walter has the Polysix in working order still. The second relic demonstrates the power of the Korg M1 sequencer, if not the talents of the guitar player... for dedicated fans only, I'm afraid. The chord sequence of the middle section is the same, yet completely different.

Coming up with the riffs in 1989:

Taking Shape (1989):


Across the room I saw your face
You caught my eye with a hesitant smile
I took you home, showed you the place
I remember your words, you said:

I'm painting abstracts, on location
faking a picture and signing my name
Painting Abstracts, no salvation
from the painful pictures that collect in my brain
Painting Abstracts, my creation
is the one way I know, and it's never the same
Painting Abstracts, one solution
is disolving the memories, and forgetting the shame

Under your sleeve I saw the scars
You told the truth and not the usual lie
a secret wrapped inside the past
a line was drawn, I turned and looked away...


Across the years, I lost a friend
Not suicide, but a stupid disease
I should have seen you at the end
Regret is a stone, in my head

We're painting abstracts, on location
ignoring reality and enduring the pain
Painting Abstracts, on probation
but we're robbing the bank to keep playing the game
Painting Abstracts, our protection
is the color's so vivid we don't have to explain
Painting Abstracts, on location
we're taking a remedy, that is keeping us sane.