It’s been more than four years since Ted Leo released his solo album The Hanged Man, and in a new update today he says not to expect another one anytime soon, though he does have ideas. “I’m a bit adrift with no real time or goals or visible future for my life/career as an artist, so it’s largely remained in the ‘continuously adding notes’ phase for a while,” Leo writes. “Some good notes! Lotta stuff to draw on! But I haven’t done much writing with it all, until I got the assignment I needed from Spencer Ackerman.”
Ackerman, a national security reporter, recently published a book called Reign Of Terror: How The 9/11 Era Destabilized America And Produced Trump. Leo volunteered to narrate the audio version of the book, an offer Ackerman declined because he wanted to do it himself. He did, however, request that Leo write and record a song to go along with the book launch. Leo saw the opportunity to move forward with one of the tracks he’s been working on, “Into The Conquering Sun.” Leo recorded it with Ackerman on drums and Sue Werner from War On Women on bass, and now it’s out for the listening. Hear it below.
Here’s the full dispatch from Leo about this track and his creative whereabouts:
I’ve had the germ of this (literally the first few lines and melody of the song) in my brain for a little while, and it was initially intended as part of what I hope will eventually be another album from me, that was maybe going to be a song cycle about certain recurrent themes of racism, patriarchy, Capitalism, etc. defining America in ways that “we” (broadly speaking, of course) just still won’t acknowledge (I realize this will come as so unsurprising an announcement to anyone who’s followed me since… the late 80s?, as to possibly land in the realm of DISAPPOINTMENT, but there’s always a lot to say), that I keep adding to in a notebook under the heading “The Decline and Fall of the Gnomon Empire” (stamp it, blackjack, 1-2-3 – that’s poor man’s copyright!), but I’m a bit adrift with no real time or goals or visible future for my life/career as an artist, so it’s largely remained in the “continuously adding notes” phase for a while. Some good notes! Lotta stuff to draw on! But I haven’t done much writing with it all, until I got the assignment I needed from Spencer Ackerman.
I’m a fan of Spencer’s journalism AND TWITTER FEED, and when I saw him tweet about his then forthcoming book, Reign of Terror: How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and Produced Trump, *obviously* I was interested. I mentioned above that I’m adrift career-wise, and I bring that up again because one thing I thought I might be good at as a side-hustle is narrating audio books, or other audio content, and it was with this in mind that I cold pitched Spencer on letting me do that for him, and this book. The subject matter is an area I’m very familiar with, and indeed, has had a major part in shaping my adult life and my own art and career; and I think I can read well; and have a pretty good voice for broadcast, voice-overs, etc., if I’m allowed to say so.
Spencer said no. In fairness, he said he was actually going to do it himself, which, to me, is great and the BEST way for an audio book to happen! So we talked a little bit, and instead of the narration, he brought up the idea of a song to go along with the book release. I love this idea – I’ve done it a couple of times before, and it’s a really fun assignment; and in this case, it grabbed me because I truly care about these things, and it felt right that after all these years, in the process of revisiting these toxic streams that come together to make this flaming flood of contemporary American history, I could work with someone alongside whose journey my own has ridden for the past few decades, with this particular part of the history looming so large in the work that we’ve done. It was also an honor to be asked, and I hope I’ve done that justice in the writing of this song, “Into the Conquering Sun,” presented here as Ted Leo & Jeppesen Airplane (look it up), which is Spencer on drums and the great Sue Werner from the great band, War on Women, on bass; mastered by the genius Jesse Cannon. There’s a lot crammed in here – to my mind, maybe deserving of something similar to the review of T.S. Eliot’s “Wasteland,” that called it “a scum of poetry floating on a sea of footnotes” – but hopefully it works, hopefully you’ll enjoy it, and hopefully we can continue to raise a few dollars for Jane’s Due Process and the Frontera Fund.