They say you don’t want to see how the sausage gets made. And I don’t. But thankfully, music is not sausage. And I love seeing how the music gets made.
I always enjoy seeing what happens behind the scenes in the studio when an album is being recorded. I nerd out watching episodes of the “Classic Albums” series when they pull out the master tapes and solo out individual tracks. I love hearing the treasure trove alternate takes on The Beatles Anthology. And I’d rather have a bootleg of a favorite artist’s demos than of a live performance.
Most of all, I love seeing how the creative process works for different artists.
There’s an incredible moment in the U2 documentary “From The Sky Down” where the band is in the process of jamming new songs for Achtung Baby, and we see their classic “One” being born right before our eyes during a jam session for “Mysterious Ways.” The chord sequence emerges almost by accident as the cameras roll, and you can sense the electricity in the room as the band instantly knows they have stumbled upon something important. It’s fascinating to see it happen.
But most bands don’t catch those kinds of moments on film. Or, rather than moments, the path to that creative spark is made up of an unfolding series of micro events until suddenly… inspiration!
Song Exploder is a music podcast that celebrates that creative process. In each episode, a band or artist takes one of their songs and guides the listener step by step through its construction. Songs are broken down into their parts (exploded) and we are then shown how those parts are all put together. Finally, each episode ends by showcasing the sum of those parts, with host Hrishikesh Hirway playing the song “in its entirety.”
Most episodes feature songs or musicians I’m unfamiliar with. Still, it is often just as fascinating to hear a lesser-known artist explain their creative process as it is to hear about it from better known acts like Wilco, Andrew Bird, CHVRCHES, Weezer or Iggy Pop. And just like songs are short and easily digestible, so is this podcast, with most episodes running around 15 minutes, including the song itself.
This week, the Song Exploder podcast features one of its highest profile acts ever: Metallica. Hear the band explode “Moth Into Flame” from their most recent album, Hardwired… To Self Destruct. If Metallica isn’t your speed, hit the show archives. Every genre is there, from rap to indie rock to R&B.
If you’re new to podcasts, there’s many easy ways to listen. If you have an iPhone, you probably already have the Podcasts app on your device and didn’t even know it. In any podcast app, just search for “Song Exploder” and you’ll be streaming the shows (for free) in seconds. To get alerts on new episodes, just Subscribe to the show!
NOTE: At the time of publication, the link to the Song Exploder website wasn’t working. Maybe too many Metallica fans are flooding the server. Still, I had no trouble accessing the show via my podcast app on my phone. Enjoy!