Vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Shannon Crawford crafted a record that entrances the listener with swirling acoustic melodies and haunting, hypnotic electronics. From the infectiously incendiary chorus of "Under Your Shadow" to the sonic dreamscape of "Helicopter," the music remains memorable. Pristine melodies soar over brooding beats, and tracks like "Savior" convey a message of disenchantment and call for change. Underneath the beauty of the music lies an honest mirror reflecting social ills. Yet, hope for a solution exists. Issues faced include the death of our environment, religion's contradictions and the perilous existence of an artist under the thumb of a corporation. Signed to Ko_n guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer's independent label Emotional Syphon Recordings, these are some of the darker themes that Crawford delves into with Monster in the Machine's debut Butterfly Pinned.
This album is not Crawford's first foray into the recording world. In 1997, his band Cellophane was signed to Virgin. "Cellophane had a good record that fell through the cracks," Crawford says. "For a long time it was really heartbreaking to have had that and lost it. I was 23-years-old, and I couldn't deal with personalities of the music business. I quit, because no one at the label was doing anything anyway. They just put us out on the road, and that was it."
Disillusioned with the music industry, Crawford pursued another passion, painting. His work has been acquired by celebrities from Lindsay Lohan to author Jerry Stahl. He also created the cover for Norma Jean's highly successful Redeemer album. In the midst of painting, he never lost sight of his musical ambitions. Then inspiration struck in 2006. "A lot of it has to do with maturity. Being a full-time single father to my daughter helped me." He continues, "Last year, I just began writing all of these really good songs because I wasn't trying to push it or force it. I just let it go and all of these great things came to me and through me." Once finished, Crawford played the demos for longtime friend Shaffer. "James has been my biggest cheerleader for years. He'd been on the fence about starting a label, and when I played him my first songs, he said, "That's it. I'm starting it.'" Shaffer loved the music so much he even lent his guitar talents to the tense album closer "Don't." Josh Freese stepped in to handle drum duties for the entire record. Imani Coppola plays violin on "Shut the Door." The recording lineup was then rounded out by ex-Cellophane, Puddle of Mudd bassist Douglas Ardito. Crawford produced the album himself, and they mixed and recorded at Henson Studios (A&M).
Ultimately, the record traverses an entire emotional spectrum. "The major label mindset is that you don't want to be too diverse, and you don't want to confuse people. I think the public is smart enough to handle a diverse record. Butterfly Pinned is eclectic and honest, but at the same time, it's ethereal. It takes you to another dimension. Art is an escape, and people want to escape." The title of the record sums up the concept perfectly. "It's about the death for vanity, and the butterfly pinned is a perfect example of that because it's usually overlooked. For example, we are killing everyday for our vanity by the cars we drive," exclaims Crawford. "I've got to practice what I preach by driving a Prius and a vegetable oil car, and I'm trying. People just need to try." Shannon is more than doing his part for music and beyond with Monster in the Machine.-Rick Florino, Ruin Magazine