Dead Man Running

After a slightly inebriated evening with the neighbors, I wandered home to start today’s track. I’m not sure if I had a specific approach in mind from the start, but I quickly decided to try and adhere to what I (now amusingly) had planned to do this entire month: keep it simple. I had initially loaded up the synth sound that opens things up and created the riff that runs throughout the song. It’s strange to think that, more or less, the meat of the song was written in about 20 seconds.

I doubled the synth bass with a full rock bass, then added the drums from Superior Drummer 3, and everything clicked together. At this point, my mild inebriation got me to a place where I was just listening to the looped section and enjoying it. It’s one of the nicest things about making music – I wasn’t necessarily being productive, but I was truly enjoying the moment as the music washed over me.

  1. Dead Man Running Ray Toler 3:40

And over the course of sinking into the hook, a small idea started creeping in, and all of a sudden the phrase “until the dawn” or “until I’m gone” or something similar was showing up. I didn’t know what it was yet, I could just barely hear it, and then all of a sudden I had that “oh, this is actually going to become a song” moment. I don’t know if I’m in a songwriting mood this month or just more receptive to1Or, put another way, not actively fighting them or being lazy. the songs when they appear.

What I do still fight is writing trite rhymes, and this song is chock full of them. But it works. Lyrics like this have been working for a long time, and they’ll keep on working, I suppose. Why I fight it isn’t clear to me, but just as I finally stopped fighting the fact that I’m pretty good at house music, I suspect that I’ll eventually not have quite the issue I do with lyrics like this. For more on this topic, see My Girl.

I recorded the vocals and, since it was coming up on 3:00 AM, decided to put finishing touches on in the morning. On the first playback, I was sort of disappointed. It wasn’t as good as it had been. There was a brief moment where I contemplated starting from scratch, but I still liked the core of what I’d done.

As it turns out, a second guitar part and an electric piano did the trick. I practiced for about 30 minutes and then got the recorded part on the second try. At this point, it became a matter of mixing, changing two lines in the vocals, and… I think it’s done.

The previous night, I was kind of imitating Ian Curtis of Joy Division, but when I heard the vocals in the morining, I clearly had a bunch of Jim Morrison in the back of my head. In fact, the whole track has a Doorsy feel. And I’m totally cool with that.


He’s a stranger
There is danger in the night

She’s standing on her own
Waiting by a phone under the light

Dead man running until the dawn

He looks deep in her eyes
Looking for the lies she keeps inside

She turns to run away
A sad, useless display
At least she tried 

Dead man running until the dawn
Dead man running
He’s moving on

Copyright © Ray E. Toler, Jr. All rights reserved.


Instruments & Samples

bx Oberhausen, Trilian, Keyscape, Strum GS-2, Superior Drummer 3


MOTU Dyna-squash, Live Room G, Micro-G, Analog Delay, and Tremolo, Black Rooster RO-SPR, Valhalla Delay, H3000 Factory, Butch Vig Vocals

Mixing & Mastering

Masterworks EQ, Gullfoss, Pro-C 2, Pro-L 2


  • 1
    Or, put another way, not actively fighting them or being lazy.

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