Ep. 52 – Secret Chiefs 3 “The End Times” + Picard S3E3

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In this episode, Carl King examines Secret Chiefs 3 “The End Times” + Picard S3E3

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Who Cares Anyway by Will York

Mimicry Records

Secret Chiefs 3 Bandcamp

Secret Chiefs 3 / Book of Horizons on Amazon


I’m Carl King, and this is The Carl King Podcast, where EVERY WEEK, we learn about music, filmmaking, and the other creative arts. If you like this show, head over to Patreon.com/carlking, and join for just $1 or $5 per month. 

Or send a tip through PayPal or Venmo to username CarlKingdom. Special thank you to my Illusionist $51 level patrons, both Hank Howard III and Chewbode. Quick shout-out to my music endorsements: Vienna Symphonic Library, Fractal Audio, Ernie Ball Strings, Toontrack, and Millennia Media. Now let’s get this episode Beginned! 

Carl King The Human Updates

Just a few Carl King The Human Updates. And THEN we will officially get beginned.

1 – An author by the name of Will York has written a book called Who Cares Anyway: Post-Punk San Francisco and the End of the Analog Age. 

And what makes it of serious interest to me and my listeners is this: He goes into rare details of early Mr. Bungle. He interviewed people like Trey Spruance, Billy Gould of Faith No More, Gregg Turkington a.k.a. Neil Hamburger, and many of the other notable people who were around in those days. 

I learned some details I never knew — and my biggest surprise was how many times *I* was referenced or quoted, due to my various interviews and essays about Mr. Bungle. 

It even a chapter called Disco Volante. 

But the book not just about Mr. Bungle — it investigates dozens, maybe millions, of confusing, underground San Francisco bands like Flipper, Caroliner, and The Three Doctors. It’s a historical document of things I wish I could have been there for. How lucky are we, that Will York made this for us? 

It’s incredible that he worked on the book for around 20 years, and it also happens to be an incredible 560 pages. Who Cares Anyway is coming to Amazon and all the other big stores any moment. In the meantime you can get it directly through the publisher HeadPress. I will put a link to it in the show notes. I ordered my copy, so go and get yours. 

Who Cares Anyway by Will York

2 – My friend, the drummer Mike Stone has shot a professional performance video of the Secret Chiefs 3 song called Vajra. He played the drum parts on a special electronic drum kit from the brand EF Note. 

As I’m recording this episode, I am told its release is IMMINENT, hopefully within hours or possibly days. As soon as that video is available, I will put a link to it in the show notes. If it’s not there yet, check back rapidly. 

3 – I am recording a new Carl King album, and last week I posted a new demo rough mix of my new song called: I Think That I’m A Car. And You can hear “I Think That I’m A Car” as well as the other 2 song demos “The Robots Are Here To Destroy Us” and “Everyone Is Stupid But Me” inside my Patreon. 

And now, let’s get into this week’s Analytical musical analysis of the week. 


This week’s analytical musical analysis of the week is “THE END TIMES” by Secret Chiefs 3. A.k.a. Trey Spruance. And this one was requested by Will York. It’s from the album Book of Horizons, from 2004. It’s a mysterious album from a mysterious person.  

Here’s something else mysterious. This album appears to be available for purchase… NOWHERE. Not on Mimicry Records, and not on the Secret Chiefs 3 Bandcamp. I had to use Apple Music to hear it. 

But does appears to be 1 COPY Left on Amazon, if anyone wants it. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes. If you have any idea what happened to this record, or why it’s out of print and so hard to find, let me know.


For this episode, I will be examining this track from the conceptual level of a lead sheet. A lead sheet is a simplified form of music notation, using only melody and chord symbols, rather than all the nuanced complexities of Trey’s advanced and dense orchestration. 

He’s got ornamentations and non-chord tones galore throughout this piece, instruments are coming in and out in stereo, and there’s a lot going on. 

If you’ve never done this, I recommend listening to Trey’s music through headphones. On this particular track, you can hear the acoustic instruments clunking around in the pauses. But even in its reduced form, The End Times pretty dang impressive. So I’m only going to examine the first 29 measures, which includes what I am calling both the Melody A and Melody B.


Regarding the Tempo — The End Times is at approximately 80 bpm. When I synced it up with a tempo map in Cubase, it became clear that this was not recorded to a steady click. If it WAS recorded to any sort of click, that click would be ramping up and down constantly. It’s not obvious when listening to the track, but there is a TON of organic fluctuation. 


Regarding the Tonality. There are two ways to think of the key of this song. 

1 – The first would be C minor. In which case the Db major chord in measure 5 doesn’t belong. Because in C minor, a triad based on Db would be Db diminished.

2 – The second option would be C Phrygian, which also is a minor-sounding mode. But that would mean the G7 chord isn’t diatonic. HOWEVER, in this case it is a secondary dominant. Which is a normal kind of thing to do for minor keys. Or modes.

So I am going with C Phrygian. Now let’s start digging in, measure by measure. And if you disagree with my analysis or find any errors, let me know. 


Before measure 1 we have a pickup note, and then we hear some overdriven retro keyboard instruments. 

Also, you might notice we have SLASH chords here, which means the chords are inverted, or not in root position. And we will come back to later. 

For the first 3 measures, we have two alternating chords. 

Cm / G

And C Augmented

Ah, an Augmented chord! Now what the heck is that C augmented chord doing there? It’s definitely not diatonic to C phrygian. 

Well, a C minor triad is C – Eb – and G. And if you raise that Eb and the G both a half-step, you have C – E – G#, which momentarily created a C Augmented sound. 

Those two notes are moving up briefly and back down. Sort of like neighboring tones. They add a little bit of chromatic tension. But we’re not yet sure why they are there. 

But if we look at Measure 4, what do we have? An F minor. It turns out that those two notes, or that Augmented triad, are simply creating a chromatic movement from C minor to F minor. So instead of leaping from C minor to F minor, a C augmented is a passing chord. It’s acting as a sort of glue between the two. 

In measure 5 we have a Db major chord. Which is evidence that we are in C Phrygian. That would be a upper case roman numeral 2 II or supertonic major chord in C Phrygian. 

Then in Measure 6 we have a G7. And as I said before this chord is NOT within strictly C Phrygian mode. Because those notes would be G B D and F. But that’s what happens with the Natural minor, or Aeolian mode, as well. SO why not ALSO do it when we’re in the Phrygian mode? We’re basically SHOEHORNING in a DOMINANT V chord. 

And then in Measure 7 we’re back to our home base of C Minor.  

Now before we move on to Phrase 2, I want to go back and talk about these SLASH CHORDS or INVERSIONS. That’s where the root note of the chord is not the lowest note you hear. For example, we have C minor OVER G. That means the G note, the fifth of that C minor chord, is in the bass. 

That does two things: 1 –  it creates a more ambiguous, sophisticated, dense sound and 2 – It allows the bass voice to move step-wise to its place in the next chord which is F Minor. And in that chord, the bass plays the minor third of the chord: Ab. 

So Notice that between these two chords, the bass is only moving up and down a half step the whole time. Using the notes G and Ab. That’s it. 

If you were to instead do it the most straightforward and generic and obvious way, using root position chords, like I tend to do, it would instead sound like this. Hear how the root is leaping between the notes C and F? It’s not as subtle and elegant. 

These choices a composer makes are called voice leading – or counterpoint, which is one of my favorite topics. So that entire chord progression of that Phrase sounds like this.

And that’s Melody A, Phrase 1. Before we move on to Phrase 2, here’s a little bit of trivia: this melody does re-appear in at least one other place on the album: In the final track, Welcome To The Theatron Animatronique.


In Phrase 2 of the melody, the orchestration kicks it up a notch. At first I thought, that instrument playing the melody has gotta be a Theremin. But I read the album credits and saw no mention of theremin. So is it an exotic bowed instrument? We don’t know yet. 

In this phrase, they run through the same melody and sequence of chords for 7 measures. But with a different instrumentation, and some variations in the melody. The sound has expanded in energy. We started small with those retro keyboards, and now we’ve come to life with more acoustic instruments.  

And in Measure 16, something SPECIAL happens. When we hear that C minor chord turn to C MAJOR, it becomes a V chord… and we are temporarily modulating to F minor, up a fourth, to a closely related key. 

So the chord progression of that second phrase, leading up to that F minor modulation, sounds like this. 

And in that next measure, Measure 17, we have a new tonic minor chord, F Minor. 

And crazy enough, over that F minor chord, the melody note starts by playing a Bb, which is the 11th (or 4th) over F. And it walks down 11 (or 4), 3, 2, 1. Notice that the chord tones, the 3 and the 1 are on WEAK BEATS, and the non-chord tones, 4 and 2 are on the STRONG BEATS. And that is Instead of something like this: which is 3-2-1,7. Putting non-chord tones on strong beats is something I’d like to do more often. 

Measure 18, we have an Ab major chord. Which would be a major mediant chord, that’s an upper case III roman numeral, in our new key of F minor. And we get a little quarter note triplet going stepwise, Ab Bb C. 

And in measure 19, landing on a Db major, a major submediant, – upper case 6 roman numeral VI – in F minor.

And the melody is playing an Eb over that Db, which is a 9th. And it walks down 9, 1, 7. Once again, we have non-chord tones on the strong beats.

Now, Measure 20, at first, sounds like a plain old F min chord again. But there is a E NATURAL note being added in the acoustic guitar. In the previous measure, measure 19, the E was FLAT. Because we were still working within F Minor. 

But in this measure, we hear that E NATURAL over an F minor chord, making it an F Minor Major 7. It’s our old Bernard Hermann favorite. And that E natural is getting our ear ready for the chord in the next measure. 

In Measure 21, we have a C Major chord, and I think we are now STRONGLY in F minor, and that would be the dominant chord, shown with an upper case 5 roman numeral.  

Measure 22, we are back to F minor, now being treated as the tonic minor chord in F PHRYGIAN. Because the next chord in measure 23 is Gb Major. And the melody note is playing a C to Bb, which are the b5 and 3 — giving it an appropriate Lydian sound. More evidence that we are in F minor, and not C Phrygian. That makes it a supertonic major chord, shown with an upper case II roman numeral. 

Measure 24, we have a C7, which is the V chord in F minor. And that melody note walks down C Bb Ab G. Makes total classical music sense. 

And in measure 25 that C7 has resolved to an Fm chord. Our tonic chord. 

BUT: We then get 4 measures of what I am hearing as a G Lydian Dominant sound. I refer to these moments as HARMONIC CLOUDS — where there’s no clear melody or voice leading or riff to follow, just a bunch of notes thrown together in an ambiguous collection. These clouds are sometimes a bi-tonal chord combination, or the notes of a scale resulting in a vague impression. Stravinsky was big on this. 

There are a lot of tense notes happening there, but the G Dominant-ness of it (if you ignore the Lydian) prepares us for returning to our original home base of… C Minor in measure 30.

So that entire chord progression under the B melody, sounds like this. And that’s as FAR as we are going with this one. Now what are the compositional takeaways here?

1 – Instead of writing a song in plain old minor – use a minor mode like Phrygian or Dorian. Because that will give you a different flavor of minor. When you need a dominant 5 chord, just shoehorn it in. As I said, we do this all the time with natural minor or aeolian. 

2 – Experiment with slash chords for the sake of creating a more sophisticated sound, and for a more step-wise melodic line in the bass. 

3 – This one is for me: try putting non-chord tones on the strong beats. 9ths and 11ths are a good place to start. 

As I said before, Trey is an incredible orchestrator and composer — in my own totally subjective personal opinion. I recommend listening to his Secret Chiefs 3 albums through headphones to hear all of the craftsmanship and detail. Book of Souls: Folio A is one of my personal favorites. 

You can find most of his albums at WebOfMimicry.com

And now on to this week’s Analytical Filmmaking Analysis of the Week. 


This week’s Analytical Filmmaking Analysis of the week is Picard Season 3, Episode 3. 

Screenwrited by Jane Maggs, Cindy Appel, and Akiva Goldsman. And Directored by someone named Jonathan Frakes.

In keeping with the theme of 3s, I want to talk about 3 different things from this episode. 

1 – The moments of fantastic writing, acting, and directing. And even a moment of editing that got my attention. 
2 – Some awkward exposition. 
3 – An implausibility. 

And by the way, there are 3 storylines happening in this episode. But I’m mostly going to focus on the main story, which I consider to be Riker and Picard. Here we go. 


First up, the acting by Amanda Plummer as the villain called VAH-DIC. She reminds me of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Mission Impossible 3. Because instead of being the typical over-the-top, high-volume, tyrannical villain… she goes with creepy, subtle, and  eccentric. 

She seems amused by the whole situation and even GIGGLES in times of tension. And that is a brilliant reversal of expectations, what you could call a Strong Creative Choice. 

As she’s pursuing the Titan into the cloud, she says calmly and quietly, almost mumbling: “Fire.” And then even more quietly. “One more time.” And she’s there in her captain’s chair with a space cigarette in her mouth, and she’s shrouded in smoke. 


Up next, I want to point out what I thought was some awkward exposition. Spoken Exposition is when a character says something only for the sake of the audience. A statement of facts. 

For instance, during one of the early scenes, when they’re trying to escape from an enemy inside a nebula, Riker says some out-of-place dialogue to Captain Shaw. 

First, Shaw issues the command: “Prepare to warp.” 

Riker responds, from the back of the room: “We can’t warp away as long as we’re inside this thing.” OK, that makes some sense. 

Captain Shaw says, “As soon as we shake her we break for the GD exit.” 

The helms-person Laforge says “we can’t outrun them on impulse alone.” 

And then out of nowhere, Riker says: “Nebula interference. The deeper we go, the worse it gets for external sensors.” 

The dialogue edit here seems to be out of sequence. Because Riker is responding to something said several lines ago which was “We’re losing visual on the stern.”After that, Picard says: “If she wanted to destroy us, she could.” 

So unless I’m just missing somrthing, the problem is, the characters are speaking in disconnected conversational fragments. They aren’t organically speaking to each other in the room. They’re speaking to the audience. Telling us facts we need to know in order to understand the situation. 

This also happen in the next scene, we have a flashback. Picard and Riker are alone in a bar celebrating. 

Picard says: “A toast, my friend. To your newborn son.”

Riker adds: “To Thaddeus.”

I’m not so sure they would have said that in real life. When you hear a character saying another characters name, it’s usually exposition. Otherwise we wouldn’t have known Riker’s son’s name. 

HOWEVER: This scene does a good job of setting up the friendship and status dynamic between Riker and Picard. Riker also reflects on his love for his son. He says:“You’d burn the world to save them.” And this is a setup for a scene that comes back later — and relates to the final line of dialogue in the episode. 


Around this point in the episodes, There was a moment of musical editing that caught my attention. It’s in the scene where Captain Shaw dismisses La Forge, so she can get some rest. A Mozart choir piece begins. We’re not sure why. It continues for 10 SECONDS, into the next scene. 

In that next scene, we discover the Mozart was being listened to by Seven of 9 in her quarters. And in editing terminology, that is called a J-Cut, in which the audio of scene B starts early, in scene A. And that is one EXTREME J cut! Not sure I’ve ever noticed A J Cut that long. 

In that scene, we get another exposition line. Laforge says “I just wanted to check on you.” And SEVEN says “I’m charged with Insubordination and confined to quarters but thanks.” But inside the story, Laforge already knows that. That’s why she stopped by. That line of dialogue is only a reminder for the audience. The character could have said, “I’m 5 feet 8 inches tall” and it would be almost as normal. Or not normal. 

And then Laforge says “One of the few ways my dad and I are alike: we have a hard time making friends.” But I was puzzled by that, because I don’t remember anything about Geordi La Forge having a hard time making friends. 

Now Back to the brilliant acting and directing. There’s a scene where Picard and Beverly Crusher go into a room to speak for the first time in all those years. And they start out VERY FAR APART in the room. There’s even a wide angle with both of them at extreme side of the shot, and that is symbolic of how far apart they are emotionally. But as they talk, and TRY to work out their problems, they move physically closer together. 

Outside that room, Riker and Picard’s son wait. And Riker takes on a FATHERLY role towards Picard’s son — who at this time kinda has no father in his life. Riker gives him some advice. 

Picard’s son is being a punk and says something like, “I didn’t ask for this.” And the wise, fatherly, experienced Riker says:

“I know. But now you’ve got to own it. The best thing you can do is give them a reason to feel good about it.” It reminds me of something Adama from Battlestar Galactica would say. 

Picard’s son then says, “Have you got a family, Riker?” 

And Riker responds: “Feel free to call me Captain. And yes. I have a wife and daughter. And I HAD a son.” And that is a HEAVY SCENE BUTTON. Because this is a man without a son, and a son without a father. 

In an upcoming scene, Captain Shaw is injured and he transfers his command, making RIKER the captain of the ship. With blood coming out of his mouth, Shaw says: “You! You! You got us into this. You are gonna get us out.” 

And Riker INSTANTLY assumes command. No second thought. Now The more obvious Star Trek choice would be to put Picard in charge. But Riker was a smart choice for the story — it sets up a conflict between Riker and Picard, as they will need to work out their new status dynamics. 

Well, we let’s see how that plays out. Up first, we get a scene of perfect cooperation as Picard is now Riker’s number one. What could go wrong? 

A few scenes later, Picard and Riker debate strategy for escaping the nebula and dealing with their enemy. The tension between them grows. A little bit. 

I want to take a moment to point out an implausibility. It’s the secret “portal” weapon. If VAH-DIC had it all along, why didn’t she use it earlier? This is a common implausibility problem in screenwriting. If a character has a magic power, or a secret weapon, why not use it earlier, to accomplish their goal immediately? 

Well, it’s for the sake of enjoying the story. So  ideally, there should be a reason they’re unable to use the magic power earlier. Maybe it’s charging. Or it’s not ready. It will explode if it’s used in this environment right now, etc.

It seems like Vah-dic simply chose not to use it. Along those lines, I noticed in the previous episode she also gave Picard and Riker an hour to make a decision. Which is only for the purpose of helping the drama. In real life, a villain would never give their victim an hour to think. 

Back to Riker vs. Picard — their conflict peaks. Picard convinces Riker, against rikers judgment, to ambush and fire everything they’ve got at VAH-DIC. But… she was ready for them. Vah-dic uses her portal weapon to send the torpedoes right back at the federation ship. The ship is severely damaged. Loss of power, crippled.  

Riker turns to Picard and says: “Remove yourself from the bridge. You’ve just killed us all.” A statement of fact. And Picard leaves in shame. Riker and his crew look at each other for a long time in the darkened bridge. 

And for the final shot, the ship tumbles helplessly into the gravity well as the credits roll. Well, this was a good series, and I loved seeing Riker and Picard together as a team again. It’s just too bad they only survived for 3 episodes. But what a POWERFUL ending. 

Picard Season 3 stood out to me as a dramatic soap opera about old people dealing with their mistakes, regrets and losses. There were no hipster vulcans, and no millennial girls with giant chins. 

It had definitely matured far beyond its origin as a “mysterious planet or alien of the week” TV show. And if I recall, this short season had no time-travel or multiple dimensions. Because of that, I would give it 5 out of 5 stars on Letterboxd. But it’s not on Letterboxd. 


OK, that’s the end of this Episode of the Carl King Podcast. Remember to subscribe on Spotify, Apple, YouTube, or anywhere else you listen to these dang podcasts. 

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