I would imagine that the few of you who actually tend to read this blog are well aware that it has now been quite some time since I've last put out a...
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New Album! Eh...Sorta.
February 26, 2015
I would imagine that the few of you who actually tend to read this blog are well aware that it has now been quite some time since I've last put out a record. (Nearly four years, to be exact!)
The recording of my current album has been a deeply exciting, yet exceptionally frustrating affair. (I've covered this in quite a bit of depth--perhaps even too much depth--in my blog post "Why I'm No Longer Trying to Make It in Music". I think the name alone suggests what a nightmarish affair certain aspects of this process have been like.)
Let me assure you, I and my fellow musicians who are undertaking the Herculean effort of recording this new album are hitting this thing with full force. It is to be approximately 20 songs, each with sonic layers averaging at about 40-50 tracks per song. Simply put, this is the single most intense record I've ever worked on--not only in terms of length, but also in terms of the ferocity of the songs themselves. I've jokingly described the new record to friends as sounding like "my last solo album in a bar fight, and on meth".
Currently, the guys and I are more than midway through the tracking process--we essentially only need to finish a few main vocal tracks, kill off some cello stuff, and re-do a few bass and keyboard parts. Then we're most likely going to layer things a bit further (not only because I am apparently a true blue masochist, but also because there's nothing I love more on records than a few extra sonic surprises here and there). And then, once that's all said and done, it's time for yours truly to mix and master this son of a bitch.
So, while we clearly still have our work ahead of us, there is light at the end of the tunnel. And I think that anyone who was a fan of my last record will very likely dig this one. And even if no one outside of the process loves this thing, we are extraordinarily happy with the way things are turning out. I know that the few of you out there who are aware of me and my band have been waiting a ridiculously long time for this thing, and I would never dream of putting something out there that I don't fully support. I owe you folks nothing but my best efforts, especially considering that so many of you have continued to support me through this long wait.
And this brings me to the real point of this blog post. As a token of my appreciation for so many of you displaying such patience with my lack of output lately, I'd like to offer you a bunch of music that you've almost certainly never heard before. Hopefully, this stuff will hold you over for the next few months that it'll take to finish up on my new record.
The music I'm about to show you is from one of my old bands, called A Color Engine. It's some of the first songwriting that I've been a part of that I still feel is worthy of sharing.
A Color Engine
In 2007, I was devastated after the dissolving of a band that I was in at the time. (Funnily enough, it's a project that I currently find myself quite embarrassed about. I was a newbie songwriter back then, and though I took quite a few chances melodically and riff-wise, I was a lyrical dunce. I just didn't know what the hell I was doing yet. This is the reason why I don't even find it worth sharing in this blog the name of that band, let alone its awful music.)
When that band had fallen apart, so crestfallen was I that I had nearly decided to give up music as a whole. I spent weeks away from music, and quite literally (and in hindsight, comically) would even sneer at my guitar anytime I happened to walk past it.
But one day in the midst of this low point, I got a call from my friend Eric Burchfield, who was also a member of that ill-fated previous band of mine. He expressed the notion that it would just be a downright shame if I gave up music altogether, and suggested that he and I just get together and try to write some stuff that was outside the box of what we were previously doing.
I had to admit that while I was reluctant, my interest was certainly piqued.
We conversed more.
We decided that we should try this new project without any specific agenda, and just let it be what it was to be (or not be, if that wound up being the case). The only slightly pre-determined direction in which we knew we wanted to travel was toward something very Beatles-esque and psychedelic enough to challenge ourselves in new ways lyrically, melodically, and chordally.
So sometime within that month, we set out to get together and jam. Almost immediately, we knew that much of this new material was going to work out well. We had known each other so well as musicians by that time, we had already developed our own unique shorthand which we would use to communicate with one another--sometimes non-verbally in the form of a shrug or squinting of the eyes; sometimes through conversations that would sound something like this: "Ok, how about we go from that Harrison thing directly into the ELO idea, and then come back in straight away with the Elliott progression?"
Something just totally clicked.
Voyage Underwater; 56 Knots
So after a few weeks of writing, we had amassed about an EP's worth of tunes.
We decided that instead of putting a band together and inviting a bunch of other cooks into this kitchen, we'd record an album by ourselves, just the two of us, in Eric's basement.
The only problem with this was that neither of us had a single clue about how to record an album. All we had was Cool Edit Pro (the cheapest and shittiest recording software of the day), a hundred dollar microphone, and a fifty dollar keyboard. That was about it.
But we remained undeterred. Honestly, we really didn't even give a fuck at that point. We were just doing this to kill some time, have some fun, and see how non-shitty (or even how hilariously shitty) we could make an album sound.
So we just went right to work, making bonehead mistake after bonehead mistake right out the gates.
The first song we did was the last song on the record, an absurdist folk tune called "City of Ends". I wrote it during some downtime on my night shift at work approximately one hour before we actually recorded the thing. (That was the ethos of this band..."Whatever. Fuck it. Let's just see how it sounds.")
We set up the mic directly next to Eric's screamingly loud computer fan. Why? Because we were fucking idiots, that's why. We recorded all the vocals as stereo tracks, which is a general no-no for the most part in the recording process. Why? Because, again, we were fucking idiots. We had no idea what we were doing.
We finished up the tune, or so I thought, fairly quickly and called it a night.
The next day, Eric called me up and told me that he had added a bunch of sounds to the song, among them the sound of him slamming his dryer shut. I was mortified. The whole way over to his place, I thought to myself, "There's no way this band is gonna work. This moron just recorded the sound of him slamming on his dryer in the middle of a tender folk song. This is gonna be a disaster."
Except it wasn't a disaster. Far from it, in fact. What Eric had added was the perfect addition to this song. Once I had heard the new version, I couldn't have imagined going back to the original.
And at that moment, something fundamental changed for both of us--something that remains with me to this day. There are absolutely no rules. When it comes to recording, writing, performing, or you name it in the world of art, there simply aren't any rules. If you want your dad's washing machine or dryer to be a musical instrument, then ya know what? It is.
And that was when we really started having fun...
After a few months of both tooling around and working dilligently (though more of the former than the latter), we emerged with a record--Voyage Underwater; 56 Knots. (The title was a mnemonic device that Eric had adopted to remember his license plate number).
This album is the first musical project that I look back on and feel no embarrassment or shame about whatsoever. It's totally rough around the edges and there were decisions that I wish I would've made differently about it (like pounding an entire twelve-pack and doing the vocals to "In Heaven" and "Broken Lungs" in one take each, and not revisiting either 'cause "it would ruin the magic, dude". Ugh.).
But nonetheless...for any of you out there who happen to feel like listening to some "new" music (or at least music you've likely never heard before), I submit to you:
Also, just as a bonus...I'd like to throw in the half-completed second album that Eric and I were working on just as the band broke up, called Royal Court Jester; 88 Trades (this time a mnemonic device for me to remember my license plate number).
Much of the material that wound up on my solo record was slated to be on the Royal Court Jester record. On this one, we really let loose and just launched into some of the craziest lyrical material we had, but I think we also recorded some of the prettiest stuff we've ever worked on as well (i.e. "Shoestring Highway").
The album feels incomplete in just about every way--because it was--but I think it still has its charm. If nothing else, just about any listener can tell where we were headed on this one.
Well, I hope this album and a half of material from back in the day tides some of you folks over till I'm finally done with my new album. It's been great for Eric and I to take a step back and head down memory lane with this old material here.