ruminations on recurring themes of decay and decrepitude
I have settled into an "occasional" habit of sitting down in the studio and working on the songs. I usually spend about four hours at a time on this, whether intruding new ideas on a song, trying to play or "sing" part of one better, or the grueling task of getting another one going. Usually after these efforts I mix down what I have been doing and load the results up as mp3's, so you can keep track of what I've been doing to the songs. I also tend to burn copious numbers of cds with all the current versions of the songs on them so I can listen to them and hear all the mistakes in better detail...
I spent the summer scurrying around on ebay to finally build a "studio" that would not limit me in assembling my songs. I ended up with two Alesis ADAT digital tape recorders, the big computerized remote control unit for them, and a very nice Alesis Studio 32 mixer, which was basically designed to do exactly what I am doing with it - run a sixteen track project studio. A nice rack to bolt them all up and a few hundred dollars worth of cables later, and with the operation of a few buttons I can force myself to come to terms with how well I know what I want these songs to sound like.
Generally speaking, due to the lack of obedient drummers and bassists, I start by writing the drum and bass lines (along with enough of the rest of the music to make sure they work) in TablEdit, a very nice tablature writing and editing program I bought last year. I take those two parts and pan them hard right and hard left, shut off the rest of the instruments, and export the results to a .wav file. This is then easy to put onto a CD in my computer and take into the studio to put on two tracks of the (sixteen track) master tape. Then I just have to add guitars and vocals, and where necessary, talk actual musicians and singers into playing and singing the things that are beyond my talent, skill or knowledge to perform correctly.
Then I take the current master and mix it down directly to my Sony CD recorder. This allows me to listen to the songs over and over again to decide if I like where they are going and to judge how much work I need to do to play my parts properly.
For the final versions of the songs, the drums and bass will be replaced by actual human beings playing what I wrote, what they invent, or a combination of the two.
There is news, but I forget to report it.
Let's see... A few months ago I wrote a little melody thing one evening while goofing off. Then I was noodling on it while talking to Curt at one of my "guitar lessons," and he said "What's that? Play it again." So I did. Well, he decided he should play an A minor blues sort of chord progression behind it, and two days later at the open mike we played "I Stand Alone," after working hard on it for 4 or 5 months... and this thing I call "Trust," after him not even realizing that I was totally winging it. What an interesting contrast! We even managed to end together in a place that seemed appropriate, as if we planned it that way.
A recent demo version I made inspired me to sit down and drunkenly improvise some lyrics to it, so now it's not even an instrumental anymore.
Buying a new "vintage style" speaker (yeah, me buying speakers, how weird!) to put in my Princeton Reverb was inspiring, too. I turned everything up to "10" and the overdrive was just so sweet and perfect, that I started to play Believe, and discovered that I was vocalizing with a little more "heart" than usual, actually with a lot more larynx and lung... ok, I was kinda screaming it. But it was fun, and works well.
I guess I am still looking for and sometimes finding bits and pieces of my "voice" as the years go by.
Also, I snagged a TEAC 3340S on ebay (world's fastest transaction, first view to delivery and ownership was about 3 hours...), so I am now fitted with multi track recording capability once more. I really need to get that Swiss tank fixed! The TEAC is only quarter track, but it's a real home recording workhorse.
There's probably something else, but I have forgotten it right now.
After a roughly two year hiatus in my guitar lessons with Curt, I started the weekly ritual again. Except, we aren't doing what you would think of as "guitar lessons" this time around, we are working on my songs to make them more presentable, and then playing some of them at the open mike.
Since it seems like I never do anything anymore, I'll report on what little efforts I am expending... I have yet to get the Studer-Revox repaired, so the odds of a decent quality recording coming along any time soon are pretty slim - still. But I still practice these little chants of mine, and continue to rewrite them, and I suppose the longer I wait the better (or more diluted) they will be.
So today, having rewired most of my stereo and realising that the feed from the studio was hooked back up, I made quicky little cassette copies of Believe, I Stand Alone, Somebody Else's Well, and Choices.
I'm pretty happy with Believe, with all except perhaps the timing of the last few bars being how I want it. Cool.
I Stand Alone depends mostly on getting the right guitar sound, honky enough for the walk downs but mellow and pretty enough for the strummed parts. Just picking a few notes instead of whole chords seemed to help this, by the time I got to the last chorus, anyway.
Somebody Else's Well can be pretty vicious at times, depending on how much feeling I put into singing it... it was nice hearing the tape, and how you can almost tap your foot even through the parts where I let the song hang in space for a moment while I bend a string or two.
Choices is still in the process of falling apart and coming back together again, due to a bathtub/answering machine accident last month.
Now, understand these were just really crude demos, with only myself "singing" and playing guitar. So don't go expecting the release or availability of an EP anytime soon!
After a long waiting and searching period, perhaps some things are happening that might help bring this project to fruition.
Today my friends Julian and Swaantje (pronounced "Swan") came over to play a little music with me. Julian is a drummer and Swan can sing, very nicely.
Julian and I made some random noise for fun, and we worked on Choices for a bit. That song really gets catchy in places! It is such a pleasure to be able to listen to what other people do with my work. The intro really developed some power one time, I hope we can find that place again.
Swan worked on Moonlight, and from never having heard it before within an hour she was able to struggle through all the verses, and even make sense of my terrible syllabic failures in the lyrics. It was really incredible finally hearing the song sung well, with feeling, by someone with a good voice.