Tuesday, May 26, 2015

creative process

I'm at Howard's for my weekly writing session...which I actually haven't done in about a month. Little changes, though. The bartender still knows my drink. I still get recognized by a barfly before I even reach the bar. When I get to my table, there's a condom packet. The packaging advertises the perfect fit by showing a (doubtlessly illegal) screen shot of Tetris. This is new, but it's so in character with my surroundings that I give it a pass.

I have, since the semester ended, been reading a songwriting book. It has had its intended effect, that is, to make me think more explicitly about things which I know mostly from learning as I go. I have several others in the apartment complex office waiting for me to pick up, and earlier, I ordered a few guides for diy musicians. It is one of my goals to, over the summer, get more serious about my music. I care too much about it to do this halfheartedly. Additionally, I suspect I actually have more talent than my album sales or concert attendance would suggest...and I guess it's time to go down kicking and screaming in my efforts to be an artist.

Inspired by my reading, my mind involuntarily generated a chord structure while I was making my peanut butter and banana sandwich lunch. I ran back to the study, broke out my acoustic, and recorded a crappy demo after stumbling over a potential chorus. However, it took me until having a depression fit while cooking dinner to come to some idea as to what the song was about.

So what is the song about? What are my songs always about? Me, of course, and my depression a little more specifically. My particular angle of attack this time is based on Wil Wheaton's maxim that depression tells lies. It certainly does, but it does more than just lie. It inspires massive jealousy, the kind that makes looking at social media a bad idea lest one start to hate one's friends for their successes and travels. It also instills doom, paranoia, and resentment, in my case, towards my sick and moody child. When all this happens, is one really living? This is on what the song (or the songwriting process, depending on one's perception) will focus.

So now I'm here to write. I've got an idea of the melody, but I'll embellish and explore that after the lyrics are in draft form. My main goal is to scribble lines into my notebook. If I'm very lucky, I might get enough to start sculpting them into a lyric.

Time to get to work.

building the Depression Monster i

A while back, I mentioned that I was starting my new album Depression Monster. This is the first of my recording blogs.

Last time, I started the recording process when I had enough songs for an album. Between then and now, I've been kind of prolific. This time I came to the process with sixteen completed songs. There are others, but they're either going to need severe revision or abandonment. The sweet sixteen? I'm pretty confident in most of them.

I do not, however, have a clear perspective on them. I only had two that I am completely sure of, and the others, well, I can't yet come to any clear judgments. And for that reason, plus the fact I had Skeleton Coast pretty exquisitely mapped out and wanted to really shake up the process, I felt the urge to get more outside opinions.

So step one was to share the songs with my coconspirators. To this end, I ordered a fairly cheap yet surprisingly decently sounding in spite of its insanely high gain USB microphone and did single track "mic in the room" demo recordings. I tried to get these as good as I could, but as these were only for internal use, I didn't get perfectionist on them or anything. I then sent these out to the guys (via Facebook message, although we plan to mostly share via SoundCloud...but I've been busy) for their takes on track choice and arrangement.

I got producer-man's take on the songs yesterday. He selected eight tracks for us to record. The two I would've fought for made the cut. I'm surprised by two other selections...but they all work together pretty well, so it should be good.

He also included his thoughts on arrangements and such...and they were fairly insanely detailed, much more than I expected. The album will be constructed on a firm sonic landscape. It will be much more open and airy than the last one; that one tended to adhere, for various reasons, to the Wall of Sound/Everything but the Kitchen Sink school of song construction. I think Pink Floyd would be a good reference point (particularly as, I am dramatically out of touch, I don't get the references my producer gave me).

I had a few suggestions on the arrangements, mostly having to do with adding a bit of grit, mostly in terms of adding weird distorted bass (as well as a touch of the obligatory distorted guitar). But my suggestions were merely fine tuning...we already have a great plan. I think the best parallel is the storyboarding for an action sequence. Now we tweak.

The next stage is to figure out how we're actually going to record...but I'm going to the producer's housewarming party this weekend, and I assume agenda-planning is on the agenda.

Monday, May 25, 2015

let's play a game!

Every so often, I like to play weird word games. Way too many people have heard my "that would be a cool band name" game. Lately, I have started thinking of a new game...and I think it would be a fun one to play with you, my readers.

The new game is called "what cool popular culture phrase would make a good epitaph?"  I've been thinking about this for a while. My entry comes from the world of 70s pop:

"I gave you my heart, and I tried to make it happen.
You gave nothing in return."

Please post your answer in the comments...unless, that is, you want to be like Lionel Ritchie's subject.


During her last visit, my mother told my nephew that she had declared war on the word "bored." Being bored, she feels, just means you are not trying to find something to do. It is, it seems, a matter of taking ownership over the activities in one's life.

Coming from my mother, this is not a surprise. I remember her saying similar things when I was a kid. And as a parent myself, I can certainly relate to the logic behind such a statement. None of this, however, changes one basic fact: I am bored. Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored.

My wife and urchin are both sick. This means that neither of them are really all that active or enchanting (this weekend, that is). So things like going out? Playing? Out of the question. Weekends are always a bit questionable with my kid anyway. She gets more weekend time with me than with her mom, so on the weekends, she tends to ignore me. When she's sick? Even more so.

So what did I do today? I ran the dishwasher. I made stock. I sorted and took out the recycling. I made freezer burritos. I went to the grocery store. I watched a bunch of My Little Pony with my daughter (who was ignoring me). Nice show, but I was really hoping it was not the highlight of the last few days. I thought about duct-taping up the hole in my car, but I decided to leave some excitement for tomorrow.

There are a few other things at work. It's not that I don't know anybody in the area...but since I turned 40, I spend more weekends by myself than with people I know. I moved up here when I was 28, and I usually could always count on being out with people a couple of nights a week. Then, at some point, it's almost like a tap turned, and everyone disappeared. No one wants to go out.

It was somewhat easier when I still was drinking, because I could at least talk to bartenders. Clean living might be healthier. It is not, however, any less boring.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

full day

I played two shows today with my trombonist. For the first, we got paid in eggs, honey, plants, green onions, and organic jelly. For the second one, I finally sold the seventeenth copy of my album...plus one of my own songs got a better reaction than my Mikey Cyrus, and I had people pogo-ing to another.

Dreams do come true, people.