2020 got off to a start of injuries.
Over the holidays I had a bizarre fall coming home from skiing. The driveway is a little sloped and I took a slightly wrong step, one leg shot out and I landed on top of my other leg. As I was going down I was thinking, please don’t break, please don’t break. Funny what we can process in the span of a split second. I could feel my bones in my lower leg start to twist. Then it was over. Maybe another millimeter and I might be in a cast right now. Instead I had a major sprain in my ankle and knee.
6 weeks later and I’m still having moments of noticing tender movements of my ankle. Thus it’s not 100% healed yet, but getting close.
Musically I’ve been working on finishing a multitude of projects for artists I’m producing to music I’m doing for me.
First thing that got finished was a single for a female artist out of Utah. That was a long time coming. Happy to have it done and when the artist finally gives me a release date, I’ll make note of it here.
Another project I’ve been working on is MūSE PC, a songwriter’s collective where I’m helping other songwriters to improve their songwriting chops. One fun project we’ve started is a group writing / recording project for a single song based on lyrics that everyone involved will get credit for.
I have multiple singles that have various states of finish. By that I mean I have a spreadsheet of things that each song needs to have completed before I can schedule a date to release it. I have 2 that are completely in the can and done. However I’m looking to have at least 6 done and in the can before I start my release schedule. Lots of them need music videos. Which is where I need to work more on brainstorming ideas for them. Some still need lyric videos, and while I had been working on a lot of them I’ve hit a wall on one where my idea might be a tad more complicated than its execution is realistic. Thus I need to reassess if I should change it out. In the mean time you can get down with this fantastic song.
I finally got asked to submit a composer’s reel for an upcoming film project. First time I’ve ever been asked to do so. So I had to spend some time hunting down all the projects I’ve done music for to be edited together into a cohesive unit for the project. While doing this task, I started to realize how many projects I’ve done and never got the final product sent to me. I guess I’m usually so busy moving on to the next thing that it was weird to go back and look at what I’ve done in the past.
Now that I’ve got some of these things done, I can get back to finishing the steps for these singles. Though I’m guessing that right now it won’t be until May before I start getting more music videos finished.
It’s been an odd day. I woke to a feeling of not wanting to get out of bed, which isn’t common for me at all. Likely it stemmed from lack of sleep and a developing issue of an eyelid with irritation. The one thing that brightened my morning was a random tweet by Lisa Loeb. She appreciated my tweet about Ed Cherney passing yesterday (Tuesday). I wrote a tweet to her in appreciation and she responded. That little gesture from her was super sweet.
Mind you, she doesn’t follow me on twitter. It’s highly likely she doesn’t remember me auditioning to play guitar for her on a tour. She also probably doesn’t remember when we bumped into each at NAMM talking to a mutual friend. Either way, she’s a lovely person and it brightened my day.
I felt like a task master getting rolling. Chris Hellstrom and I got our second podcast/broadcast recording in the can today. Compared to the first episode last week, this episode went substantially smoother. I pretty much had the outputs of the audio and video within an hour of finishing the recording. Compared to the 8 hours it took last week. that’s a huge savings in time. Massive creative time cut.
My goal for next weeks episode is to have everything output and ready for releasing within 30 minutes of getting all files. But that might be a little optimistic, as it does take time for Final Cut to export the video. Then for me to upload it to YouTube. And we’re only doing episodes in 1080. Imagine if it were 2k or 4k. It’d probably take a bit longer.
As I was waiting for Final Cut to export the video and Logic to export the audio for the podcast, I worked on yet another lyric video output for the vertical lyric video version for Hero Unexpected.
Once all those outputs were done, I shifted gears back to checking the mix for another single. A song that I co-wrote with Manda Mosher. I made a couple of minor tweaks to my mix and deemed it done. Thanks to some new mixing templates, I was able to output multiple mixes at the same time. Passed it over to mastering and got a master back shortly thereafter.
I sent a copy of the song to Manda and another friend Jesse Stern who played bass on the recording. Both of them enjoyed the mix and the song. I’m looking forward to getting the song into the release schedule for next year. We’ll see when. I’m also looking forward to hearing Manda do an Americana version in her style. I think she’d do a killer rendition of it too.
No, I’m not using something like LANDR for mastering, I think that it’s a joke and I don’t believe in it – and no I wouldn’t recommend using it. But I am working with a mastering setup that can do a fairly quick turnaround with a great sound.
When I look back at the work output for this day, a podcast, a podcast video (both of which are an hour long), a lyric video, and a song single. It feels like a pretty damn productive after a late start for a day where I didn’t want to get out of bed. That seems pretty impressive as I’m looking back on the day. And I’d like to thank Lisa for the kind words and response that helped set the day on a good path.
We’re quickly coming on the end of summer.
If the trees are any indication, we’ve already hit fall. If you’re a student, summer has ended as school is back in session. Which means you’re summer romance, the fling of your life has also recently dissipated or is about to dissolve into the ether.
Enter my new single “Till We Meet Again“, a candid song about those loves we’ve had in life that we hope to rekindle somewhere down the road.
The journey of this song is one of several start and stops and finally a go.
Originally the intent was to write an upbeat tune for a TV show and for a library. I pulled in a bass player friend of mine to co-write it with me. However, there was a bit of miscommunication and he got miffed about the situation, which ended the direction of the song as I had envisioned.
Next I approached another bass player friend of mine, Jesse Stern, and we started working on the music. As a direction it was still to be a library track, however as we got going with it, lyrics started pouring out. He was going thru some dark stuff and was spitting out darker lyrics. Musically as it was speaking to me it had to be a bit more positive, maybe a little more longing. Suddenly we got a song that embraced all of that along with the sounds we were laying down.
During the process of the demo we got to a section of the song and were discussing how to change one bar for it’s time signature. We spent a good deal of time trying to work out if we’d stick to the song’s common time signature (which happens to be 4/4), or go with either 7/4, 6/4, or 5/4.
Multiple different drum fills were tried out. It was a songwriter’s producing exploration into the wild blue yonder until we finally settled on one particular fill in 5/4 that provided such a sly feel to the section of the song that it was as natural as an organic ripe tomato.
Tracking the occurred in several studios. Namely mine for the acoustic guitars, synths, additional background vocals and drum programming. Yes, those are programmed drums. Jesse’s studio was were the bass was tracked and some additional synths as well. Finally the vocals were tracked at George Leger’s studio (Utopia Parkway Music) when it was located in Los Angeles.
One moment during tracking stands out to me. At one point George turned around in his producer’s chair to show me his arms. The hair was standing straight up. He says to me, while Jesse is sitting there:
“This is your Purple Rain. You’re giving me goosebumps.”
Chances are you don’t know George. He is a massive Prince fan. So much so, that he once took me to see Prince perform when I was down in the dumps going thru some tough shit in life. It was a shining moment. I digress. George was so taken aback by the vocal we were laying down and the quality of the song that he felt it would be my equivalent to Purple Rain. My reaction was “I sure hope you’re right.” Damn right, I’d love to have a song be as popular as Purple Rain. Hell, even half as popular would be ideal.
Another memorable moment came when George first noticed the bar of 5/4. He asked who the drummer was that recorded the part and who came up with the fill, he thought it was amazing. When I responded with, I programmed it, he thought I did a hell of a job. Very few people notice because of how natural it feels, it doesn’t feel like a bar of 5/4. This prompted a discussion between myself, George and Jesse, mainly because it was George who originally gave me the idea of adding an odd measure in a song.
After getting all the vocals tracked, George and Jesse also sang some backgrounds. Once back in my studio, I felt I needed some additional voices for the backgrounds, so I enlisted the help of Val and Julia to sing some more parts.
George and I tackled the mix and eventually George did the mastering (as he’s also a fantastic mastering engineer as well).
Now it’s finally been released and is ready for your listening pleasure. I hope it gives you goosebumps like it did for George. Cause that would mean you’d tell others they need to hear and playlist it, like you will.
More music coming soon.
As a musician, I love analog but I embrace digital. Actually I don’t just embrace digital, I love digital as well.
It amazes me that there are still people who will bring up the Analog Recording is better debate. I get it. You can’t let go of your past.
I’m fortunate enough that while I started recording in a bedroom with a TASCAM portastudio, you know the ones that recorded 4 to 8 tracks on a cassette tape, I quickly moved to digital recording as I saw the future. I learned oodles about recording and noise, thanks to that old portastudio. Hell, I have 100s of cassettes that I should transfer into my computer. Though at this point I would have to borrow a working portastudio as I gave mine away to a budding musician. She never gave it back.
Another reason I don’t go digging thru those old tapes is that it would only be a reminder of my beginnings, I highly doubt any of those recordings would ever be salvageable.
I never released any of my song recordings done on tape. All recordings I’ve released were all digital recordings.
However, I have worked on other people’s projects that were recorded on tape. Some sound great, some, not so much.
I quickly moved to digital recording on a computer as soon as my budget allowed me to purchase an audio card. I was limited to 4 tracks, but what a difference it made in sound quality from a portastudio to a computer. What I discovered though was that digital is not forgiving like tape – it was a mirror image of what you fed it. There was no magic vibe automatically created by digital recording.
So I learned that you have to give digital exactly want you wanted, otherwise you’d get disappointed. That made me more determined to make sure I understood how to perform and record to get what I wanted.
Recently I got into a discussion with another songwriter about recording formats. They came right out saying that digital sucked and analog ruled. Their claim is that 1’s and 0’s can’t supply depth to a recording.
Spoken like a true novice.
This particular songwriter claimed they wanted to learn what the differences were between analog and digital. However, with the opening salvo being that digital recording was already weaker, it made for a lame way to claim they were looking to start a conversation to learn such differences.
My answer eventually boiled down to this:
“The difference is mental. Entirely mental. If you actually believe you will achieve a better recording with analog gear – then you will. If you believe you will achieve a better recording with digital gear, then you will. It’s entirely a mental thing for the artist.
In blind A/B tests, you will never know the difference. So why does it matter?
What matters is the performance of the artist/band and the competency of the engineers.”
They had nothing to hit back with.
Of course it helped that other producers jumped in talking about the advantages to digital recording: Speed, ease of use, etc. One older producer went so far to say that one couldn’t pay him enough to go back to working with tape and all analog gear.
Over the past several years and as recently as a month ago I’ve upgraded to newer audio interfaces. The most recent update is the Apollo 8p Quad. It gives me a bunch of additional processing power, along with enough inputs to now track full bands if I need to.
As you know with my career, I’ve been an in-the-box guy for a long time now. I use a laptop (along with a specially designed midi pedal) for my live guitar rig too. That’s how in the box I go.
Great recordings still require several things. An awesome musician or musicians to perform. A means to record. An engineer that understands those means. A quality mix engineer. A quality mastering engineer. These are things that are needed to get an awesome recording. It doesn’t matter if it’s analog or digital (they’re just means).
It doesn’t hurt to have great microphones. It doesn’t hurt to have great mic pres. It doesn’t hurt to have a great room. It doesn’t hurt to have awesome outboard gear. Those things will enhance a recording, as long as they’re used appropriately.
I love the idea of analog, but I embrace the beauty and ease of use of digital.
If there is something I’ve learned – everyone wants to be heard by someone else; they also want others to want them. Have need for them. To love them.
There really isn’t a more definitive song about wanting others to want you than the infamous song penned by Rick Nielson of Cheap Trick.
I Want You
Actually I wish I had written this song. I’ve toyed with it for a long time. When I play it live solo acoustic, I slow it down and I stretch it out.
I tried recording it once.
Then I tried recording it again.
I was never quite satisfied with how I was conveying what I heard in my head as I interpreted the song.
If you didn’t know, I’m working on musical endeavors outside of my artist persona. Thus I brought the concept of how to cover I Want You To Want Me to a co-producing friend of mine. We’ve been toiling over 30 original tracks for the past year and I decided we should heap on 10 more songs, 10 covers of classic hits in the style of our project. This is not something I would have considered even a year ago.
Last week I began rethinking and retracking all the parts, while I let my partner come up with a viable drum part and a few other odds and ends. The biggest trick was how to approach the vocals so that they became modern but were an ode to the era they came from.
Two days ago I finally finished the mix and got it mastered.
I want you to be able to hear it.
Turns out that friends who have already heard it have been saying things like:
“Dig this version!! Great vocals!”
“Love, love love how your voice sounds on this!”
“I just might love this better than the original.”
I’m not sure how soon it will come to the light of the world via streaming services or via a license for use. But I Want You To Want Me as reimagined by Razor Wire is definitely something you should hear. I hope it will be sooner than later.
p.s. – subscribe to my email list to stay informed of releases!
Its been a rough and tumble year. Things started off looking extremely promising then in a matter of months multiple projects and one bigger one all came to a crashing halt.
Rough and Tumble
The rough… A person I was working with for a nice boost on streaming media ended up stealing $14,000 from me. That might not sound like a ton of money, but as a non-signed artist that is paying for everything – that puts a serious dent in your operational cash flow. This is one of the primary reasons I’ve been so quiet here on my ‘dot com’. I’ve been out money to make things happen when I should have been seeing a return.
In turn, this slowed my process down on making the finishing touches on my website. (grrrr).
Its made it difficult for me to upgrade gear.
I’ve been unable to do any PR.
Not a fun position to be in.
Right now I have someone working on getting that money back from them, but after 3 months of trying, I’m beginning to lose hope.
Another element of fallout from this is losing the lovely lady I had been dating for nearly a year. That was a blow as well.
The tumble… They (whomever ‘they’ are) say “roll with the punches.” I’m feeling more like I’ve been tumbling. Whilst I’ve been recovering from the theft, I’ve been finishing music. Lots of music. Some with co-writers, some for TV placements, some for my future releasing. Writing and recording all this music is part of what keeps me sane in such a conniving business.
In other news. A device, that I developed for my own use a couple of years ago, is now generating interest from a couple of companies. I had a meeting with one company a week and a half ago at the end of July. The meeting was scheduled for 30 minutes. That 30 minute meeting ended up lasting an hour and 45 minutes. To me that’s a very good sign and sometime next week I will reach back out to them to follow and see where their thoughts are. In the meantime, I’ve started the patent process to make sure my idea is protected.
Some friends of mine have started developing a content platform for YouTube. As it turns out, my channel and website titled Inside The Recording Studio will get rebranded to be the umbrella for all the content. I’m looking forward to providing cool content about gear, recording and the process of creating music.
As I sit here recapping on several months of what feels like waiting in a holding pattern, I’m working on keeping a positive attitude going into my birthday. I’m taking yet another trip around that sun. Despite being beat down again in my career as a musician, I can be grateful for being alive and healthy!
As the song image for Spotify shows above – I will Rise Up!
I’ll work on being a bit more energetic with content here. In the meantime, thank you for reading.
BTW – if you haven’t joined my email list, please do!
Cooking up a storm over the holidays. That is the modus of my Christmas vacation this year, which is extremely fitting based on the kind of year entertainment has had. Unless you’ve been under a rock its patently obvious to me that its been a horrendous year for legends and icons of music and film.
Hell within 48 hours of Christmas we lost George Michael and Carrie Fisher.
George a musical icon that created some amazing music and of course Carrie who was part of one of the biggest movie franchises in cinematic history.
Beyond the strange string of deaths that lined 2016, I spent a good portion of the year creating. There’s been a new design on the website. There’s been over 60 new songs in production for various co-writes and other things. I’ve been writing new music for release. But my favorite thing this Christmas is the cooking lesson I got as a gift from my sister.
She’s got some great connections in her little spot of the world and its led to us having a nice lesson in cooking last night with Chef Veronica.
Chopping & Cutting
The menu started with crab cakes – so very tasty. It was followed by the group of us chopping up all the ingredients for the main dish Duck L’Orange with ravioli.
The beauty of all the chopping is that I received a super amazing chef’s knife. So sharp that I barely had to drop the knife on the item I was cutting and it would cut itself. Like a hot knife thru warm butter. Drop.
Seriously, having the right tool in your hands makes doing something so much more enjoyable. Like in music, having a great instrument can help you sound better, having a better knife and help you cook better. I’m sure of that assessment. Its probably a lot like getting access to a top end compressor while recording.
One cooking technique I learned was called supreme. Supreme is the art of cutting out citrus so that you don’t have the membrane to deal with while cooking. Yet another reason to have an amazingly sharp knife.
Speaking of sharp knifes tends to remind me of a guitar teacher I had who refused to have any glass or knifes in his house. His reasoning had to do with having an incredible fear of severing his hands – which would mean an end to his ability to play guitar. Aside from rock climbing and bowling, I never shared that fear. For me, rock climbing is super rough on the muscles for my guitar playing. Thus I don’t have a problem with glass or knives, but I don’t do rock climbing and I bowl with my right hand (so I don’t waste my left hand for days on end). BTW – I suck terribly at bowling.
While I’ve made regular pasta, aka spaghetti, in the past, I’ve never made ravioli before. Its a slightly different ballgame in the pasta field.
We got the filling, a mushroom and ricotta filling, finished and chilled first. Then we turned to the pasta dough where we spent time running it thru a pasta roller, over and over. Nothing new there. But when it came time to make the ravioli, thats where things took a turn.
First you lay out the bottom and then get your top half together (hoping that you get them roughly the same size and shape.) Once you have the bottom you dab out the filling in uniform spots on the flattened dough. Once there’s a line of filling, you place the top over it and press down.
I learned a cooking tip that its wise to use an egg wash to help seal both sides of the ravioli together. Meaning I had to do this prior to putting the top on.
Then I had some fun with a couple of different ravioli cutters that were laying around. A heart shaped one, a round one, and also with a pasta cutting wheel to make square ones.
This was the first time I had cooked duck as well. Chef Veronica showed us how to score the skin prior to cooking. Duck is not like chicken. Much like a Les Paul is not Moog. It requires an entirely different method to cooking. So we scored the skin with crosshatches. Then set it into a hot pan to start searing and cooking the fat side down.
Once the duck was nearing completion…
Into The Water
That’s when the pasta took its turn dunking into a hot bath. What’s awesome about fresh made pasta is that it cooks in roughly 3 minutes.
Out of the water came the pasta. The ravioli got covered with a brown butter sage sauce. The fettuccini was topped with the duck and a tasty orange sauce (made from the supreme’d oranges).
What a tasty and fun way to learn to cook something new.
It gives me an idea of how I could bring the idea of producing music into someone’s home…
When Good Monitor Goes Bad
A couple of nights ago I was working my way thru the re-recording of a song demo. It started with a guitar part that maybe 2 people in this town could play, me being the other one. There I was going knee deep into the studio zone of percussion. I had finished the drum parts when I started to take on adding additional epic cinematic drum hits. Midway thru the 3 track of said epic drums there was a sudden quick drop in volume and low end.
Where Did It Go
I tilt my gaze over to the left side of the studio thinking that maybe a Gremlin, or quite possibly a house elf, had taken the monitor speaker to another dimension. Alas my eyes weren’t being deceiving as the monitor speaker was still there. Dammit.
Nothing like losing half the sound right in the middle of the take.
Next up was an endless series of troubleshooting steps. First thought was, hey, maybe the power went out. Flip the switch on and off, still no sound. Maybe something went out in the monitor volume device. Nope. After switching the cables between speakers it was still showing as working out of both outputs for the remaining speaker.
Call A Friend
Pensive, not quite panicked, phone call to a fellow studio friend. Explain the problem of the monitor speaker. Words come drifting back thru the speakerphone saying “Did you check the fuse in the speaker?”
I take another gander at the speaker’s enclosure. Search high and low. Up. Down. Left. Right. Front. Back. Nada. There is no fuse for the speaker to blow. Dang it.
Knowing that the speaker is no longer manufactured, I grudgingly pull up the website to see if there’s information about getting repairs and to peruse the what-replaced-this-model version of their speaker line.
After drooling over what could replace the model I have in the studio, I make a note to Siri to remind me call the company in the morning to get a repair ticket going.
Here Come The Headphones
The disappointment of a monitor giving up soon abates. How do I proceed with my next recording session? A recording that needs to be recorded, mixed, and mastered before 11 am the following morning. Hmmm. In come the headphones. There is no other choice after a certain time of night when all normal humans have gone off to visions of sugarplums and cherries.
Producing high quality recordings via headphones isn’t the most ideal means. However, when the chips are down and the music must go on, you make do by crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
It All Works Out
I got the session done. Turned it over to the co-writer for the purposes of submission to a distant land for a commercial use. When you get feedback stating “It sounds great.” You thank your stars that you didn’t have to attempt to mix without some form of stereo sound.
The beauty of it is, the speaker company is able to repair the monitor for a price considerably less than the new alternative. The added icing on the cake is that you now have an in to chat about possible endorsement. That’s priceless.
I can’t wait for you to hear the fruits of this labor. Unfortunately you will have to wait until sometime early in the new year of 2017. There’s still more recording and production that needs to be done. Ooh, and mixing it. Finally mastering it. Its a process that will be interrupted by a little thing called Christmas and New Years.
A late night discussion last night with my co-producer led to a statement of more guitars! That is what is being called for in the final stages of American Mayhem production. As a guitar player I don’t really have a problem with recording more guitars. It’s what I do. Earlier today I thought I’d bring you in on part of my little journey of laying down more guitars. Layers baby. Layers.
Watch as I screw up. Ha ha ha.
Ah the life of a professional musician. Sometimes it takes more than one take. Or even more than one guitar. The true awesomeness is when it all comes together and sounds spectacular.
Enjoy the journey, can’t wait for you to hear the final product when it comes time to get it out to your ears.
That’s an understatement.
Stay tuned for more.
Thumping right along… That’s what I’ve been up to with getting these singles done and finished with my co-producing friend George Leger III. We put the final touches on yet another song called “Thump Thump Thump”.
That put’s the count at 3 songs completely finished.
The excitement is building as the impending release of single #1 draws nearer. Amazing and magical is how I describe it. The word that those few who have heard it is: Wow!!!
Pretty cool responses. Most of the time, music doesn’t make people say “Wow!!!” Now it does.
How do I contain the restraint to releasing it? Good question. This is by far the absolute longest I’ve had to sit on a finished product. Main reason is not for building hype. No, it’s more simple than that. I really want to make sure the song gets the best possible launch it can have. That unfortunately takes time. Time, that a lot of people don’t have the patience to control.
Heck, I’ve had moments where I’m like, Fuck It! Lets do this!
Then the moment passes and I remember that there’s a plan. It’s a good plan. A winning plan based on those who have been asking and talking with me about it.
At this point we’re on to single #4, it’s so close to finish I can practically taste it…