This is the song that I challenged myself to finish before February, and showcases, for better or worse, the best of my abilities (and technical means) right now (the mix is a bit dull now and I will revise it in the future, when I'm not so close to the project).
As engineer and producer, I have learned a lot along this month, and it shows for example in my folders' structure. I know better at every moment what I'm doing and how. Taking a look at my previous process lists, I think my biggest problems were that I tended to standardize too soon, or not at the adequate "height" (for example, didn't have the "feel" for when you have to go deep in the woods or be more general ("use a 1.5 compression ratio" vs "play with the compression rate until it doesn't pump"). Of course you can always get better, and those were necessary errors that I'm happy to have gone through. Someone once defined the people at Toyota as "problem junkies", and it's a great attitude to have, so... bring on the problems! They'll always have me waiting with the knife and fork held high.
The guitar is recorded di, with an additional track with the SM58 pointing to the guitar strings, to capture some "air". A nifty trick I will try surely in the future, good to grab some air moving when there is not a physical amp available.
Now speaks the musician; the lyrics are open, deliberately vague and poetic, not intended to make perfect sense. To me the "coming back" refers to those times in life when you feel you have been estranged from yourself for a long time, perhaps even years, and you feel that it was necessary, yet sad, and you're just happy to find yourself back and trying to do your best so that it doesn't happen again. That is an individual interpretation, the lyrics are also open to a collective one, thinking of the moment the human species is living as a society, where I certainly feel a great need to "come back". In the vocals I tried to go for a Morrison/Danzig feel.
I feel I succeed as a musician when the song grabs something "intangible", something that opens and it's magic and alive. I'm happy to report that I feel ab it of those "butterflies" when the song "opens" to the instrumental after the two verses. The tremolo arrangement in the background has a clear influence of Bob Dylan's "Forever young" (the slow one). I'm also happy of the inspiration of humming the end verses. I was going to go for just a repeat verse and a fade out, but the producer caught me on time: "dude, you're being lazy". I like the ending I came up with, just playing the disonant chord I've used along the whole song and let it hanging. This got me thinking that, very often, the answer is not introducing a new element, but to explore better the ones you already have.
In spite of the limitations, speaking of the ground advanced, I'm very happy with this project. The amount of things that went wrong made me think at some points of that drummer in Spinal Tap who goes into spontanenous combustion :P To name a few, it took two versions from the ground up -it was supposed to be a simple project, you know-, there where software failures that obliged me to test three different DAWs in three different distros, I made a planning mistake that felt like the painter who corrals himself inside the room... What makes this time different from the others, as I've remarked in other posts, is that I faced each of those mistakes as learning opportunities, so they are all well researched and documented, and the mistakes that will occur int the future will be different, which is always stimulating.
from dumber decisions
brand new life always bound to start
grant no permission
hearts of stone
still can build a fire
change your definitions
find some time
under some rug
forget with precision
but it's alright
look after your prison
hold on tight
till it comes apart
is it life
or lead carcass
Take it back
bar your indecision
take the bite
or find the crack
thriving on division
not your likes
but it's alright
Faces in the crowd
trying to get by
creep back into the roots you never had
words are sharp
so you take a stab
like a roll of dices
"The leak song"
Bff. Arg. Pant. Hot from the presses, as imperfect as it gets, please imagine the cracks and pops come from an original gramophone, with one of those disks that only had one side.
The composition of this one was a bit like those stories we've seen in plenty of comedies, full of artistry epic:
The musician: "OK, let's call it a day, it's been an hour jamming and we're just straining ourselves, let's face it, today we won't be able to make a new song" (utters a distracted chord as he gets ready to switch off)
The producer: "Wait a minute! What did you just play?"
The musician: "What, this?"
The producer: "Quick, engineer! Keep recording!"
The song is based on an actual event. Here is the picture of the actual leak to prove it:
And here are the lyrics. A persistent problem I've been facing with these quickies is that the recorded voice is difficult to understand. I'll probably tackle that problem the first when this challenge ends...
THE LEAK SONG
There's a big leak right in my roof
and it's been pouring its misery down into my room
Just when I thought things could not get worse
trouble still finds ways to take yet another bit of my soul
I can't move over
I won't go back
I think of ways to get to the future or to the past
the water's no one's
the roof ain't mine
tonight it seems only misery is inside my path
I'm feeling sick
and left aside
of friendly stories
to warm my heart
I don't feel free
guess no one does
it gets so lonely as time goes slowly
with moldy thoughts
Why gets so stormy on
the camel's back
I'll go to sleep on my own
and dream of the morning sun
I should be grateful
for what I've got
A messed up roof is always way better than having none
A messed up roof is always way better than having none
What a week it's been. Rocky road (but not with "rock" in the good sense). I feel 500 years older. I don't know how I managed without my processes before. I guess I was younger and could afford the waste.
My wip folder has grown with project after project that seemed straightforward but it turned out to not really. On new year's eve, I completed one of those "given" songs I'm sometimes gifted with, but it still shows several obstacles: in the heat of the moment, I wasn't sure if it the style was an OK homage to one of my heros, or if it reached the degree of servile plagiarism. Listening to it with distance, I think it has enough merit on its own, but it still presents several problems to be solved: 1) There is a difference in the tone of the lyrics; the first 2 verses were literal, while the 3rd one is poetic. I'm substituting the approach of those first two, but this process is a "dripping" one. The fragments are still coming. In addition, I have to redo the drums, which currently sound like a trainwreck.
There is another cover I'm working on, but I have to work the drums too, and my energies have been a bit short this week for the task.
And today I intended to record another cover, a guitar+voice quicky, but the song turned out to have a solo, and confronted with the choice of doing a goofy version or playing the solo, I decided to take the time to learn it, as it contains certain guitar techniques I want to look upon.
So today I publish a small recording I did last Summer, when it occurred to me that "Volare" could sound nice with a syncopated SKA rythm. (The song is in fact, wikipedia explains, entitled "Nel blu dipinto di blu", and the original author is the Italian singer Domenico Modugno).
It's just a quick rehearsal done with the two-track app, but it has the bonus that I had access to an actual guitar amp, and there is always this additional warmth in the sound when you are actually moving air... Very appropriate for a song that speaks of "volare" (to fly" :P )
This song is so underproduced that it's embarrassing. This time I got the mastering volume right, but a couple of unexplainable cracks and pops sneaked in... arrgg! There was a "pit of misery" moment in there when I was twisting the knobs and thinking I hate my fucking life, so I stuck to the principle of keep it fun, and moved along.
Each time I fail a bit better, my processes advance and get richer and more detailed every time, but God, I need a producer so bad, this stuff drains me, it always feels like fishing in the dark with a stick, I'd rather be doing anything else, for example music.
In any case, like the other quickies I'm releasing weekly, this is good practice and dexterity; you can figure out a lot a process and do a lot of preproduction, but in the end there is a kind of knowledge that you only get by running the whole process from one extreme to the other time after time after time...
The song is something I dreamt. Not something inspired by a dream, mind you, but something that was sung in my dream, and I woke up with enough remains of it to capture the jist: a very movable verse, in contrast with the monotone chorus sentence, which at the start steps a bit on the riff. In my dream, a very enthusiastic teacher used this song to describe the virtues of Java Script. The guy even had a coreography and all...
Another musical persona has recently joined my one man musical production army. I call him the production assistant.
In short, my inner production assistant takes care of all the unglamorous, mundane stuff that goes in a software session, so that my inner creative guys, the inner musician and the inner producer, in that order of preference, can focus all their energy in experimenting and making the right decissions. Like the sound engineer, whom I discussed in a previous post, his role is taking out of the way everything that is repetitive and boring, so the creative "sectors" can dedicate themselves to create at ease.
The difference with the sound engineer is that the production assistant is more software focused, and enters only once the process has been started. For example: I'll tell the sound engineer that I have a new song, and he will create the DAW session, a script to get there quickly (opening also other colateral stuff required, like lyrics docs, etc), and we'll "discuss" briefly which tracks he will provide and in which order we intend to proceed.
Then the musician records a track, voice let's say, and generallly we do several takes. When we're (I'm) done, it is the production assistant who will arrange those takes, give them name conventions, make them easy to move around... so that the musician+producer can decide which part of each take will make it to the final track, (a creative decission not always clear, cases for example like "this take has more errors, but its general vibe is the best so we'll use it as the foundation), etc.
This system works very well for my mind, it feels swift like changing gears, and even for small one minute contingencies, I have got myself in the habit of noticing it ("I'm going to need a new voice track here for some harmonies... time to call the sound engineer").
I guess I'm not the first to discover this, I remember listening to a podcast interview with a guy who, for his musician and producer caps, he had actual physical caps, which he changed depending on which role he was in; so I'm not alone in this. Whatever works, man :P .