Tangled in intestines. Yesterday I went to bed confused and a bit concerned. I think the main cause was because when the shit hit the fan I wasn't fresh. I had mastered "Coming back" and uploaded it, and then took some time to decide what to do next between two options. On one hand, I thought to master "Murder Christmas", the other impromptus song for the album; it would get me a new cheap win, with a new song ready to go in one sitting. But as those impromptus songs don't have (logically) the same recording quality as the full fledged stuff, I was afraid that it could bring me down, plus, I just came from doing some mastering and didn't feel like starting another cycle.
Discarding other songs that no way I felt like getting into, the other option was "Now you're talking". This song got interrupted halfway the recording stage by the big breakdown. In fact, I was still able to advance a bit on the drums with computer B; but the sonic chain needed for doing drums was three programs (DAW (Ardour)-MIDI editor(Rosegarden)-Drum samplings (Hydrogen); so the day I added a third change of tempo to the song, my faithful old computer popped up a message that said "I don't work miracles, baby".
I choose this later option; at the end of the intestinal tunnel I was going to create music, new music, so good to hear after so much "knobbery"... However things turned wrong very quickly, and in several places at the same time.
I fired up the drum track to find that the hihat had been replaced by a low tom, the crash cymbals where missing in action, etc...
"Oh well, it's a royal pain in the ass but this has happened before. It's something you have to do only once and then the workflow is very comfortable."
But then I found it was worse than that. It wasn't only a question of instruments being in the wrong locations. The instruments I was using were not there at all. The Hydrogen version was different from my previous, and this one ships for some reason with different drum kits. No decent crash was to be found, not even installed from repositories.
After some more disaster movies (for some reason, Ardour always loses some audio file along the way whenever you change equipment), I decided to try to see this as a blessing in disguise; for a long time I've been wanting to graduate from Hydrogen and try Drumgizmo (a program that even simulates mic bleed, how cool is that?). So I downloaded drumgizmo and I had it installed in a jiffy.
Then I downloaded the drum samples, and it never ended. Two and a half Gb! You can tell the sound quality is going to be great, but oh boy...
Under such long download process, I had time to take a better look at my options. Something I've discovered while listening to the Bandcamp playlist is that "Coming back" has a very different vibe to the other songs. It's not because it is a ballad; I think it's more because of the low pitch vocals, Danzig style.
This song was thought out initially for the other band, Maple Dye, and maybe it is where it belongs (but I'll keep my mind open until I have the whole playlist). However, this touched the same point as a change of drumming chain at this point: consistency.
The drums in the album are currently of two kinds: single layered and multilayered samplings, both by courtesy of Hydrogen. If I now add a different program, isn't there an even bigger risk of making a "Frankenstein" of a record?
Hopefully, this morning, with my head clearer, I've seen a few options more I didn't have. I've even made peace with the idea of taking "Coming back" out of the album, if need be; I have this power ballad that has been traveling with me for around 10 years now, and it will take some time of rehearsal, but I feel it could be a good substitute.
In any case, my uninformed guesstimation for today is: I'll prioritize and try the different options, and hopefully end the day having got past the intestines, with some new sounds generated or in the very worst case scenario, with everything ready so I can resume making actual music tomorrow...
Finished (abandoned) "Coming back" mixing. Today I'll apply the mastering process and be done with it. I've erred too far into production tasks (which tire me and depress me), and it's been a while since I entered the land of diminishing returns.
It seems there's no way around with the vocals track; if you apply compression to tame the big initial push, you get too much shhhs and bohhhs. So after trying all kind of tricks, I just went back to my previous version and reduced manually the volume of some of the beginnings of phrase.
In spite of this, overall I like the final result pretty much. Especially the moment when the solo enters. It's something my twentysomethings old self would have listened to with pleasure, cutting classes at the school campus while smoking the stuff he used to smoke back then...
I'd like to publish the Black Sheep Riot album somewhere around October, and the Maple Dye one at some point in November. It would be a great closing of the year; I also like this setup because this way December becomes kind of a "buffer", from which I can chip away extra time when the unavoidable delays start to happen.
We'll see we'll see. I have a lot of stuff to do, but having the vision polarizes all the missing pieces; right now it looks feasible, though a big stretch. The planning stage is like the military parade, everything looks so sharp and impressive. The execution is more like the war itself, where things don't look so neat anymore...
Still working my way through "Coming back"'s vocals. The problem I have is that I have had to pile two compressors to keep the voice from sticking out too much, but that on its turn has caused the track to be under a "magnifying glass"; a lot of breath-ins that were hardly noticed before have had to be pruned, and the sibilances have become too prominent.
So it's deesser time. I haven't used that plugin much, so I have to get familiar first. I guess it's just a compressor for chosen frequencies. Hopefully today I'll take that stuff out or find an alternative solution. The rest of the song is smooth sailing already.
I'm going to stick to these logs until #10. They're working great for me by now -suffices to read my mood and my outcome in day #1 and now-. Still haven't had a "hangover" or lost the novelty halo, I like this routine...
99% sure "Coming back" is finished. Gotta relisten today. I got plenty of moments during the session where I though "aha, that's it, it matches what I had in mind".
The main point of discomfort in this one is that the overall mix is a bit 2D, especially considering (or perhaps more noticeably because of) that trill effect coming and going it has in the middle; I would have liked to give it more depth, but... I think that's a job for a professional producer; for me this one is an advance in the right direction, so I think I'll leave the table and cash my earnings now that I'm winning...
Another positive surprise was how well tape saturation works in the song. I have used it in the past in several songs, and I had discarded it as a great creator of mess; maybe it's something that works in ballads only? Material for new experiments in the future.
Almost there with "Coming Back". The first part of the session went very well, everything flowed famously. It made me think of the Karate Kid movie, when Daniel san, sick and tired with so much "wax on, wax off", finally puts the training to use; Miyagi starts throwing punches at him, and his hands block the blows automatically, unconsciously; "the vocal track sounds too piercing at the beginning of the phrases?" That's because the compressor does not attack fast enough. "The guitar sounds as if it had a sponge stuck among the strings?". Let's open the EQ and chase those two or three suckers lingering in the middle range. "The solo sounds too 'telephonic'?". I've gone too far with the Low pass filter...
But at the end was too tired, and I wish I had stopped about half an hour before I did. I still have to relisten, but I think at the end I couldn't trust my own judgement. I stopped before I 'fried' the mix (it's happened me sometimes), but I have to become a better judge of my own ear fatigue...
But I wanted to finish, and also, I was having such a great time... The song has a part at the end with the vocals hummed, and I tried duplicating that part and lowering it one octave; it gives the ending a solemn, procession-like feel. How was I to stop after finding such new "toy"?
Today I'm pretty swallowed by non musical life so I don't know if I'll make it to the session. I'll try to at least touch base for a moment (but that's what I said last night and look what happened...)
After giving some thought to what to do next, I passed another song through the gorilla master process. 2 ready, 6 to go.
This one was "You're Repulsive", an impromptu one that was already published, but needed some tweaking. This has made me realize that most of the material of this album has already been somewhat published, but hardly noticed, so...
It surprised me how clear the bass sounded in this one. I think what I did different from Zombie was not using distortion; that was an experiment because I thought a distorted bass would cut better through the mix, etc...
In this one the drums hardly qualify as such; they're just a loop on top of which everything gets played. But the song turned out well and it fits the mood of the collection, I think.
I chose doing this one for morale purposes (getting one more song to done quickly is a boost, reducing inventory is great...), plus reinforcing the just created master process with a new iteration.
After that, I also prepared the session for "Coming back", still to be produced. I'll do it today, and I'm confident I can take it to completion; the song has a long and twisted story, so all the available mistakes have already been made and taken care of...
(In addition I also did some config works, from now on to be referred as "unknotting intestines". Ah, the fun! This time writing documentation every step of the way, so that Murphy at least has to look for another entrance, etc...)
Relistened to the song, resisted the temptation to tweak "just a couple of things more", did my gorilla mastering process, then the property registration and uploaded the song to Bandcamp, plus lyrics.
A lot in the song is wrong production-wise. Too wet in places, too raw in others... But the song, what matters in the end, is there. It has the fist and it has the feather, the two elements I always look for.
The drums kill me, but fortunately here come cultural references to the rescue; Venom's first album sounded as if the band were playing somewhere and the drummer on a dance hall at the next room; yet the record works because the songs are so primal and dirty. In fact the crappy recording even adds to its creepiness, so who knows.
It's always this struggle, I don't want to become sloppy, but there is an epidemic of technical disease going on and you have to remind it to yourself at each step. Music is life or death stuff, there's people out there dying, not as a metaphor, actually dying of idea thirst, while I'm drowning in ideas. It's a moral duty to swallow my ego and keep the stuff pumping. Most of the self-appointed "experts" out there are people who wouldn't be able to write a song for their life, and they often are bitter, angry people, resented towards those with something to contribute. What the hell, I'll get better by doing, that's all there is to it.
Installed the window manager in the music distro (gave some troubles, but nothing serious, and I also documented it so from now on it will be easier).
To cope with the yawn-ness of the whole thing, I structure things like this: "I'm going to do this wm thing, and then I'm going to do something that actually involves music". The premise was doing something that involved sound, creating it, editing it, recording it... When the moment came what I figured out was checking the session of the song I was mixing before the "great breakdown". I chose this task because it only involves one program, the DAW, so configuration overheads are lower.
What makes sketchy and strange the inventory I currently have is that, during the absence of computer A, I tried to stay committed and do what I could with computer B. That involved generally recording, which computer B could take, but not so much mixing, plugin stuff, etc...
The song I left in the mixing process is called "Zombie barf"; it has been bugging me for a long time because of the drums; the kick recording is multilayered, which adds richness to the sound, but if you're not careful, some of the beats get lost/sound too prominent. On the other hand, if I reduce the degree of "humanization", the drum tracks sounds unintendedly industrial (it's supposed to be a hardcore punk song).
I've been through this pendulum for too long but yesterday I think I got a sweet spot (as sweet as I can get with these tracks; this slowness is hindering things, is dangerous). I did some automation, exported, and today I'll listen to it again and hopefully call it a song...
Not knowing where to start, today I applied the "begin with the end in mind" principle and created a Bandcamp draft for the upcoming album. I had the feeling I was accumulating a lot of resistance for not knowing what the "endgame" of the songs was going to be, and it seems I was right. As it often happens, I felt terribly lazy about going back to Bandcamp, (where did I put the password, etc...), but everything went smoothly.
The first thing I wanted to check was if I could publish a "work in progress album", i.e., an "album" already available with only one song when I've finished it, where I can upload new songs as I finish them. This doesn't seem to be possible, but in any case I'm happy I've done the test. I had never done a Bandcamp draft and it seems a good practice. The project feels more real.
I've uploaded a crappy cover version, the first .png I've found laying around, and I haven't even uploaded songs versions (the demos I had available were all .mp3s), but Bandcamp allows to place the song titles there without upload, so you can start to give shape to a playlist in a way a bit more enticing than a simple .txt file in your computer. It will be nice in the future, though, uploading actual music and pleasure myself with the playlist to check the best cadence of songs, etc...
Today has also turned out to be an application of the "It's the start what stops us" principle; having my in the works album in front of me has created kind of a virtuous cycle in which I've got more done than I imagined: the logo on top was a very primitive one, I have a better version now, where did I put that file, wait, I forgot to transfer it from the other hard drive, and does the art folder really have to live 6 levels deep, etc...
I guess what's next for tomorrow is doing some configuration work. I have the musical distro already installed (had to do it when I planned the partitions), but no configuration done. After having to configure my regular working system, I really don't feel like doing this stuff, I guess the best approach will be to configure things as they are required, instead of a big session, at least until my geek muscle is more recovered.
Speaking about the actual value creation work, i.e. playing, singing recording... It tires me only of thinking about it. My current environment is not very musician friendly, but hey, that's what systems are for, to keep you in place; the plane must reach the destination either it's sunny or rainy...
Lately I've felt very far from music, even though I know, i always know, it's the best thing that's in me (bear in mind my interest in music started way before the accession of home computers, and it won't change a thing for me the day they become "the penultimate wonder").
I blame this distance on worries and stress. Life has squeezed me extremely these latest 4 months. Granted, my superpowers have also risen considerably (I'm in my forties, top of the hill baby!), but music, real music, is a delicate thing that needs a bit of buffer and comfort.
I changed my computer recently and it's been an odyssey. After having things configured to my liking, the screen started to act weird, so I had to back up everything and start again after the attempt at repairing (useless attempt, for worse, as the technicians acted like in Monty Python's dead parrot sketch).
Now I have a guitar laying around, a hard drive full of half finished songs and documents on how to finish them, and not much motivation to push myself.
An idea I've had to try to improve this sad state of affairs is using this blog in the literal sense of the word (short for weblog, if you didn't know it). Writing a few daily entries like a captain's log, writing an entry even to report that there's nothing new to report. Hopefully, this "oligocommitment" will help me get in the mood, the zone, the babystep, to move forward...
I'll write pretending that no one is watching (heh, impossible not to think here about Dead Cross' recent album: "Dance... like nobooody's waaatching..."). In fact, considering my numbers, that's not far from the truth. But I'll try to be dry and not introspective, a strange practice for me. For example, today's entry would go something like:
No activity. Tired and dull with so-called-real-life. Yesterday I processed a few of my notes, which have been piling up these weeks. There are fragments for a new song, working title "Raised in mirrors", that has been kinda imposing on me lately; I'm reluctant about working on it because I'm afraid it could be an unconscious plagiarism, but fragments and fragments keep coming... It's a voice+acoustic kind of deal, maybe it would be a nice final touch at the end of my country blues album...
I'll commit to a minimum 7 days of this kind of log (to see how hard it is on me, if it works, and also because by then the novelty effect will have worn out...)
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it