Taking shape

I’m now listening to a playlist of 10 songs. 9 of these are “final” bass/drum takes. One is a demo of a track to be recorded next week. Kevin and I have been at work now that he has adjusted to his new schedule.

We’re working to get all his drum tracks done before we have to shift gears and start working on the next set of things we have to do for Metroid Metal. We have a show coming up (MAGFest) in January, and the plan is to add some new songs to our set, and add a couple of special surprises. We managed to record two songs this week, and I hope we can pull the same thing off next week. That’ll put us ahead of the game.

It looks like I’ll have 15 songs by the time we’re finished, and it will just be a matter of fleshing those out with the other instruments. All 15 of those songs may not make it to the final album though (in fact, they probably won’t), but I’ll have enough to pick and choose the ones that go well together.

Almost all of these songs are in the 3 – 4 minute range. That wasn’t intentional, so I’m not sure what’s going on. I may try to squeeze in a 14-minute prog epic just to cover all my bases (do not bet on that).

Now where was I?

This is becoming a theme. Blah blah, progress being made, OH WAIT HIGH PROFILE GIG, that was fun, now try to recapture momentum…

This time, it was again a PAX. PAX Prime in Seattle, to be exact. I really kind of thought I’d be used to this by now as this is the 5th one Metroid Metal has done, but this one was no less hectic and exciting. I’m not as nervous as I was for the first couple, but I somehow managed to not actually go to the expo itself. I spent most of the time either at our table or at the venue. I did get a little hang-out time and that was cool. Actually, one of my favorite parts about this one was an increased sense of camaraderie between all the bands. I really appreciated and enjoyed that. But now it’s back to the real world and that means trying to get back into the groove of recording this album.

By my count, there are 6 songs with drums recorded. Most of them have at least a scratch bass track recorded, and one of them has guitar and vocals! I’ve got several more songs in the works, and it’s just a matter of getting them practiced and recorded. Kevin has been unavailable lately (at least when I’ve been available) but things are in flux in his world, so hopefully it’ll all settle down soon enough.

The good thing about being away from all these songs for a little while is they’re exciting and fresh now that I’ve come back to them. The bad thing is I may have forgotten how to play a couple of them.

Blasphemies

I’m doing something different this time around, and it’s a pretty drastic change. I’m using click tracks.

Ok, actually, this isn’t new to me, I’ve done this for years, but Kevin doesn’t generally need them, and doesn’t like using them. As I’ve mentioned before, we would practice the songs to be recorded, then when he felt ready, he’d just play the songs unaccompanied and I’d record him. He did this for the Yes, Mayhem album, both Metroid Metal albums, and the unreleased Life on the Blue Dot album (I really need to finish mixing that), so it’s been standard operating procedure for some time for us.

No more!

Kevin wants to do professional session drumming, and he’s certainly got all the chops to do that, but click tracks are a certainty in that environment – especially if he hasn’t established himself yet. So, we’re doing that as practice for him.

I don’t actually mind the inevitable ebb and flow of the tempo when he’s playing without a click. I think it lends a more live feel to the whole thing, but it can be difficult down the line for other people to track on top of it – especially other people who aren’t used to playing with Kevin. That said, there were a couple of places on the first album where tempo variations made overdubbing very difficult, and I almost had to scrap a song because of it. I worked it out in the end, but I hope to avoid some of that this time around. I’ll probably create a whole host of new problems for myself but c’est la vie.

How much? Too much.

I bought some package from Musician’s Friend that included a whole bunch of free XLR cables I’ve been using for my drum mic setup. I’ve only had them a little while, but I’ve already replaced two of them because they just sort of go bad and introduce all sorts of noise and distortion into the recordings. I’m going to end up replacing all of them because another went out on me during the last couple of recording sessions. So, free is more than I can afford apparently.

That said, I’m now up to 4 demos recorded with a couple more songs ready to be worked out. Since I don’t have all the songs worked out completely like most of them were for the last album, I’m taking time to record, listen back, and live with them to decided what changes I need to make rather than just rush to tracking like Kevin wants to do. It gives me a chance to get James and Grant involved in the process a little more as well rather than just handing them finished tracks and saying “make a guitar noise here.”

So, I guess the moral of my story is, if you purchase a package from Musician’s Friend, and they offer to include free XLR cables, don’t expect to rely on them for anything other than maybe a clothesline.

Demoscene

No, the next album isn’t going to be Commodore 64 music as much as I may wish that was the case. However, demo recordings are finally underway. MAGFest was later than normal, and PAX East was earlier than before, so they kind of ran together and prep for them pushed Yes, Mayhem stuff to the side momentarily. It feels good to get back on track.

I’m also working on a radio edit/press kit for the first album. I figure SOMEONE might want to play it, so why not put it out there?

Once more, it begins…again!

I’ve broken ground on this thing, finally, again. Last night, Kevin and I had our first official practice/recording session for the new album. We worked on an old song of mine that I’m tearing apart and rebuilding into something I can finally be satisfied with. We recorded some loops of some of the parts just to kind of get a sense of how things work together and to give me something to listen to/think about until the next time we get together to play.

Let’s do that again!

I’ve had a chance to sit and relax a bit after I finished everything for the last album. I have way more good reflections than bad, so I’m inclined to start this whole process again. The reaction to the first album was pretty fantastic so that was very fulfilling. Thank you to everyone who downloaded the album, commented on it, or just cranked it up. I listen to it all the time still, so at the very least it met my primary criteria – be an album I want to hear.

As I mentioned, I started writing new stuff as a way of procrastinating finishing, so that’s where I’m going to start with the new one. Like before, I’ll be pulling in some older demos and giving them the full band treatment, but I hope to have more brand new stuff this time around.

I’ve been doing preproduction type of stuff and that mainly consists of figuring out what songs I have, what songs I could have, and what remains to be written to get some of this stuff to a usable state. I wrote most of the instrumental parts on the first album, but I was most excited about the parts other people came up with, so I’m going to leave plenty of room for collaboration this time around. Hopefully, that’ll result in more interesting things, but I’ll still try to maintain some clarity of vision for the project as a whole.

I’m happy to say that my core (James, Grant, Kevin) has expressed interest in reprising their roles, so that’s a pretty good start right there. I hope to include more special guests this time as well, so the scope of this thing could get well nigh unmaintainable, but I’d like to at least see where that line can be drawn.

I’ve given James, Grant, and Kevin copies of what I have so far. I’ve got way more than a single album, so I’ll probably be trimming stuff as I go and probably adding other things as they come along. I hope to start tracking drums in late January or early February, just like last time. Metroid Metal Live is playing at MAGFest again, and that’s taking place Jan 13-16, so we’re busy getting ready for that at the moment.

I’ll try to be better about writing about the process this time, but again, no promises. Thanks for sticking with me through the spotty updates.

Here we go…again!

The Final Mile

11/12 songs are mastered and done – ready to go.  I can barely believe it, but there it is.  I’ve been listening to the final versions of the songs, trying to figure out a decent order for the album, and have to keep reminding myself that this is my album.  Don’t get me wrong, it certainly sounds like me – it’s very weird and loud.  That’s how I like it.  It’s just so much better than I could have done on my own, so I’m all kinds of appreciative to all the guys who helped out.  I expect the whole thing to be completely wrapped in about a week, and that’s going to be a load off my mind.  Finally, I’ll be free to devote some musical energy and headspace somewhere else – like these new songs I’ve been writing!

Anyway, what this process has shown me more than anything else is I suck at blogging/journaling/diarying/etc.  So sorry about that.  I promise, the album will be more entertaining than this thing.

So, as promised, a mastered track, and one I haven’t shared before.  We’re doing a sampler for PAX again, and this is going to be on there, but I’ll just throw it out there early.  This is called Whore Shoes, and it pretty much got written as it was being recorded.  That’s unlike most of the other songs that were finished and demoed before I even got started.  I’m really pleased with how this turned out.

Whore Shoes

James Moats: vocals
Grant Henry: guitars
Dan Taylor: bass
Kevin Lawrence: drums
featuring Jason ‘XOC’ Cox: accordion, wurlitzer

Quick and dirty update

I’ve lost hair and sanity, but I’m edging closer to that finish line. I was pretty sure my brain has been trying to keep me from finishing this album because every time I’ve sat down to work on the last bit I needed to record, I ended up hating all of it and giving up out of disgust. I regrouped today, and got some input from James, and that was what I needed to break on through that roadblock. Ha, now there’s an apt metaphor (you’ll see).

11 tracks mixed and ready for mastering which will take place this weekend unless something bizarre happens. Grant has asked if he can master this album, and I’m all too happy to oblige. I may put up a mastered track as a preview. Maybe even one I haven’t shared yet. I haven’t decided.

One more track has one more part to go and that can be added to the mastering queue as well. That’s another special guest, so I’m just waiting patiently.

I started thinking about packaging today because I’m going to take copies with me to PAX in Seattle (Labor Day weekend), and I want to do something interesting and creative, but totally on the cheap. I’ve already got duplication figured out. So yeah, soon!

If that’s not enough, I’ve been working on another recording that’ll be out at PAX too. Three guesses what that might be…

By the way, our PortableACNerd collaboration its almost official.