Sunday, August 19, 2018

New Council of One music!

The new Council of One EP, 5 at 50, is now available on BandCamp!

I initially wasn't sure how to follow up last year's emotionally heavy album Profit and Loss, so I just started working on some guitar improvisation pieces, inspired by Frank Zappa's seminal Shut Up N' Play Yer Guitar (one of my desert island discs).

2018 is also the 10th anniversary of the release of the first Council of One album, One Week in December, so I also thought it would be nice to hearken back to the early CoO releases that were heavily improvisational.

Alas, as often happens with CoO, what was supposed to be simple and easy-to-finish turned into something else.

Because my life now revolves around raising two kids when I'm not at the office, I had to record this late at night, an hour here and an hour there. I ended up staying up late and going without enough sleep when it was time to mix and master it. I'm tired!

I also put in a lot of effort to do a professional-sounding mix and master, and I'm quite proud of the results. A big sonic upgrade over my previous work, and a huge learning experience.

The "concept" around this EP is that the entire thing was written and recorded during my 50th year. A snapshot of where I am musically at this momentous point in my life. Sure enough, I'm releasing it just before my 51st birthday. Deadline met.

On offer are five tracks. I completed two more, but they turned into fully composed pieces that I'm saving for further projects.

  • "50" Written and recorded on my 50th birthday and the day before, when I took a couple days off work as a birthday present to myself. I had the house (and the studio) to myself and just wanted to see what I could develop in that time.

    The initial inspiration was "Five-Five-FIVE" off of Zappa's Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar, but it somehow turned into a Rush song. Go figure.
  • "Sons of Phrygia" Slow, heavy shuffle revolving around the phrygian mode. A Tony Iommi feel crept into this one, somehow. I'm also developing this riff set into a composed piece for a future project.
  • "Early Traveller" One of the two unused tracks for this EP is a disco song, and I recorded this one afterward to try and get something dance-ish onto the EP. I'm also going to use the rhythm section parts to develop a largely unrelated composed piece.

    Dig the Earth Wind & Fire vibe going on at the end! I love strings and horns, and I'm glad I was able to work in a simple arrangement here.
  • "There's a Blue Light Glowing in My Pants" Fusion number that starts with a slow funk feel and transitions to an uptempo Santana-type thing. The second solo is one of the very best things I've ever played.

    This song and "Early Traveller" both have a Neal Schon vibe in the solos, which is odd because he's not a direct influence on me. That may be because these songs feature the two-chord vamps Santana favors. Neal is sort of an "evolved Santana," and that's the mode I go into when I'm playing over that type of music.
  • "Love Is Free" This is a solo jazz improvisation that literally took 15 minutes from conception to completion. Two major-7th chords with a bunch of noodling around them. Turned out surprisingly good, for that.
Hope you enjoy this new music, and let me know what you think!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Jazz Music for a Punk Rock Kid

My new album Profit and Loss features a song for each of my sons. My older son, Ian, is now almost five years old, but I wrote and recorded his song, "Elder Son" when he was about two or three.

Ian has always been an emotionally complex young man, and I wanted the song for him to be deep and thoughtful. Now, he's a total punk rocker of a preschooler, so I might do it differently today.

It's centered around the bass line played on my Modulus/Fender hybrid fretless bass (which has subsequently been modified to sound better than this). This line is a sort of "lullaby drone" that I sang to Ian at bedtime when he was a newborn. I couldn't help but make it the core of the song.

With that bass line and the 3/4 time signature, it reminds me of something Alice Coltrane might have done in the early '70s, so I was inspired to add the harp flourishes as a nod to her. Not real harp, of course, just samples.

The guitar is my Heritage Millennium Pro semi-hollow, in a kind of Larry Carlton mode. The sax is SampleModeling software, and I'm happy with the way the solo turned out, considering it's not real saxophone.

I considered adding more to this arrangement, but every time I tried I came back to this relatively sparse arrangement. It's held up for me for the last couple years since I recorded it.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Five years gone. It's here.

I couldn't take the delay anymore.

After releasing four new tracks in succession on YouTube and then Bandcamp under my "one song at a time" strategy, I finished the mixes to a level I can live with and sent the whole thing off into the wild a couple days ago.

Here it is, after five years, the new Council of One album Profit and Loss!

A lot changes in five years, even if the music comes along slowly. Here are the phases this project went through:
  • Avant-garde music featuring instruments all playing at different tempos. This lasted one song in 2012 ("Random Events", the first song finished), and into a little bit of the next ("Profit and Loss").
  • Prog-pop tunefulness featuring my new Jeff Beck-ish legato melody style as it first developed in 2013-14. A number of songs feature this, even as the project entered different phases.
  • Songs about my sons. Fatherhood has given me much less time and energy to work on music than before, but it has also given me new creative insights. "Elder Son" and "Cameron's Song" have musical themes directly tied to my sons. For most of 2015, this is what I was hoping the entire album would be. But then...
  • Loved ones started passing away all too frequently during 2015. I realized that I needed to have tributes to some of these people (and a dog) on the album.
As I was working on "Cameron's Song" for my younger son in 2015-16, I began working on songs devoted to those I lost. A very odd emotional process.

So, you'd think it would be a really melancholy bummer of an album, right? Not at all. I wanted my tributes to the deceased to be celebrations of their lives and how I perceived them.

The central concept is that the "Profit" songs about my sons are the "deep" slower ones, while the "Loss" songs are more upbeat and energetic.

Take a listen and let me know what you think!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

New Music!!!

The mixdown of my new album, Profit and Loss, has been a long, difficult process that's now been going on for over three months. It's not done yet, either.

However, I have some exciting new Council of One music for you to chew on while I finish things up!

I've done as many as 20-30 mixes of some of the songs, trying to get them to sound the way I want. I'm not done yet, though I now have the lead-off track finalized. The other recorded tracks are also pretty close to having final mixes/masters.

And guess what? I decided to record two more songs that fit the overall album concept about those folks I've gained and lost in my life over the last five years.

Since this damned thing is taking so long and will need some more cooking, I decided to pursue a different release strategy than the traditional one of "wait 'til everything is done and then spring it on the world in a massive publicity blitz."

That worked well for the record industry when there were, well, records. We're all streaming now, or downloading the tracks we want. I'm not planning to spring for the cost of another box of CD pressings I'll never be able to offload. Maybe I'll change my mind if I get a huge response.

So, I'm going to unveil the songs on YouTube one-by-one over the course of the next few months. When all are done, I'll put the resulting album on my Bandcamp site in downloadable form. Deal?

Okay, with all that said (whew!), here is the non-lyric lyric video for my new song "Profit and Loss," the title track from my forthcoming album. More details described in the video. Enjoy!!

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Mixdown: From Torture Comes Beauty

Turns out that mixing an album brings out one's latent OCD.

I've spent the last three weeks obsessing over the mixdown of a SINGLE SONG. I'm not getting enough sleep and my family thinks I've disappeared.

The results seem to be shaping up into something special. This song is the lead-off track on the album, and I want it to really shine. It's taking a lot of work, however. You haven't lived until you've spent hours playing the same ten bars of music over and over trying to get the instrument level right...

What started as a simple mixdown (is there such a thing?) turned into recording additional guitar, organ and bass parts on a song I originally wrote and recorded over three years ago, but which was frankly a little undercooked the way I left it back then.

The biggest dilemma has been getting the proper drum sounds. I write drum parts using an amazing app called Jamstix. Essentially, it writes the drum parts for you, based on your general instructions. It comes packaged with drums sounds that are usable for a big messy John Bonham sound, but not quite what I was looking for.

To get those sounds, I've plowed through all three of the major drum sample programs, Superior Drummer 2, Steven Slate Drums, and now BFD3, which turns out to be what I was looking for.

I have this constant battle to try and stay away from the big '80s drum sounds that I grew up with, but it's a losing battle this time around. This album has a persistent '70s vibe, but I'm sticking '80s drums on it. Hey, it's my album and I'll do what I want. I've gone with sounds in BFD3 that would make Phil Collins proud. It works with this lead-off track, but some of the other tracks will need more subtle drums.

I'll talk more about drums later. Let's just say that I'm undergoing a crash course in the proper use of EQ and compression in a mix. This is stuff I should have learned years ago, but was too lazy to do properly. I think the results are going to surprise people compared to my previous Council of One albums.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

I'm Back. Did you miss me?

Council of One blog, reactivate!! Pending new music alert!!

I committed the cardinal sin of both blogdom and music promotion--going silent for years on end after my last Council of One album, Fire Goddess, was released in 2012. Blame it on fatherhood.

I rush-completed Fire Goddess prior to the birth of my first son that summer, in the (rather accurate) prediction that I wouldn't have a lot of time to create music as a new father.

No longer would I be able to spend 12-16 hours in a row immersed in the writing/recording/mixing/mastering/artwork processes. I would have to do all of this whenever I could grab a spare hour or two. Things became even crazier after my younger son was born in 2015. Talk about a lack of downtime!!

There is some truth to all of that. However, the reality is that I do have time to create music, but I have to be more efficient and focused. The reality is also that I've spent much of my free time over the last five years doing anything but creating new music.

Over time, however, I learned to use many of the new tools I added to my studio after my older son's birth. I also learned more about different kinds of music and about what I'm really trying to do here. The creative stops and starts from 2012-14 became a creative tsunami in 2015-16.

The result is about 47 minutes of new music that, frankly, blows away anything I've done before. I just finished tracking this morning, and I'm now starting the mixing and mastering process, with an eye towards releasing the album in a month or two.

Sounds like a good reason to reactivate the old blog, wouldn't you say?

More about the new album to come, but for now here is a photo of my Creative Chaos studio as it looks today. Jeez, you think I have enough guitars?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I think I've done enough damage.

Well, after a marathon session last night--which lasted until 3am--I now have the makings of a new album.

In my last post, I said that I was going to record three more pieces after the Mahavishnu-ish thing I was working on then.  Scratch that.  I recorded one more (that groove thing I talked about), but it's a rather long one that completes the album nicely.  I've more or less run out of time and energy to do any more.  I'm spent.

Anyway, a lengthy free-jazz freakout jam would not fit well on this album, and I already have a short free-jazz piano piece that serves as a nice tribute to the late Sam Rivers.  I'll talk more about Sam and my love for his music later.

The other thing I was going to do was to refurbish and upgrade "Funkoverture," which I recorded in 2009 but never placed on an album.  You can read about that piece and listen it to it in this blog post.  Unfortunately, I seem not to have saved the multi-track files for it, so it forever is what it is.  The existing version simply doesn't fit in sonically with the album, so it'll have to stay in the odds and ends bin for now.

I've still got to do some final tweaking, proper mixdown and the artwork.  I'm going to have this sucker pressed up into CDs and sell it on CD Baby, since I'm so happy with the way it turned out.  The album is called Fire Goddess, and I will make a dodgy YouTube clip for the lead-off track before I have the album for sale.  It's that Mahavishnu-ish piece, and now I can start referring to it by its real title, "Kiss of the Fire Goddess."

I'll post more about the album shortly.