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?