Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Leap of Faith" song-by-song synopsis

I meant to write this awhile back, got sidetracked, and must write it now before I forget some the things that went into making this record.

All of songs save for "Krim" were written the first 2 weeks of February, written here at the Hobbit Hole on my trusty old Tascam DP-01CD. I started using presets on the 8-track for recording guitars as I didn't yet have my combo amp out of storage. Most songs were also recorded to a click track (Mobile metronome app on my Droid). This came in very, very handy later when tracking drums. Also 95% of arrangements were kept as-is when I wrote them. And most of these tunes were written in one sitting using my original guitar track, totally stream of consciousness.

1. Leap of Faith: Symphony in D Standard.

I started with the opening riff and took it from there.

First version was almost 10 minutes long and quite symphonic in its breadth and scope. Chord changes were improvised on the first pass, as was the spacey riff at the end of the song. Melody lines written on the second and third pass. I was thinking of calling it Symphony in Drop D cause it was a cool title, but the song wound up being in D Standard so there ya go. But just so happens the song has 4 distinct movements, much like an actual mini-symphony so I wasn't totally pulling phrases out of my ass.

All guitars are my Paul Stanley Iceman which was in D Standard for an Arcana Mundi song. I used my JCM800 2203 with a V30-loaded Marshall 4x12. Rented Adrian Conner's place to track guitars as she was out with Hell's Belles and was cheaper than the Music Lab, in addition I'd rather give that money to my friend than a corporation. Guitar effects are my trusty old Phase 90 and the tremolo pedal I built. Cosmic phase sound on the last movement was 2 separate guitar tracks with phase which I thought were both busts. But played together sounded amazing.

Drums are my late-70's Slingerland student kit recorded in Music Lab room 115, did drums for title track, "Brief Ties to Space" and "Rare Earth Metals" on the same day, with a warm-up session a few days previous to fix up my drums, try beats, test sounds and get back into shape. On the warm-up session I learned I could finally play to a click track, which opened a whole new world. I could now go back and put drums ON TOP OF the existing arrangements, rather than having to re-write them when tracking drums and hope to God I got the arrangement right and the tempo wasn't so fast I'd have to retrack. Mic placement as follows: Shure SM58 about 18" away from kick drum into first input. Second input was line out from my mixer with two overhead mics and a snare mic that was turned down a bit.

Bass was recorded at Music Lab room 93. Knocked out bass for the 4 songs that needed it on the same day, and bass is always last but certainly not least. Used the 'Ocean of Stars rig' as I call it, an Epiphone Valve Standard 15w tube combo chassis pushing a 200w Ampeg 4x10. Dirt provided by a Fulltone Bassdrive. There is phaser on the 4th movement, and yes that is bass feedback on the end. To date this is probably the best bass tone I have ever recorded, and with dirt pedal added is some of the gnarliest bass tone since Rollins Band "End of Silence." Yes, I was very pleased!

2. Luna en Sombra

The original idea was written on electric as something that just popped into my head.

Heard the possibilities for it on a nylon string classical and bought new strings for my Yamaha. Both original and album versions were recorded here at the Hobbit Hole in the entryway room, a single mic sitting on the edge of the table cause I forgot to grab a mic stand. In the original version it was raining and you could hear it hitting the patio on certain tracks. It was beautiful but the song was a mess. Wanted to grab the sound of the rain from previous pass and add to the newer one but never got around to it.

The title means "Moon in Shadow". I wanted to call it a beautiful-sounding Spanish phrase, so got on an English-to-Spanish website and tried different combos of words until it sounded right.

3. Brief Ties To Space

This one proved a challenge, because the original version which was improvised almost exactly as is but was not done to a click. That was stupid. Tried to redo with a click and careful charting, the tempo fluctuated from verse to chorus and the arrangement was stream of consciousness and not always even. No dice. Lost all life whatsoever. So I tried adding drums to the existing arrangement, no click whatsoever, just guitar tracks. And it fuckin WORKED. Holy crap, this was a huge leap forward for me.

The guitar was a challenge as well, did my best to re-do on the Marshall all of the original preset tracks. But was running out of time and wound up leaveing some of the original preset tracks as they were fine as is. The solo at 2:15 (the first actual guitar solo on the record, 3 tracks in... ha!) was the original preset lead. The solo that comes in at 3:56 and is almost 2 minutes long was a single-take Hail Mary pass. It was the end of the day, my hands were shot from recording 3-4 guitar tracks each on 4 songs. I could have come back to it, but I said fuck it and left it as-is. All the glory and all the warts. And I like doing things like that as a reverse-homage to the Joe Satriani and Steve Vai guitar-fetish masturbation albums that my HS friends were so into at the time. Yeah, this is a guitar album: and this solo is almost laughably sloppy but also works perfectly and totally improvised. And I include a pic of my damn DRUMS in the artwork. Fuck you guys.

The title was a phrase I heard on NPR. They were playing music from and talking about a band from Gambia in Africa, who for a few years in late 80's-early 90's had a NASA emergency landing facility and therefore "Brief Ties To Space."

4. Rare Earth Metals

Another stream of consciousness arrangement that started with the verse and chorus riff over a click track. Even tho you can hear the drums speed up in places to catch the click, on this song feels like I really came into my own as a drummer and knocked the take out of the park, fills and everything.

In putting the song together wanted to write a straight-up metal song, but with few of the metal traditions. You don't hear much tremolo in metal. There are no power chords played at all until 3:25 into the song. The second bridge part at 4:48 sounds like a chorus effect on the arpeggiated chords, but that is 2 guitar tracks with no effects.

The title came about as I wanted to name it something metal-related, as I felt I was throwing down the gauntlet and showing my metal roots to be alive and well. Googled some metal-related phrases and chose the existing title, as "Reforging of Metal" would be a little too pompous.

5. Give Us The Key

The was the most challenging track, as it has a weird time signature (7/8) on the verse. Original pass had no click and the tempo was different between the verse and chorus, which was a problem. But reworked it to a click keeping the tempo steady all the way through. Sounded weird at first but quickly got used to it as I filled in the other tracks.

Drums recorded again in Music Lab room 115 but this time I had fixed my snare, the snare chord had broken last year, I fixed it but the snare was not sitting right on the bottom head. You can hear it big time when the drum tracks are isolated, but was passable in the mix. Now my snare sounded night and day better and wish I had fixed it for the first run of tracks. I struggled a little with the time signature, but the natural breaks in the song helped with recording the drums parts-at-a-time. I am very proud on my John Bonham drumroll going back into the chorus at 3:12.

The song is straight up Stoner Rock, again in keeping with some of my musical roots. Stream of consciousness arrangement. This was also the only song in E Standard and using my 1979 Ibanez Iceman. Only the L guitar track was my JCM800. The middle and R guitars are presets. Something about the way the neck pickup with tone rolled back and the preset, sounded so damn fuzzy and tubey I just left it rather than re-doing it. Guitar solos also presets.

I really went nuts on the bass tone for the chorus and bridge, again getting some of the gnarliest bass tone since Rollins Band "End of Silence." My God that crappy little rig sounds amazing.

This was the last song I wrote a title for, and was having a hell of a time trying to come up with one. "Offtime" was just boring and obvious. My theory on song titles, especially for an instrumental album with no lyrics to get a title from, is such: you want people to read the song titles on the back of the CD and have them be anxious to hear what certain songs sound like based on the title. So yeah, fuck "Offtime" as a title.

I spent a lot of time on the Hobbit Hole patio waiting for CDs to burn, waiting for shit to upload. Spring was setting in (yes, Feb is pretty much springtime in Central Texas), and there are lots of doves in the trees making various calls. Some of the calls had a certain speech pattern to them, sounding like the doves are saying "GIVE US THE KEY." It was funny at first, but then I couldn't UN-hear it. After a week it was starting to weird me out. And I swear that I am not on acid right now. Either way, hello song title.

6. Krim: The Sound of Kali

This song was written as a request from our good friend tattoo artist Karen Slafter. She asked me to write a song about Kali. I said I'd see what I could do... time was running short on the Feb 29 midnight deadline. So with little inspiration other than my limited knowledge of the often misunderstood Hindu goddess, I sat down and just started playing. Stream of consciousness. I got done and hit stop. Song was 9 minutes long. Wow. Went back and did two additional passes to add embellishments and melodies. Then I stepped away from it to finish rest of the album.

Only went back to really LISTEN to it when I did one final run through to clean any rough spots. Only ones I could find on original pass was a few melody cleanups for around the 2:30 mark. Rest of the song was done that first time, and I was very pleasantly surprised listening back to it. Thought was just the same thing over and over (I barely remember writing it, and didn't listen to it until the final track cleanups) but was not. It's a rather introspective and involved journey. When Karen first heard it at her studio she remarked to Triniti: "How can a song be happy AND sad at the same time?!?" Hell I don't know, I'm just a conduit for the Music every February.

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