I spent some time on Saturday trying to record some guitar parts. It was mentally painful and difficult and I haven't dared to listen to them yet. But I broke that ice and that's important, an accomplishment in and of itself.
My goal for this recording is simple: I want to make a product that reflects the style I play at my regular-ish gigs. Usually I've recorded my songs as big, full-band arrangements, but I want to make simple recordings that people can buy and think, "This sounds like what I what I just heard."
This is the first time I've tried to record at all for a long time. Demos that I started in 2012 stalled in 2014 or so as my life took some turns. The songs started to feel ridiculous: they were loud, overwrought, and just didn't sound right. They sounded like I was trying too hard, which was precisely what I was doing. I haven't listened to those demos for a long time; I can't really hear them anymore.
So I'm starting over with a minimalist approach. Instead of starting with the drum machine like I have in the past, I'm going to start with guitars, hoping to get some natural percussion put in at a later date, once the guitar, bass, and vocal bedrock is done. I feel like starting from a more natural approach—strings rather than drum machines—will make my recordings appear more balanced, so they don't come-off as compressed rock arrangements.
But it's hard. My motivation is next to nil. I feel like I have a bit of a time-crunch, but I don't feel like I have anything invested. When recording, I'm finding it hard to know which mistakes are worth messing with and when they're worth working with in post. I'm just not feeling it at all. I seem to think all my songs are terrible; I don't seem to be able to see an audience for them. I keep having critical comments from myself and others running through my head and I can't seem to shake the sense of futility in it all. I feel like they're already latently unfinished.
This is common Jeffrey-stuff, though: I never feel like my "work" is up to snuff. It always seems hackneyed and artificial. And I've never got my creations done to the degree that I want to. My songs feel weird; my photos seem uninspired. But I just need to keep pressing on.
This is why it's important to have a producer or an agent, someone to light a fire under your butt and tell you that you need to get things done. It always appears that there are all these people self-motivated people who seem to be driven enough to put their stuff out there without someone pushing them, but there's a good chance that a bunch of those people have agents and producers. They just have to get it out there, with help from professionals.
But I feel like I don't have the ego needed for that sort of self-motivation, at least anymore. Years and years of middle-class clock-plugging seems to have zapped a lot of my creative oomph.
So I keep slogging. And hopefully some good-sounding music will come out of it.
"35, 17" a day before 36.
Back in 2011 I wrote, "35, 17;" I recorded most of it in 2013 and put additional frills into it over the year that followed. I really hoped I'd get it professionally mixed and mastered by the time I turned 35, but I never made it happen; today, a day before I turn 36, I feel a little desperate about releasing it in one way or another, so here it is. It's mixed a little quietly and not mastered at all, but I feel as if time is of the essence here.
If you follow my musical endeavors, you've probably heard it before: I performed it for that Tractorgrease Studios thing almost two years ago to the day. I'd post the link, but the video really embarrasses me; despite an excellent guitar performance, I had a cold and my voice sounds terrible, and I even screwed up on some of the words. So here's the "studio" version of sorts, rough throughout, but acceptable.
I never meant for the song to be prophetic in any way. In it, the speaker begins a relationship because he feels lonely, and despite it giving him life for a bit, eventually the passion fades and the couple splits up—at age 35. And here, as I get ready to leave 35 behind me, I find myself also alone again, "boxes filled and stacked to the ceiling, […] my memory reeling." Of course it's not word-for-word analogous, but it sure feels weird to hear the lyrics from this side of 35, even though I wrote it when I was 30.
The guitar riff had been sitting around for a year and a half or so before the words came together. I wrote most of the lyrics over a two day span while we lived at an RV park, weeks after we'd sold our house in Hope. It's pretty rare for me to write lyrics in such a short period of time, but they just came together this way. It's a bona fide expression of emotion from me, something that doesn't happen very often. This time it worked out to give me one of those songs with loads of narrative gaps, but a concise, lyrical story laced with a smatter of vignettes. I actually take pride in this set of lyrics.
Recording-wise, I wanted to keep it simple. I laid out the drum machine track with I still lived in Hope, and the synth track when I lived in Smithers in 2011-2012. I recorded the guitars at my brother's house in the summer of 2013, and the vocals later that winter in Agassiz. I may have redone the vocals a few times over the year that followed, but I can't quite remember. Beyond that, the only additional frills were the ride cymbal (recorded in Agassiz at the school) and the synth pad, which I believe I recorded in Chilliwack, although I can't quite be sure without the files in front of me. I tried to record a new bassline last night, but I wasn't happy with it, so the simple one will have to do. It was a long process for such a musically simple song.
Anyhow, it's rough, but I turn 36 tomorrow and I don't want to hate the song, so I'm posting this mix now. It might be the most pure expression of the disappointment of dislocation and heartbreak that I've ever written, and perhaps may ever write. Enjoy my melancholy.
Michael Knott tribute.
A while ago, I posted about a recording I made for a Michael Knott Tribute project. Here's how it worked out:
I admit that I should have chosen a more subtle snare, and I should have made a more interesting bass part, but what's done is done. I can pick it apart, but I think it's an OK contribution.
Today I recorded a performance of "35,17" at Tractorgrease Studios.
I don't really want to write about the performances until I hear which one Jeff chose for the video. I'll be sure to post the video here, of course, and I'll be more willing to write about it then.
I played somewhat well. It was a little rough around the edges, of course, but I feel as if I turned on the charm and played a few good riffs. If anything the performance was unique, I hope. I look forward to hearing how a Jeff-live-performance sounds when it's professionally recorded.
Also, yesterday I learned that my mix of "Pound of Flesh" was accepted for the Michael Knott Tribute CD. I sent a mixed wav file and look forward to hearing how it gets mastered.
"Pound of Flesh" rough mix submitted.
A few weeks ago, I posted about how I've been working on a track for the upcoming Michael Knott tribute album. I just sent Joshua Lory the rough mix. I'm hoping it makes the cut because it was a lot of work, but I won't be overly disappointed if it doesn't make the cut because I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to mixing. Here's what it looks like right now.
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