Midriff salsa.

Just finished recording some more stuff. It’s nice to be somewhat productive again.

I’m not entirely sure about titles for the tracks yet, but one song was written way back at the old house in May of 2007. Took me long enough to properly record the thing. It opens with the line, “Suck on my big blue plastic chin chest.”

It’s a love song, of course.

The next song was an unexpected improvisation. I started playing this lick on an acoustic guitar and singing, “Love is a many-splendoured thing…why do you treat it like a sickness?” and kind of liked it. So I recorded the guitar and then improvised lyrics that were better than that. It’s about twenty-eight seconds long. I find I like little fragments like that more all the time.

The third song was one of several banjo tunes I’ve been meaning to record for a while now. I thought it needed a little something happening on the bottom end, so I tried stomp-claps, but that didn’t quite work. The clapping overpowered the stomping. Snapping didn’t fare much better. Then I remembered I have a tambourine that’s been hiding behind the banjo stand feeling unloved.

At first it was far too loud. So I developed a bit of a dance move I like to call the stomp-and-pivot — I stomped while facing the microphone, turned around and struck the tambourine as far away as I could get it from the mic without taking a step away, and then twisted back around and stomped again, repeating the process as needed with the stomping on the on-beats and the jingle-jangling on the off-beats.

Two tracks of that seemed to be the sound I was looking for, though I still think it could use a little extra thump. Some kick drum or floor tom would probably do the trick. I could have added some guitar and bass, and there was a pretty obvious banjo mistake in the middle of the first verse, but I kind of like this stuff raw. We don’t want things getting too polished. Other songs will have more window dressing.

I think I’ve developed some sort of vocal overdub compulsion…not really in terms of harmonies, but I find myself triple-tracking my vocals for a lot of these songs. Double-tracking sounds pretty good, but adding just one more voice seems to make all the difference, with the “lead” vocal in the middle and the other two mixed a little bit beneath it, panned at about ten o’clock and two o’clock. It just feels right for some reason. Maybe it’s an Elliott Smith influence, seeped into mah veins and make’d me done what I do. As soon as I mix some of these songs I’ll post a few.

I need to get some pictures and video content up here while I’m still young and virile — particularly the video of the first track from the final GWD live performance. I think that would be fun to have here. I hope to have the necessary equipment to make it happen soon.

Also, I’ve kind of got a thing for this ChaosTheory WordPress theme/template. It’s all that blue and grey that makes me weak in the knees. But I’ve also kind of grown attached to this design. Why must colours be so colourful? Why?!


  1. Johnny, it’s funny but I was just thinking a few days ago how I would try this same approach to vocals next time I was recording a song. I was thinking to pan the left and right parts further out but I imagine your way is probably better because it should make a better blended sound. On Stina’s “The Diver” from This Is Stina Nordenstam, I think she pans two parts way out hard left and right, which I think gives it a very eerie, isolated sound.

  2. I need to give that album another listen…

    I’d suggest experimenting with the panning, because different things can work better for different songs. For me, the vocals kind of vary. I don’t generally listen to any other vocal while I’m laying one down, so there may be some inconsistencies when I play them back together. Sometimes the results are too sloppy and I have to try again, but there are times when I kind of like things not quite matching up perfectly. Some interesting little unintentional harmony bits will pop up occasionally, too. So in those cases the closer panning helps, because the vocals seem kind of “ganged up” for lack of a better description. The differences don’t stand out quite as much as they would otherwise. Sometimes wide panning will work better, though. It seems like John Lennon was a fan of that sound. “Hold On” from “Plastic Ono Band” is a good example, I think. I always liked the part where he suddenly growls, “Cookie!”

    It’s funny, because I never used to have much of any interest in layering vocals. It was just the one live track, and occasional harmonies, and that was it. But there’s something about the sound I’ve grown to like, especially for stripped-down acoustic songs. It thickens things up a bit. I think the song “Fidget” was basically where I developed a fondness for it…and that came just from messing around because the song wouldn’t leave me alone.

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