Month: April 2013

From a late night train.

I just saw this video for the first time the other day. It’s one of the most crushingly sad Blue Nile songs, set against scenes from an Andrei Tarkovsky film (Nostalghia, apparently). The music and the images work so well together it’s a little surreal. I think it might make a more effective video than any of the official Blue Nile music videos I’ve seen.

So there’s that.

What’s new ’round these parts?

I’ve been slacking with the updates again, mostly because all of my WordPress subscriptions need to be renewed before I can add more files of any kind, and new posts don’t feel quite right without the ability to include any pictures, MP3s, or video content that hasn’t already been hosted elsewhere. I’ll get that taken care of at some point.

A good chunk of my creative energy over the past little while has been funnelled into recording music that isn’t my own. I won’t say too much about that until the work is finished, but it’s been fun to flesh out someone else’s songs instead of mine for a change. Haven’t really done that sort of thing in a while.

Even after all these years, this kind of work still seems to bring out some of my best musical ideas. Maybe it’s something about being freed from any sense of ownership and operating more as a proverbial decorator, without the responsibility of building the entire musical structure from the ground up. But I’m also playing an awful lot of different instruments, and in one or two cases I have basically rebuilt the songs even though I didn’t write them, bending things in odd directions. Lucky for me, the reaction has been positive.

One thing I’ve learned in no uncertain terms — I am not the guy you come to if you want an album that’s polished to within an inch of its life and sounds like it walked out of a six million dollar studio. I’m not going to tell someone how I think they should sing their own songs or ask for twenty vocal takes if the first or second take is solid enough. I’m not going to spend an hour mic’ing up a drum set. I’m not going to use a click track if the person I’m recording is more comfortable working without one (as long as their sense of rhythm is good enough not to create any serious problems down the road). I don’t have access to Auto-Tune, and I wouldn’t use it even if I did. I’m not set up to do beat-aligning or serious editing of any kind, and I have no interest in that approach to recording.

At the same time, I’m not going to just move a few microphones around and press a few buttons. I’m not going to record something and take a hands-off role. I mean, I can do that, and I have in the past, but I think there are other people who are much better choices for that sort of thing.

I guess I’m someone you go to if you want a recording that has character, that has some of my own musical ideas swimming around in the soup, and that has some imperfections. I like the odd hesitation or unintentional ambient noise or bit of studio dialogue here and there. I think they’re important humanizing moments. I’m not going to make someone else’s music sound like “Johnny West with a different singer”, but I am going to dig in and contribute as many of my own ideas as I’m allowed to, while working to understand and accommodate the artistic sensibilities of whoever I’m recording.

Basically, if you don’t like the way I approach the recording of my own music and how that stuff comes out sounding, you probably don’t ever want me recording you. Ha! I think it’s better the way it’s worked out, with me only recording a few friends here and there. I can keep things very laid-back and it never feels much like work. It helps when you like the people you’re working with, too.

As for my own noise, I haven’t been putting as much work into finishing up that big bloated magnum-grope-us as I’d like to say I have. But I’ll get it finished this year, or else I’ll junk the whole fucking thing and never speak of it again. It’s now-or-never time. I need to get this elephant out of the room so I can move on to other things.

One good thing to grow out of the album having such a stupidly protracted gestation period is the added time I’ve had to re-evaluate things. I came to the realization not long ago that the way I’d put some of the pieces together didn’t feel right anymore. So my sequencing ideas are going to be altered pretty profoundly, some songs are going to get thrown out, and the whole thing is going to change shape completely another time or two before it hits the finish line, I’m sure. I’m on the fence about boiling it down to three CDs or sticking with four maxed-out CDs for maximum sprawl. One way or another, I’m going to make sure the thing flows as well as it can and makes emotional sense for me. What anyone else will make of it is impossible to say.

And hey, I’m playing a show at the FM lounge on Sunday, backing Travis up, opening for Three Little Birds. Instead of a full band show like the last one it’s just going to be the two of us this time. That hasn’t happened in a live setting in a while. Should be fun.