quirky instruments

Count to Five.

Granular synthesis fascinates me. I’m not sure I could tell you what it is or how it works in any clear-cut way. I don’t know if I understand it completely myself. I just know it allows some very unique and interesting sounds to happen.

Some months back I was digging around online to see if I could find any way of getting at some of what granular synthesis can do without needing a computer program to take me there. I found a few interesting pedals.

There was this:

Very cool, but impossible to get. Very few have been made. To this day I can’t even find any information online about how much it would cost if I could finagle a way to get one.

There was this:

Also very cool, but not musical enough to my ears to be something I thought I would get much use out of, outside of a select few settings.

(Random/not-random note: you should watch all the Knobs demos, because they are mind-melting in their awesomeness and make most other gear-related demos weep with inarticulate shame. The guy who makes them is kind beyond all reason, too. I sent him an email asking some pedal-related questions just for the halibut, not expecting to get a response, and he wrote back with some very thoughtful advice.)

And then there was this:

And my brain went, “OH MY GOD YES! GET OUT OF MY DREAMS AND INTO MY VOLVO!”

Montreal Assembly is Scott Monk. As far as I can tell, he liked making DIY pedals and messing with circuits and sounds, and sold very small runs to the people who wanted the things he made. Then the Knobs video for the Count to Five happened, and the interest in that one pedal grew to the point that it’s been the main focus of his operation for the past year-and-a-bit. Every time he does another run he has to make more.

There are two ways to get one.

Way #1:
You wait for a pre-order to open up. The best way to know when this happens is to subscribe to the Montreal Assembly mailing list. You pay a small deposit to reserve a pedal. Then you wait until the next run is built, you pay the balance, and you get your pedal.

Way #2:
The demand for this thing is such that people who’ve opted for Way #1 will turn around and sell their pedal for two or three times what Scott charges. If patience is something you struggle with and money means nothing to you, you can grab one of those off of eBay or Reverb or some such place.

I went with the first option. I suggest you do the same if you have any interest in this pedal, because (a) it feels good to support the independent guys and ladies out there, (b) you’ll save a lot of money, (c) it’s kind of neat to have something to look forward to, and they say waiting builds character, and (d) you might make a greedy douche who’s trying to rip you off cry.

I got in on the last run in September, paid my little deposit, and waited. Near the end of January I got an email saying, “The thing is done, now pay for the thing.” So I did that. It got here yesterday, early in the afternoon.

I didn’t get the chance to play with it right away. My pal Kermit grabbed it as soon as it was unboxed and ran upstairs. I found him in this compromising position:

kermit counts to five

When I asked what he was doing, all he would tell me was, “I’m counting to five.”

Took me a while before I could pry that blue box of magic out of his green hands.

The Knobs video probably does a better job of explaining what the pedal does than I can. The gist is, there are three modes. Mode 1 is the most insane delay you’ve ever met. It can make your guitar (or whatever you run into it) sound like a beached baritone whale is singing a duet with it, or like it’s being devoured by giddy birds. It can also be a normal delay, a modulated delay, a reverse delay, a pitch-shifted delay, chorus, vibrato, and many other things.

If the CT5 was Mode 1 and nothing more, it would still be an amazing tool worth more than the very reasonable price Scott charges for it. It covers so much ground on that setting alone, it’s eliminated the need for a few other pedals I was thinking about picking up somewhere down the road.

Mode 2 is sort of a slicing looper/sampler. You can record a few seconds of a thing and play it back the way it sounded on the way in, or you can chop it up, rearrange it, slow it down, speed it up, play it backwards, and control how fractured it gets.

Mode 3 is similar, but now when you sample a few seconds of a thing it’s split in three, and while you can’t chop anything up anymore, you can control the speed and direction of all three iterations of the thing. You can also layer additional samples on top of the first one.

That someone had the smarts and the skill to make a “guitar pedal” that can do all of this is unbelievable. And as deep as it goes, it’s very intuitive. I was a little worried that when I got it I wouldn’t know what to do without the online manual. There was no need to worry. Within five seconds of plugging it in I was already getting sounds that inspired me, that weren’t like anything I ever thought I would be able to make a guitar do.

Whatever Scott did to upgrade the circuit for this revision, the mild hiss/white noise you hear in a lot of the demos for earlier runs doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Some people who like noise might be a little miffed about that. But when you plan on doing a lot of recording with the thing (and I do), I think it’s the right move. I feel like he found the right balance between sound quality and not making it so hi-fi that it loses its funky personality and becomes sterile.

What I’m really excited about, and something I’m surprised I haven’t seen more people experimenting with, is running things other than guitar into it. You should hear the things it can do to a ukulele or some sampled vocals on the VSS-30. You should hear what it can do to a harmonica. I can’t wait to get another singer in here who isn’t a dude and see how many different ways I can warp someone else’s voice. I can’t wait to try it on saxophone. Holy cannoli. The sound possibilities it’s opened up are going to be a lot of fun to explore.

I’ll never part with this new blue friend no matter how much it might net secondhand. Not even Vampire Kate Beckinsale herself could convince me to let it go.

You took the lid off of your cup to let it breathe.

A little while back, Steven bought a new Martin acoustic guitar. It didn’t quite have the magic he was hoping for, so he didn’t play it much. He thought about selling it. Instead, he brought it to a guy who did some setup work and found the magic was there all along — it just needed someone to coax it out. Now it’s one of his favourite guitars.

He wrote a song for the magic-coaxer. A bit of a musical letter. Because that’s the kind of guy Steve is.

The main acoustic guitar he’s playing here is my funky old Gibson LG-2, but his Martin does come in at the moment everything suddenly thickens up a whole lot, lending a bit of support. So when he sings, “Thank you for the bridge mic; it’s what you’re hearing at this moment,” it’s sort of a lie, but you are hearing that guitar. You’re just hearing it in the background, recorded with an LDC instead of its built-in mic.

His is a similar model to my 000-15. It might even be the same model, minus the satin finish…I’m not sure offhand. I haven’t had much of a chance to get to know it yet. It seems to record well. It’s got a nice natural compression to it, and a brightness that plays well off of the somewhat darker sound of the Gibson.

I had some fun with the arrangement. After adding bass and the clean electric guitar, I thought I’d tack on some brushed drums and that would be the end of it. Seemed like a song that didn’t want to be layered too much.

The drums didn’t feel quite right. I tried recording some shaker. That didn’t feel right either. So I got rid of the percussion and started thinking in a different direction.

Two years ago I bought a circuit-bent Casio SK-1 off of eBay. Here’s a picture Joey Acott took of me showing Dave Dubois some of the whacky things it can do.

i show dave the casio SK1

(Good God, that man takes good pictures.)

My memory is pretty reliable when it comes to music-related things. In this case it had a bit of a hiccup. See, one of the first instruments I ever had as a kid was a Casio SK-10 — a more streamlined version of the SK-1. I had a blast forcing that thing to make music out of sampled armpit farts and television sounds before I had any real musical skill.

My grown-up head got it twisted, and I assumed what I had back then was an SK-1. They’ve grown in popularity in recent years, and after hearing some of the interesting sounds people were making with circuit-bent examples I thought I’d pick one up for myself. I was wise (in the accidental way) to do this when I did, because now the bent ones don’t seem to be around as much as they used to.

When the keyboard showed up without a vibraphone sound, looking a little different than I remembered, I realized the mistake I’d made. Turns out the SK-1 can do a lot more than an SK-10, though. With the bends, I’ve been able to make a cough sound like insane industrial percussion, and I’ve created strange loops and electronic sounds that would be impossible to reproduce with any other equipment. Even without engaging a single bend, I’ve made a ukulele pitch pipe sound like a strange synthesizer and a harmonica sound like an evil underwater flute choir.

The flute patch all on its own is pretty special, and some subtle processing with effects can lead to some very cool mutations of the base sound.

So that’s turned into a not-so-secret weapon. It’s on the last Tire Swing Co. EP, it’s on the new Papa Ghostface album, and it’ll be on the O-L West album and my next solo album when both of those are done.

A while after getting to be good friends with the SK-1, I read about the Yamaha VSS-30. The SK-1 and the VSS-30 have a lot in common. They were both made around the same time (1985 for the Casio, 1987 for the Yamaha). Both have 32 keys, 4-note polyphony, a built-in microphone for sampling, and a sampling depth of 8 bits. Both are much more than the toys most of us thought they were when we were kids.

They’re full of great, unique, lo-fi character. Run either one into a high end mic preamp (my choice has been the Great River MP-2NV, because that’s still my mic pre Swiss Army knife), add a little reverb or delay, and you’d be surprised how good they can sound.

Now, I love the SK-1. It isn’t going anywhere. But the VSS-30 can do things the SK-1 can’t even get within sniffing distance of.

It took me a while to snag one for myself. No one on eBay wanted to take a money order. So a little over a year ago I buckled down and made a PayPal account, just so I could get an archaic little sampling keyboard that’s almost as old as I am.

Here’s one example of what the VSS-30 can do, or what it can be made to do. The grimy low synth-pad-sounding thing that comes in during the instrumental section of this Tire Swing Co. song and sticks around until the end is a sampled Wurlitzer electric piano. I held the VSS-30 in front of one of the Wurlitzer’s built-in speakers with one hand and played an open fifth with the other hand. Then I mangled it with some of the keyboard’s built-in effects.

The only thing touching what’s coming out of the VSS-30 is some reverb. The weird chord that kind of hangs there right before the last instrumental section starts and comes back again at the very end is what happens when you take a sample of a power chord and play it as a major chord so there are three different open fifths grinding up against one another at the same time, making a giant chord you’d need another few hands to create the old-fashioned way.

The amount of sound-warping you can do with this thing is insane. It even allows you to “oversample”, so you can layer as many samples on top of the first one as you want. I’ve made myself sound like a disembodied choir of monks this way.

The VSS-30 gave the song something that felt like it fit and skewed everything a little at the same time. Then I added some piano and some shoegazey electric guitar, and it felt like it was done.

I’ve been playing around lately with running distortion after a reverb pedal instead of the other way around. It creates this smearing effect, almost like the guitar is exploding in slow-motion. It isn’t always going to be the right sound, and I don’t want to overuse it, but when it works it’s a whole lot of fun.

All the electric guitar parts, clean and distorted, are coming from a Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster. I’m done getting any more guitars for the foreseeable future — I’ve got enough already, and not much room left for additions to the family — and I never, ever thought I would have any use for a Squier of all things. But this one is a really nice guitar. It would be a nice guitar with any name on the headstock. At this price point it’s a ridiculous value. And I financed it at Long & McQuade, with payments so low it doesn’t hurt that much.

Having said that, I’ll never so much as buy a set of strings at that place again after the experience I had with them this time. Long story. Not worth telling. Nutshell version: run away. If you can, buy anything you need off the internet instead.

Anyway, back to the guitar — I was surprised how comfortably it played right out of the box. I haven’t brought it to anyone for a setup yet because I haven’t felt a need to. The intonation is solid, and it feels good in the hand. The neck has a nice smoothness to it. Some people don’t like the gold pickguard, but I kind of like the way it looks. A lot of people rip out the stock pickups and replace them with something more authentic and Jazzmaster-ish, but I like the way these stock pups are voiced. They’ve got a nice P90 thing going on.

New guitars aside, the moral of the story is this: if you’re into recording and sonic sorcery, you could do a lot worse than picking up a used SK-1 or VSS-30 if you find one for a good price. Yeah, they’re lo-fi little creatures, and the sampling time you’ve got to work with isn’t a lot (I think the VSS-30 at least gives you a little bit more than the SK-1’s 1.4 seconds). But you can do some very cool things with them, circuit-bent or stock, whether you want to use them in pursuit of sounds that are beautiful, or chaotic, or both.

I vote for both. Because what’s one without a little bit of the other?

vote both

One more thing. During that first instrumental section, at about the halfway point there’s this odd sound that’s a little like someone singing semi-off-key in the background for two seconds. I couldn’t figure out what it was until Steven reminded me it was a harmonica.

Sometimes when we’re recording his lead vocals I’ll do goofy things during instrumental passages just for a laugh. This time I picked up a harmonica and tried to bend a note, and it came out sounding like the harmonica was sick.

No way would I ever keep something like that in someone else’s song (in one of my own songs, maybe). When I played a rough unfinished mix for Steven two or three weeks ago, after we finished laughing at the ridiculousness of the groaning harmonica I mentioned I was going to chop it out when I did a real mix. He asked me to leave it in.

This is one of the reasons it’s such great fun recording with him.

Serendipitous lending.

lap steel

A few times over the years I’ve picked up a guitar in a music store, started playing, and had someone say to me, “So you’re a lap steel player, eh?”

If you’ve seen the way I play guitar (and other things with strings), you’ll know it’s a fair assumption for a stranger to make. But I’ve always had to say, “No…I’ve never even tried a lap steel.” Because that was the truth.

I was always attracted to the sound of lap and pedal steel guitars — especially when used outside the context of country music, as an atmospheric thing — but lap steels don’t seem to show up in guitar shops too often, most of the new ones are vastly inferior to vintage steels in the mojo department, and the one time I saw a pedal steel in the flesh I was too intimidated to try it. There’s a whole science to playing those things that’s foreign to me. I played a little bit of slide guitar over the years when I felt a song called for it, but that was about it.

While working on putting a supporting cast together for this solo-album-with-guests, I thought it might be worthwhile to try and get someone over here to play some pedal steel. I’m not sure there’s anyone in the area who plays. If there is, I’m not aware of them. I did find someone a few hours away who seemed willing to travel, but it didn’t pan out. I started to think if I couldn’t find a pedal steel session player, maybe picking up a funky old lap steel wouldn’t be such a bad idea. It would be an interesting new sound to play with, if nothing else.

A few months back, when this was on my mind, I got a call from Mr. Chill. The last time he was here, he noticed my trumpet, asked to play it, and in a few seconds got some of the best sounds out of it anyone ever has. Turns out he used to play. I had no idea!

He found my trumpet’s mouthpiece a lot more comfortable than the mouthpieces of some much more expensive horns. That got the wheels turning, and when the phone rang he was calling to ask how I’d feel about him borrowing the trumpet for a little while so he could mess around and see if he could get his chops back. I told him I just had to make a run to a pawn shop first to check out an old lap steel.

“You need a lap steel?” he said.

I thought he meant, “Do you really need another stringed instrument? Your place is overflowing with them as it is.” Before I could answer that no, I didn’t really need one, but I thought it would be fun to try one out, he said, “I’ve got an old Silvertone. Hold on a second. Let me go make sure it still works.”

He went off to fire it up, I heard it make some noise in the background after being plugged into an amp, and he came back and suggested we borrow-swap — a trumpet for a lap steel. It sounded like a great plan to me, though I couldn’t stop laughing at the way it worked out. He came and gave me his lap steel, and I gave him my trumpet, and we’ve been making friends with each other’s instruments ever since.

The steel doesn’t have a serial number, but through internet sleuthing and a little luck I was able to figure out what it is. It’s a Silvertone 1315, made by Harmony sometime in the early or mid 1950s. It’s got a Gibson P13 in it. That’s something of a forgotten pickup. When Gibson introduced the P90 they sold all their P13s to Harmony.

Some people will rip the P13 out of an old lap steel and Frankenstein it onto an electric guitar. I can understand why. It’s got a really unique, round, warm sound to it. It might be too dark for some people in some applications, but through a Fender Twin the thing sings. I still need to try it through that little old Mason Model 5 (which was made to amplify a lap steel, after all).

I’m not going to pretend I became a virtuoso lap steel player overnight, but after a day or two I felt like I got the hang of it pretty well, and I’ve been comfortable playing it ever since. It probably helped that I was already used to playing guitar on my lap. It’s become an important new sonic weapon, and that lap steel has now shown up somewhere on almost everything I’ve been recording — even music that isn’t mine. I’ve stuck it in a bit of a weird tuning that allows access to major and minor chord shapes without the need for bar slants, and I tend to drench it in delay and reverb, because I like that ambient, ghostly sound. Sometimes backwards lap steel is just the ticket, too.

As for Kelly, I think he’s been having as much fun with my trumpet as I’ve been having with his lap steel. He’s used it at some shows with the Walkervilles, and he even laid down a trumpet part for a Big Sugar song, though it didn’t end up making the final mix. I don’t think either one of us is in a hurry to swap back, and that’s fine by me. I don’t think this lap steel had been given any love in quite a while, and I’ve always got the bugle as my backup horn for those times when drunken elephant sounds are needed.

Things that have been happening.

all-the-things

Here’s a sobering thought: I haven’t released a new album since the summer of 2011. By the standards I set for myself in the handful of years leading up to that point, I should have released about six additional full-length albums in the interim. Instead, there’s been nothing since the profane-but-surprisingly-catchy breakup album that was GIFT FOR A SPIDER.

For some — maybe most — people who make music, that would be normal. For me, it’s an unprecedented period of time without new spinning plastic things to share. It’s beyond a break or a hiatus. It’s almost unforgivable.

There were a slew of reasons for the gap, some of which have been mentioned here. The good news (or bad news, depending on how you feel about me and the noises I make) is there’s an onslaught of new music on its way in the New Year to make the gap ashamed it ever existed.

It’s probably been a decade or more since I was as busy as I am right now. It’s a little crazy. How crazy? I’ll break down what’s been going on and let you decide. Prepare for several large titles in bold, beginning with…

NEW TIRE SWING CO. MUSIC

On my end, Tire Swing Co. started as an unexpected but welcome job, with me pretending to be a producer and recording someone else’s music for the first time in a good few years. That lasted for about five minutes before it became something I was much more a part of than I thought I was going to be. “Hark!” the bearded one cried. “An emotional investment!” Now I think I can safely say I’m a dedicated, full-time member of the band, or ensemble, or whatever it wants to be called.

Tire Swing Co. really exists as two separate, distinct things, and that’s something I find kind of fascinating. In the studio it’s not really a band at all. It’s just Steve and me, with the occasional guest stopping by. Steve writes the songs, he sings them and plays guitar, and then most of the time I’m left to my own devices to figure out how to dress them up. He trusts my instincts, and though there have been times when I’ve sent him a rough mix of something and thought, “I went too far this time,” I’ve yet to hear back, “You did wrong! To Hades you go!” So I listen to my gut, and if it’s not saying, “Feed me, you scoundrel,” I run with whatever arrangement ideas it gives me.

Live, Tire Swing Co. is usually Steve backed by members of James O-L and the Villains. I sit out most of the shows because of sleep demons, and because playing live isn’t where I’m at my most comfortable, though the few times I’ve participated it’s been a lot of fun.

So you could pick up an album, see the band live (where it really is a proper band), and experience two very different takes on the same material. It’s not that one is better than the other. Maybe the recordings are a little more atmospheric, and some of the songs would be difficult to pull off in a live setting, while the shows have their own specific energy, rocking out a bit more. I like that.

The first Tire Swing Co. album is still available on Bandcamp in its entirety as a pay-what-you-want, have-it-for-free-if-you-like download.

The follow-up is in the works right now. I’m not sure if it’s going to be a full-length album or an EP. If it’s a short-form album, it just might sneak out before the year’s end.

(Edit: it did turn into an EP, and it did sneak out a little early, on Christmas Day. It’s available for free download over HERE)

Where the first album was an alt-folk record at root, the new songs have been going some different places. One thing that hasn’t gone away, though, is the intentional lack of polish. Steve shares my fondness for rough edges and early takes. We’ve never once used a click track. I’d rather let the songs breathe. If they want to speed up or slow down a little halfway through, that’s their right. Besides, it’s my job as the drummer (in the studio, anyway) to worry about rhythmic matters of the heart later on.

THE SECOND COMING OF PAPA GHOSTFACE

photos by chrisy husanik; manipulated by jw.

I didn’t see this one coming.

I always hoped the old Papa Ghostface fire would start spitting out sparks again someday, but I wasn’t sure how realistic that hope was. It’s one thing when you’re teenagers and you have all the time and energy in the world. It’s a little different when you’re adults, one of you has a family, and the other finally gets the facial hair he always wanted.

Gord and I have been friends since we met under cover of musical serendipity in grade ten English class, and I expect we always will be. I can’t remember us having one semi-serious argument about anything over the years. Our lives and music just took us different places after we’d finished recording a few careers worth of songs almost no one has ever heard while we were still teenagers. He went off to form the long-running (and long-evolving) band Surdaster, while I did my “making lots of restless music under my own name” thing.

Earlier this year, when I was working out who to talk to about potentially playing/singing on my ambitious idea for a new solo album, I thought I’d shoot Gord a message to see if he might be interested in doing a little messing around for old time’s sake. The timing turned out to be perfect. Surdaster had just dissolved after more than a decade of shifting lineups, and I caught him feeling — as he put it — “like a pimple filled with musical pus, ready to pop”.

Maybe these things happen when they’re supposed to sometimes.

We got together and found the near-telepathic musical connection we stumbled onto when we were high school sophomores was still there, undiminished. Jamming gave way to an explosion of creative energy, and we found ourselves making an album together — our first since the CASTRATED EP, if you don’t count 2002’s semi-posthumous KISSING THE BALD SPOT.

The recording process has been a bit of a stop-start affair, due in large part to recurring sleep issues on my end, but at this point I think we’re only a month and a hair away from the finish line. Almost all the songs we want to squeeze in there have been recorded. Some just need to marinate a little longer, we need to figure out a good sequence, and I need to do some serious mixing.

If PAPER CHEST HAIR has long stood as the closest thing to a “mature” Papa Ghostface album, as made by our then-sixteen-year-old selves, this is the real deal — PG older and wiser, without quotation marks. After all these years of writing about certain solo songs, “This is what I imagine a modern day, grown-up Papa Ghostface track would sound like,” there’s no longer any need to imagine. Now there’s a whole album full of actual grown-up Papa Ghostface songs.

It probably goes without saying that the production and sound quality are a little better than on our earlier albums. I have better gear now, and I know a bit more about using it than i did half a lifetime ago. We’re both better, more confident musicians. That helps too. Stylistically I’m not sure where we’re at now, but then I never knew what to call the music we made when people would ask me about it. One thing I can tell you is that the marathon psychodramas of Papa Ghostface and Guys with Dicks past aren’t making a comeback just yet. There are no twenty-minute chunks of molten psyche packed into music here. There’s no twisted role-playing, no larynx-obliterating screams, no trying on a different vocal persona for every song.

But it wouldn’t be a Papa Ghostface album without at least one ominous spoken-word piece. So we made sure not to overlook that.

I’ve always wished I’d been able to get Gord to sing on more of our songs, because when he did step up to the microphone (most notably on YOU’RE A NATION and SHOEBOX PARADISE), some interesting things happened. While most of the singing on this album is still coming from me, this is probably the most collaborative thing we’ve ever done. In the past it fell to me to supply the lyrics most of the time, whether I was writing them or improvising them as we were recording, and around the time of PAPER CHEST HAIR I started showing Gord more or less finished songs for us to mess around with, to supplement our well-worn “improvise around an idea or hit the record button with no idea what we’re about to do” methods.

This time around there’s more craft than improv, and there’s really no dividing line anywhere, aside from the odd song that was already fully-formed by one of us before it was brought into the “studio”. Most of the time a song that starts as his or my idea is overflowing with additions from both of us by the time we’re finished with it, and some of the lyrics have been written as a two-man effort while sitting on the porch with acoustic guitars, both of us tossing out lines.

It’s a good thing we’ve found a replacement space for the porch, now that the weather ain’t looking too kindly on porch-sitting anymore.

One new wrinkle is that we seem to have developed, without meaning to, a way of playing guitar together that’s so locked-in it becomes difficult to pick out who played what after the fact, even for us. On some songs there are four or six or more individual guitar tracks, and yet it sounds like one very large guitar playing countermelodies and harmonies with itself.

I love the insanity of a lot of our old music, as raw as some of it is. I wouldn’t have written as much as I have about it on the album pages if that wasn’t the case. But something like this is so far removed from anything we were doing or could have even tried to do back then, I almost can’t believe the same two guys responsible for a song like PAPER CHEST HAIR’s “Piece of Crap in Your Shoe” did this.

Who knew we would grow up to be real boys one day?

For all that’s different, one thing hasn’t changed — Gord still brings out something in me no one else ever has, and I find myself experimenting when we’re working together and doing things with my voice I wouldn’t normally think to do, whether it’s Middle-Eastern-inspired wordless wailing or multi-tracked theatrical growling (both of which show up in the same song, for the record).

Another thing I’m realizing: this is a pretty somber album we’re making here. I don’t think that’s a bad thing by any means. I’ve always liked swimming around in darker, murkier subject matter, and there was never a dearth of that on earlier Papa Ghostface albums. But this time around there’s a distinct lack of goofiness throughout. We’ve gone from weird sex and spandex-wearing muppets to ruminations on fate, faith, solitude, betrayal, and love that’s as ephemeral as the seasons turning over.

I guess we’ve come a long way. And I can’t help cracking up at the idea that some people will probably assume this is the first Papa Ghostface album, since it’ll be the first one they’ve heard, when it’s going to be our ninth.

TEENAGE GEESE

When things didn’t work out with the first guest I was hoping to have sing on some of my new solo material, some friends put me in touch with a few great people who are now a part of the album in that person’s place. First to come into my orbit was Natalie, after Steve suggested I talk to her. She sang a lead part on a song I’d written as a male/female dialogue, and she was fantastic. Then I got her, Steve, and James to do this with me:

There’s much more to it than that, but that’s a little sneak peak until I get around to editing more of the raw footage into something digestible.

As it happens, she’s a songwriter too. She liked the work I’d done on the first Tire Swing Co. album, and she was feeling the pull to record something after the band she was in broke up. We ended up recording some of her songs together, with her singing and playing guitar (plus electrified ukulele on one song) and me adding the kinds of things I add when someone says, “Addition!” and throws me proverbial pen and paper. The group vocal madness worked out so well on my own song, we went back to the well for one of her songs, with Caleb offering baritone goodness in Steve’s absence.

Natalie is a really beautiful, down-to-earth person who makes you feel good just to be around her, and her songs are very much extensions of her and the people, creatures, and things she cares about. She also has a wonderfully unique voice and doesn’t sound like anyone else I can think of — except for that one time it sounded a bit like she was channeling Neko Case for one song.

A few songs still need a bit of work on my end, but there isn’t a whole lot left to do, and I’m excited for the finished album to see the light of day, whether it comes out under the Teenage Geese name, Natalie’s actual name, or something else, and whether she spreads it around a lot or just shares it with friends and family. They’re great songs, and I’m really happy I got to be a part of capturing them and their beating hearts.

ZARASUTRA

Zara was someone I reached out to on my own when I was starting to really get excited about the idea of having not just one but several unique female voices taking spotlit turns on my album. We’d never met or communicated in any form, but I remembered hearing a few of her songs years ago and liking her voice a lot. I had no idea if she would be interested in singing on something of mine. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I sent her a message just to see what would happen.

What happened was this.

Then something else happened.

Some months back, I mentioned this idea I had to “pay” people for contributing to my album by offering to record a song of theirs for free. I have no issues with paying anyone actual money if that’s what they’re most comfortable with, as long as it’s understood that it’s a straight session fee and no money is going to be generated by the music itself. But I liked the idea of a musical trade of sorts, and I thought some fun might come out of recording people I hadn’t worked with before, assuming anyone took me up on the offer.

Zara was one of the people who did take me up on it, and recording one song led to recording a whole album — another development I wasn’t anticipating. I don’t think I’m someone people tend to think of when they’re looking to record an album in this city. They think of Mark Plancke at the Shark Tank, Brett Humber at Sound Foundry, Josh Kaiser, Martin at SLR…you know, actual established studios and people who make a habit of recording other people for a living.

I don’t put my name out there as someone who does that kind of work, because it’s not a regular thing for me. These days I’m pretty selective in who I work with when I do choose to record music that isn’t my own. If I don’t feel a connection to the music and I don’t feel like the people are involved are trustworthy, I don’t see the point. I don’t charge enough to make musical work I can’t get enthusiastic about worthwhile, and I’m a little wary about working with people I don’t know after the amount of times “helping out a new friend” has turned into “getting screwed”. Beyond all that, if you want something that sounds like it’s been polished to death, I’m the absolute last person you want to call.

I can record somewhat shinier-sounding things if that’s what a band or songwriter is going for. I somehow found a way to do it in the past, when I didn’t even have the kind of equipment that should have allowed it to happen. But I really don’t like to work that way, and unless someone wants to pay me a stupid amount of money to craft something that wouldn’t sound too out of place on commercial radio (which won’t ever happen, for many different reasons), I won’t willingly go there.

On the other hand, if you want something imperfect that reflects the way you actually sound, without pitch-correction or sound replacement or laser hair removal or guided trigonometry, maybe I’m not the worst choice.

Zara was after something raw and stripped-down. I can do raw and stripped-down. Aside from adding a really simple piano part to one song, all I did was try to grab the sound of her playing and singing in the room. I don’t think her songs need any embellishing — though if at some point she wanted to have me record her again and there was a bit more time to sit with the material, I’d be happy to experiment with adding some more sounds, if she wanted to hear that happen.

She has a very dynamic way of singing and playing guitar. Songs will ramp up from whisper-quiet to intense strumming and belting without warning. And it’s not belting in the “I am singing loud because loud loud oh my God hear how loud i am” way. It’s more like her emotions are exploding out of her throat and this is the only way she can redirect them so they won’t explode you too.

I like that unpredictability. I wanted to stay out of the way as much as possible and just let it (and her) be, without imparting much of whatever “sound” I have. I feel like I could have done a better mixing job, but I feel that way about everything I’ve ever done and will probably go on feeling that way about everything else I ever do, so at a certain point I have to walk away and accept that a perfect mix isn’t something I’m ever going to arrive at. I just don’t have the skill set to make that happen. And I could have used more compression and got everything sounding a bit louder and narrower, but I felt more comfortable leaving the dynamic range intact.

I spent more time than I should have in the past trying to get things as loud as possible at the expense of sound quality. I’m not ever going to do that again. No offence intended to anyone who likes their music loud and compressed to the point of strangulation (for certain kinds of music that sound works very well), but the Loudness War can suck my spit.

Anyway. About that imperfection thing. There are brief drop-outs in two songs you can hear if you’re listening on headphones, where a finger or a shirt sleeve touched the capsule of one of the super-sensitive Neumann KM184s pointed at the sixty-three-year-old Gibson LG-2 that’s become my default “you play guitar the right way? here’s something in standard tuning!” axe. You can catch a car horn honking outside at the tail end of the penultimate song’s fade. I thought the performances were good enough, and the sonic flaws small and unobtrusive enough, that it didn’t make sense to re-record those things. Those are the kind of flaws I think can add character to a recording when they’re not so jarring that they take you out of the music.

This is the first official full-length album Zara has recorded as far as I know, and the one thing out of all this madness I’ve been involved in that’s sure to slip out before the end of the year, because it already has — she had her CD release show at Phog last night. Though I’m still a little surprised she chose to record the album with me, I’m glad she did. That voice all on its own is about three hundred different kinds of special, and it’s surreal to hear it coming through your headphones not as a record of a past performance but as a thing happening in the room that you’re a part of capturing.

NEW SHIMMER DEMOLITION

My good friend Adam makes some really cool music that blurs the lines between shoegaze, grunge, dream-pop, doom-thrum (I just made that one up), and a whole lot of other good stuff. I’ve been lucky enough to master a few of his albums in recent years, and the best job I’ve done in that department is probably still this right here.

His next (and not-yet-released) album might be his best one yet. His music just keeps getting catchier and dreamier, in the best possible ways, and the vocal harmonies he’s thrown into the mix here and there add a whole new layer of goodness.

Speaking of harmonies…I got to sing some of those on one song. The moment I heard the track, a harmony line popped into my head, and I twisted Adam’s arm a little into letting me come in and give it a try, just to see what would happen. I know what it’s like when you’re a one-person operation and you’re reluctant to let other fingers feel their way into the pie, but I felt like I had something here.

Fortunately I was able to sing what was in my head after a few shaky early takes, and the results conjured a whole music video in my head. You know you’re on the right track when that happens. I’m really proud I got to wail a little on a song, and relieved Adam liked what I did. Hopefully the album will get an official release sometime next year. I get to be a guest again! A guest on someone else’s thing! Hooray for guesting, I say.

THE CONTINUING SOLO ADVENTURES

vocal recording

There are now thirteen different singers and musicians who have contributed to what is in some ways the most ambitious album I’ve ever sunk my teeth into — this thing I’m calling YEAR OF THE SLEEPWALK — and there should be a few more contributors by the time I’m done. As an album it doesn’t have the physical enormity of the eons-in-the-making and still-far-from-finished multiple-disc mess that is THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE, but the sonic scope of the thing is beyond anything I’ve attempted before, with several voices aside from my own, strings, horns, and upright bass, along with all the sounds I usually make myself and a few I’ve never made before.

This one has taken a little longer to pull together than I first thought it would. I haven’t been obsessing over it or working on it nonstop. It’s been more a matter of coordinating schedules and having to wait a little while for some some people to come in and record their parts. But man, has it ever been worth the longer-than-usual gestation period.

You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you it’ll be worth the wait. These are some of my favourite songs I’ve written in years, I think it’s some of the more interesting work I’ve done in a textural sense (mixing some of these songs has been a challenge, to put it mildly), and the performances I’ve got down on digital tape from the ladies and gentlemen who’ve contributed their fingers and breath and vocal cords add whole new emotional and sonic dimensions.

It’s tempting to stretch it out to a double CD. I’ve written a lot of songs for this album. When i say “a lot”, I mean you would punch me if i told you how many. It’s ridiculous. But I think i’m probably better off squeezing as much as I can into the eighty minutes offered by a single disc and saving the rest of the songs for something else. Otherwise it could all get out of hand pretty fast. One huge ill-fated album that keeps hovering in the background and takes forever to finish is enough for me, thankyaverymuch. I wouldn’t want this stuff to suffer the same fate.

So there’s enough material there for at least a few sprawling albums after this one. And then there’s THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE itself, which I still do intend to finish someday. And there will be another out-takes/misfits collection somewhere down the line as well. And there’s another unexpected collaborative project in the works, but I think I need to stay tight-lipped about that one for a little while.

So there’s the news. That was a pretty long-winded way to say, “Expect to hear a whole lot of new noise in the months ahead,” but I’ve rarely been concise here. Why start reeling it in at this late stage in the game? WHY, I ASK YOU?!

Telephone microphone.

Someone made me a microphone out of an old telephone. Sound enters the receiver instead of the transmitter, and the results are not quite the same as what you’d hear over the phone. It’s more like life, but narrower and more lo-fi, in an interesting way. I think it’s going to be a fun recording tool.

Here’s my first test of the new telephone microphone. No weird effects yet. Just a pretty straight signal path with a bit of reverb.

It’s not a proper song as much as it’s a random goof, and a good excuse to mess around with the Micron’s arpeggiator a little. The only lyrics are, “Ain’t you the finest swamp thing? Don’t you forget about me.” Which means absolutely nothing, but it was fun to sing. All the vocal tracks went through the telephone, and I layered some harmonies in there, because how often do you get to harmonize with yourself over the phone?

There’s a bit of Casio SK-1 in there too. i’ve got a lot to say about that thing (a relatively new addition over here), but I’ll leave it for another time.

Blow out the candles, blog-face.

Happy third birthday, blog of mine.

There was a time when I thought you were just a temporary place to rest my head and I would eventually lose the motivation to keep you updated, rendering you an online ghost town. Instead, you helped to kick my ass back into gear after I’d been slacking off for a while on all things music-related, and now you’re busier and more sprawling than ever before. I mean, I’m even talking to you like you’re a person, when I stopped doing that back in March of 2008. I bet you never saw that coming back again, did you ol’ blog?

Since I first got the random idea to create you three years ago, a lot has happened.

I went from being lethargic and having no real motivation to put any work into harnessing my musical ideas (I think some people call that “post-crackhouse blues”), to recording and releasing seven full-length albums plus a three-CD compilation of out-takes/misfits — with two hundred and thirty-four songs between them all — in the space of just over two years.

I added a few instruments, noise-makers, and sound-sculptors to the room in which music is made.

I wrote a whole lot of stuff (three hundred posts so far — some silly, some serious, some random, some rant-tastic — plus a separate page for every CD I’ve ever officially released, and dedicated sections for some other things of note), made a lot of videos (there are about eighty self-made videos of various shapes and sizes scattered throughout this place), shared a lot of music (more than two hundred MP3s between album pages and regular posts), posted a lot of silly pictures, and butchered others to make them silly when I didn’t feel they were ridiculous enough to begin with. Things looked like halloween around here for a long time, until they suddenly didn’t anymore.

I went from being so far under the radar I might as well have not existed as a musical entity in this city, to becoming someone who is considered somewhat “cool”, and somehow built up a far larger audience than I ever expected I would. I don’t think it would have been possible without some strong support from CJAM, Liam and the gang at Dr. Disc, Tom and Frank at Phog, some good friends from all walks of life, and my Uncle Kanye, who sometimes gives good advice when he’s not interrupting me during my big moment at a music video awards show.

After being shunned by the local music scene for years, I was finally treated as if I were part of the club, sort of, though I still don’t think I really am when you get right down to it. I guess it just got to the point where it wasn’t so easy to ignore me anymore. I learned a lot about the way a city’s music scene works — the good stuff, the weird stuff, and how there’s some bizarre double-dealing that goes on sometimes behind the scenes. Thankfully I was able to avoid the bulk of the weirdness by not being an active participant in the usual conventional ways.

I tried the unpaid session musician thing for a while, playing as a sideman both live and in the “studio” with a few different people. I had good experiences and bad experiences. Ultimately, I learned being a sideman — while it’s something I can do, and I think I can do it pretty well — is not really for me. It was a worthwhile experiment, at least. I did manage to make a few good friends in the process, and was reminded for the first time in a long while just how much fun it can be to collaborate with someone when there’s no stupid crap involved and you’re not only given free reign to contribute whatever ideas you might have — you get credit for everything you do, too.

I was threatened with rape and death during a home invasion but survived with my muffler intact, though I could have done without the PTSD that followed. I redirected some of the anxiety into pop songs like this one.

Cinders

After avoiding live performances for years, I played my own material live in a few small concentrated doses and then threw caution to the wind and played an extended free one-man show at Mackenzie Hall. What could have been a grotesque failure was instead a surprising success, and it still almost doesn’t quite feel like it really happened.

Then I went back to avoiding live performances.

I reissued and repackaged almost thirty CDs from the back catalogue with new artwork (many of them never had any proper artwork to begin with), mostly for my own amusement. A few people who were interested got a big black box full of these CDs.

A short-form documentary film was made about me.

(The actual number of albums recorded is much higher than the figure in that trailer, but whaddayagonnado?)

I resurrected my long-dormant Myspace page and made it somewhat presentable, using it as a convenient place to post random things I was working on before they had finished albums to call their homes. Then I realized Myspace is kind of lame, their streaming sounds absolutely hideous (I had to hide the built-in music player using html and attach my own external MP3 player for higher quality audio), and there’s really no point in me having a music page over there with all the stupid restrictions and rules when I have complete freedom to do whatever I want over here. I also have no real interest in “networking” with other bands who only want to pad out their friends lists and gain another person they can send impersonal spam to.

So I killed my profile for good, thus rendering me perhaps the only musician in this city who doesn’t have a Myspace page. It was long overdue. Just about the only good things to ever come out of having a Myspace profile were having an easy way to get in touch with Travis for the first time, being able to share silliness with some long-distance friends, and the running joke of being able to refer to that place as “Spyspace”.

The obligatory “bio section” shifted a number of times, from a very skeletal thing, to an insanely long cross between an FAQ and a place to dispel some bizarre rumours and myths that were floating around, before finally mutating into something informative but not as long-winded.

I came up with the idea of making monthly video progress reports as a random thing, only to watch as the half-assed idea took on a life of its own and grew tentacles. I’m working on progress report #9 right now and kind of wish I started doing this years ago, because it’s a lot more fun than I ever thought it would be and a great way to keep track of what I am (or should be) working on.

I also came up with several ideas I’ve yet to really run with, like a comic strip about a wild-haired, cynical-beyond-all-reason child prodigy of a focus-puller named cormac.

And a whole lot of other stuff happened too. A few weeks ago I went through the archives to insert some links where I neglected to do that in the first place (mostly linking to an album’s relevant page when its title appears in a post), and it was a little startling to realize just how much content there is here. I had to make a point of only skimming most of the posts instead of reading them all the way through, otherwise it would have taken me days to get through it all.

There’s a lot of stuff here. You can actually trace my progress from wading through a bit of a slump after an exhausting move into a new house, to getting things back on track in a big way and then keeping the momentum going while figuring out just what this blog was supposed to be. A few links have gone dead in that time (most of them other people’s sites that were abandoned, or links to my now-defunct Myspace page), and I removed them where I caught them, though I’m sure two or three slipped through the fingers of my eyes.

In all honesty, I feel like I’m only now really hitting my stride. There’s a lot more left to say, and much more music to share. Thanks to everyone who’s tagged along for the ride. It’s been interesting so far. Let’s see what else shakes loose.

(I should add that MEDIUM-FI MUSIC… is at #3 on the CJAM charts this week. Thanks, as always, to everyone who plays my stuff.)

Makeover.

I thought it was about time for a change around here after more than two years of things looking like Halloween year ’round.

It never really occurred to me before to mess with the theme/layout at all, and I was content with the way things looked. But yesterday I found myself looking through some of the other themes just for kicks and previewing what some of them would look like. I found a few I liked. Lately I’ve found my eyes tend to get tired pretty fast when re-reading something I’ve written here, and it didn’t take much pondering to put it together that the culprit was the odd, dark colour scheme. When things got lighter, suddenly my eyes were a lot happier. In the space of about half an hour I went from just trying out new themes to deciding it was time for a little renovating.

I was torn between about three different themes along these lines. I settled on this one because it gave me more widget power. Things are more or less located where they were before on the sidebar, but everything feels a little neater and sleeker to me. As a nice unexpected side effect, most of my videos now display at a larger size, and I can make pictures larger too.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked the way things looked before, Halloween colours and all. But I think this is an improvement all around, and now I can’t believe it took me so long to think of making a change. It’s kind of silly, but I’m enjoying how so many pages look different now with the new colour scheme, and some of the album cover art/images seem to stand out more than before. My eyes are happy. Hopefully yours are too.

I don’t know how the hell it can be the second-last month of the year already, but somehow it is. That’s messed up.

The album I’m working on (still with the working title of Bitter Bearded Balladeer) continues to take shape and come into focus a little at a time. After some experimenting, I think I’m now settled on the album cover art. I’m not going to promise to have it finished before the end of the year…the last two times I got overconfident about such things, the albums in question didn’t quite make it to the finish line in time. So maybe if I don’t commit to anything, this time it’ll all work out.

Right now it’s shaping up to be one of the more atmospheric and dreamy things I’ve done in a while. But there’s lots of time for that to change. Only time will tell whether or not the sixty-second borderline punk song makes the cut. Things have already started to shift on some level. Up until recently, it seemed to me the album was going to be piano and acoustic-guitar-dominated. Now, maybe not quite as much. Last night I recorded some elements of a song where the lead instrument is an eavestrough elbow. I don’t want to make any bold proclamations, but I’m not sure there are too many songs out there that were written (or, in this case, improvised from a percussive groove) and played on eavestrough.

Add a bit of delay and it’s got a nice metallic thrust to it.

Eavestroughs aside, one thing I’m pretty sure won’t be making the cut is this song right here.

Gift for a Spider

I like the way it turned out. It’s one of those songs that sounds like I spent a decent amount of time crafting it when it came flooding out in no more than ten minutes, and those are always fun. But I don’t think it’s going to fit on the album. I’m also a little perturbed that I used a bit more compression than I would normally want to. I was just getting down “scratch tracks”, not really paying attention to settings, only to find I liked the first takes, but they were a little squashed-sounding and I didn’t feel like re-recording them properly.

It’ll end up somewhere, someday. Because songs about disturbed people who start off intending to murder someone only to end up possibly killing themselves after maybe or maybe not killing someone else are like blankets that warm your heart. I honestly don’t know where that sort of subject matter comes from.

On a random note, the song (if you can call it a song) by Taio Cruz and Ke$ha called “Take a Dirty Picture” is the most creatively bankrupt, moronic piece of stupid shit I’ve heard in a while. It gives “Eenie Meanie Miney Mo Lover” a run for its money. That there are people who get paid good money to create this garbage is just twisted. But hey, a critic from the BBC wrote: “The jarring clash between Taio’s supersmooth soul-gentleman image and Ke$ha’s sloppy drunken nonsense is genuinely fascinating. The song actually transforms from one kind of a thing to another, depending who has their hand on the microphone”.

Yeah. It’s high art alright.

I guess the lesson here is if you send me a picture of your naughty bits to my phone, I’ll jerk off to it and then write a song about the whole ordeal, and maybe I can be famous too.

On a less random note, MY HELLHOUND CROOKED HEART is somehow back in the CJAM top thirty again. How that’s possible, I don’t know. But there it be.

Thumb that thumb piano. Thumb it like you’ve never thumbed before.

I have a new toy.

I know what you’re thinking — “Enough with the toys already! Do you have any room left for them? Why don’t you buy a squadger and be done with it!”

(A squadger, for those who don’t know, is what happens when a squirrel and a badger get together and make sweet woodland creature love.)

But this toy is neither large nor expensive. It’s something that was found while investigating fun little musical items at the Green Earth store with Smooryl. They’ve got some nifty little trinkets there, they do. I’ve wanted a kalimba for a while now, and at about ten bucks, how can you resist? If only my little video camera hadn’t decided to distort a bit on some of the notes I was playing.

I hope everyone had a spiffy New Year’s Eve. Mine was pretty spiffy indeed, and the first time I’ve ever actually had a date for New Year’s Eve. A DATE! Can you believe it? I was reluctant to go anyplace loud, but we ended up at Phog (happy sixth anniversary, Phog phellas) where Lonesome Lefty was playing, and fun was had. I felt awkward wearing those big air traffic control headphones so I threw in some unobtrusive earplugs instead, and they did a surprisingly good job of saving me from old my nemesis Stuff That Is Really Loud.

I guess the “recluse” part of this blog’s sub-heading is accurate after all. I ran into at least half a dozen people who seemed somewhat shocked to see me out somewhere in a social setting. It was kind of funny. But there you go. I do exist after all. Matt Rideout came over to say hello, and he said some very nice things to me about the WAMM cover story thing. I like that guy. I don’t know him well, but it was fun playing with him for that big Field Assembly full-band album release show back in the summer, and you can’t deny that the man grows an impressive beard. He also looks snazzy in a suit and tie.

It seems the box of my CDs at Dr. Disc is pretty barren once again, so I will be replenishing it tomorrow. It’s also time to head to Minuteman Press to get some inserts reprinted, and I need to order more clear CD jewel case trays and ink cartridges for my CD printer. Some things are practically “out of print” right now, and I need to rebuild my supplies before they drop off altogether.

Still on the fence about the Mackenzie Hall thing, but not for the reasons you might think. I like February 28th as a date. I like the idea of a Sunday show that isn’t competing with what’s going on Friday or Saturday and having it happen at 7:00 or 8:00 pm so people can get out of there at a reasonable time. But I’ve come to the realization that there will need to be a tiny bit of amplification in order to get things sounding right — not for volume, but just to add a bit of body to things. The one person I really trust to run sound is Ryan Fields, and he’s out of town at that time. So I’m not sure if I should ask someone else to do the sound and book that date, or wait until mid-March when Ryan is back in town.

I’ll make a decision one way or another by the end of this coming week. And regardless of what happens, I guess you should probably expect me to be playing a solo show sometime in the next little while, in one form or another. As always, I’ll get all long-winded about the details here as soon as I figure out what I’m going to do.

Meet Oscar.

I was just thinking the other day about how many guitars I have, how I never thought I’d have anywhere near as many as I do now, and how I really don’t see myself ever needing any more of them. I definitely don’t need any more variety when it comes to acoustic guitars. I have dreadnoughts, big fat things, parlour guitars, a twelve-string, an old archtop, a National Resophonic, and the list goes on. Any flavour I can find a need for, there’s an axe somewhere around here to cover it.

If anything, somewhere down the road another electric guitar might make sense. I always wanted a Telecaster. Those old Harmony Bobcats are cool little things. And an electric twelve-string would be fun to try.

Still, sometimes you come across something that’s so cheap and so much fun to play you can’t resist. That happened today. I picked up a cheaper than cheap classical guitar just to kill time, and found not only was the intonation decent and the neck not horribly uncomfortable, but after five minutes had passed I was still playing the thing, in no hurry to put it down.

That usually spells trouble. And a classical guitar is one acoustic flavour I don’t have at my disposal.

And here we are,

One of the nice things about cheap-ass guitars — and yes, there are expensive asses that need pampering, but we’ll discuss them some other time — is they don’t mind so much if you throw them in a strange tuning one day and then decide the next day you’d rather return to standard tuning. Another nice thing: you don’t have to make sure they’re in a humidity-controlled environment. This thing started out in a warm place, then spent hours in the trunk of a car the December cold has turned into a makeshift refrigerator, and by the time it was transferred to another warm place the body of the guitar felt like it had been sitting in a meat freezer for a few days. It didn’t care. Didn’t even go out of tune a little bit.

Try doing that with an expensive new acoustic guitar and watch what happens.

I’m not saying high-end guitars aren’t worth the upkeep. But there’s a time for cheap guitars to strut their stuff. And this is Oscar’s time.

By the way, check out how messed up my ponytail is in the video. It looks like a small octopus has decided to make its home on my head. And part of what I was playing while I was filming decided to become a proper song about two minutes after I turned off the camera, complete with a different vocal melody. I would have recorded its inception, but it happened too fast. I’m recording it right now and thinking it might be album material.

Next up, electric guitar and pounding drums. Because every delicate classical guitar-based song needs a big noisy climax.

A bit of what I did this morning/afternoon, and an unexpected new addition to the family.

Apologies for the shitty framing/cinematography. Filming oneself while recording is not an easy thing to do. One thing tends to suffer in favour of the other, and in my case it’s the filming that’s going to take a hit to the ‘nads in favour of the music.

The ideal situation is to have someone else manning the camera. That way you don’t end up, say, cutting your own head off with a music stand while recording drums. You can also get some camera movement happening to make things more visually interesting. But for the time being I have no one to film me. So I thought I might do it myself, to give you a bit of an idea of what happens when I’m doing some of the things I do.

In the interest of keeping things from getting too bland, there are only bits and pieces of what I did. I don’t think watching entire vocal takes and drum performances would make for very interesting viewing. So here! Have some bits and pieces!

Thanks to Stephen for linking on Facebook to the sale of that combo organ on Kijiji. I first thought, “That looks cool, but I don’t have the room for it.” Then Johnny Smith and I went out there to Tecumseh, I played the organ on the deck of the nice dude who was selling it, and as soon as I started playing “Alabama Song” by the Doors and got a Farfisa-ish sound out of it I knew I was done for and it was coming home with me.

I’m not sure it really fits in this song, but that organ will definitely be showing up on future albums. You can coax some cool sounds out of it, with a grit and personality no digital organ emulation can tap into.

Also, you can’t really see the stereo ribbon mic in front of the drums, but I assure you it was there. Or maybe I just recorded the drums without microphones at all. Like magic.