Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Look, mom...no instruments!

For a long time I have been convinced that the only way I can get my job done right is if I can make it happen acoustically without all the bells and whistles.  Purely analog.  So a couple of years ago, I made an album that I called "recycled tapes" as a statement that it doesn't  take a hundred-thousand dollar studio to make music.  I used a Tascam Portastudio and a Shure SM-58 microphone along with my trusty 1955 Harmony Acoustic guitar and my Johnson Acoustic/Electric Bass to make that one happen, and it was good for what it was.  I sometimes go back and listen through that album and am surprised by how much I like what I'm hearing, but then on a second listen I start to get critical of it and begin to hate it so I put it away for a few months.

Cut to about a year later, I was putting together a demo album so that some friends and I would have something to get gigs with, and I branched out to using an Alesis drum machine setup, my Dean Electric Bass, an electric guitar of unknown origins, my Harmony, and my Fender mini-amp.  That four song demo did end up getting us a couple shows, and it has it's moments.  It was definitely a step up from "recycled tapes" in that it was recorded straight to computer and with a condenser microphone, so that overall production value was better.  It still sounded pretty cheesy, though.

A couple months ago, then, I made an album of cover songs with my friend Otis, under the moniker "Stilted Wenis and the Crooked Tooth" and other than that ridiculousness of the drum machine sounds on a couple of the songs, it turned out pretty good.  Sure, there are some things that we could've taken the time on vocally to perfect if we had that time, but we kind of had to throw it together at the last minute, and even so, I am pretty happy with what came out of it.  It was a major step in the right direction.

So now, here I am in Brooklyn, and I had to sell the only guitar I took with me (my Epiphone Acoustic) just to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads (a minor sacrifice compared to some that M made to keep things going)), and I still have the burning desire to keep this music boat sailing.  Luckily, a mutual friend of Otis and I, OB, had recorded a song on acoustic guitar that I was able to record some vocals over to keep me going, but once that was done I needed more.

I decided at this point to change my philosophy.  Why  should everything have to be recorded manually in order for it to be real? It's 2011, after all.  With the capabilities that we have at our disposal, it doesn't make sense to reject them wholesale without giving them a try.  So after years of avoiding it, here I am typing this with my instrument.  My Acer netbook has become my orchestra, and with it I command a limitless potential arsenal of musical delight.

It's been years, eleven, to be precise, since I used a computer to create an entire song, with no acoustic instrumentation.  So I took a couple hours and put together a little trancey thing, but instead of just plugging bars into a piano roll, I decided to actually "play" them in.  Using my computer keyboard and a drum loop, I was able to create a song.  That's when it hit me.

The thing I've always hated about producing songs electronically is that there isn't any humanity in it.  Of course the sounds are all there, but there is no imperfection to tie it all together.  Isn't the breaking point of a perfect voice that makes you gasp?  Isn't it the moment when the angels fall that evokes the strongest emotions in you?  Of course it is.  We need that glimpse of humanity in our art in order to identify with it, otherwise it's just colors and sounds without substance.

So it's with that in mind that I have decided to move forward in a new direction musically, and I will now begin to put forth musical arrangements and such in an entirely new manner.  Of course, when I do get my instruments back, I will be using them, but not exactly in the same way.  What's the point?

I can use them in a way that's even better.  And I can't wait to show you what I mean...

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