Posts Tagged ‘#recordingstudio’

MSK Yellowstone

MSK Yellowstone

00001341

Photo by MSK Yosemite

Burning Impressions That Last Forever                                 

“Single Desire” was written in a time when I must have had a lot to say.  The year was 1988. Once love has grabbed you it can burn deep.  No matter how you want things to turn out, sometimes you have no control on the direction they take.  You find yourself helpless at the time and unable to avoid mistakes that seem obvious even to you.  Single Desire tries to describe the condition when adoration is not reciprocal.  When you are not loved in return.  Only one thing matters and nothing you can do will make it happen.

When the other person learns that type of control is in their hands, they have power that can turn lovers insane.  He/She can make the helpless romantic into a tool that can be discarded when no longer useful.  There is no cost to them.  Displays of charm and hints of affection can destroy all resistance and common sense in the admirer.

We need to wait until the fire burns out completely before we can stop following and finally walk away.  The problem is there is usually very little left to walk away with.

I tried to give this song a full arrangement as powerful as the lyrics (or the idea behind them) felt to me.  I knew I could not sing it the way it required so I called my  good friend and band-mate Gary Jefferson as I have many times over the years to do the vocal tracks.  My wife Ellen does the chorus ‘response’ vocal parts.  I used my keyboards and MIDI tone generators to do all the instrumental tracks including the drums, strings, brass and bass guitar parts, and invited my buddy Shawn Anderson to come over and lay down the lead guitar tracks. Harlen Lee, another great friend of mine, came in and added additional guitar parts.  I really like the bass guitar line, and think the strings add movement and dramatic accents to the song.

Please give “Single Desire” a few plays to let it sink in and I hope you enjoy.

Written 8-27-1982 by MSK and I recorded it around 4-1983.

The main melodic themes for this song were inspired by my Yamaha DX7 ‘tine’ sound. That sound (or patch) has been used in many professional recordings since the keyboard was introduced.  The guitars and vocals are real-time of course, and everything else was sequenced.

Ann Ellis from my band The Personal Touch does the vocals on this one.  I would play the main piano part and she would sing the lyrics until we got the timing and the feel the way we wanted it.  From that point I sequenced the main piano part.  Every time I play this song I play it as you hear it in this recording, but I play a different last chord.  No two versions have the same ending, and I never know what the last chord will be.  My wife Ellen and I worked on the backing sounds like the strings, brass and pads to make this a full sounding production.  Once I had the basic piano parts and drums done, I don’t think we ever added a dedicated bass line as the song ended up sounding very full.

My buddy Shawn David Anderson plays lead guitar on this one and really drives home with the power and tone I was hoping for.  The lyrics are one of my favorites.  Not necessarily by themselves, but when reflecting on the emotions and events of the time. True multi-track recording capabilities gave me the option to create complex instrumental layers as opposed to the limited recordings I had been able to achieve from a four-track cassette deck!

I even sent this song to be evaluated by professionals.  Among some of the comments it was suggested that the song was too long and that the intro went too long before the vocal lines were introduced.  I have a version that starts when the vocals kick in, but this is my favorite version.  I hope you agree.

Black1

Our banner designed by Marty Gillaspy

“Chase The Dream”

When one of the bands I worked with collapsed under the pressures of day to day life, it was quickly resurrected in a new form.  Most of Euphoria members did not want to stop playing so we regrouped with a new guitar player to replace one of the founding members and became The Chase.  We played out with about ten different names for a few months – Scenic Route was another favorite of mine – until we settled on The Chase.  These guys were great.  We had a solid rhythm section, a great lead singer and back up vocals that were tight and an amazing lead guitar player that could feel everything he played. We could play cover songs no other bands would play live.  We also threw in originals from time to time.  The banner was hung one each side of the stage vertically as seen in one of the photos below, and horizontally behind the drum set.  It was pretty eye-catching and a lot of people complimented it.

I am an archivist.  I record everything.  Audio recordings of practice sessions and live performances. Video of many performances and photos of major events.  Before YouTube I posted a number of them on our cable TV Local Access channels using their video editing suite.  I had my fingers in everything.  Some of the projects got finished, but a lot of the raw tapes have only been viewed by me and a select group of people.

I just put together a new video that uses a lot of this vintage raw video and some of the photographs from the time period.  The medium is so old that the quality suffers, but it does a good job of representing the events of the time.  We played in many clubs and outdoor events and I will create future videos to highlight more venues.   For this video I used an original instrumental song that Nick Robinson was working on and our new band, The Chase, made it our own.  There is no video of the song as we only played it out a few times.  Nicky has since re-joined Euphoria when it regrouped a few years ago and is still playing out with some amazing players.

Please check out my latest YouTube post (and other videos while you are there) of his original tune: “Chasing The Dream”.  Enjoy!

Chase The Dream

I’ve admitted in earlier posts that I observe people a lot, and that I get a number of ideas for songs from watching other people;  friends, family, co-workers, I steal from them all!  I can empathize with people as they face challenges and triumphs in life.  I try to understand what it feels like to be in those situations even though I myself might not be directly affected by them.

I also have some rather obvious political points of view.  I can understand why there are those that do not always agree with my positions but in many cases I can still understand theirs.  In this song I basically insult every group I can think of!  As you are more than likely in at least one of these groups I apologize in advance.  In a lot of ways, this song summarizes the items on my Love – Hate list.  I hate things that should work but do not, and I really hate personal and corporate greed.  The song uses a lot of references to things we would hear on the news, although it was written a long time ago.  Unfortunately most of the issues are the same today!

Recording this song took a LONG time.  We did rough mixes here and there changing this or that, but it did not feel right from beginning to end.  Eventually, I think we rearranged some of the chorus/verse structure and it just fell into place.  For some songs this is the agonizing part;  all the components are there and sound good, but the piece as a whole just does not grab you.  I might have even tried changing tempo on this one to get it right.

If this is not the first song I did using my new Alesis ADAT recorder it was one of the first.  I was also transitioning from the Atari computer to a Windows machine, so not everything went smoothly!  I played electric guitar on this one (I have a few guitars and do not know which one was used for each song but my guess this is either my Ibanez or a Yamaha 6 string) and did all the sequencing and drum tracks as described earlier.  My wife does the vocal main lines.  Using the limiter/compressor chain I described from other songs the vocals are recorded so they stay soft and spooky and a little eerie as the lyrics become more and more cynical.  A bunch of family and friends came in and did the voice add-ons.  You can hear both our daughters, my co-writing brother and a few neighbors help out with the spoken parts.  I ‘sing’ the chorus.

The bass line in this one is particularly cool because it is my Oberheim Matrix 6 synth and it has this patch or sound that continues to play an arpeggio (sequence of predetermined notes) as long as you hold a key down.  So the bass lines are done by holding one note for a while but hearing many notes played.  We even got to play with one of the audio samplers from the music store and used it to trigger the ‘broken word’ parts.   Once we got the arrangement right it was just fun to ‘decorate’ the basic tracks and add a little movement to the mix.   Have fun with this one.

As we moved the song “My Heart is Silent” forward, I wanted to give you an update in the process.  New chord structure keeping some of the vibe from the first version and new vocals and you can see how quickly songs can change from the original concept.  The last version had a female vocalist and this time we hear from a friend of Mack.  His name is Carlos and he has a smooth ballad vocal style. Again, this is the first vocal attempt to give us an idea how the song feels with a male vocalist and more of a structured feel to the verses. 

 We decided to go with a spoken intro for the first verse.  I like the way it opens the song and allows us to build the vocals as the song progresses.  Oddly enough, a lot of the lyrics went back to the original as the song structure fit the words a bit easier.  We also considered doing a male-female duet.  No final decision yet and we are still thinking about back-up vocals to enhance some of the lines from each verse to drive the end of the song as it builds up.   

 I added MIDI string parts after the piano intro.  The drum parts and bass guitar are also all MIDI generated coming from the computer.  I added a low-key rhythm guitar part during the chorus and later verses.  Once we have the vocal parts finalized we may add other instruments as the song progresses toward the end.   

 So what do you think?  Male vocalist, female or duet?   

 What other instruments do you ‘hear’ in the final version?  Saxophone?   Brass? Orchestral?  Lead guitar? 

 Do you like the spoken opening verse rather than jumping straight into the melody? 

 Here is the latest rough mix of “My Heart Is Silent”. 

A Song in the Making Part III

A Song in the Making Part II

A Song in the Making

Like many songs or projects do, this song combines a number of events in my life with observations I make as an observer on the planet Earth.  I was outside and looked up in the sky one afternoon for no real reason and noticed there was a bright full moon.  I know they happen, it just seemed unusual and weird.  Do werewolves come out on a full moon In the Middle of the Day? I digress.  So I thought that is weird, and how would most people notice there was a full moon? When you’re looking up from the ground.  I worked in a call center for a number of years.  Some of those years get boiled down into a verse or two.  It expresses frustration with the extreme customer and how difficult it can be to ‘act professionally’ when under duress.  But there is also recognition of the people I have worked with.  It feels natural.  We work as a team with no agenda.  I have worked with some great teams of people, some very smart and some very dedicated and some very efficient.  All working together and helping each other. If only we could get big business and politicians to work like that.  On this song I programmed the drums and played bass guitar behind the 12 string and vocals. It was just a quick little ditty about work.  I like the arrangement of the song and it has a few twists to it.  It is fun to play and I hope you enjoy!

In the Middle of the Day

Muscle machine; glorified drama queen,

Held together by something in between.

There’s a full moon in the middle of the day,

Sometimes you just can’t get out of the way.

All the crazies, calling you on the phone

Never get the time to be on your own.

There’s a full moon in the middle of the day

Tell ‘em the Truth; Lies, they won’t believe you anyway.

But it feels natural like this

Everything works the way it’s supposed to be.

Know it with every kiss:
I’ll take care of you, if you‘ll take care of me.

It’s one thing, until you turn around

That’s when you notice, looking up from the ground.

There’s a full moon, in the middle of the day,

Gets to where black and white blurs into gray.

The dumb ones really get on your nerves,

And This One thinks everyone’s here just to serve.

There’s a full moon, in the middle of the day,

Don’t you ever wish you could say what you want to say?

It feels natural like this

Watch out for each other, learn from what you see.

Know it with every kiss

I’ll take care of you, will you share your life with me.

*It feels natural like this.  It feels natural like this….

There’s a Full Moon in the Middle of the Day,

There’s a Full Moon in the Middle of the Day

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/retrograde/id962542260

It may take a few times through listening to this one.  A number of my songs might seem quite alien at first.  I hope you let them grow on you.  (OK, that sounded kinda creepy LOL!) This is a textured song where I did all the sequencing and drum programming.  There are no guitars on this song.  Most of this is Atari days using the Proteus 1 tone generator an the RX 15 drum machine.  I also use sounds straight from the keyboard(s) I use as controllers.   In this case it is the Korg Trinity V3.  Other than the vocals, everything is recorded via MIDI and plays back live sounds from the keyboards and tone generators (along with effects and other goodies).   From start to finish this is a dark piece.  Sparse percussion with a rolling sequenced bass line.  You have heard my wife before on “All Night Long” and “What I do at Night” and this is another one of her gems.  The intro and break vocals are from Phyllis Ann, who toured with The Personal Touch and sang on “The Touch” and “Our Bodies Move.”   As the song begins I try to use multiple melody lines in various instrument voicings to lay the chordal structure.  Plucky guitar sounds come from the Korg.  Slow trance – lulling you closer.   Then the message; “Who’s Following You?”.  But the subject quickly settles on the main issue; death.  Too many of us are waiting for that dream.

“It’s Easy to Die” (@) MSK 1990

I wonder, I wonder who

Who, is following you.

It’s easy to die

You just close your eyes.

And then once the dream begins

It will never end. My friend.

Don’t put up a fight

Just follow the light.

It’s not too hard

And once the dream begins

It will never end.

Chorus:

It’s easy to turn

Your life into lies. My friend

And once the dream begins

It will never end.

Believe it or not, MTV started off as a media outlet for – VIDEOS!  It was not what it is today.  Music videos were still relatively new and there were not that many out there but they started being produced in numbers once MTV provided an outlet for them. The Chicken or the Egg thing all over again.  I did not own any video equipment, but I was familiar with photography and music, so it was a natural interest for me.  Back then, cable companies were starting to set up monopolies in various cities throughout the US and we were in the Warner Amex territory.  As part of their agreement with the city to provide cable and other services, Warner Amex made some of their equipment and channels available to local citizens. They provided training and allowed non-profit citizens to go through camera and editing training and once completed you could schedule use of their equipment to create content for viewing on their Public Access channels.

I was one of the first (my card was # 000090!!) to sign up for the training classes.  I would borrow their equipment and film bands and live performances, family growing, along with a number of other projects.

My first project was to make a video that introduced the idea and benefits of the Public Access program, (we hoped if we had a complimentary message it would be good for PR and relationships with the people that administered the program, (we were right). and a music video idea we had been working on.  This is by definition low-budget and is dated by equipment and resources available today. But it was a learning experiment and was a lot of fun.  To do a lot of what we did it took a bunch of planning and trial and error.  I had been playing keyboards for a very short time and there are a bunch of mistakes, I was new with the video editing and production, but not this was not bad for the first release.  Usually, I am also the cameraman, but filming my own band required additional operators.  I edited the video from the collection of raw tapes and a live performance of the song.

This video features my younger brother as the narrator and the music is from the duo I was in at the time called, “The Personal Touch.”  The intro theme is a musical piece called “The Big D Jam”.  The video is based on a song the guitar player wrote called “Transaxle“.   We took vague ideas and filmed them all.  Then edited them into something semi-cohesive!  There are a bunch of funny stories that went into the making of Walking Man but I will spare you for now.  The end credits use a song of mine introduced earlier called “The Pleasure Tax“.

As with many of these blasts from the past, there are lots of good memories and a number of painful ones.  Looking at this video again so many years after, I see my youngest brother Chris in his healthy days doing the narrative part introducing the musical video before health problems including throat cancer took their toll.  This is when we thought we would last forever….. there was no end in sight.  We do not last for ever.  For him, the end was so close to the beginning.   We all have our vices, but with legal ones like tobacco and alcohol killing people every day, we all know someone that has been affected by the results. Here is the real message we should be sending; These drugs may not kill you.  You will not lose ten years of your life.  You will survive – and grow old – and suffer – for decades, with a disease that is eating you from the inside out. I am glad I was there to help him a little as he faced the end.  I would have given anything to find another path for him, but he knew where he was going.  It did not stop him and neither could I.

*Please see previous post if you are interested in the story behind why I wrote this song. *

Lost Love”   86 bpm  © MSK 6-2004

We’d been together just a little while

Each day melted into the other.

Daylight through the evenings we danced,

Completely consumed by one another.

As life went on our love got stronger.

My friends thought that it would never last.

I know all things come to an end.

Just didn’t think it would be so fast.

It’s been a long number of years now gone

How many more I don’t really know.

Everyday I try to say good bye,

but For some reason I just can’t let you go.

And he said, ‘son, if ignorance is bliss,

You must be a very happy man’.

Memories of your Lost Love might never go away,

But everyone else you love can.

Father and son, we were never far apart

Through ups and downs, good and the bad

We stood so proud; laughing together.

I’d wait forever but you won’t be back.

When my sister died I found myself crying.

Weeks upon weeks and still to this day

I realize I’m thinking about her

As I’m wiping my tears away.

Son, if ignorance is bliss,

You must be a very happy man.

Memories of your Lost Love might never go away,

But everyone else you know can.

Share what you have, help those in need

Focus on the people around you.

Ask us for help, talk to your friends

You’ll feel so much better when you do.

It’s been a long number of years now gone

How many more I don’t really know.

Everyday I try to say good bye,

But for some reason I just can’t let you go.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

Death is nothing new.  My father died of cancer when I was – well, to be honest, I do not really know. mid-twenties? early thirties?  How can a person be talented enough to write beautiful music and still be so lame when it comes to anything important?  I am not sure, but my family has had to deal with me for a long time.  My parents were divorced for years and I did not know him that well.  At the same time, I felt like I had known him forever.  He was never there through the most difficult times In my life and yet at the same time he never left.  Reading about loss of a loved one on other blogs it is clear many people do not feel that way.  The loss is real, it is crippling, it never ends and there is no comfort for the emptiness, no magic words.

I KNOW that wasteland.  Years later my younger sister died from a freak drowning accident.  I was prepared for the death of my dad (and grandparents, friends and distant family members before him).  I shared his love of life and his regrets during that brief time.   For my sister I had no defense.  I did not dwell on death, but if I considered it, it was almost a guarantee she would outlive me.  Surrounded by close family and friends I just started crying.  Talking, greeting, consoling, hugging, but through it all I cried.  I could not share her love of life or future dreams.  I could not speak to her of death; she was gone.  I thought we had so much more time left.  For days if I saw her picture or heard her name; I cried. Even this far forward I had to mentally prepare to write this intro.

Not long ago, my younger brother had to pay his pleasure tax.  Years of drinking and smoking caught up  and throat cancer started eating away at him.  The funniest and kindest guy you would ever know, he did not want to burden anyone with his problems.  I did the best I could to let him know he was not alone and did not have to go through that by himself.  We spent a lot of time together in those last few months.  As his medical power of attorney, I followed his direction.  I understood his desires and knew his demons.  Some things are still too painful to think about so I don’t.  But I do remember what a great human being he was.  We cried many times together and apart.  These days I smile thinking about him, and how great humanity can be.

Love is another type of loss but for all my education and experience over the years I could not tell you which loss is more devastating.  Family you live with and know all the cool things you learned and shared together.  A loved one you will never be able to learn and share future things with.  Loss of the past or loss of the future.  The wasteland seems to keep spreading out forever.  You will never get through it and nothing can replace it.

In the middle of the wasteland jumping all the way up to the moon seems more likely than getting through to the other side.  But it is the sense of loss that keeps us there.   My father is still with me, telling me “remember the past, but look forward, son.   Don’t blind yourself to the path out, seek it”. Hopefully, you will see that your loved ones are still with you.

This is a fairly recent song.  I happened to be going through my files to build a catalog of songs I have, songs in the works and ones I have co-written for a project.  Looking through papers here and there, rifling through files saved from one form of media to another, I found a set of lyrics entitled “Lost Love”.  I looked at it for a while and started reading the lyrics.  I did not recognize any of it, but it was my handwriting and as you will soon see, it is very personal.  I read them and thought,   I need to do something with this.

I have instruments in almost every room in my house.  A week earlier I had been playing a chord progression that was simple but captured a certain feeling or mood that I liked.  I ran upstairs and got the lyrics I mentioned.  I played the guitar with the lyrics in front of me and started to sound out where the lyrics fit in the progression.

Thinking the music and lyrics fell together beautifully, I went to my studio to lay down a rough version of the song.  I used one microphone and recorded the guitar and melody line.   This is “Lost Love“.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592