Posts Tagged ‘#video’

Mara – The Making of a Video

I usually did not have to search for new projects.  There were plenty of musicians, bands and performers that did not have a lot of resources – or cash – when starting out.  Working at the local music store chain, I was lucky to know some great players, writers, and musicians of all sorts.  l am attracted to talented people of all kinds.  I often wish listeners of my music would give me the benefit of the doubt that I gave to many of the people I met and came to appreciate.  I realize my songs are not always ‘radio worthy’ or commercially viable, and always hoped someone would look beyond that and realize the songs I offered for what they could be if recorded professionally and marketed on a large scale.  Maybe that day will still come, but back then there were a number of artists that I could help take the next step.

Word got out that I had an understanding of technology and could usually pick things up quickly.  I absorbed owners manuals, dedicated time and when possible drafted other talented people to make projects work.  One of the fun and exciting things I got to do was shoot and edit live musical band performances.  MakeShift Kreations was an early company name I came up with using my initials: M S K.  I believe this was filmed way back in 1988!!!

Using the same video and editing suite from the cable company available for local access channels that I used for my first conceptual video: “Walking Man” I learned how to use multi camera filming and video editing techniques.  In some situations I offered to do videos for friends as this was a new (again, at the time!) medium and was very expensive for most bands.  In Part I, I would like to present the video I made of Mara, a local band with highly talented musicians.  My wife Ellen and I did all the camera, editing and post production work.  These are their original songs performed live over a two-night period. It was a lot of work, but I learned a lot and had a great time.

Please use the following link to see the Mara: Part I video:

https://youtu.be/VwKz1Po4_XM

Thank you so much to everyone who participated so far in my “Who Do You Love” post.  There were some very interesting lessons as I collected and listened to the recommended songs  that have influenced us over the years.  I say us intentionally.  You are the best group of people I have never worked with!!  LOL.  I mean that in a kind way.  It is easier for some people to develop good relationships with some one they work with or “serve” with.  The bonds can last a life time.  We do not have that work platform, but the friendships made here are also very strong.

I was equally surprised by two things:  1) I knew a lot of these songs and bands and 2) I didn’t     know a lot of these bands and songs!!  It took me a long time to go through them all.  But there are some gems in here.  Many are the best of their category – NOT necessarily the most popular or the one with the most airplay.  I encourage you to look deeper into comments as I will not list them all here again, but I want to point out a number of them that caught my ear.   A lot of your suggestions were passionate and you can tell there is a lot of history and emotional connections in the lists. Here are just a few – but again not a complete list of the gems you suggested. Please continue to post your musical influences.  I have thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from your suggestions.  I hope others get a kick out of these too!  IN NO ORDER WHATSOEVER

Active Child – what a range the vocalist has.  Unusual set of musical toys, and lyrical   themes and vocal textures blend into a unique soundscape.  They create a house and invite you in.  Well worth the visit.

Switchfoot –  “Hello Hurricane”, This is a clean sounding song. Well recorded and mixed. Driving beats and vocal power that can be smooth and open.  Good blends in harmonies.  Good energy and I like the ay the song builds at a slow pace.

Jon Foreman – The Wonderlands.   Here is another great blending artist.  Nice harmonies and the background music surprises with different arrangements and instrumentation.  Very good dynamics.  Addictive style that is pleasant and easy to relate to.

Bat for Lashes – Laura is a great example of this artist’s prowess.  She quickly sets up the mood and the tone and then lays the lyrics on you with vocals that seem to have more control than humanly possible and enough emotion to cause global warming.

For raw power with a message it is hard to beat La Dispute.  Combining a number of styles into a passionate assortment of lyric driven songs.  A speaking style not trying to be rap that works very well for this group.  Great driving music for a long trip.

I have to mention this because it was cool from an historical point:

https://ahigherrevelation.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/triple-js-20-years-of-hottest-100-countdown-what-did-i-vote-for/

I was really fascinated to check out Barclay James Harvest.  These guys are right up my ancient alley and I have never heard of them.  I know this might not be the most popular suggestion the community has suggested, but they cover all the progressive territory of other bands I am familiar with.  Some of the video clips from around 1979 are out there and worth an evening or two.

I had heard Ed Sheeran before, but wasn’t that familiar with his works.  Nice variety, works on a good image – that is a good guy image and it comes of very well for him. He tries to add variety and the songs are great.  It was definitely worth my time digging more into his songs and videos.  Great voice.  Solid music and production.

Kate Nash – Nicest Thing.  I can see why this is a favorite.  The style is intentionally out there and it has the sneaky ability to pull you in instead.  When you can make comfortable and eerie blend perfectly you have a great emotional landscape play in.   She calls this her territory and of course the lyrics pull you right into the main theme. Good call.

City & Color – As Much As I Ever Could is another great example of a band that has it all. The vocals are outstanding and his control is impressive.  Lyrics are fine and fit the ballad style of this song.  Band dynamics are worked out by what seems to be magic. Harmonies kick in and punch it for added tension and for me the keyboards are a great touch.

Dave Koz’s tunes are cool jams and the performers are all top notch.  You don’t have to be a genius to get into their grooves as well.  Slick mix production.  If it is time to sit back and enjoy, take in a few of these live performances and watch the players do some cool stuff.

Ian Carr’s Nucleus – Roots: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-Cu5TJm0GI This is a great progressive jazz.  Maybe an acquired taste for some but worth checking out for the chops and creative jamming.
Frankie Beverly’s Raw Soul – I Need You: https://youtu.be/U7uJ_zddoSs This is another great jam band with solid grooves and guys that know their axe.  Percussion to die for and the organ player is pretty top notch.  Great live musical fun.

The Hep Stars got by me completely somehow.  You can hear a lot of influences that were dominant at the time.  Good vocal blend and the recordings are actually pretty good. They captured the times and the look and ran with it.  For a blast from the past this is a good history lesson.

 The Raconteurs are a great groove band with a heavy guitar sound.  The vocals and the harmonies are well worth the price of admission. For a lively rocking jam, this is a great place to start soaking up some new tunes.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vu9hj_kMm48

This video stands on its own, but the vocals have to be heard to be believed from The Temper Trap.  Great name too.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMuuc_pqx2s is a great song with a vision.

 Lana Del Rey is one of those artists you have to sample more than one song to get a feel of the true talent.  Maybe listening a few times would help, but once you cross over she has a powerful musical presence.  Try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_1aF54DO60 for the unfamiliar.

Manic Street Preachers have a great Brit rock/POP sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nusymqINrSc is a fun video to start with.  Good clean style, great vocals and they are not afraid of dynamics.  They also love a song with a theme or message, so good for a fun musical cruise.

Acoustic Alchemy are worth noting for a band that has chops and a smooth modern jazz style.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVtQHpwv9sE is a good example of their live performances.  Fun jams and precision licks from a talented group and for a nice addition try a “Shelter Island Drive”.

Notables: 

Ashestoangels

Sufjan Stevens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asCLMdrWuA0 for eye candy.

From The National, try https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-Tod1_tZdU to set the tone for the evening.  A vocal and visual treat.

Amaia Montero – Quiero Ser and I have no idea what she is singing, but I can understand why it was recommended’

Thank you again.  I really enjoyed this project and thank all that participated and to all the thought put into it, even if you did not post your list!

This was one of those amazing events that happen in your life. You get thrown together with really cool and creative people and work on a project. There are so many stories here it is a good thing that I need to break it up into a number of segments. I have already credited a lot of the experiences I had as a result of working at the music stores. This was another one of those. The employees were musicians by definition and we also had band and instrument teachers working there. Everyone played but quite a number of us wrote our own material as well. At the store I managed, we were a diverse group with a wide definition of styles. I did not own it, but it was MY store. I had an agreement with the owner that he not visit my location while I was there. I would run it my way and do the best I can as if it is my store. He agreed and for years I did exactly that. I took care of the people that worked and shopped there. I gave people real advice and information. We developed long-term loyal customers. It was a great team and we had a common goal – do good and we keep the owner out of our building! Great motivation.

A local radio station WOXY in Oxford, OH sponsored a Local Licks radio segment I think every Thursday night for a few months. I had submitted a few of my songs and one of them got played one week. Nice feeling to hear your stuff on the radio. I submitted a few more original tunes and suggested one of the other employees to enter some of his songs. He had more of an urban beat box groove thing going and he did all his own recordings. He did not think anything would come of it as his stuff is even more eclectic than mine! So he gave me a cassette tape – yes, a cassette tape! – and told me to pick the best songs and send them in under his name. I took his tape home and consumed it for hours. Then I made my decision and picked three songs to submit.  This is one of those funny things too. I sent in a song I thought had a great hook a nice arrangement and was really catchy in the genre he was in. I entered my next favorite that really pushed the drum/percussion thing he had going. I thought they had a good chance.

For the third song I threw in something that in all honesty was my attempt at ‘comedic relief’. I figured if I threw something out there that was really bizarre and off beat, they would think the other two songs were great by comparison. Not that the song was not great, but not a match for this heavy-leaning college radio station (… “the future of rock and roll” …..) The third song of his featured a banjo player and an off beat kind of groove. The Local Licks segments lead up to a radio version of battle of the bands. Songs played on Local Licks weekly segments would be entered into an elimination round on the last week the program aired. The finalists would have their songs played one more time as the winners were announced and then the bands would perform for just under an hour in a well known club in Cincinnati for prizes and glory.

As we listened to the local radio station during the elimination round there was a funny feel to the ‘winners’ moving ahead. There was an unusual flavor where songs you thought would be a shoe-in were dropped, and unusual tunes were advancing. Some songs were down right off the wall. There must have been a shift in judging but there were songs with unusual instruments in them getting to the finalists position. There was a song by a band called Tuba Blues. Another one I can’t remember had another unusual lead instrument and to think of it, as you remember one of my friend’s songs featured a banjo player!. Sure enough……. his song kept advancing. We were floored when they picked my friend’s third song! That night on the radio they announced the four finalists that would compete in a live battle of the bands event at Bogarts. Without pulling out records I think the event would be in about three or four weeks time from the announcement.

None of us at the store expected any of us to go that far, let alone to finalist. But none of us could believe that was the song that won! It was a fluke that I entered the song and that the judge apparently was looking for unusual instruments in rock and roll bands that year. Who da thunk? Once we met at work and talked it over it became obvious my friend had one problem; he was a soloist and there was no band! HA! The guitar teacher had a band called It. Ellen and I would join on keyboards and guitar and vocals and another employee and great friend over the years would join in on keys, guitar, vocals and a mean shaker! Each of us put in original songs to perform as a band and we rehearsed for a solid two weeks to try to get ready for this show. We knew numbers-wise we did not have a real chance of winning, but we were determined to make a show and event out of it.

……. All the while in the depths of a cave far from civilization, a Master of Ceremony was writing a series of short speeches that would be an added theatrical presentation between songs. Only the day of the performance did we see how this fit together and we had no idea what he was going to say – with the exception of a few word keys that would trigger a response from the band members, and occasionally the audience in return.

Fortunately we were all musicians currently involved in original songs and live performance. We had pretty good gear and we knew how to use it. We knew how to learn songs and how we can add to them or subtract as needed. Practice went well and started to be fun. The writer of the winning song chose the band name, and we made T-Shirts for all band members with the band name and studio logo; Willie the Ferret Studios. We worked out vocal parts as we had a number of vocalists and lots of harmonies and added speech. The lead guitar player was killer. His drummer was awesome and the bass player in their band IT, was solid and blindingly fast. With that foundation we just had to do our thing and it would all blend in fine. So we were ready enough but nervous as hell. A lot of things could go wrong here.

We get there and listen to the bands that were playing before us and there is a pretty good crowd at this point. We have our equipment squeezed up next to the stage entrance so we can rush in as soon as this band is done and moves their gear out. We set up fast. My keyboard controller does something funny and it takes me a while to fix it. No problem – tune guitar and ready to go. We look around and there are only a few microphones so we ask for more as we have a number of vocalists. They tell us no, that is what everyone gets. So as you see us a little unorganized and running from one side of the stage to another, it is changing instruments and trying to find a way for all vocalists to sing – or speak their part.  After a while it was just funny and we worked it out quickly for the most part and had fun with it.

The audience is not sure and a little uncomfortable with the speeches at first, but after a couple times and solid music everyone got the idea and joined in. The band has to settle down a little and the monitors and the mix takes a while to get used to. It is hard to hear some of the keyboard and vocal parts in some parts but that is to be expected. The writer of our winning song does not perform until the last song, so he helps with the Main House mix in the club. We were a little more involved than the regular rock band so he was able to plan ahead. I wish the lighting guy had help too. They seem a little lost at times but over all still a cool event.

For this project, we needed a few volunteers and some inexpensive themes.  We took advantage of the resources available.  Ric worked as an auto mechanic so we started there.  I made a couple cameo appearances but the story is about working hard and no time for creating and performing  (you have heard this theme before !) During the Jeep ride up the hill you do not see the driver (Gorgeous George…) but he is still in the Jeep as Ric appears to be pulling it (and metaphorically his career) up the hill.  George is pulling in and out on the clutch so there is real tension and sometimes Ric is literally being pulled back by the Jeep.  Who needs acting skills!

When we moved to the live Personal Touch segments it is the duo before Phyllis Ann officially joined us.  You can see Ric is kicking bass pedals and controlling an accompaniment system.  On his guitar you can see him tap two silver round pads. The one triggers a drum crash from the accompaniment system he is controlling. The other pad triggers a drum pattern change to a drum roll for as many times as he taps the pad.  He is the lead vocalist for the song and yes, he is also playing guitar…….. I am playing my Arp Odyssey, a Yamaha electric piano and my Yamaha DX7 and doing back-up vocals in this video.

For this I think we went into the club the day of our regular performance and shot the raw video segments for the Walking Man video.  We played other tunes for other projects but there is no real audience and we only had to set up once to do the video shots and perform later that night.  I try to be within budget (usually none….) and also with no wasted effort!

For a duo, we packed a lot of punch.  Not only because it was just two of us in the beginning, but  also in the space we could fit.  We had no live drummer or bass player.  I could play guitar and sing and when I was not playing guitar (and indeed, in some songs I would play guitar and keyboards) I could play keyboards and/or control the drum machine that I programmed.

Ric sang and played the guitar and almost all lead guitar parts as he also controlled the accompaniment system that had preset drum patterns, bass pedals, and a foot pedal and switches that let him add backing instruments like strings or piano sounds and at the same time determine if the backing instrument chords were played Major, Minor, 7th etc.  We fit anywhere, as long as they had tall ceilings LOL!!!

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.

I want to give you an idea of perspective on some of the articles I have posted and will continue to post going forward.  This is the first video I have posted and while it is rather BORING, it is so informative at the same time.  I guess I have recorded original tunes since the very late 1960’s.  I recorded everything.  I deleted a lot!  But I recorded everything I could.  I experimented and adjusted and re-did and failed a few more times than I succeeded in the early days to be sure!  I also got into photography and then into video recording.  I practiced the mundane over and over until I got the exposure right, then with video until I could zoom and focus manually.  I joined the photography club in high school and learned to develop and enlarge my own pictures – something I thought was close to magic back in the day!

I shared earlier that I used (and still own!!!) what I think was the first personal computer to come out with built in MIDI ports – The Atari ST!  I used a software program back then to record the MIDI tracks and I could generate SMPTE time code and send a signal from the Atari to sync it up with recording machines (I had the Yamaha 4 track CASSETTE recorder during most of this).  When I talk about old technologies and how we used to record songs (or develop pictures…) It is hard for some to understand the challenges we had and the lo-fi quality of the final mix or product.

I want to use this video as an example of many things I refer to in this blog.  In this video, you will see what I saw when looking at the Atari computer monitor when I was playing or recording tracks.  Keep in mind this is all MIDI equipment available years ago.  The song I posted earlier will now be stripped of all guitars, vocals, effects and additional live sounds you heard on the full mix.  As you watch the video you will hear the sequences being played back live into the VCR input.  I took the monitor video out and connected to video in of the video recorder so this is a straight feed for both.  In the recording software, each “instrument” has a separate track.  Drums are all on one track with additional percussion sounds on different tracks, and as a reminder, each note (as triggered from my DX7 keyboard) represented a different drum/percussion sound coming from a drum machine.  You can hear the metronome from the Atari ticking away in the back ground as it is set to record.  As each track plays you can see the musical notes light up depending on the intensity of the track information.  You can also see the tempo of the song, the names of the tracks and the measures and beats as they click by.

The main piano sound is probably familiar to many of you even if you are quite young. It is the classic Piano Tine sound from the Yamaha DX7 synthesizers.  This video should also give you a sense of quality and resolution available at the time.  It might be difficult to hear the difference in song recording quality today, but we are all familiar with video resolution and HD cameras and large screen TV and computer standards available now.  Just think how this applied to the audio quality back then and then play some really old songs you grew up listening to.   It gives a better appreciation and perspective for some of the classic songs that seem to live forever.