Hey so, I released a little four song EP in 2018: Death City One . You can listen to it for free, not that you will, but I thought I'd write up some production notes, just cause, hey, why not? I'll go song by song. But first, an intro:
DCO1 is made up of four songs, three of which I wrote this year and one that I wrote, jeez, I don't even know how long ago, two? three years? Talking about Under Cover of Dark. The idea behind this release was to keep going. My main band, Face Tat, is still around, still active, however, the other half of the band, Mike G, moved on over to New York, so you know, makes the whole jamming aspect hard. Yes, of course, there's plenty people can do from afar, such as Postal Service. Plenty of artists don't even meet in person, they just send tracks back and forth. And that's all well and good, but first you really have adapt your music playing style and process for a studio project. This ain't always easy.
I grew up playing in a bunch of bands that none of you have ever heard of, so I learned to play live with others. Really learned to write by vamping out parts. In the studio, it's all on you. There's many different ways to skin a cat and write a song. Some people jam, others write lyrics first, others strum guitar. Some people are very intentional and know exactly what they want to get out of a studio. For me, music is a process of discovery. I don't really feel so much like I write or compose music, but instead that I discover curious little musical ideas, some of which have been done before, but all of which I want to share. Thing is, the studio allows you to do anything, and sometimes that makes one feel directionless, and therefore nothing happens. I really had to dig in and just experiment. As time has gone on and I've built out more and more of my studio (which is nothing fancy, just a collection of synths, guits, and drums) I'm discovering more and more what I can do. So, these songs reflect a lot of studio growth and discovery. Case in point: You Will Set This City On Fire.
One of the things about studio writing, and most creative projects I work on, is that I write about 80% of a song in about one sitting, in just a few takes. But these takes are mostly terrible. I mean, they're great ideas, but they are not at all for public consumption. They're rough, lots of mistakes, maybe only a few good takes, but that doesn't matter, they're all scratch. I then spend a week or so recapturing the initial idea and recreating the sound clean (or sometimes dirty) and flesh out the body of the song. So, we're at about 95% here. After that, everything single studio session is about grinding down the remaining 5%. Editing, mixing (and mixing and mixing), mastering, making tiny little fixes. This is why deadlines are so important. The first 70% you can do in a day, the next 20% takes you two weeks, and the last 10% can take a month or longer. As you get closer to 100% and "perfection" the more it costs in time and effort. Is that little pop at the end that will take you three hours to edit out or do all over again worth it? Sometimes yes, but mostly no. Songs are never finished, just abandoned. And they only way for me to impose this is by deadline. My point here is I wrote YWSTCOF in one weekend, while my bud Al Lover was in town visiting. We hanged out one night and after he left I just a laid out this drum patter and heavy bassline. I didn't really know what to do after that so I slapped on an arpeggiator for the chorus part, which I played by hand, meaning I was adjusting the tempo of the arp via knob twiddling. Sometimes I feel that arps that are so on time and in sync with the tempo with computer percision just takes the life and excitment out of the sound. Sometimes this is good, you want a cold, unemotional, detached feel. But for this song, it was supposed to be loud and dirty and messy, which it is.
After that, I wanted to play with tone. This song is nothing if not playful. Such as that Beastie Boys 808 tom at the end of the drum phrase. Everybody I played it for told me to take it out, but for me, that was the tone of the song. Dirty as bass and drums with a playful tone. To accentuate this I added that twinkly arp in the intro (just a microKorg with the attack turned way up). To play with tone more I played that main melody on a Roland Gaia and then decided to get real cheesey and used some midi mens chorus preset in Logic Pro X.
Finally, about 95% done I showed it to Al Lover and all he said was, "you need some hella trappy high hats on that." So I asked him, "care to send me some hella trappy high hats?" So he did. I messed with them a bunch, but they're all Al.