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Friday, September 3, 2010

Well, it’s high time for another update, but the thing is, there isn’t much to be updated. Things have been in transition, but they‘re about to get hectic. I’ve just found a job, and Wes has relocated back to Camarillo (also home to the one and only Danny Walker, and closer to my neck of the woods than his former digs in OC), so we’ll rehearse there when things are more settled, probably starting next week. In the meantime, Mr. Caley has been diligently creating a new set of pre-production versions of the new tunes.

During the writing process, Wes and I each recorded rough versions of our material. My gear was pretty rudimentary and outdated, including my buddy's Dr. Rhythm Section drum machine from the 1990s (Thanks Ace!), and Wes’ setup was more sophisticated, using Guitar Rig 3 and Drumkit From Hell. This meant that his tracks not only sounded a lot better than mine, but a lot different. The difference between our recordings also made it tough to get a cohesive “album“ feel for things. After Wes and I discussed arrangement changes and ideas, which will undoubtedly be tweaked yet again before we properly record, Wes volunteered to create new versions of the songs from the ground up, including the changes we’d worked out, also enabling us to hear all the songs with the same recording quality- helping it sound like, you know - an ALBUM. So, by the time we actually track the record, it’ll be the third time that most of these songs will have been recorded. Yeesh… That said, these new tracks have been coming out great, and that’s been keeping Wes busy.

I, on the other hand, spent a couple of weeks going through all the lyrics with a fine-toothed comb to make sure they were coherent, interesting, and most importantly, that they worked with the actual music. Then came the task of divvying them up between myself, Leon, and Wes, as well as determining where we’d to use a “chorus” style of vocals like we had done on Slaughtercult (in “Slave To The Casket” and “Slaughtercult” for example). More work goes into creating this crap than you might think, let me tell ya. I'm finally confident with everything, and after getting the seal of approval from old friend and literature post-graduate Matt Widener (ex-Exhumed, Cretin, Citizen), as well as Col (Jones - who I started the band with in ‘91) who is the first to tell me when something is “gay“, I can relax and know I‘ve got something worth a shit.

In the past, I’d usually have lyrics written before any corresponding music, then I’d have to try to get the words to match up with the songs we’d written. That is not a system I wanted to continue using. This time around, aside from maybe a couple of individual lines, rhymes, or song title ideas, I wrote everything after already having music to work with. I was consciously trying to prevent the excess of verbiage that weighed down the “Anatomy…” material. I think it will have worked, but I can’t know for sure until we’re listening back to the songs in the studio. I’ve never sung at practices, in fact I haven’t owned a microphone since the mid ‘90s, and I’ve never owned a PA. So, until recording, no one has actually heard how the lyrics go, not even me, although I usually have a very good idea of what it‘ll sound like. Since Ross has been out of the band for over 10 years now, I’ve been the sole lyricist, which isn’t the way I‘d want things. The collaborative effort can bring out some really good stuff, and getting an outside opinion is incredibly valuable, but hey, nowadays at least there are fewer songs about penises than we used to have.

Meanwhile, since returning from the Cynic / Dysrhythmia / Intronaut tour, Danny has been busy working with the pre-production tracks and memorizing (or re-memorizing) the songs. One thing that’s great about working with him is that he does his homework and puts in the time to get his shit together before we practice, rather than using rehearsal time to learn things on the fly. He instinctively grasps what it is that we’re trying to do, so even if he’s learning one of our older tunes where the production and playing isn’t the keenest, he gets the intent, and then plays it the way we meant to do in the first place. The first time we practiced with him, he played our 13 song set straight through in one go with no mistakes.

Leon has been working with the temp tracks, working out bass lines from the guitar tab I’ve sent him and Wes. Also, I’ve conveniently color-coded all the lyrics so he can at least have an idea where he’ll be singing. Everything is described as far as its placement in the song as well (e.g. “over the sliding blast beat pre-chorus riff” or “over the 1st and third times of the verse riff”) so we can hit the ground running in the studio.

This whole process is worlds away from how we did the “Anatomy…” record, or how we’ve done any previous record (except for the “Garbage Daze…” cover album, but that was still a bit different) where we simply practiced more before recording - increasing from one or two days a week to three or four. Our pre-production in the past consisted of a boom box with a condenser mic, or an old 4-track with one mic in the middle of the room recording onto a cassette. Both ways have their advantages of course, this one is a bit less time-intensive as a group, but more so for each of us as individuals. Spending two or three hours a night at your jam room is great, but it made more sense when we were younger, individually and as a band. Those were the times when spending all night obsessing over a note change in a riff feels like the most important thing in the world. With the line-up we have now, we’re all more confident and experienced, and if something doesn’t work, we simply trash it and move on, rather than spending hours arguing about what purpose each note plays in making whatever riff sound whatever way it’s supposed to or whatever. It helps that we're all fairly prolific writers. There are no egos and the obsessive analysis of every little thing (as a group) subsided years ago, right around when “Gore Metal” came out. The music comes quickly and naturally, and we have a sense of what the band IS, rather than groping for a “sound” or “direction“.

It’s weird because the musical part of the process is fairly effortless, but getting it all together in a way where everyone can relate to it independently without the “rehearsal room” dynamic takes time and can be tedious. As much as I sometimes miss hanging out in a smelly rehearsal room with every available inch of wall space covered with posters and working through things bit by bit by bit, the way we’re putting things together now allows us all more space and time to live our lives (and work our jobs, and play in other bands at times). Living in different areas, it’s almost essential to work this way, and without the technology that’s available these days, it’d be a lot harder to get shit together. At the end of the day, we all know and trust each other enough to work up good stuff on our own, without having to look over each others’ shoulders and hyper-analyze every drum fill, lick, riff, piece of wordplay, rhyme scheme, bass line, etc.

Although many people regard this as a “new” line-up of the band, it doesn’t feel “new” at all. We have all played together extensively (albeit sometimes in different combinations), and we feel confident in each other’s abilities. This isn‘t a knock on anyone that has been in the band before, it’s just a different dynamic, and that change is invigorating. Since the band hasn't ever compromised our musical style, we've sought out other kinds of changes that keep things from stagnating, and right now this dynamic is working really well. Down the road? Who knows... Right now the new record is the only thing on our collective horizon. Of course, the individual songs end up a bit less collaborative (Col and I would re-arrange 99% of everything from my original ideas of songs, and Mike‘s tunes for that matter) but the album as a whole actually becomes more collaborative, with Wes contributing almost 50% of the songs, and everyone free to develop their parts on their own before bringing it all together.

Well, for not having much to update, I’ve been typing quite a bit. So I’ll leave it at that and then once we actually rehearse (in the good ol‘ fashioned sense of the term), I’ll post some more shit, as well as some current pics and other crap.

'til next time,

Harvey and the usual gang of idiots

3 comments:

  1. Nice one, Matt. Glad to hear things are coming together so well. Can't wait to hear this material!

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  2. Another great read Matt...please keep these coming...I like the perspective. I could never imagine being in a band doing things the way you guys are doing it...I have always been lucky enough finding like minded dudes in relatively the same area. It does get tougher as we get older (I go out of my own neighborhood now) but it takes drive to get shit done...I can't wait to hear the finished product!!!

    Cheers!

    Tom

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  3. Thanks Tom, Jimmy! I hope you guys will enjoy the record - then I'll know we're doing it right.

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