Monday, 21 March 2011

The most awkward question

I went to a gig this week with a friend and a couple of their mates. Everything was going well until I was asked "So, what kind of music are you into?"

Given my enthusiasm for the subject it should be a question that I revel in, however, I always feel my heart sink as I've never been able to come up with a satisfactory response. I inevitably either over simplify things by naming a couple of "popular" bands and feel that I've misrepresented myself (and excluded 80% of my music collection) or talk about obscure bands and sound like a music snob*.

I wanted to give a very brief snapshot of my musical tastes to the readers of this blog and it took a great deal of effort to narrow down my favourite artists to just eight bands. Whilst I'm happy with my list it fails to acknowledge my love of NZ rock bands, early 90's dance music, prog metal or Billy Joel. I hate to be pigeonholed; there are genres of which I am a huge fan, but there will be respected and successful artists within them that I can't stand but there are artist whom I love, despite liking nothing else comparable.

Do you have the same problem, or have you found a suitable response to this awkward question?

*Proof that I'm not a music snob: I still know every lyric on East 17's album Steam and I reckon that Papa Roach are one of the finest live bands around.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Out of my head

Having covered the writing phase of Radio Silence I'll now continue into the arranging phase:

Whilst I usually have a good idea of how a complete song should sound, I make a demo to allow me to take a step back and really listen to the song. The beauty of recording on computer is that I can very easily change the arrangement; cutting, copying, pasting, inserting and deleting as necessary.

Having spent a little time working out how to play Radio Silence and finding the right key, I recorded a simple guitar track, the lead vocal and the outro vocals. Throw in a simple bassline on an organ and it's sounding pretty good.

Sometimes it’s a guitar riff or bass line that shapes a song and I'll build a demo with a very simple drum track. Not this time. The feel of this song is going to be very much dictated by the drumming. I wouldn't normally work so hard on the time consuming process of drum programming for a demo. In this instance I plan on getting the drums as close to perfect as I can and then using them in the final recording of the track whilst recording everything else anew. Demo #1 sounds like this:

I've listened to the track quite a few times and overall I think it works. These are my thoughts as I listen to the track:
  • I like the low-key first verse. The end injects a nice little bit of energy.
  • I like the feel of the drumming in the second verse but it doesn't feel right; it's at odds with the ending of the previous verse.
  • The chorus works pretty well but I'm not totally happy with the drums. I have a couple of tracks in mind that I want to listen to for inspiration. (All the Small Things, The Breakup Song, Katie W - Blink 182, American Hi-Fi, Fenix TX respectively.)
  • I'm very happy with the snare leading us into the third verse, which has quite a dark feel to it; a combination of the organ and the way I've sung "over and out" is really pleasing... a happy accident that could well survive into the finished song! I think I'm going to leave the bass out until the end of the verse where it's going to make a pretty elaborate reappearance.
  • The link between verses three and four doesn't feel right, although I like the tom hits entering the fourth verse... they'll probably end up somewhere else.
  • The break into the outro is good and I'm happy enough with this for now, it's going to rely on quite a lot of texture so it's sounding very thin at the moment. I'll probably end the song after a chanted "To the R, to the A... etc." without bringing the other two vocal lines back in.
  • FYI "To the R, to the A... etc." should be "For the R, for the A... etc."
  • I think the listener (and me as a singer) might need a little bit of breathing room as the song just rockets through without any time to absorb what's going on. I'm not sure how to achieve this as each individual section flows naturally into one another, but as a whole it might be a bit relentless as it currently stands.
Back to The Kennel...