…it looks like I can edit together two takes I already have. They’re really pretty reasonable. A couple of timing issues but nothing I can fix with tiny snips, and there are a couple of places with a bit of level issues (a couple of notes are a tad hot, a couple are a little too restrained) but I need to learn automation anyway, and it’ll be a good exercise. (Not just for here.) I could fix the three or four problems with that, and maybe should do. And most importantly, Anna likes it. ^_^

This song is mostly on the high end – it’s all mandolin and percussion – so having a bass solo over the bridge really throws it into tonal balance. The bass is as big a surprise here as the flute is on “Artefacts,” but without the shrieking. Ha! I wish I’d thought of that on purpose. Maybe in the liner notes I’ll call it an intentional counterpoint.

take that, primus

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA “Let Me Help” gets a bass guitar solo TAKE THAT PRIMUS!

Really, it’s far too sedate to be compared to anything Primus – “Let Me Help” is Dick Tracy Must Die‘s only slow song, a ballad that I wrote to Anna, and I mean, I’ve only been playing bass a month, so, um, yeah. But it is an actual bass solo, and it’s totally the right thing to do here. I’ll need to re-record parts of it ’cause I’m only good enough to fake it in studio, not get it all right in one take, but the idea is down now.

(Jazz background peeking out? The deuce you say! Hi, have you met my flutework?)

Really, things are moving along pretty well. “Let Me Help” got a couple of new tracks today (including BASS SOLO lulz) and some more remixing, and I fiddled a little more with “Thought You Knew” and even “Artefacts” which got some more mixing clues added and they help. And I discovered (as was kind of inevitable) what kind of driving bodhran line “Stay Away” is going to have. Productive elf is productive.

…it's full of stars!


i’m rerecording the vocals tomorrow because now i finally see where i’m trying to go

and it is epic

Back from Norwescon

Back from Norwescon, and am wiped out. But it was awesome. I met the local nerdcore band Death*Star; They’re playing the Blue Moon on April… 29th, I think? Verify the date, and then go see them. We traded EPs, and their Saturday night show was rawked the haus.

Also met up with the effervescent Tricky Pixie, and got to talk with Alec about mixing techniques – he’s been producing his own CDs for years, whereas I’m still learning what kind of shit I have to learn – and just catch up for a bit. (Tricky Pixie just wrapped up a tour – this was their last stop of the spring – but will be playing in Oregon at the end of July.)

My biggest regret is that I missed him and Vixy and Tony doing a workshop on recording techniques. Tony operates Monkey Brains Studios and has a good ear. (V&T’s next show is May 29th, in Seattle). I hope somebody who was there took notes.

Then as things wound down, a bunch of the bands got together for a big jam session on Sunday. That was all kinds of fun.

And now that the studio computer is done updating and rebooting, it’s time to test some of these suggestions. Fingers crossed.

Norwescon omg

For me, Norwescon 33 starts tomorrow. Or arguably a few days ago! Doesn’t matter tho’. Remember: it’s just a show, we should really just relax. If you’re there, say hi!

Out and about

I don’t really talk about them here, usually, but I had a solo gig last night as an instrumentalist; it was entertaining, the people were friendly, the other performer group they had came over and hung out ’cause they liked my work, and they had free b00ze – what else do you need, really?

Oh, right, MOAR GIGS. That’s what I need. Anybody got someplace they want to see me play? If I can get there, I’ll apply! (Assuming the money flows to the artist, of course. You know how that goes, it’s the same as in publishing.) And yes, I do tips/bar sales gigs – whatever works. I’d prefer singing gigs, obviously, ’cause I like those songs better and I write about things that I want out there, but I’ll take either.

Finally, I want to thank all the people who wrote reviews, both positive and negative. You can see a list of reviews here, in the comments section of the announcement post. The winner of the drawing is Maria-Katriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiina! She was kind enough to leave me her email, so she’ll be getting the prize of her choice soon. ^_^

Drawing deadline and reviews

Rosemary and Rue author Seanan McGuire, on her Livejournal, pointed at this article by Michael Melcher called, “What to Do When Your Friend Writes a Book.” The subject is pretty well handled by the title! She linked to it as part of a post on negative reviews. I got a negative review this week, myself; it had some positive things in it, but the reviewer hates my singing voice, at least in these tracks. He liked the instrumental (Cascadia), so I suppose it’s only 75% negative! That’s something, at least.

But I’m not sure what to think of the Melcher article. I mean – changing “book” to “CD” – he’s right about what all this feels like, what people want to hear when they put something out there into the world, and so on. But I think having the sorts of expectations he seems to have is really kind of asking for it. (And maybe also asking a lot. I dunno.) Don’t get me wrong; it’d be nice, but it doesn’t exactly strike me as realistic. What do you think?

Oh, don’t forget, if you want to do a review of Sketchy Characters to be entered for the drawing, the deadline is this Sunday evening at midnight. I have two good reviews and one bad one so far, and not all of those want to be in the drawing, so your chances in the drawing are pretty good!

One down

I have a bassline in the can! I’m pleased. It’s for “Thought You Knew,” which will be on Dick Tracy. It’s not the most complex thing in the world, really, but Anna did look up while I was practicing it in the media room and ask what it was from, because it sounded pretty good. It came from ME! Yay!

I’ve also started work on the two sound baffles I need for the studio window. I’m doing it in two parts because as a single unit it would be OMG HUGE (almost two metres wide, 130cm tall) and because if I make two smaller separate units with detachable legs, as is my plan, I can use them for other sound-managing tasks as needed – just pop ’em off the tall legs, put them on low supports, and ping! instant drum kit isolation. Or whatever. Options are good. It’s becoming necessary – too many people are getting out their lawn mowers and leaf blowers and and and WHY WILL YOU NOT SHUT UP I WILL DESTROY YOU ALL WITH MY HEAT RAY BUT LATER. You know, that sort of thing.

I’m not looking forward to the stink, tho’. I make these out of PVC and new carpet remnants that I get for usually around 40ยข/sq. foot at various liquidation houses. I make PVC frames, then wrap them on two sides with carpet, tying it together with twine. The sound dampening that results is really effective, even at lower frequencies, and clean. But new carpet is stinky stuff. Hopefully the roll I’ve had sitting in the basement a few months has lost some of its tang.

I knew I had a photo uploaded already! See below. The shaggy monolith on the right, up against the wall, is my main sound damper right now, and it’s made in this way. (Note: colour of carpet is not relevant. Hideousness is cheaper is just as quiet.) Note the PVC support to keep it from tipping over; it’s attached to the inside frame, but pops right off. The inside frame is MOAR PVC! And the window in the picture is the one I need to muffle:

Click photo to enragelarge

Finally, if you’re thinking of writing a review for the drawing, the deadline for the drawing is Sunday evening, at Midnight. Please give it a go! The review doesn’t have to be long, it just has to say what you think and point to the CFoE bandcamp site where other people can listen to the CD. Thanks!

Yeah, that's starting to sound right

I’ve seen a couple of reviews for Sketchy Characters so far – Cathy wrote up a nice little review on Facebook that I can’t link to because Facebook can bite me. (It was public, just not linkable.) And Vicka wrote up a really long and nice review here that I can link! She really put a lot of work into it and I appreciate that a lot. I’m heard from a third person that they’re going to post a review this weekend, and I’m looking forward to seeing it. If you have a chance, I’d really enjoy seeing more reviews, positive or negative – there’s still the drawing! People are clicking through from these, and playing songs.

I’ve come down with a much milder version of the death cold my partner Anna’s been fighting, but I’m not letting that stop me from practicing bass. It’s starting to sound like an instrument being played intentionally, which is good. It doesn’t help when I do things like learn one pattern for a key when I start in the lower octave and a different pattern when I start in the higher (GENIUS WHAT) but at least I’m noticing it now and fixing it. I’m also starting to get a little more confident – starting to add bits of style, and generally being concerned with more than just playing the right notes at the right time. Nothing like advanced techniques yet, of course, and the screwup count is still really high, but I’m making progress.

I need to shift back to other instruments more, though. I’ve got a private gig on the 23rd, and it’s not that long until festival season begins! Plus I’ve got a bunch of songs I wrote over the winter that need learning and playing and more polish and and and.

I’m too damn slow. I must not be getting my RDA of smack.

Learning to play

I’m learning to play electric bass. I’m playing a 1961 hollow-body Klira, the type known as a “McCartney Bass,” but a different maker; I’ve talked about it before. I’m doing it partly because I wanted to poke around at bass – and it is fun – but mostly I’m doing it right now because I need a bassline on several of these songs, and electronic octave-dropping an octave mandolin isn’t always the right answer.

But it’s another goddamn skill I get to level up before I can finish Dick Tracy Must Die. This is intensely frustrating. I’d built up real studio momentum, and now this new spanner’s been thrown in the works. Sure, I’m still recording other things – “Artefacts” is pretty much finished now, minus some technical clean-up; “Thought You Knew” is not quite there but close – but it’s like an ax got wedged in my brain. It’s divided attention, where the sum is greater than the parts, but you’re going at it the backwards way, from the sum to the parts, a loss rather than a gain.

For a couple of weeks there, I was entirely in make-the-recording mode and out of figure-out-recording mode, and I liked that. I was applying learned skills in a pretty serious way. It’s not that I wasn’t learning, still; I was. But it was different, in the trying-different-things way rather than the learning-basic-things way. That mode is what got Sketchy Characters out the door.

But now I’m back behind that threshold again, and it feels like swimming in molasses. It’s not that I’m not gaining skill at bass; I am. Yesterday, for the first time, I recorded a bassline for “Thought You Knew” that I listened to and thought, “okay, I could edit this into something passable.” It’s not passable as-is – not close – but there are enough proper bits in it that I could probably hack it into something that sounded okay. Today, I recorded a take that was meaningfully better than yesterday’s, tho’ still not in the actually-okay range.

It’s coming, but not quickly enough. Worse, I’m spending so much time on learning electric bass that I’ve been neglecting everything else.

And after Dick Tracy Must Die, I already have two more CDs worth of material. Next comes the instrumental CD Distractions – that one should at least be easy – and the follow-up which doesn’t have a title yet, but does have 10 or 11 songs waiting for it. I write a lot faster than I record, and getting what I hear in my head out so you lot can hear it too is so much work.

I know that eventually I’ll get past this – again – and it’ll still be work but I’ll know what I’m doing, and it’ll be ten times faster, and sound better, and be easier and and and. I look forward to that time a lot. But right now, that feels like it’s two centuries away.

Return top

The Music