Archive for June, 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

Posted by on June 28th, 2013

You may have noticed that our bloggage has been spotty lately.  Due to some recent life changes, your humble author is very, very busy at the moment.  Mixing, mastering, and shooting video for Skeleton Crew is the priority at the moment.  Exciting stuff, and I can’t wait to share the fruits of our labors with you!

(I decided to break this into three parts due to the length.)

As might be expected, the suite called “Choices” was written in many pieces that were then joined together.  I had written two other suites like this earlier in my career, “Music Boxed Man” and “Machine Dream”, but despite that prior experience, the writing process was difficult.  I wrote in my journal on November 30, 2005:

 Wracking my brains over the climactic song of the Opera, tentatively titled “Choices”.  It’s a multi-part, complex song, and I’m having trouble figuring out how to approach it.  I had a thought a day or two ago that I could write the words, then the music, but I think that’s not going to work.  I need more structure than that.  So it’s back to the original idea of music first, trying to string different musical bits together into some cohesive whole.

I wrote the repeating piano figure for the first section, “Wake Up”, in September 2005, while waiting for my future wife to get ready to go out.  The second movement, “Darkness and Confusion”, followed in November, and words for both were completed in early December.  I recorded the piano as a guide track which was then replaced twice by John—the second time to introduce a superior piano sound.  He tuned the E string on his bass down to D for this section, as at that time he didn’t have a five-string bass.

Radio, Video, Boogie With a Suitcase

Posted by on June 21st, 2013

Skeleton Crew Video ShootWe’ve been shooting video for the past couple of weeks for future singles from Skeleton Crew.  Yesterday evening we were caught in the act of filming the title song from the album.  By the way, I wouldn’t recommend filming a video in a business suit when the room temperature is a balmy 85 degrees.


BibleOn the same day that “Messenger” was finished, I wrote, “Some debate in my mind over whether the act of violence [that follows “Messenger”] should be a beating by a group (original idea), or a gunshot from a lone gunman.”  I ultimately chose the latter, and made him a religious zealot to continue the “positive vs. negative religion” theme that is interwoven throughout the narrative.  The gunman quotes Deuteronomy 22:5 from the King James Version of the Bible as a justification for his hatred; this kind of cherry-picking is unfortunately very common among those who seek to rationalize their prejudices.

The bass riff that underpins the piece was written in December 1998, making it one of the oldest pieces of music in the opera.  I actually recorded this riff backwards on both bass and guitar in order to make the music slightly creepy.  I also recorded the vocal track faster and at a higher pitch, slowed it down, and added some delay effects both to make the character’s voice distinct and to make it sound demonic.  I think it worked, because I actually find the final product a little unsettling.  It’s the only track on the opera I dislike listening to, but of course it’s crucial to the story.  It’s also the third and final song on which no other musicians appear.

Sun of LoveThe main riff of “Messenger” began life as “Funkify” in December 2001.  In a journal entry dated  November 25, 2005 I wrote: “Finished (or pretty close) another opera song yesterday morning, at work.  Called “Messenger”, it is the big concert song before the act of violence that threatens X’s life.  I can feel the end drawing closer…”.  At some point I decided to add a counter-melody recalling the one in Lipstick, “Secret sisters come and play, others like you feel this way”.  In effect the two songs are parallels; each represent live performances where Jackie “preaches” social change to the audience, but the messages in the two songs are quite different.  In “Lipstick” the message is rebellion and deliberate flouting of cultural mores; in “Messenger” she is…well, a messenger of love–building bridges, as it were, instead of destroying them.

The End of the Album Is Nigh

Posted by on June 6th, 2013

Last night, we recorded the final vocal tracks for Skeleton Crew!  All fourteen tracks still need to be mixed and the album itself has to be mastered, the artwork completed, etc.  But still, a milestone and proof of progress.  There are still the six outtakes which still are a few overdubs away from completion, but we’ve decided to concentrate on getting the album finished first.  And make videos.  It will be sweet.

“The Break” is another short “link song”, and the last song written; it was completed in March 2006. I struggled a lot with the lyrics in trying to convey the information succinctly, and in fact, I was never completely satisfied with the end result. But it does the job. Coming up with a suitable arrangement was also difficult, but I finally arrived at the Edge-like delayed guitar part and three-part vocal harmony.