New Acoustic Album, full album coming soon

Well, after working the last 9 months on a bunch of projects, including producing 3 albums for other people and writing about 60 pieces of music for clients, I finally had a few days without any client work. Since I don’t have any merch to sell when I play shows, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a CD with some of my music, and so I recorded all of the songs that will make up the standard edition of “The Evil Machine Is Broken”, with nothing but voice and acoustic guitar. It’s not a live recording, since I did comp the songs together to get better performances, but it’s about as raw and deconstructed as you can get, and is exactly how the songs sound when I play them live. I’m going to have a limited number of physical CD’s (do people actually own CD players anymore?) to sell at shows, but if you’d like one of those, you can order it through bandcamp. In the near future it’s also going to be available on itunes and whatnot, but I really like bandcamp, and always suggest that you purchase music through them, since the artist has more control over the process, and gets a larger percentage of sales.

I’ll be spending the next few months finishing up the fully produced album, and hope to have it available by the end of the summer. We’ll see if that actually happens. Until then, I’m going to leave it up for free to download, so if you like what you hear with the acoustic album, make sure to check out the demo tracks of the fully produced songs. Lots of drums, bass, electric guitar, and synth to rock out with!

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What, your album’s still not finished?

Unfortunately, it’s true. The album isn’t finished yet. On a good note, the final song is now written, an upbeat number entitled “Level Up”, which has a cool dirty bass lick driving things along. It all comes down to finding the time to finish the recording process. I’m currently producing an album for the wonderul Tai Shan, and have been doing a lot of podcast themes and other production work. There’s some time booked in the studio over the next few weeks, though, so I’m shooting for a late summer release (which means I’m hoping to be done before next year).

The next Cirrus Bay album is scheduled to begin preproduction next month. As of right now the plan is that I’m going to do the engineering, mixing, and mastering, as well as the drums and bass. Bill has some special guests lined up to add some new textures to this record, so it should be the best one yet!

For people in the Seattle area, I’ll be playing a song with the Bushwick Book Club today at the Bellevue library. I hope to see some of you there, and if you can’t make it, it will be aired on 91.3 KBCS (maybe live, I’m not sure on this). Music inspired by Michael Pollan, I’ve heard everyone’s songs, and they are all fantastic, this is a show you should check out!

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Emerald City Comicon, Sandman, and a new rockin’ song for the album!

The last few months have been a whirlwind.  Between writing a lot of music for clients (including some fun orchestral stuff, cheesy rock and techno, and a little bit of salsa), having another child, and repairing a house that is determined to fall apart, I never got around to writing about my newest song, one that is quickly becoming one of my favorites for the new record.

The song is called “Will You Be Forgotten”, and it’s inspired by Neal Gaiman’s Sandman comics.  This was written to go along with the Bushwick Book Club events for the Emerald City Comic Con.  I started out trying to write a happy upbeat folk song about forging your own destiny (inspired by the story where the cat’s learn of how they used to rule the world, and could do so again if they all just believed in it).  Well, as my wife often tells me, I can’t write a happy song.  There is a demo version of it as a folky upbeat acoustic guitar piece, but after having one of those “holy crap I just had the best idea of my life here in the shower with shampoo in my hair and where the hell is that waterproof paper and marker when you need it” moments, I quickly changed some things around, cranked up the gain on the guitar, added some fuzz to the bass, and ended up with a much darker song.

The lyrics are inspired by the idea of a regular ordinary person being drawn into the world of dreams and demons, and being forced to go to almost impossible lengths in order to save themselves and everything they know.  A person who knows that if they fail, the world will fall apart.  No pressure.

As with all of the songs off of my upcoming album, you can download the demo’s of the songs for free from my bandcamp page until the album comes out.

For ECCC, I was able to convince the wonderful MoZo (also part of the Bushwick Book Club Seattle) to help me out playing drums and bass with some backing vocals.  They helped the song really come alive.  Here’s a video from the show that night:

As for the rest of the album, I’ve got a few big projects coming up which will keep me from finishing it for a little while, but the songwriting is close to finished.  I’ve just got lyrics for a couple of more songs, and then it’s time to finish recording the ones which aren’t done yet.  I’m hoping for a Summer release (although I was hoping for a Summer 2012 release, and we see how that worked out).  Stay tuned!

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Yet another time travel song

It’s time for another time travel song. This one, as well as the previous song that I posted, were both written for the Bushwick Book Club for a series of shows inspired by “The Time Machine” by HG Wells. This song was written very differently than anything else I’ve ever done. I wanted the song to contain references to as many different time travel films, shows, and books as I could think of, so I started with a big list, and then wrote the story and lyrics around that list. It took me about 5 tries, but eventually I came up with the idea of an intro lesson to time travel, and it all came together after that.

This song changed a lot in the recording process. Originally it was written for acoustic guitar and vocals, and I had envisioned in my head that it would end up sounding like a Bon Jovi stadium rock piece. Once I started working out the arrangements, however, I just got the urge to make it upbeat and fun. The guitar intro came first, and from there I knew that it needed a bouncing bass line and some organ to give it a bit of an organic upbeat dance feel. When I first wrote it I never thought that the final version would sound like this, but now that I’ve heard this version, I can’t really imagine it any other way.

Like all of the other songs on the album, this demo mix version (which is very close to what the final will be) is available for free.  Once the album is finished, the free tracks will all be taken down, so if you like it, make sure to download it before it’s too late.

Only 6 songs left to go for the record.  2 of those have music recorded but no lyrics, 2 have music written but not recorded, and 2 of them have bits and pieces waiting to be molded into a song.  I’m taking a bit of a break on the record to write some more music for Bushwick (which may end up making it on the album), but at this point I’m hoping for a November release.

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Time Machine

About a year ago I wrote a song called “Time Machine” for the Bushwick Book Club inspired by 2 books, “The Shining” by Stephen King, and “The TIme Machine” by HG Wells. I went into it thinking about why a child might want to build a time machine. Obviously all children have a good imagination, and I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to build a time machine as a kid, but taking some inspiration from story in “The Shining”, I decided that in this song, there would need to be a strong reason for the child to want to get away from their life. My goal was also to write a song that would unfold as the song went on, so that every time the chorus came up, it would have a slightly different feel, even though it was the same every time.

While this song was originally written for acoustic guitar, I thought that the sound of a Rhodes fit better with the overall vibe I was going for, so I made that the main instrument for a lot of the song.  It gave a bit of a sad vibe that just wasn’t there on the guitar.

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Hands of Time – inspired by “The Watchmen”, cowritten with Tai Shan

For the March show with The Bushwick Book Club Seattle, we wrote music inspired by “The Watchmen”.  It was a fantastic book, and I had an idea for a song about a superhero who is getting too old to fight.  The music was mostly there, but the lyrics were giving me trouble, and I felt like I needed another perspective on it.  So, I got in touch with Tai Shan, and asked her if she was interested in working together on this song.  She agreed, and we spent some time in the studio together writing.

Tai brought so many ideas to the table, it was unbelievable.  Her approach to songwriting is much different than mine, and I must say that I learned a thing or two working with her.  We approached the subject of the song from a lot of different directions, and were able to bounce ideas off of each other fairly quickly.  In the end, the song became much more than it ever could have been had I gone at it alone.

When recording it, I wanted to make it a huge rock song, with an ending that had tons of electric guitar and heavy drums.  That’s what I recorded, and it just never gelled (or, as my wife said, “You took a pretty song and bunked it up with all that rock stuff”.  So, I went back to how the song was originally written (just acoustic guitar and vocals), and then added some lighter elements to enhance the harmony and emotion.  Rhodes and piano, and a string quartet were added in, along with a few extra vocal layers.  The end result is a nice hybrid of the songwriter sound and the Broadway musical sound that I love.  While I will release the rock version at some point, I think the more acoustic arrangement fits the song much better.

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The Evil Machine Is Broken – Title Track

The Evil Machine Is Broken is the name of the album I’m releasing later in the year. I just finished a rough mix of the title track for the album. It still has some finessing to do, and a couple of small changes, but overall this is pretty close to done. It’s the heaviest song on the record (with the exception of maybe the final track, which will be the second part of this song where the evil machine is fixed). I tried to capture the feeling of an evil genius who has a little bit of bad luck. Take a listen and be prepared to have your face rocked off.

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Nemeses – Jonathan Coulton cover in a Broadway Musical style

It’s rare that I ever think of doing a cover of a song.  My opinion has always been that unless you can do something very different than the original version, there’s no reason to do it.  I don’t want to hear someone do a version of a Beatles song that sounds just like the Beatles version, I might as well just listen to the original.

Well, I’m going to be going to see Jonathan Coulton soon, and I’m also working on an album, which has a lot of songs about being an evil genious and other general evil stuff.  Coulton has a song called “Nemeses”, about a person who finds the one they are destined to destroy.  Some bells went off in my head, and I thought, “what if I did a cover of that song in a slightly cheesy Broadway Musical style.  Lots of brass and strings, and a few slight alterations to make it more evil”.  I figured that by changing it from a rock song to a more orchestral piece, not only would it satisfy my rule for cover songs, but it would also fit well into the album, since it fits the theme perfectly.

So, with that in mind, I set out to record the song and make a video in just 3 days, in order to have it done before the Coulton concert.  My API preamp is in the shop, so I may come back and rerecord the vocals once that comes in, but I think the final version will pretty much stick to this arrangement when it makes it onto the album.

One thing to keep in mind when watching the video:  the only instrument that was actually played live for the recording were the cymbals.  Everything else was done with samples on the computer, including the percussion and piano.  It would have looked fairly boring to see a music video with just a bunch of midi data, so I decided to fake it, and hopefully it doesn’t look too bad.

I’m going to make the song available as a free download for just a short time, until the next song becomes available (and since I’m making good progress on the album, that shouldn’t be very long).

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Bushwick Book Club: I Suck At Girls, by Justin Halpern

I Suck At GirlsEDIT: Updated song, now with 400% more claps and background vocals!  Also, totally free to download!  Exclamation points!!!

I’ll be playing a show tomorrow with the Bushwick Book Club Seattle. A small group of us will be playing songs inspired by “I Suck At Girls”, by Justin Halpern. Afterwards, he will be reading from his book, and talking about all sorts of stuff that his dad says (He is also the author of the book and Twitter feed “Shit My Dad Says”).

This is a first for me, since I’ve never performed a song inspired by a book in front of the person who wrote the book. It also might be quite awkward, since I wrote the song from the authors perspective. I’ll be singing about the love life of Justin Halpern in front of Justin Halpern.

Considering that the book is quite funny, I tried to write something that had a similar feel, and that the audience would connect with. I also threw in a few references to things that aren’t in the book, such as the fact that William Shatner played his dad in the TV version of Shit My Dad Says.

For those of you who want to come out and see the show, it’s at the University Book Store right next to the University of Washington. We play at 6:00, the author speaks at 7:00. It should be a great time.

Here is the song for those of who who can’t make it out to the show. Enjoy!

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Edit:  Now that the show is over, I can say that Justin is a super nice guy.  The book is even funnier now that I got to meet him and better understand his perspective.  If you haven’t read his book, pick it up ASAP, you won’t be sorry!

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A little Metal makes everything better!

I loves myself some good old fashioned metal, but it’s not often that I get to write any. That changed this weekend, as I wrote a piece of podcast theme music. This was for a couple of guys who wanted something heavy with some choir. I heated up the tubes in the Rectifier, layered a bunch of guitars with some drums, bass, and choir, and come up with the heaviest thing I’ve written in a long time. It’s short, but sweet. How can you not love harmonized lead guitars?

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