Archives for category: Recording

Yesterday JP (Das Piumas bass player, musical genius) sent me two recordings of himself playing guitar to the accompaniment of birdsong outside a house in Thornbury Ontario. He asked me for some vocals over top of both of them. Here are the two songs, with accompanying vocals, and the lyrics I wrote:

Forget Me

Summer Frame

Here are the lyrics:

Forget Me

You were right to leave me, wrong to love me,

I was never even close

To being the man you needed me to be.

You were right to love me, wrong to leave me,

You could never even see

How deeply I fulfilled your every need.

I am of two minds, I see I’m blind,

Love you ‘cause I never loved you right.

And it started out with all those doubts,

I’m better off here worse than I have been.

 

If you ever loved me, please forget me,

Like you did, like you did already dear

If you ever loved me, please regret me,

Oh, and never let me hear.

Yes forget me, forget me, forget me every moment of the day.

Forget me every moment of the day. Moment of the day.

 

And dreaming of the ocean shore

Reminds me of the land we wore

Like boots we built of concrete and of clay.

We never would have walked too far

I hope you know you were the stars

I watched while you just looked away.

 

Summer Frame

How delicate the face we see

Between the lines of light

We dreamt of heat and woke to it

And now the day is bright.

Falling in the fields the birds

Are swiftest on the wing.

We listen for the sounds of home

To reach us on the wind.

La la la-la-la la-la.

La la la-la-la la-la.

You’re a fever. You’re a summer frame.

Paint is peeling. The old days peel away.

 

Intricate the latticework of

Shadows where we stand.

Beading up like teardrops

On the cool drink in your hand.

We were once

Miles across.

We were once

Wildly lost.

And we were once

Miles across.

We were once

Wildly lost.

La la la-la-la la-la.

La la la-la-la la-la.

La la la-la-la la-la.

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Wow – I read over the post I put up last night, and then, just out of interest, looked at the one before it. And what do you know? They’re exactly the same.

A little disturbing, that. The previous post – which was written long before – uses the phrase “I’ve been away.” It talks about the fact that I think about this project every day. It announces that I’m going to try to work on it more often. All of those things are in the newer post. They’re the same.

Now lots happened between one and the next – I went to Europe for two weeks, for one thing. I’ve had more time at my job. I’ve been alive and experiencing things. And yet when I finally came back to comment on it all, I was at the same place.

I guess as far as FiveFourEleven’s concerned I’ve been in a mental holding pattern, circling an airport and waiting for a landing spot to open up. Obviously in that metaphor I crashed weeks ago after running out of fuel, but that’s how things go.

Well, I hope this is the beginning of the end of that holding pattern. I want to make this site a living thing again. I want to try my damnedest to get at least one more album together before the year is out. And I don’t plan on failing to produce all five records at some point before my plane goes down for good.

And for those of you who read last night’s post and listened to the song: thank you so much for still being out there. It’s good to know the lights are still on. You’re awesome.

Not just a shoe slogan, that. I was talking with some of my new coworkers last night about the state of creativity and success, and we agreed that the way to get your voice heard these days is simply to start speaking. Into the Internet.

It’s amazing how much we can now accomplish as individuals or with friends. People make feature films on no budget with digital technology. You can shoot a pretty passable movie with your phone at this point. Music creation and distribution can be accomplished, if you so choose, with a single computer and some hard work.

That was the impetus for this project. From the outset, I wanted to push myself to do the things I always dreamt about doing: make an album (or five). Put it out into the world. See if anyone likes what I like, or is at least willing to tolerate it.

We also discussed Donald Glover, who is a huge inspiration. He’s an actor, writer, rapper, Gap model, and self-made success. And how did he do it, and how does he continue to do it? By creating things he likes and sharing them with the world.

So that’s the lesson I’ve learned, and will need to keep learning: if you want to make something, nowadays more than ever, you have no excuses. You either make it or you don’t; you either offer it up or it doesn’t exist. Ideas are great, but execution is what counts. And the wonderful thing about going ahead and doing what you’ve been imagining and considering for years is that it feels great.

Even though the execution rarely lives up to what you had in your head, it’s amazing to know that you didn’t let fear of failure or embarrassment stop you from trying. And although I’ve lengthened the odds against myself considerably, I’m not going to stop trying.

I was hoping to continue my roll and work on more music tonight, but it didn’t happen. Still, it feels great to be back on the path to making music. I still have a monstrous distance to travel before the Expensive record is done, but it no longer feels like something impossible – just difficult, and everything’s kind of difficult, so that’s not too bad.

The thing is, I have a list of names that I want to turn into songs, but I also have a whole bunch of beats that I kind of want to use, and the two things don’t fit together very well. There’s one track I must have made two years ago now, and I’ve been wanting to turn it into something since then. But on what subject?

One thing I’ve definitely discovered with rap is: you can’t do it if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Granted, a lot of rappers are talking about themselves, and how much money they have, and how large their genitals are, and the horribly, horribly degrading things they’re doing to your girlfriend. But that’s still a pretty clear (and very vivid) subject.

Part of the reason I wanted to make a hip hop record is because I’m inspired by the brilliant writing I’ve heard on some rap albums. The best rappers do what all great writers do – they take what’s in their head and put it into yours. It’s often very visual, as well. You see what they’re describing, and you feel it.

But because it’s poetry, not prose, it’s usually more than just a story playing out in your head. The words and the way they fit together does something, and the lyrics transcend their meaning.

Again, this is only possible if you know what you’re on about. The track I put up yesterday was definitively about September 11th, and the suicidal dickhead who flew one of the planes that day. So very clear. And awful. Today I wanted to make something a little less…awful. Something upbeat and positive. Because I swear, once in a while, for a moment, I actually have fun.

For now, I’m going to give up on music for the night and work my way toward bed. I hope you’re all doing well, and enjoying whatever music creates a new world in your head.

Hello again – I’ve gone and done it. I’ve actually finished something. I’ve turned the track I shared with you yesterday (a flipped sample of myself – meta-hop) into a completed song. With a named name attached. Although I do not in fact name the name on the track, since I don’t believe he deserves too much recognition.

I am referring to Mohamed Atta, the man who hijacked the plane which hit the North Tower on September 11th, leading to the immediate deaths of thousands of Americans, and the eventual deaths of more than 250,000 people on the other side of the world.

The 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks is fast approaching. It’s still a difficult subject to talk about and understand. I wrote this song not from a place of understanding, but bewilderment.

What happened? How did it happen? Who could have done it? And how is it that, a decade on, wars are still being perpetrated against people who for the most part, I suspect, had nothing to do with the planning or execution of that horrible massacre?

It’s a sombre topic, but one that I think about an unhealthy amount. And here is what I wrote about it:

Expensive – Mohamed Atta

I’m trying to get back at it. I really am. I’ve spent most of today working on music. And I’ve actually really enjoyed it. But I’ve failed to produce anything finished. Still, it feels great to be back in the lab. And to have a day’s worth of breathing space to do it.

One idea I had ages ago but wasn’t foolhardy enough to try was writing and recording a classic R’n’B-style song and then chopping it up and flipping it into a hip hop track. I say foolhardy for a number of reasons. One is that I’m not a very soulful dude. I’m polite, and prompt, but when you listen to a good old-fashioned R’n’B tune, neither of those adjectives tends to leap to mind.

Anyway, for some reason, even though I’m crazy, crazy behind schedule, I thought I would maybe try that experiment today. So here are the two songs. The first was inspired by Charles Bradley, who is an unbelievable singer. The second is a surprisingly ominous little number created out of the pieces of the first. I have no idea who I’m going to rap about on it, but I’d love to hurry up and figure it out.

I’m not dead yet. I’m trying to get back on the horse, and although I keep falling out of the saddle, it’s progress that I’m even attempting to get back on at all.

Expensive – Charles Bradley

Expensive – CB (Working Demo)

Sorry for the zero posts that have gone up in the last few days. I’ve been on the beach in Ontario soaking up a mix of sun and clouds, as well as in an incredibly beautiful bed and breakfast in a town called Port Rowan. If you’re considering heading to that part of the world (and you should) ask me about it. It’s stunning.

I was hoping the trip would afford me some breathing space to get my head together, but it was only a day, and a lot of that was spent driving. Still, not complaining – what a glorious way to spend a weekend. And the owners of the bed and breakfast are two incredibly inspiring people: a couple who have been together for 35 years, who are constantly searching for new inspirations.

They’re farmers – but the man of the house was a Bay Street chartered accountant for four years before switching to the farm. They’re home-owners – but the house was falling down when they bought it, so they cut and installed locally sourced hardwood in every room. They’re artists – and so, it seems, is every member of their family, with beautiful self-portraits and prints hanging in every room, and some of the most stunning furniture I’ve ever seen, all made by themselves.

The lesson for me in meeting those people was twofold: first, remember how many exceptional human beings there are out there. It’s easy to get cynical, or to think the way you live is the only option, or at least the right one. But there are amazing thinkers and doers out there, living a life less ordinary, and we can all learn a lot from them.

And two, don’t forget to appreciate the beauty of life. We can all get hung up on the momentary stresses and pains we experience, but the fact that we’re here at all is a minor miracle (or even a major one), and the sub-fact that this world is so full of beauty and promise and mystery, all of which we as humans are equipped to explore, is mind-blowing. Of course, I still haven’t had time to explore it through music…maybe next week?

No music this weekend. None. Plenty of fun, lots of work, but just no room to sit down and write or record. And I’m not sure when I’ll have time again, although I’ll need to find it.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been doing two jobs, which will be the case for the next couple. Then I transition into a new job (the second one I’m already doing) full time, and it gets crazy busy.

All of this is incredibly exciting, and I’m feeling very lucky indeed to get this opportunity. Change, however, has a habit of making me temporarily insane. I don’t always roll with the punches so much as point my body at them and try and absorb them all. Which I can do, for a while, because anyone can. But then you end up feeling very bruised and very stupid.

Which is why I’m blathering on about nothing. Here’s what I did manage to do this weekend: I’ve written out a tentative final tracklist for the Expensive record. It’s fourteen tracks (!) which is ambitious or stupid or both. But I feel like I have, at the very least, a good idea about what each one of them will be, as well as music for a lot of them. Now I need time to write lyrics and record them.

And I will make that time. Hopefully soon, somehow. Meantime, thanks for putting up with this meandering time in my life, and I’ll try to be more interesting again soon.

It is showtime. Not for me, though. I’m off to catch Al’s band Youth Season at The Piston. Should be a fun, if extremely sleep-depriving show.

I just want to say a quick thank you to all the awesome people who’ve offered me yet more support following yet more ridiculous uncertainty about whether I can or should make music. Casey, as always your opinion is both wise and welcome. Thanks.

Also, I got the benefit of an honest review from my Aunt. She is seventy-three, and a wonderfully frank critic. Her estimation of the last track I shared (“Sarah Palin”) went like this: “Well, I could hear all the words. Your words are very good. But the voice…” She trailed off then, in a way that made it abundantly clear what she meant.

All of which is to say, I love my audience very much. I know I’ve said this several times already, but it means a lot to me that you hear it: thank you for sticking with me through this haphazard, uncertain, repetitive, circular, self-indulgent process. If you’re enjoying it a tiny fraction of the amount I am, then that makes me happy.

I had a busy day at work today. Which is awesome. But I suspect the next couple of weeks are going to be challenging where music-making is concerned.

At the moment I’m kind of straddling two jobs, both of which are demanding. Not only will I get home later, I suspect I’ll find myself on the exhausted side when I arrive. We’ll see.

Still, I’m feeling pretty all right about the three songs I’ve recorded so far. Not so all right that I don’t want to entirely re-record them (I’m guessing I won’t). But still, compared to how miserable I was about the whole prospect of making this album a few weeks ago, this is a nice feeling.

I was just out with my friend Dave for a drink, and we talked about the learning curve of the Saga City record versus the Expensive one: for Saga City, I had songs in place before I even thought about releasing the record. It was a matter of determining the right way to serve the tunes, and how to go from a skeletal idea to a fleshed-out song.

In the case of Expensive, I’ve been on a bit of an odyssey of self-doubt, recrimination, and eventual acceptance. It’s not just a matter of learning how to create hip-hop tracks from scratch, it’s also coming to terms with my limitations and style as an MC, and making peace with the fact that if I’m honest, a lot of my subject matter will be terminally uncool.

No matter how the record comes out, I’m so glad I’ve faced down my doubts and started making this music. I may never do it again after this year, but it would be sad not to have explored my passion for hip hop. It’s been a big part of my life for the last decade and a half, and I think I’d always wonder. Now, I know: I’m not as good as Kanye.

It feels great to get that off my chest. I’m going to try and get some sleep now.