My M-Box (the interface which connects musical equipment to Protools software) was knocked to the ground by my cat about a year and a half ago. The faceplate came off, but remained tethered to the body of the device...by the internal wiring. In the months that followed, the strained wiring started inhibiting my work. I would hear crackling in some of my takes as I recorded and my headphones would cut in and out. I learned to deal with these infractions and even threw an elastic around the body and faceplate to keep them together and immobile. This did some good for a while, until the problems came back. Usually a little adjustment prior to delving into recording would remedy the problem. But as the recording process decayed in other ways (lack of inspiration, degradation of my voice, discomfort with my job, feeling like I wasn't 'living up' to my first album etc...) the M-Box just felt like one of the hindrances preventing me from getting the work done. The set up process before a session became laborious and uninspiring; the build up to repeated disappointment. I'd built up a body of demos to choose from but felt unable to follow the majority to completion. Finally, in August after participating in other various musical projects with friends, regaining a certain confidence in my writing, working on a semi regular basis, slowly tricking myself into a writing/recording schedule, the M-Box stopped working. Fundless, disillusioned, and exhausted this was the last straw and I left it behind. I again seriously questioned whether I'd keep going. THUS II was a titanic personal failure.
The original goal was this: To record a more radio friendly record, full of songs that could potentially be singles. Those types of albums are always my favorites. Led Zeppelin and Beatles albums were often like this. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, and Dave Matthews Band have delivered albums like this too. The other goal was to simultaneously integrate original, non-obvious rhythms in these catchy songs, a la Yes, Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Iron Maiden, etc...I wanted to employ odd time signatures unobtrusively by creating catchy grooves over them, thus create rhythms that wouldn't be found in my contemporaries' music. (Listen to 'Close To the Edge' by Yes. It's a great example.) These goals were difficult for me to achieve as I unwittingly pressured myself into them.
With the M-Box fried, along with my resolve, I stagnated for a couple weeks. One night I went to The Mediator for open mic and Don Tassone asked if I might want to do a feature. I said yes, despite my recent inactivity. That necessity, paired with the backdrop of knowing I couldn't record, pushed me to dream up the rest of my album in a sudden surge of creativity one night - something I'd not experienced for eons. I completed two sets of lyrics, and added the finishing bits to a third I'd started months earlier. Those were 3 of the final 4 songs I had left to complete. I thought, well now I can start rehearsing Thus II for my feature at The Mediator. And so I did. Over the course of the next 2 months I rehearsed Thus II at least once a day in full. How surreal it was finally having my work of 2 years nearly complete and beginning rehearsals. Over the course of this 2 month period, I whipped my voice back into shape (of course after spending the summer talking as little as possible, drinking lots of water and getting good sleep), almost completely omitting 'chest voice' from my technique. (Singing with ones chest voice - which pertains to certain breathe techniques and use of a particular area of the vocal chords - is unhealthy in large doses.) Smoothing my voice over was huge for my endurance as a singer, and my confidence as a performer. Additionally, my guitar playing dramatically improved. The acoustic guitar fortified my manual strength and dexterity, and having played some Paul Simon songs recently I'd resorbed some long lost elements of my chord vocabulary and guitar voicing. By the time my feature came up on October 28, I'd really sunken into the difficult rhythms peppered throughout Thus II, and looked at it as a finished piece. I played and sang well. And despite a few bumps in the road, I made it to the last song (and hit that really high final note I was worried about!) and delivered what I wanted to the audience, and to myself.
Cut to a week later: yesterday. I decided it was worth trying...I got it out. Set it up. Plugged it in. Miraculously, the M-Box came to life. Amazed, but reticent, I proceeded, recording a whole set of lyrics for one of those last few songs I was so inspired to write that night a couple months ago. I don't believe in deities in any literal sense per se, but I will say that the universe certainly works in mysterious ways...for had it not been for that last straw, the M-Box, breaking, I may still having been dragging myself through the former, muddy tedium of Thus II, as opposed to having it done sometime in the next two weeks...It's the inanticipated end of what's turned out to be an gratifying journey...