Sunday, June 5, 2011
CALL TO ARMS FOR THUS FANS WITH WRITING CHOPS: Write your full review of 'THUS II' for use on the launch of the official website! Give your thoughts on the albums gapless format, comment on the arch of the material, talk about the lyrics or the music, or any angle of 'THUS II' you feel compelled toassert your opinion on. Please be well acquainted with the whole album! ~ Participants will receive EXCLUSIVE UNRELEASED THUS MATERIAL...send
your review to: thus2.reviews@g
mail.com...help get this thing viral and involve a friend if you think their writing skills should be recognized. (Of course, be sure they include your name if you refer them so you can receive YOUR exclusive THUS material too!) Go get writing! The cutoff is July 4th! ENTRIES RECIEVED AFTER JULY 4th WILL NOT BE USED FOR THE WEBSITE LAUNCH. GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN~
Sunday, March 13, 2011
This is the final image that will grace 'THUS II'. The trifold art (top of the blog) is still being included with the CD, but I wanted to create a single unifying image for the cover that would really encompass the arch of the music, as opposed to choosing one of the three images as an incomplete glimpse into a much larger picture. This image actually incorporates the images of the trifold art...if you look closely. The 'arch' to which I earlier reffered is really simply the lineage of life experiences since my first album. As I mentioned in my previous entry, 'THUS II' involves resonant subjects such as love, friendship & the loss thereof, self image, individuality, success & failure, money problems, etc...basically parameters of most anybody's life. I feel the trifold artwork sums up a lot of this stuff pretty literally, so I took the album cover in kind of the opposite direction, portraying the arch more metaphorically.
I used an image of scope and 'space' as, you guessed it, a metaphor for the mind. 'THUS II' intends to feel like a journey (hopefully a good thing), where the listener has a sensation of traversing a long distance, rather than just listening to a random bunch of songs by some guy. It's supposed to be like a guided tour through 4 years of my experiences with a soulful and hopefully thought provoking commentary on the sites, emotions and characters along the way. The 'orbs' or 'planets' depicted on the cover art represent the three suites as separate locales that the listener will be transported to (direct flight- no stops. :) They're spread out before the viewer as if this is the beginning of the journey they take. There's a little guy at the end...I guess he's me. At first, it just didn't look right without the little guy, and it didn't immediately hit me what he was there for other than looking cool...but when I included him, I thought, 'Oh, that's me at the 'THUS II' finish line, tackling this thing.' So I left him in there. Love that little guy. :*)
Anyhow, I just finished this image and I think it really works as the album cover for my new work. This baby is pretty much ready to be released. A couple minor technical tweaks to the overall thing and I can close the book on this chapter, and get it out to YOU. (>giant sigh of relief<)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Why did this thing take SO frickin long? Let me start from the beginning...
I was working on the first album in 2006 and finished January 12 2007. I was pretty fresh out of my audio engineering degree program, and determined to make that first collection the best Icould. I had access to a highly successful, world renowned producer/audio engineer Toni Maserati (right >>) who's mixed the material of artists from David Bowie to Notorious B.I.G., Christina Aguilera to The Talking Heads...get the picture? I had quite a bit to impress upon him...or so I felt. He'd heard my original THUS demo (QUITE different from the final album, almost completely comprised of a separate set of songs, it was more like the Beatles white album than what it turned out to be. I tried to make a collection that sounded more like someones mix tape than a single artists record) Although his feed back was positive, he advised me to focus stylistically. I took this to heart, looking at my material critically, listening for my strengths, inspecting my favorite elements of what I'd already done and cut away the rest. I kept the songs 'Clocks', 'The Angel', 'Go Away' and 'Don't'. I spent the next several months until January 07 writing/recording almost everyday. Being a transitional period in my life, I had plenty of emotional sediment to dig into. The culmination of my school experience, the possibility of a huge record industry heavy weight taking my work seriously, and my emotional state was a great piece of work; my most complex and complete to that date. The work was an unexpected wrenching catharsis concerning love, death, self image, friendships, family, and individuality. I love the first album. After completing it, I felt it was important to keep working, so I continued for the next two months until I moved into an apartment with my girlfriend, Sarah. Living on very little money (the guy I worked for was, and STILL IS A CHEAP SKATE...I don't work for him anymore) I was at a major disadvantage when her computer could not support my recording needs...I went the following year and a half without recording one note. It was like artistic suicide. I tried to write, but recording had become a part of my writing process...recording the initial idea as soon as I thought of it made a huge difference in how the song came out. When I write, I hear songs in my head, not a bass line, or a guitar lick, or a melody. I hear a finished song. So you can imagine what it was like helplessly hearing great ideas fleeting past me...I'd tried everything. I bought a laptop: incompatible with my software. I tried her laptop: incompatible. I visited countless threads; no info. I called the manufacturer: no clue. Exhausted and becoming somewhat depressed, I pretty much gave up and turned my effort to rehearsals with the band for the first album.
On August 29, 2008 (my 26th birthday) Sarah surprised me with a full Protools setup in our basement. (She's the best by the way) Having had a very long time to ponder what I wanted out of a second album, I became focused on certain musical and lyrical concepts that I wanted to explore. A few of these things included working with different time signatures but keeping the songs palatable, improving my lyrical ability, and enhancing the production (sound quality) overall. On September 7, I went to work. The first thing I recorded was a song called 'Killing the Beautiful' which sounded great. I knew right away it would open the next album. It was one of those songs that wrote itself. But when it was done, I suddenly had this feeling of 'What now?' It was like I had just run out of ideas. But I continued working...I clunked out a few ideas here and there...and hated every one of them. What had happened to all those songs I was hearing in my head? Why was I hating everything I recorded? Why was I becoming increasingly uninspired?? These questions began running through my head at a pretty constant rate. Much as I tried to deal with it healthily by staying proactive and positive, I continued to decline creatively. The band had fallen apart a couple times and had all new members at this point. I decided I needed a deadline. In December 2008 I put up an ad on Myspace declaring 'THUS II coming Summer 2009." Bad idea. Using a deadline to create art is like a victim of constipation
pushing...And that's how I felt. The ad (below) was deleted. I tried bringing my fellow musicians
in on the writing process, but it didn't feel like the music I'd set out to right, and lacked direction. I got rid of the small amount of recording we attempted. Still, I continued working. I sat down and played XBox until an idea struck. Working in a restaurant, I kept a pad and pen in my pocket at all times, poised for any ideas that struck but hated nearly every lyric I jotted down. By spring 2009, I'd disbanded the group for many reasons...not the least of which was to take pressure off of myself to write new material. I kept writing, struggling to finish even a single song. Nothing was happening organically. Finally I fell into a state of almost constantly playing video games, drinking a more than usual, going to karaoke bars to try to 'stay out there' and turning to other art forms when I felt creative. In my life, I was okay. I had work, friends, and of course Sarah was there. But filling my time with other things felt so overwhelmingly counter-productive, I was not doing well internally. From time to time, I returned to my recordings, but they lacked the spark I longed for. I work hard to make my music irresistable...at least to fans of the style I write in. So there was enormous internal pressure with the other goals I set out for myself with the odd time signatures (which I wasn't used to writing in), higher production quality, and better lyrics. These are all acquired skills that take experimentation, and a lot of finesse to execute in a way that satisfy the artist and keep the audience engaged. All this had been steadily going through my head for a year and a half. I thought I was being 'focused'. How can you create when you put up all these walls around yourself? That's the question I should have been asking myself.
By autumn 2009, I took stock in the growing belief that I was no longer a musician. It was devastating having gone so long without artistic release...especially after trying so hard. I seldom found myself working on the material. It made me really sad that I was utterly out of ideas. On top of that, I HATED my job, and never had money to do anything substantially out of the normal. Day in, day out I was disappointed with myself and my total lack of output. Worst period of my artistic life.
Then I was invited to a local open mic run by a friend of my fathers, Don Tassone. He's a RISA member and a fantastic musician. I'd been invited before but hadn't gone so I thought it would be impolite if I didn't show...what a night! The place was small, but with a tall ceiling, so it kind of gave the artists the benefit of the doubt sound wise. Each performance was really a treasure. The artists were truly inspiring. Don somehow got these great local artists, mostly 40's and up, to come out and perform at his Mediator Stage. I'd play my old songs when I went, and I even debuted 'Killing the Beautiful' (acoustically) which went over pretty well. Chris Smolenski, a friend I'd met while auditioning band members in November 2009, encouraged me to keepwriting. Thus hadn't come together by spring 2010 so I entertained Chris's idea of combining forces. We got together sometimes to write, and jam Alice in Chains since we both loved harmonizing. We penned a couple great little tunes together and had a fulfilling collaboration. This got me writing a little bit, knowing I had someone else to fill in gaps where I'd be stuck. Before I knew it I was writing without any help, and finishing some stuff! In May 2010, Don Tassone chose me as one of the artists to feature in it's monthly 'Four Corners' series where 4 artists write and perform songs based on a theme chosen by the audience the previous month. The audience chose for the artists to write 'A song about songwriting' ...needless to say, I had plenty to say.
Over the course of summer 2010, I got to work. I wrote or finished lyrics, edited guitars, drums and bass, and most importantly paced myself and didn't expect instant results. This was obviously not the same process as the first album and I was just learning to learn to adjust...the audience is on their toes observing the art if the artist is on their toes creating it. In August, Don asked if I'd like to feature at the Mediator Stage in October. Feeling confident, I said sure...and in the weeks that followed, I decided it was healthy to challenge myself to finish writing THUS II and get it to a point where I could perform it live, solo, gaplessly...so I hit the acoustic guitar hard. Every day I rehearsed what I had and the songs began to take on a life of their own. It was like watching my children grow. By the mid October, I was rehearsing THUS II with no breaks between songs (nearly an hour of music) twice a day. Representing all the instruments required filling up an awful lot of sonic space for just one voice and one acoustic guitar so I picked up a 12 string guitar and formatted some of the songs accordingly. That really made some of the pieces pop, and helped provide some dimension to the mammoth set. The day of the show came up real fast, but all the prep really paid off. I proved to myself I was stilla musician. I played it to friends, family and fellow musicians. The gig was a big step in rebuilding my self con- fidence. From then on, it was all recording and mixing. Sarah and I moved to a quiet farm
in Massachusetts in November where I set up a studio space in the office. Here, I finished my tracking and went into mixing sessions, bouncing tracks to my iPod everyday to listen to on the way to work. It sounded better each time I listened. Finally, this week on the10th of March, 2011...DONE! As I write, I can't believe the words are being types, and I'm still letting out the sigh of relief!
'THUS II' wasn't as much a lesson in the art of writing music as it was a lesson in the art of staying inspired. Keeping yourself inspired is one of the hardest things about being an artist I think because inspiration comes from external forces that you can't simply fabricate for yourself when you need them. You can put yourself in a position to receive it. Inspiration is the impact of the world on a person who then turns their observations into something tangible...I refuse to create art that lacks substance, but I love to create art - and just because I don't have an important observation one day doesn't mean I don't feel like creating art...that's where that age old quandry that artists have found themselves in called 'writers block' comes from. If this wasn't the fact of nature it is, there'd be a lot more great artists out there...so I think the biggest leaks in my floundering inspiration were these:
1. Relying to heavily on recording as a writing aid. I completely stopped writing during the year and a half when I could not record, even when I was hearing songs run through my head. Don't let opportunity pass you by! I hate to even think about it...
2. Setting up walls around myself right from the get go instead of just tackling one incline at a time. I've learned to ease into odd time signatures when necessary, gradually improve lyrics/melodies with trial and error, and affect more pristine production value by staying informed and being proactive about my researching. You can't just say 'Go!' and simply expecting things of yourself.
3. Harshly and unnecessarily pre-judging my works in progress. Incomplete work needs to be seen through to its conclusion before it can be fairly assessed. Don't judge your book by it's cover...especially if all you've written is the title...
unless the title of your book is 'Snakes on a Plane'...then judge harshly...
4. Over-comparing to my previous work. When I was writing my first album, I had nothing to compare it to...so I had nothing to lose. This time, I was saying 'These songs must be this tall to ride this CD-R'...It's okay to set yourself a standard, but I was sending the kids to medical school before they could walk. 2nd album syndrome. Oy.
I will say that the one thing I consistently did right was not give up hope. Hope is the unconditional belief that something you want to happen will do so. Even when I began succumbing to the notion that I may not be a musician anymore, somewhere in me I knew it was bull. I never gave up hope, even when I gave up the effort. Sometimes you approach a situation from every angle you can and beat yourself over the head until you're forced to throw your hands up in the air and admit 'I'm out of ideas'...and go screaming, tearing clumps of hair out of your skull, and climb a clock tower...or not...but sometimes walking away, even running away from it (the faster the better in some cases) and the feeling of leaving it behind you gives you just the perspective you need to reach the coveted aha moment you sought in the first place. If you love something, let it go. But in order to do that, you have to have hope...even when confidence is nowhere to be found. To have hope is to poise yourself for success, in any endeavor. And having hope, the belief that 'It' can happen, leaves you open to bouts of inspiration. That's one of those universal truths that I firmly believe it is an essential life skill to get acquainted with.
All you artists out there, I hope you learned something from this! I know I did.
I finished 'THUS II' early this week and I've been relaxing (well, relaxing my brain anyway...busy otherwise). I took the album on the long awaited car speaker test a couple days later and was amazed afterward when I physically felt a huge weight off my shoulders. It sounds terrific and it's a worthy heir to the first album. A year ago I wouldn't have believed any of this would come to pass. But here it is, better than I envisioned it. I'm still letting out the long sigh of relief so bear with me. Haha...So here is the final track list for THUS II:
THUS II [Unlimited Edition] track listing:
2.Killing the Beautiful
4.Lease on Life
5.A Brighter Future
8.Between the Lines
9.The Way We Want
2.Killing the Beautiful
4.Lease on Life
5.A Brighter Future
8.Between the Lines
9.The Way We Want
There you have it. The the lone count...though, there may be a little 16th surprise in there somewhere...