So… the 14 posts are over. Concluded. The end is with us. Finally… and definitely.
Hmmm… what now? Here’s a snippet of a conversation Bill and I had on Skype. We are considering the idea of producing podcasts: episodic content delivered to you by means of our vocal cords and your ears rather than the written word. We figure you might be getting sick of the written word? // Cries of “Nooooo, NO!!! We love reading your richly rewarding articles!!!”. Anyway… as I was saying, this is just a test.
Let’s see how it rolls!
So I guess it’s up to me to write the last of our 14 posts.
‘When the Start Begins‘ is an apt title, because that’s how we see where we’re at as a band. I share a similar back-story with Emrys. I was also at the end of my musical rope when we began working on this album. The Eleventh Hour Initiative has also given me new life, and an island in the sun.
Emrys and I have also mentioned our struggles trying to connect to you, the listener. As he said, we’re just two guys trying to promote ourselves because we love these songs and we want them to be shared. We have no army of ‘professionals’ working for us behind the scenes.
It’s just us.
Honestly, it feels a bit like slinging rocks at Goliath sometimes.
Who cares? Right? I mean, why would you care how tall the mountain is that seems to be staring down at us?
My answer would be that you’re probably looking at a similar mountain in your own life.
Different goals – Same struggle.
Some give up, and just daydream about these things. Some people are pragmatic about their goals. Some, like us, and maybe you, are stubborn and refuse to accept good enough as good enough.
There is no right answer.
My point is not that we have an answer.
My point, our point as a band, and as people who write on this little blog site every few days is that we want to share everything that happens to us while we try.
Maybe it helps to see someone struggling with a similar goal? Maybe it helps to see things from a different, and not necessarily correct, position?
Where we mess up, and where you mess up, are probably more important to who we all are as people.
My dream is that just maybe it’s possible to be successful while trying your absolute best to be as honest about your weaknesses as you are with your strengths.
That’s really what we’re trying.
That’s the goal we’re asking for your support with.
We’re trying to be 3D without the glasses.
All in all, Emrys and I just made an album I’m more proud of than anything I’ve ever done. This is the last in a novel full of 14 posts containing bad grammar, humor, insight(maybe?), and a lot of genuine soul-searching.
So where does the start begin?
It begins with you passing me my slingshot. We’ve got a lot of work to do…
My genuine and heartfelt thanks to those of you who have been following along with us and supporting us along the way.
With the release of this album I’ve been trying to force myself to write some sort of short, concise band bio for reviews and such. As much as I talk, and write, these three paragraphs have been extremely tough.
We have to compartmentalize don’t we? There is just so much out there! We need to be able to easily fold things so they can fit inside of our glove compartments. How do you compartmentalize yourself? How do you fold it all into a neat square with smooth edges?
I didn’t want our songs to all be one feeling or tempo. I didn’t want it to be a ‘heavy’ album, or a ‘sad’ album, or an ‘experimental’ album, or…fill in the blanks. I wanted to be able to capture a time period with all of the strangeness and contradiction that entails.
Are you always sad? mystical? angry? love-sick? goofy? irritated? Me neither. I tend to float around all of these emotions and ‘feelings’ as the days go by. Right now I’m in a deep mood as I listen to ambient soundtrack music, but tell me a good fart joke and I’ll laugh and be out of it!
We’re all like this, albeit as individuals with different extremes, and different ‘nominal settings’. Then why is so much of our music one note? Why should I be always ‘THIS’ way, when that’s not who I am? I like a lot of different bands and artists who have different styles and traits, but I honestly can’t think of one where I go, ‘Yeah, that one there!’ Their is no musical genre or club I want to join. For me music is a means more than an end. I write when I feel something, and I try not to limit what ‘feelings’ I can cover.
That probably puts me in a club I don’t know about yet.haha
Somebody check Pitchfork!
I understand the necessity of it all. We’re bombarded with all of this stuff and the only way to organize it all is to be able to say ‘this covers THIS emotion’. Imagine Slayer making a ballad? Imagine Sade throwing down! Ridiculous you say? You don’t think Sade gets pissed? Ok, maybe the guys from Slayer, yeah maybe that’s for a reason. : )
I tend to just go for what a song makes me feel. To a degree, I don’t care what style. I don’t care if it’s a guitar or a synth or a violin. It depends on the day, and it depends what I’m focused on in the moment.
No, I’m not trying to make myself out to be some sort of revolutionary changing the face of music.
I mean, didn’t we make this album to be cohesive?
All of our songs certainly sound like us.
However, take three songs of ours, ‘Pitfall’, now listen to ‘Where We Go Next’, now listen to ‘Feel’. If any one of these was your first experience with our band you’d get a pretty different impression of who we are and what we do. Chasing Chaos? Now ‘Where the Start Begins!’
Truth is, we’re all these things. File us under those that are not easily compartmentalized, I guess. Who knows though, maybe I’m just in one of my ‘think about things too much’ moods and I’ll change my mind soon.
We’ll see how I ‘Feel’ about it tomorrow…
hmm wait, I still have to write that damn bio!
(irritably looks for Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood’)
Have you ever wanted to laugh at a really inappropriate time? Somebody is talking. The room is hushed. The mood is deadly seriously. An airplane flies by with a sign attached to it that says,
‘It Would Be Highly Offensive and Inappropriate to Laugh Right Now.’
This makes you want to laugh even more. You suppress it, which makes it even worse. A sound jumps out of your mouth like a death row inmate who found a hole in the prison fence, and you try to stop it with your hand as fast as you can. Everyone’s looking at you now with their best, ‘How dare you?!!!’ look.
A woman faints.
A crying baby goes silent.
Then, you …just…let…go…
… and it feels soooo good.
All of a sudden, everybody starts laughing with you. Those same people who were indignant a second ago are roaring like baboons, and the more you laugh, the more they laugh. The more they laugh, the more you laugh.
Ok, well the guy or woman who had everyone’s attention is usually furious at this point which is suddenly very, very funny.
It is my opinion that the world needs more people to crack the hell up at the most inappropriate times. We live in a world full of pink elephants that everyone ignores. We need to laugh at those elephants! We need to laugh at the absurdity of it all!
It’s the presidential debate…
Some soul-less, moron pundit is asking the most general question you can possibly imagine like, ‘how do we fix the economy?’ After he asks the question, he reminds the car salesman…err I mean politician…that he has 30 seconds to answer this question…
The audience erupts into sustained and uncontrollable laughter…
Finally the laughter dies down. The pundit’s face is red and he finally volleys to the brand spokesman…again, sorry…i mean politician
The politician says a catch phrase like, ‘We are the people’s people!’ or something. You know, they’re always saying general crap like that. Words that seem to connote something good and yet they really don’t mean anything at all. Come to think of it, a politician talking is a lot like a McDonalds hamburger. It kind of seems like what it represents, but you just know that the ingredients are manufactured and not natural.
Someone in the audience yells, ‘We are the people’s people!!!!’ and then everyone starts cracking up again…
Hell, I think they should put a laugh track on these things. It would change our entire perspective on the debate. It would also be a truer view of what transpired. Whenever spin doctors come on cable tv shows you just hit the laugh track button every time they say anything. We could even get Charlie Sheen and the girl from Friends(what are their names?) to host CNN to fit in with the already sitcom-like vibe.
Yep, I am ranting, and that is partly what ‘Ready, Set… Explode!’ is about for me. It’s about reaching a point where you’ve just had enough and you just want the water to boil over already.
I’m picking on politics because it’s an easy target, but it could be any number of things. I’m saying that I feel like when watching 95 percent of anything ‘serious’ on TV I think the only natural response we should have is to just laugh and laugh. Maybe if we did, maybe if we laughed right away we wouldn’t get to the point where we have to face the consequences for all the farces we see on a day-to-day basis.
You laugh and then you politely ask them to please sit back down. You suggest coming back when they want to be serious.
Having different views or ideologies is not what I’m talking about. Intelligent, honest, and well thought out ideas aren’t that humorous. When you lose your home, it’s not funny. When you can’t pay your medical bills, it’s not funny. The Patriot Act? Well the name is kind of funny in a contrarian way, but you get my point.
All I’m saying is that, at this point, we need to question everything, and no sacred cows allowed! Remember that story about the Trojan Horse? Well lets just say you can fit a lot of things inside sacred cows. I want to live in a world where we’re not afraid to point out something like one of our civil rights hanging out of a cows ass. ; ) …no matter how ‘sacred’ it is.
What I’m asking is the next time they trot an elephant or a cow on-stage, I’m begging you, please!!!!
get ‘Ready, Set… Laugh!!!’…. ; )
It’s been a while! Let’s start with some really good news! The album is finished! We’re sending it out and as soon as we hear back we can tell you when the release date will be! We plan on starting with i-tunes and amazon and then going from there with physical copies and one day, maybe …vinyl? (I hope!)
We started writing songs as a band back in June of 2010 with ‘Where We Go Next’ and we ended in June of 2011 with ‘From Shipwreck to Shore’. The final album will contain all 14 songs we’ve written as a group. That means no one has to worry about their favorite song not being on the album! Here’s the tracklisting:
1. Try and Get Some Sleep
3. Escape Plan
4. The Calm and the Storm
5. Life Will Be the Death of Me
6. Ready, Set…Explode!!!
7. Mean Machines
9. A Thousand Steps
10. Chasing Chaos
11. Where We Go Next
12. All These Secret Things
13. From Shipwreck to Shore
14. When the Start Begins*
*’When the Start Begins’ was formerly known as ‘Twelve’
We actually tried to take out songs, but we couldn’t. We like all of these songs too much to choose!
So Emrys has re-mastered all of these songs since you heard them last on soundcloud. Do you want to hear what they sound like now?
I decided to go ahead and make a youtube page for us today. On the link I just gave you, click ‘playlists’ on the top right and there you’ll find all of the songs on Escapism with some artwork, all listed in the order they’ll appear on the album. The sound quality will certainly be better when you buy the album, but trust me, even on youtube, you can hear the difference!
Right now I’m working with the very talented Nick Ummarino to make a music video for ‘Escape Plan’, which will be our first single. We’re also experimenting with how Emrys and I can play live, stripped down versions of our songs similar to some of the videos Emrys has on the password protected section of our site. It’s difficult when Emrys and I have literally never been in the same room together, but we’ll make it work!
This is just a taste of some of the things we have in store for you. Thank you for being patient with us! We’re trying very hard to make it all worth the wait!
In the meantime, while you’re waiting, why not listen to the final version of Escape Plan or maybe The Calm and the Storm? ; )
It’s late again. And very hot. It has been like a tropical heat here. Like stepping off the plane in Cyprus or something. That sheer wall of heat! It’s late. I’m sitting here in my studio. Sweating. And so I begin to type… we could be here for some time! Ha ha!
I think I’ve been ‘producing’ music now for about 20 years. I mean ‘producing’ in the loosest sense. I, like many other musicians, started out with tape. First ‘tape to tape’ recordings on a double cassette player. There are some of you out there who will have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. And I’m not about to explain myself. Let’s just say it was an extremely rudimentary form of getting more than one ‘layer’ of sound recorded in some form.
Then came the ‘4 -track’ recorder. I had a battered old Tascam. In fact I’m pretty sure I still have it somewhere. This was a machine that let you record 4 tracks (no shit Sherlock!) on a normal cassette tape. It did it if I remember rightly, by using both sides of the tape at the same time. This meant that if you played the cassette in a ‘normal’ player, 2 of the tracks would play backwards. This in itself, if manipulated correctly, could give magical results for certain songs. I trace my constant experimentalism back to those archaic days! And the technique, used by mistake, never did Led Zeppelin any harm!
In those “good ol’ days” the art of bedroom production was a tight-rope. You see you could never REALLY produce anything more than a demo of a song. It was always full of hiss, and the 4-track system meant that recording something like a full drum kit varied from “problematic” to “impossible”. Yet those ‘demo’ efforts held their own in some ways. You had your demo, and that demo then had to be ‘lived up to’. The next step for every musician at the time was the journey into “the studio”. And more often than not, after you’d spent all your hard earned pennies, you’d listen to the final product and say “Hmmm… Not as good as the demo is it?!?”. Ha ha!
Anyway… The Studio. That ever so magical place. The theatre of dreams! Or bloody nightmares! Ha ha! I remember recording one of my first studio sessions. We were recording a song that was supposed to be pretty heavy. Heavy and foreboding. It had been a live favourite. So we ventured into the studio to record this killer rock song. But… I decided on the day, (or was persuaded… I honestly can’t remember now!) that I had to sing this song with a real ‘gruff rock vocal’. Now… anyone who has heard me sing know’s that I’m not exactly a Death Metal singer! Ha ha! I’m more your Damon Albarn than your Max Cavalera.. but anyway, sing it gruff I did! With devastating results! I remember the band playing the finished recording to a fan at the time. His face dropped. He just looked so disappointed… “What have you done to it?” he asked. “You’ve just ruined your best song!!!”. Ha ha! We were gutted! And it was all my fault! (well… and the drums were shit, the guitar solo was shocking and everything else generally stank the place up!). But my point is… back then you had to be completely honed. Every member of the band HAD to know his shit inside out to save the day. For these were the times of recordings costing you “by the hour”. A concept lost today. For today is an era in which I can tinker to my heart’s content. Back then a recording studio could kick you in the teeth if you weren’t ready for it.
So, I learned from those initial mistakes. For a start I left the band! 😉 Found a better drummer. Learnt everything totally prior to recording. And I was a perfectionist. I spent hours on every single part. And remember, by this time I was playing all the instruments bar the drums. I would write everything down religiously. I would attend the studio completely prepared. Now, I’m not saying that I got things done in one take. I have never been a one take kinda guy! Understatement!!! But I was certainly prepared. And the final recordings, I think, still show that preparation. The album I’m talking about ended up being the only ‘album’ by my band/solo project Alexi in Winter. It was recorded at a time when I was very into acoustic music. And indie rock. And rock. I was diving deeper into orchestral accompaniment and epic, cinematic sounds. I was taking my first steps towards making music an ‘experience’. And I learned the production techniques every step of the way. The Alexi in Winter album was the last time anyone else produced my music. Since then it has been me all the way. I stand and I fall by what I do. I can blame no-one else. Success or failure is all down to me. The burden rests on my shoulders! Ha ha!
I’m probably wildly digressing here… but that was the caveat of my opening sentence pretty much. It’s late and it’s hot!
So I have a solid ten years of ‘professional-standard’ solo production under my belt now. I have produced a whole solo album. I have tried to remain on the cutting edge of music production. The idea of staying on the cutting edge is a minefield in itself. As I see it there are two ways to go. You can listen to every new cutting edge band and try to stay one step ahead… or you can listen to nothing and steer your own course. It’s probably not going to surprise you to learn that I steer my own course. During the Brit-pop era I was the guy who had every new single by every new band. I was the guy walking around wearing the “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet” t-shirt. I WAS THAT GUY! So I can say the following knowing that I have been there and done it: I try to avoid current trends. I avoid bandwagons. I want to do my own thing. I want to try my own sounds, my own ideas. I don’t want to be influenced by the sound of the drums on the new ‘Siberian Apes’ record. Do you understand what I mean? It’s not that I think I’m too cool for school! It’s that I feel jaded by the passing bandwagons. Their cart wheels roll over my toes and break my spirit.
Anyway… ha ha! So, hmmm. Where was I? I built my own recording studio. This was an important step and has been the most creatively liberating thing I have probably ever done! I then got together with Bill last year and we decided to record an album. We worked first on a song called Where We Go Next. Now… I’m not here to talk about the content of the songs too much at the moment. I’m more interested in describing the sound I was trying to achieve. For you see, very early on I had to settle on a ‘sound’. I was producing music for the very first time that I had not provided the lead vocal for. I have pretty much sorted out what MY vocal sound is. I’ve had years to work on it. But all of a sudden I had to work out what to do with Bill’s singing. He has a style all of his own. Nothing like my vocal nuances. He has his own recording techniques and his particular way of singing. It could have been a problem. But I hit upon an idea. I would use my “basking in music’s past” and avoiding “music’s present” to produce a sound reminiscent of the ’60s, but still firmly rooted in today. For me, this concept is perfection. I hold aloft Pet Sounds, Beggars Banquet and Sgt Pepper as the pinnacle of great albums. My my, how cool would it be if I could bring that spirit into 2011? I remember writing to Bill and telling him that I’d decided I was going to give his vocals a kind of ‘Head‘-era Monkees treatment. Now, that could have frightened the poor sod off!!! But luckily he let me roll with it. So I went down the avenue of a dreamy, trebley, floaty vocal for the entire album. It is the constant. The music may veer wildly from pop rock to epic prog rock… but that vocal sound keys it all together. A strong glue!
Cool… I had the foundation of the ‘sound’ of the Eleventh Hour Initiative. This enabled me to write a collection of songs that I maintain are the most coherent and focussed of my career. I’m not going to talk about specific production techniques… coz they is a sekrit!!! (because they are a secret). But I thought it would be interesting to mention how the majority of the album was formed. I wrote most of the songs on the bass guitar. Now… to any non-musicians out there this may mean jack shit to you. But any musos will be nodding their heads that this is indeed a little out of the ordinary. I don’t have any particular explanation. It’s just the way I did it. And it’s another factor that I feel completely influences the musicality of the album. For this is a bass and drum album. Everything else is secondary. This album is all about the sound of the drums… and the interplay with the bass. This album is something a little different. You don’t even have to like it (although I have my fingers crossed that you will!), – but I believe you will get a lot out of simply listening to it. Bass, drums and Bill’s exciting vocals towering above the skyline.
Bill has spoken about the lyrical themes of Escapism. Well… in many ways the music echoes the themes. Songs such as the Calm and the Storm and Life Will Be the Death of Me embody escapism within their musical structure. Escapism has been an album where I have finally realised I don’t have to follow any rules. Rules can be good. Rules can be bad. But Escapism, at its best, unshackles itself from the straight-jacket of convention. Escapism is the continuation of the music I began with Alexi in Winter all those years ago. But I have raised the bar. A lot! I am waffling now. It is a hundred degrees in here!!! And late. Bedtime I think. Apologies for the rant. I’m not even finished. But for now… I bid you farewell! Emrys.
(cont. from part 1)
In all seriousness, as much as I make fun of Edward Bernays, he obviously knew what he was doing. His dream was to create a mentality in society where desires trump needs, or to put it another way, a society of escapism. He never let the facts get in the way of a good story, and if he couldn’t convince you that cold was hot, he’d convince you that the temperature wasn’t really that important anyway.
You don’t have to look very hard to see his fingerprints on the world we live in today. I’d give you examples, but you’re reading a blog that’s essentially a commercial for our album, so I think you get the idea. ; )
Whenever I’ve read about Bernays and public relations I’m always surprised by how much even the people who hate this man share his view points. Bernays believed that society as a whole was stupid, dangerous, and needed to be controlled. It’s surprising to read people who are against this way of thinking, yet still regard society in general as ‘dumb sheep’. I don’t agree with that viewpoint. I don’t think everybody’s an idiot. I find it hard to believe that people watch commercials and think ‘yes, I believe that’s true’ (or politicians, or tv shows, movies, etc..) I think what really happens is that we’re so surrounded by subterfuge that it can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between the truth and fantasy sometimes. As somebody that’s looking for fulfillment, it can feel like you’re surrounded by nothing but mirages sometimes. We live in a world where we seem to be much more interested in the men and women who play important historical figures on tv and movies, than the actual people they’re playing, let alone the ideas that those people represented.
So where does that leave us? …and what does all of this have to do with an indie rock record?
Around the time Emrys and I started writing this record I was feeling pretty defeated in general. In my own limited view, I saw the world as this huge machine, and when you don’t know where exactly you fit into that machine, it can be easy to feel like you’re getting grinded up by all the cogs. Somehow, I began to find solace writing the songs that would make up ‘Escapism’.
In the same way that someone like Edward Bernays could use metaphors to shape public perception, even if it was irrational, I found that I could use metaphors to shape the way I saw my own life.
Some people have therapists, I write songs.
The difference between me and someone like Bernays, is instead of trying to change my perception to make money or power, I tried using it to help myself find whatever it is I’ve been looking for all this time.
‘who knows where to go or what it is?’ (Escape Plan)
I don’t want to go through each song with you and pull it apart because that takes some of the fun out of it, but I’ll use ‘Escape Plan’ as an example of what I’m talking about.
I was working my second job, midnight shift. It was 2am, and let’s just say I didn’t want to be there. It was a job that I was over qualified for, but I needed to swallow my pride and work because I needed the money. The people there were nice, but I hated it. I felt ashamed, defeated, and depressed. I felt like I was 16 again, it was 2 in the morning and I was mopping the floor at a convenience store.
‘Waiting in this line I’ll try my best to help’
Whenever you have to work or be somewhere that you don’t want to be you tell yourself that you really don’t belong there. You think, ‘it’s only a matter of time’. Sometimes though, reality hits you with a right hook and you wonder if maybe that’s exactly where you belong.
Hopelessness – cue violins ; )
So I mopped the floor, and I scribbled lyrics onto a paper towel. I imagined I had some sort of secret plan of action to get me out of there.
‘We’ll make our Escape from Society. Kept under wraps/waiting patiently‘
In truth, I sort of did, but this was grander than that. What sort of plan would that be? How would I implement it?
As the song continued to take shape a funny thing happened.
I started to believe it.
I started planning.
I’m not saying I sold everything I had and quit my job, I’m saying I had this strange confidence come over me that helped me to believe I was going to get out. I was going to find what I was looking for. The song didn’t magically lift me out of my circumstances, but it helped give me the strength and perspective to try and move myself a little closer in that direction. It sure beat the cynicism and hopelessness I was feeling before! The daydream may have been overly idealistic, but the real things it was causing me to do weren’t.
So I’m a millionaire now, right?
Isn’t that how these things end?
Sorry, but no. I will say I don’t need to work that second job anymore.(woohoo!!! ..fireworks, confetti)
As the album progressed, it became more and more about helping me view my life through a different perspective. Not a perspective that pretended everything was ok, but one that helped me get to a place where it just might be. It’s helped me to shape my perceptions, instead of simply allowing them to be shaped, and I hope it can help you do something similar.
As I said in my first blog, if you like our songs because they sound good, or they make you feel good, then that makes me happy. That being said, though I write these songs to get my own head around things, I also have the hope that for those who dig a little deeper, it just may help others view their lives in a bit of a different way as well.
I learned from Edward Bernays that perception can be a strong force in shaping reality. Life and circumstance taught me that it just may be possible to be sincere and idealistic in a world that eats good intentions for breakfast, and still survive, possibly flourish.
There are many who are still searching for the wise man on top of the mountain, just like I used to. I’m sorry, I don’t have any answers to give you, but I do have a collection of songs that helped me find faith again. What that is worth, is up to you.
With all my ranting in these last few blogs you can probably understand why it’s important for me to be as honest as I can with our ‘promotion’ of this album. That being said, I’m considering making the tagline read
‘Escapism: Cause I Don’t Want to Mop NO MO’ haha
That’s the end of my blog for now. I hope my ramblings weren’t too bad to get through, and I appreciate you taking the time to read. I’ll certainly still be active on the site, but no more weekly blogs from me
(wohhooo!!! …fireworks, confetti)
Goodnight and Good Luck Internet People…