Sunday, January 3, 2010

Well I Wonder What I Did With My Winter Vacation

I finally finished something new...created a cover of my favorite Smiths song, which I always had the desire to hear this way.

Listen to Well I Wonder on

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fill Up The Ache

Download Fill Up The Ache.

This is another song from the same period as States Away and alot of the songs I'll post over the next few weeks, which is from around 1999 - 2002. I never quite finished the mix and always felt like it was a little muddy, but it's one of my favorites from this period.

To be completely honest, almost every song from this group was inspired in whole or in part by a really bad, extended breakup I'd recently gone through. States Away, for instance, is about accepting that a relationship has no future. This song happens to be the most oblique and the least direct about it, but the song's sense of anger definitely originates from that same place. However, if I can be extremely self-indulgent (and why not, for God's sake, this is a fucking blog about music I never finished) this song is ALSO a weird meta-study of how therapeutic writing a song to get through negative emotions actually is. AND, it's also a song about the process of anger -- the intro verses are contemplation, the bridge is frustration, and the ending verses and chorus are the full expression. HOWEVER, mostly this is a song about feeling stagnant and bored and fucking sick of everything being exactly the same all the time. "It's not enough, oh what you have tried. I'm stuck every time and unsatisfied. No matter which way that I wanna take, it's not coming back to fill up the ache." I recognize how ridiculously silly this paragraph is, but I've still enjoyed writing it.

I built the song, oddly enough, around a sequence of a vibraphone sample, which you can hear come through the mix a little in the intro verses and pretty clearly in the bridge. It was the first time I'd explored simpler, more straightforward rock guitar in awhile, after getting caught up trying to imitate Polvo (who, incidentally, just announced they're in the studio working on a new album -- YES!) for a few years. I really like the tone of the guitar overdubs in the intro, which I multitracked a few times to get that nice, open-string sound. I also like how the string samples gradually build throughout the intro and I've always liked the simple piano overdub in the bridge while the 5 or 6 feedback guitars meander around each other. However, I did an absolutely terrible job on the drum sound. I've neglected to mention that Christian Brandt played absolutely incredible drums on this song and States Away (and a few more I'll be posting). Christian is/was a fantastic drummer that I had the pleasure of playing with in Lo Magnifica and played on all the recordings from this era. His skills come through despite this engineer's inept capture.

The delay on the ending guitar solo was created with a Roland Space Echo, one of the coolest pieces of equipment I've ever owned. It's essentially a tape delay in a box. One tape head records the input on a tape loop and the next tape head plays it back. The sound echoes and gradually degrades, which makes it sound very close to what you might imagine echoes from space sound like, if you were imagining them in the late 70s.

I was browsing music classifieds in the Chicago Reader around 1996 and read an ad describing some amazing piece of musical equipment I'd never heard of. I called the number, talked to the guy, and drove out to this boarded-up storefront in the Austin neighborhood, which is just inside the Chicago city limits on the west side. I knocked on the door and this guy, an obvious 70s casualty, had basically barricaded himself inside this storefront with all this vintage audio equipment. It was really pretty amazing. I miss doing things like that -- spending Saturday afternoon driving out to some random suburb to check out a guitar pedal in some guy's basement. Well, I think I miss them. Maybe they just sound good now. I bought the Space Echo and we utilized it in the studio at the Noize Floor for a few years. It's now part of the equipment collection at the Phantom Manor recording studio in Chicago, being cared for and put to good use by my former Noize Floor partner Mr. Mike Lust.

For the next post, I'm going to change gears and post a little synth experiment called "Thanks for the Ride Home From School" -- check back in a few days. Hope you enjoy this one in the meantime.

Download Fill Up The Ache.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

States Away

Download States Away.

I started batting around the idea for what would become the Fast Collapse around early 2000. States Away was the first song I started and one of the few songs I fully completed. I've always felt like when you're recording that it can be really, really difficult to get the sounds you're hearing in your head perfectly right, and this was the first time where I was really close, if not exactly where I wanted to be, because it was the first time I really felt like I had both the tools and the skills to get the sounds I wanted out of the instruments and on tape. Overall, this is one of my favorite songs and I still enjoy listening to it from time to time.

When I started working on the song, I had this loose idea of trying to combine orchestral 80s synth work a la Disintegration with angular guitar styles. You can certainly hear the Cure influence in the chorus. I was also really interested in the layered guitar harmonies of Thin Lizzy and the intro and outro of the Boston song Peace of Mind, which is where the idea of the layered whammy guitar lines in the intro came from.

The underlying track was very simple -- I recorded the basic guitar and drums at what was our old practice space on Division St. in Chicago, which is now a sushi restaurant. I slowly built the rest of the layers and recorded the rest of the tracks at the Noize Floor, which was in the back of our apartment at the time, above Phyllis' Musical Inn, also on Division. I used a Korg Polysix on the main synth lines, the strings are an Ensoniq EPS sample, and there's a counter-melody on the chorus that I created with a Hohner Melodica (made most famous by the Hooters, who for some reason remind me of Mick Hucknall and Simply Red -- total sidebar, I always find it amazing when I watch 24 Hour Party People and discover that Mick Hucknall hung out with all the Factory Records crew in Manchester back in the day).

I had always intended to complete an album of this material, but it just never happened. I finished 4 songs and had several more in progress before I took what I thought was going to be a short break from writing and recording -- that break ended up eventually stretching around seven years. Still, listening to the work now and the encouragement of good friends who I both did and didn't know at the time has motivated me to start working again.

The Fast Collapse played three live shows, all of which were at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. The most notable was the final show on Valentine's Day, 2001, where our opener was French Kicks, a great band who I'm a total fan of today.

Download States Away.

Please alert me if links do not work or if you have any other technical issues.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

About the Blog

I've been thinking for some time about how to restart my interest in both writing and music in a way that felt meaningful and valuable to my adult life, and have decided I'd like to experiment with this medium. I like the idea of an open feedback loop, of being able to connect directly with people in a relatively anonymous way and to hear back from them if they like what I'm doing. I've recently started writing and recording again, and I'm hoping this medium will provide a kind of new way of working and thinking. So, I've decided to start what is essentially an mp3 blog for my own music, past and present.

The Format
I'm going to keep this relatively simple -- I'll start by posting unreleased past work and move toward new work from the present. Each post will contain an mp3 file and some thoughts that might involve recording techniques, songwriting process, influences on the particular song, or really whatever comes to mind.

The Title
The Fast Collapse was the title of a solo project I was working on from 2000-2002. I'm not sure if the new work will fall under this name yet, but I wanted to start this process without getting stuck, so that's what I'm going with for now.

I know many of you know my real name, but please do me a favor and do not post it in the comments section. I'm not paranoid about keeping it a secret, but I do prefer to keep my professional life separate from the personal.

I encourage and hope that you will leave me comments, thoughts, questions, suggestions, whatever. You can also contact me directly at (title of this blog, NOT THE URL, but the title) plus (at) plus (the Google mail system) for any reason. Sorry for being so cryptic, but I hate spam.

The Legal
I hereby certify that I am the sole copyright holder in all mediums known or unknown for all of the music files posted on this site now or in the future, including composition, publishing, and distribution. I authorize you, the reader of this blog, to download and play these files FOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL USE. I also authorize you to make a mix tape and give it to a friend, play it at a party, and pass it around. I expressly forbid you to sell my music or use it in any for-profit or advertising medium without my explicit, written consent. Unauthorized use or distribution is explicitly and expressly forbidden. If you would like to use my music for any purpose other than your own personal use, please contact me directly (see above). If you are an attorney and see some holes in what I've posted here but understand my intent, please send me advice.

Thank you for listening and reading!