Tag Archives: the process

Turning A Corner, Slowly…

After my thoughts on working smaller a couple of days ago, I’ve had a good couple of days recording. I’ve had some good fun playing something quite basic and edgy to the lyrics I posted yesterday.

One unhealthy pattern needs to stop though. A version of that song has been in my live set for a while. I’ve been trying to give it a makeover before I record it, but it’s still kinda an old song. The issue of having so many songs that I play live but have never recorded has been causing me so much stress. If you’ve seen me live, you’ll know things like That You’ll Never Know, Girls, You’re Not Safe In Here & Two Hours. These songs have never been recorded to final master standard. I really need them finished, but in trying to get them finished, I feel stagnant. I’m learning nothing new about myself going to the studio each day to wrestle old songs. It sucks because it makes my body of work feel really inconsistent to me. Some of the most important songs in my story haven’t been heard by even my biggest online supporters. As a human being, I need to put these songs away. I should be starting a fresh. Writing new songs. Singing from now.

I guess that outlook has to win out. Maybe I’ll feel better about tackling the older songs, maybe I should just forget them… Fuck, I’m boring myself with this. The red herring was Bless This House; that song was written in 2006 (I think), it was recorded last year, and it’s the most popular thing I’ve ever done. You can see how I’m obsessing that there is mileage in old songs. I was in an interesting place then, I feel like that era is when, in an alternate reality, I had my hit records. Instead, I was writing, bedridden in a spooky house, with just a crap PC and pirate software to try and get things done on. Nowadays I have everything I need to produce those big, ambitious songs, but my ambitions are smaller.

Christ; why am I even debating this? I’m having some time off from the studio next week; time to write some new songs…

Girls, You’re Not Safe In Here [Stream Of Consciousness Writing]

I’m going to post some of my stream of consciousness writings, in case the process interests people. This is normally how I start writing lyrics. I’ll have a target, a subject; I write and write with no attempt to control what comes out. I often do it last thing at night; that fuzzy tiredness makes it easier to disconnect. Some of it may be useable, all of it may be awful. I just chip away at it at the piano until I find the song. That comes later, I start with pages of this stuff. This is the raw material I sculpt a lyric from. Bare in mind that I’m not standing by any of it as good/finished; this is offered here only as insight into the process…

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Working Smaller.

One of the things that made making records such a slow process is the sheer complexity of my productions. It’s a sign of my age. Making tracks like You Needed Answers, I was competing with my favourites of the old way. Love Is Hell, OK Computer, Adore… huge production jobs made with six figure budgets and all the hours in the day spent on them. Ryan Adams wasn’t also running a business when he made that record.

Of course, we all know that technology has made music production cheaper, and potentially (though not always) quicker. I shudder to think how much the EXCUSES?EXCUSES EP would have cost to make in 1998. The budget for my entire studio probably wouldn’t stretch to a week at Real World or AIR or one of those places. Things are even cheaper now. Pro level DAW software is *just* about within reach of iPad users. With an iPad Mini, Garageband and a device such as Focusrite’s excellent iTrack Solo and you have probably more tech than I had when I made my first few records.

It’s easy to get distracted by ideas that my situation is less creative. I want to lock myself in a studio for eight hours a day, for the next six months, and return holding my masterpiece. That’s the old way. That’s back when artists as complex and indulgent as myself were bankrolled by major labels. Those days are long gone. It’s not such a bad thing, either. The trouble is, I’ve been stuck there for ages. Trying to make records that hold up to that. It’s my era, I can’t help that. The issue is that it doesn’t really mean anything. I’m not five highly skilled musicians (jury’s out on whether I’m even one…) – making records to sound like an imaginary band is a weird kind of art. I wanted to sound big, like the records that influenced me. I still do, but all that one man band endless overdubbing just seems a bit Route One.

All this leads me to one inescapable conclusion. It’s all a bit too much. It takes way too long. As a writer, my back catalogue is HUGE; as a recording artist I’ve barely made a dent. To say it’s time to speed things up is an understatement. I want a process that allows me to stream-of-conciousness recordings; to get stuff flowing seriously fast. It needs to minimal, of course; those no time for pouring over comping takes, and double tracking lines. Ugh. I shudder at the thought of how much time I used to put into things. In trying to be creative, I made it a wholly clonal process.

The tech needs to be accessible too. My guitar playing is more laboured nowadays, as hemi CP slowly chips away at my motor functions with age. In recent times I’ve sat and worked takes for hours, even days, to ‘capture’ some elusive idea of a ‘perfect’ take. I could have just made the best of my abilities now, and looped and edited around my struggling performance. Instead, I punished myself for not being able to play things in one go. This has literally zero to do with how the end result sounds; most of what you hear is edited in some way. It’s just that I hold myself up to abled artists who don’t, then I’m disappointed that I need to use technology more. End result, no records to show. Ridiculous, isn’t it?

I’m just thinking out loud, right now. Posts like this are as much to serve my memory as to offer some insight into the process. I’m not even sure how I’ll speed things up yet, but it’s long overdue, much like all those records…


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