Monday, October 30, 2006

Short Movie Review: Thank You For Smoking

Nick Naylor is the Devil's Advocate. Literally. Naylor is the spokesperson for Big Tobacco's "scientific" arm. He speaks on talk shows and tv programs and to anyone who will listen to merely say that there is no scientific proof that is conclusive to proving that Tobacco is addictive, nor is there any proof that nicotine kills.

And he is the world's best debater.

This movie is truly pure genius. Aaron Eckhart leads a fine ensemble cast of characters as we see the world of lobbyists and the "other side" of D.C. from the inside out.

The film is sarcastic, but has a heart, which I think is the best thing one can say about a satire.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Recording Blog 3 (October 25)

Over the last couple of days since the last time the band was able to record together, I had spent a little time working on stuff on my own. We're trying to make this album the best things that any of us has ever done, so we're trying to take as much time as possible on little things to make it sound just right.

It may sound like a little thing, but we're trying very hard, when we record bass parts to take the time to make it "get in the pocket and rock it!" as I heard a wise man say man a time. We're making sure the bass and kick match up and are just tight, because that is what will provide a firm foundation for the rest of everything to sound huge.

Also, we've been taking the time to experiment with interesting keyboard sounds. Instead of just taking a piano sound or a wurly sound and being happy, we're seeing how we can make it sound just strange enough to be different, but the listener still knows what it is.

For Cry Tonight, I recorded a nice little piano part for it. It sounded okay, but I knew I had to change it up just a little, so I messed around with effects and soon I had put a delay on it that made the sound almost completely effected by the delay and it gave the track an airy, shimmery quality to it.

For Gone we thought a piano part would be cool, but decided that it might be cooler (if I could pull it off) to play the entire part backwards, then reverse the track. And it turned out so freaking cool.

On Closer, we recorded a little pad sound, but as I was listening, I thought that could be cooler, so I ran the sound back out to my delay pedal and twisted some of pedals around giving it this really cool effect.

There's more cool stuff we've been doing, but I don't want to bore you.

Now, for this kind of stuff, we really are lucky to have good equipment to mess around with and experiment with, so it's not all our smarts or anything...we just have great stuff to play with and when musicians get to play, a lot of times, cool stuff happens.

Well, hopefully, by the end of the day, we will be pretty much done with the tracking of the instruments for the album. It's actually been a pretty quick process. We just have guitars to lay down.

Also, here is the final track listing of what is making it on the album:

Tunnel Vision
Cry Tonight
How Long

13 songs, friends, to rock your face off!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Recording Blog 2 (October 18)

Well, with everything already set up, Adam and I were able to just get straight to work. Adam showed up about 12:30pm. Before he showed up, I did a little work by myself - after I finally got the computer to turn on. I must explain that I am horribly computer illiterate. Now, I have no problem learning how to use certain programs...I've learned to use Logic very well and find my way around most stuff. But if something goes wrong with a computer, I have absolutely no idea how to make it better. But before Adam got here, I got the computer on and started to lay down some wierd synthy stuff for "Closer". I got some really cool sounds by running a synth pad through my Line6 Delay pedal and turning knobs until they made wierd noises. I also re-recorded my guitars for "Hero" because I thought the tone I had on "Closer" would fit well with what we had going on in "Hero".

Adam showed up at 12:30pm and we got straight to work. We were supposed to do lunch with our good friend Don, but he never called. So, we worked on, waiting for his call. We started off working on "Waiting", which is a holdover from the old HPF days that has received a recent makeover. The new version of "Waiting" is pretty kick butt and (once again) the guitar tones we got just blew our minds. I quickly laid down my 2-3 tracks, then headed over to my playstation (in the same room) as Adam laid down his lead tracks. As usual, Adam played the perfect part and after he finished we discussed the state of our stomachs - we hadn't heard from Don and we were hungry.

We tried to call Don again, but got no answer so we decided it best to head to Zaxby's and receive nourishment. We decided on our way out that we should mount the external hard drive into the inside of the computer to save reaction time for the computer, so after lunch we headed to CompUSA to pick up the part. We got the part and headed back to the house to start work again.

Adam installed the part and we got back to work, this time working on "Convenience". This is one of my favorite songs (if not my favorite) on the album and it is absolutely the strangest song on the album. It has a Muse/Radiohead vibe along with a MuteMath-type delayed Wurly part. The chord progression is a very classical progression and it's overall just a cool song. I had recorded my guitars a few weeks ago, but after listening to them, we decided to go ahead and re-record them. I did my stereo tracks (once again - killer tone - have I said this before?) and headed over to Madden as Adam recorded his parts.

On "Convenience", Adam has several cool parts that he did and everything was just perfect. I've worked with several guitarists in the past, but Adam just plays everything I think of. Adam has a solo on "Convenience" that is just killer. He did this cool thing at the end of the's just the kind of stuff you only hear on major label stuff. He really is a fantastic guitarist.

We decided about 5:45pm to take a break for dinner and Adam headed out. I didn't eat, but instead just checked my email, checked myspace stuff and then played some more Madden. Sarah was gone all night running errands for the church, so I was on my own. I played a little with the dogs, then decided to do some work on my own. While Adam was gone, I did put a fan in the doorway of the control room (my front bedroom) to get some air circulating. For some reason it was like 1000 degrees Celcius in the control room and no one likes to sweat while they work.

Right before Adam came back, I started working on the guitars for "Rise". "Rise" is one of our more upbeat pop/punk-ie type tunes, so that was fun. I tried some different things with the amps and used a different amp to get a different tone for this song than I had had on any previous song. I used a smaller amp and used the tube distortion from the amp, and I played through Cole's Telecaster - and once again - fabulous tone. As a side note: I am really excited at how great the guitars are sounding! The guitars really sound great and that is key to mixing down the road. We really will have to use minimal effects in mixing to get stuff to sound great.

For "Rise" it was nice because we have played that song so many times, that it was easy for us to lay down our parts. Adam quickly laid down his leads and we were ready to move on.

To end the night, we decided to work on Naive. This is a favorite of mine, too. It's very MuteMath-ish, relying on a distorted and delayed wurly riff and minimal guitar work. We listened closely and decided my original keyboard part was good enough, so Adam went to work. Of all our songs, this one is definitely the coolest right now. Adam played all the guitars on this one and did all kinds of cool contrapuntal stuff over 4-5 different guitar parts. It really was cool. We used cleaner tones on the guitars (less distortion), but still got these really big guitar sounds. It really was very, very cool. I came up with a cool rhythm part that moved downward through different inversions of the chords...I couldn't play it though, so Adam pulled it really was freaking cool.

So, we got a lot done. I can't wait for you guys to start hearing this stuff.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Recording Blog 1 (October 16)

Well, Adam and I have been trying to get together for weeks now to start working hard on getting the album tracked. As I said before, we're trying to have the album out for a January release, but with 14 songs that are all pretty complex from an arrangement and tracking standpoint, it will not be an easy task, especially with my foray in November coming up. So, we decided to start dedicating as much time as our busy schedules will allow to getting the record done.

We have a recording studio in my house that has pretty good equipment in it. I was telling someone yesterday that the equipment we have isn't top of the line, but it's good enough that with someone who knows what they're doing, we can get the sounds we want and need. Since Adam has a lot of experience with recording Nova77's album in Logic, and I have the experience of watching and learning from the great Stephen Leiweke up in Nashvegas for the HPF album, we decided to go ahead and try to work things out ourselves. We worked on "Know" originally to turn it in for the radio contest and that gave us the confidence to make a great album. But that was several weeks ago, so we really needed to get started.

We tracked drums several weeks ago for the whole album, but just hadn't had time for the last several weeks to work hard, so last week, Cole came and recorded the bass part for "Hero". So, "Hero" was the natural starting point for us to work on our guitar parts.

The studio had been based upstairs for the demos, but we figured out that we really needed to have sound separation in order to hear tone of guitars, etc., to we moved the control room downstairs and kept the tracking room upstairs. We bought a snake (though it hasn't gotten here yet) and moved the computer, monitors, etc. downstairs to the front bedroom of my house.

We tracked the guitars for "Hero" and then moved on to "Closer". Man, stuff is sounding great, and I can't wait for people to star hearing these songs in their new form. "Hero" has changed a lot from its initial demo, so it'll be cool to see how people react to the new arrangements.

Well, I'm excited and some more work will be done tonight....and even more done tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Arrested Development

Oh, woe is me! I always miss out on the great comedies while they are still on. I have recently been watching some old episodes of Arrested Development on DVD and have found them hilariously funny. And I wonder why more people (including me) didn't keep this amazing show on the air by actually watching it. I'm an idiot! I read so much about but never found the time to watch it. Till now.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

MuteMath Self Titled Debut Album Review

Several years back, I had a friend who really liked a band called Earthsuit and tried to turn me on to them. I listened and I really tried, but there was nothing about the band that I liked. The mixture of jazz, rap and rock just didn't really get me and I thought the lyrics were inane and the vocals weren't that great. How glad I am the band broke up.

From the ashes of Earthsuit rose 2 bands: the short lived Macrosick and my favorite band of the moment - MuteMath.

Paul Meany, lead singer of MuteMath, was, surprisingly, the rapper in Earthsuit. He decided to sing and has adopted a Police-era Sting raspy warble that suits the music that MuteMath does well. Paul is joined by former Earthsuit bassist Roy Mitchell-Cardanes and drummer Darren King, who played a few shows with Earthsuit before the band's lead singer had had enough of being showed up during their live shows. The 3 former Earthsuit members joined up with guitarist Greg Hill and the new MuteMath (originally called Math) was complete.

They put out an EP a couple of years ago and their fan base began to grow. The EP rocked hard in a way that Christian music wasn't used to and they became one of the most popular acts at the Christian Festivals. However, they didn't like becoming known as a Christian band, and as they worked on recording their debut album, they didn't allow Word Records any access, and eventually sued the label to be released from their deal.

They recorded their full-length debut on their own buck and put it out themselves, making it available only online and at their shows, and they sold a ton of copies. I got the album pretty early on by buying it from their website. Now, the album has been re-released on Warner Brothers, and with shows at Lollapalooza and on the Warped Tour under their belt, as well as features on the band on MTV and, the band is poised to take the music world by storm.

The album starts off with an interesting instrumental track, with a march-like snare and synthesizers causing strange noises in the background. Slowly the song dissolves into the first "real song" of the album, "Typical". The songs starts off with a U2-styled guitar riff, complete with semi-distorted AC30 sound awash with a sweet stereo delay. When the band kicks in, it is fully satistfying, and when Meany starts to sing, the effect is perfect.

We move from this song into an instrumental (with boys choir-like vocals awash in the background) that is in memorium of the band's hometown New Orleans. After this short track, we move on to the meat of "Chaos", which singularly has one of the best bass lines ever recorded. Darren King's drumming throughout the album is remarkably creative and he and Mitchell-Cardanes are just locked in a tight. I really don't know if I can think of many rhythm sections that are better than these 2. Also, on "Chaos", the understated guitar lines, and Meany's delayed Rhodes piano add a meat to the bones that the rhythm section lays down.

After "Chaos", we get a beautiful love song called "Noticed". When the lyrics "I never noticed my heart until I noticed you" arrives, it is just where it should be and brought a chill to my spine the first time I heard it. From "Noticed" we move on the more ballad-like "Without It", which is an okay track, but, along with the next instrumental track "Polite" do not make a statement to stand out.

"Stare At the Sun" and the following instrumental "Obsolete" allow MuteMath to delve into the more experimental side of their music. "Stare" is a fine 6/8 ballad that uses strange sounding 80's-type synthesizers, as well as Meany's trademark delayed rhodes and King's trademark all-over-the-place drumming. "Obsolete" focuses mainly on a fretless bass riff played delicately by Mr. Mitchell-Cardanes to perfection. "Obsolete" was definitely one of my favorite songs live, but I'm not sure it holds the same strength in album form...but I definitely enjoy the song.

"Break the Same" starts off the hardest of any MuteMath with a deep Moog synth blasting it's way to the forefront as Darren King's drums his little heart out. The song is a very good song and lifts the 2nd half of the album from it's own self-indulgence. Following "Break" is another 6/8 ballad, this one being a favorite of mine from the album (if not a standout track), called "You Are Mine".

Closing out the album is "Picture", which is a beautiful love song, and its following instrumental track called "Stall Out".

MuteMath shows a great deal of potential, both realized and unrealized on this, their debut full-length album. Their creativity is seemingly boundless, as they write great songs, and scratch their creative itch with their instrumentals and the production of the songs themselves. I have a feeling that these guys are going to make a large mark on popular music over the next few years and I would encourage you to jump on the bandwagon now to be able to say you knew them when they were a small band from New Orleans.