KEEPING THE STREAK ALIVE...
I am back for my 12th RPM challenge. Two years ago I finished a ten-year self-imposed cycle (starting with the very first RPM) which had me alternating between two projects ("The Fringe" in '06, '08, '10, '12, '14 - as "acoustichewy" in '07, '09, '11, '13, '15). For some reason it became important to finish my decade of RPM with that pattern (OCD much?), but from here on out I told myself that anything goes!
This year's project will fit the bill of "anything goes" nicely. I've decided to do a not-so-acousti-chewy album. In other words: "acoustichewy Un-unplugged." In the past I would have called this The Fringe, but frankly it's getting hard even for me to keep track anymore. Besides, it only seems fair to let acoustichewy have a little electric freakout every once in a while too. But really this project is shooting for somewhere in the middle. So what is it?
This time around I'm attempting something rather ambitious. Funny how our motivations wax and wane through the years. For this year's album, I've decided to do a "live DVD" of (as-of-yet-unwritten) songs, performed by myself alone, all done in single takes through the use of a looping pedal. Basically, I'm going to play several instruments at once through the help of modern technology, but in real time, with nothing whatsoever pre-recorded, all as if I were doing a live show. At the same time, I'll be filming video of the performances and simultaneously capturing the audio through my normal recording setup.
The audio geek in me is loving this premise, if only for how fun it was to rig up my studio for this purpose. I should rightly entitle this album "A Testament to Mixing Boards." Basically I have a bunch of inputs run into the mixing board (Behringer 2442FX): (1) three tube pre-amps (for vocals, acoustic guitars, or other things in need of a microphone), (2) one crappy keyboard you might expect to find in a Radio Shack circa 1996, (3) one mildly-crappy digital synthesizer (Alesis Ion), (4) one epic, vintage analog synthesizer (Korg MS-10), (5) electric guitars (Ibanez SA with custom pickups and a Gibson SG with EMG 85/81 combo) through a 100W tube amp (Randall RM100) and all sorts of fun pedals, and (6) a bass (Washburn Taurus) that may or may not get used. The catch is that in the mixer all the inputs are routed through sub-outputs to a looping pedal (Boss RC-50) with three parallel loops. The looper's output is then brought back into the mixer and routed to the main output, which sends it to (1) the PA system for live sound in the room, and (2) a compressor (dbx 266xs) and then my ancient standalone 16-track recording device (Fostex MR16).
Now, this allows me to play in real time through the mixer and PA, but loop whatever I want, and move on to a new part and/or instrument. The trick here is going to be - well, not fucking up the take - but, also getting a good sound for both the live room as well as the recorded audio. In other words, it's easier for each part to sound good when you get to perform and isolate each one individually and invest some love into it. In this setup I'm going to be flitting about just trying to keep my head above water, only hearing what it sounds like live through the PA in my tiny rectangular room. It also means that my only recorded audio is going to consist of a single stereo mix coming straight from the mixer, so there will be no edits, do-overs, or remixes possible. The final product will be only what I did in real time, while playing the part of the whole band, the live sound guy, and the recording engineer. Basically, I need some friends.
I don't doubt there will be some significant compromises in the quality of the recorded audio, but it will come at the benefit of doing something kind of fun and different. I'll also plan on mic-ing up the room so that I can mix a little of that (presumably) more natural sound into the stuff coming straight from the mixer. Plus, I'll have the audio from the camera (GoPro), for whatever that ends up being worth; I'll see what it amounts to and could in theory mix a little of that in as well if it sounds good. The end result will be neat, literally a one-man live DVD from my own personal house show, performed both by and for yours truly.
In short, this is going to be an adventure. But I'm kind of excited. At the very least it's a new experience. In a weird way, its going to be a little freeing. I don't have to worry about getting each part exactly right; hell, I couldn't if I wanted to! I need to just play from the heart and get it close enough that it's tolerable to listen to and conveys the soul of the performance. My mantra is to invoke my inner Neil (Young). Whatever happens, fuck it. Flub a note? Who gives a shit. We're going forward with this jam and we're riding it all the way to Sugar Mountain.
This year I took a new approach, which is actually an old approach. With way too many things going on in the real world at the moment, I was stressing about how I was going to invest the time needed to do a full production RPM project up to my own standards. Then something magical happened. I realized that in striving for those standards, (1) I never attain them anyway, and (2) I spend more time worry about buzz and fuzz than I do really capturing the soul of the song. This year, I set myself free a little. And it really was freeing.
Thus, this time around I unloaded a bunch of songs in single-takes into a single microphone; no overdubs, no fuss about how it sounds. I cranked the whole thing out in less than 24 hours. Now, this is similar to how I approached the RPM in 2009 ("What Can't Be Seen"). In that case, however, the one-day recording session (and the compromises that come with it) were due to a truly impressive effort in procrastination. This time around I let go of a lot of the hangups about how the recording sounds, and focused on how the song sounds. I think it worked.
The songs themselves consist of a few rather old tunes I had laying around in the vault, while others were written on the fly during my marathon day. The majority existed in an amorphous, unfinished form prior to February. When the clock was ticking and it was time to crank them out, I set aside the longstanding uncertainty of what to do with them and just finished the damn songs. It turned out to be a perfect testament to what the RPM is all about.
And so I present (in an as-of-yet undecided order)...
One More Passing Day
1. Off the Plank*
*Bonus Track: This was a pre-February demo recording that was largely the inspiration for the lo-fi approach taken this year. It's included first because it kicked off the whole album, and all songs appear in the chronological order in which they were recorded.
**Technically the only overdub on the album was a ukulele part on "Pony Tank" I just couldn't leave out! Lastly, nobody cares enough to warrant the inclusion of this much detail in footnotes but me.
*For some reason the 2006 album got taken down somewhere in all the website reshuffling they've done over the years! I should probably talk to someone about that...
Myself and all of my many personalities.
|10 years ago|
2017 Album Info
|This Is Not a Drill|
|2. Little Jay|
|uploaded via profile player|
|Perhaps my most ambitious RPM vision yet. This album consists of entirely "live" performances, captured in real time, with no overdubs and nothing pre-recorded.|
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