It is with real fear that I write to you now revealing the potential for a new album, as it could be a promise I may not fulfil. But I aim to fulfil it! I hope that by announcing this here I will put pressure upon myself to fight against the doom of never finishing it.
This is no small thing for me. It’s not like I’ve whipped up a handful of demos over a weekend or two and just have to put in a bit of effort to finish it off. These are 16 songs that I wrote between late 2003 to late 2005 that will not let me off the hook until I finish them. Why these songs? I can easily sketch out endless instrumentals that are ‘interesting’ and a handful of people might go ‘oh that’s nice’. I do this without effort every time I sit with an instrument or try some idea in the studio, making a hundred of these a year. And there are hundreds! They go nowhere.
It seems people react to stories, which means in music they care about the voice conveying that story in a musical way. So, that requires singing. These 16 songs have lyrics, have planned vocal melodies, and hopefully have all the drama required for a captivating listen. The only problem is that I am not a singer. More like a awkward lump of ridiculousness that can only produce demented mewling! This is part of why the album has been so long delayed.
Singing doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to work very hard to get even one note right. It drives me crazy because in my mind I can hear what it should be – and it should sound epic! Perhaps my ambitious creativity is beyond my ability, but maybe not. I’d love try to achieve the goal, to transcend my limitation, to grow as a person.
Along the way, I feel I’ve got a lot better at music production and mixing. Each time I’ve had a crack at the old project, the songs get a sonic polish. I’ll get a little more confident with singing, but then life’s complexities will get in the road and the album will sit dormant for a few more years. Earlier this year, Chandrika and I finished up the Mothership of Faith album, after which my circumstances changed where I had a bit more (but still limited) free time on weekends. I work full time in a demanding role focused on helping people, so managing my limited energy outside of work is tricky.
Since about winter 2019 I have been deeply applied to working on the 16 song album again. Technically, this has evolved from a complex extrapolation process to get the tracks rendered out of Renoise and into Reaper. This has allowed for a better ‘top down approach’ to evolve the mixes and make sure each song is producing the right overall emotional impact.
It has been odd reconnecting to these old ghosts. Without giving much away, I feel distant from the dramas of that time, these personal themes that set the stage for the lyrics. I’m now 39 and I’m looking back on my early-mid 20s and trying to not harshly judge. Nevertheless, I’ve had some rare moments when the mix comes together and the drama all comes together in a satisfying way. I will write more on the thematic narrative of the album at a later stage (if I get closer to finishing it), but generally I can say I am now making music from the point of view of a separate character rather than my-now-self. Maybe that makes it stronger? Worse? Let it go? Give it my best? No. Yes.
More recently, I’ve burned all the mixes to CD and road-tested them in the car. I know the car system well and it is brutally unforgiving – along with all the road noise. This has told me how to make the mixes even better, so I’ve ended up doing three CDs with three rounds of revision. So far I feel the mixes are 97% what I want: now there’s nowhere left to hide and I have to face the vocal monster. Another reason for having the mixes in the car is that I can practice the vocals in there without bothering the neighbours (with demented mewling).
That may mean I get all the vocals and final mixes done in early 2020. Maybe. Then there is masting and artwork to sort out. So you might see something finished mid year?
Art must live, even in the darkest of times. Art must be there to stir something positive in us, spurring us to act and stand up. I want to tell a story with this album. A story of the journey from disconnected nerdism to empathy, connecting to the other. There can be no collective healing without empathy.
Anyway. That’s all I got for now. I may be able to share some snippets and more stories soon! Thanks for reading.