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 and would make a hundred of these a year. And there are hundreds! They go nowhere. Few care.
I’m still trying to figure people out, but it seems they 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’m not a singer. More like a awkward lump of ridiculousness that can only produce demented mewling. This is 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! I have tried many times to try to record vocals for these 16 songs but keep producing rubbish. I’ve given up over and over and even pondered the idea of getting someone else to sing it. But I doubt anyone else would want to sing songs that are personally particular to me. And because they are personal it doesn’t feel right to have someone else embody them. Of course this is probably my raging ego in meltdown, but on the other hand I’d love to achieve the goal to try 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 youth mental health, so managing my limited energy outside of work is tricky.
Since about winter 2019 I have been deeply applied with that limited free time to work 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’ve moved on from most of the dramas of that time, personal themes that set the stage for the lyrics. I’m now 39 and I’m looking back on my early-mid 20s and try to not judge the @#$^ out of it. Nevertheless, I have 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 character rather than myself. 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). The struggle is still very real, so in the new year I think I will have to bite the bullet and get another round of singing lessons to see if that helps.
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? Or, I’ll hack away at the delusion for another 15 years.
I must be mad. We’re going into 2020 and the musical climate seems to be in a very different place than it was in 2003-2005. Who is really going to care about musical-white-nerd-pain when we are now (thankfully!) living in a time where diversity of voices in culture is really exciting and important. We also live in a time of great change, where old powers are dying but causing much havoc in their death-throes – it would seem that disconnected individualism is a major part of that problem. Why on earth would anyone think anything as a white middle age privileged male lump focusing on their own neurosis has anything of consequence to say? Maybe that’s the point in of itself? I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t let that question stop me because I’ll go mad in a very bad way if I don’t follow through on the goal.
Art must live, even in the darkest of times. Art must be there to give us hope, 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. If I can create art that shakes a few of us out of disconnection to facing reality together, then I’m doing my job and that’s the best I can hope for. And I have to remember I do a lot at the day-job to play a part in the process of collective healing. Maybe music is a way I keep sane while running the marathon.
I may be too ambitious for my limited reach. So, part of growing mature is knowing when you’ve got to show vulnerability and ask for help. I don’t know what I’m asking for, but I’m asking for… help? If you know anything about how to help someone trying to get an album like this over the line please reach out to me. I know not how I would repay you, but I would find a way. If anything the bare minimum would be a finished piece of art that could maybe be something more than just interesting entertainment. Something to be passionate about, something that has resonate meaning.
Anyway. That’s all I got for now. I may be able to share some snippets and more stories soon! Thanks for reading.