Archive for the ‘guitar effects’ Category

Travelers of Tyme present: “DC Metro” a new single for $1

January 25, 2011
  • This single that is a tribute to the Washington D.C. metro supports the efforts of the Travelers to create a full-length and go boldly where no band has gone before. Available in most elite formats from $1→WhatYouChooseToGive! 

    Originally entered into the Washington Post Metro-Music contest. The B-side got 2nd place and attributed oddly to John Yaya! (fr0d.net/dcwin) Keeping the mystery alive in 2011!

    DOWNLOAD CONTAINS: Desktop backgrounds of cover art to adorn your computational device!

1.
2.
Picture it: a lonesome subterranean train platform. A balding man in a rumpled black suit stands, waiting, anxiously checking his watch, too often. He rocks on his heels. His train is late, so very late. And what is his final destination? Not one of us can answer that with any certainty, can we? So we might as well be patient. (Just don’t tell that to the Waiting Man. Our secret…) 

An empty train arrives – but it’s not the Waiting Man’s train. As the doors open, they unfold in slow motion as a beautiful brunette in a crisp pant suit emerges like a swan from a swirling gray mist. She seems not to walk but to hover, gliding across the platform, a gorgeous spectre existing beyond Tyme and space. With a wink and a slight smile to the Waiting Man, she mounts the escalator and is carried into an unknown fog above. What is her final destination? Who can say? Perhaps she has already arrived!

As for the Waiting Man, his train is still running late. And it always will be.

ALWAYS.

▲ ▲ ▲

The Travelers of Tyme present “Misty Businesswoman” b/w “Last Train to Limbo,” 2 songs constructed using sound samples of the Washington DC Metrorail. Whether you are waiting, in transit, or have already arrived at your destination, this music is specially designed to enhance your travel experience.

Thank you for spending six minutes and fifty-five seconds with us. We hope that you enjoy the rest of your Tyme in this Universe. It is a pleasant one.

Cordially,

Professor John Yaya and Doctor Klem
The Travelers of Tyme

Jim Cooper demo – “Children of the Night”

September 20, 2007

Note: Detholz! will perform at 8 pm this Sunday, Sept. 23rd, at an all-ages FREE show at the Art Institute of Chicago. More info here: http://lemondrop.freeradiosaic.org

Welcome to Episode IX of the Detholz! Mp3 Blog! I apologize this comes a day late– believe me, this is an “excused tardy.” You would not believe the week I’ve had.

A change of pace today, ladies and germs, in our most recent installment: “Children of the Night,” a kinder, gentler, somewhat autumnal number.

This is not intended for any band, nor did I write it for anyone else in mind (other than the person the song’s about). It’s not meant to be played live, no flashing lights, no bells and whistles– just a plain old song.

I. SONG CONCEPT

So this is a love song. Will wonders never cease?

I’m turning over a new leaf! Sort of. The lyrics are written from the perspective of a vampire to his beloved.

I’ve been going through a real vampire kick recently. My recent obsession started with a breeze-thru of the painfully campy “Salem’s Lot,” continued with a flying leap into the depths of the Hammer Horror film catalogue (Dracula AD 1972 is a must-see!), and is presently manifesting itself as an addiction to a (gulp) vampire game. I know, I know. To quote Babyboomerangutang from “The Tick”: “It’s okay to play with dolls!” Right?

I heard a screenwriter on the radio recently suggest that the horror genre generally appeals to a younger demographic. I have found the opposite to be true. The older I get, the more I am drawn to films and books stacked in the “horror” racks at Blockbuster/Barnes and Noble. Perhaps this reflects my weak grasp of maturity and/or problems with functional adulthood– of those things there’s little doubt– but I’d also like to think it’s reflective of some semblance of imagination. A good scare is a healthy thing now and then, right?

Feh, enough disclaimers. On with the show:

A vampire is a damned creature– a child of the biblical Cain, cursed to walk the earth for eternity, feeding on the blood of others to survive. I tied in this idea with the concept of the Fall — not the current season, but the “Fall of Man” in Genesis 3. According to Christian theology, we inhabit “bodies of Death,” marred by the Fall of Creation in Genesis 3, cursed by God along with Adam and Eve. Though we still have fellowship with one another, we were separated from God in the Garden of Eden and remain so. Ultimately, our bodies– along with all Creation– will be redeemed by Christ. Redemption is a central tenet of Christian theology, and subsequently of American culture.

I liked the image of the vampire walking in the darkness with his beloved, living an “unlife” together marked with the all of the trappings of their shared Curse– but the Curse has no real power over them. They will eventually be redeemed. They are, therefore, simultaneously children of the moon, children of sleep and– because of their coming redemption– children of God.

Well, it made sense to me at the time.

II. MUSICAL CONCEPTS

Obviously this is a very different kind of song than others I’ve posted– an honest-to-goodness foray out of my comfort zone.

I purposely limited the vocals to one or two takes, leaving all of the warbles and warts intact. I think this lends an element of intimacy/sincerity to the vocal delivery, and helps create the “rickety” atmosphere I was aiming for here.

The first element of the song was the guitar part, which was sloppily played through a crappy reverb. The chorus melody is introduced is introduced immediately, and provided the foundation for the entire song’s arrangement. In the verses, the guitar part is static, sitting on a G. The organ moves the harmony along, moving around the tonal center, sometimes outside of it. The harmonic changes were put in place before the vocal melody, which is an old Detholz! trick. I hadn’t written a song this way in a long time, and it felt good to be back in the old, threadbare cap’m’s chair.

I wrestled with whether or not to bother with percussion, since this is such a subdued track. After laying down a bass line, though, it sort of screamed for one. I borrowed a few tricks from one of Bobby Conn’s drummers, Josh from Chicago band, Mahjongg, and definitely had him in mind when constructing the part. Quick, precise and jittery.

The piece de resistance for me is the backward guitar solo– not an especially original trick, but in this context it injects a pinch of creepiness, which is a must for this song.

When left to my own devices, as a “solo songwriter” that is, I usually churn out material like this. “Haunted Soft Rock?” “Eerie Relax Rock?” “Uneasy Listening?” I don’t know what to call it. I’m not even sure if I can name specific influences.

Maybe you can discern a few? Let me know.

Thanks, as always, for tuning in! See you next week. And I promise to be prompt.

III. LYRICS

CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT

When the town’s asleep
We’ve a vow to keep
Since the world began

Since the world began
Adam walks with Eve
And Cain walks with all of his
Inside their shadow’d bones
Alone and not alone

Is it dark enough
Under the moon above?
We are her children, love.

There is a light of love
Inside the Eye above
We are His children, love.

He has promised you
An eternal youth
Since the world began

Since the world began
I have walked with thee
And you walked with me
Through our darker dreams
Alone and not alone

Awake at night
You shake with terror

Let us fall asleep together

We are her children, love.
We are His children, love.

Detholz! demo – “Catherine Zeta-Jones”

August 1, 2007

Welcome to the Detholz! mp3 blog’s second installment! All of these blog postings are in two parts:

1. Song Concept for “lyrics” people, and
2. Song Composition for “music” people.

Feel free to skip around!

1. SONG CONCEPT

This week, a Detholz! demo presented in earnest for the next record: “Catherine Zeta-Jones” (I seem to be mired in Hollywood these days… well, who isn’t?)

In this case, ol’ Cath is incidental to the subject matter. As I mentioned last week, all of the songs on the new record deal with different aspects of betrayal. This song is about the sad case of American traitor, Robert Hanssen, an FBI employee who sold secrets to the Soviets for over 15 years. He holds the distinction of being the worst (the best?) spy in American history.

My interest in his story was piqued initially by Billy Ray’s recent film “Breach,” which I watched in the back of the Baby Teeth tour van a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I don’t think the film does justice to the real Hanssen, as it presents him as a frustrated “super-spy” (though Chris Cooper’s performance in the role is exceptional). The truth is, Hanssen was a mediocre FBI agent that rose in the ranks primarily because the Bureau didn’t really know what to do with him. He was a textbook headcase, which is unusual for an FBI employee given their rigorous screening process.

Hanssen had undeniable technical skill and a superior memory. Unfortunately, these talents were overshadowed by a seeming inability to deal with people. He wore black suits daily, never smiled, and was referred to by his subordinates at the FBI as “Dr. Death.” At one point, he physically manhandled a female FBI support employee who refused to stay in a meeting and he was simply “brushed under the rug.” The Bureau didn’t fire him, they simply took him out of a supervisory role and transferred him to a solitary technical job. (Heh, sounds like a naughty priest. Ironic since Hanssen was a fanatic Catholic and a member of Opus Dei…)

[Sorry for the history lesson. I mean, hey, this is a music blog, right? To read the full account of Hanssen’s fascinating 20+ -year career in the FBI– incl. his espionage activities– the Dept. of Justice has posted an unclassified synopsis here. The USA Today article published at the time of his arrest is also available online here.]

History lessons aside, what struck me after reading this stuff was how Hanssen’s fantasy life consumed — and ultimately destroyed — him. THAT’S what this song is about: betrayal of self by fantasy. In Hanssen’s case, LAYERS upon LAYERS of fantasy.

Lyrically, this plays out a couple of ways:

1. Hanssen was obsessed with porn, and had an unhealthy fixation on Catherine Zeta-Jones. Evidently he’d carry around copies of Zeta-Jones movies in his briefcase (“Entrapment,” ironically). He would also regularly post sexual fantasies in graphic detail on the web– even using his wife’s real name. Additionally, he would secretly videotape he and his wife having sex, and then watch the tapes with a childhood friend. *shudder*

2. He was a fanatic Catholic, would attend Mass at least once a day, and was a supernumerary member of the ultra-conservative Opus Dei sect– mostly at his wife’s prompting. She caught him writing a letter to one of his Soviet contacts in the early 80’s, and insisted that he confess immediately to a priest. (!!)

These points are borne out in the second verse:

“I ate a bitter scroll
[a reference to Revelation 10:10, where the apostle John ingests the prophetic word of God, which is “bitter in his stomach”]
Inside my spider’s hole
I had my wife, the Blessed Virgin,
[an image that combines his wife with his Catholicism]

And whispered lies to her in Russian

And she’s on the screen
For the world to see
And now she’s Catherine Zeta-Jones
and I’m Catherine Zeta-Jones
[The idea that once his wife is on a TV screen, she transforms into his fantasy woman, and he likewise transforms into a fantasy of himself.]

And I bait the Bear
With locks of her hair”
[His fantasy of himself as “moral beyond morality” enables him to “bait the Bear,” the Bear doubling as a symbol for the Soviet regime and his imminent capture.]

The lyrical linchpin of the song, of course, is the repetition of “Touch me like that / Don’t touch me like that,” which refers to the dichotomy between fantasy and reality: “I WANT this thing / I cannot HAVE this thing.” Or, more rightly, “I WANT this thing / This thing does not EXIST.”

A quote from one of Hanssen’s last letters to his Soviet handlers sums this up well. When asked why he was betraying his country, he answers:

“Conclusion: One might propose that I am either insanely brave or quite insane. I’d answer neither. I’d say, insanely loyal. Take your pick. There is insanity in all the answers.”

The “insanely loyal” Hanssen is now serving a life sentence in a supermax federal penitentiary in Colorado and spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement.

2. SONG COMPOSITION

Musically, the arrangement started with the opening bass line. [Well, I say “bass line,” but I’ve purposely NOT used a bass in recording recent demos as a personal challenge. Bass is the instrument on which I’m most comfortable, so it’s easy for me to fall in a creative rut if I overuse it. I think it’s important in songwriting to be uncomfortable sometimes, at least for me! What you’re hearing here is a guitar with fuzz and an octave effect using Native Instruments excellent “Guitar Rig” plugin.]

Second, the drum part! I wanted to keep the groove interesting– it would have perhaps been easier just to do a “4 on the floor” kind of part, but I wanted this song to have a jerky, fractured feel since it’s about a man splitting in half. The bass line bounces up and down off of an open G, and the drum part emphasizes the beats where said bass line hits those G’s, all on off-beats:

one-AND-two- AND-three-four-AND / one-two-AND-three-four

Though the bass line changes in the verse, this rhythmic pattern does not.

Thirdly, that ridiculous descending saxophone/guitar line which, as Jonny astutely pointed out in rehearsal, is in Dorian mode. Lately, just to keep things interesting for myself, I’ve been including at least one element that makes me laugh. The sax part is that element. You may notice that the pitch is horribly flat– when I tuned it up, it didn’t sound as good. Sometimes, for color, it works to leave instruments out of tune. Listen to some of those old Velvet Underground recordings and you’ll see what I mean.

The verse is antiphonal– call and response, i.e. bit of melody, answered by “Ze-Ze…Zeta-Jones!” This is a verse form I use ALL of the time (cf. verse of “IMA Believer,” “Club Oslo,” and others from “Cast Out Devils” – songs available for $0.89 download at www.detholz.com or on our MySpace page). I was reminded of the effectiveness of this songwriting device while listening to the The Angels’ song, “My Boyfriend’s Back” on oldies radio. What a great, catchy song! I directly attempted to copy that technique here.

The chorus continues my experimentation with “4-notes-or-less” chorus, and just as in “Tammy” (from last week), the chorus melody consist of just two notes, a perfect fifth apart.

The final element I’ll call attention to occurs during the break before the “out chorus.” There is a 4-note melody (in theoretical terms, a musical “motive”) in the synth that comes from “Death to the Traitor”– a song that is the centerpiece of the new record– and that “Traitor” motive occurs in almost every new song we’re doing. It is a sort of “cantus firmus” that holds this entire album together (though for you music nerds, it doesn’t technically function as a cantus firmus). I love albums that tell stories, and this spooky little “Traitor motive” is included as a reminder that someone, somewhere in the song, is being betrayed.

Listen for it again at the tail end of the song!

So-called “motivic composition”– esp. in larger pieces– is near and dear to my heart. I’ve done it before, most notably in a 45-minute electronic work I did in collaboration with big James (aka “Mister M”) in our side project, “Surrounded by Monarchs.” Look for movements from that piece on this blog in the near future.

As always, your comments and criticisms are welcome! We’ve started rehearsing this, but the jury’s still out. Should Catherine stay…or GO?

Tune in next Wednesday for the 3rd installment of the Detholz! Mp3 Blog… collect them all!

Thanks for tuning in!

Your pals,
Jim C. & Detholz!