Cubase Mix Console

Not This: 

Recording Studio Desk Photo for Digital Album Blog Post

An undertaking that has been long overdue, I have decided to begin production on a completely digital album of brand new, highly intense heavy metal psychedelic music. I haven’t named it yet, but I’ve been mulling over the content and context of the album for about a year now. Actually, the ideas for this album go way back to a time when I had envisioned something like this way before any of the capabilities existed to do it.

So, let me explain what I’m about to do.

Anyone who knows me can testify to the fact that I am alway on a warpath against what I consider to be non-music: you know, that twerking, looping, auto-tune-phony garbage that seems to be dominating the Music Industry today. Face it. Unless it’s grunge from bands that were brought up on Nirvana and Pearl Jam – and most of those are old bands and old sounds – most of what is coming out of the main stream music world is just a bunch of uninspiring, uninteresting, untalented and repetitive garbage.

Now when I say “untalented” I am not referring to the technical engineers that have mastered the computer based recording software and created a new kind of sound unto itself, sometimes referred to EDM – I’m referring to the unartistic artists that have been raking in the dough from a technically sophisticated Cheap Trick. Now I can go on and on about this for days, but I won’t. Suffice to say that I’m just tired of it and I want to hear something new. Something incredible and intense. And I’m going to create it for myself. You all can jump on the ride, though, and you’re going to want to.

A Digital Album like no other

I’ve always marvelled at how much has changed in the technology available to us to make our own music. Back when I was writing songs for Life and Death, I used to jam with my Brother Mark and record the jams on a cassette tape, take the tapes back to my home studio, and spend hours upon hours listening to the tapes and cataloging all of the really cool passages and riffs. I literally had to write down, on paper, the tape counter position where the passage started and where it ended. Then, I would listen to just those parts and write down – on paper again – the order for how those parts should be structured together. If you’re not following, here is a photo of the actual plan – created entirely from the cassette tape recorded and logged “samples” – of the song Waiting and Waiting from the Life and Death album:

Original Worksheet for the ordering of parts for the song Waiting and WaitingNow you are probably looking at this and wondering… WTF??? But take a look at this. On the right side of the page, you see a list of song parts with checkmarks next to them. That’s the first thing I did: I made a loose structure consisting of Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Solo, Chorus, End.

Following this structure, down the left side, I went through the parts I had listed from the jam tape and ordered them to create the song. The first column is just a pure numbering of parts 1 through 19. The second column is the actual sample number. It started as a linear list, but then you can see after part 11 it starts to pull from other parts of the jam. I do not remember why some of the first column numbers are circled and why some of them have a square drawn around them. The checkmarks are just my way of saying “OK, I’m done with this part”. So this goes like this:

  • Sample 1: Intro (repeat 1 time)
  • Sample 2: Verse Segment 1 (repeat 1 time)
  • Sample 3: Break Segment 1 (repeat 3 times)
  • Sample 4: Break Segment 2 (repeat 6 times)
  • Sample 5: Verse Segment 1 (repeat 4 times)
  • Sample 6: Verse Segment 2 (repeat 5 times)
  • Samples 7, 8, and 9A became the Chorus

And so on. Then the fun part began, and the reason that I am even writing about this is so you can appreciate what had to be done; the hours of incredibly difficult and detailed (and monotonous) work that went into structuring a song from a jam like this. The fun part? Playing the first tape and dubbing the parts onto a second tape, in the exact order that you see in this list. It goes like this: Put the two tapes into the dual tape deck. Get tape 2 ready to record. Hit Record and Pause on tape 2. Move tape 1 to the correct position for the sample # in the list. Press Play while simultaneously un-pausing tape 2. Pause tape 2 exactly at the end of the passage. Find the next part on the list and do it again. For parts with 4 repeats, literally record, pause, rewind, record, pause, rewind… it literally took about 20 man hours to put this tape together. And the end result? A very terribly recorded tape with all the right parts in all the correct order, with gaps and timing flaws, but the idea was there. Then the work began to learn all those parts and practice them came. My brother and I worked on this one song for weeks. The end result is not exactly what was on the jams, but it’s close, and the jam parts that were used for the inspiration were nearly all intact. In spirit anyway.

Today, we could have recorded the jam into a laptop and then diced, sliced, re-ordered, set repeating patterns (sample 3 for 3 repeats), all in a matter of a couple of hours, and if we didn’t like something, we could move it, remove it, re-order it, etc. And in software like Cubase (which I use) you wouldn’t even have to cut/copy/paste parts out of the original recording. You could literally do the ordering with their built in tool for creating arrangements.

And what about guitar sounds? Guitar parts? Lead solos from hell? Synth sounds? Orchestras? All of this is accessible at your fingertips in software like this.

So how will I approach this new, completely digital album?

I have been gathering ideas in my head and letting them ferment there for a while now. And here is what I am going to try and achieve:

  • The music will be 100% programmed. Guitars will be programmed very, very granularly using Vir2’s Electri6ity. I plan to program exactly which string and which fret each note is played on. I plan to utilize complex and nuanced expressions including attack and release, bends, hammers, etc.
  • The virtual “Band” will consist of a Drummer, percussionist, Bass, 2 Guitarists, Keyboard/Synth, an Orchestral Section, and Vocals.
  • Drums will be created utilizing ToonTrack Superior Drummer
  • Percussion will be created with Superior Drummer as well as sound libraries from Steinberg.
  • Bass Guitar and Bass Sounds provided by Spectrasonics Trilian
  • Guitar Sounds will be provided by Vir2 Electri6ity, Line6 PodFarm, Steinberg’s VST Amp Rack, Steinberg Granular Guitars
  • Keyboard/Synth sounds will be various synthesizers included with Cubase as well as sound expansion libraries – most notably Dark Planet, Neo Soul Keys, Retrologue, Padshop, Halion Sonic
  • Orchestral Section will be created using Steinberg Halion Symphonic Orchestra
  • Vocals will be completely and totally “roboticized” using Steinberg’s revolutionary VariAudio (which is very similar to Auto-Tune) and all harmonies will be computer generated using Anteres Harmony Engine EVO

So stay tuned. This new digital album of mine is being crafted specifically to answer the call of all this amazing technology that we have at our fingertips, to show the rest of the world what this technology was built for, and what can be done with it, and that falling down to the lowest common denominator of lazy looping twerking crap isn’t what the creators of this technology had in mind.

It is my explicit desire that when you listen to this album with headphones on, or over a good sound system with a fair amount of volume, your heartbeat and respiration will rise, and you may experience an acute desire to escape, causing you to tear your headphones of and yell WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!