Saturday, March 17, 2012
Another year since my last blog post. I really suck at blogging, don't I? :-)
Okay, now that we've established that...what's new? Well, the last few months I've gotten interested in piano-driven songs again. I was listening to an old Ben Folds Five album that I'd forgotten I even had and it occurred to me, why not do some music based around the instrument I started out on all those years ago? Maybe ease off on the sonic gimmickry, strip away a lot of the densely-layered synths and try doing some music that's based around piano, bass guitar and drums? So I did.
I previewed "Twisted Genius," the first track of that kind, a couple of months ago. I might have gotten a little too eccentric and weird on that one, but I'd rather be a little "off" than be boringly commercial and formulaic; there's enough easily-digested, uber-accessible pop music out there.
My website and Facebook page are now featuring the latest piano-based track, "The Voices." This one's more laid back and moody, with sort of a "smoky night club" feel. I put more synths on this one, but the piano still drives it. Lyrically, it's not based on any one person - more of a broad musing about those who always seem tormented by this little "voice" inside picking them apart and telling them they're not good enough, even when, by all appearances, their lives would seem to be going well. Sometimes, when we've gone through bad patches earlier in life and spent a long time being unhappy and feeling isolated, it can be hard to completely "unlearn" that mindset and just live in the present without repeatedly picking at old wounds. Some things just really need to be let go, eh?
For those interested in the technical stuff, the piano featured on this is a sampled Yamaha C7 from Sampletekk. It's a good-sounding piano, one of only a very few I've found that works for me in a mix the way I want it to. Most of the synthesizer parts came from the Waldorf PPG Wave 3.V, a software recreation of the classic PPG Wave 2.2/2.3 synths that were popular in the '80s. It does some really strange and ethereal pads and sweeps and often blends well with piano, which is a big plus at the moment. For the bass part, I went back to my Ibanez ATK with flatwound strings for this one, to get that darker, jazzier tone.
It's a beautiful day (over 70 degrees in March is pretty rare for Michigan), so I'm off. Maybe I'll even go outside for ten minutes. :-)
Saturday, February 26, 2011
I got a bit confused last year. A desire to get back into doing progressive rock overtook me for a while. It wasn't a totally bad thing - it did produce a couple of decent new guitar/bass/drums-driven songs - but ultimately, it felt strange to be doing music as a solo artist that sounded like it was really intended to be played by a three-piece band. I might still do some more music in that vein and maybe put out an EP just for the heck of it, but for now, I'm more inclined to get back into doing music that plays to my real strengths and is better suited to my solo status. I've played keyboards (starting with piano and then synths) since I was ten years old; that's my main instrument and that's what I really should be putting in the forefront.
"Kill Switch" is my return to form, you could say. Driven by some more aggressive piano and bass playing and injected with a good dose of synths and synthetic drum sounds, this is me sounding more like me. I guess it's no accident that the lyrics revolve around the subject of admitting to oneself when something isn't working and having the fortitude to "go back to the board and start over again." You can listen to the song now on my website at http://www.davidvector.com/, or on my Facebook page.
For those interested in the technical stuff, this is the first song on which I've used my new bass, a Carvin SB4000, and I love it - plays great and has a more aggressive tone that cuts through the mix and inspires me to play a little more busily. Another new tool seeing some action here is Relab LX480, a software recreation of the Lexicon 480L hardware reverb that's great for those cavernous, '80s-esque reverb sounds. Most of the synthetic drum sounds you hear, including the kick drum and snare, were created in the u-he Zebra software synth (mostly sounds created by other sound designers that I tweaked quite a bit). Other synth sounds came from Spectrasonics Omnisphere and Waldorf PPG Wave 3.V.
That's it for this entry. Time to get back to recording on yet another snowy Michigan afternoon (we sure are getting it dumped on us this year). Ciao for now!
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Before I knew it, I had recorded a new song that is more heavy and organic than probably anything I’ve ever done. The synthesizers are still there, of course, but now playing a more textural role with the guitars, bass and drums forming the core of the song. It feels like I’ve come full circle back to a musical territory more like what I was into when I started out, before I veered off into techno/electronica. I’m not completely sure yet what this means for the new album as a whole, but it’s a direction I’m fired up about right now and am going to pursue more.
Since this is a fairly major shift, I’m putting the new song, “Indigo and Black,” up on my website and Myspace profile for you guys to preview. I hope you like it. :-)
Talk to y’all soon!
Sunday, June 07, 2009
You know how it goes...people make hasty judgments. Someone who's never heard of me could stop by and just listen to "Piston" and think that all I do is Bruce Hornsby-style jazzy piano tracks, or listen to "Wavelength" and assume I'm a techno/dance artist (which, on the whole, I'm not, really). The newest song falls more dead-center and represents me better as a whole, I think.
So as long as I've let another cat claw its way out of the bag ("Rawwwrrrrr!"), I might as well say a few words about the new song. "Enemy of the State" is, in some ways, almost a partial throwback to my progressive rock days. It's the first time I've used an odd time signature (the verses are in 7/4) since the Immovable Mover CD I put out in 2003, not to mention the orchestral strings. But I'd like to think that, having grown a lot since then, I can now do a more complex song like this without it coming across as all stiff and contrived and imitative of Rush or Yes or whatever.
Musicians will notice a lot of fretless bass on this song, more bass playing than I've done in probably half a year or more. I finally got around to working at setting up my Ibanez ATK fretless so that it plays more comfortably, and I found that it actually records pretty darned well for a somewhat battered relic scored off of eBay for $350. It's kind of nice to give a little TLC to what you have and get the most out of it instead of constantly throwing more cash at new toys (something I probably did a little too much of last year!).
So there you go, one last teaser track before I cloister myself away at Vector Labs again to record some additional new material and try to get this sucker wrapped up over the next few months.
Now if we could actually get some rough approximation of Summer happening here in Michigan, that would be a hell of a thing (it's June and I'm sitting here in a t-shirt and a hoodie, for crying out loud!). I have a suspicion that when it finally does hit, it's going to just get ungodly hot all of a sudden. But who knows...the weather can be just as fickle and mercurial as musicians and, like us, there's just no telling what it might do next.
Until next time, sports fans...
Sunday, December 07, 2008
"Christmas Time Is Here..."
Happy Holidays, y'all!
They sure did creep up fast this year, while I was busy doing various things. Scott and I ran up north today to do a bit of Christmas shopping. Getting out and seeing all the lights and decorations and people out wandering the snowy streets looking for gifts does help get you "in the mode," so to speak. We had a nice dinner with Scott's parents and then it was off to "Wally World." Scott was eager to make the shift to Hi-Def, so we did some browsing through the Blu-Ray movie racks and found a number of older films like Stargate and Terminator 2 on sale for $10 each. New releases on Blu-Ray are rather expensive, so that was a good way to start off the collection for cheap. It makes me glad that we had never really built up a very big DVD collection...right about the time you do, they have to come out with some new format!
I'm looking forward to maybe actually getting to enjoy the holidays a little more this year. Last year at this time, I was buried in work and had to be putting in long days right before and after Christmas. This year, the workload is a bit lighter and the pressure isn't so great, which is fine by me!
"Discovering New Tools and Rediscovering Not-New Ones..."
Meanwhile, on the music front, things are pushing forward. After going back to playing real bass on the last track, I seem to have gone all-electronic again on the one that's coming together now. It's not that I don't still enjoy playing bass guitar - I definitely do - but for some reason, I've just been on a major synthesizer kick for the last year. I love having such an infinite palette of sounds at my fingertips with synths, and being able to completely change the bass sound after the part has been recorded if I want to (something you can't really do with acoustic instruments).
A really intriguing and unusual item that just found its way into the "toolbox" is u-he Filterscape (from the same developer who created Zebra, one of my favorite synths). It's a piece of effects software that, as the name suggests, filters what you put through it to sculpt the sound and provide various kinds of sonic movement. It applies morphing EQ curves and synth-style filtering that shifts over time and makes sounds more dynamic. I've barely begun to explore it, but it promises to offer all kinds of sonic spice to the mix.
In the "Not-New" category, I've been rediscovering a software synthesizer I picked up this past summer and hadn't really taken much advantage of. I got Lennar Digital Sylenth and used it here and there on "Compass" (which was previewed on my Myspace page a few months back), and then kind of forgot about it. A few days ago, I decided I really needed to wheel it back out and start exploring it more, and I really like this synth. It doesn't have the sound design depth and flexibility of Zebra, but it has a core sound that is markedly different from Zebra's and it sounds very, very good. Whereas Zebra tends to sound more liquidy smooth and streamlined, Sylenth has more high frequency content (i.e. it sounds a little more bright and airy) and in some ways, it puts me more in mind of an old analog synthesizer. It's a great tool for getting a different kind of sound...another color for the canvas. Finding a "hidden diamond" that had already been installed on my computer for months that I'd never really taken the time to appreciate before is definitely a nice thing. Or, as the Joker put it in the 1989 Batman flick, "Where can I get these fine new items? Well, that's the gag - chances are, you bought 'em already!"
You'll be hearing both on the new track, which finally bucks the recent trend and is going to be a more uptempo, high-energy song that you could actually dance to (if so inclined!).
Time to sign off...I'll probably be back with you one more time before Christmas, but just in case you don't hear from me again before then, I hope yours is a wonderful one.
Talk to you soon!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Well, hello there...
I guess it's been a while since you've heard from me! I usually try to keep in touch with all of you more often...the last couple of months have been pretty busy. I finally managed to get a decent block of time this past week to just immerse myself in recording and complete a new song I'd been whittling away at when I could find spare moments. It reminded me how much more happy and centered I feel when I'm doing creative work. I'm in the process of simplifying some things in my life so that I can focus more on working away at this album and getting it finished. By the end of the year, I should be back to having a lot more time for that again. Yay!
Since it's been three months since I last checked in, I figured I should post a little new music as well. On the one hand, I hate to dilute the impact of a new release by sharing too much in advance, but since I just have one or two new tracks on my player at a time spanned out over a year or more, most of the songs will be like new to you again when you get the album (unless your memory is better than mine!). The new song preview is "Rainy Day Angel," another rather dark and atmospheric piece, which most of them this time out seem to be!
It occurred to me that this is the first song on which I've played an actual bass guitar line instead of synth bass in a YEAR (well, apart from a few fretless bass melodic lines on the last few tracks here and there). Not sure how that happened, but I've broken the pattern, anyway. Last month, I switched to Spector basses, and I couldn't be happier with them. They have just the right mix of snarly aggressiveness and bottom end and, unlike the Bongo I was using late last year, they feel very comfortable for me to play as well. I used my Spector Euro 4LX on the new song.
In the synthesizer department, "Rainy Day Angel" also features the newest addition to my synth toolkit, Spectrasonics Omnipshere. Among other things, Omnisphere features a boatload of sounds sampled from classic '70s and '80s analog synthesizers like the old Moogs and Oberheims. You get a little taste of that, and roughly the other 50% of the sounds on this came from my long-running favorite synth, u-he Zebra.
Leaving aside the "techy" stuff, I've been seeing some common threads starting to emerge in the material and have been mulling over potential album titles and cover concepts in the back of my mind, but it's still too early for any decisions on that. I might just have to keep all that to myself and not spring it on you until the day the album is released. Always nice to keep some surprises for the end!
Okay, it's time to forge ahead and get back to recording some music. I'm sure I'll be talking to you guys again before the end of the year. Have a great Thanksgiving (for those in areas that celebrate it) and be good. Well, not too good...bad enough to have a little fun and good enough not to muck things up in your life, how's that?
P.S. - You can drop by my website, www.davidvector.com or my Myspace page, www.myspace.com/davidvector, to hear the new preview.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I'm sitting here having a cup of reheated coffee and feeling a little lethargic from the heat...I finally broke down and put the A/C on a few minutes ago. I guess I shouldn't complain - three or four months from now, that icy wind will be whipping off of Lake Huron as we head into another winter (but we don't want to hear that word just yet, do we?). Lacey (our Yorkie/Lab mix pooch) is laying next to Scott on the couch looking fairly dragged out too...she gets a haircut on Friday and must be burning up with that long fur, poor critter.
Anyway, on to the recording update...
The new song is called "Compass," and it's a little different from what I've been doing for the last two or three years. Whereas a lot of what I've done lately has been more groove-oriented and often danceable, this one is more of a "sit and listen" or "play it in the car" type of song. It harks back, just a bit, to the more progressive path I followed earlier on as a musician. I believe this is the first time I've strayed from 4/4 time since my Realty Show CD (and even there, I only did it for part of one song). Lately, I've kind of been revisiting some of what got me interested in music...listening to the kinds of albums that made me want to do this in the first place...looking at where I started and where I've gone since, thinking about what worked for me and what didn't. I guess it's no surprise that my little personal retrospective found its way into the lyrics on this one, which deal with how easy it can be in life to go off on various side roads and forget where the main road was!
On the more technical side, I'm pretty much over my briefly renewed flirtation with hardware synths and have come to find that software instruments work better for me after all. I've settled into Native Instruments Kontakt 3 as my main "axe" - you can use it as a straight sampler for drum and piano sounds and such, or you can get into some pretty deep sound design too - it covers a lot of sonic ground. I also made an interesting find a few days ago - a software synth called Sylenth that I think gets pretty sweet analog-style sounds. I wasn't expecting to be impressed, having become a little disenchanted with "virtual analogs," but it surprised me. I used it for the bass line on this song and a handful of other sounds too. Actually, all the synth sounds on this song are of the analog variety...I do love those warm, '70s style synthesizer sounds used by guys like Vangelis and Jean-Michel Jarre, and that's where I went with this one.
Time to quit babbling about the song and the toys used on it and just let you enjoy it, I guess! And it's also time to get off the computer and go climb into bed and try to find a movie to watch (it'll have to be a rerun, we don't have our new batch of Netflix yet). For my readers in the northern latitudes, enjoy the rest of the summer while it's still here. Talk to you soon! :-)