Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Dr. Fred's Laboratory"

"Weird....or what?"
- William Shatner.

"The importance of musical theory and thesis, small rodents and the affect of psychoactive keyboards in creative songwriting." 


1. Seemingly, too much coffee can actually affect songwriting. 

Two weeks ago, I made a quite fast start for a new song (or rather, "the first minute until the ideas ran out and I didn´t feel like forcing myself to continue") . That fast that when I played it to Tundra and Routa, they just shook their heads and exhaled slowly while looking at me with the "are you fucking serious"- expression.
"What´s this, a goddamn Red Bull- sponsorship you´re looking for?", Tundra said, while Routa was just trying to figure out what just passed on his ears. "Well, I accidentally five coffees", I responded.
-The whole coffees?

I don´t normally do that much caffeine, but yesterday "I accidentally four coffees and a can of Battery" again. The result? For some reason, I knew exactly at the afternoon how I´d continue with that adrenaline rush of a song even though I hadn´t touched it for two weeks. After adding banjos and making it even more faster with blastbeats, Tundra came to visit my office. Needless to say, he started sweating immediately again, so I knew I was on the right track still. I offered him some coffee and we started to work on other stuff.

2. A riff is a riff. A song is a song. An ostrich is an ostrich. And so on.

You probably get the point what´s the difference between a random riff and something that clearly is an upcoming song, right? Today, were talking about those songs. You have clearly made a main riff, then maybe a verse, even a random hook already figured out....but then somethingsomethingandmaybeamelodyhereandyouknow. It´s just not ready yet. Just like that abovementioned "Nexro" which just ends abruptly. That kind of stuff, you know.

Yes, you do know. The stuff that really, really messes your head while you´re trying to fall asleep.

"Should it go like this? What if I continue it with this other riff? Or what if I combine it with....argh, now I started to think of that riff with the ticking beat of the alarm clock.  Tick- tock- bam- bam- click- clickety- i- am -go- ing- sligh- tly- maaaaaaaaaad MAKE IT STOP, MAKE IT STOP, PLEASE" Then you hop out of the bed to get a glass of water to clear your head, realize it´s 2:15 AM and you haven´t slept at all yet and as a bonus you just woke your wife up too. Congratulations!)

3. Don´t treat your songs and riffs like babies but more like guinea pigs, dead human experiments and weird science. We´re building a musical version of a human centipede here. Kill your ideas and give them birth again.

So, there were also four clear ideas for upcoming songs- "Rivfader", "Rocklolbster", "Ministry" and "Tonttuparaati". The problem was that they were so close to each other making them four separate songs would just be a musical suicide. Then Tundra brought "Svekjävlare" and "Tomboijohnson" with him and I noticed we could start doing some serious combining of stuff.
So, first of all, "Ministry" had good ideas but only one really good riff. Even the main melody sucked. So I decided to use it´s arrangement and some modulational ideas (I´d really love to try a hook here where the so- called "chorus" goes actually in a different key than the rest of the song) but combine it with "Rivfader"´s main riff. "Rocklolbster" can be put on hold for now, it´s good until the point it´s finished for now. "Tomboijohnson" we´ll save for later. It had some awesome stuff but somehow it didn´t feel like a song, which Tundra also though as well.

And then, "Svekjävlare" and "Tonttuparaati". The other had awesome parts but not really a good main "theme", be it a melody or a riff (or an ostrich). The other had an awesome main riff but everything else was kinda....uhm, lame. So, Sväk got transposed into E minor from D minor and a tempo change from 126 to 150 BPM-  and then we started to experiment with combining and mangling stuff.  In the end we actually used even half-a-bar snippets as hooks from Sväk in Tonttu´s first verse only to drop into Sväk´s verse riff which uses a half-a-bar snippet from Tonttu.
Weird, or what?

We spent about three hours of testing, layering, cuttinpastin´, experimenting and trying different ideas. With modern musical software, it´s a blessing you can actually try out transposing, tempo changes and whatnot in a couple of seconds instead of having to play everything again from a scratch. Which we also did. A lot. "Hey, what it you could do this?" "Use A here instead of G before the break?". "Fuck, it sounded awful. Undo it, let´s try something else". "Wait, I have an idea, gimme a guitar, fast". That was so fun and awesome I got home so late I didn´t make it to the store to buy food for the rest of the week. That meant that I drove to the supermarket this morning 7:50 AM before going to the office. (Which I left yesterday only 11 hours earlier, having been there for 11 hours.Would someone please just hand me that prize for being "Husband and Father of the Year 2012"?)

4. Houston, we have a song. Quite. I guess.

We aren´t still completely satisfied with that one "middle- part" of that completely new and facelifted "Tonttujävlare".... But as we put it with Tundra, "I wouldn´t maybe record this song as it is for now, but we´re not really far from that point". Minor tweaks and maybe one riff switched with another we didn´t use and that´s about it. We both decided to think about the arrangement today and get back to each other later with the decision. It´s 150 BPM, E- minor, a bit less than four minutes and I personally think it´s a very, very strong song. Good hooks, not too complicated yet not too boring either and full of energy. Now if we´d only get the lyrics to match the ideas we thought how they would be sung. That´s another part of the story. Fingers crossed, ladies!

"To err is human, to arr is pirate."
- Unknown

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In between: Can you actually eat the cake and have it too?

For anyone who has ever played in a band or will do it in the future,

You´re not special. Stop pretending we need you more that you need us. We are all rowing the same boat here at the end of the day. Like everyone else, also you are replaceable. Hell, in theory I could get a phonecall at this very moment where someone tells me my services aren´t needed anymore. In theory- so could you, especially if there´s a reason for it. We need you and want you to play with us. But stop using the rest of your bandmates and friends as a stepping stone to reach your personal awesomeness. We´re a band, not You and His Orchestra. You wouldn´t be the first guy in the history of rock being kicked out for getting too cocky, and certainly not last. Stop turning into that guy, seriously.
You´re moderate success is not because of you personally, it´s because of we all did what we did and somehow, weirdly, someone liked it too.Without us, we´d all be probably playing alone in a pub for 10 drunks with a bad acoustic guitar. And some day in the future, no- one likes us anymore and we´re back playing in that pub again. But hopefully, still together doing it as it´s much more fun that way.

But seriously. When setting up rehearsals, we know you are a busy man. Like we all are. So please, pretty please, stop making demands like "I can only come on next month´s thursday 13:15- 13:59". Especially if you´re a drummer. Basic rehearsals can be easily pulled off without the lead singer occasionally, but without e.g. drums it´s completely impossible. Your time is not more valuable than anyone else´s and if you think it is, I suggest reading the first paragraph of this babbling again. No- one is demanding your firstborn son here, and if it´s so hard to find occasional spare two hours in that week before an approaching important gig, you´re doing something horribly wrong. Consider it as "work"- you´re getting paid for the upcoming performance, so just take the rehearsing as part of the deal as well.
Also, concerning those rehearsals: We know you could probably handle your duties on stage without spending that much time at the practice room. At least you say you practice all the time. But did it ever occur you that maybe some of us aren´t as good as you and need to practice together routinely in order to sound good? Do you actually care? Or do you only think that it´s their personal laziness if they don´t play as well as you do? If you´re only interested on your personal success, think about it this way then: Did you think that Gene Krupa or fucking Jimi Hendrix just magically stepped to the stage from their kitchen and sounded like they did with the people who they played with? No, everything was a result of a hard rehearsing with the people you are creating the sound the audience hears. No- one looks a painting and says "what a wonderful tone of brown there is", except for some lousy art- critics. Everyone is looking for the bigger picture. And you´re only sounding as good as the bass player who didn´t rehearse with you because you though it wasn´t needed.

(Now, of course someone cracks up a joke how the bass will never be heard anyway. I can live with this, because you probably got my point.)

And speaking about the bigger picture: When finally getting up the stage, it´s not supposed to be your "special personal moment to shine among these dufuses". Please, concentrate more on how the band sounds together. Don´t be selfish. No- one cares how fast you are. Especially if you´re not that fast or technical you´re trying to be. It only sounds bad, no matter what instrument you play. And when it´s about the speed, it fucks up the whole song too, if you didn´t realize that. When we wrote the song in that certain tempo, there was a reason to it. Unless we collectively decide to change the beat, you´re not allowed to change it by youself without warning "because it sounds better to you". And in the worst case, the drummer doesn´t care and forces the beat back into what it should have been after he comes in. Or he might be the one fucking it up in the first place. In which case the doctor recommends rehearsing with a metronome.

Remember when you were called to join the band? You weren´t asked because you were a superb player. Or more handsome than the rest of us. Or your dad could drive us to the gigs. You were asked mostly because you were a friend and a cool guy who could somehow handle the instrument that was needed. In 95% of the cases, friendship is much more valuable thing than anything any of us could ever achieve with our high loneliness of awesome playing. Why don´t you take a step down from that self- made throne of cardboard and meet the rest of us? You know, your friends, bandmates, the people who know more of your dirty secrets than your wife probably does.


Your bandmates.

Btw, we never told her that you weren´t actually sick like you said but just passed out on your own vomit after drinking that vodka you stashed from the backstage even though we really wanted to.