Looking back, Looking forward
2011 was a heck of a year for me. A lot happened.. some good, some bad. I won’t bore you with all the details, but I’ll tell you some major stuff.
The most significant change was that for the first time in my life I moved out of California. It was time for a change & my relationship couldn’t handle the strain of a long distance situation any longer. Also catching a roommate on camera going through your stuff & stealing from you is a pretty big wake up call that it’s time to go.
I now reside in Iowa City, Iowa and am finding it to be really nice even though the climate change definitely takes some getting used to. This city is small but it’s more hip than you would expect. They have a great college station here & nearly every show has something interesting to offer. The one thing I miss is good mexican food, but thankfully I’m teaching myself to cook a mean burrito from scratch.
In making this move I had to conquer a pretty huge fear that I haven’t really shared with many people. 1 day on my way to DJ a friends’s wedding I had a major panic attack while driving on the freeway. Since that day, it’s been a pretty serious battle. Driving across the country was a pretty huge step even though the highways were pretty mild compared to southern California. I still haven’t quite kicked this, but I’m getting there.
I also went from living with roommates to having my own place. I’ve found this to really help me focus on music without being interrupted. It’s surprising how much more you can accomplish when you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to handle a roommate situation (and towards the end, there were many). I’ve carried new habits into the new year that are giving my great results as well.
The “Fall Through’s”
Like we all do, I had some “definitely gonna happen” scenarios fall through. I was supposed to work with a band that I won’t mention who were interested in bringing me aboard as a producer & Ableton tech guy for both the studio & the road. We had several conversations that seemed pretty definite but they ended up feeling a bit out of their comfort zone & decided to focus their budget more on upgrading the image & show as opposed to the music. At the end of the day, it likely would have been a mismatch for me to devote too much time to this project & put the rest of my work on hold, so there is really no harm.
I also had some highly anticipated affiliate partnerships fall flat this year. It’s possible things might rise from the ashes in 2012, but I’m not holding my breath. I won’t turn my back on integrity. It’s just not worth it. I live cheaply & thus sleep more soundly knowing I haven’t sold my soul for money. By delivering something of value consistently, the money will come anyway (what a concept huh?)
The main reason I mention this at all, is that I want you all to know that shit happens to all of us. For me, more things have fallen through than I can count, but i’m still here focusing on what’s important. I don’t let it stop me from going for that next thing…and the next. Remember that life will give you as many opportunities as you’re ready for, it doesn’t just knock once.
Blogs of 2011
I developed new habits over the year that have really stuck as well. I made a point to write more regularly during the last half of the year & I think I delivered some pretty good value. If you’ve missed any of my blog posts, here are what I’d consider to be my top posts (in no particular order).
Ableton 101: The Most Ableton Tips Packed into 1 Video
Most important Habit for Finishing Songs
Extracting Chains in Ableton’s Drum Racks for great drum programming options
The New Year
In the new year I took on another music making experiment by challenging myself to write a song completely from the contents of a short porn video clip without it just sounding like re-edited porn. This was right after creating a song out of loops you guys submitted. I documented the whole process at this link below (don’t worry, it’s PG-13 at it’s worst). I ended up with an interesting Minimal Techno vibe:
Not wanting to lose my momentum of completing tunes, I took on a remix for a friend & am really happy with the results. You can check it out Here. I rarely use my voice in songs, but I think the addition worked well with the tune.
Picking up the guitar again
Directly after that, I contacted some members of an old band of mine Negative Image about banging out a 4 song E.P. It’ll be the first time since ’96 that I’ve written music primarily as a guitarist. Making rock music still seems to come to me pretty easily & I’ve have a number of song ideas bouncing through my head for years. If this E.P. ends up being fun, I could imagine making more.
The way I am approaching this is by making some demos with some raw guitar tracks, drums (mainly drums loops sampled from another song & edited slightly) & then making a bassline by playing the part on guitar & dropping it an octave in Ableton. Then I record some rough vocals to give the singer an idea of how I picture things going. Once I get the vocal takes back, I can share the results with the other guys to lay in proper bass, re-do the guitar & drums.
I find this approach to be more efficient than trying to get everything perfect from the start, I like to present a rough draft to make sure everyone agrees the song idea is worthy of taking to the next level. Another advantage I find is when I’m not worried about “tone” or perfection, guitar riffs, leads, vocal ideas & harmonies come so quickly that the songs largely write themselves. When I’m just doing what’s easy & adding layers, the collection of these parts create a depth & richness that tends to have a better vibe then sitting there trying to impress yourself. It’s also nice to have a whole EP demo done in a week or so, to listen back to with the other bands members to get further ideas. If all goes well, which I expect it to, I’ll share the results.
I’m also considering making a video collection specifically for Bands. I’ve been asked by guitar based music makers how to approach non-electronic music in Ableton. I’d love your feedback if you are in a band & have questions regarding how to accomplish things in Ableton.
Finally, I plan to do another electronic side project making a minimal techno E.P. (or at least my own version of what I think minimal techno is). The reason for not putting it under my current production names (innerstate, Jason Timothy) is that I already have a reputation for making progressive house, so it will be harder to get signed to labels of a different style than what I’m known for if I keep the same name. Better to clean the slate and start fresh. This is basically an experiment of rebranding myself. After I’ve made 4 songs I’m proud of, I’ll go through the process of shopping it to labels. I know I’ll have to start with the small labels & build a reputation there before I can expect the bigger ones to take an interest. Fair enough, I can work toward the end goal patiently.
What IS the end goal you might ask? I’d like to be traveling as a producer/DJ playing properly equipped & promoted gigs & the door is simply not open anymore for DJ’s who don’t produce. If your name alone can’t sell tickets, it doesn’t matter how great you are. Luckily, I love making music as much as DJing, so this shouldn’t be an issue. If you run a club or know someone who does (nationally or internationally), get in touch.
To wrap this up, I plan this year to be pretty damn productive & I’m really excited. As opposed to resolutions, I’ve opted to create new lifestyle habits. Most importantly, making music everyday. Some days you win, some you lose, but if you don’t set aside the time & space, you can’t ever expect any magic to happen.
Happy Music Making,
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