Considering the lack of any real press, the response has been great. Typically, if an electronic release gets charted by websites like Beatport.com, it fades into obscurity within a week. The fact that it’s held strong for 3 weeks and, as of writing this, sits in the charts of 6 different electronic genres (Minimal, Techno, Tech House, Chillout, Nu Disco & Electronica), I am truly humbled.
Sadly, local papers in Denver like Westword only seen to mention electronic music when it’s a Red Rocks show. Such a shame, when it’s clear that this city has one of the best electronic music scenes around & the greats are playing the smaller venues. Hopefully they catch on soon & realize what they have been missing.
Since I am not currently getting press offers right & left, I figured I should tell you a bit about this album myself. If any of you reading this would like to do a write up or interview, by all means, get in touch.
Deconstruction Time – track by track
I’m going to do my best to give you a bit of background on each of the songs. Most of these were written between 2014-2015 while others were unfinished ideas that I recovered & completed. I was doing great making plenty of EP releases on a number of labels, but I wanted to put something out that would give me an opportunity to show a different side to my musical personality & share some music that wasn’t strictly for the dancefloor. Hopefully you enjoy this as a full album as well as the separate songs it’s made from.
I haven’t had the time to figure out what this piece of work is trying to say as a whole, and I wouldn’t tell you if I knew. I’d prefer it to speak to each person in it’s own way.
Feel free to follow along with this Soundcloud Playlist
This track was just an experimentation with sound that I had no goal of making into a song. It was so simple & childlike in approach. It starts off with a static kind of sound, almost as if it was a mistake. The fact that this sounded the way it did is completely accidental. I liked the freedom it gave me to say “yes, this can be a song too” without apology. I personally like the way is seems to evolve into something out of nothing, much like the way ideas form.
I can not take credit for this song. Before this collaboration, it was conceived on one of my favorite EP’s of the last several years. Lucky for me, we are also good friends and he allowed me to essentially remix this song. I think it fit perfectly on this album just as his original fits perfectly on his own EP. Transmutation by Parauguria (aka Christopher Auck) Listen & buy it!
Filling the Empty Space
It’s hard for me to say exactly what makes this song work, but it seems to be a track that leaves a big impression on the first listen through the album. This is me exploring Deep Tech in my own way. Like many of my songs, it started while a solid bassline & everything was built around that. As opposed to stabs accentuating the darker side of a song, the stabs in this song give the song a little lift before dropping in back into darkness. I also found how useful “dirt” can be in composition.
I don’t recall exactly what inspired this song. It almost definitely started as me stealing from myself & taking it in a new direction. I have a love hate relationship with drones in my work. I love them, but they don’t always love me. Whether they work in a track of mine is really hit & miss. The song also has a bit more of a melodic element to it, without really trying. I think I got lucky with this one. One can’t always take credit for their own work, sometimes your job is to sit down and become a vessel for creative things to happen.
I recall this being an early attempt at Techno but ending up Deep. This was me experimenting with a new bass technique. It’s actually 2 basses. One kind of doing the octave thing to create some tension & then sinking into a deeper groove. The other I wanted to sound a bit like it was ripping through the speakers. I tend to like that sound. Reminds me of U2’s opening of Zoo Station, which sounds like your hi fi speakers are failing on you. I also added a sample from my iphone of my girlfriends niece laughing. I love the artifacts that come with lo-fi recordings. I didn’t try to clean it up, but rather worked with it.
Tricolor was originally an abandoned collaboration between myself & Sergei Loginov, my Punchis Records partner in crime. He wasn’t really feeling where it was going, so I asked if I could deconstruct it and make it my own. Deconstruction was a big part of this album’s process. I can tell from our many collaborations, that his influence definitely remains in this track.
There is an interesting story regarding this track. I wanted to prove to myself that I could make a song out of anything, so I found a 2 minute long low quality porn clip (yep, porn), started cutting up and manipulating sounds into snares, hi hats, kicks, bass, melodic elements & basically built a song around it. You’ll never hear percussion the same..haha. There is a youtube series of me creating this song. Later when dusting this track off, I cheated a little by adding a couple drum layers & a sine wave sub. Everything else is from that short clip.
No Step (My Body, Your Love)
This was another experiment that wasn’t really meant to turn into a song, but that’s how a lot of my ideas get started. It keeps a sense of playfulness in the process when you aren’t feeling pressured to deliver some masterpiece. In this case, someone (wish I could recall, but can’t) had given away a collection of dubstep samples. I wanted to see if I could make a completely different style with samples that were not intended for it. Thus the name. I’m not sure where the voice part came from off the top of my head.
Between the Shadow & the Soul
This was a wonderful random accident. I was listening to something on soundcloud & after it completed it started playing a song I hadn’t heard from another artist. Her name is Natalie Alva & I thought what I heard was brilliant. I asked (more like begged) her to let me remix her track and she was very open to the idea. This is more or less her song, which was more ambient sounding, which I added drums & a groove to. I’m very happy & honored to have this on the album. We intend to collaborate again soon.
What I mostly recall about this song is that the voice is me just making a nonsense sound. It was what came to my head, so I just added it without question. Sometimes you just have to obey what comes to you & that is what I did here. I’m happy with the result.
This is one of the few songs of mine revolved around a riff & with a long bass part. It reminds me of some of Silicone Soul‘s music. If you aren’t familiar, look them up. Great stuff from the old school. I created more of an evolving riff but layering it 3 or 4 times, each with variances in effects, pitch or placement. Then it was a matter of volume automation to get the final result.
This track is all inspired by a sample from an Alfred Hitchcock movie that peaked my interest. I liked the reverb & tone of it. I think it was a paperboy in a train station. I suppose you could hunt it down if you like. This track took many renditions, twists & turns until I was happy with it. I have definitely used it to great effect in my own dj sets. It’s all about placement, right?
I remember this track quite well. I was sick in bed watching music documentaries on the record label Creation & also a documentary on one of my favorite genres of music, shoegaze. I’ve always loved that wall of sound created by guitars from bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride & Cocteau Twins. This was me creating a similar wall of sound with synths. Since I was sick, my brain was not taking it’s normal creative path. Once again, I like being able to take a song without any real structure and declare that “yes, this can be a song too”.
This song uses only samples from the movie “The 5000 fingers of Dr. T“. Which is a great surreal movie by Dr. Suess. One of his few non-animated pieces of work. I was really inspired by an artist called Pogo, who makes amazing songs out of movies. I wanted to see if I could deconstruct how he did what he did. Sometimes it’s simply that question of “how was that done?” that can lead you down some very creative paths.
Free Like a Rocket
This is a collaboration with one of the most talented electronic musicians I know. He is best known for his amazing Advanced Synthesizer Instrumentals discography that spans 20 years. In my opinion, he is up there with the greats like Jean Michel Jarre. His work is absolute genius. Anyway, this song was originally a remix, but I took it in a different direction by adding my vocoded voice to the remix. He graciously allowed my to use this one my album & he didn’t even want credit. He just said “You made this yours, take it”, but all credit must go to the great Dennis Alvarez.
This track came about from another experiment where I forced myself to make a collection of songs giving myself only 24 hours to finish each one. This leaves them sounding beautifully incomplete & forces you to find creative shortcuts that might be outside of your comfort zone. I learned a lot from this experiment & pulled this track from that period of creating.
I hope you enjoyed taking this journey with me. I really have nothing to teach in this post except to always be asking creative questions & allow yourself to be shamelessly inspired by the work of others. Nothing truly comes from nowhere. We simply filter ideas through our own unique process to hopefully creates something that will inspire another’s work.
If you would like to own this album, you can pick it up here. If you screenshot your purchase & send it to me through a Facebook message, I’ll send you 3 of my other popular EP’s as a bonus (they are good, I promise!).
I look forward to reading your album, even if, like me, you reviewed it yourself.
Making & Finishing an Album
The process of making an album is like standing on the bottom of a mountain and trying to conceive a way of reaching the top.
From this perspective it seems a near impossibility.
It’s hard enough to finish 1 song you are happy with, let alone a whole collection of songs that together create a whole piece of work.
When you are starting with a blank slate, it’s incredibly hard to wrap your head around the task at hand, but if you just allow yourself to take note of things around you that inspire you, at some point all these notes seem to tell a story & point in a direction.
Those who finish a lot of work tend to be the ones that realize that you never are working with a blank slate. Everything that the senses have taken in over a lifetime & all the things around you now is your creative palette. You become a unique filter that takes all these sensations & gives them meaning based on your own life experience & belief systems. No 2 people will ever have the same filter, even if they are surrounded by the same influences.
If you keep a notebook and a recording device (both are at your fingertips with any smart phone) & just open yourself up to what is around you, you’ll realise that you don’t need extraordinary things to happen to you for you to be inspired to make extraordinary things (or at least a piece of work worth sharing).
Personally, I take notes for everything. If I hear a quote or soundscape on netflix, I write it down to record later. If I am at a diner, I’ll just record the ambience around & hope I get something interesting. When I am in the kitchen, I just record what I’m doing with my phone. Some of these lo-fi recordings of mundane things can really spark your creativity.
Often times times I am reading and come across a simple phrase & I think. That could be a song name right there. I have at least 50 unused song names in my notes as I write this. That can be all it takes to set my mind in motion. Keeping a dream log can give you completely out of the box ideas as well.
Sometimes I just feel experimental & give myself a challenge. Maybe I think “how far could I get in a song using only 2 notes?” & suddenly I am off and running with no pressure of a “result”. Instead, it either works or it doesn’t & that is fine. There are hundreds more ideas where that came from.
If you keep yourself open for ideas at all times, you realize you never really have a blank slate. Give yourself a year of just this & you’ll find that all these scraps of paper, notes & recordings has the beginnings of an album in there. It’s far less boring than listening to the top 10 songs on the radio and thinking “I want to sound just like that!”.
Of course, once you have all these random ideas, you will likely combine this palette of ideas with the music that has influenced you over this time period. With technology the way it is, the amount of music you have immediate access to for free is beyond belief. Hopefully you are exploring what is out there instead of staying in a safe little bubble.
The mixtape approach
Although this may age me a bit, back in my day (I never thought I’d say that) we used to record mixtapes for each other. We would go through our collection & come up with a vibe we wanted to share with our friends. You would sit there and record from 1 cassette to another, listening to each song in full while thinking of what should go next. The time and passion that went into some of these mixtapes can’t be underestimated. Some of the mixtapes I got from my friends have helped develop & shape my taste in music. What a time that was…
When I am thinking about making my own album, I will often build the concept I am going for by making a mixtape of my own. I would collecting all these wonderful ideas & find the perfect order to put these songs in for maximum impact. When I feel like I’ve nailed it, I know I have a loose blueprint that will inspire my own album. The idea isn’t to copy each song, that isn’t artistic, but never be afraid to borrow or reference the ideas to get that vibe working in your own music.
When you pull out all your ideas, this mixtape approach will help you separate your notes into “these sound like they could work together for this type of song, and I’ll put these ideas over there”. Pretty soon, you find you are much higher up that mountain & the peak looks much less impossible to reach.
Ideas as starting points
These ideas of yours & even your “blueprint” may turn out vastly different than you expected. This isn’t a failure, this is art. Learn to view the twists and turns in the process as the very thing that makes you unique & different form your inspiration. Think of this process as a way to set your brain in a creative motion. Let it lead you where it wants to go. Don’t try to control it. You’ll have plenty of time in the editing phase to do that.
In my next post, I’ll share some of my inspirations for the songs on my album Deconstruction Time which was release on December 28th.
“Sometimes I feel my sound will never get noticed so why not just do pop remixes?”
If this sounds familiar to you, you aren’t alone.
As I see it, here is where you are at. And it’s brutal, so be prepared….
You are filing for creative bankruptcy.
You have let go of the dream of being an “artist” and now are settling to do what it takes to get some attention. This is work that will kill your soul.
Here is the future the creatively bankrupt can look forward to. You will wander off and chase new sounds, techniques, tricks, styles and never master any. You will be a trend follower instead of leading with your own ideas. You will constantly be looking over your shoulder at what the other guy is doing, because you yourself don’t trust your own creative instincts.
This is the dark path that this mindset leads. You are going to need to correct this now, before you become an empty shell, bankrupt of ideas & in total fear of your own thoughts & opinions.
I’ve gone down this path. It’s not pretty.
My goal is to empower people to bring their dream to fruition, not someone else’s. Your voice is every bit as important as the next person, but it’s the one who risks criticism, failure & embarrassment that becomes the happiest & most respected in the long run.
The world doesn’t need a “me too”, it needs you!
So… how to get there?
It’s ok right now to say “this isn’t working”, but you need to make sure that is the truth. Often times we lie to ourselves as a form of protection. It’s time to take the armor off.
1. Do you like your style? This seems like an easy question, but often times we get trapped by liking the attention we get for a piece of work, rather than the work itself. What is it that you like?
2. Did you envision this sound that you’re developing? Are you doing what you originally set out to do, or have to started to follow the path of others instead?
3. Have you accepted that you might need to complete 10-15 songs before you really find your feet? This is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the truth. Nobody comes fresh out of the gates with a masterpiece. That is as unlikely as it is for a baby to start running before she’s learned to walk or crawl. When you look at it that way, don’t your expectations seem a bit ridiculous? Do the best you can today & know that each time you finish something, you’ll be that much better.
4. Have you really given it your all? Have you don’t the best you can thus far or are you too focused on getting a “quick fix” of attention by taking the path that has already been paved?
When you are starting out, remixing, when done right, can be a great hybrid between you expressing yourself & reflecting a piece of work that you respect.
When you opt to do a remix, it should do 2 things:
1. Allow you to express you through the work of another artist.
2. Build your confidence as a music producer.
If Pop is your style, then by all means, be unapologetically pop! However, if you are looking to that direction just to get some attention, I’d advise against that route.
It’s hard to come back from that & reclaim your unique sound once you go that path. The attention seeking can overtake the art itself & the sad part is that abandoning your own voice won’t likely get you any further.
I didn’t start writing this blog & creating the Producer’s Playground to produce a bunch of “me too’s”. There are plenty of them out there. I want my readers (that means you) to be empowered by their unique voice which is “influenced” by the sounds around them. Not dictated by some popularity contest like a ridiculous game show.
If you find yourself with these (very common) feelings, the solution is not diving into production techniques right away. You first really need to get your mindset in order. It’s your mindset that is failing you now & you need to turn that around. You will need focus, persistence & some self confidence. You will also need to let go of your fear of failing.
Stay curious & vulnerable and never stop moving forward.
Happy music making…
How to Finish songs faster. An easy to follow outline
Of all the challenges I hear from music producers, perhaps the biggest challenge is finishing songs.
In most cases, starting songs & getting to a cool 8 bar loop is easy, but then the brain starts to shut down. Once you are put up against the pressure of turning this track into a song, you brain gets bombarded with a million options, choices & variations. Every thought pattern goes off into it’s
Is the original idea any good?
Do I add EQ? Compression? Reverb? Which setting is best?
How do a turn this simple loop into 6 minutes of engaging music?
Where do I put the changes, breaks, builds, drops?
How do I write a hook or melody?
This is all so overwhelming & now I hate this song!
At this point your brain looks more like an ink splotch than a roadmap. Full of chaos.
Let me give you some simple tips that can make this process much easier for you.
Music making should be more enjoyable than this, but anytime you are pushing yourself further than than you’ve been before, it’s going to cause some stress.
Your only choice is to work through it repeatedly until your brain starts reaction in a more positive way. Your thoughts will start to shift to “Ok, we’ve been through this before & we got through it last time, so this shouldn’t be so bad”
Also, I can’t recommend daily practice enough. If you want to learn anything, you need to keep regular repetition until the pattern gets locked into the brain.
The 2 approaches
So back to our 8 bar loop. We are staring out our computer screen listening to this loop over and over, not not taking it any further.
If you are working in Ableton Live, you have 2 windows. Session View & Arrangement view.
Let’s rename these to what they are for new (and even veteran) producers.
Session View (clip view) = Limbo mode
Arrangement View (linear view, like pro tools or cubase) = Get shit done mode
The session window issue:
As much as the session window can be an incredibly wonderful & unique music creation tool, you are simply given too many options that keep you from committing on 1 idea.
No matter how much work you do in the session view, your song doesn’t start until it is translated into the arrangement view. Often, when in the session window you try to predict ahead of time your intro, outro, breaks & each progression in your song. I find that this rarely works.
Pretty soon your session view turns a simple idea into something so complex that it’s tough to wrap your head around it enough to start committing to song arrangement.
The faster approach
If you start your work in the Arrangement view, you have to commit to a single idea that will likely be looped for 8 or 16 bars. If you’ve gotten this far, you are ready to take things to the finish line.
Here are some simple steps that you speed up your music making dramatically.
1. Stretch that 8 bar loop out for 6-7 minutes
Yes, I am aware this changes nothing musically yet, but it will visually start to look more like a song than an idea. This in itself is really important if you want the brain to start thinking about this idea in a different way.
2. Find a reference
Next, we create a new audio track as a reference & drag in a track that you like the arrangement on. Make sure to warp the song, so it is synced to your master tempo.
3. Drop the kicks
Everywhere you see the reference track thinning out, consider that a break. It could be 4, 8 or 16 bars. It could also be as short as 1 bar of even a 1/4 bar.
Anywhere you see this, drop out the kicks on your song. Even though you may add them back later, this will let you know where to create your own breaks,
As you listen to your song and hear the drop & return in energy, you will start to get a feel where extra layers need to come into your song to add energy or melodic content, or reduce everything into a simple groove before the peak moment.
It will also give you an idea where you may want to change up with groove or bassline. And since you didn’t try to do this all in advance, the changes you make now will make much more sense in the context of a full song.
4. Back to the reference
Once you have a basic song arrangement happening, you can check back on your reference track, not to copy it, but to get ideas what types of elements are coming in & going out in certain moments. This will help keep you focused when your brain would normally be wondering off.
5. Tightening up
This is where you would dial in your volume levels, Eq’s, Sends/returns, etc, which is more than I can get into in this post, but you should find yourself much further than you thought you would be, much faster than you expected.
Want to go deeper?
If you would really like to go deeper & finish an EP you can sign up to the waiting list for the next launch of my “Create an EP in 30 Days Master Course” on January 2nd.
It takes this concept much much deeper & fills in all the little details that truly stop people from getting music completed. It’s an intense course that will require a level of focus & commitment you may not be used to.
It completely maps out how I was able to complete, sign & release 52 songs in 13 months. It took me all of 2015 to complete & it leaves nothing to question. Everything is in there!
I will guide you daily with workbooks, Videos & homework as well as Q&A’s, so there is nothing left out of the full process.
I need to limit my students so I am able to give enough attention to everybody, so if you are interested, join the mailing list with the link below & fill out the form that will be sent to you.
Join the Waiting List