The Courage To Throw It All Away
A tale of taking my own advice and deconstructing my own work.
Over the years, instead of spending money to rent a recording studio, I've little by little put together a modest home recording studio. It's really just designed for me and my own percussion music. It's become so filled with instruments that there's little room for anyone else. So it's become my own personal workshop where I can experiment and tinker with musical ideas, recording as I go along.
In June, 2015, I started formally recording what would become my next all percussion album. It would use Gongs, bells, bass drum, frame drum and lots of small percussion. I recorded about 10 tracks then went on vacation. When I got back, I was thrust into various other musical activities. Meanwhile, I would tinker on things between gigs, recording something new here and there. At times I was so busy that I didn't unpack my gear, so I didn't have a chance to record anything.
One problem with having your own studio and not having to watch the clock, is that you end up taking too much time to do things.
Fast forward to January, 2016, and I was off to Australia to Play at the MONA FOMA festival. I'm an extremely visual person, so much so that I see music more as visual impressions than actual notes. MONA FOMA was held in a fantastic museum, which was very stimulating for me to play in. I played 8 concerts in 5 different locations.This had a great effect on me, and I tried to connect my music with the art surrounding me.
In February, I played at a museum here in town, the Charles Allis Art Museum. I was leading sound tours through the museum. I had set up percussion in 5 different rooms and designed music that related to the exhibit in each room. I even wrote stories/dialog to tell to the people before each mini performance. A few weeks later, I played in a local art gallery, again feeling a sense of interacting with the art that surrounded me.
Fast forward to April & May, when I had a break and started to record more music for my solo album. And now it's June, and I spent the 1st week going over 22 tracks I had accumulated. I listened, mixed, and mastered them all. Then I started to pick the ones I would use for the album and sequence them. Things were fine until I actually started to listen to the tracks all together as one album. While individually they were all great, as a whole, they just didn't work.
So much had changed and evolved over the past year. My head now is in such a different space than it was in June, 2015. So many experiences have happened, both musical and otherwise, to change who I am today. And there are other factors, like how the drum tuning and sound changed, so it wasn't consistent for each track (some tracks used a single headed bass drum, some used a double headed one). And there were also a lot of new instruments I have acquired that weren't on the old tracks. But most of all it comes down to how much I've grown and how much my musical vision has changed over the past year.
We all change over time. I'm used to usually working very quickly to capture the moment. But in this case, there were many moments, and each one was different. So what was I to do?
I decided to throw away everything I had recorded and re-record the whole thing in one session, just like a live performance.
This is not as crazy as it sounds, because I have lived with this music for the past year and played it in a variety of settings. I know how it goes and what I want it to sound like. So I set up everything, turned on my recorders, and played it all from start to finish, in the order it goes in. A few hours and, Boom!, it's done. 1 hour of music that is completely coherent from track to track, just as I envisioned.
I gave it some time and then started mixing it. It sounds great. All things are in place, and there's a certain magic and energy that was missing from the other tracks together. And most importantly, it's coherent from start to finish. As a bonus, I'll be playing it live in a concert next week.
The moral of the story: even after you've put in a lot of time and effort on a project, don't settle if you don't really believe in what you have. You'll forever regret it. It's better to take what you've learned and start fresh, ending up with what you want, what you envisioned in the first place.
Watch for Stories We Tell Ourselves to be released this month…