Sunday, January 30, 2011

News from the Mouse

Still collecting images of jackets, because after all my band needs their own jackets. This is from the TV show "The Cape".

Lily and Greg of the City Samanas stopped by last week. It was a fascinating experience because Lily was interested in hearing new bass amps. At first I was thinking "well I don't have a bass amp" but then I realized that of course my Celtic Amps Edana is a Marshall JTM-45 clone. And the JTM-45 is basically the same circuit as the '59 Fender Bassman.

So I do have a bass amp.

And man, did it sound nice. Yeah, bass through what is traditionally a guitar amp. Now it was certainly true that the bass sounded much better in the "normal" channel than through the "high treble" channel. But boy it sounded nice.

Problem was, Greg's guitar also sounds awesome through the Edana. We're wondering if maybe they just got one amp and shared it...

I find it educational to hear other people play through my rig. My Lil' Dawg Mutt has an awesome compressed sound and breaks up early. Early but it a very nice way. And combining the sound of both amps just creates this huge organic and "three dimensional" sound which can't be beat.

I'm still cleaning up vocal tracks. Sometimes just fixing one or two notes makes an entire phrase sound much better. With the cleaned up notes the whole performance seems like it was intentional. Which (ha!) is about as good as we're going to get.

We forgot a couple keyboard lines last time Arie was here. We're going to fix that. I may be done with guitar parts. We just need to figure how we're going to mix this record. I've been pre-mixing it a lot and I'm getting better at mixing the band, but I just know if we go to Trax East the mix will be vastly better than anything I can do here at my studio and with Eric mixing everything will instantly sit right.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In Memoriam of the Drum Fill

 One thing I've always complained about is the over-playing of drum fills. Those "machine gun" fills of 32nd notes going down the racks of toms just... well they just practically never work. You'll notice that your "heavier" drummers practically never do them. John Bonham is very specific about every note in his fills.
That being said, what the heck has happened to drum fills? Did the advent of drum machines simply make them seem unnecessary, even in power trios?

You'd think that Civil Twilight's Letters from the Sky would be a perfect opportunity for what Ethan calls "In the Air Tonight" - style drum fills. Instead we get a quarter-note of a bit of snare and a tom before the band kicks in the first time and nothing the second time the band kicks in.
Maybe I just have spectacularly bad taste. Maybe this is why I'm not a rock star. But don't you just want to hear a giant drum fill bringing the band back in in this song?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Early Hours Toward Betterment

I've been on an exploratory venture to make my vocals better.

I wish I could sing like Johnny Cash. If I could sing like him, all my problems would be at an end.

But I can't. So I've been trying to tidy up the vocals in, say, Ice Maiden, by singing earlier in the morning so that if I maybe hit a low note it'll be loud enough that once we tune it up it'll sound right. Or not. My big problem is in my lower range. Maybe I should have sorted all that out before recording the songs, sure. But we didn't.

So here we are.

This picture is from the Internet. Do you remember practicing this damn thing? I sure do.
I know that artists are all about saying that their latest project is their best and favorite, but this Tyrannosaurus Mouse album really is my favorite album. Everything from all my earlier albums is learned, and stuff I've never done before is executed. This is my first album using no click-track too. I'm so glad to have Lou and Ethan onboard -- they're such a fantastic rhythm section. The record breathes nicely. The band sounds positively unhinged -- but in a good way.

What I would like to do is to mult down all the guitar tracks to a stereo pair, mult down all the bass tracks to a mono track, and maybe even mult the kick and stare tracks so that there's only one of each rather than two of each (inner and outer kick, top and bottom snare) as there is now.

The reason I want to do this is that when I eventually have some money to mix this album I want as few tracks as possible to make mixing easier. The trick is that if I screw up the mults and premixes in my little studio I'll end up making more work for the mix at the end. So it's sort of half of one and six dozen of the other. Or something.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Oops

So Arie came in and layed down some keyboard overdubs and we started listening to One Last Drink and we decided we liked it so we totally forgot to put the Hammond solo down. Eerf! ;-)

I stuck a temporary keyboard solo in there in order to demonstrate where the solo goes for when Arie comes back. You'll note that my sad, slow, and sloppy, guitar-solo playing is evident in my keyboard-solo playing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Wish My Tower of Horses Weren't So Blue

Arie came in and laid down a whole bunch of keyboard parts. Here is version 2.04 of Ice Maiden (you can't see the gadget for playback in an RSS reader.)
The new Hammond organs are a "fluty" thing in the verses and a more growly thing in the choruses.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

20% Off!

Click on that link over to the right. I think T-shirts count as underwear, don't they? 
Anyway, now click on the Spreadshirt link and buy some Tyrannosaurus Mouse T-shirts.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

No, I WON'T Be Singing This Better

So I'm all like "collaboration and blah blah blah" but then when I actually go to sing the songs I'm like "forget it, this is as good as I'm going to do."
Ethan suggested that I support better -- especially on lower notes. As it turns out, I can't do that. As in can't do that. So I didn't. In fact, I did the opposite -- I dropped support on the lower notes. Because at least that sounded like something, not just "Oh, Drew's running out of breath."
So yeah, "collaboration" means "do the inverse thing". Meh.
Look. I tried. But this... this is what we've got in the way of a singer.
I mean, does it make any difference? At least our drummer is good.
Here is "Mercury" by Tyrannosaurus Mouse. Other ridiculous trivia about this song? It was "written" because I was trying to distract Ethan from playing "Another Wasted Afternoon" at a rehearsal and then I thought we should record it. The band had exactly zero idea which way the song should go when we played it the one time through (when we recorded it in, er, one take). So you can hear me shouting things as we go from section to section in the beginning. But you can always hear me shouting things in the background, it's the cattle we bring with us.
So yeah, the arrangement was actually improvised by the band. The stop? Totally made up on the fly. The come back in? Also, totally on-the-fly. The arrangement of the song was created mostly by us looking at one another and hoping that everyone else was going to do the same thing.
I added the guitar leads and the vocals in my studio. And that's what we've got.
If you want something different in the vocals please tell me. If you want it better, though, I have some bad news for you...


;-)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Don't Understand

Why The Electric Heartbreaker isn't the biggest pop duo in the world. Turbo Dancing is the future of the Birmingham scene:

Apparently all the coolest stuff ever is in some way related directly to Chance Shirley.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Hipsters are Winning

Actually, I'd give you a link here to the BMI page of the news article which reports that vinyl sales are rising. But I can't because they don't offer a permalink option and the "share" button is spectacularly frustrating to get to actually work. So yay for my performance rights organization making things harder for me!
I've been wondering lately how long it takes to warm up.
++++
But that's not what's important right now. I got some great notes back from Ethan on the vocal performance in Ice Maiden and I was able to step back and really listen to the song to hear what he's talking about. But I spent all morning trying to make the vocal in the verses stronger and... well it's just not going to happen*. I'm not strong enough a singer to fix it. But hey, at least I know what I'm supposed to do!

*That's not quite true, I was able to clean up the most egregious of the lines.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

How I Intend To Trick My Band

You know, when we started Tyrannosaurus Mouse, I said "We have to figure out what we'll wear." People who aren't musicians said "Shouldn't you be more concerned about the music first?"
I told them "No."

And, of course, I was right. The music would come. The real trick is what we look like.
+++++
Tricking the Mouse
Now it's probably true of most bands that the members feel a bit foolish putting on costumes just to play some rock 'n roll. But the cold hard truth of the matter is that the band simply must look like "something" on stage, in videos, or in the picture on the album cover. Which is why, of course, I went to so much trouble getting a psychedelic band jacket.

My second task is to get the other guys to wear stuff which is cool and makes sense aesthetically in the Tyrannosaurus Mouse world. We actually have a fair range of styles we can wear to achieve my vision. There's Hussars jackets, or heck -- anything from the 15th through the 19th Centuries, and whatever variations in-between.

I think I can convince the drummer to go with a subdued steampunk look. A nice shirt (he'd look great with ruffles in the front, but I don't know if I can go that far) and a nice 19th-Century vest. Something like a bar owner might wear in the Old West. Best would be a pocket watch, of course. He's easy to dress because he looks good and even though his natural garb tends to be more casual he'll look so fantastic he'll just have to acquiesce.

The bass player has been talking a game about him wearing a cape, but I have a feeling he may bail out on that idea. Luckily for me I know his wife likes him in rock-star clothing (and he does look good in anything sexygroovyjangly). And he'll do whatever his wife says. So all I need to do is talk to her. I think a cape and a tophat would be perfect on him. Plus I'm totally envious of his ability to grow a mustache.

I don't know how I'm going to get the keyboard player in a fez and smoking jacket. I'm still working on that.

You'd think that the band would make all kinds of noises about what they're willing to wear. But they'll all just talk among themselves about "Is Drew serious about having naked girls dance for Tyrannosaurus Mouse?" Note that the answer to that question is "yes."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ice Weasel

This is the present mix of "Ice Maiden". I had to cut new guitars starting with the first chorus because the guitar on the original track had gone out of tune to a rather stunning degree. Probably as a result of me hitting the guitar too hard during those big open choruses. The other problem with that guitar part is that it's hard to play in tune in any circumstances because it's so high up on the neck.
Arie will add Hammond to the choruses and possibly cut a new electric piano track (it's up to him.)
If nobody has anything specific to tell me about what to do with the vocals then we're leaving them as-is.
Lastly, is there an extra phrase in the intro? Should it be deleted?


UPDATE: I need to clean the vocal track because there is a lot of hiss in it. I'm thinking some multi-band expansion as well as some straight-up de-hissing.
I actually kind of like the vocal track, although I may have just gotten used to it by now. It's always hard for me to tell because I'm way too close to the music. This is why I rely on the other guys in the band to tell me what to do. Ahem. That's a hint, guys...
The intro is way too long. There are some nice keyboard melodies there, I suggest we cut it down to about 16 bars of keyboard loveliness.

One Last Blink

One Last Drink. What this song is missing is a piano part and a screamin' Hammond solo.
Now that I think of it, you know most songs in the world are missing those two things. When I become King that will be rectified.
In any case, I post this mostly to make Ethan happier about his introduction, to get people used to the other thing I did in the intro, and to give Arie a clue about what's going on before he comes in to record his screaming Hammond solo.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Our Songs (Part II)



Mouseverture:
UPDATE: right at 12 minutes I want a clean - sound guitar solo. And I want it to be better. 
It looks like Lou has won and there are in fact no vocals in this song. And that's not just because I'm too lazy to write words and sing, no, it's because once again Lou was right. It's much easier to go through life doing what Lou says, because eventually you're going to do what Lou says anyway, you may as well start out that way.
So the big questions be:
  1. The first guitar solo section, I kinda feel like we're the (New?) Riders of the Purple Sage. Is that really appropriate for Tyrannosaurus Mouse? It might explain my "cattle herding" yells. But is it really part of the rest of the song?
  2. I might be able to fix that with putting a more Pink Floyd-ish delayed rhythm guitar in that section. What do we think of that?
  3. Is the Hammond solo too long? I can listen to Arie's solo for any amount of time. So I'm no judge. Really, I don't think 30 minutes of distorted Hammond is even getting close to "enough".

Jabberwocky:
Arie is doing a new keyboard solo. Other than that, this is probably our hit single.

Ice Maiden:
If you have a better idea for the vocal then just tell me.
The song will get Hammond in the choruses.

Arabesque:
The only thing I can think of to do with this is to take out any bits we don't like. Otherwise it's finished.

Mercury:
The vocal is maybe not finished yet. I don't know. More updates to come.

One Last Drink:
The beginning phrase of the verse (where there's no singing) needs something. I'm thinking piano playing a slow dotted pair of notes in fifths. 

Thing in E:
Right now this is in limbo. It's a beer commercial. Nobody knows. Nobody's tellin' me nuthin'.

Album Updates

Well, all this time since we recorded our basic tracks for our album I should have finished the vocals. But I didn't. Heck, there's a lot of vocals where I haven't even done a single pass.

But here's our list of songs. The big thing that's been on my little brain is whether my vocals were actually working in these songs. Nobody's objected so far. And by that I mean that I have so little distance from the music and the singing that I can't even tell if the vocals sound like I'm even in the same band as everything else. Lou said he didn't notice anything, which is a good sign. Ethan says they're in the ballpark.

  1. Mouseverture
  2. Jabberwocky
  3. Mercury
  4. Ice Maiden
  5. Arabesque
  6. One Last Drink

Honestly, that's plenty of music for an album. Many discoveries have been made in the creation of Tyrannosaurus Mouse and this album. Firstly, we're kind of a "jam band". Second-wise, we're not really as "ambient" as I thought we'd be, we're a harder-rockin' act. Thirdsicle, the more conservatively we play, the "bigger" we sound -- fewer notes makes us more huger.

There are lots of places for custom lapel pinsAmplates makes custom badges.
You know, we'll probably just start with some stickers.