Studio

A New Thing – Synth Dreamscape Background Music for Tarot Card Streams

January 1st, 2021

Yup, you read that right. I spent a lot of time this year composing background music for my wife’s new Twitch channel. She started streaming a Tarot card experience in the last quarter of the year, and a big part of that is the overall mood and ambience. She set up the visuals with a green screen, cloth and crystal covered table, candles, incense, and multiple cameras, and I purchased and dialed in a new boom mic for the setup. I then got to work writing music she could use in the background, as Twitch Soundtrack wasn’t yet available.

It’s honestly been a really important and rewarding experience, despite the music not being the focus. It has been fantastic to be able to play around with ideas and not worry too much about each one. Instead I’m focusing on creating many possible moods that ElizOfSwords can choose from, sometimes using dark and edgy synthesizers, sometimes focusing on warm and welcoming chords. I even composed several original holiday tracks and made arrangements of “Silent Night” and “We Three Kings”. I’m particularly proud of the “Auld Lang Syne” arrangement, which was (obviously) the last piece I worked on in the year. Take a listen:

I created nearly 30 total tracks with a run time of over 3 hours, and I’m sure I’ll keep working on ideas as they come to me. It’s been an amazing opportunity that still has plenty of potential left to explore.

No Justice. No Peace. The Bull’s Gonna Run

June 15th, 2020

This will be a year for the history books. After the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, many of us hit a breaking point with the way our country treats Black lives. One of the things I personally struggled with was the “what do I do?” feeling. Thankfully, Ivan of Pay the Devil had a protest song prepared and asked me to help finish it. We worked on this mostly remotely, each recording our parts in our home studios, and then got together (with masks!) to finish the mix. We published the track in dedication to all of those who are marching, and offered the track as a “pay what you can” download, giving whatever money it made to help the bail fund for those arrested for curfew violations. The song is now available on Spotify:

Systemic problems and deeply entrenched personal values are hard to change, but I really do believe that the marches, music, and memories of this summer will make a difference.

{ELSE} Releases “Through What We Knew”

December 13th, 2019

NEW. {ELSE}. ALBUM. Again… NEW. {ELSE}. ALBUM. Another several-year project done. An album release show later tonight. Another month or two of rest and recovery planned before starting the next one.

This album, like our previous “Who Will Cry”, ended up taking way longer than anything should, beginning with recording my guitar parts back in November/December of 2017. Bass and the other guitar parts followed in January-March of 2018, followed by vocals in the summer of 2018. At this time, we had to pause in recording to train our new drummer, who did an amazing job learning the songs and recorded his parts at home in March of 2019. I spent several weeks of heavy mixing sessions after the drums were in, and then spent the summer slowly poking at the mixes every few weeks while planning the release show, eventually settling on what you hear now.

Though still very proud of our initial album, Through What We Knew is a colossal improvement in many ways. The newer songs are better written, with a greater variety of sounds, textures, and tempos, and the production value is better. I still am not happy with the guitar sounds on the first album, despite remastering, so this time around we focused on tighter, more-focused, more meaty guitars. It’s a big improvement, but honestly still something to work on for the next album. I learned a bit more about mixing bass, using a touch less volume but a more consistent low end to always fill the space without overpowering the rest of the mix. I focused on more present vocals with a more focused EQ, less reverb, and better compression, and used more suitable reverb and EQ on the drums for a more lively sound.

Anyway, I hope you like it! I’ve listened to the songs hundreds of times now and still like them, so I think that says something. Maybe.

Pay the Devil Releases “Weimer, Texas”

September 20th, 2019

Pay the Devil released a new single, featuring me on cello! The band has started to release singles in-between larger recording efforts, so this one comes relatively hot on the heels of another single and their full album from earlier this year. Take a listen!

New {ELSE} Album Later This Year

September 15th, 2019

It’s been another long writing, recording, mixing, and mastering journey, but the end is nigh! {ELSE} released a two-track preview of our new album, Through What We Knew. Take a listen!

Pay the Devil Releases “To Hell with Luck”

March 9th, 2019

Milwaukee’s favorite “shanty-grass” ensemble, the gruff and lovable, Pay the Devil, released their sophomore album, “To Hell Luck” last night at the Walker’s Point Music Hall. Though I don’t play with the group regularly anymore, I actually did contribute bass to all but one track, and played cello on three others.

The band recorded all of their parts at banjo-Ivan’s house (yes, there are two Ivans in the band, one on banjo, one on guitar), usually in a group setting with the vocals added later. I then rented a stand-up bass to lay down the bass tracks in my home studio, where I also recorded the cello parts. Harmonica was layered in all the way from Erie, Pennsylvania, performed by banjo-Ivan’s dad. Once everything was recorded and mixed by Ivan, he headed into my home studio where we sat down to a night of mastering and Thai food. It was a long but enjoyable and collaborative process.

A particularly collaborative song is “Buffalo Bill”, written by a friend of the band, Lucas Riddle. Banjo-Ivan plays guitar and performs lead vocals, I play cello, Ivan’s dad added harmonica, and the band’s new bassist, Jacqueline, provided backup vocals. The track turned out fantastic despite none of the performers actually sitting down to play the tune together!

Cello Appearance on Eponymous’s “Sea of Tranquility”

December 10th, 2017

MKE-based rock band, Eponymous, just released their second full-length album, Sea of Tranquility, featuring myself on cello on two tracks!

The first song, “So They Say“, features some cello throughout, has an aggressive bridge breakdown where I added some wild cello parts, and ends with a small passage featuring two cello voices.

The second, “Extortion“, also features cello throughout, slowly building, and rising to a counter-melody in the last refrain.

Make sure to give a listen to the whole album on Spotify!

Music in Metal Tales

January 29th, 2017

My metal rendition of the music from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights is now included in a video game! The game, Metal Tales: Fury of the Guitar Gods, is an arcade-style animated game from Spanish based Nuberu Games. You can view some game play footage and read more about the project at their official site, http://metaltales.com/.

And check out my name in the credits in this review video!

{ELSE} Who Will Cry Re-Release

January 10th, 2017

Another chapter in the project that never ends. This, I can say, is really truly the final chapter though. My primary project, {ELSE}, released a remixed and remastered version of our debut album, Who Will Cry, today.

I started recording this album in December of 2013. My guitar parts and bass were done in a few weekends, and then the long waiting game started. The first initial roadblock was that our singer, Juan, decided to leave the band right at that time. This meant that for the first part of 2014 we had to split time between auditioning new vocalists and recording.

We found our current singer, Shane, and he had learned the material by the summer of 2014. I also moved into my house during that time, and made the switch to Mac with a new laptop. I spent a few weekends transferring all of the old files to the new laptop and we finally started the process again.

After a few gigs we felt that Shane was comfortable enough to record, so we laid down vocals in the fall of 2014.

Meanwhile, our drummer, Joe, built himself a studio to record drums, but that isn’t cheap or easy so he wasn’t done with drum tracks until January of 2015.

Only the next weekend or so we finally got around to remaining guitar tracks and I went through about a month of intense mixing and editing in February of 2015. Because this was my first true album, I had a lot of lessons to learn along the way. The drums were very, very difficult and our lack of a proper pop-filter and screen on vocals meant that I had a lot of consonants to scrub and compress. The timeline of everything was so spread out that as I learned a new technique I would go back and apply it to some of the tracks that were already a few years old.

Finally, on March 20, 2015, we had our CD release party! It was done!

Haha, no, not at all. I was immediately unhappy with a lot of the album and in June 2015 sent it off for a remastering and a new digital distribution. The remaster was a bit better, but I still had problems with the overall sound and some of the individual performances.

Therefore, I opened up all of the tracks again and tackled problems. In the second half of 2015 I started remixing just a few songs. I focused on making a rounder, less tinny sound. Over the years, we have backed the treble and presence of our guitars down, so that needed to be reflected. I did the same on the FX channels and the result was that without so much very high-end clutter, all of the instruments were clearer and louder. I also worked on the drums, particularly the lower end and added more oomph the bass drum and a heck of a lot to the toms. I think the new tom sound is actually the most improved part of the album!

Into the winter of 2016, I applied those edits to the entire album. That sat for quite a while, and finally in December we re-recorded a few vocal parts to get rid of lyrics we were frankly sort of embarrassed by. I then ran everything through my own remastering and submitted for re-release through CD Baby.

The very last delay was a wonderful Hawaii vacation into the 2017 New Year, but upon return, the final proof was ready for review. I did actually find an error in it that needed to be fixed! So, one final fix, click that “Approve” button and finally, it is done.

Now, the hilarious thing is, I still have some problems with this version. I messed up a noise gate on a tom in one song and you can hear it opening and closing, adding a weird accent to some cymbal hits. I also introduced a small pop in slicing a vocal take. I also kept finding other new problems, but almost 100% of the time I would listen back and find them in the older versions, meaning that after two years and hundreds of listens I was hearing these things for the first time. I decided to just leave all of those. I also think the guitars are still not where they could be, but I really need to stop nit-picking and move on.

The new demos I’ve been recording in the last few years all sound as good, if not better than the album, and all of the learning I did working on the album is definitely a contributing factor. I think that our next album, which we hope to record later this year, will be a breeze compared to this. I don’t think I’ll need another two years of learning about compressors, adaptive limiters, noise gates, flex tempo and pitch correctors. I’ll just start with the current settings! We’ve all also improved at our individual crafts – Shane sings stronger and more in tune, Nate and I have greatly improved our guitar tone, Jon and Joe play with more consistency – so I am hopeful there will be little editing this time around.

With Who Will Cry, although I’ve said it before, I am finally done.

A Life Elided Releases “Lear”

January 30th, 2016

ALE-album-artAbout a decade in the making, my long-term side project, A Life Elided, has released an official album. The 12-song debut, Lear, is the best of the 25+ songs written and recorded in between other projects since 2005. Some of the songs are so old that I no longer have the original recording files, which meant that wrapping up the release mostly consisted of adding parts as I could and remastering work. The age of some of the songs shows, but it felt great to finally put a bow on all of the effort in an official way!