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!
My folkestra (folk orchestra) band, Whiskey Doubles, just released our second E.P. The 9-song Nightcap shows off the matured natured of the band as all of the songs were written specifically for this quartet. Our previous album, Honey Creek EP, by contrast, featured a few songs originally written for the now-defunct Of the North. Another change in this CD is that all parts were recorded simultaneously in a makeshift studio, as opposed to the individual track approach of our previous recording. I think we achieved a much improved sound through both the new songwriting and recording approaches, and couldn’t be more proud of the album.
Like Honey Creek EP, Nightcap features a variety of instrumentation. Because the tunes were recorded live, I do not do as much instrument doubling as have done before, but still alternate between cello, various percussion (spoons, snare, open snare, bass drum) and vocals. Other instruments in the recording include our signature folkestra blend of flute and clarinet, harmonium, guitar, banjolele, baritone ukulele, and the new addition of harmonica.
Nightcap is available on iTunes, can be streamed on Spotify, and we will have physical copies to sell at all of our shows!
Last week, the internet, or at least the internet if a lot of your friends are musicians and historians, blew up with the transcription of music written on a man’s butt in the depiction of hell in Hieronymus Bosch’s painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights. The hymn reminded me a lot of the stuff I heard in early music history, very simple, kind of plodding, and close to modern harmony with just a few odd cadences. It was definitely a decent minor key melody though, so I decided that given the melody’s history, I’d adapt it as an orchestral metal tune.
The melody was only available as an audio file, so I first had to transcribe the transcription. The only difficult part about this was that I wouldn’t exactly call the phrasing natural, or at least not as I’d like it, so I did slightly change some of the rhythmic values. I then determined what chord structure to put underneath the melody and started writing parts. The bass part, a bit more active than in traditional metal, came first. Rhythm guitars came next and focused on galloping rhythms, palm muting, and opened chords in the 2nd half of the progression. I was able to do all this between midnight and 2 last Friday, after I returned home after a party.
Saturday morning I recorded those and programmed the drums in FL Studio, then set to work on writing out the strings and brass. After rendering the orchestral elements with EWQL Symphonic Gold, I mixed what I had so far together. Then it was time for the leads.
I first wrote two additional lead guitars providing some counter-melodies and arpeggios towards the end of the song. You can hear those split hard left and right. The final piece was recording the hymn as the lead guitar part with a good dose of pinch harmonics and vibrato.
A few rounds of mixing, some quick intro and outro slides for the video, and it went up on YouTube. What a way to spend a weekend.
All (well, most) of the Else demos I’ve worked on over the last few years have been officially released via Bandcamp. I’ve spent countless hours writing, revising, and recording this material at a pace of about a song a month. All guitars/bass/FX are performed by myself and recorded at home using my Line6 POD X3 Live.
Else is about to embark on a pretty significant home recording project, aiming to record 8 originals in the best quality that we can. We decided to do all of the recording ourselves, an increasingly popular option given the relative afford-ability of modern recording equipment. The decision was not made without first weighing some pros and cons, detailed below. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve been learning a bit about the mastering process with the recent Else and Pay the Devil recordings. It occurred to me while I was listening to the Else demo at work that it sounded better through iTunes than it did online. I attributed this to the EQ settings within iTunes and then thought,”Well, if this EQ sounds better, why don’t I just apply that to the track?”
Pay the Devil has released their first studio recording! We recorded reference tracks in late June and each band member then recorded solo tracks to the best of the reference tracks. After a few rounds of re-recordings and mixing, it was released to Bandcamp. Take a listen »
Inspired by doing some clean recordings during the 48 Hour Film Fest, Pay the Devil has decided to do some multi-track recordings on a handful of originals and a few traditional tunes. We’re starting by extending the short cut of “Johnny” recorded with Of the North into a full song. That’ll serve as the “bonus track” listed last on the EP. We’re kicking things off with group recordings this afternoon and we’ll get as much individual tracking done as possible afterwards. Hopefully things are wrapped up in just a few weeks!
Two weekends ago I acted as Music Supervisor and Composer for a film entered into the 48 Hour Film Fest.
For those of you not familiar with the Film Fest, it’s a competition that happens in cities across the world. Film teams draw a genre from a hat, and then are given a character and a line that must be incorporated into their 4-7 minute film. Each team has only 48 hours from finding out their genre and line to turning in a final product. Read the rest of this entry »