Friday, August 20, 2010

Of Drummers and Drum Machines

Haven't Eutoxita-blogged in a bit. I've been busy, busy, busy... and I've been spending my blogging moments with Naked in Hindsight. My Eutoxita blog is very jealous. Saucer of milk... table two...

So, production-wise, the next Eutoxita record is still in pre-production, just mostly in my head. Most of my musical energy has--quite happily--been pouring into the phoenix-like continuance of Floodwatch after Charlie's sudden departure. Which leads us into today's blog.

Much has been made over the years regarding synthesizers and drum machines and their replacement of humans. In the vein of both great sci-fi (iRobot, for example) and sketchy corporate/union battles, the introduction of electronic instruments caused a bit of a stir in the music community, particularly in the semi-lucrative session world. (Check out this NPR piece by Mitch Myers - "John Henry: Drummer vs. Drum Machine". Although it's more about turntables than it is drum machines, the idea is the same).

When Charlie left, David and I had a big decision to make: we could look for another drummer and risk the mojo we had going in our working relationship, or we could take a different kind of risk altogether. We took the second route and I hit ebay for an Akai MPC2000, a late-1990's vintage sampling drum machine. The Akai is extra hip, as it has ties to the guy who invented the sampling drum machine (which some felt threatened to put drummers out of work), Roger Linn. The uber-hipness of it, though, is that it (and its newer versions) have been a mainstay in hip-hop. Just search for "MPC2000" on YouTube and you'll see what I mean.

As regular readers (yeah...) know, David and I have a recording-only side project called My Father's Guns. You can get the back story on our collective dive into beat world in that site's blog archive. Suffice it to say that we've been abusing software-based rhythm machines and loops in MFG and decided to hijack that piece of the puzzle into Floodwatch. I tinkered with just rolling out my old laptop, but the poor thing is just too unstable. The MPC was designed to take the abuse of stage-based entertainment, so that's the horse we bet on.

So, yeah... we've been rethinking Floodwatch material with beats and loops in order to go out live again, and just to continue as a band period. Every time we finish the beats for a song and play over it, we get more excited. This is not Kraftwerk. We're grooving hard over these beats. And, perhaps most importantly, we've kept the Floodwatch sound going, which means we get atmospheric and vibey, but we also get Heavy.

One way we've kept things out of robot land is simply to keep things as live as possible. The MPC has this weird, funky, organic feel to it anyway, but we do as little timing correction as possible, and we have a pretty cool way to program. We set a tempo, let the click count us in, and David plays and sings while I play the beats on the MPC's pads. That's it. No ta-da. No ancient Chinese secret... but, man, does it make a difference. No auto-filling twos and fours here - I groove along to David's performance and it shows in the final beats.

A perfect example is a song we finished re-vamping last night, "War Child." This is one of the heavier Floodwatch tracks - it just oozes Sabbath-y sludge. On the original CD--and at live performances--Charles played this great Tool-like triplet beat on the final chorus. We've really tried to avoid just programming his original beats into the machine but this was one place where that flavor would be sorely missed. After David and I got the basic beats together, I slowed the machine down (hey, c'mon... that's a tough pattern to rock out on little rubber pads), made sure the timing correction was off, and went for it. A few overdubbed cymbal crashes later, and it had just the right stink to it.

If you want to check it out... come hear us at the Barley Pub in Dover, NH on Wednesday, August 25th at 9 PM. We're opening for When Geeks Unite.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Awesome Quote

"Maturity is the enemy of the rock musician." ~David Lowery

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I've Seen the Future, and It Will Be...

I haven't been blogging as of late. Too much going on in both of my lives--educator and musician. Charlie quit Floodwatch. With all due respect to the guy, it's actually opened a whole new door for me and David, not that the creativity wasn't already there. My metaphor for our creative relationship is a faucet. It really is that easy to open the floodgates of the muse when we work together. Now, thanks to Charlie and a willing eBay seller, we are moving into the next phase as a two piece. Floodwatch used to be hard-rock-Americana-something. Now put all of that over hip-hop/techno/industrial-inspired beats and you have a flavor for where we're going.

Stay tuned.

The next phase of Floodwatch...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Apple Finally Comes Through... ish

With some prompting from CDBaby, trainwreck is FINALLY listed on iTunes!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"I never rock da mic wit da pan'yhose..."

Steadman taking a break to pen some lyrics.
Tracking David's vocals @ North River Studio, engineer Charlie Farr.
R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I just got back from Salem, NH... picked up 102 copies of The Cry of a Bird of Prey...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jynxing My Muse

As I prepare the third Eutoxita album, I find that song ideas are just pouring out of me. I pick up the mandolin... a few minutes later, there's a song. Grab the old Kent acoustic... a song... another. Sit down at the piano... chords flow like rain.

I hope my title is wrong.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


When I grow up and learn how to write songs, I would love to push out some gems like Cracker's "Hey Bret (You Know What Time It Is)".

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Bits 'n Pieces

Hey there, fearless readers...

Sometime in the next two weeks, the second official EUTOXITA album, The Cry of a Bird of Prey will be released. The duplicator approved the audio masters (it’s a double-disc set) and should be notifying me soon with approval on the graphics. The second disc includes enhanced content. It’s a little clunky; I bought an old version of Macromedia Director 8 but couldn’t get Flash stuff together in time, so I fell back on an html interface. The disc includes a low-quality mov file of Nosferatu with my soundtrack embedded. It also includes my stop-motion short, Midnight Double Feature. I plan on selling it at a single-disc price, so all five of you who actually paid for a copy of trainwreck should be happy.

I have officially started the new EUTOXITA album. An acquaintance loved trainwreck but said, “Hey, where’s the country? You’ve got every style on there but country!” I offered that “When I Was a Child” is country influenced, but to no avail. I also explained that I can’t stand modern “country” and that brought us into talks of “the outlaws”—Cash, Hank Sr., Willie… Long story short, the first new song specifically written for this record* started as an old-school country waltz… and then got fed into the EUTOXITA filter. No Rascal Flats, mate. Think “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” meets Peter Gabriel.

I’ve made two other major decisions for this album. The first is that the record will, whenever possible, be a mixture of cinematic-soundscape-like textures and acoustic or rock-based instrumentation. This is where my voice (the writing one, not the singing one) has been going anyway; I’ve simply decided to be more intentional. The second is that a good portion (a third? half?) of the record will feature guest vocalists. I have, for example, already started writing a song for David Steadman (Floodwatch, MFG) to sing. It is neither Floodwatch nor MFG like in the least...

The working title of the album is voices inside outside.

*There is already one completed song that will go on the record. It was not, however, written specifically for the record.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dropped The Cry of a Bird of Prey off at Superdups today...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sunday night I got back to my roots and kicked some Emerson/Lord/Wakeman organ on one of the new Floodwatch tracks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The reviews are in...

So... a few weeks ago, I sent a few copies of trainwreck to a promoter in the UK. Random much? there is a story behind it - I put the CD on CD Baby and companies came out of the woodwork to ask for my business. Anyhow... the reviews are here:

All I can say is... I was right about my title...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Something for the 2.3 of You Who Read This Crap

Hey... haven't blogged in a while. Been very busy with the Enterprise - learning the new gear, software, etc. Also, I'm still working on the release-version of my Nosferatu soundtrack, The Cry of a Bird of Prey. Long story short, I wanted to add enhanced content to the second disc... and that's where the trouble started. I downloaded free programs to write auto-load code, etc. and everything kept leading to another download, and another... I kept following directions to a T and having the programs crap out. Finally, I ordered a used copy of Macromedia's Director... only to have the vendor crap out... leaving me to order a DIFFERENT copy from a DIFFERENT vendor. So... I am now teaching myself Director 8 Shockwave Studio (yes, I know it's old... but I'm poor and it will do the job). My goal is to have the CDs off to duplication within the next two weeks...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Captain's log, stardate 3.6.2010... Software for the new bridge currently installing... Phasers on 'funky'...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One last listening check in the car and now it's in the hands of the USPS. Not my most pro packaging, but it had to fit two CDs and a DVD...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

MELLOTRON MAN... Ok, so I finished mixing all 14 of the original songs... but I just couldn't let go of a nagging doubt about having used synth choir and chimes on a couple songs... so I just finished replacing synth choir with me and synth chimes with demented backwards guitar... aaaahhhh... I feel much better...

Listening to last test playback of "He's Coming"...

The elusive guitar fish caught on film...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

David just left after cutting wordless vocals on three Nosferatu tracks. It's all pure Steadman but in context it's somewhere between "Great Gig in the Sky" and the Middle Eastern wordless ululations on Gabriel's Passion album...

From Here On Out

It looks like I'm in the home stretch for The Cry of a Bird of Prey, my Nosferatu soundtrack. Home stretch means: get David's vocal tracks tonight (he has no idea what he's in for.... well, he does, actually...), then clean up all of the tracks, fix the odd part here or there, and mix, mix, mix...

As much as I love tracking (I you will be able to tell with the countless washes of feedback that adorn the soundtrack--whee! Frank Zappa once said, "The disgusting stink of a too loud electric guitar; now that's my idea of a good time."), mixing has become an incredible, edible obsession for me. I'm not saying I'm any good at it, just that I'm obsessed with it. There's a whole other level of artistry going on with mixing; it's like painting with sound.

On a final note (for now), three (well, four, as one of the "three" is/are a set) kind benefactors are assisting my future musical endeavors. First up, one kind benefactor has adopted the role of Executive Producer for The Cry of a Bird of Prey by offering to have it duplicated. The pair one (yup) have gifted me the funds to get a newer computer (soon), as the ones I have been tracking on are 5-8 years old. And, finally, a kind benefactor from the dark depths of my past (well, high school...) is gifting me some high-end digital recording gear as an upgrade from my humble Lexicon Omega interface. I aim to honor them all by cranking out oodles of music...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Finished ALL my tracking... with the exception of David's vocals, it's all mixing from here... whew...
Saved the best for last... Layin' down the mighty bass...
First take on my last minute additional song ('cause 14 wasn't enough)...

Five minute lyrics... not bad...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Installing new snare heads for Ike's song. Been a while since I've done this...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Round one with synth tracks... trying hard to channel Lamb-era Tony Banks... possibly a little Emerson, Lord, or Wakeman on organ... we'll see after some sleep.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ok... NOW the guitars are done. Come bat out of Hell or high water. Strange washes of feedback...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Might have finished guitars about an hour ago... I don't know. There might be room for more here and there but the cranked amp stuff should be all set. I might do some more with David's Pocket POD. I had fun with my delay... ay... ay... ay...

Drums tracked. Just need to retrack the edrums from the MIDI outputs and do some cleanup. On to guitar?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hack of all trades... Boy are my arco skills rusty...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Each of the 14 pieces now has a title, each based on a text slide from the section of film it accompanies. This clip is from the final piece, "Vanished With The Morning Sun".

Tonight's major task: dividing the one hour and twenty-four minute piano "spine" into logical/musical pieces. There ended up being fourteen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Finished the piano spine. It's not perfect but I'm committed to writing around it. Junior seems to approve...

"Let the madness... begin..." As soon as my laptop finishes rebooting, I'll be laying down the piano spine while watching the film... so it begins...

Monday, February 1, 2010

RPM DAY 1: My daughter is in the other room writing music on the piano for her RPM project. Here I sit in the dining room writing a hit list for Nosferatu. I figure it will help me to lock the plot and sequencing in my head before I improvise the piano parts, which will form the backbone of the score.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

David lays down an MFG beat the Jim White way! This is how I tracked the kick and snare for "Punk Rock For Breakfast". For a fun party game (once you buy my album), see if you can tell which songs have 100% acoustic drums, which have 100% electronic drums, and which are hybrids... By the way, David was triggering very Prince-like kick and snare sounds. "I never meant to cause you any sorrow..."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Charlie... very excited about EQ...


Cut two more tracks with Floodwatch tonight. The drums and bass are keepers. This is a clip of David laying down a scratch vocal. Floodwatch continues to be the easiest, most free-flowing band experience ever.

"Charging an army, while / All the world wonder'd"

I haven't done an actual online post in a while. I'm just waiting for some random Internet junky to point out that the last few are more twittering than blogging. Oh, wait... only two people read this...

Anywho (really?), I'm eagerly awaiting trainwreck. I'm somewhat annoyed with the duplicator. Apparently, I missed the part where they told you that "orders like mine" (read: small money) don't warrant individual attention. The only way I've gotten info is to pester. Even that uncovered the fact that they thought they had been sending me e-mail updates, but hadn't. Can't a brother get a little attention for three Benjamins? At any rate, I'm hoping to see a box of disks SOON.

In the meantime, fearless readers will know that I've signed up for the RPM Challenge again. I think I've also convinced my brother to sign up as an artist, and I'm hoping Lees will as well. The Army of Dorkness, er... Darkness is growing... MWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Over the last couple of days, I've been tying up my gf's bandwidth downloading a DVD-quality version of Nosferatu. I have a DVD already, but it's a bit sketchy, according to the experts. The first red flag was that it's about an hour long, while the original film clocks in around an hour and a half. Of course, the original original has yet to be fully realized. Apparently, text slides were removed and lost, some sections of the film are supposed to be tinted, etc. This is all because Bram Stoker's estate sued Prana Film and the court ordered all copies destroyed. Yikes.

My plan is this: I will improvise a score on my digital piano while watching the film from start to finish, a la Neil Young's Deadman soundtrack. Once I have this musical road map down, I'll go back and add what needs to be added--upright bass (arco, most likely... the Voice of the Abyss), guitar(s), possibly drums, synth, dijeridoo... whatever. At some point, I'll chop off hunks that call for David's voice and drop them to disc. Then he'll give 'em the MFG treatment, listening and singing in his truck on his way back and forth to work. I might pull my bro in for some Floydian guitar touches. Who knows? Other than broad brush strokes, I have no intention of locking it in ahead of time. The singing will be wordless, although I am toying with the idea of doing the ubiquitous Hollywood end-credits song.

"Half a league, half a league, half a league onward..."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Band #3. Please, Odin, let my eardrums burst before I must endure any more. P.S. 1989 called and it wants its speed metal back. Ride the lightning. Ride it.
Two words: Crate amps.
Band #3... Haven't started yet but... guys w long hair who look like they lift weights a lot... never a good sign...
Song 3... I take it back back...
I take it back... Band #2 just started... Rockin' so far
Out @ a club. Either I'm old, or these bands suck... You be the judge. Either way, the company is OUTSTANDING!!!

Cool news... Had an MFG listening session with David last night. I told him about the RPM Challenge and he signed on to add vocalizations to the soundtrack. In the words of Mr. Burns (and Wayne)... Excellent...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'll sleep when I'm dead... or undead (RPM Challenge)

Since trainwreck is "in the can" I have signed up for the RPM Challenge. I was part of the first RPM with TCD, then again on my own as James Blanco. This time, EUTOXITA will score the silent film Nosferatu. Stay tuned...

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Train(wreck) Has Left The Station... maybe...

As of 3:17 PM this afternoon, I have officially uploaded the CD master and Photoshop graphics files for the eagerly-awaited (well...) first-ever EUTOXITA album, trainwreck.

That is... if I did everything correctly, which--as the name of the album might suggest--is no guarantee. However, my fingers are crossed. The final track order stayed as projected. (NOTE: When you buy the CD--hint, hint--try my brother's suggested track order: 1, 2, 4, 3, 10, 5, 6, 7, 9, 8).

I will post when I have an anticipated availability date.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Charlie behind the kit, ready to bust phat beats on the preproduction demos for the new Floodwatch record. Charlie's studio looks great, but lacks the ever-present laundry piles that charm up my studio.

David manning Charlie's ProTools rig.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wait... Alan Parsons didn't wear glasses...
Wait... Alan Parsons didn't wear glasses...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Still deciding on duplication & distribution options. In the meantime... started writing for the next album... (And I know--Alan Parsons called & he wants his beard & glasses back...).