Serve the Servants Sounds Like…

•October 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I just picked up Nirvana’s In Utero re-issue last week.  Forgot how much I really enjoy this album.  I couldn’t help thinking that Serve the Servants really sounds like another song I’m familiar with but couldn’t quite figure it out.  A few days later, I read an old Dave Grohl interview where he mentioned he was writing and recording some of the songs that ended up on the first Foo Fighters album while he was still in Nirvana.

During a break in the Nevermind Tour, Grohl recorded a demo of  “Alone + Easy Target.”  Cobain asked to hear it and liked it.  I think I may have just put two and two together.

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My wife tells me I have a knack for picking out similarities in songs, (some obvious, and some not so obvious).  For me, it’s easy to pick out a chord progression that sounds alike in two different songs.  Sometimes it’s more dilluted.

I think Cobain was heavily influenced by Dave’s demo.  I didn’t realize it until I popped In Utero in to listen last week, but I really think Serve the Servants must have been written around the same time Kurt heard that demo.  They’re not exact, but I think they sound extremely similar.  You be the judge.



					
				

Temple of the Dog – “Reach Down”

•May 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

In an era where most bands were anti-guitar god, Mike McCready lays down one of the most epic guitar solos ever. Enjoy.

Sometimes You Gotta… Um… Let Me Check My Notes… Just Do It

•April 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I guess I went there.

Excuses. I have a million of them. I all too often let them get in the way. They get in the way of accomplishing just about anything I could wish to accomplish. The truly successful know how to either ignore the obstacles that lead to the excuse or better yet can look at the obstacle as a direct challenge and face it head on.

That all sounds really good — motivational even — right? Meh. We’re not all type A.

People are people. Personalities come a wide variety of compound mixtures. In my opinion, most people try to make everything black or white — either Type A or Type B. I think there are way many more types and combinations than just those two.

Type A people are typically outspoken, driven, and focused. Many highly successful people are type A. But I’ll bet there are as many successful people that aren’t type A as there are type A people that aren’t particularly focused.

What the hell am I rambling about…

Oh yeah. Focus.

Many of those obstacles need to be dealt with. I’m guilty of trying to avoid many, but others simply can’t be avoided. What’s worse is, some of them take up much free time. Sometimes they take up so much time that I forget where I left off with whatever goal it was I was trying to accomplish, or more often than I’d like to admit, forget completely what it was I was working on in the first place.

Then I discovered that most basic tool. The notepad.

If you find that you’re not Type A and / or you’re often losing site of various tasks, projects, and goals, write it down. Keep a list of tasks or steps in a project.

There’s good reason that just about any rock band in existence today goes on stage with a set list, no matter how well rehearsed their act is. They’re also very handy for rehearsals themselves. Ever hear anyone in your band, after stopping for 5 minutes to discuss a particular line or riff in a song say, “what song are we working on again?” or, “We’ve rehearsed 5 songs already. What ones do we have left?”

Right now I’m bouncing back and forth between playing and recording in a band and trying to record some of my own material. I’m a dad of 3 young kids with a full time job. I can afford maybe one three hour session to rehearse and record per week. If I’m lucky, I’ll find some time on the weekend to dedicate to music.

That means when I’m working with the band, my personal material sits. Sometimes, for as much as a month or two. Pencil/paper, my iPhone and whiteboards are my best friends these days.

I record notes and lists on my iPhone. A simple song list keeps me focused on what I need to record. Once I start on a song, I’ll track what I’ve completed recording and what parts or instruments still need completing.

The band keeps a whiteboard with overall set list, recording steps, and a whole bunch of other info that’s available at a glance. I think each of us even have photos of the whiteboard on our phones.

When in doubt, always have a pen and paper near by. You never know what it will come in handy for. I keep one of each in my guitar case. I find at times I’ll need to transcribe something to remember to practice at home. I’ll jot it down on the notepad so that it’s right there when I open my case. I can often include more details on a note pad than I can on my iPhone.

It’s easy for me to say in any one of these situations, “I’ll remember that.” I did that once as a wee lad when I met this cute little chickadee at the roller rink. “I’ll remember your phone number.” I didn’t. And I never saw her again. Painful lesson learned.

Back from the Dead

•March 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Wow. It’s been quite a while huh? I really need to check in here more often. It’s crazy how life gets away from you sometimes. I spent a lot of time last year working with my friends Fire Blue Sun. They’ve been gradually recording material in Jim’s attic for a forthcoming EP and quite possibly a full length. I’ve played engineer as well as session guitarist for them. They have some really great material. I can’t wait until they get it all wrapped up.

I spent most of the 2012 summer renovating my attic space. We turned a completely empty space into an office for my wife and family/recording room for the kids’ toys and all of our music gear. It came out great!

I’m now trying to get into the mindset of getting back to work on my own material. I haven’t been very motivated lately to record, but I have drafted a few new song ideas in the past few months.

So that’s what’s up. Stick around and maybe I’ll get some new content up here soon.

-Lee

A Little Perspective for You and Me

•March 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

What am I doing this for? I’m spending much of my little free time lately huddled in front of a PC and some speakers listening to the same song over and over and over. It’s the very same song I recently spent hours trying to play the perfect guitar part for, the perfect bass guitar part for, and creating the perfect drum arrangement for.

Well, it’s less than perfect. I’m not even going to try to kid anyone with that description. I’m not a bassist for one thing. I like to think I can feign my way through it for the sake of recording a complete song. The guitars are good. That’s my area of expertise (take that statement with a grain of salt if you would please). I can not fake my way through drums for a second. Any drums you’ll hear from my work in the near future will all have been created on a computer.

A recording and mixing engineer I certainly am not. I’m trying my best with severe limitations, and again, the results are no where near anyone’s definition of perfection.

So why do I keep at it? Well, why not? I’ve forever thought about what could have been if Fortress could have managed to remain a complete band for any serious length of time. I’m not talking fame and fortune or anything, but what would it be like just to have recordings of the songs as a complete 5 piece as we once were? What would it be like to have made those recordings and moved forward? Would we have moved forward? Would we have gotten progressively more creative and continued to write and record? Maybe we would have started playing out and built a small fan base? Maybe even one of us would have continued on in music even after Fortress was no more. Who knows?

Knowing the answers to all of those questions is beyond my control. However, getting song to tape so-to-speak is no longer beyond my control. It is now 1000 times easier to do it in the digital age than it was just a few short years before the dawn of the .com boom, the time when we were a band. I don’t need the band. I have computers and iGadgets and things like that. Just plug in and press the red button.

OK, maybe it’s not quite that simple, but I think I’ve made my point.

So, what are you doing here reading this? As much as I’d love for Fortress or any other musical project I’m attempting to be some big, professional production, it’s not. It’s me sitting at my dining room table or Jim and I in his attic. It’s me making drum arrangements with a computer program or trying desperately to master a bass line I have no business playing in the first place. Its me desperately trying to put together a passable mix of the recorded material in a different piece of software.

I don’t want to lead anyone on that I’m in some awesome 5-piece, with the potential to blow wide open any minute. It’s not like that right now. Maybe someday it will be, but then again, maybe it won’t. However, please know this. I’m having fun doing it all. I get enjoyment out of it. Sometimes it’s work, but the extra effort makes it that much more enjoyable in the end.

Would I want any of this to turn into some big professional production? Absolutely (maybe), if the circumstances were just so. But then again, who knows, maybe what I’m doing right now is actually the perfect place for me to be musically. Being part of a complete band and making records or playing shows could completely suck if it gets to that point for me. Maybe the most fun I’ll have is recording a few songs on this computer and only 5 or 10 of my closest friends and family ever actually listening to them. Whatever. I’ll take it all as it comes, whether it be just sitting at the dining room table, Jim’s attic, someone’s basement, a recording studio, inside or outside the control room, in a bar, on a stage, on a roof. Whatever. If and when it comes, I’ll try to make whatever it is as fun as possible. If it’s not fun, then what’s the point?

Right — back to why you’re reading this. Well, I’d be thrilled to just have you peek in on me every now and then to share the fun as big or as small as you think this is, or ever will be. I’m just extending an open invitation without getting anyone’s hopes up. It’s simple, stupid fun. Really. And I’d very much just like to share that with you. Feel free to c’mon back any time.

-Lee

Back Scratcher

•March 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been a little quiet here lately. I’m still working on some material with Cass, but I’ve been spending a lot of time lately acting as recording engineer for my good friends from Jenkintown, PA and Jimmy’s other band, Fire Blue Sun.

I enjoy doing this type of thing almost as much as writing and recording my own stuff. It’s important, in my opinion, to lend a hand and offer a favor when I can. Hopefully some day, when I really need it, someone will return a favor. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to work with other musicians and see things from a different perspective.

In any case, they’re just about finished tracking an acoustic set, and we should be getting to mixing soon. Check them out when you get a chance.

Fire Blue Sun — http://firebluesun.com

From the Top

•February 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

When Fortress first formed, Danny and I did a good portion of the song writing. Later when Jim joined us, he and Danny collaborated if I wasn’t around, or all three of us worked together. Typically, Danny would write some lyrics and come up with a rough melody and phrasing. We then sat around and tried to figure out what chords and rhythms fit the melody and phrases.

These days, things happen differently. When Jim and I jam, we’ll sort of freestyle it if the mood strikes in between working on existing tunes, and occasionally an idea will bloom. Many times I’ll listen back to a rehearsal recording later in the week, take a piece of one of these jam sessions, maybe even just a few chords, and build something new from that.

Jim and I don’t get to hang out every day of the week like we did when we were young bucks with no families or real jobs. Good ideas can’t be forced and can’t be made to wait for schedules to align. In some cases modern technology like the interwebs and handheld wireless communicators (otherwise known as “smart phones”) allows us to collaborate some, but many times, an idea comes and it just has to be left to blossom on its own whether collaboration can happen or not.

Little-by-little, I’ve been working on a song I’ve given the working title of “Atmosphere” for about 2 or 3 months now. I’ve actually gradually built this song into something that I think is going to sound really great. “Atmosphere” bloomed on its own. I actually came up with music and lyrics (and I don’t consider myself a lyricist by any stretch of the definition). Since it seemed to be coming to me so easily, I decided I would just let it roll and see where it takes me. I decided it would be a great exercise to complete this one all the way through the finished recording on my own. I’ve already started recording it, though still have some work left to do.

It began like I imagine many song ideas happen for many song writers. I was sitting on the couch one night noodling around on an acoustic guitar and I just happened to hit a few notes in succession that sounded somewhat appealing. Whenever I get an idea that I like enough to want to eliminate the risk of forgetting, I’ll pull out my cell phone and record it.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to document the creative process of a song from beginning to end. I tripped over this mp3 file today looking for something else on my thumb drive. I can’t believe how much this song is evolving as I continue to work on it. What you’re going to hear below is the result of me sitting on the couch just quickly recording that basic idea that I didn’t want to risk forgetting. It’s going to be very interesting to compare how it started to how the finished product sounds (with any luck I’ll have a finished product before summer).

Have a listen. Comments welcome. I doesn’t sound like much now, but I warn you, this one’s snowballing out of control. There’s no stopping it no matter how much you think it sucks.

 
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