How about an update?
When it comes to playing music, I’ve always worked and pushed through things in creative bursts that come and go. Finishing up Skylines and the Horizon was like what I imagine finally riding a massive wave after being overwhelmed by a number of them. It was something more or less nine years in the making and to finally see it completed, even if there were warts and bumps with the end product. I was done. I have a six-song EP recorded. There’s a part of me that has wanted to and still wants to get back at it. It doesn’t help that I procrastinate with the best of them.
What have I been doing for the past 10 months, musically? That’s a great question. John and Matt of Low-Fice Nice Try have been working on new songs, sending demos to me, and I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for their songs. Writing for other people helps push me creatively. With COVID-19, we haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and work on things like I’d like, but working virtually can work too, especially with my current setup.
I’ve been playing through the songs remaining in my catalog to see what speaks to me. I’ve also been watching a number of videos on YouTube where Let’s Play All plays both guitar parts on Pearl Jam’s Ten and Vs. albums, along with the main riffs on Vitalogy and No Code. I don’t necessarily want to emulate how those albums were written, after all, I am nowhere close to anyone in that band as a songwriter, but I’d love to take a page from their book on how the guitars interact with one another.
For almost two decades, I’d built songs similar to “Spin” and “So Far” where I’d write a rhythm guitar and vocal part, write the second guitar part, program drums to compliment the guitars, and then leave the bass to find a place among the chaos. That process changed when I fleshed out “One and Three”. I’d written the rhythm guitar, came up with the drums, but could never find a second guitar part that I liked, so I skipped it. I wrote the bass part first and adjusted the drums to match the rhythm guitar and bass parts. When it came time to finally write the second guitar, it was confined to the spaces left by the previous two parts. It felt like working on someone else’s song, and that presented a challenge I hadn’t faced with my own music before. I came up with the part in the bridge first and I can’t think of another guitar part I’d written that felt like that. I look back on that song as the first time I feel like the dynamics between the guitar and bass parts feel closer to the bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden I draw inspiration from.
Now that I’ve had a taste of that, I want to keep moving in that direction. That starts with looking at the rhythm guitar, vocals, and lyrics. While I’m not a gifted lyricist, I do like some of the things I’ve written. I’ve made tweaks to lyrics that I’ve been unhappy with, played songs while both singing and not singing to see how I play them differently when I have to split my focus, and seeing where there are spaces for other guitar parts, the bass, maybe a keyboard part or two, and everything else to exist. These next songs, with the exception of one called “Compound”, have no base for drums yet. Nothing has been planned, thought out, or started and that’s daunting. Sure, Superior Drummer has MIDI patterns that I can build off of, but there are hundreds to pore through and most of them won’t fit at first. It’s just a lot and I’m starting the process already feeling a little overwhelmed. When I started planning the last set of songs, life was a bit simpler than it is now.
All that being said, here’s what I’d like to see happen through the rest of 2020:
Recording more pedal demos
I have a Canon T6 that’s mostly sat in my camera bag. I need to make better use of it and, guess what, it can do video. I decided to buy a tripod and an attachment that should make it easier to get a good angle of the pedal I’m recording. No more phone kinda pointing at something. I can zoom in and keep the pedal in frame.
I already have a line up of pedals I want to demo, including the aforementioned Tapestry Audio Fab Suisse and Subdecay Vector, but also want to dig into the Blackout Effectors Musket Fuzz and Zvex Double Rock, if only because I love the Box of Rock so much and the Double Rock is two of them in one enclosure.
I’m actually pretty excited about doing these. While I wouldn’t consider myself a YouTube content creator, the demo I did for the Kokko Distortion pedal has over a thousand views. In the world of YouTube, that’s absolutely nothing, but to me, that’s exciting.
Stream my songwriting process
I’ve been streaming on Twitch since late 2019, but took an extended break before starting up again in February of this year. The PC I record my music on was intended to be a streaming computer for my main PC, but, at least so far, I haven’t needed a dual PC setup. That’s when I got the idea to stream the songwriting process. I can have OBS pull channels from my USB interface via an ASIO plugin and include that along with the interface that Windows is seeing as my primary sound device. I’ll be able to run my mic into my Audient id14, have Windows recognize that as my primary sound device, and also grab the four inputs from my new Steinberg UR44c that are setup to mic my Fender Princeton Reverb Reissue and Egnater Tweaker 15. Musicians and non-musicians alike, small as my audience might be, can get a glimpse into the songwriting process, the ups and downs of that, and get to look behind the scenes of how a Cold the Winter song comes to life.
Flesh out and record a new song
Back in April of 2019, I removed people from my life who no longer brought benefit into my life. I was, and still am to a certain degree, hurt by what I felt and still feel was a betrayal of trust, a rejection of my child, and a display of the ugliness inside of one of them. I also wrote a song in the following days that is the first time in a long time I’ve written a song directed at someone instead of inspired by situation. Although I’ve had other songs that have been around much longer, this is the next song I want to record. It’s a fairly simple song, so writing a drum part shouldn’t be hard. It’s the rest of the song that I want to make sure helps tell the story. As mentioned above, I want to stream this process.
That kind of sums up where I’ve been for almost the past year. Here’s to hoping the rest of 2020 isn’t the garbage fire the last four months have been. There’s a lot of negativity in the world right now. To quote Genesis, let’s make this a place worth living in.