A One-Man-Band's DIY Production Journal.

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Dusty Instruments

I’m back from my usual 100 year creative hiatus.

I’m working on remastering the first two releases face:the.music (2008) and King Friday (2010). Some songs will be re-done, while the others will be fine-tuned, and King Friday gets a brand new 11th song as a bonus track.

The new song is titled “Midnight Smile”, (a roadhouse-rock song I had partially written during the 2010 recordings, but never finished) and should fit stylistically and chronologically with the overall concept album as it continues with the 3rd upcoming record, “Destiny”.

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I feel a little weird ‘George-Lucasing’ my earlier works, but whatever… I feel like some songs could sound better, and that King Friday definitely needed one more sexy, party track.

So, the new record “Destiny” cleans up the mess from the story told in King Friday, and will be a book-end/story arc that started with face:the.music. Again, loosely based on personal accounts, and… yea. Overall, it’s a musical trilogy. I’m trying to not be the pop-punk version of Taylor Swift or Adele about this, writing about more break-ups and heartache, but instead looking those from another angle… The challenge now is telling that same break up story, but leaving the adolescent emo-style behind… been there, done that.


“Wake Up” Music Video shot on iPhone 4S

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Hello everyone! Check out the video to my newest song from the upcoming album Destiny coming this summer! This video was filmed completely on an iPhone 4S, using tools such as the Olloclip 3-Lens system, the Glif + tripod mount and the Manfrotto Modosteady!

“Wake Up” Music Video:

iTunes $.99
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/wake-up-single/id506458750?uo=4

“Wake Up” SoundCloud stream:

iPhone Video Gadgets Review:


You want fries with that?

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After an on and off schedule, I’m finally done working on my mini-project, Fast Food. It was originally slated to be a 6-song release, but for a couple of songs, I just wasn’t feeling the source material. It was way too teen-angsty for me.

Overall, I’m happy with the outcome, although I think it could sound a lot better. There were some limitations that I definitely take for granted when I’m producing on a full computer… There was no automated volume/EQ, no pitch correction, I was limited to 8 tracks of audio, limited vocal and guitar effects… On top of that, the vocals were recorded inside a closet with a heavy blanket over me… I was concerned over my neighbors hearing me sing take after take. And I was definitely not all there in terms of tuning. The vocals were pitchy at times and the guitars might be off.

I tried to setup one ground rule for this project: the music cannot be edited on a PC/Mac AT ALL. So, from conception to distribution, the entire album can only be produced on an iPad or iPhone without the aid of a computer.

So I recorded all of the music directly on my iPad using GarageBand, edited the final mix in an app called MultiTrack, directly uploaded to SoundCloud for streaming, and shared on Facebook for people to hear.

I like how it still sounds raw. These were some of the first songs I had written and recorded back in the 2000’s. It was back to recording on “a budget” and the source material reflects that.

Listen and download on SoundCloud:
soundcloud.com/richy923/sets/fastfood


Fast Food Back In Production

I spent the past two weeks putting together my latest project titled “Fast Food”.

To recap, Fast Food is a 6-song album. The songs? These are songs I wrote from high school. The rules? Use only an iPad and an iPhone to record and edit.

I’m recording using GarageBand for iPad, which allows a maximum of 8 tracks, no volume automation, no manual EQ, no pitch correction, little mastering.

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So now 8 tracks… That’s room for: Drums, Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar, Bass and 4 left for vocals and harmonies. Sounds like it’s enough, right? Not quite. I’m a 16-24 track kinda guy. I layer my guitars nowadays and go nuts with the vocals.

And as I said before, no volume automation, which means no fading out of vocals or guitar sustains. And no pitch correction, so I really gotta be on point with these harmonies.

I have 3 songs done so far… they’re far from perfect, but that’s what’s to be expected for my experiment. I wanna see how far I can go with the iPad.

Since it’s a return to the days of teenage angst, singing songs about heartbreak and broken dreams, it’s also a return to the days of limited production tools.

I’ll have these three songs available later this week on YouTube, “Unrequited Love” “The Glory Days” and “Dream Girl”.

I’ll also be giving the music video for “Unrequited Love” the same production treatment. Nothing but an iPhone and an iPad.


“A Night on the Town” music video!

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Filmed and edited at studio923, here’s the newest video from the album King Friday:

This was filmed with Sony’s Bloggie Duo and edited with Apple iMovie HD 6.


Mobile Vocals

Last Sunday, I found myself at 8AM, in a parking lot of a hotel off of Route 17 in Mahwah… recording vocals for a song on my iPad. I’m taking this mobile/minimalistic recording approach seriously. Since I’m kinda limited in the amount of singing I do in my apartment (due to the thin walls and my neighbors), I took the recording on the road. I figure since I’m the type to wail out and sing-a-long while driving, maybe a car was my perfect comfort zone.

I was singing to the new version of “At The Bridge” using the built-in mic of the headphones that came with the iPhone. It really sounded like shit.

The other night during my midnight window shopping at the 24-hour Best Buy in Union Square, I found the Samson GO MIC

Tiny. Mobile. Capable. PERFECT.

Here’s my overview:

I’m gonna try my luck with this thing later this week.


Making Fast Food

It’s time to go to work and use my iPad 2 for the reason I bought it. I’ve tinkered around with the new GarageBand app, just to see what I can and can’t do.

Just this past week, I was able to hook up my electronic drum kit to the iPad as a midi controller! For my technically challenged friends: I can use my physical drums to control and record the software drums on the iPad. No more tapping beats on the screen 🙂 Using Apple ‘iPad Camera Connection Kit’, I can add a USB device to the iPad. Then, using an old MIDI to USB cable, I can interface the drums into the GarageBand app. So awesome.

Here’s a tutorial I made:

I started recording for my mini album called “Fast Food”, which is a compilation of 6 songs that will be recorded ONLY on an iPad. They’re going to be re-recordings of songs I did back in high school. Going back to those teen angst years, I suppose.

So, I’m already able to input my guitar to the iPad, and now I can input drums, vocals should be a no-brainer.

When all that is done, the next step is cutting an entire music video with the iPad. Technology is great.

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“Her Name Here” Video!

Here it is! World premiere of my latest music video!

From the new album King Friday, here’s “Her Name Here”

Filmed with a Sony bloggie HD pocket camcorder, at Studio923 in Manhattan.

Originally, the video was supposed to open with a 1960’s talk show host introducing the band known as “Richy and the 923’s” and I was going to play the part of the host, but I didn’t want to overkill the fact I was doing multiple roles. (also I ran out of disguises).

So instead of getting too crazy with the cuts, angles and edits, I wanted to keep it simple. I figured I should get a little stylistic with some good coloring and film grain filters instead.

And through my “band” I get to present my geeky/creative side which is the singer, along with the mild/chilled side with the bassist and my goofy/hyper side with the drummer.


Video Shoots

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been preparing to shoot two music videos for the King Friday album, “Her Name Here” and “It’s Not Karma If It Doesn’t Hurt”.

I’ve gotten a hold of a new HD pocket camera, some tripods/monopods/misc camera mounts (to get some pretty cool high angle shots), FINALLY some lighting equipment, as well as a couple of camera-happy friends who are willing to help me out.

“Her Name Here” is gonna take a classic 50-60’s ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ kind of approach, while “It’s Not Karma…” will have more of a conventional style with a narrative intercutting with the “band” performing.

Now… the past few music videos I’ve done, it’s always been: fast cuts of different angles of me in different outfits, playing the different instruments to kinda create the feel that it’s a full band. I’ve always thought getting a ‘mock band’ together might be a good idea (with actors playing the other members) but then I feel like I should promote the fact that I am a one man band. So I’ll be doing the same for these music
videos.

Video production starts after the weekend.

And on the music production side of things, I kinda put my “Fast Food” mini-album-made-on-an-iPad side project on the back-burner to focus on writing my 3rd official record. But with the new GarageBand app coming soon for iPad, I will definitely be going back to that side project.


Heavy Steady

Sunday afternoon, I started work on a new track for the Destiny album called “Taking Over”.

It’s going to be one of the heavier, hardcore songs of the entire record. So far, I’ve layered 3 guitars, some heavy bass playing, strong, crunchy drums and I plan to add a strings section in the last half to make it more of an epic piece.

I have yet to record the vocals, mainly because there’s some rearranging I have to do with the lyrics to fit the structure of the song. Also, I definitely have to record it somewhere other than my apartment… there’s gonna be some screaming involved.

For those familiar with my music and the past few albums before face:the.music, there’s gonna be a special treat in there as well.


First Live Performance

So last night, I performed my first solo gig. Some thought I was on fire, others (including myself) might’ve thought I crashed and burned, but overall, I was glad I got behind the wheel. Small deal for some, big deal for me. Here’s my rundown of last night.

Before I got to the gig, I decided to do away with playing acoustic and instead just play along to a fake band on CD. I rendered “stage versions” of the two songs I planned to perform: Rush and Running With Roses. I took the original tracks and just cut the volume of the guitar/main vocals by 40% and kept the harmonies. Tuned my guitar to the instrumental, practiced along with it about 5 times and it sounded great. The 3 hours later at the venue, it’s 5 minutes to showtime and all hell breaks loose. Some performers were no shows, so I was asked to play two more songs.

The last guy just finished singing and rapping. Then the host brings this short, baby-faced Asian kid to the stage, armed with a guitar plugged in to his iPhone (using an app that turns it into a amp) and an iPad with lyrics. Might I mention, I’m about 3 beers and a couple of stoges in …just to calm my nerves on an empty stomach. This would be my first time singing to a crowd. Ever. I figure I’d start off with a disclaimer, something like, “I know this is hip-hop night, but I was asked to bring something different tonight.” That got some cheers. Then I nod to the DJ to kick off the first song.

1) “Insomnia In Song”
This was one of the songs that was added last minute …and I played it first. I figure I’d start off with a slow jam to keep with the vibe. Probably not the best way to start off, due to lack of rehearsal and prep time. Since I didnt have a “stage version” of the song ready, I just played along to the original version from the CD. Kinda wack. The guitar was out of tune with the song, I missed some chords, forgot some lyrics, dropped my pick… It was a real shitshow. But whatever, the show must go on, right? I promised the crowd that the next one wouldn’t suck.

2) “Running With Roses”
Okay, this is it. I rehearsed this one. Again and again. Song starts. For the most part, all goes well. The guitar tuning was a little better than last song, I didn’t drop the pick, missed a few unnoticed chords and the lyrics were on point, save for some minor pitchy-ness.

3) “Rush”
Even though they wanted me to do 4 songs, they wanted to split up my act into two. I was ready to walk off stage, but then I hear the opening cymbals of Rush. I look at the DJ confused, and he tells me to keep going. I start the song… then half way through the chorus, the DJ cuts the track to a slow spin-out. I thought he was either remixing it or telling me I suck. I see the host and the DJ give me the “kill it” hand motion. Apparently I exceeded my 6 minute spot. I say thanks to the crowd and I walk off stage. I guess 2.5 out of 4 ain’t bad.

Overall… I crashed and burned. But I enjoyed myself doing it, in an afterschool-special-learned-my-lesson kind of way. I contemplated if I should continue with the second set (Rush and Payday). I was already a little embarrassed and felt out of my league… but I hate running away from challenges. Ultimately, I asked to scrap my second spot on stage, since I would’ve had to wait another 45 mins… and I was already starving. I thanked the host, packed up and my friends and I went to eat at the Filipino bar up the block… where they had another Open Mic. It was a smaller, laid back atmosphere, so I figured I would jump on the mic with the acoustic guitar they provided and repeat my setlist to redeem myself. It felt good… and I had some Bistek and a Red Horse too.

Videos coming soon.


Karma?

Through the magic of Facebook, an old highschool classmate offered me a spot on a monthly Open Mic that goes on in East Village.

It’s at Karma lounge on 1st Ave and 4th St. I’ll be performing 2 or 3 of my rock songs (either backed by a bass/drum instrumental or just acoustic).

-Rush
-Running With Roses
-Payday

(If I suck, i should end it with “It’s Not Karma If It Doesn’t Hurt” …lol. Because it’ll hurt, and it’s at a lounge called Karma.)

It’s mainly a hip-hop open mic, but they feature poets and guitarists as well. It’s also my first performance. Ever. Wish me broken legs.

karmanyc.com Tonight @7pm.


Destiny 2011

I’m currently developing my next full length album, titled “Destiny”.


Here’s the album cover. I like to start backwards with the artwork developed first. Having a visual to work towards keeps me more productive. Aiming for late spring 2011.

Story-wise, it continues from “King Friday” and will serve as a bookend to 2008’s “face:the.music” like the third chapter in a trilogy.

Production and composition-wise, I’ll of course have to push my limits further. More lead guitar, more range in vocals and harmonies, more groovy bass lines… And style-wise, although I do want to go back to more pop-punk styles to reflect “face:the.music”, I plan to incorporate some 60’s garage and funk as well as some epic-sounding prog rock.

I’m hoping to create a more dynamic masterpiece this time around. Not to say it’s going to be a darker album overall, but some songs will get pretty deep while others will maintain that pop-punk edge. I’m hoping everything I’ve learned along the way, musically, thematically, lyrically and at the production level, will converge in this new project.

And the reason I’m doing this so soon after the release of King Friday is a little bit of a personal experiment of my own. I don’t really like to discuss song meanings and get all artsy-fartsy on this blog, but I’ll say this much; I guess it’s no secret that the past couple of albums are a loose interpretation of my past few of years. For all writers, it’s always “write what you know”. This time I want to have a little bit of “write what will be” and see if we have the power to write our own… destiny. Ooooohh!!!

In the meantime, help me with some funding and buy King Friday from iTunes 🙂
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/king-friday/id404106516


Richy2011

Along side my “Fast Food” recording experiment, I’ve decided to keep the creative juices flowing and start putting together songs for the 3rd official Richy923 record.

Here’s a new song “At The Bridge”, which might appear on the album…


Fast Food

FYI: Saturday afternoon, King Friday returned to iTunes… Everything sounds as it should. Support a starving artist please at $9.90 🙂 Buy: King Friday

Speaking of starving, I have a new project in the works:

Richy923 Presents: Fast Food

1) Unrequited Love
2) Dream Girl
3) Glory Days
4) Faded Fortune From A Cookie
5) The Day We Cried

Five new renditions of classic songs from my high school years recorded entirely on an iPad and an iPhone.

I’ll be cutting the record using:

iRig (device):
http://www.ikmultimedia.com/irig/iphone/

AmpliTube (app):
http://www.ikmultimedia.com/irig/moreinfo/moreinfo3.php

Multitrack DAW (app):
http://www.harmonicdog.com

Also, I’ll be using the iPad Camera Connection Kit that adds a USB port that I can plug my M-Audio Interface into:

http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC531ZM/A

Let’s see how this goes! It’ll be a free download at the end of the month.


RECALLED

The album that wouldn’t die.

I had to send an email request to my distribution company last night asking them to take down King Friday. I had a problem with one song, “Her Name Here”. The guitar that comes in during the chorus was WAY too hot. I have no idea how that was overlooked. All of the final mixes sounded fine in the places I gave them a test listen… but over the weekend, I was listening to the album in a car and started to notice things were off during that song.

I had to fire up the studio earlier this week and do some more adjustments and what I had discovered with the guitar levels was definitely apparent. I’ll have the album ready to be re-uploaded tonight. Sucks that it’s gonna cost me another upload fee. It’s a cost I’ll have to eat. Like I said, you really can’t rush art. Sloppiness on my part?

To those that have already bought the album, no worries since it’s the only song that needed to be recalled. I’ll be offering “Her Name Here” as a free download when I release the music video.


Afterthoughts

The album’s finished, been listened to, received feedback, released on iTunes, now Amazon.com, and even purchased by some (thanks!)

Now here’s my little year-retrospective. Cue the “I’m an arteeest” cap!

Production wise, I’ve been told by others that this record “is the clearest they’ve heard from me yet”. I’ve gotten a little less bookwormy, less technical and broke some of my traditional production rules and went more with my heart guiding my ears during the recording/engineering process. I’ve tried to capture the purest sound with the tools and limited space I have. Yea there’s some distortion, some clipping… fuck it. Call it ignorance or sloppiness, I didn’t get any complaints. It beats an over-compressed or over-produced sound in my book. 

Musically, the feedback I’ve gotten is that “my sound has matured” and that I’ve “developed a new sound” for myself.  I’ve been trying to play some lead guitar for the first time, more bass grooves that don’t just mimic the guitar progression and also trying more challenging drum patterns/fills. Now my songs end up having their individuality while maintaining a signature sound.

Content wise, the general feedback was “the lyrics still go pretty deep” and a “story is definitely apparent”. Everything has pretty much changed since it’s inception, with the album originally titled “geekology.” What was supposed to be a meek outlook on life during one’s mid-twenties, has (in a sense) grown a set of balls and told a similar story in a “monster out of control” kind of fashion. 

Looking back to last year’s album face:the.music, maybe the switching between rock and hip-hop was more of a weakness than strength. So, the choice to make King Friday completely a rock record (save for the Rush house remix) was inevitable. Rapping just isn’t me anymore and it’s not the way I wanna tell this story. Rather than being a jack-of-all-trades musician across genres, maybe it’s time to be a king in one.


Now on iTunes!

Well, you know it’s Friday night…

King Friday is officially available on iTunes! Priced at $9.90

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/king-friday/id404106516

Also check out the new media widget on the right side of this blog!


Slowly But Surely

Last week, I finalized the artwork to be used for the hard copies of King Friday. This time around, I omitted the printing of an inside lyrics section… not just due to costs, but I don’t feel it’s necessary. The lyrics are more intelligible and aren’t as obscure as last year’s album face:the.music. I only plan to press about 100-150 copies this time, compared to last year’s 250 copies. I still have a butt-load of face:the.music CDs collecting dust. Digital media is definitely the way to go, but professional hard copies are always necessary.

I still have some minor audio tweaking left to do, mostly vocal compression on a couple of tracks and possibly re-doing some guitar work on the first and last songs. Should take no longer than a day. Hopefully I can lay down one new song as an iTunes bonus song or as a hidden track on the CD before the end of the week.

Here is the artwork. All shot with an iPhone 4 and edited with Photogene on iPad.

King Friday should be submitted to iTunes and Amazon this Friday.


Final Product

Since the wrap up of recording and mixing this past Thursday, I had to fix two tracks: I added an instrumental to the voicemail track “One New Message”. It adds an epic feel to the album and a better lead-in to “A Night on the Town”. Gotta love those rock beats in 6/8… Also, I re-tweaked “Payday”. I didn’t like my original vocal take during the chorus.

I handed the final version of King Friday to a few friends and family. The general consensus was positive, but the thing that was brought up often was the use of the phone/megaphone voice filter on a majority of the tracks. I’ll admit, I’m addicted to that filter, but the reason is simple: I’m recording these vocals in my room in my apartment, and the acoustics aren’t the best. In the solo-ed tracks, you can hear AC units running, as well as cars and sirens in the background. Had to help it out a bit.

So now that the album is final final final final, it’s time to design the artwork and plan out how to market it.

You can listen to the full album here:
kingfriday.richy923.com


923

In honor of the numerical alignment of “923” that graces calendars once a year, I present to you the new album King Friday, streaming in its entirety for FREE on SoundCloud:

http://soundcloud.com/richy923/sets/king-friday

10 tracks, 9 songs. Story complete.

A bonus track or two coming soon when the album hits iTunes in a few weeks, to justify it’s $10 price tag.

A few production notes:

A song I wrote titled “101 Days” was supposed to introduce the album, but it was scrapped during the recording process… I realized the lyrics and the theme were a little juvenile and didn’t fit the album too much without compromising it’s point-of-view for late “20-somethings” crowd. It was a “Mom and Dad, I’m moving out” kind of a song and threw it off balance compared to the rest of the songs, in my opinion. Perhaps it’ll be a bonus track in the future.

Last night, I recorded the finale, “Payday”. A perfect ending, reflecting the whole album both musically and lyrically. I give a credit to John.M.Thirteen of The Backpackers, who suggested that I drop the drums during the verses of the song, to give spotlight to the lyrics. Thanks dude.
Also thanks to my parents for lending their voicemail as an intro to the album.

So, I spent a majority of the night doing some final tweaks to songs that needed it. Everything is to perfection.

Now what? Additional photoshoots and work on the album artwork with graphic designer RozLilia Friend of The Branding Iron, LLC… and live performances 🙂

Thanks for listening!


Can’t Rush Art

New song up for streaming: “A Night on the Town” !

http://soundcloud.com/richy923/A-Night-on-the-Town

I had originally posted the song on Thursday night, but pulled it down on the following evening after it gained 14 listens on Soundcloud. It just didn’t sound right. The vocals REALLY sounded like shit, to the point where I would cringe when I played it back. Everything from my tone to my annunciation was just off.

I guess it was one of those moments where it all sounded right at the time. Perhaps I was just burnt out when I was cutting this track and by the end of it all, my perception was all skewed. Plus I was eager to release it on a Friday, given the lyrical content of the song.

I spent Sunday afternoon retooling “A Night on the Town”. I fixed the lyrics up to make a little more sense, re-recorded the vocals and played a new lead guitar section so it gives a little more context to the melody of the chorus and the key of the verse that follows it. I also did more of the random adlibs between the verse and chorus… I feel like the little “uh! yea! ooh!” gives the song a little more UMPH during the chord changes.

Another song in the can and I got two, maybe three more to go. The infamous date of 9/23 is four days away, so I don’t think I can reach my goal of completing the album before then. After this weekend’s lesson, you can’t rush art.


The Home Stretch

First off, I love how Myspace’s “custom wallpaper” looks absolutely NOTHING like the album artwork for face:the.music.

Coincidence? Hardly.

Now as for the production for King Friday, I have 4 more tracks to go before I can start the mastering process for the CD.

-(untitled Intro)
-101 Days (Away From Home)
-A Night on the Town
-(untitled Outro)

Hopefully I can cut two a week, master by the third week and be ready for the release by the infamous date of Sept. 23 (9/23)! Not likely, since there’s more to be done after the mastering; new distribution methods, marketing, etc.

But in the event I am done before then, I’ll have it available for a free download for Facebook friends on 9/23 and plan a US release through iTunes, Amazon, Napster and Rhapsody by Mid-October.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing the typical “check out this song” posting on Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure it’s probably annoying to some of my friends on there (maybe they consider it spam or whatever) but shameless plugs are part of the gig being a one-man band. It’s just gotta be done. Some of my “friends” either don’t know that I make music or they’re checking their Facebook on mobile devices, so my music posts are pretty much hit or miss. But I do wanna say thanks for those who have given feedback, through FB Likes and retweets, your feedback lets me know I’m doing the right thing.


Two Brand New Songs!

I spent the day sick in bed Friday, so I decided to not be a total chump and work on some final mixes of some songs I’ve been working on. And now… two new songs!

“Her Name Here”

and

“Losing Myself”

Photo courtesy of Raphael Salgado.