Thursday, October 5, 2006

Song: Sever (Ballad of The Leg With Gangrene)

(Ballad of the Leg With Gangrene)
Mix 4
October 5, 2006

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Sever me! Sever me!
Sever me! Sever me!

Let me go! Let me go!
Let me go! Let me go!

Help! Help!

Influences: Meg White (drums), George Harrison (volume pedal).
Instruments: Pulse Pro Jr. Drum Set, Squier J/P-Bass, Epiphone Wildkat, Kramer Focus 111S/Volume Pedal.

This song represents a series of happy accidents, starting with a recording of several fairly uninspired practice drum jams using the Pulse Pro Jr. set. Following my normal procedure at the time, I named each separate drum jam after a random word from a random Wikipedia article. As I was naming what would become the backing drums for this song, I came across the keyword Sever, referring to various Portuguese parishes. I thought the name sounded cool, and the drum beat wasn't half bad, so I went with it.

The next step was to pull the two bass lines out of the blue (allowing the whim-based changes in drumming to guide key changes) and record them — the low, left-speaker one first, followed soon after by the higher harmonizing right-speaker line. After letting that stew for a while, I decided to move forward and quickly threw together the rhythm guitar, using the Epiphone Wildkat recorded acoustically to get that sharp, trebly sound from it. Finally, I decided to make use of the volume pedal I had owned for nearly a year, and which had served me well with one of the two bands I was in during my last semester at William and Mary the same year. Pairing the Kramer Focus 111S with the volume pedal, I quickly kicked out the last instrumental portion of the song.

After mixing all the guitars and the drum track together with FruityLoops and letting a few people listen to it, I started to fancy (in no small part due to the random name that had been tacked onto the drum track) that the volume pedal/guitar was trying to say something... "Help me, sever me, sever me, let me go, etc." So I decided to sing that into the can and hook it up to FruityLoops' vocoder along with a copy of that guitar line. Although I had recorded vocals for the entire length of the song, I elected to confine them to the climax.

Despite how quickly this song went from a throwaway drum practice recording to a full-blown quadruple-guitar instrumental complete with frivolous vocoder-steeped pleading, I consider this to be the closest I've come to achieving the kind of music I'm truly aiming for: a pure emotional wave — first shocking you to attention, then slowly drawing you towards the absurd but eerily believable climax, and finally letting you back down to the ground — where, if you're like me, you realize that at only a minute and a half long, you can afford to ride this wave a couple more times — and maybe a little louder next time...

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