Well, so much for the plan. While I hadn’t really imposed any constraints for myself in the lead up to this year’s Song-A-Day, I sort of had a loose plan that I’d be cutting back a bit on production work and doing simple arrangements. My hope was that by stripping things back, I’d work more on writing actual songs.
This track originated in a quick drum and bass sketch I came up with a couple of days ago while exploring the amazingly awesome Superior Drummer 3 library I picked up over the holidays. While I love Stylus RMX, I kept being disappointed when I’d attempt an arrangement for rock or jazz/pop stuff, mostly in the lack of control. Stylus has the capability, but it’s a lot of work, and Song-A-Day requires speed. I’ll likely talk about SD3 more later in the month.
- Destroy the Enemy Ray Toler 3:31
In January, I resumed working on a large orchestral template for the Spitfire BBCSO library. The point of a template is to get all of the tracks and routing set up in advance so there’s more time for the actual work of composing and programming. I have a few templates for electronic and pop work as well, but you’d never know it from looking at the project file for this track.
Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.Dwight D. Eisenhower
This whole project was a great example of carefully coming up with a plan and then immediately doing almost everything possible to go off into the weeds. It started off well enough – I extended the 2 bar sketch loop into verse and chorus lengths and looped the playback while coming up with the lyrics and melody.
But then things turned ugly. I started chasing tone and effects before I had the tracks set up. It’s not worth recounting the details here, but suffice to say that after several hours I realized that I had to create an entire duplicate set of tracks and record audio without any processing because the mix would be impossible otherwise. Then I had to completely change my approach to the drums because I finally figured out how to route each part to its own track.
On top of it all, this is a style that I really like, but don’t really know how to do well. I’ve picked up a couple of tricks from listening critically to reference tracks, but I’d probably pick up 800% more knowledge just sitting behind someone like Butch Vig for 30 minutes or so.
Shut Up and Let me Enjoy This
I sound really negative about this track, but I’m actually pretty pleased with the end result. As the old saying goes, you don’t want to watch the sausage being made, but it sure is delicious. The songwriting itself was relatively painless, although my rhyming dictionary finally broke its spine. Don’t worry, though, it now has a tape reinforcement and is ready for another 25 years of service. While the theme is pretty on the nose, I think I did a reasonable job of making the lyrics open to interpretation.
In addition to the composition and recording process taking far longer than it should have, I also spent a lot of time listening to playback, partly to figure out mix settings and such, but also partly because I was just jamming. When I had started yesterday afternoon, I thought I’d be in bed by midnight, but this one took me out to 3:00 am. And then, of course, my brain popped awake at about 6:45 and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I got up, had some coffee, did a couple of punch-ins on vocal takes that didn’t sound as good after some time away, added the low octave in the chorus, did some additional mixing and called it good.
There are a few things I might change in the future – the chorus could probably use an additional repetition at the end, and I there’s not enough distinction between the pre-chorus and chorus vocals. I’m pleased with how the guitars ended up – they’re a combination of samples and a modeled guitar using AAS Strum GS-2. While it doesn’t sound all that great on its own, through a proper effects chain it’s pretty difficult to tell it’s not real.
Done! Wait, No I’m Not.
So once the master version is bounced out, there’s still a lot of work to be done to get the track finalized. I use a batch processor program called Myriad that takes my WAV file, adds meta tags to it, then also spits out a lossless version and an MP3. I bring those into iTunes for final meta tag editing, add the lyrics, listen to each one to make sure they converted correctly. Finally, it gets uploaded to the Song-A-Day website and I start writing the post for my own website, creating any needed post graphics, proofreading, editing, uploading, and so on and so on.
I’ve given myself a lot of extra work, and not all of it’s strictly necessary, but it’s that extra bit of polish that helps me to consider it finished. Others seem to appreciate the results as well, judging from comments I’ve gotten.
Ok – the first workout of the month is finished. Time to do some chores, get some food, and go back to the top of the slide.
Give me your attention Give it to me please Got something to tell you Gonna bring you to your knees There’s a darkness in the distance There’s a monster on the way There’s a man who says you owe him And he’s gonna make you pay Don’t think that you can run The only chance you have is to Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Before he destroys you Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy You’re not safe in your bedroom You’re not safe in your home You’re not safe on the highway Don’t ever drive alone Only I can save you Only I can win 'Cause I own all the oxygen And your air’s getting thin Stop thinking for yourself The only chance you have is to Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Before he destroys you Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy! Destroy! Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy the enemy Destroy Copyright © Ray E. Toler, Jr. All rights reserved.
Instruments & Samples
Omnisphere, Pigments, Falcon, Strum GS-2, Spitfire Ambient Guitars, Superior Drummer 3
Mix & Effects
BX SSL 9000 J, MOTU Multifuzz, Nembrini PSA1000 Jr, Eventide Octavox & H910 Dual Harmonizer, Moogerfooger MF-108S Clusterflux, Soundtoys PanMan, Valhalla Vintage Verb, Room, & Delay, Fabfilter Pro-C2 & Pro-L2, Gullfoss
Microphone: Neumann TLM-103