Initial Pre-Prod Sessions With Our New Producer — strategic planning, repertoire selection, and trying to get a working DAW up and running…

Listen while you read to a developing version of “March for the 21st Century”, slated to be the first track on our upcoming rock album, “Victory Speech”.  This version is a composite of video clips showing some initial development of the piece in which we added a drummer.

Wednesday 06 March 2013

Foreword:

This is the online conversation our new producer Steven and I had following his visit the previous weekend described in this post:

SDM:

I had a marvellous time last night. Wonderful company. Fine wine. Great conversation. And extraordinary music. I listened to disc 1 of “Ten Strings” in the car on the way back to Simi Valley. Very fine indeed. I am listening to theXiles EP right now. Loving it! Chi really is quite an amazing multi-instrumentalist. He is the proverbial one-man army! Is there anything he can’t play? Wow!
It was so great when you and Chi did that impromptu set for me. That’s where your connection is so apparent and makes me understand why you are reluctant to give him the boot. Musically, electric! Other things? Well…clearly not so good. But that’s a topic for you and me to discuss some other day. In the very near future, I hope.
Cheers,
Steven

BKSS:

Last night was WONDERFUL — thank you so much!! That meant so much to him to have somebody “get” him and genuinely recognize his level of accomplishment as a player and composer. That is entirely different from a non-musician heaping useless platitudes on him going on and on about how “amazing” he is but having no real understanding of the level of effort it took for him to develop his gift to the point that he has, or empathy for the SUFFERING he endures because he has practically no outlet to put his gift to productive use.
Really looking forward to collaborating!
Thanks again and talk soon,
Brenda

SDM

I played theXiles disc for my sons this afternoon. Unanimous pick for the outstanding track was “Liar”. All very good but that’s something special. And of course, it showcases Chi’s brilliance on so many levels. Composition, arranging, and expertise on many instruments. To have his mastery of just the guitar puts him in the highest category. But the fact that his bass playing is just a good, and his percussion skills are outstanding is mind-boggling. His kit drum work would make him the drummer in many bands! To say that I am impressed is putting it mildly.
I was blown away by the Japanese jazz and avant-garde music he spun for me. And the blind koto (sp?) master. Of special interest was the disc with the German pianist and the paraplegic percussionist. The album was a revelation!
Please express to Chi for me how privileged I felt to be in the room with him while he practised and then performed the new “Empty Box” piece. It was quite something to realize I was in the presence of hyper-talent. If he is open to it I would be honoured to have Chi replace many of the guitar parts on the “For The Future” tunes for my as-yet unnamed new project. I am thinking hard on who I know who might be in need of a multi-instrumentalist of his calibre. They don’t know it yet, but somebody locally is about to get a massive creative injection, as soon as I figure out who is the prize-winner!

BKSS

Wow, thanks again! You may very well be the only person on the planet who gets it about why I am finding it so incredibly agonizing to jettison Chi. And that’s one more thing I would miss: the insanely awesome music he spins every night. Chi is one immensely talented mo’fkr. I’m sure he will be thrilled to be asked to do more “replacement” tracks too. I’ll tell him. That would be tremendous beyond description if you could find someone who can put him to good use.

SDM
I do understand. I totally get the “why” of what you are struggling with and the Chi “problem” factor. I have to ask “What do we who are prepared to sacrifice all that is best on the altar of a higher calling do when that which we want most vaporizes in front of us?” We struggle on but eventually we’re left bereft of purpose, bereft of ideals and hopes and symbols, bereft of institutions and people, bereft of families and lovers, bereft of that which we can be loyal and faithful to. All we are left with is ourselves adrift at sea without map or compass. But even so that which is ingrained in us — and makes us diabolically behave a certain way — is a truth we must respond to, even if others look at us and think we are fucking nutcases. Which they do! And this — it’s taken me a while to get there, please bear with me — is where I see you and Chi. As difficult as it may be, I believe that throwing in the towel would be devastating. For both of you. So let’s save TPO, and maybe other things will find themselves saved or if not saved, healed, in its wake.
What does this mean in practical terms? That you value all that is great and fine about Chi above his shortcomings, that you prize his artistry and his desire to leave something tangible, ahead of such things as a peaceful life and domestic bliss, only elevates you in my eyes. I know Joan of Arc when I meet her. I looked her in the eyes on Saturday. Van Gogh died considering himself a failure, and yet now the world knows he was one of the greatest geniuses ever where painters are considered. That can’t be allowed to happen with Chi. So it is that you do your part to jump-start things that might put Chi’s talents into the public eye. I know you do it out of love. It can’t have ever been easy with Chi, who even when well-behaved is clearly volatile. But the union has produced some extraordinary and head-turning music and retains the promise of much more.
There’s a goldmine of material that must be recorded and released. I can and will help you with that. You and Chi are fabulous musicians. That will help get TPO out of the doldrums. Doing a new album soon might be enough to salvage you and Chi. Not romantically but certainly artistically and as friends. And I would regard that as a huge win.
With concern, affection, and hope for positive outcomes.
Steven

BKSS

Wow…what does one say in response to that? “Fuk’n brilliant!” is just too trite to commit to print (with deep respect to your wordsmithery), while the feeling of profound relief that someone truly gets what’s going on behind the absurd theatrics being visibly performed and realises what’s at stake and wants to help and is able to in a concrete, substantive way is overwhelming. Did that make any sense? I hope so. Thank you so much. You are a true patron saint of the Panache Orchestra, and our gratitude (I feel totally confident speaking for Chi here) is without bounds.
I believe that working together, we can pull this off and rescue Chi, Brenda K and TPO jointly and severally from swirling down the porcelain fixture!
Brenda

SDM

Yes dear. It all makes perfect sense. I will plan on bringing the new TPO computer to you on my way down to San Diego, or on my way back. Depends on how my schedule looks on Friday. It will take me a couple of days to clean it up, get the junk data deleted, software installed, etc. I’ll also provide a portable drive for backups. And I’ll install a bunch of useful sample libraries.

BKSS

AWESOME! I’ll make sure to keep Friday clear and get the infrastructure cleaned up and in place to house the new TPO-dedicated workstation! Wow, I am VERY excited about this!! Thanks so much!!

SDM

If I can get the system ready to go by Wednesday would it be possible to bring it to you after work? Wednesday is “scout night” so I am generally left to fend for myself. I am expecting to be at a customer’s site in Beverly Hills in the afternoon so I can pop right over from there. Let me know. In fact I’m thinking that maybe Wednesday evening might be a “work as a team on TPO” time.

BTW, I played disc 2 of “Ten Strings” in the car twice this afternoon. Bloody hell! What a fine record. I especially loved “Pegasus”. Some smoking hot playing there!

Ooops! It just occurred to me that I am being very presumptuous here. You may already have plans for Wed night! But I’d still like to pencil in Wed evenings and either Saturday or Sunday afternoons when you are otherwise not performing to work systematically on TPO stuff.

BKSS

Wednesday would be fine! Just let me know what time works best for you. Thanks again!

*************

Our new producer Steven came over for the first pre-production work session for the “Victory Speech” album in the evening on Wednesday 06 March as we had planned. He brought an extra computer of his that he’d loaded up with a sophisticated production suite of software so we could do whatever we could of the tracking at home, cutting costs with professional studio time in order to save that for recording drums and guest performers.

After he set up the computer that was going to host the Panache DAW on the rickety old computer cart I’d brought back from Tokyo, dug out from under the house and set up in the living room we began playing through the repertoire Chi and I had selected the previous evening to get his input.

We sat down to dinner and wine after playing through all the proposed material for the new album and made the amazing discovery that none of us seem to have an “off switch” when it comes to alcohol. Over dinner the producer recommended that we start by making an EP of four of the tracks slated for the new album to begin sending around and building a buzz while we complete the 15-track full album, to which we agreed. Nevertheless just as we thought we’d hammered together and agreed to a solid, workable plan after a very positive initial work session, Chi started up with his sabotaging routine. He dug in his heels and began looping insistently that we absolutely must record this album with a vocalist, which neither the producer nor I want, at least at this point since it will immensely complicate everything while adding greatly to the cost and timeline.

I watched in awe as Steven successfully and impressively dismantled Chi and shut down the feedback loop with grace and finesse. All ended well, except for the ridiculously late night resulting in a totally useless day the next day. Another “win” was having a friend/fellow fiddler step up to spot me on the cost of getting my bow rehaired in response to a FaceBook post I put up announcing this very happy turn of events and making an appeal for funding support so I could record my parts without having to play on the horsehair equivalent of black ice.

************

Afterword:

SDM-BKSS Conversation following the first session:

SDM

As difficult as Chi was — and I get that it takes serious work to not blow up at him — I think tonight went very well as a team gearing up for this album. The material is stellar. Some of it is stunning. We’ll take this one step at a time and make a fine record. He is going to have to be handled with steel inside velvet to keep him on point. I think getting 4 tracks done fucking quick will go along way towards keeping him onside.

Hopefully next Wed will be part finishing the workstation issues (speakers, wireless network adaptor, sample libraries), part run-through of the capabilities of Acid Pro, and a first stab at recording at least one, maybe two tunes. Just to kick the tires.

I will pick up a wireless network adaptor for the music workstation while I am visiting customer stores this morning. Thinking about your situation I named the computer Salvation, BTW. I have your back dear girl. Be assured of that. *tight virtual hug*

BKSS

“Salvation” — beautiful! That’s what this rescue operation is I/we am/are deeply grateful and indebted to you, and we’re both VERY excited about moving forward with the 4-song EP as a prelude to the Victory Speech album! Chi sounded very pleased and thrilled to get this moving when we got up this morning.
You’ve hit it on the head about dealing with Chi. I think your approach will work well, as I believe he is aware of how important this is, so maybe…HOPEFULLY…he will be able to rein in his penchant for sabotage. I expect to be able to download and send you the tracks we recorded last night this sometime this evening.
Many thanks again!!

SDM

I’ll see what I can do about the monitor. No promises but I might be able to play a “favour card”. Glad to hear that Chi is being positive about the next step. That is the key I think. He must be onboard for every one the next bridges to be crossed in their turn. And when he isn’t I will try very hard to deal with him as I did last night. I am fully prepared to deal with some sabotage along the way. So getting all of Chi’s guitars tracked will be a huge win for the project. Because as long as he plays his parts for the 15 tunes the rest will follow if you and I have to sit at a console and craft it the hard way with digital scalpels.
Cheers,
Steven

There’s a lot of things I’d like to talk about, but one thing came to mind tonight as I ripped the CDs you gave me to MP3 on my media center server. The existing recorded material + balance of unrecorded material I have heard + the other 45 or so exciting tunes, all weighed against the the potential negative of a Chi meltdown during the post “Victory Speech” sessions when the reality of the ending of your marriage sinks in.

You have as much artistic right to record and release that existing vast catalogue of unrecorded TPO material as Chi does. In the event that he becomes sidelined, or after the ending of the marriage departs back to Japan, or one of any other scary bottomless-pit scenarios plays out, you should have at the very least roughs of all the viable tunes to arrange for recordings and then gigs in the future. While you and I may never again be privileged to work with a compositional genius of his calibre — and he is by any yardstick you like a musical head-turner of the WTF was that level — hence your perplexing to the outside world unwillingness to smack him on the head and push him out of the lifeboat — it is fair to say that in LA there are many guitarists (perhaps dozens, or even a hundred plus) of comparable vast technical ability to Chi.
If push comes to shove you know I will back you to the hilt about preserving the legacy of what you and Chi worked on. Take that commitment to the bank. There are many outstanding players who would give their first born to be playing music of this power and beauty, and if we had to we would/could/should or actually will find a guitarist of that ability with whom you could reconstitute a new version of TPO.

BKSS

Hey Steven,
Apologies for the telegraphic nature of this reply, as I am dispensing with taste and art in the interest of timeliness
Thank you so much…it was truly impressive to see you dismantle and neutralize Chi the other evening, and I hope that will do the trick each time he acts up. I cannot do that. By this point, his and my respective flashpoints are so low and the triggers so numerous that it is unusual for anything that gets the least bit contentious to not erupt into violence. You’re absolutely right: the more of Chi’s guitar parts we can get tracked at broadcast quality, the more of his material we’ll be able to preserve, even if he opts to go out in a fireball of self-destruction…would be a terrible waste and a shame if he did, but I wouldn’t put it past him….
He seems to be aware that he has fucked up on a colossal scale and scuppered our marriage beyond redemption, but while we have at least temporarily backed away from the cliff-edge of filing the divorce papers immediately and are now talking more in terms of a legal separation and staying married on paper for the time being (immigration/visa issues, health insurance issues, our business partnership, the new album, etc., etc.), he does need to find a way to get independently viable and move out. That said, I am willing to leave things as they are until we get the album recorded, since that is the linchpin to my grand strategy of helping Chi come into his own while saving myself and our music.
My hope is that we can get a bang-up TPO record/EP in hand in the near future and then get into some festivals, etc., since above all, Chi is mainly driven to perform, and that is what is making him the most crazy: the dearth of performance dates since I have given up booking them for the reasons described in my blog. Hopefully this will morph into something at least somewhat sustainable that could be combined with other work for him — at least sufficient for him to make the rent in a flat-share arrangement and give me my life back.
Looking forward to onward progress with the project immediately in front of me for now!
Talk soon,
Brenda

SDM

I’m glad we agree on the importance of keeping Chi on the straight and narrow musically. I think with a new record to promote and play-out he’ll be easier to manage. And from there easier for you to get out of your house. I’m suddenly thinking of the last track on Kate Bush’s “The Dreaming” with her chorused vocals going “Ey-ore! Ey-ore!” at the end of “Get Out Of My House”. Seems right on the money! Maybe through this process, and seeing how successfully we get the album done, when it’s all over he’ll figure out his way to being a good man again.
I’m glad that you get my point about contingency plans for the musical legacy in case Chi derails. I hope with a game-plan and schedules and a real new record he’ll be excited about the next step after that. and things will move forward We will see over the next 90 days I imagine.
I will try to get by your place tomorrow afternoon on my way back from San Diego. I have the Wireless USB network adaptor for the salvation PC, and will pick up a stereo RCA to 3/8″ mini adaptor for the speakers. Then we’ve got to determine how to get the audio into the salvation PC, which will be in part determined on how we want to tackle the physical recordings. With any luck we can take a stab at recording you and Chi on a full run through directly into Acid Pro. To establish a baseline for each tune, and to determine anything else that we’ve overlooked.
I look forward to hearing the recordings from last Wed night. Any luck on those? They’ll go into steady rotation for me to become intimate with the material. I’ll pull them into Acid so I can get a sense of how they lay out.
Talk soon, yes. Better still will be to see you.
Steven
BTW, Chi’s not the only sublime talent in TPO. Your violin work rips, baby!

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