Phase 5: Recording the Vocals

Coming The Room Beneath New Albion

Just to be clear: The Box Set is coming. It is not yet on sale, but will be in about 2 weeks. The Bonus Album is being released digitally first on Monday, then about 2 weeks after that the Box Set will go on sale. Thank you all for your patience. Trust me, you will KNOW when it goes on sale. I will be very, very vocal.

Okay, Phase 5, the vocals.

By the time i’m ready to start recording the vocalists, the album is enormously close to being done. There’s usually only some mixing issues left. The vocalists are always singing over a pretty finished product. There are some fairly obvious reason for this. Normally, for the New Albion projects, i fly to London to record them personally. There’s a flurry of scheduling that happens over the course of weeks beforehand, much of it often very complicated (getting 3 performers’ schedules to line up over a one week period is a logistical nightmare). Since i’m flying in, there is no room for error. Flying back if mistakes are made or if i change parts is not really an option. So the vocal parts have to be SOLID. No mistakes, no changing my mind later.

The vocalists i work with on the New Albion albums are top notch. Lauren Osborn, Kayleigh McKnight, Oliver Marsh, Jason Broderick… these people are consummate professionals. I don’t have to worry about them delivering substandard performances. It don’t happen. Direction is usually needed to line up their talents with the specifics of what the song or character require, you know, letting them know that i would like a particular line sung held back, or loud, etc. But what i don’t have to worry about is that we’re going to spend 4 hours just trying to nail one song. Usually they can sing it all in 2 sessions.

I must make sure as much unknown guesswork is removed from the equation. How can i be sure the vocal parts are really going work  before i hear the vocalists? I’ll tell you this, guessing what vocals parts are going to sound like and actually hearing them are VERY different creatures. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re not. That is why all the vocal parts have already been sung out before the vocalist ever enter the picture. EVERY part, every harmony, everything, is sung out by me in a demo version long before i ever head off to record them. Each album has a demo version where i’m singing every part, often pitch adjusting my voice to hit Lauren’s high notes. ( i have a very particular female persona who only exists in the world of +3 pitch adjustment). This way i have tested all the vocal parts and am sure that they work.

Don’t get me wrong, they sometimes sound terrible. Me singing Lauren’s lines is often a dreadful audio experience i wouldn’t subject a captured Voodoopunk double agent to much less a real listener. But it does the job just fine in telling my ears whether the melody itself will work when sung properly.

So… all the vocals parts are written and sung out. I then print out sheet music of them, and send sheet music, the song with demo vocals, the song with no vocals and a lyric sheet off to the singers. I fly in. We set up somewhere (often a microphone in Lauren’s living room), record the singers and i fly back home to mix. If you’re in St. Albans you MUST have the carrot cake from the bakery near the tower. Oh GAWWWWWD that thing is good. Damn do i love me some carrot cake.

We’ll talk about mixing next time for out very last Phase. I do want to touch on one more aspect, which is vocal fx.

All vocals have both compression and reverb. There is almost no exception. I use VC-64 Vintage Channel for compression. It’s got a nice compression plus a de-esser, Eq and gate. For the layman: compression tightens the sound/vocals. In recording you don’t want the vocals going too soft and too loud, all over the place. Listen to someone talking or singing live in a room. Then listen to an album. You hear how on an alum the vocals sound so…. tight. So right in your face and on top of the music. That’s compression. Very important. There is no album you will ever hear without it.

A de-esser, which i don’t often need, but when i do, I DO, takes the s sounds off a vocal. Sometimes females can have a very loud “s”. When recording anybody, i always use a spit screen in front of the mic and this makes p’s and s’s softer and not obnoxious. (take that spit screen away and p sounds will be HORRENDOUS). But sometimes, certain voices have over the top s’s when miked. A de-esser makes those go away. To a large extant.

EQ is EQ, i’m going to assume you all know that one. Gate makes the sound shut off when the volume gets below a certain level. So for instance when the performer is fidgeting in between verses the sound will shut down and come back in when they sing into the mic. I don’t use gate so much because often i need to record a vocalists being very soft and gates can often cut off the ends of words. When Lauren holds out a note, getting softer and softer and barely singing the s at the end… gates love to cut her off. So i don’t use them. But VC-64 Vintage Compressor has it if i want it.

I use Sonitus Reverb. It’s good and the fact is i know it backwards and forwards. Reverb is echo. Not delay, just… echo. Picture a person singing in a bedroom. Now picture them singing in a bathroom. Now a cave. Now a cathedral. Now a kitchen. That’s reverb.

There are times i want the voice to sound like it;s on an old record: Izotope Vinyl.

There are times i want it to sound like it’s coming through a pair of crappy speakers, or a meagphone, or an old tape recorder: Audio Ease’s Speakerphone.

Lastly, the only other effect i’m liable to add is delay-lay-lay-lay-lay. I might add this to a vocals for a particular song. I like to sometimes add it to Lauren on the big, grand finishing chorus. There’s no delay on the rest of the song, but when the big, giant end chorus gets belted i put some delay on her. It just… it gives the sound a little epic quality.

Many producers get REALLY geeked out over various effects. I am not as geeked out as many others, and to be honest, they are better off for it and i am worse off for it. I don’t spend as much time as i should going through piles of compressors and EQs and reverbs, fiddling and learning the subtle differences between them all. In fact, i fiddle until i find one that wors for me and the i use the crap out of it. The time spent geeking i could spend writing and playing. There albums… they have to be written, stories written, parts conceived, played, melodies conceived, play, lyrics written, sung, recorded, mixed…. it’s a big shit-ton of work with a lot of levels happening at once and… i only have so much time. I can’t spent hours and days geeking out over effects. I just need something that works and to use it.

I am grateful to my other producer friends who give me advice on where to go to find a good effect when the time comes so i don’t have to do that work they do. I WOULD be a better producer if i did more of this however. What i would REALLY like, is for the operas to get big enough that money eventually materializes to go into a real, serious recording studio and record a big studio version of the steampunk opera. Remember, all these album is just me, a computer, a keyboard and a mic. That’s it. Just once, a big, serious studio, with big serious boards and equipment. And an engineer that knows his shit. I would sit and watch him work. I could learn more in a week then i learn in 2 years.

One day.

One day VERY soon i will buy a new microphone. I use a Rode NT 1-A. For the price range it’s the best choice you could make. Aspiring producers with little money, the Rode NT 1-A is the bomb. However, the quality of the vocals on my albums is not excellence and i’m arriving at a point in my career where i should be giving you listeners excellence. When i get paid from some freelance commercial/game work i’ve done, i’ll be purchasing an AKG 414 and we’ll bump the quality of vocals on my albums up a notch.

So, there you go. My little discussion on recording the vocalists, a HUGE part of my albums. The vocalists make the entire thing sink or swim. It’s what people listen to. i can have all the backing tracks i want, i can have all the details in all the backing tracks going on and have worked out for months and none of it matters if the vocals don’t cut it.

The operas are designed so that if you broke everything down to just a piano, guitar and singers, you could perform the pieces and they would be enjoyable. The Room Beneath New Albion changes that a bit. For the new one coming out i’m not even going to pretend it’s every going to be performed. it is meant to exist as an album. It is written and produced as an album, specifically. You’ll understand when you hear it.

See you tomorrow, boys and girls.

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Posted by on November 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


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The Room Beneath New Albion Comes Out Monday Nov 24th!

The Room Beneath New Albion

The “Bonus Act” a full 53 minutes album with an untold story from somewhere in the New Albion timeline featuring Lauren Osborn is coming out on Monday, Nov. 24th on Bandcamp exclusively. It will come out a hair later on iTunes and Amazon and will of course be a part of the upcoming Box Set.

So, Monday, a new hour long New Albion album.

The Box Set is all set to be manufactured, everything is a go, it will be available to order at the beginning of Dec and you will all get it in time for Christmas, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Mawlid al-Nabi (with plenty of time to spare), Nyarlathotep Goat’s Blood Day, whatever you celebrate, it’ll be there. (If Hanukkah’s your thing i can’t… absolutely guarantee the first day, although it IS likely, but definitely by the 8th)

So, the new album on Monday, Box Set orders beginning of December (and not pre-order, i mean you can actually flat out order the damn thing and off it’ll ship)

All is unfolding…

“Come and join the Angels’ cackling stage play, come and hold the plot together one more day…”


Posted by on November 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Room Beneath New Albion Is Done

The Room Beneath New Albion

Well barbecue my salamander and call it a pickle, i do believe this album is in the bag and ready to go.

The whole box set is almost ready, i’m just working out the financial aspects to do the manufacturing.

As such, i was questioning whether to wait to release the album until after the box set had shipped, but the smart move is to release The Room Beneath New Albion online ASAP and use the proceeds to finance some of the box set manufacturing.

Which would mean i’d release the new album on Bandcamp… really soon. Like… a few days perhaps.

I need to do a once over today, but i’m almost ready to set it in stone. It’s solid. It’s about done.

I don’t believe in releasing albums on the weekend, but… i don’t know why. There’s stuff to DO on the weekend. Tuesdays are more boring, a better time to release an album. It’s Tuesday now, but i cannot release it today, nor tomorrow. Thursday, though. I could put it online Thursday perhaps. If that’s not possible…Monday? Tuesday?

Yeah. Soooo… new album. Coming real soon.

If you’re ordering the box set and you want to wait until it arrive (mid dec) to listen, i salute you. It will be online to hear should you wish. For those not ordering the box set who are happy with digital copies of the New Albion albums, because the new album is a normal album length (53 minutes) instead of the usual double album length (90 to 100 minutes) i will sell the new album for $5 instead of the normal $10 for the operas. (with proceeds going to fund the manufacture of the 6 CD box set)


Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Uncategorized


Buy Your Very Own Supervillian Lair

This is a real house now available for a mere 3 million in Joshua Tree, California.

Most of us of course aspire to take over the world and ruthlessly rule it with an iron fist. Really, any other aspiration is paltry. But let’s me honest fellow Overlords, sometimes motivation slips a bit, dead end job gets you down, good minions can be so tough to recruit and they die so easily, some stupid hero bumbles across our master plan and it’s back to square one. I know, i know. It’s tough, it really is.

But here, HERE is lair that really let’s the world know you mean BUSINESS! That really inspires you to wake up in the morning (or midday, or mid afternoon, we are supervillians after all, convention can go bite us) and greet the day with a hearty shout of ‘NO MISTER BOND, I EXPECT YOU….. TO DIE!!!!”

supervillian lair joshua tree california

supervillian lair joshua tree california

Finding a lair that appeals to the modern supervillian can be a difficult market to navigate. If you’re like me, you have well rounded needs. I may need to slip effortlessly from well mixed cocktails and tasty hors d’oeuvres to strap in tables, laser torture and shark tanks. I need a lair that allow the seamless transition from one to the other and back again. I don’t want to hear the wretched cries of agony and pleading from some medieval stone dungeon, i want to sit in luxury a floor above and daintily drink a cup of their blood while high priced escorts pout at me from across the room. This then is the place you can do that and more.

supervillian lair joshua tree california

supervillian lair joshua tree california supervillian lair joshua tree california

So few real estate agents understand the complicated needs of the modern supervillian. It’s the little detailts LIKE GETTING THE RIVERS OF BLOOD OUT OF THE FLOOR. SERIOUSLY. Carpeting? Forget it. But hard wood floors? See they THINK hard wood floor will solve that problem. WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE? SOME JEFFREY DAHMER TWO BIT AMATEUR? Sure a dead body here and there, but COME ON people, one modest massacre and the blood goes straight through the floorboard. It leaks downstairs rots away at the finish. No. NO. i have been down that road TOO MANY TIMES.

These are the floors you need, frienemies. Look at the pic above. The blood will trickle out in a lovely stream and a simple minion and a swiffer will insure that the next unsuspecting victim or do gooder will never know what happened or what fate awaits them

supervillian lair joshua tree california

v10 supervillian lair joshua tree california supervillian lair joshua tree california supervillian lair joshua tree california supervillian lair joshua tree california

This house is available now. For a measly 3 mil. Shit, i engineers coups for countries with more than that in the safes of their royal palaces. I blackmail gay scientologists for more than that. As i’m sure you do too. So what are you waiting for? It’s a….. STEAL. No, really, it’s…. to DIE for.


No seriously, buy this shit so i can come over and we can RPG in the basement on a table made of the severed torsos of our enemies. Or your enemies. it’s your house after all. You DO have a torso table, though, right? I mean i’m having this discussion with a bleedin’ amateur, right? Good. I didn’t think so.

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Posted by on November 16, 2014 in Uncategorized


Stained In The Memory And Tears For A Name You’ll Never Learn

“The old trunk in the attic, with a dress for a child but hardly worn. Stained in a memory and tears for a name you’ll never learn”

A few years ago when i was in Pittsburgh, where i was raised and my family still lives, i went with my mom to visit my grandmother. My grandmother has since passed, but she was in her 90s so that deserves a salute.

She lived in a small apartment in an assisted care facility. Her husband, my grandfather had died decades earlier. My mom made a comment to me that what my grandmother did all day was essentially move piles of stuff from one place in the apartment to another.

We chatted and my grandma offered me some candlesticks, which seemed nice and i said i’d be interested. As she went to rummage through them, i glanced up at the ceiling. Atop some cabinets was of all things a little dress. A child’s dress. Small, not a large child, a small child. I asked if the dress was my mother’s and silence fell across the room.

My grandma turned back away and shuffled off again and my mom gave me a “i’ll explain later” look.

Later she explained.

My mom has a brother, my uncle Jerry. They’re the only two children of my grandparents. I thought.

It turns out my mother told me, my uncle is a twin. He had a twin sister who died of a fever when she was about 3 years old. The last time my mother had brought the sister up my grandmother had cried uncontrollably so it was never brought up. That little dress is all that’s left of the little girl. No other trace remains, but my grandma kept it all those years.

It was hardly worn. And as you can guess, i do not know what her name was. The dress is all that’s left.

That’s where that lyric comes from.

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Posted by on November 15, 2014 in Uncategorized


Safely Down: The Songs of Jason Jackson

Safely Down: The Songs of Jason Jackson

Matthew Broyles, longtime friend and collaborator, and the guy who plays guitar on my albums whenever you hear it, has released an incredible and fascinating new album today.

Three years ago his friend and songwriter Jason Jackson passed away under tragic circumstances. Thus it was that Matthew decided to honor Jason’s memory by compiling his songs and assembling an array of Texas talent who knew him to record his songs as an appropriate musical viking send off.

This project is now finished and released today.

Give it a listen. A Texas rock and roll memorial wake.

Proceeds go to his daughter

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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


Now We Wait

The New Albion Trilogy - Complete

Thank you all for you opinions and help.

It is decided. Box set, all 4 albums, working on it. Lauren has just starting today sending me her vocal parts for the album which are sound SHUWEEEEEEEEeeeeet.

Hang tight. Maybe if you’re all good and i get ballsy enough i’ll play a track or something sometime, but til then, hang on, we’re working on getting it all together.


Posted by on November 9, 2014 in Uncategorized


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