#079: Roundtable – See ya 09! Hello 2010!

iTunes and Lala tie the knot and tech blogs are a buzz with the news.  What does this mean for the future of digital music?  Are we moving into the cloud?  Also, 2009’s top ten viral videos are not what you might expect (sadly no monkey that smells his own poop and then falls backwards out of a tree).  The Podcasters recap last weeks interview with Ryan States and chat about their holiday music endeavors.  Plus your stories, tips, tricks and comments on our listener line.  Enjoy this episode with a cup of hot coco.  We’ll see you next year!

The Top 10 viral video list can be found here

A special thanks to Matt at Finley Sound.  You can get the Christmas song he mixed for free here.  Need something mixed? Check out his site http://finleysound.com/

  • On going back-and-forth…

    I wouldn’t ask for more than 2 or 3 revisions because if you need that then something else is wrong, i.e. the wrong fit… they just don’t understand what you’re going for…

    One track was oddly out of sync, and sometimes in sync. Sometimes several measures off. I ended up just editing it because I wanted the guy on the album. One guitarist emailed me a few musical ideas per song section. I picked the ones I wanted and then he did real takes in that style.

    Another guitarist essentially ‘jammed’ through the song 8 times. I built the ‘guitar arrangement’ via selective phrase-by-phrase muting. This had a ‘free’ feeling and allowed the unexpected/uncontrived.

    One drummer sends me 4 takes. I email him how I want the composite. I say which take I want for each section. He edits the comp and then sends me the large-file tracks via http://www.yousendit.com which is who I normally use for FTP. We stay in touch (phone/email) during the day, to ensure I get what I need before the day is over and he changes his kit, or mic setup, or goes back on tour.

    Most of the long-distance collaborations are with people that I know and used to play with (in person). Even if I lived in the same city I might consider using email because of different schedules, lugging gear… Then have a beer together later. But in-person is always ideal.

    Early on I actually spoke on the recording that musicians tracked to in order to give them cues of what’s next. But I abandoned that. That’s too lazy.

    If I waited until the circus tour hit LA, NYC, Nashville… and booked a session with musicians, too many things could go wrong. The circus could arbitrarily, and without notice, add more shows. If anything fell through it’s not like I could reschedule for the following week… So it’s good to find other ways to work.

    Certainly there are some things that must be done in person. And it would be more fun, and take less time. But you can record a horn section, piece-by-piece if you know what you want and record the lead trumpet first, for example.

    When you first receive a track and hear what they did, you often wonder if it’s going to work because it’s not what you expected and you’re accustomed to hearing it the original way on the demo. Sometimes they send you something much better than the demo but it takes you a few days to realize it. “In The Game” went a completely different direction. I decided to roll with it and rework some of the parts to fit the parts I received.

    I recorded five of the musicians (horns, guitar) in my train room. Four of the musicians I never interacted with directly. They were contracted — friends of friends… Remote recording opens up the talent pool. The last thing to stifle creativity is technology. Sure, I’m assembling a recording block-by-block. But there’s a lot of great music that cannot be made any other way. I’m approaching it as a keyboard programmer/sequencer, so it makes sense to me. A lot of technology goes into musicians sitting around a campfire being able to play acoustic instruments as well. I don’t think this is any more contrived than creating musical notation or composing a musical arrangement. I just see it as different tools.

  • I think the thing that impressed me most, listening to some of Ryan’s tracks, is how well it all fits together in the end. I’m sure it involved many many of hours spent editing/mixing, but you’d never know how it was recorded if someone didn’t tell you. Kudos, and thanks for the inspiration!

  • Chris, about your anti-technology drive;

    Isn’t recording to tape just another, more dated use of technology?

    Surely the ultimate would be to only ever play live, acoustic music, never to be recorded?

  • Dear Kevin et al,

    Great work on the podcast – long-term listener here.

    Like Hello Morning, my band A Citizen Above Suspicion also issued a free download for Christmas. Through 2009, we’ve been releasing each new song we finish for free to our mailing list in order to build anticipation for our next CD. In late November, mindful of Christmas coming up, we made a goal to track, mix, master and release a new song in time for the holiday as a gift to our followers, which was rather ambitious given that we all have day jobs. We cut it rather fine (uploading the finished song at ten to midnight on Xmas eve!) but made our deadline nonetheless, and we’ve had some great feedback so far.

    I think the lesson for me has been that setting goals/deadlines definitely helps provide a structure to what we do – when we don’t do this we tend to spend much much longer preparing our releases and agonising over all the details. Things seem to drift much less when you set a deadline – even if you do miss your original date.

    Cheers and thanks for the podcast

    (Excuse the plug but you can hear the fruits of our labours at http://bit.ly/5esF24)

  • Really liked the Hello Morning Xmas tune. Having only heard Kevin’s speaking voice, was funny then hearing it singing in octaves for the vocal melody (not sure if both parts were Kevin)… Idea for a future podcast: an interview w/Kevin, Chris, and Bolt about their music past and present, how they got to where they are, rather than just having this info in the form of comments during round-tables.

    Anyway, thanks again for the podcasts, and Happy Holidays.

  • Mark – That’s actually not me singing(That’s Henry our lead singer). I’m just a guitar player. I know, I probably just dropped down a couple notches in your eyes. The funny things though, is that I had two different family members ask me if that was me singing. So if I did sing the song, maybe it would sound like that. Thanks for checking out the song!


  • Why is Chris being such a hater? Preferences make life full of flavor. Maybe some people just like to do cool stuff. Besides, we all know that the people who are really super talented are too lazy to do the job right, so technology has to fill in the gaps. If you really want to be pissed at someone, be pissed at all the unreliable people who sit on their talent.

  • Xero,

    I’m not Chris but I have to disagree strongly with you here. Talent doesn’t need technology. Technology makes those with the right look and no talent, stars.

    I’m guessing you’re a rap/hip-hop “artist” based on your name and the way you made your point. If so, you of all people should know better than to make such a claim. Most rappers spend so much time sampling Casio tones that they wouldn’t know a real instrument if it bit them on the butt.

    Some rappers are musicians, most are not. Those that aren’t, NEED technology to produce their music. Those that are, don’t NEED technology for anything but promotion and perhaps saving money on the production side.

  • Kevin,
    You guys did a great job with the Christmas track-the guitar tone really stands out..nice! So, hats off to Finley Sound as well for a fine mixing job.

    I usually download the podcast in iTunes and listen to it in the car during my commute to/from my (non-musical) day job, but I had to come here this time and give it another listen. I don’t know if it’s just my download or my iPhone, but episode #79 has all of you speaking very fast. The pitch is normal but you all sound like professional auctioneers. Is it just me? Maybe I should join that new secret anti-computer FaceBook group I keep hearing about.

  • Eric – Thanks for checking out Hello Morning’s Christmas song! It was a lot of fun to record and yes, Finley Sound did do a great job. You must have received some sort of special edition of the podcast, as that’s not the version I heard. Usually we record in the mid afternoon when everyone would rathe be taking a little nap. It’s typical for us to sound really slow (Or at least it feels that way when we record). We spice things up a little on the edit, but not that spicy! Must have been some sort of download error. I hope at least!

    Thanks for listening!


  • I thought Ryan’s approach to recording was really inspiring, especially when he was talking about how totally un-soundproofed his room on the train is.

    I’ve been tripping on setting up the perfect recording environment for the lead vocals on a song I’ve been working on, but I figure that even at its worst, my basement can’t be as noisy as your average circus train.

    Thanks for the punk rock reality check!

  • Regarding the (mis)use of technology, I have some personal beefs with it.

    My first point is more in the vein of “communications” technology, i.e., cellphones, texting, and Tweeting. Like Chris’ Word analogy for the over(usage) of Autotune, I believe that asynchronous communication paths, i.e., forms of communication that don’t require interactive/immediate response, has become a detriment to people being socially aware of each others in the real world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out with a group of people at a bar and half of them are texting their other friends the entire we’re there vs. interacting with the rest of us. We’ve all run into people with “internet courage” who are more than willing to berate you online knowing full and well if they tried that in the real world, they would get their arses kicked. I’m not against using the technologies as a tool to supplement already well-defined, real-world was of communing with others. I use all of the items above in some way/shape/form.

    Regarding using computers to make music, I’m a bit more liberal. I agree that non-singers using autotune to sell records shouldn’t be rewarded (just check out Flavor-Flav’s new single). There should be some natural talent being recorded and it should hold itself up in a live scenario. However, recording costs, ease of use, and competition *almost* require you to have to use a computer at some point. I would LOVE to record to analog all the time if I could afford to buy/maintain an analog machine (why are those reels so darn expensive?). The computer makes things easier for me to capture what I’m trying to. I have used Autotune in the past to fix things that I wouldn’t be able to do over again due to time or budget.

    In general, on both points, the use of technology should be done, like everything else, in moderation. You can have “too much of a good thing”.