The Production Notebook II: More Futility, Finish First, and Going Out

There’s not much to report in the second installment of the Production Notebook.  I made a few minor tweaks to “Crush” and added additional synth work, some minor changes to “Chimera” (the working title) that I’m not entirely satisfied with, tried to replace (rather unsuccessfully) a synth in “Voices” that has been bothering me due to its thinness, and worked out a guitar bit for “Sweet Victory” (also a working title).  I attempted to add additional percussion to “Sweet Victory” as well, but it didn’t turn out the way I wanted.  Other than that, I’m finding myself obsessed with mixing rather than finishing the damned songs, which is pointless considering I’ll have to do more mixing when the songs are finished anyway, and especially futile given that I am uncertain of the acoustics in this room.

Finish first, mix later.

I also played around with a couple songs for side projects, and one that will likely be on the next album, but these are mere distraction at a time when I need to be working on Hijacking Your Fiction.

All in all, it should be evident that it didn’t go so well today, and I found myself getting overwhelmed with the number of things I need to do, unable to focus on one song.  I’m quickly losing interest, I’m afraid.

I’ve begun to fear that the songs are too simple.  They were meant to be that way initially, but as my musical and technical skills develop I find myself wanting to rewrite everything.  I can’t quite seem to get to the “good enough” frame of mind that is necessary for any musician.  I believe it was Michael Knott (among others, I’m sure) who said that if he ever waited until he was satisfied with his music, he’d never release anything.  This is why I’m in my 30s, and have never released anything officially, with the exception of the early releases on the C/Fe Records sampler in 2009.

On this subject, I’ve come across a fascinating article from Malcolm Gladwell in which he ponders the emergence of talent, particularly in so-called “late bloomers.”  I’m much too tired to give my thoughts at this time (indeed, I’m having difficulty forming full sentences at the moment), but I can’t help but to think that my relatively late start in the musical world has something to do with the way I work.  I will leave you, and this rambling but hopefully coherent entry, with an excerpt from the article which sounds entirely too familiar to me:

Prodigies like Picasso, Galenson argues, rarely engage in that kind of open-ended exploration. They tend to be “conceptual,” Galenson says, in the sense that they start with a clear idea of where they want to go, and then they execute it. “I can hardly understand the importance given to the word ‘research,’ ” Picasso once said in an interview with the artist Marius de Zayas. “In my opinion, to search means nothing in painting. To find is the thing.” He continued, “The several manners I have used in my art must not be considered as an evolution or as steps toward an unknown ideal of painting. . . . I have never made trials or experiments.”

But late bloomers, Galenson says, tend to work the other way around. Their approach is experimental. “Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental,” Galenson writes in “Old Masters and Young Geniuses,” and he goes on:

The imprecision of their goals means that these artists rarely feel they have succeeded, and their careers are consequently often dominated by the pursuit of a single objective. These artists repeat themselves, painting the same subject many times, and gradually changing its treatment in an experimental process of trial and error. Each work leads to the next, and none is generally privileged over others, so experimental painters rarely make specific preparatory sketches or plans for a painting. They consider the production of a painting as a process of searching, in which they aim to discover the image in the course of making it; they typically believe that learning is a more important goal than making finished paintings. Experimental artists build their skills gradually over the course of their careers, improving their work slowly over long periods. These artists are perfectionists and are typically plagued by frustration at their inability to achieve their goal.

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Steampunk Cabaret, Mellow Lounge, and Glorified Spoken Word

A couple of months ago, when I didn’t yet have the Internet at my apartment here in Seoul, I went to a PC Room to check my email, and while there,  searched for anything related to AllThisIsMeaningless or C/Fe Records as I do on occasion.  I was rather surprised to see something new this time:  Re:Gen Magazine’s review of the C/Fe Menagerie.  I couldn’t help but to be pleased with the review overall, despite the three-star rating, particularly the comments on AllThisIsMeaningless:

The last artist, AllThisIsMeaningless, is the most genre-bending and unusual of the bunch and is most likely to either excite or confuse. Mixing indie rock, electronics, and cabaret-like vocals, AllThisIsMeaningless employs a seemingly intentional rough sound mix giving the impression that at least part of it is coming out of an old phonograph. This gives the work the strange feeling of new and old technologies clashing, like an aural interpretation of steampunk fashion.

Better than I could have imagined.  “Cabaret-like vocals?”  “New and old technologies clashing?”  “An aural interpretation of steampunk fashion?”  How could I not be happy with this review?

It is unfortunate to see The Still Lifes work characterized as “glorified spoken word,” but then I’m fairly certain Ikarus and Willem will take that as a compliment, and they’ve publicized their music as spoken word from the beginning, so it’s hard not to feel too badly for them.  I’m am a bit surprised by the lack of interest in “Sebastian Says, “Checkmate, I think,” if for no other reason than it is the best mixed track on the sampler, in my opinion.  Yes, I mixed it, but that’s beside the point.  It’s a cool track.  By the way, I’ve heard some of the stuff they’re working on (these guys are taking almost as long on their album as I am).  It’s still spoken word, but they seem to be ditching the noise for the most part for something more accessible.

As far as the comments on the MusiM tracks, I maintain that those tracks are far, far from John’s best work, and with everyone getting wet over these three tracks I  imagine their heads will explode when they hear his really good shit.

Read the full review here.

Hijacking Your Fiction

The first album from AllThisIsMeaningless is a long time coming – five years, and arguably as many as eight or nine, the approximate age of the oldest song on the album, “Gate 36.”

The album will be made available in multiple formats.  CDs will be available in extremely limited quantities, and only after I am certain I have the money for them.  These will most likely be duplicated (CDR) rather than replicated in order to save costs.  I am doing this with a heavy heart, for though I love having a physical product, I hear the death knell for the CD.  I hear the beloved format I grew up with gasping its last breaths. 

I will be pushing downloads, some of which I will make available for free.  However, I am encouraging everyone to purchase custom USB drives, which will contain the complete album as well as numerous extras:  album artwork, extensive liner notes, remixes, tracks that didn’t make the cut, acoustic versions of tracks, and hopefully video.  I further hope that those of you who love me enough to buy it will also love me enough to share it with friends who are broke or have something against supporting poor musicians.   My goal here is publicity over financial gain.

In addition, as an advocate of paying for access rather than product, purchases of the USB drive will come first access to all songs and remixes for the following year (I may make it two years), as well as bonus content and preview mixes for the album after Hijacking Your Fiction, which I’ve already begun (I haven’t quite worked out the logistics of any of this yet).  The USBs will be more expensive than the CDs, but will be sold at minimal profit (likely no more than one or two dollars over cost, depending on the cost – I deserve something for my work and if you share it with friends maybe you can have them make donations toward your purchase).

Finally, I’m considering working out something with cassettes – perhaps if you send me a cassette (any cassette, really, though I’d prefer not to use one that is a copyrighted recording from an existing label) and return postage, I’ll simply record the entire album onto your cassette.  This will be time consuming, and nearly free, so I will not guarantee quality, fidelity, or even that a song won’t be cut off mid-way as the first side of the tape ends (If this happens, I’ll do my best to continue on the second side as close to that point in the song as possible).

In Google news, I’ve noticed that AllThisIsMeaningless can be difficult to find.  A year ago, as long as one entered the name as one word it would show up.  But now Google is too smart for you and it separates the words unless you tell it you specifically want to search for AllThisIsMeaningless as one word.

AllThisIsMeaningless is a deeply personal project, and I want this blog to reflect that.  I also intend to make greater efforts toward updating my other sites and to personally reply to everyone that takes the time to comment (something that has been incredibly easy thus far).  This site will also receive an overhaul.

Ultimately, it is about the music.  I only hope the music is worthy of your ears.

More updates should follow soon.