Archives for posts with tag: writing

Hey there. John here to talk a bit about laying down some of the guitar tracks for our first album.

Before the actual recording, Michael and I divided the songs between us to get a more coherent sound in each of the individual tracks. We both have a somewhat different approach to some parts of the songs in terms of picking, which works perfectly live but could cause some inconsistencies in the guitar parts on the album. So after a talk with our sound-engineer Stef, we chose this approach.

Like Mark and Michael, I plug directly into my computer with a Lexicon Lambda. I usually warm up first with some exercises and after that I play through the segments that I want to record, before laying down the guitar parts. Mark had already recorded  his tracks, so I just had to play along with both Ben and Mark’s recordings. In the songs there are a few places where I only had to play the melodies live, so having the bass to follow groove wise when recording the rhythm parts was a big help. Like Mark already said in his blog: There is al lot going on in those riffs.

After recording most of the rhythm parts, there was still a lot of work ahead. In most of the songs there are a lot of lead parts and there were quite a few solos.

I also had to come up with solos for ‘Becoming the Lie’ and ‘Closing Statement’. There was never a real necessity to come up with solos for these songs before. This was because we planned on never playing them live, which was our first priority when the band came together.

While writing solos I like a hands-on approach, with a guitar in my lap. But instead of instantly just jamming, I like to take some time and get a melody in my head, sing it and then start playing it. Usually when I come up with a melody I really like, I start playing around with it. Do some quicker passages between important notes, sometimes a really long lick to accentuate the tonal center and sometimes superimpose some chords as well as the occasional outside playing. But I always keep the melody in mind.

For the rhythm, leads and solos I used my Bo-El MC-7. I’ve been playing this guitar for almost 5 years now and haven’t come across a better guitar for the things I want to do!
For the odd clean parts I used a Michael Kelly Archtop guitar. Even though I really wanted to use my Bo-El for everything, you really can’t beat the big clean sound of an Archtop.

Recording the album was really enjoyable. It took quite a bit longer than I expected it to, but it was time well spent. All the rhythm parts are quad tracked and all the solos and leads triple. Especially nailing the solos 3 times took quite a bit of effort, but it was a really fun challenge.

That’s about it. Cya at one of our gigs!

-John

John Recording

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What’s up everybody? Ben here, drummer for Selfmachine. It’s time to back up and break down the drumbeat with a brand new big and bulky blog broadcast. (CCC-combo breaker!)

The drum tracks for our debut album have been making all kinds of gains and are now finished! It’s the first time I’ve written drums for a full album. Before Selfmachine came along, I’d written drums for various internet music forum projects and the band Alison Stereo, but I’ve left them for a band in which there’s much more room to broadcast my own identity! I like to write inspiring and experimental beats and fills, while still laying down a solid foundation for the track. Three years back I would not have been able to write the drums for Selfmachine’s debut album. It would’ve been too chaotic and unstructured. After ten years of maturing as a drummer, last year was the perfect time for me to join a new band and finally write my first album. The writing proces and freedom I get in Selfmachine exactly suits my needs and I’m very satisfied with the results.

Our debut album has very much been home-written. This is how I’ve written al my previous drumtracks as well. Mark writes most of the songs in GuitarPro with general guidelines for my drums. The parts are sent to all members and the first task is for me: laying down the beat. Instead of improvising behind my drumkit with the song in my earphones, I sit behind my PC and program the drums in Reaper and Addictive Drums. That way, I can instantly make changes and evaluate, which makes the writing fast and easy.

Behind the desk, I write in a phased manner. The first phase is ‘song support mode’, where I don’t let myself do MY thing. In my mind, I let master Mark enslave me as his puppet that only follows his steps. Ninety percent of this drumtrack will consist of quarter notes on the hihat/crash with bassdrum and snare hits on the accents of the bass guitar. This is the quick fix, no-risk way of writing what actually works fine most of the time, yet I often find it to sound rather boring and generic. Now that the foundation for the drums are laid down, it’s time for phase two: the visionary phase. I decide what kind of drumtheme fits the song best, in other words: What kind of defining beat and/or fills will set the tone and repeat itself in slight variations throughout the song.

After this ‘mature part’, I’m hungry for the dirty bulking phase. Here I write whatever I want, steal whatever’s available, create my own alternative and program drums I could not have thought of behind my drumkit. I don’t even care if I’m able to play what I write for the drums. The only limits I take into account while programming are the tempo and the fact I only have four limbs. For half the songs on this album, I’ve written drumparts that took me at least a couple sessions to master, mostly coördination wise. The drumintro for Caught in a Loop is a good example. By this way, I push myself to learn and grow as a drummer and to keep it interesting for myself and hopefully, others. At last, when the song is all ripped, shredded, mauled and torn apart with usually just too many drums, the fourth and final phase starts. This is where I get all serious and stuff. I let the song rest for an hour up to a couple of days, then listen back to it and evaluate. I decide if the drums unwantedly steal the attention, if the drumtheme is represented strong enough, if the groove parts actually groove and if the buildup of tension in the drums fits the song structure. I change the drums ’till I think the song is jacked, pumped and buffed up to maximum potential.

When my own evaluation is applied, I send the song with my drumtracks to the rest of the band for evaluation. These drumtracks sound quite realistic with Addictive Drums, making it much easier to evaluate. The critique I get, usually only consists of details, hardly ever about whole parts that need to be rewritten. I think it’s a combination of the freedom we all get to broadcast our identity and my writing style that flows with the rest of the band.

Finally, after all parts are set in stone, we record the final album. Since we’re called Selfmachine it would be logical to keep the programmed drums as they sound perfectly tight like a machine. However, in Selfmachine, a big factor is the groove. The only way to really get the groove going, to make it spicy and crispy like Dorito’s Sensational Salsa and to get it oily, sexy, lazy and laid back like melting dark chocolate, is to play the drums myself. With my semi-selfmade electonic kit made out of a Pearl Rhythm Traveler with mesh heads, DDrum triggers, Yamaha cymbal pads and an Alesis Trigger iO, I record the drums in the form of midi files. These are sent to our mixer Stef Hartog who creates the best sounding drums we can think of. When you compare the effort all musicians have to put in to record their work, I clearly have the easiest job. I only have to deliver a bunch of midi files, but that saves me time to write big bulky blogs like these!

I wanna thank Mark for giving me the freedom to go loose on eleven awesome tracks, Steven for lending me his cymbal pads and the sexy lyrics, Mike for instrumentally writing the most juicy song on the album: iSybian, John for the tight solo’s and Stef for the fat, yet clear sound. Can’t wait to let you guys hear the end result!

– Ben

Hey everybody! Here is Mark, bassist for Selfmachine, and it is my turn to broadcast my identity!

Of course we have been spending a lot of time recording our debut album. I luckily have the luxury to be able to record all the bass tracks at home because we are going to re-amp everything later on. So I just plug into my Focusrite and play some bass. Ben recorded his drum tracks first and I recorded with only those tracks blasting out of my speakers. So no guitars or guide tracks, just drums and bass. I did this because Selfmachine songs rely heavily on the groove and therefore heavily on the bass guitar. With Ben’s recordings already done (he did a freaking amazing job by the way!) I could just lay down the groove better if I didn’t have any other tracks distracting me.

When the album is done you can hear that the riffs differ a lot in timing. Some are laidback, some are fast and some are exactly on the count. These changes even happen within riffs. This creates some awesome grooves!

The recording process itself was heavy and long. All bass riffs are recorded in 3 layers so we can fatten the bass in the mix when we need to. This means that all bass tracks on every song are recorded 3 times. All the added bass lines are also done 3 times but are also doubled one octave above, again 3 times. I also recorded a lot of extra parts like double tap stuff and all kind af parts to extra fatten the accents of the riffs. To top that off I also used my fretless bass for some additional lines, mostly for the soft parts in our ballad and epic closing song of the album. These are two songs we haven’t played live yet, and I promise you we are going to surprise you with these! The recording process obviously took a long time and liters of coffee, but the result is awesome!

Without going into every song on the album I have to say that the recording experience was awesome. The bass parts on this album vary from basic stuff to two hand tapping parts, from 100bpm to 220 bpm and from simple bass lines to wildly progressive stuff I really had to practice for. A song like ‘Smother the Sun’ is fast and heavy but has the beautiful bridge that has the double handed taps in the middle which are a joy to play. A song like Massive Luxury Overdose is a mid tempo song with a great groove and an awesome chorus on the bass guitar. All songs really have their own character making them very cool to play.

For you gearheads out there, I played 3 different basses on the recording, all of them made by Mayones. It’s my privilege that I’m endorsed by my favorite bass builder. Lucky me! I used a Mayones Comodous six string with Bartolini pickups and Aguilar electronics, a custom Mayones Caledonius six string with Bartolini pickups and Taurus electronics and my beautiful fretless custom Mayones Comodous six string with Nordstrand humbuckers and Aguilar electronics. Give Mayones a visit at their website!

– Mark

Hey folks,

Here’s an update from Michael Hansen, rhythm guitarist for Selfmachine.

We have begun recording for our first album: Broadcast Your Identity. I find it very exciting and educational to be part of this band while creating this awesome product.

My guitar is plugged directly into my computer through my Scarlett 2i2. Instead of rocking out with a thick layer of distortion I will record all the parts completely clean and dry. Afterwards I will check them with FX or loop it through my Koch Supernova using a DI to get a good impression. Recording with this dry sound gives me a better insight into what I am doing right or wrong. The sound does take some getting used to, since all these metal riffs of course sound a lot better with the gain cranked open.

Every song I recorded had new surprises and challenges in store for me. Parts that I thought would be easy turned out to have much more variations in timing and feel, while some of the more technically complex riffs came flowing out surprisingly  easy.

Some personal experiences while recording these songs:

Caught in a Loop
This was the first song I recorded. A nice up-tempo and catchy song. The reason I started with this song is because this is one that comes easy to me. During the pre-productions this was also my strongest song. However, this time things did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. I recorded with some wrong settings in my computer. This resulted in me having to start all over again when I was halfway done. So I got off to a pretty bad start.
This song has a cool post-verse/pre-chorus (depending on your outlook on life -SL) with some nice layed back timing. I got the job done, but it took some time to get it right. The bridge of the song is straight up metal. No laybacking here. Just old school metal riffing.

Void
This song is kind of the odd one out of the bunch. Transitions from major to minor chords out of the same root. Up until the bridge the song mostly consists out of chords with some triplet-based licks. The bridge contains some of the first riffs I wrote when I first joined the band. All in all it was a pleasure recording this song.

Breathe To Aspire
This song I consider the essence of Selfmachine. It is the song we used as a demo track to form this band and we have played this song more than any of the others. Because of this, the recording went quite rapidly. It was fun for me to record this song again and try to make it even tighter and groovier than before

Massive Luxury Overdose.

This song took a lot out of me. After I recorded the entire thing, I deleted everything and started all over the next day. It just didn’t feel right. There are so many subtleties in timing in this song, having to play ahead of the time and then switch to layed back, sometimes even within the same riff. This took a lot of concentration, precision and a whole new approach for me to get it right. Anything for the groove.

iSybian

This is our groovy fun song. It contains a lot of notes, licks and tricks. It is paced at 212 BPM, but you can’t play the riffs to stiffly because you’ll lose the groove. When recording this song I made the same mistake with the settings as with the first song, so I could start again from scratch. It was my own damn fault, but still it sucked big time when I found out. After this I just felt too frustrated and couldn’t concentrate on recording anymore. So I took a day off and started fresh the next day.

The next big challenge ahead of me will be the last song of the album. It is the long and epic ‘Closing Statement’.

– Michael.

Song number two of the album: Miles Away. One of my personal favorites. Super catchy choruses and that ludicrously fast shred solo by Johnny in the middle. Y’all just wait. It’s nuts. But for now, let’s get into the lyrics of the song.

Miles Away

If I could only reach you
If I could only fight my way uphill
If I could only plant this seed in mind
That would let you find the will

I’m trying still
And I’ll be here until

These walls are falling
And I will stay
Until they’re all away
Miles away

Standby, awaiting signals
I’m reading into every word that you speak
However little hopeful
Resignations are only for the weak

Not there for me
Until the day I see

These walls are falling
And I will stay
Until they’re all away
Can you hear me calling
Or are these words I hear only a ricochet
From miles away

You’re miles away

And I am trying still
So I’ll be here until

These walls are falling
And I will stay
Until they’re all away
Can you hear me calling
Or are these words I hear only a ricochet
From miles away

So, this is actually me trying to write my own version of the song ‘Breakthru’ by Queen. I love that song and the lyrics. You like someone, you want them to notice you but you can’t seem to reach them. Pretty straightforward stuff, really. Check out the lyrics to ‘Breakthru’ here.
Freddy focused more on his feelings for that certain person. I focused more on the struggle. How totally true metal of me, haha! But seriously, I always envy those artists who can write a song with such simple sincerity, without it becoming too mushy or cheesy. Freddy was an unparalleled genius and this my little ode to him,… By totally ripping off his idea for a song.

The working title for this song was originally ‘Stay’. As a reference to this I used that word in the chorus in a place that focuses a lot of attention to it. It’s a little inside joke for those very few people that knew the song from before I joined the band.

Speaking of working titles,… the next time I’ll discuss a song originally titled ‘Mark’!

-Steven

Okay, so here we go: The first of my lyric posts. Our upcoming album will feature 11 tracks, so I’ll be doing this once or twice a month until the album is finished. I’ll post the lyrics to a song, and then explain what the song is about and maybe point out some of the little jokes or references that I put in there.  Of course any lyric is open to different interpretations, and I have no intention of taking that magic away from anybody. Over time a song creates a life of its own, and sometimes the meanings can change, even for me. This is just the way I wrote it.
Breathe to aspire

I speak my name, introductions aside
I want to get right down to business
Inflamed, with no dreams fulfilled
So can I get a witness?

No one restrains me
So far I’ve been delayed
Clenching my fists as I brawl through the fray

So many times that I have lost
I’m losing track of all the costs
Still I remind myself of this, because…

No matter how many nights I have known
This is a new adventure
If once again I strike out on my own
I will live a new day

Breathe to aspire

I’ll claim my space
Fill my lungs full of air
And then exhale determination
No trace of any battle fatigue
That might have crumbled this foundation

A million times I might have lost
And I am still here now because,…

No matter how many nights I have known
This is a new adventure
If once again I strike out on my own
I will live a new day

What if this won’t improve? What will it move towards?
No one holds all the cards, decides which way to move
Just breathe

Breathe to aspire to breathe to aspire to breathe…

So many times that I have lost
I’m losing track of all the costs
Still I remind myself of this, because…

No matter how many nights I have known
This is a new adventure
If once again I strike out on my own
I will live a new day

No matter how many nights I have known
This is a new adventure
If once again I strike out on my own
I will live as long as I -breathe to aspire

This song was the first I ever wrote for Selfmachine. It was one of the two tracks that Mark had sent to me to use in my audition for the band. I remember wanting to write something powerful and genuine, without having to dig too deep and pour out all kind of personal stuff to a band I might not even be part of. The main thought behind this song is: Whenever you lose something in your life, whether it’s a band, a relationship, a job or whatever, it is not the end of the world as long as you keep on breathing, keep on living and move on to the next level. You’re never beaten unless you give up. And every new adventure brings exciting new challenges. In my case, the challenge ahead was auditioning for this great new band. The first verse especially describes the exact situation I was in when I first sang these lyrics. It was custom made for the occasion and a totally meta experience.

And hey,… I guess it worked!

-Steven