A couple months ago I joined a web-based community called Horror-Punks. Right away, I liked what I saw. It's a community for horror-music artists and fans. I consider myself to be both.
I uploaded my song "Living Dead Blues" and was curious to see what the response would be. I know damn well that the actual "sounds" I've been creating is a far cry from punk-rock, even if my heart isn't.
The song became a featured track on their website. A few days later it was picked up by the Horror-Punks radio station. And today the song was released on the Horror-Punks compilation album, THE MUSIC OF HORROR-PUNKS VOLUME THREE.
I'm very excited to have a song included in this release. This is the first time one of my solo tracks have been in a project of this nature, and it's great first step for me and my horror music project to join the larger horror-music community.
The album is HUGE - three discs. Better yet, it's currently available as a free download, so be sure to grab a copy while the grabbin' is good!
I should thank the guys that run Horror-Punks: Marquis DeBlood, Shane Hahn, Josh Haney, and Shane Diablo. They've welcomed me into their community with open arms. Here's the music of Horror-Punks Volume 3 track list: DISC #1:
JERRY VAYNE - Outbreak BANKRUPT - Straight Outta Graceland KILL THE DEAD - Atomic Satellite THE PANIC BEATS - Killing Spree CREATION'S TEARS - I Fail HORROR STORY - Return of Planet X RADIO CULT - Saturday Night Double Feature DEAD FEDERATION - The Cruel Cruel Moon THE POX - I Don't Like Me BRADLEY TATUM - On This Autumn Night FEAR INCORPORATED - The Tender Prey ZOMBIE! - The Walking Dead TIGER HELICIDE - Clouded Moon THE CASKET CREATURES - A Step Ahead of Death EPITAPH ROMANCE - Blood THEM! (US) - Barbara ZOMBIES UMLIMITED - Chronic Nightmares THIRTEEN SHOTS - Dead Girls Don't Scream DIRTY DANZIG - House On The Hill DOOM'S DAY - The Unholy JOHNNY FLESH & THE REDNECK ZOMBIES - Frankensteins Hot Rod PERSONAL KILLING AGENDA - Nemesis MYKE DAMAGE - Nightbreed OVERDUE EXORCISM - With You
THEM! (EU) - Atomic Giant Lizard Thing PHANTOM MAXIMUS - Unknown Gate TERRAVOLTZ - Young Dracula SILPHA AND THE CORPSEBONERS - Last Careless TRASHY VAMPS - The Invisible Man GYPSY BLAK - Nosferatu OTHERS - First Drain ANGELSTRIFE - Angeldust DR. SPOOKENSTEIN - Fire in the Sky RAZING HELL - Terror Television BLACK CRACK ASH - Mania! NEFARIOUS - Where Ghosts Walk WE ARE THE CONSPIRACY - Moonshine SANS NOMENCLATURE - Cracking Skulls TELLING TASHA - Ode De La Ghoul LOSSOFREASON - The Mansion MOMMY SEZ NO - Bedtime Gory ORLOCK & THE ROCKIN' GHOULS - Night Predators HORROR DELUX - To The Bone CAPTAIN BLOOD - Where Are My bones LITTLE MISS STAKES - Samara MAKIN TRAX - Skeleton Without A Spine PSYCHO 66 - 20th Century Animal ZOMBIES ARE TAKING OVER - Insomnia
THEY FEED AT NIGHT - Circumcision DEATHWOOD - Lake Of The Undead LIVING DEAD ARMY - Long Black Casket DEAD UNITED - Spook Rendezvous at Midnight CYCLOTRODE X - Hills Have Eyes GHOST OF PENELY CHASE - Seance THEE HEX RAYS - Death Row JAMES ROY DALEY - Living Dead Blues PHANTOM 13 - Death Dealer MONGREL - Still Born Savior DR. MONSTER - Creation of the Fiend WOLFBOY SLIM - Big Black Cat PAIN! - Death From Below DR. HELL - Death DEAD MANS CURSE - 6 Feet Underground SHRIEK - Lycanthrope REVENANTS REVOLT - Marceline CREEPERSIN - Nancy Necrophiliac DROP DEAD BIRTH - Forfit Your Soul DEATH CITY ROCKERS - She Was A Ghost NECROFUSION - Room 20 JOSH HANEY & THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY - A Horror Unleashed From Stygian
This song was a bitch to record. Wait a minute... didn't I already say that?
Yep. Of course I did. Because when you're recording songs with no bandmates the songs are always a bitch to record. At least, that's my experience so far.
Still... you hear the drums? Hear the guitar?
No. That's because... wait for it... after we spent hours upon hours recording them, we tossed them in the garbage! I wanted to cry into my pillow that night, but I think it was the right thing to do. After much thought we decided that the drums and guitar were acting as the rhythm section, moving the song into a musical no-man's land and destroying whatever emotional value the piano line was adding.
Does it sound like I have my head up my ass? Sorry about that.
I'm well-aware that songs about Freddy Krueger don't have much 'emotional value'. But that's the funny thing about this song. I tried to make a ridiculous topic serious. The idea came to me one night when I was driving home. A song came on the radio: Don Henley's The Heart of the Matter.
Now, you might not like Don Henley and you might not like The Eagles. That's cool. I love The Eagles, but that's not the point. Don Henley is a great lyricist. And as an author - I write horror novels, for those that don't know - I'm attracted to lyrics.
The lyrics that knocked me off my feet were:
I've been tryin' to get down, To the heart of the matter, But my will gets weak, And my thoughts seem to scatter But I'm thinking about… Forgiveness, forgiveness, Even if… even if… You don't love me anymore.
It's that last line: you don't love me anymore. It got me thinking, How about, 'You don't scare me anymore?'
And then I thought, what doesn't scare me anymore?
The answer came right away: Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger…
I stopped on that last one, thinking, Freddy Krueger is SO NOT SCARY to me at this point. But he was. At one point, when I was a kid, that first film scared the shit out of me.
So, what happened?
The answer, at least to me, is this: Freddy got cheesy.
And then the thought came; the big one: what if I sang the song from Freddy's point of view and HE was the one seeking forgiveness, forgiveness… even if… even if… he does't scare you anymore…
By the time I arrived home the song was more or less written. It's an apology from Freddy Krueger to his fans, for getting so cheesy, so stupid, and so NOT SCARY. And that's the point of horror, remember? TO SCARE. Horror isn't about funny one-liners and an outrageous killing technique. It's about real people, real characters, emotion. And most of those sequels had none of that. Clearly, the people that were running the show were thinking things like, You know what would be a great way for Freddy to kill someone?
Honestly, could their be a worse way to write a story?
You fucked-up, Hollywood. Thank God Wes Craven took his creation back and tried to steer the ship with that New Nightmare film.
And for what it's worth, Freddy's sorry. He really is.
This song was a bitch to record.
(And right now it’s a free download – so take it!)
The drums sound pretty simple, right? That’s because they are pretty simple. But it wasn’t easy to get there, that’s for sure.
I’ve honestly lost track of the amount of false starts we had with this song. Not because I would play the drums poorly, but because we would discover – after the fact – that the drums weren’t really working.
When we record a track we do it like this:
1) Ron sets up a click in the headphones 2) We choose the BPM (beats per minute) that we think will work 3) I record a scratch track (a track we throw away) of guitar and vocals 4) I play the drums, listening to the scratch track and the click together
The problem was – after we did the first three or four steps we’d realize that the drum rhythm was going to be weak.
The drums ALONE may have sounded awesome, but we’re not creating wet dreams for drum-geeks here. I could ‘Metallica’ or ‘Rush’ my way through these songs if I wanted – honest I could – but what would that do? Make me a fresh sound for 1987? I’m not interested. I’m trying to make great SONGS here, and I’m not interested in being a wanker. (No offence to Peart or Ulrich… I love you guys, but that’s not what I’m doing…)
Anyways, I’m getting off track.
We would lay down a drum track and listen to it. Over and over again we would think, it’s not bad, but what if we pushed the BPM up 5 points, or 10 points. Then we would record the drums again. After another listen, we would think… I don’t know… maybe if we drop the BPM down to 110, what do you think?
After we finally settled on a BPM, and recorded the drums, we worked on a bass line. Ron recorded it. It sounded good, but a couple months later – when the song was almost done - I re-recorded it and made it a little tighter. If you listen, that’s the most complex bass-line I’ve done (so far).
Also, low in the mix, in certain parts, if you listen closely, you can hear something that sounds like a tribal chant. That’s me. Singing. I recorded that complex vocal voodoo-chant nine times in a row, layering one on top of the next. Would you believe that I knocked them all out – one after another – with no fuck-ups? It’s true.
And it sounded so cool that when we mixed the song we put the chant REALLY LOUD! The next day, when we listened again with fresh ears, we thought, Man… that sucks! And we had to mix it again.
All that – plus a bunch of piano lines, hand drums (I bet you can't even hear those!), and keyboard lines, just to make that simple little song.
But wait! There’s more!
Because I didn’t talk about the vocals.
And the vocals were a bitch. The vocals are ALWAYS a bitch.
I’ll lay them down once. Then we’ll listen to them, and think, That’s frickin’ terrible! So I’ll do them again, and again, and again… until I find the right attitude behind the words.
It took months.
The first couple of attempts were brutal. The vocals sounded like I was auditioning for American Idol. Yuck! Then I did some vocals that sounded like I was scared, but that didn’t work. The ‘Vampire Slayer’ isn’t scared. He’s cool. He’s confident. He’s Christopher Lee, for crying out loud.
In the end I gave him an attitude that was one part, I don’t give a shit, and one part, That’s the way it is, Son. Deal with it. Plus I always try to make my voice sound a little scary… a little freaky. Sometimes the vocals will slide slightly out of key and we’ll both think, I like it. Sounds creepy.
The right thing to do – on occasion - is the wrong thing to do.
If you catch my drift.
My Song The Walking Dead - as I'm sure you can figure out - was inspired by the television show. I actually wrote it while watching Season Two.
(It's currently a free download, so please - dig in!)
Musically, the song is really far away from the first two tracks that were completed. It doesn't sound dark, or moody. It actually sounds nice, which might be the wrong way to go for horror music. But then again, I follow my instincts, not a preconceived notion of what I should be doing.
The bass line has a whole lot of Ben E. King's Stand By Me in it. We noticed this while we were recording the song. Ron, my producer, wasn't too sure about the line but I liked it.
The end of the song is very Pink Floyd. If you like Floyd this might be a good thing, but some people don't. Personally I love them. The Wall blows me away. I guess I should point out that Ron actually wrote and played that bass line, making 'The Walking Dead' the first song I've shared that didn't have me playing every instrument.
The vocal line... ah, the vocal line. It isn't sitting with too well with me, if I'm to be honest. We removed a bunch of guitar chords that supported some of the notes that I sang, and without the chords the melody doesn't sound as strong as I would like it to sound.
But I quite like the mix that we did, so I'm torn. If there ends up being a new version at some point, don't be surprised.
The second song I mixed is called Living Dead Blues.
(The song is currently a free download - help yourself!)
I think this track turned out better than “Killer on the Loose,” but I think “Killer on the Loose” is a better song, if you strip away the production and play the song acoustically.
While we may or may not remix the track, I don’t think I’ll be rerecording anything. I’m happy with the way everything turned out - performance wise. Even the vocals are sitting with me in a way I can live with.
The lyrics on this one are ridiculous: I saw a pretty girl that I know, I always liked her the best. I grabbed her by the face with both hands and I bit into her breast. Are you kidding me? While we were recording it we laughed our asses off. Deadpan comedy, for sure. I figure it’s the type of song you’ll listen to, thinking, Wait a minute. What did he say?
Here are the lyrics:
Living Dead Blues
I got bit a little while ago, and the chill ran through my head. I held out as long as I could, but in the end I wound up dead. At first I was really confused, I thought I might be lost in a dream. But then I saw this guy that I knew, he looked at me and started to scream.
I can’t even start to cry, no tears will form in my eyes, I’ve got the Living Dead Blues.
I didn’t know about anything, but I pushed myself to my feet. And even though my balance was bad, I shuffled right down the street. There were some bugs in my hair, and maggots right in my skin. Lips dry and withering back; my face was locked into a rictus grin.
And people started to run, being dead is not much fun, I’ve got the Living Dead Blues.
I saw this pretty girl that I know, I always liked her the best. I grabbed her by the face with both hands, and I bit into her breast. The blood poured into my mouth, and it tasted so damn sweet! Now the pretty girls that I know are the only thing I want to eat.
And after that girl died, she opened her eyes, And people started to run, being dead is not much fun, She’s got the Living Dead Blues.
The first song I put online is called, "Killer on the Loose". No reason for this, other than it was the first song that sounded okay. I think it was the seventh or eighth scratch track we recorded, so that fact that we finished it first was just a fluke.
The vocals on the current version are - in my opinion - average, at best. This isn't to say that I don't like what I've done. It's just that... I'm getting more confident behind the mic. And with the confidence comes a stronger voice.
The version that's available today won't be the final version. My studio partner (engineer/producer) Ron and I both agree that the mix is a little rough around the edges, and I can probably do a better job on the vocals.
If you're the type of person that likes to have your hands on "rare" things, I would suggest downloading the current version - within the next few weeks it will likely be gone for good.
The studio has been an interesting experience so far. In the past I’ve gone in with a full band. We would set up the drums in the main studio and spend anywhere from three hours to a full day getting our sounds. After that, the other musicians would do a quick set-up in the control room and I would listen to them (raw) in the headphone mix, along with a click track and drum mix.
This time there was no band. Only me, and I needed to do it all myself.
For the record, drums are almost always recorded first. If you’re wondering about the reason for this, it’s because they act as a foundation for the other instruments.
Here’s a little side note: It took months before I realized that a drummer should never have the others guys loud in the headphone mix. Know why? Because - generally speaking - the other players have terrible timing, and if they’re too loud they’ll pull the drummer off the click. Don’t believe me? Think about it: a great drummer has great timing, but a talented guitar player probably has an amazing sense of melody, or a nice tone, or some tasty licks, or knows how to shred, or whatever. Timing is usually average, at best. Especially if the player is hanging out in the control room, acting like a goof-ball while you’re trying to lay down a keeper.
Anyways, this time it was different. The drums couldn’t go first because I needed to hear the song in my headphone mix while I was laying down the drums tracks. If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t know where I was in the song.
I guess I should point out that I know how to read and write music, so I could have written the drum tracks down on a sheet of paper - I do that sometimes. But in this case it wouldn’t have been the same. I’d be playing drums mechanically instead of instinctively, which is always better. Drummers don’t like to read and think while they play - insert drummer joke here - they like to react.
So, how did I get around this?
I needed to lay down a guitar/vocal scratch track (A scratch track is a track you throw away once the recording is completed). After the scratch track was recorded I listened to it inside my headphone mix.
But laying down a scratch track wasn’t as easy as you may think. It came with its own set of problems.
More to come in Part 2...
I run a small publishing company, and my blog for it is located here: http://www.booksofthedeadpress.com/
Now I'm trying out this ReverbNation blog. Maybe I'll keep it active, maybe not. Either way, tomorrow I'm back in the studio mixing down my first solo track. Wish me luck.