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Oct. 27, 2008
After coming back from Hungary with the Pacific Boychoir, Zaque thought we should have a chill day in the recording studio and just make up a fun birthday song to send as a birthday gift to people who sign up for the email lists. It was mad good times. I came up with a bass line, some melody and lyrics, and we made up a rhythm section out of kitchen appliances. It was tons of fun. In one session we got a whole song done, and it was so much fun. -Just what I needed to refuel my momentum.
Then the band came over and Zaque wanted us to spend time practicing for our 3 hour set at the wine bar in SF. Much needed practice. I think we'll be all good. I'm very excited for our debut. It was our first meeting of all three of us. Craig, Jeff and myself. We've decided on LLP (Limited Liability Partnership) as a working title. I would right a bit more, but I've got a lot of practicing to do!
So here's my week as I see it…
8 am-1 pm Working at the Pacific Boychoir Academy (PBA)
1:20 hop on bus to the studio
2pm-12 am recording with UFO
9am-12 student council leadership conference with two guys from the boychoir school
12-6 working at PBA
7-11 Practice Clerestory (a cappella group) music and play guitar
8-6 PM Work at PBA. It's audition day, and I'm in charge of recruitment
7-10 PM Clerestory rehearsal
8-11am Practice Clerestory music and Guitar
11-12 Guitar lesson
12-3 Work out, write down the copy for different website pages
3-6 Work at PBA
7-9 Church Gig rehearsal
10-12 guitar practice
8-10am guitar practice
10:45-5 work at PBA
5-7pm work out, practice clerestory music
8-11pm art party where I'll be singing
4 hrs of guitar
2 hours of writing website copy
7-9 pm Clerestory Performance
8-12am Church Gig
11am-6pm is the Rockridge Out and About where the boychoir is performing and I'm supposed to staff an info table with volunteers and myself
5pm Clerestory concert
7-10 Guitar Practice
But it's just another week in the life of a musician…
Monday September 14, 2008
I know not many people read this blog, but if anything, I'll look back on this one day and say, damn, I'm glad I wrote all this stuff. If anything, it'll remind me of the good times.
So Monday was a short day for me because I had to bounce early to sing with Clerestory, a professional men's group that I sing in. (Probably the best choral singing I will ever do. These guys are the bomb) The goal for the day was getting a guitar track down for "I'll do anything." Not being able to decide between acoustic and electric we decided to record both and see what works. Taking advantage of the percussive scratchy thingy that electric guitars can do, we tried to lay down a rhythm track. R3MMY was really specific in what he wanted and it took me a long time to get it down to get a half decent take. So we didn't get a massive amount of stuff done, but as R3MMY says, "You now have 15 skill points added to your rhythm guitar."
While I was gone though, Landau laid down a couple bass tracks and even got to record some acoustic on one of his songs, so that's great. I can't wait to hear it.
Coming up this week we have a production meeting to go over some logo and album cover ideas for the single with Adan Bugarin-Garcia, our graphic designer. I'm pretty excited to see what he comes up with. He's got a great idea for a logo and I don't want to give it away. But it involves a bird. That's all I got to say.
This weekend coming up, we will be auditioning two percussionists. After 5 craigslist ads, putting up posters and me visiting a drum circle, 3 potentials is what we've come up with. The first flaked out, the second and third I'm hoping will follow through. We decided a percussionist would be more versatile than a drummer and logistically easier when it came to gigging out and touring. So we'll see…
Making of the Band with bassist and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Landau
Last night we did vocals! Vocals are fun, because I can do whatever Zaque and R3mmy coach a lot faster than I can on guitar. We did three takes, keeping the last and we did do some punch-ins. It's easy to forget that you are performing at the mic, otherwise I feel the energy flat-lines. If I let myself I would have felt goofy for doing all these crazy gestures and what not to get the sound I wanted i.e. dainty hands for dainty sounds, chill hands for chill sounds, I even pointed at the wall and smiled as if it was a person. Somebody please kick me in the ass. Sorry, playing rock star is so much fun. Anyway, I hope it worked to make the vocal track a bit more personable and tongue in cheek.
Then the highlight of the evening was when Jeff Landau came to lay down some bass tracks. We were cooking dinner when he arrived in his lawyer get up, all fancy-schmanzy with his bass guitar. He laid down a very decent scratch track no problem. Then we had some wonderful potato cuscus cakes with chutney and on the side some fig and goat cheese. We ate like kings for $20. Man, we're good. Then Landau and I got to jam on some songs we haven't played together in a while and it was wonderful. He is an amazing songwriter and I'm glad UFO got to hear him.
Now it's up to Landau to decide if we want to be a duo, two solo artists or both. It's so awesome that Zaque says, "I want what makes you happy." What's cooler is that he means it.
Quote of the evening. "Put a little more throat on the "but." - Zaque in reference to a throaty sound on the line "but I do to." (say it out loud)
I'm learning that Zaque and R3MMY are going to be my business partners, coaches, teachers, publicists, marketing reps, agents, bandmates, advisors, cheerleaders, number 1 fans, lovers (if we get desperate and if R3MMY gets lucky), and best friends. Oh yeah, recording engineers and producers as well. I feel like I am Smokey Robinson trying to get that first hit for Motown Records.
Since we've been so productive lately, he wanted to keep the momentum going, and lay down a solid guitar track for "Far From Perfect." So I headed down to Alameda on the 51 after a guitar lesson where I learned about Norman Blake. (I'm taking guitar lessons at Flashback Guitars in Rockridge. Friggin' sweet!) He is the guy I have to emulate if I want to be damned good at guitar. Let's put it on the list of "Achievements that will take a life time and I'm starting today."
Anyhoo, I went down to Alameda to play rockstar for a day. What does that consist of? Going out for Thai to discuss the promotion for the "single." I won't give it away, but Zaque has some sweet ideas to market this badboy and get some buzz going for the album. Here we are sitting outside talking about marketing and music business at a Thai restaurant, wearing our quirky outfits. It's hilarious. It's like playing make believe, and if we keep playing, it might actually become reality. You have to convince yourself what you're doing is real. Doing that then attracts the attention of anyone you come across and real people, who should be the ones to demystify you, actually stop and say, "Cool." Then it's no longer a game. Now it's an expectation. It's sort of crazy to create your own reality. It's like our own World of Warcraft game, except we're using our own persons instead of 3-D model. Leeroy Jenkins!
Then after lunch, we went to the studio and knocked out a guitar track. Originally there were a few moments where I was hitting my own pick guard on my upstrokes. By actually sitting up correctly I was able to hold the guitar perpendicular to the ground and reduce those chances. See, you should listen to your mother when she says, "sit up." She's only trying to prepare you for working in the studio. I also used some "Finger Ease" from flashback, which is a lovely lube that I highly recommend to minimize "string talk" among other things. R3MMY had some details to cover about which chords I should play open versus muted and I think the difference is a subtle change that makes a world of difference. It was a lot to think about, especially when you are trying to get a continuos take, but I think I got through. Zaque and R3MMY, though they love to sit and take hours to edit cuts and mix and match takes, say, "If you can't perform your instrument well enough to get a decent take and repeat it, then you can't play live."
While talking about vocals, Zaque threw down the gauntlet by saying, "People who are really good can match their vocals, but we'll have to cut and paste your vocals to duplicated them." That punk. So now we have to get the solid vocal take that I have to take it home and practice it to perfection so I can match it exactly without phasing.
But it's not only rhythm I have to match, it's pitch, placement, and air as well. That may not sound like much, but that's every element of singing. Everything there effects vibrato, tone, intonation, tension, ugh! Each song I have to learn the specific technique of how I want to do it and be able to mimic it exactly. I pretty much have to impersonate myself.
Monday, August 24
Since school hasn't started yet, I have really been able to take advantage of some long days with UFO. Today we went out for some more video and pictures. Highlights include:
-Getting my Christmas lights plugged in
-Some table dancing
-Boxing with balloons
-Singing in a dumpster
-Jamming in a Safeway cart
-Playing in a playground
We have so much video footage, I don't know when clips will be able to go online, but I'm sure something will go up soon. So ya gotsta keep checking www.reverbnation.com/label/unitedfunkorganization & www.unitedfunkorganization.com (official website of record label & recording studio)
Upon returning we had some Chinese delivery and then knocked out some vocals for "Lullaby." Just about 20 minutes ago I was whistling along as Zaque was doing some fades and cutting out breaths when he stopped me and told me to record some whistling. I was skeptical, but I think it sort of worked, and will probably make its way into the album. We will be done with the song soon, but will probably wait until we send it in for copyrights before we post anything online. I'm pretty excited about it, and can't wait for my dear friend, who helped co-write it, to hear it.
So after we did that, we took a beer break and came back to the studio to put on our grills, fleece hats, sunglasses to take some hyphy pictures.
Quote of the Session:
In reference to lullaby:
"I can see children being conceived to this…like intentionally" says R3MMY.
"Yeah, it's like Nightmare on Elm St," answered Zaque
-- Hear the music: www.myspace.com/fernandotarango Buy the music: http://cdbaby.com/cd/fernandotarango Become a fan! www.reverbnation.com/label/unitedfunkorganization
Sunday, August 24
I'm here in the studio with Zaque (who is now pronounced like Sock with a Z). Earlier this weekend he told me that they might be free for me to come in Sunday to get some more takes and I should bring some shirt changes so we can go out and get some more up –to-date pictures for the website, myspace, etc. First off, it's 100% awesome, that he calls me up to see if I want to come in for more studio time. Secondly, its 120% sweetness that he thinks beyond the music to the photos, movies, myspace page, etc.
So we started out today by hitting the streets of Alameda looking for some random spots to take some random shots. Let's see…where to I begin? I'll do highlights:
-I did on ollie on a railing and almost breaking my neck…sweet.
-I hopped inside a garbage can and now my pants smell like stale urine and rotting eggs (the stale urine smell was me, but the rotten eggs was the garbage)
- Zaque convinced a cute hostess at Pappo to let us borrow a wine bottle and take a video by their "25 glasses of wine" sign. They were really cool and nice about it too. While shooting the video I was pretending to drink the wine and didn't realize that there was actually wine in it. You can see my reaction in the video. (it's a nice mixture of "egh, wine. Wait…wine….awesome!)
-We then goofed around in a tunnel. Fun stuff, jumping off walls and C-walking.
-Zaque then made me hop into a shopping cart and get pushed around
-I also had to jump on a rooftop and play through a new song we'll be working on "Everyday feels so new"
-We then saw this awesome "No Parking" sign/graffiti. So we made a little set and re-recorded "Everyday feels so new." You have to check the video. I love it. There was all this random stuff around like teddy bears, tires, a mattress and a tree, so it turned out great!
I don't know what's gonna make the cut, but you really have to check it out. I'm still jazzed.
--- a few hours later---
Woohoo! Not only did we get killer video, but we got some good takes of the "Lullaby" guitar part. It looks like the hours of practice I put in this week paid off. (That and some dirty tricks. What I did:
1) Practiced over and over. I took every transition and broke it down. Playing backward and forward over and over.
2) I played louder and with more confidence. I realized that maybe the sound of the guitar is supposed to cover up some of the sounds we're hearing. Also, Zaque told me that last time we recorded I was playing so softly he had to crank the mic way up. Hence, picking up the fret sounds.
3) Dirty Trick #1: I don't play the D string during the whole piece. I got some cloth tape and taped that bad boy. Last time it would vibrate and produce tone. Now, it still can, but not half as loud.
4) Dirty Trick #2: I put some soap on the strings. That minimized a lot of the scrapes and scratches. I don't know how healthy it is for the guitar, but it helped.
So now all I gotta do is play each song enough to make it pretty damned near perfect. Each song is gonna have its challenge that I have to discover and than conquer. Here we go!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
A Unified Funk Organization an everytime production
Yesterday was the first working day with Zaque Eyn and R3MMY of Unified Funk Organization (U.F.O.). Zaque and R3MMY are a music production and artist development duo based out of a home studio in Alameda, California. For the folks back in the Midwest, Alameda is an island between Oakland and San Francisco. I walk out my door, hop onto the 51, and 40 minutes later I am with UFO and we are working.
Last nights beginning project was far from perfect but so damned beautiful. No, really. Far from Perfect was the song we were working on. I arrived to find that R3MMY already had the song mapped out, practically memorized and roughly harmonized from a scratch track I had given them ahead of time. He was pleased to find out I had brought with me a lyric sheet with the chords.
After some jamming with the drumbeats from his MPC machine we tried out some guitar takes. Luckily, I recently signed up for guitar lessons because I really blew. I kept rushing all over the place. I had even practiced with the metronome, but once you're in front of a mic, everything changes. The guys were really patient, and helpful, but I am disappointed I had to waste so much time having to redo takes. I was getting better and better each time, but I have a ways to go.
Speaking of ways to improve…wowza! The sound of my left hand fingers touching the strings, is never something I've paid attention to in live performance. It doesn't come across the microphone. But when you're close mic'ed it's a whole new ball game. When recording, "Lullaby" (working title) which is a "delicately" played ballad, you could hear every time my fingers moved, brushed, or was lifted from a string. I was trying so hard to be quiet, I got nervous and my hands got as sweaty as they used to be in highschool. (That's gross. People used to make fun of me for my sweaty palms in highschool. Don't worry, I am still bitter)
During this whole process Zaque kept our mic placement and levels all in tact and he doubled up as documentarian. I made that word up, but it sounds better than documenter and is shorter than photographer/cinematographer. Anyhooo, he made a great video/slideshow of our day and it can be seen on the label's fan base promotion site, ReverbNation.com/labels/unitedfunkorganization. I hope anyone who reads this will go to this site, sign up as a fan and you can not only see some behind the scenes footage of our studio time (last night went from 12:30-4am), but also catch some of our draft mixes of the song's we're doing. In future videos I hope to include some improvisational modern dances. Stay tuned!
Sidenotes: 1) R3MMY makes a damned good pasta sauce.
2) Zaque's name is pronounced "Zack Ian"
3) the 4:13 am 51 bus is a lot more crowded than one would think