Well. It's finally done. More than a year ago, I ran into an intriguing spam alt- text that reminded me, more than a little, of early R.E.M. lyrics. I decided to work with them and turn them into early R.E.M.-like lyrics (original version here). At that time, I said something like, now all I have to do is write an early R.E.M. song to go with the lyrics. Around the same time, I'd bought a keyboard, with the idea that I'd get my playing skills back up and possibly record some things. A bit of an uphill battle, since I'd never recorded anything, really. The music was almost completely assembled in my head before I got some of the necessary equipment (a USB/audio MIDI interface, a decent mic), and then I had to learn how to use the damned things. (Gigantic, enormous thanks to Roger Winston for advice here, and to Bradley Skaught and glenn mcdonald for advice they didn't necessarily know they were offering - they bear none of the blame for how this turned out, though.)

The lyrics, almost from the moment I started assembling and writing them, had a clear focus that I didn't want to overclarify (as I said back then, at the link above, that would turn them from early R.E.M. lyrics to later R.E.M. lyrics). All I'll say on that is, they're about the events of the last four and a half years (with one historical reference to a related event about fourteen years ago), and I'm not happy at all about those events.

My main musical challenge was that I'd never really thought much about how drums work before, so I spent a lot of time listening to drum tracks (early Bill Berry most prominently), watching drummers, and trying to figure out how to make a drum part sound more or less organic (i.e., playable by a single human with the standard complement of limbs).

I also needed to upgrade my computer (something I'd wanted to do anyway) - only to discover that, no, I couldn't hook it up directly to the keyboard (I told you, I didn't know the first thing about MIDI) and record noise (thus the need for the Tascam US-122). I ended up cheating a bit: rather than composing, arranging, and editing a bunch of MIDI parts together - which was more MIDI than I felt I could deal with at once, including the notion that I'd inadvertently delete months of work - as soon as individual tracks were done, I recorded them as .wav files and (being more familiar with how to edit those) arranged and edited those. On the one hand, this might have given a slightly more "human"-sounding, slightly less perfect feel to the whole thing (even though the basic rhythm tracks are locked into a beat - except for one part of the song that I slowed down slightly) - on the other, I'm sure that it probably caused me more grief in the end...not least when I did in fact lose months of work, by somehow both deleting a bunch of files on the computer and losing the backup disc I'd burned. (This was, probably not coincidentally, after my first attempt to record the vocal tracks: I think I must have narcoleptically turned into a self-sabotaging evil twin.) Fortunately, I'd at that point mixed down a complete instrumental track - so even though I was hampered in being unable to alter that mix, I didn't have to start from scratch.

So, here's my imitation early R.E.M. song (although oddly, it was apparently done on a day when all the guitars were locked in a room that everyone was too drunk to remember where the keys were). Pretend you're hearing real instruments.

Also, I am sorry the singing sounds like ass.

Monkey Typing Pool "Study Rain"

(geek alert: a brief list of gear)