Before I forget, I did a series of new mixes on side one of my forever-in-progress album Elixr. They’re sounding much better. It kinda makes me wanna go back and remix my previous records; I’ve learned so much since I started doing this. Meanwhile the remaining four tracks are close, but they still need something in the arranging department.
The last song, City, is still in the tracking phase. I laid down a bass part a while back, but being a funk groove the bass is the lynchpin of the whole thing, and I wasn’t satisfied with the consistency of the phrasing. So I practiced for a while until I got a blister on my thumb. This prompted me to change my whole bass playing style from using alot of thumb on the lower strings to using mainly the index and middle finger. This in turn led to exploring a whole new range of dynamics and tone colors, so it took a little while to get it together before I could switch between the two modes of playing fluidly and it will. So now I’m ready to lay down another take but with the holidays coming up, the challenge is to find the time!
Anyway here are the remixed tracks. Enjoy!
Rocket to the Moon
Sea of Tranquility
Is It Safe?
I updated the page for the ongoing new Buzzy Tonic album, Elixr, at:
The page now includes links to the mixes of my three new songs, Your Dancing Shoes, To Be a Rock, and (When My) Soul’s on Fire, plus info and lyrics. That’s more than half of side two done. Only two songs left to go, the serene and poignant Ballad of Galadriel, and the epic and proggy Plague of Frogs! It’s a good thing too, I have a whole bunch of other song ideas ready to go outside of this album, and I’m writing new stuff for my jazz group too. Anyway, here it is, enjoy!
We’re more than halfway thru January and winter has finally arrived in earnest. We got out first snowfall last night, and the start of a spell of sustained below-freezing temperatures. I’m weathering it alright. It helps that I’m working form home these days; don’t have to wait out on the train platform in the early morning. With the new Star Wars movie out Michelle asked that we watch episodes I – III, so we did over the weekend. I must say, they’re much better than I remember them, except episode I, which is even worse! I’d forgotten the bit where Jar Jar gets his tongue electrocuted and develops a speech impediment. Yeesh! Still, it’s frustrating because they could have been such really great movies if George had put a more effort into the characters and the dialogue and less into over-the-top CG action set pieces. Ah well it’s over now.
I’ve been able to get around to a few random tasks. I don’t have as much time for recording now since I’m mostly focusing on live bands, but I finally finished tracking the long-awaited Soul On Fire. I had laid down a sax part earlier but wasn’t quite satisfied with it. The new track is also the debut of my new Reference 54 tenor. It sounds quite good. I usually do a few takes and edit them together create the best total performance, but in this case I just used one take as-is with no alterations.
While I was at it I circled back and added a few synth parts to To Be a Rock. Martin had listened to my last mix and though it was missing something, and suggested I think in terms of David Gilmore. Well I didn’t add a guitar track, but I think I have something of that kind of feeling.
Here’s a new song, To Be a Rock. It’s been sitting there mostly done for a while, but I didn’t really work on recoding much over the summer. There’s alot of layers on vocals toward the end, so it was a bit of work to mix them all and make all the parts come out clearly. After that I felt it still needed something, so I added an organ part and a mellotron part. So here you are.
While I was at it, I went back and made a new mix of Your Dancing Shoes. This song also has alot of layers as it gets toward the end, but in this case it’s a sax solo on top of a horn section. It took a little editing to make everything fit together nicely. I’ve also been getting into sculpting the bass sound, with EQ and running it thru amp simulators. This simple trick can add alot of character to a song.
For the last few weeks Left Hook has been rehearsing with Gus on electronic drums while his arm heals. And while individually the drum sounds sound, well, electronic, when he’s playing and the band is goovin’ it sounds just fine. This last week Gus went back to playing a real kit, and man it just sounds so much better. All the time we spent during the hiatus working on parts and dynamics seems to have really paid off.
Meanwhile I’ve been trying to book us more gigs. I’ve visited a half dozen or so local bars and dropped off a CD and got the name of the guy who books bands. Unfortunately these guys tend to be hard to get a hold of, so I’m running down the list calling ‘em back every few days. So far no luck, I figure sooner or later one has to pan out.
Also been getting back to the studio in recent weeks. I have two current work-in-progress originals, Soul on Fire and To Be a Rock. I spent the last couple sessions cleaning up the rhythm section and editing up the vocals to make a complete basic track. Fro SoF I was happy to hear the vocal performance I laid down back in the spring was really killer. For TBaR not so much, so I laid down a new lead vocal over the weekend. This song has some vocal harmonies, layers and counterpoint, with a big build toward the end. I don’t know if I have everything I need for that, cuz toward the end I just sketched in the parts, but I might.
A bunch of news on the music front. First, it’s time to say goodbye to the Day Trippers, at least for the time being. Here’s one last video from our inaugural gig last August at Heights Fests in Berkeley Heights, NJ.
Second, it looks like originals band, Buzzy Tonic is actually getting off the ground. I jammed last weekend with Charlie Guitar, and brought in young Wolfgang on bass. We got thru four songs together and all agree the songs sound good and the project is worth pursuing. Charlie calls Heat Wave “the crazy one”, but Wolfgang had no trouble keeping up. Now it looks like we may have a drummer to complete the lineup. Charlie reached out to a friend of his who listened to my demos and likes the songs, and agreed to come by next session, which will be next week. Not sure how long it’ll take to get a set together, but it’ll be fun. I suppose to really do justice to the records I’ll need to add a sax player, but that’s still down the line a ways.
Third, with Left Hook now getting our set together and looking for gigs, I put together a web page for the group:
This part of a new round of updates to my site. Much more exciting stuff soon!
I realize that I never shared the rough mix of my last song, To Be a Rock. That’s because I sort of parked it once I got the vocals down. It still needs some synths or guitars or something to really make it work. Still not sure exactly what, so instead I decided to put together the next song and bring it up to rough mix too, and then finish them off together.
This one is a jazzy, dancy number, sort of hybrid of swing, funk and disco. The main musical ideas I’ve had hanging around for a while; it just had to be hammered into shape. I did teach myself to play a pretty groovin’ walking bass line for the middle section. The lyrics are just something to sing that sounds good over a song that sounds like this. More or less about watching someone in the audience dance to the music while you’re playing sax at a gig. Inspired I suppose by the funk bands I was in in California. Still, I laid down the vocal track the other day and the performance brought the whole thing up a level. I did three takes straight thru with no overdubs, took less than an hour. Now of course this one needs the arrangement fleshed out too before I can share the track.
Soul On Fire
She don’t wanna hear no DJ
She wanna come and see the band play
Ah listen what the man on the stand say
She like a dancin’ and a bumpin’
Ah the room is really thumpin’
Listen then man on the stand tell you somethin’
Spirit in the night
Blinded by the light
In the midnight hour
When my soul’s on fire
She dance till dawn and the devil himself may care
Smoke in her eyes and fire in her hair
Spice in her smile and snakes stare in her glare
She got the groove
Yeah she got the moves
She got the legs
She even got the shoes
I got the horn
And I got the news
I got the sound
I even got the blues
She don’t wanna see no DJ
She wanna go and hear the band play
Listen what the man on the stand say
Here’s a rough mix of my new song Your Dancing Shoes. My friend Lee was supposed to come an lay down a guitar part, but we were never able to work out a time, so I did the guitar part myself. I used the Stratocaster thru my Roland JC amp. I had never really dug the strat before but this turned out to be just the right sound for the song. My part is pretty much straightforward rhythm. I had envisioned having a riffing lead guitar toward the end of the song, but since I don’t really solo on guitar I did that on sax. I’m sure now if the song gets too saxophone-y by then, but it’s pretty slammin’. So yeah, go ahead and enjoy.
Next up: To Be a Rock
Elixr, Part I is the new EP from Buzzy Tonic, my studio project. It’s on sale now at CD Baby at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/buzzytonic4. Five great tracks show a continuing development of my style, mixing jazz, funk, prog rock, power pop and soul in a diverse and satisfying set featuring fender rhodes, saxophones, and synthesizers. Check it out, and if you feel so inclined, write a review.
While I was at it I updated my facebook page at: facebook.com/pages/Buzzy-Tonic/154441244594431. I haven’t done anything with this page in a long while, but my origami page on facebook seems to be getting a good response. So if you feel like it, go on over and give BZ a like.
I just completed mix and mastering five new tracks for the forthcoming record Elixr. They are: Rocket to the Moon, Sea of Tranquility, Is It Safe to Go Outside?, Now and Forever, and Black Swan. I’m not sure if this’ll be the final order of the alum side but they do make a nice program. Soon they’ll be for sale on iTunes and CDBaby, so give ‘em a listen now for free while you have the chance!