Ramblin’ Man

Hope you’re having a great holiday season. I’ve been unplugged from reality more or less for the past week.  One more week of non linear life and then back to reality.  I’m writing this in the back seat of my truck while we drive across the frozen tundra of Illinois (ironically Frozen is on the video thing – which my daughter will happily watch on loop).  On my musical front Work progresses on the relic tele. It’s coming out about how I’ve envisioned – possibly even older looking. I’m waiting for a things to arrive but all in all, assuming the electronics go off without a hitch this is shaping up to be a best-of-class project for me. I’ve been encouraged to pursue these relics as a business— start a LLC and start doing made to orders.  I have to give that some more thought and perfect the process a bit more but insofar I’m not opposed to going commercial.


In music news- a Derision Cult EP is coming together. I’ve been tracking vocals and mixing this past week. I still have a bit of production work to do but on the whole it’s working out. I’ve taken a new approach to vocals on this one. I’ve always struggled to get this wide/gang vocal sound.  Think Ministry So What or Rob Zombie Dracula. I think I’ve come the closest I’ve come. I’ve always tucked a heavily pitch corrected track under the main vocal to tighten things up…now I put  3 stereo tracks of vocals under it as well…these are shifted up 3, 6 and 12 cents on the right and left sides alternating and then shifted down those same intervals on the opposite sides. The net effect is a really wide sound without an obvious chorus effect. Then, because it’s industrial, I muck it all up with various tape sats, vocal shreds and various slap echo things courtesy of my trusty Eventide H3000.  But left to its own device it’s obvious to me that alternating shift trick is all over the place. I hear it on the last couple Jason Isbell albums,  Ben Howard records…basically anywhere the vocal needs to be huge even if the singer isn’t belting it out.  The downside to this approach is that it takes a big load of CPU to generate all that pitch shifting. So it’s a bit of a challenge playing everything back if you do this a lot.

anyhow…some samples, guitar solos and a couple vocal tracks still need tracking but I’d say by Feb it should be live. I seem to put my best work out that month so I have high hopes for this one!

Things are happening!

Well Imminent Domains is out the door and finding it’s way in the world, so I’m well onto my next things.

The guitar build I mentioned is well underway. In my opinion the relic’ing has been a raging success. I took it to a much greater extreme than I originally intended but it felt right so I went with it. Here’s where I’m at now:


I aged the hardware with muriatic acid and started aging the wood with vinegar/steel wool as well as a coffee/tea mix. This plan started life with a pickguard but the aging just wasn’t working out. There’s a guy in Canada that makes Tele pickguards out of reclaimed scrap metal I was going to hit up but in the end that felt like it’d be fake.  I beat the body up grinding it on my bar in the backyard and gave it a good chiseling. Sometime this week it’ll get a teak oil finish. I’ve never done a whole guitar with that but i think it’ll work well here. Teak, in my experience darkens the finish and the guitar could be a lot darker to my tastes.

Next up on this is to relic the pickups (still waiting on parts for that), making sure the neck aligns and wiring this bad boy up.  Looking forward to seeing it come together.

in other news work is proceeding well on the next Derision Cult album.  I tracked a bunch of vocals today and tried some new techniques (I’m trying to find ways to not destroy my voice).  I still have a few more to go which I hope to have wrapped up on Wednesday. Then there’s the long process of treating all those vox (DC is by far my heaviest treated vocals…chains get 10-12 effects long all the time).  I’d say it’s entirely possible this could be out in February.

Couple of new production approaches on this one. First I stopped obsessing over being down the middle and embraced the stereo field. Lotta hard pans. I was worried about phasing because I’d compared tracks to commercial mixes in a goniometer and they looked totall mono. I chalked that up to perfect phasing but I think I may have just been loading the tracks wrong. Anyhow I like the really wide sound so that’s that. The OTHER change is that I tracked guitar last. That’s the opposite of how I worked previously. Normally I’d lay down riffs and build the track around them. I still write on a guitar but I lay in bass and drums and some basic synth sounds first. I did this with the last Sys Machine project and it was much tighter and I dunno? Robotic?  It also gave me some new ideas and guitars are a lot more textural here.

As far as the tracks themselves…it’s both the heaviest and most melodic album I’ve done as Derision Cult. I deliberately tried to make the drums very Machine like— so no swing and very little AI stuff like Apple drums. It’s also a lot more drum synth heavy vs real samples.  My goal was to basically make the tracks sound like what they are verse fooling the listener into thinking they’re hearing real drums.  That’s not to say it sounds like the sugar hill gang but you should be able to tell you’re hearing a drum machine.

I also put guitar melody lines over things which really brought out a new grandiose sound. It also ties the tracks together.

After vocals I still have some guitar solos and production work (samples etc) and then we’ll mix this bad boy. I’ll definitely take some learnings from Sys Machine….particularly around effect automation…very happy with how that worked out on Imminent Domains


Makin the donuts

Well I’m three days away from Imminent Domains being unleashed on the public. My daughter is a fan of “the fast one” (Red City) so I’m feeling good about things.  Anxious to see how this one weaves its way into the zeitgeist. It’s a very different .Sys Machine approach, new distribution platform and all around superior production than anything I’ve done to date (in my opinion). Damn the torpedoes!

Naturally I’m already on to the next thing creatively. Thing is I don’t  do things sequentially. My general workflow is just to make shit when I feel like it, put it in whatever the appropriate folder is (DC, Jeff Dust, Sys, Hell’s own Drag, Delta etc) and let it sit. Over the course of a year I’ll cone back to things, change arrangements or sounds, rewrite parts, play with different mixes etc. eventually I get to where I feel like there’s enough in one of those folders (usually 12-15 ideas) to take it to the next stage which is working out lyrics and things like guitar solos.  Then I start casting about for a track listing (read: separate the filler from the killer), artwork etc and a release happens. At any given time I’m at different stages with projects.  Hell’s Own Drag and Delta Shines are different only in that Doug has to add his parts (I send him ideas at the very early stages).

All that by the way of saying I was looking through folders last night and am close to around a dozen tracks on Jefferson Dust, Derision Cult and Hell’s Own Drag. Some of those go back a year or so.  If I had to guess I’d say Derision Cult will be the next thing I bring to the light of day. Early to tell what the sound will be but definitely a continuation and definitely will incorporate techniques I used on Imminent Domains that I hadn’t used before.

Next Guitar Build

For those that don’t know I build most of the guitars and basses on my albums myself (the upcoming Sys Machine EP being an exception- every guitar sound you hear is from a Parker Nitefly for proper feel). To date I’ve built around ten instruments. It’s been close to a year since I finished my last one (a hallowbody ala Gretsch flavor— was the main axe for the Delta Shines record and the Jefferson Dust covers album).  I don’t really have a regiment schedule for builds – I just get after it when I’m inspired to do something cool. Someday I’ll post a rundown of what I’ve done to date.

Anhow inspiration and ideas have finally coagulated into a plan. I want to go relic in the vein of Tele body.  I’ve spent the last few weeks reading up on various aging and relic’ing techniques.  My plan is to obtain a pre-fab maple neck (cos maple neck Fenders are my fav kinda Fender style necks), age and relic a Tele shaped Ash or maple body with some specific logos near and dear to my heart (I’ll unveil that when it’s done). The idea will be to look old and left in a barn. But inversely the plan is to drop all modern higher end/output electronics in it. I’ve been listening and reading up on them and I think I’m going to go the EMG route. I’ve got a couple other guitars with them and as a build they are extremely easy installs. There’ll be no hum or otherwise obnoxious things old guitars come with.

Updates to come! To get an idea of what aesthetic I’m casting about for- this is in the ballpark (minus the bigsby and dual humbuckers)8A393100-485E-4E1F-B10E-33394E7D4C31.jpeg

Imminent Domains

Next Sys Machine EP “Imminent Domains” is mixed and mastered!  Been working on this since around May. I made a conscious decision to make a wild left turn and create something that harkens back to the late 90’s early 00’s (particularly the way I was playing then which owes heavily to Reeves Gabrels). It has vocals which is a first for Sys Machine.  I’ll be posting soon when it’s available as I’m doing all the behind the scenes stuff to get it ready.

1. Can You Hear Me Now?

2. Red City

3. We Submit to Fate

4. Reason

5. The Day After TomorrowD419BFBE-23EF-41FB-AB77-F5C9B1CBD43C


Mixing/comping and all around assembly of the next Sys Machine is underway. I’m very happy with how it’s coming together.   It’s about this time in the process I start thinking about how pedal to the metal I want to take it. As Sys Machine has always been a bit experimental I sort of put things out and let the chips fall where they may.  I’ve gotten lucky. The first EP has a couple tracks that ended up on some  big (by my standards) playlists and channels and it’s provided a somewhat dependable and usable income stream (usable as in “hey I can buy a case of beer with royalties this month! Neat!” Not “Pay the rent” usable).

As always I put up all my releases on Bandcamp first and foremost. I’m working behind the scenes to do better with Spotify as it’s clear to me that streaming is where indie music will go as reliable but ultimately static platforms like Bandcamp lose steam. I’ve noticed the shift in the last 3 years in terms of sheer usage.  When I started out on this 2nd life of music I used Tunecore as it’s what me friends used. I realized pretty quickly that it’s really not a good deal unless you’re going to sell a lot of records. For people who just want to be able to make their music available, it’s not economical at all. I switched to CD Baby for the Derision Cult EP The Grind and that’s where everything currently sits (I let early Jeff Dust and Derision Cult releases expire so Bandcamp is the only place those are).  I love the analytics, it seems like stream income is decent but I’ve been looking at Distrokid more and more. Haven’t decided for sure but I am leaning towards trying it out for this Sys Machine EP.  My main thing is going to be to see how well it places in category searches etc.  hopefully to the end user there’s no difference. But we’ll see