Sunday, May 29, 2011

Just HitRECord

Gary was doing double duty, pushing the buttons on his console then scrambling to play the chords on his guitar. I said, do you want me to help you so you can focus on getting the pickup? He said (not knowing the double meaning of his words), "Just hitRECord."

It's a happy day in Buffy fanland. I just got back from West Hollywood where me and the new guitarist, Gary Dunn, recorded the music track for Buffy Ballad #5. The song is for Anya, and it's a country Western ballad called "Love You . . . With a Vengeance." We'd met once before to go over the chord charts and figure out the arrangement. I was going to write a whole entry on that after the fact, but it didn't quite happen so I'll try to integrate the previous highlights with what happened tonight.

The act of collaboration is infinitely fascinating. You get inspired to do something, create it and tinker with it in your little mad scientist lab, tinker with it some more, get sick of it, and tinker with it more still until you have no idea what it looks like to the rest of the world. It could be a windup toy or a pink poodle or a Frankenstein beast for all you know. And once you show it the light of day; give it room to breathe; unveil it in the presence of those few trusted others, you are pretty much always pleasantly surprised.

Working with Gary on the Anya song was no exception. Off the bat, he thought the genre was more singer/songwriter than country Western. True, I am more familiar singer/songwriter style music as a whole, but I wanted to give it a country feel, since I imagined it as the type of tune Faith Hill might sing (maybe that's just me projecting my desire to be Faith Hill, but hey). So he countrified it with a twang here and a twang there. We decided where he would pick, where he would strum, and where we would insert some percussion. The most intriguing observation he made was about the chord pattern on "Dagon Sphere" located in the bridge, which he thought was "more sci-fi than country." (Funny you should say that, was my initial response.) We went over it several times and ended up changing the D chord preceding "Dagon Shere" to an F. And at his suggestion, we added a G chord right after the F# chord at the end of the bridge to give an extra punch to the key change. "With the F# to the G, it's more of a 'Hey, we're modulatin'!'" he explained to me as he widened his eyes, hickified his voice, and over dramatically elbowed a pillow on the couch. (I'd have to say that was the highlight of the day.)

So when I came in today, we had it mostly figured out. We ran it a couple of times for polish, recalling what we did and didn't like in the last rehearsal. Oh, and I forgot to mention the fact that a lot of the elements of the arrangement I stole from a Lisa Loeb song. (When we watched the music video together, I realized how frighteningly close her guitar arrangement was to what I wanted mine to be. But the fact that I'm singing about vampires, vengeance demons, bringers, and such makes it a pretty different animal, so to speak...) Although I still think of it as a country-western ballad, it is definitely a hybrid of sorts. Along with the "sci-fi" chord progression in the bridge, the end of the song is very un-country. Whereas a country song would "milk the drama", drawing out the guitar and final verse as long as humanly possible, I wanted my song to end concisely, leaving the audience to fill in the rest. Also, instead of making the song louder after the bridge and key change, we decided to bring the volume way down. This was something we played around with while we were recording. I thought, "Who the heck am I to change the rules? This could sound awful, but let's give it a try." It sounded amazing. And it totally fit with the lyrics of the song, which you'll just have to hear to understand what I'm talking about.

Sadly, you can't hear it quite yet. We've still got to get Gary's drummer in for a session and lay down a percussion track. After that, I'll get together with trusty Andre, who's shot my last three videos, and we will make some multimedia magic. Sorry to tease you. If it's any consolation, I'm in exactly the same boat. Okay, maybe I have a little bit more of the inside scoop, but I want just as badly as you do (if not more) to see how it all turns out. In the meantime, I will tell you that the track I heard coming out of the speakers in Gary's West Hollywood home recording den was magic. It was gold. It was all the colors and textures and flavors we'd discovered, honed, and captured when the stars and guitars and creative energy that charged the electrons in the air were somehow perfectly aligned. Collaboration is infinitely fascinating, and I feel honored to be a part of it every time. And very soon, you'll be a part of it too. I promise you will.