Having lived in Nashville myself for 11 years, I am acutely aware of the benefits and trappings of ‘Music City’. Nashville is an industry town, and while there are some benefits to being close to where things are happening, it can sometimes have an adverse effect on creativity, where the business can often overshadow the creative process. Such being the case with Nashville country duo ‘Towne’. For the reasons mentioned above, Towne decided to take a trip to Montana to write and record new material. SnowGhost was hired to produce something completely different than what they were accustomed to writing or recording. Nowadays it is rare for a band to be sent on a writing trip with no expectation of outcome. What transpired, on day one, was a late night candle-lit writing session in a remote off-the-grid cabin which produced the song that was recorded the following morning. The song was recorded live using analog modular synths and programmed drums – there were no guitars. What emerged was a beautifully hypnotic 8 minute ambient electronic pop song about yearning for something real to happen. The song was an audio representation of what can happen when you intentionally let something unfold.
There has been so much music over the course of human history – I am positive that every rhythm and every melody has been explored in one way or another. So what makes music original? Think about how many times we have heard the plagal cadence, or blues and rock chord progressions, and said to ourselves, “wow, this is really original”. The answer is, all of the time! The truth is that it has nothing to do with the notes, and everything to do with the way those notes are being played and captured. Played and captured? What plays, and what captures? People, and sometimes machines play, instruments capture – and they all have a remarkably unique way of doing that. They all sound different, and all have different ways of conducting themselves. Whether it be a human voice, or a violin, or a totally new form, like sampling and granular synthesis, what is so cool about this concept, that all of these instruments require a different mindset and approach. This is what promotes and manifests new musical ideas. That is why I am always looking for new ways to play and capture the melodies I hear in my head.
I’m a big fan having the ability to audition different spectral perspectives on acoustic guitars – they are so ubiquitous, but also very personal for each player. Having quick A/B access to smooth ribbons and clear condensers allows me to record any guitar with minimal fuss. Here, the Telefunken C12s and Royer 122Vs are in a, Grace Design Spacebar meets Enhanced Audio M600, mid-side stereo array, with a short hop over to our lovely LaChapell 992EGs. What a sound!
It was great talking to Clare Menzel of the Flathead Beacon about the new MUST 115 class as FVCC. I’m really excited to share many of my experiences with FVCC students, and learn more about how people are using technology to improve the music experience, whether that be creating it or listening to it. This is a great way to get us all in a room talking about how we innovate in Montana with music and technology.
Last weekend I got to be a part of a really cool collaboration between students from Whitefish High School a few local creative professionals called 44Mentors. Michael Voisin, a senior at WFHS made his directorial debut with his screenplay ‘Somber’, utilizing students and professionals for everything from key grip to production assistant. He got a taste of what it was like to manifest ideas from paper to screen. I got to partner with student Thomas Carloss in capturing the sound. It was so cool to see them learn and apply the techniques in such a short amount of time. I look forward to the world premiere of ‘Somber’ May 21st at Tate Interiors gallery in Whitefish!
Hilary Matheson and Aaric Bryan from the Daily Interlake paid Whitefish High School a visit while the Physics, Music and Shop class came together to talk about what we’ve been up to the last few months…. It’s been a blast for me to hang with young people, addressing real world problems – and problems that affect them on a daily basis. When the music kids left their 50+ year old building and moved into their new state of the art space, The Center, it wasn’t without a new set of issues. The rooms were ping-y and bright, and the bass was mushy. I heard it right away, but had to figure out how to help the kids test and understand what they were up against. What I found most refreshing was the level of excitement that the students showed in the subjective process – the idea that a room can be ‘fixed’ with acoustic treatment, but that there is no right answer. The idea that we accept a certain level of imperfection, when that imperfection is deemed musical. This is my love affair with music as a science and art.
There is something so rewarding about sitting back after the hours of setup, giving talented artists every possible sonic option, and listening to them feel their way through new instruments. There’s a certain kind of a rough-edge feel about it. And sometimes there is a beautiful delicacy about it. Sometimes wild uncontrollable things burst through the speakers and send everyone running for the back door… and sometimes, something, just works. My last session with Cory Gray (producer, session musician, and currently touring with bands like the Dandy Warhols and Blind Pilot), Daniel Hindman (of Pure Bathing Culture, and formerly Vetiver), and Brian Wright (of Pure Bathing Culture and Grand Hallway) was just that. They arrived with nothing but backpacks, and were setup with every conceivable option for sound…. They did not disappoint. The sonic blending of electronic and acoustic instruments, as well as access to effects – performed live – was so fluid. The music from these virtuosic and creative players proved to be some of the most interesting recordings I have made as of late.
Littered with found sounds, droning synths, gritty beats, and some straight up wacky stuff, there’s something special about new release ‘Snowghost Pieces‘. It was a dream come true for us, having listened to early Krautrock like Kraftwerk, Cluster, and Neu! for years – and this recording trio is comprised of Kraut-royalty. Dieter Moebius charted new “Krautronik” ground as one half of Cluster. The Americans Tim Story and Jon Leidecker are two electronic musicians who could not be more different to one another. Story is known for his warm soundscapes whilst Leidecker has made an name for himself, or rather for his “Wobbly” pseudonym, with experimental adventures in sound. The reviews have already started coming in: Music OMH – “thoroughly enjoyable production and one that equally rewards as a close, detailed listen”; Billy Ray Martin – “features harmonious, electronic improvisations of the highest order”; DereksMusicBlog – “it’s a genre melting album, Magnus Opus that anyone who enjoys electronic music must own”; The Skinny – “ambitious in its depth of texture, this is experimental music from the bleeding-edge”. We feel honored that Moebius, Story, and Leidecker made the trek all the way out to Montana by way of Berlin, Ohio, and San Francisco to compose, perform, and record their first collaborative work together. Check out the first video from ‘Snowghost Pieces’, the twisting and turning ‘Defenestrate’.
Coachella 2014 was as much of a social gathering, as it was an arts and music festival, this year. I have been to numerous Coachellas, starting with the first annual, Coachella ’99 – and I have always enjoyed just being a fan. I felt that this year’s Coachella definitely put people’s appetite for individualistic social media on display. Littered with eye-popping outfits and hard-bodies, drones and GoPros, and selfie shutterbugs – Coachella was dominated by EDM – and yet, high profile DJs like Skrillex, Flosstradamus, and Calvin Harris were the observers. In this pop culture movement, the entertaining line between performer and audience is blurred.
Flattered to be included in this month’s music issue of the Flathead Beacon put together by Tristan Scott and Greg Lindstrom. Really great talking shop with those guys. I’m sure they’ll be back for a listening session soon.
We had a great time talking with Danny of Westlake Pro about all things music, recording, time management, and hanging with Dan Deacon. Check out the writeup of our conversation.
The other day my neighbor and I got into a discussion, and I found out that she was basically one of the biggest Beatles fans ever. She told me that she had all of their records, trading cards, ticket stubs from their last show at Candlestick Park, clothing, stickers, posters…. everything. And then she told me about her prized possession – a gold medallion with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Mop tops and beatnik suits. She told me what made this necklace rare was not the limited edition photo on the front, but that it also had all of their signatures carved into the back. I couldn’t believe it. In this lonely digital age, I had found a super fan. I remember collecting baseball cards when I was a kid. I learned all about my favorite players that way. I based hang out sessions with my friends around talking shop and traded cards – it brought me closer to the game, and it gave me a sense of community… even if they were just cardboard cutout friends. I wonder if the digital music consumers of today know what they’re missing, not being able to touch and feel a piece of the music. Maybe they don’t care. Must be the fan in me.
Thanks again to the John Pizzarelli Quartet for visiting SnowGhost Music! A few of the best jazz musicians of our time, John and his brother Martin are two current snapshots from the past of their father Bucky Pizzarelli, a living legend within the jazz community. John and Bucky have also recorded their fair share of pop music, John playing on Paul McCartney’s last record Kisses On The Bottom, and Bucky on some of Phil Spector’s biggest hits. When you add in Monty Alexander on the Steinway, a man who some argue as one of the best pianists in the world, it’s recording days like these that we live for.