Tom Waits Appreciation Post. 

"I hate him", "Jesus, that's dark" or "What the hell is that?". Generally most of the responses I get towards playing Tom Waits. But I can't help but love what the guy does. He is just unlike anything that came before (or indeed after) and that is the true beauty of it. Artists as diverse as Bette Midler to Primus appreciate this. His songs are known by millions and a majority of them are better known through other artists. How I discovered him, could almost be a Tom Waits song in itself.

I worked nights in a retail unit in the early noughties and myself and a co worker had snuck out the back of the warehouse to have a cheeky cigarette at about four in the morning. The co worker in question was definitely an individual with diminished mental capacity and nowadays, sadly, can be seen in a semi permanent state of unemployed intoxication about the town. 

He always brought his radio in to play old cassettes of odd sounds and songs from the radio that recorded in the wee hours. As we sat on the old loading ramp, my ears were drawn to the lyrics, delivered by a raspy, ancient sounding drawl: 

"He had a bullet proof smile 
 He had money to burn 
 She thought she had the moon 
 In her pocket 

But now she's dead 
She's so dead 
Forever dead and lovely now"

"Who's that?!" I inquired. "Tom Waits." And I was sold. I went home and stayed awake, knowing my local music shop was open at ten. I went in and bought "Real Gone". It was the only CD they had, which incidentally had "Dead & Lovely" on it as it had been just released. I wore that CD out, It was on repeat for weeks. Every song was better than the one before. Naturally, I went through the back catalogue which as anyone who knows Tom Waits more recent stuff, was a shock to venture further past "SwordFishTrombones" but no less brilliant. Even crazier to know he was responsible for writing "Tom Traubert's Blues", "Jersey Girl" and "Downtown Train" to name a few. Most reassuring, is that you never feel ALONE with Tom Waits. If you feel down, depressed - you always felt, at some point - he was there in that position too. In his own way, he makes loneliness beautiful. Not that all the songs are depressing. There are some absolute bangers in there coupled with countless monologues! He is the reason for my noir inspired journeys through my own musical journey, at times

I am pretty sure Tom Waits' songs have saved many lives and changed even more...

Happy birthday, Tom. And thanks for the music. Never stop. 

 

Hey you, hiding in the bushes: My foley effects adventures. 

A large part of this job is sound effects or foley effects. So named after the originator of the art: Jack Foley. But enough of the history lesson. Let's look at how insane foley artists are...

I am no stranger to creating sounds, but since I have been tasked with sound effects, I am frankly shocked at how much I've begun to notice and overthink every sound I make. From dissecting the chewing noises I make,  and how my inner ear perceives them, to randomly satisfying thoughts like "if I squash enough flour into that leather glove, I can make it sound like I'm stepping in snow" or recording wind through trees and bushes. (Don't worry, it's not the human kind yet.)

And right now I can be found wearing different shoes with a mic pointing at my feet to record various types of footfall in different ambiences. Today, I wet a balloon just to squeak it enough to sound like canvas shoes or sports runners... 

I am trying to create a kind of hyper realism to capture the vision my director has for this upcoming project, without it being too cartoon-ish. Yet keeping tongue firmly in cheek. It's no easy task whilst trying create a musical score at the same time. But I am much happier with too much to do, than too little. My director is a self confessed workaholic, who's very passionate about his art too. So I guess, I'm in good company. Wes Anderson has been cited as a strong reference point sonically, so I now spend my days studying the foley work that is trademark in so many of his films.

I fear I may be getting a little obsessed.

Help me..........

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Lights, Camera, Action! 

 

 

 

I have been hired for my first "grown up" scoring job.

Naturally there is a mixture of excitement and healthy nerves. I can't share any juicy details as it's not my place, that's at the discretion of the producer and director who come across as warm, relatable and professional people. I was a practical bystander (as advised beforehand, but was no less thrilled to attend) at the first production meeting as my work will be post production, but the energy from them was contagious and I couldn't help but feel excited and inspired to do the best job I can possibly do.

Seeing location photos and watching them discuss set design ideas was great. I love films, it's no secret and it's just as much fun to watch the artists get excited talking about their work and ideas for the project.

Musically I've received a couple of good leads on specific soundtracks for reference, and obviously I want to be able to add as much of my own sound pallet to it, whilst making sure it suits the director's vision. I am also responsible for the foley fx work, which is leading me down the veritable "rabbit-hole". And I'm having a lot of fun with it.

It's going to be a very quick production, so I am already working on ideas as per the script, to keep ahead of the game. 

As already stated, I can't really reveal much more than that but hopefully, soon - I can shed a little more light on it.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.

 

Rejection Email...and I'm happy about it. 

I received my first ever rejection email today and felt oddly... satisfied. 

It's a strange feeling but bear with me. As a media composer, your professional life is basically one whole "LOOK WHAT I CAN DO" through lots of emails, and the result of those is almost always, a radio silence. This morning I received an email informing me that amongst a lot of competition, they had opted to go with somebody else but they would keep me in mind for future projects etc. I was addressed personally at the top, so even if it had been a copy and paste email - it still felt personable.

What surprised me was the fact I actually received an email, at all. And it contained the fact they were aware I had sent several pieces of work. I believe I may have sent enough to the point of pestering, unintentionally, as my first email was stupidly sent minus any examples. Enough to make any professional think "What an idiot". But they never intimated or mocked this.

So many times you can be even further along in negotiations and discussion - texting, messaging etc and suddenly the trail runs cold. Dead. And in these times of late, things are so very uncertain. Particularly in the entertainment industry. So thanks to you, kind individual. I can only wish you the very, very best in the future. May you win an Oscar, one day. And even more so, I will happily cheer you on. With that email, you made a random person feel they were heard - even for a second.  

Stay safe, and thanks for reading. 

Bear Hugs: Mixing in 5.1 SURROUND SOUND 

Have attempted my first surround sound mix (5.1) for film recently and took a few liberties with sound placement but it's ok, I can't fire myself!

Recently I came up with a score (not the original) to the short film "Bear Hugs". The subject matter is hard hitting and may trigger some individuals who may have suffered or witnessed the scourge that is domestic violence so approach with caution, please. I will leave a link to the surround sound mix (as Youtube doesn't accommodate the format, simply downmixing it to standard stereo) below the stereo mixed video. Keep in mind that you MUST have a surround sound set up to actually listen to the 5.1 mix properly. That's 6 speakers (or more) on your TV or pc. L+R Stereo, Centre Speaker, L+R Side / Rear Speakers and a subwoofer. Of course you can still attempt to listen to it but you will find yourself missing important sounds etc. The dialogue is kept exclusive to the centre monitor, except for the concluding part which included muffled arguing so I routed that to the Side / Rear speakers for greater effect.

FYI: The video must be downloaded to hear the Surround audio as to just play it online only outputs to stereo.

I completed the original in stereo which I will leave here:

BEAR HUGS 5.1 can be downloaded here.

 

 

 

The Morrigan and my "American Gods" delusion.... 

 

I have recently composed a piece inspired by tales of "The Morrigan". She is a fantastic and ancient character with a lot of theories as to where exactly she came from and what she is.

One thing is for sure, she is one of the most enduring characters from Irish folklore. Powerful, terrifying and mysterious.

Recently, I've been playing catch up on the "American Gods" series which was inspired by the novel written by Neil Gaiman. I've not read it - I'm a heathen. I believe that in one form or another - The Morrigan makes an appearance, but I have no idea in what fashion.

So in my own delusion - I crafted a theme for her, that I believe would not be out of place if she appeared in a big budget series like "American Gods" or some slick big budget production befitting a Goddess of War & Death. One that incorporates the ancient sounds of the Uilleann Pipes and some bonkers cello and gives way to more modern, relentless big budget Heavy metal... But I have a proper presentation planned, one which involves a music video. So bar the odd snippet or three, I won't be releasing it until the vision is fully realised. Which I hope to be soon. I am excited about this one.

Thanks for reading.

Hello stranger... 

A lot of wins and losses have happened since I last updated this blog. From successful projects to failed ideas and projects that didn't make the cut on account of the massive COVID 19 upheaval and various related issues. But I am still here feverishly working behind my piano. Inspired as ever, really. I will fill you in properly very soon. In the meantime, stay safe and thanks for reading.

Gavin Dempsey - Far from a stereotype... 

I'm writing today about my nephew, Gavin. He has for a long time had an interest in music and singing and it's only recently I've become aware that he was actually writing song lyrics. Apparently he had been waiting to ask me to assist him in producing a number of tracks but he has never been one to abuse familial privileges. No idea why, it's what family is for!

In all seriousness, I was hugely surprised by the lyrics he produced for me. They were honest, sensitive and vulnerable. Not your typical bravado bullshit that you'd expect from a teen. He had a melody too, so I was tasked with helping him realise the vision he had. Every single thing in the recording was his idea, even my little guitar solo dilly dally towards the end was suggested by him. We goofed around a little for the first day and created a skeleton track which we completely tossed on the second day to create a piece from the ground up.

Gavin is clearly influenced by a little bit of everything. From the classic rock and pop sounds of yester year to the latter day sounds of the rap giants and all that falls in between. Initially we were both scratching our heads as my songwriting production experience is pretty much sandwiched in the rock genre and I was expecting to be inundated with requests for an urban, reverb drenched, compressed shit show that is comprised of current sounds. I was prepared to do this if asked, my only rule from the start has always been no autotune. And I could tell that he was nervous about the vocals as Mother Nature herself has decreed his voice make the shaky transition from boy to man.

I was pleasantly surprised by his production choices, which lent me a certain amount of freedom to have a proper go at the song. Not a single decision was made without his agreement and I think we've created a song he can truly be very proud of. We're already looking towards an e.p. such was the fun we had creating "Stereotypical World". The reception has been great, and the song has even been remixed! Not really to my taste, but I'm sure the kids will lap it up.

Expect to hear more music from the man soon. I'm genuinely honoured he thinks I have the chops to do his work justice. But for now, here's his latest work. Enjoy!
 

 

Creating "Majik" (The Corona Sessions) 

First blog of 2020 and of course, we're all elbow deep in social distancing / isolation. A double edged sword for me as an "essential" worker as shops need to stay open (to prevent riots?) so I have been stuck in a bizarre limbo of work / home / work / home and "Backyard Gothic" is dead in the water on account.

To counteract the boredom, I embarked upon the "Corona Sessions". Creating music is never boring but I do have a very short attention span, so I've had to force myself to concentrate on creating a viable collection of music. It eventually found it's title in "Majik".

Why this title? Because most of these songs were created in a stream of consciousness, particularly the first and third songs which bear the word in their titles. They in many ways wrote themselves, before I realised I was writing them. To anyone who writes books, poetry or music - I'm sure you understand what I mean, but I can't really explain it in words. As the late, great Tom Petty said:

“Music is probably the one real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things.”


Amen.

The pictures were taken by my very talented better half and I twisted and distorted them into a cover I thought suited the theme of the EP. The subject matter in the songs is almost nihilist in nature, but I assure you, a pinch of salt is never far from the lyrics I write....
 

 
It's currently in the processing stage, en route to spotify / google play / itunes etc courtesy of Distrokid. And the track listing is:
 
1. Majik, Pt.I: The Man In The Ivory Castle 
2. Throne Ruminations (co - produced by Denika McClean)
3. Majik, Pt.II: The End
4. Who Rules Hollywood?
5. (BANG!) Bombs Are Falling
 
Stylistically, it's a return to the sound on "Heresy". But with the extra six years experience in the production side (I hope!) It's bigger, more mature and sounds more professional. More importantly, I hope people get a kick out of listening to it, as much as I got creating it. 
 
Thanks for reading..... and listening.