Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Draven Rides Again

2 or 3 of you reading this probably know this, but I used to make a lot of music. I used to put out around 2 or 3 full albums a year under various fake band names in various fake genres, around 14 or 15 in total, but that all stopped a while back. I haven't put out a new album since 2007 and that one took months to make. 

I have been plagued with wrist and hand problems for years. Playing in a real live band became impossible so I devoted my time to just making as much of my own music as I could before my wrists were so bad I couldn't do it anymore. It got to the point where playing guitar or bass or whatever was impossible to do just for fun. I couldn't just pick up a guitar and fiddle around with it on a lark. Doing that for 30 minutes would lead to days of pain. Same for recording. I used to just record a song whenever one popped up. But doing one song was painful, so if I'm going to go through that pain I wanted something more worthwhile to come out of it besides one song. Making the albums became the only time I ever played. I would just suck it up and bang out the album then spend the next few weeks wearing various braces, covering myself in Icy Hot and wrapping my arms in heating pads to ease the pain. 

This was all worth it for a while. But in 2007/2008 I decided I was going to make one more album and it was going to be my last one. It was going to be called The Party's Over and would end with a cover of The Raspberries' The Party's Over song with the lyrics changed to reflect my quitting music. But that album turned out to be a disaster and I still haven't finished it all these years later.

The main problem is that my old computer died the true death and I upgraded to a brand new fancy computer. The recording program I always used and had pretty much mastered over the years was a Win98 program. It got through the XP era just fine but it didn't do so well in the Vista/Win7 era. No biggie, I felt it was time to upgrade anyway so I moved up to the latest edition of the big fancy Sonar program. Sonar was essentially just an updated version and it more or less looked the same but it sure as hell didn't work the same. Everything that worked so simply in the previous version was now a tedious frustrating endeavor. I had a bunch of plug ins that I had used and relied on for years which suddenly didn't work anymore. It was a mess. Nothing sounded as good, nothing worked as well, but I soldiered on anyway and recorded all the music. Then I tried exporting some rough mixes of the music and once again nothing  worked easily. Trying to figure out how to get this thing to export in the correct format was mind boggling and then once I got it to work, everything sounded terrible. But once again I soldiered on and told myself don't worry about it, you can figure out what's wrong and fix it later in the mixing process. I started recording the vocals and that's when everything went into total disarray. Vocals were impossible to record. My lack of singing ability always hurt recording vocals, but this was more than that, I couldn't get the vocals to record right at all. Volume wise it was all over the map.It would either record too low or too high, there was no in-between and no amount of mixing and FX helped. Even worse, the vocals sounded like I was singing through a CB radio. All tinny and static-y. I tried to figure this out for weeks. Trying everything I could think of, scouring the Google for answers. Nothing helped and eventually it just hit me that, I didn't really like these songs all that much anyway. I had already planned on calling this my last, and worst, CD. I wasn't even enjoying the music and I was working my ass off for it more than all the other CDs combined. So I gave up on it. I have gone back to it 2 or 3 times a year to try to finish it, only to get frustrated yet again and quit. But I didn't just quit this CD, I quit it all. I pretty much didn't play guitar for the past 5 years and I sold most of my recording equipment knowing that I was done.

I did TRY to play guitar some. Playing music is all I want to do it and all I care about. So not being able to do it has pretty much been the most miserable part of my life. These past few years have had quite a few spells of complete depression, anger and frustration over it. Even if I couldn't make music, I'd just like the ability to pick up my guitar and goof around on it. But anytime I tried, I just went into immediate pain so I was stuck with the choice of either don't do this one thing, or do that one thing and not be able to do ANYTHING else from the pain it causes.

But then, for reasons unknown, a Christmas miracle of sorts happened. I read Duff McKagan's book and it frustrated me because all I could think of was the fun I used to have playing along with Appetite for Destruction. I eventually said screw it, picked up my guitar, popped in Appetite for Destruction and played along. Wrists didn't like it, but they didn't complain too much, so I kept on doing it. I started playing Appetite once a week to get it out of my system, but I didn't push it any farther than that. Then when the family came to town for Christmas I was stuck with kids all over me for a week or so. I couldn't get away to play games, watch TV, use the computer, leave, anything. So I figure hey, let me pick up this acoustic guitar to kill some time. Up until now 10 minutes of that guitar would send me into pain. But it wasn't now. I played it nearly the entire time they were here, until one of the kids broke a string. It was starting to seem like I could play again, but I didn't want to push it and try recording again. I told myself to just relish in getting to play it for a while because you know it ain't gonna last. So I kept playing an hour or so a week. I learned the first Wolfmother album and would play that once a week. Then I learned the first Audioslave album and would play that. Then I made a set list of Black Sabbath songs and played that. Then I got into Aerosmith for the first time in my life, made a set list of a bunch of their early songs and learned that. Playing once a week turned into two or three times a week. 

Playing Aerosmith was the real turning point. My last fake band was Draven. It was supposed to be my straight forward guitar driven rock band with songs about sex, drugs and rock & roll stereotypes. It was by far my favorite fake band and by far the most popular. Probably because it was the only one where I was actually making the type of music that I listen to. Playing Aerosmith got me back into that mindset. Playing those riffs made me start coming up with my own riffs. Soon a new album was starting to rear its ugly head. But how to do it? I sold and got rid of so much stuff. I really had no way to do drums anymore. And would this one sound any better than the one I gave up on? Then one thought popped into my head:  Screw it!

I used to record on a 4 track. No, let's go before that, I used to record on a boom box and a stereo. I would set the boom box in front of my drums, play the drum part. Then play back the drum part on my stereo real loud, play the bass part along with that, set the boom box between the stereo and amp and record that. Then do it again for guitar. It sounded like GARBAGE but I didn't care that it sounded like garbage, I was just excited that I created a song. Then I graduated to 4 track, it sounded a little better, it still sounded like garbage, but it was fun. So the thought occurred to me....who am I trying to impress? When did I decide I was supposed to try to make my bedroom recordings sound like major label releases? Who cares? The few people whose opinion actually matters to me aren't going to listen to it and go oh man, that snare drum sounds a little off. Why am I trying to be perfect when I never will be? Why did I waste so much time on all those other recordings? Who cares? Screw it!

I decided to go for it, it would either sound good or it wouldn't. But I didn't want to destroy my wrists in the process either. It was real bad timing, spring was here and so was the yard work. Now I was mowing the yard, weed eating, chainsawing, etc. I figured it wasn't going to be good to be doing that AND trying to record this stuff so I needed it to be quick and easy. My first idea was to use loops for the bass and drums instead of playing it manually. It would also be an interesting way to write because I'd have to find loops then create riffs that fit them. I did a couple of songs that like. Also I didn't want to use Sonar again so I found this AWESOME free software called Reaper that is by far the easiest and best recording software I've used. I tossed my loops in there, played my guitar over them, and it sounded AMAZEBALLS with very little effort. This was going to be awesome!

But the more I came up with ideas, the less the loops seemed like a good idea. I would come up with an idea then go through my loop collection and be unable to find anything I could use it with. Starting with the loops first worked, but was extremely limiting. I ended up abandoning the loops idea. But now I had to figure out what to do about the drums. I didn't have my electric drums anymore. I still had my MIDI keyboard to play drums with but the drum samples I had on my computer were terrible. I scoured the entire internet looking for the best program I could find. I ended up settling on EZDrummer. It's an amazing program that sounds like a realistic drumset and doesn't have to be programmed through MIDI or use loops, I could play the drums "live" using my fingers and my MIDI keyboard. Problem solved!

LOL!!! Of course not. I figured out that my old midi cables no longer worked because it used the printer port for input and I guess computers don't have those anymore. Who knew?? So I figured out a way to use my computer keyboard in Reaper to control EZDrummer. Problem solved!

LOL!!! Of course not. It had CRAZY latency issues. Like if I was hitting bass, snare, bass, snare, the delay would be so bad that you'd be hearing the bass while I'm hitting the snare and the snare while I'm hitting the bass. So I had to order a MIDI to USB cable for my MIDI keyboard, wait a week and then problem solved!

LOL!!! Of course not. It had the latency issue also. I scoured the internet for days. Lots of people had this problem, everybody had answers, none of them worked for me. I tried EZDrummer in my other recording software and it didn't do this, it was only in Reaper. I was left with only one choice. I had to abandon this software that I loved to go back to the software that I hated. Goodbye Reaper, hello Sonar, again.

Now everything more or less worked, I worried if I was going to have the same problems when mixing and recording vocals but my mantra of SCREW IT kept me going. I was ready to record, now I needed the songs. I had lots of ideas but no full songs. Over the next 2-3 weeks I had what was probably the quickest and easiest writing period ever. Usually my writing period goes like this: I come up with the idea for 2 or 3 songs out of nowhere and decide that means I should do a album. Then I sit down and TRY to write. This usually leads to a few more songs that I end up liking more than the original 2 or 3. But then I hit a rut and have to force myself to pull some more songs out of my ass to finish the album off. Sometimes I luck out and they end up decent, more often they feel just as forced as they were. On all the albums I've done I can hear those 1 or 2 songs on each one and tell those are the ones I did last. They feel thrown together and forced and usually suck balls. This is also something that helps damage my wrists. I end up spending so much time trying to write songs that my wrists are shot before I even start recording, making the recording process torture. But there was none of that this time around. Every single song popped right out nearly fully formed. Even the lyrics came out fast and easy and that most certainly isn't the case normally. Lyrics are usually no fun at all for me. Sometimes I come up with a cool idea and it's fun to write but normally it's just pulling teeth. Usually about half the CD might have decent lyrics and the other half is as many hack rock music clich├ęs as possible just to have something to say. But with this one, pretty much as soon as I started playing the song, the lyrics ideas started coming right along with it. I never had to rack my brain to come up with something to write about it, as soon as the music came out every song just kinda knew what it wanted itself to be about. It's probably because it's the first time that nearly every single song is about something. Every song is either my opinion on something, about something I like, something I feel, somebody I know, based on something real. I didn't have to do any of that let me just say a bunch of cryptic garbage to trick people into thinking this song is about something even though it's not. I'm not saying the writing of these songs is GOOD, I'm just saying it was easy.

Recording also went pretty easy. I had planned for 3 weeks. 1 week for drums, take a break to let wrists rest, 1 week for guitars to let wrists rests and one week for bass. I planned on doing bass last because the heavier strings are harder on the ol' wrists. But the pain wasn't bad at all and I wound up just going from one thing to another. And instead of doing 1 or 2 songs a day, I started doing more and more each day. It ended up only taking 2 weeks to get all the music done and my wrists weren't bothering me at all after a couple of days of rest. 

Now it was time for the first real test. I did a rough mix of the music and exported it, praying that it wouldn't sound as bad as the last stuff sounded 5 years previous. I hit play and my heart sank. It was atrocious. So bad that SCREW IT couldn't get me through it. For some reason it sounded like it had 10 layers of reverb on it even though I hadn't put any on it. It was insanely bassy. It sounded mono. I just couldn't understand why it sounded SO different than what it sounds like in Sonar. For some reason I decided to play the songs through a different music player than Window Media Player. I popped it into Quicktime and it sounded perfect. I popped it into iTunes software and it sounded perfect. I popped it into the Zune software and it sounded perfect. I put it on another computer's WMP and it sounded perfect there. I played it in the car and it sounded perfect. I went through all the settings and EQ of that WMP and none of it is turned on. There is no reason why it should play so horribly in WMP but it does and it nearly gave me a heart attack for no reason.

One hurdle hurdled, it's now time to record vocals. I grab my mic, I hit record, I sing a bit, I play it back......more heartbreak.  Vocal problems are still present and once again SCREW IT is failing me. It's one thing to just say I don't care if it doesn't sound perfect, but this is unlistenable. The thing that puzzles me the most is that I kept the sound card from my old computer and installed it in the new computer for the sole purpose of making sure my recordings would stay the same. I have no idea what this isn't working and I can't find anybody on the entire internet who has the same problem and can fix it. I tried for days to fix it. I have tried various microphones but all cheap ones, the cheap ones have worked for 10 years, so I assume a more expensive mic won't help, but at this point I'm willing to try anything. I start looking up new microphones and see these new fangled USB mics. I start thinking, if anything is gonna fix this, it's gotta be that right? It would avoid the sound card completely, at worst it would at least tell me the sound card is or isn't the issue. I was going to go for the cheap 40 dollar mic, but.....hold your horses, I said nope....if I'm going for it I'm going for it. I'm gonna get that fancy 70 dollar mic! I've never used a condenser mic before and that might help even more. I promptly went to Ebay and found the 70 dollar mic for 40. Booyah!

Lo and behold it works. It takes some tinkering with some settings, but it works. Magically good. TOO good. This thing picks up every noise in a 12 block radius. If I listen to these songs in my car or in bassy headphones, some of the popped Ps or breath that hits the mic sounds like thunder and scares me. I couldn't even scratch myself while singing or the scratching would drown out the music. But it worked. I still sing terribly but at least you can hear it. 

One slight problem with the vocals is that I wrote stuff I knew I'd have trouble singing because before now I never had autotune. I figured with autotune I could go a little nuts and then just fix that stuff like the pros do. I spent a few hours trying to figure out how to use autotune before I threw my hands in the air and said SCREW IT. No matter what I did I couldn't get it to sound human, it only made me sound like T-Pain. I didn't want that. So I just went old school on this bad boy and sang poorly and owned it like a boss!

Mixing was where the SCREW IT mantra really shined. I usually spend a month or so mixing. Once again I asked myself why??? This isn't going to make me rich and famous no matter how many times I mix it. You can only polish a turd so much. I ended up mixing this one in 4 days. Is it perfect? Not at all. Would it make a difference if I spent 3 more weeks fiddling with it? Not at all. It's good enough. And there's a lot of screw ups in there that I normally would've fixed it that I didn't. Particularly on drums you'll hear things get out of time for a second or two. I could've fixed that. I didn't. DEAL WITH IT.

All in all I think this one came out pretty good. There are things I wish were better but they aren't so SCREW IT...boom, you ya cover, boom, ya got your songs, boom, ya got your lyrics, boom here's my new album...NOT my last album:  Draven - Rides Again.....

And yes I covered Lady Gaga.  SCREW IT!!

You dress like last night’s regrets
Red lipstick on a cigarette
If I don’t notice you you make sure I do
Everywhere you go you’re the queen of who’s who

Crimson and clover on my mind
Sweet and sour all the time
The queen of hearts, the queen of the night
What’s your number baby what’s your sign

Red headed woman
You’re gonna be the death of me
You drive me wild
You hold the keys to my desires
A red headed woman’s gonna steal my soul

Dress so tight that it looks like it hurts
Long red hair and a mini skirt
Every time you look at me it feels obscene
You’re the stickiest page in every magazine

There’s a ghost living under my bed
Its skin is white and its eyes are red
It comes out at night and it won’t leave
I wish the morning light would come save me

There’s a man with fangs looking in my window
He’s got no reflection and he’s got no soul
I don’t like the way he’s looking at me
Like a great white shark in a feeding frenzy

You better get running
The monster show is coming
They all wanna meet ya
And then they wanna eat ya
The night is black and the moon is red
If you’re not careful you’ll soon be dead

Put away your crosses and your holy water
No point in praying to the holy father
Killing and spooking that’s what they’re about
Look out people it’s a ghoul’s night out

There’s a sexy witch flying on a broom
She’s got the spells and she’s got the moves
There’s a creepy zombie crawling out of the grave
Pulling up the covers won’t keep you safe

Mary Mack dressed in black
Silver buttons up and down her back
Hung low mistletoe
She broke her needle now she can't sew

Walking the dog
I'm just a-walking your dog
Well you don't know how to do it
I'll show you how to walk the dog

Ask your mama for fifteen cents
To see an elephant jump the fence
It jumped so high liked to touch the sky
Didn't come back 'til the Fourth of July

Mary Mary quite contrary
How does your garden grow oh so well
Silver bells and little bitty bitty bitty babytails
Pretty maids all in a row

It’s time to wake up
It’s time to go
Pack up your noise and pack up your clothes
Cause I’m awake now
I see the truth
I seen how you done me and I know all your moves
I’m not the one keeping all the secrets
I’m not the one with the vows I’m breaking
I’m not the one who’s full of crap
I’m not the one who’d treat you like that

You’re the reason I can’t be free
You’re the knife sticking in my throat
You’re the last thing I could ever need
Get out of my life get out of my home

It’s time to wake up
It’s time to go
I ain’t got a reason to put up with more
Cause I’m awake now
I see it all
Every lie you told every mask you wore
I’m just the one who gave up everything
I’m just the one who kept all promises made
I’m just the one who got stabbed in the back
I’m just the one whose face got slapped

It’s time to wake up
It’s time to go
Pack up your noise and pack up your clothes
Cause I’m awake now
I see it all
Every lie you told every mask you wore
I’m not the one keeping all the secrets
I’m not the one with the vows I’m breaking
I’m just the one who got stabbed in the back
I’m just the one whose face got slapped
Who gave you the right to ruin my life
Who gave you the right to break me inside
Who gave you the right to shatter my mind
Who gave you the right to waste my time
Just me

I can see the writing on the wall
I can see every word you wrote
I can see it’s crumbling down on me
I can see everything you don’t

I’m here waiting for you
Slowly falling down

I can hear it all ringing in my ears
I can hear every word you spoke
I can hear echoes down the hall
I can hear everything you don’t

I can feel a lifetime slipping away
And I can feel aching in my bones
And I can feel the end is getting near
And I can feel everything you don’t

If you got the rope
I got the neck
If you got the hope
I got the net
But if you got misery
You got what it takes to write a song

If you got the love
I got the hate
If you got the heart
I got the break
But if you got misery
You got what it takes to sing a song

If you got the happy
I got the sad
If you got the good
I got the bad
But if you got misery
You got what it takes to hear a song

If you got the breath
I got the choke
If you got the tears
I got the joke
But if you got misery
You got what it takes to laugh along
Well I’ve been down to Mississippi
I’ve been to New Orleans
I’ve been to Alabama Arkansas Tennessee
But I never met a woman who could stand the sight of me
They look right through me
They don’t like what they see
They see I’m bad bad bad bad bad
Bad news I know

Somebody tell my mama
Somebody tell my dad
Somebody tell my cousin the only friend that I had
Tell em that I’m all right tell em I’m fine
Lie because you have to
Lie because they’re blind
To see I’m bad bad bad bad bad
Bad news I know

I see it in the eyes of every person I meet
I feel it in my bones from my head to my feet
I don’t need no drugs and I don’t need no booze
I can fail on my own cause I was born to lose
I’m bad bad bad bad bad
Bad news I know

Big eyes, better to see you
I can see you wherever you are
Big teeth, better to bite you
Girl I’m gonna give you a brand new scar

Big claws, better to grab you
Hold you down give you my surprise
Big mouth, better to eat you
Swallow you down with a razor smile

I’m the man in sheep’s clothing
I’m the man howling at the moon
I’m the man with the boiling blood
Running wild under the midnight sun

You can run you can hide
But you can’t escape what I got inside
It’s not a curse, it’s a gift
A gift I’m gonna share with you before you die

Little girl, where ya going
I can smell you pissing fear
You smell sweet you taste sweeter
I love the taste of blood mixed in with tears

It's been a long time since I came around
Been a long time but I'm back in town
And this time I'm not leaving without you
You taste like whiskey when you kiss me
Oh I'd give anything to make you my baby doll
And this time I'm not leaving without you

I said sit back down where you belong
In the corner of the bar with your high heels on
Sit back down on the couch where we
Made love the first time and I said to you yeah

Something, something about this place
Something about lonely nights and your lipstick on my face
Something, something about my cool Nebraska girl
Yeah something about baby, you and I

It's been two years since I let you go
I couldn't listen to a joke or rock and roll
Muscle cars drove a truck right through my heart
On my birthday you sang a heart of gold
Your guitar humming and no clothes
This time I'm not leaving without you

You and I
Baby You and I
I’d rather die without you and I
Come on and put your drinks up

Well I’m a bad mutha hucka if I do say so myself
I don’t cut like a knife, I cut like myself
I look pretty good in my snakeskin boots
But you don’t see me with your eyes, you sense me with your cooch

Go call your husband, tell him you’ll be late
Hurry up woman don’t hesitate cause I’m a

I’m a back door lover
I sneak inside and I bring you alive
Cause I’m a back door lover
Your man won’t see me coming but you sure will

I don’t mind afternoon delight
If you don’t mind where I nibble and bite
Take off them drawers hike up that skirt
I’m gonna show you how good pleasure can hurt

Step up lady, don’t be shy
I’m gonna be your secret guy cause I’m a

For the rest of your life you will never forget
The bad mutha hucka that you once met
There ain’t no other man quite like me
Make ya shimmy make ya shake down to your knees

Sorry baby it’s a one time deal
Some other lonely lady needs to spin this wheel cause I’m a

Everybody out there hates everything
Everything sucks that’s the motto today
But all people do is whine and complain
Nobody ever does anything
But I got a plan that will solve this mess
If you don’t like I could really care less
Let’s burn this place down to the ground
Make the whole world a burial mound
Fire it up – Fire it up
A can of gasoline to fire it up
Strike that match let’s fire it up

Let’s make some noise let’s make a scene
Then go to the desert and do LSD
New York to LA just burning embers
Remember remember the 5th of November
The language police and their fake outrage
When they’re hanging from trees they’ll have nothing to say
Greedy politicians with their open hands
Gonna burn em all alive all across this land
Fire it up – Fire it up
A well placed bullet to fire it up
Let’s light this fuse and fire it up

Stand together die alone
The greatest strength we’ve ever known
Stand together die alone
Burn this place down to the bone

Burn down the churches & burn down the malls
Burn down the schools let’s burn it all
The red white blue is the red white dead
Raise your glass and toast the end
It’s time for revolution it’s time for a change
It’s time to step up and change their ways
I’ve lived by your rules I’ve paid your fees
It’s time for cake and anarchy

99 percent –1 percent
You’re all the same thing as far as I’m concerned
You’re all gonna die & you’re all gonna burn
Fire it up – Fire it up
A Molotov cocktail to fire it up
It’s time to step up and fire it up

Driving down south, looking for a place
Where I can unwind and get a taste
Of something fresh, something sweet
Something made with love, something with heat
Off the interstate I found this city
Where every girl you see’s got big fat titties
Every boy you see’s playing electric guitar
And everybody’s dressed like rock and roll stars

Everybody come see rock city
Nobody knows see rock city
Cause nobody leaves see rock city
Everybody come see rock city tonight

Heroin cocaine LSD
Do anything you want and you won’t OD
This here is rock and roll paradise
We all drink and drive but nobody dies
There ain’t no TV or internet
Just underage girls with dead parents
You might think that this is heaven
It’s more like hell but nobody cares

If you decide you wanna go
Point your car south put the pedal to the floor
We’ll be waiting for you to arrive
So we can party all day and party all night

(The Ballad of Tippy Tom)
I was born alone and I’ll die alone
A box made of pine under sky made of gray
That’s where I’ll forever lay
The lines on my face tell the story
A story of sorrow and woe
I’ve made people laugh, I’ve made people cry
Ain’t that how the story goes

I’ve loved and lost a woman
I’ve loved and lost a man
I’ve watched my friends leave and I’ve watched my friends die
I see them every time I sleep
At the bottom of the bottle is where I find my peace
I close down my mind with a few gulps of wine
But the demons are never pleased

I’ve raised my arms to Jesus
I’ve bowed my head to God
I’ve screamed up to Heaven
I’ve said all my prayers
But only the devil cared

These streets they are my prison
These streets they are my home
They love me sometimes
They hate me sometimes
But they shelter me from the storm
If this city was a woman she’d be beautiful and grim
She’d beat me on down with her feminine wiles
And fill my soul with sin

Yes I lived alone and yes I died alone
With a belly of beer and a lifetime of tears
Like every sad song you know
But I had my share of laughs and I had my share of fun
My life was a blast, my life was a drag
My life was second to none


  1. What to say ... Well, I quick-read/listened to the journal/music and appreciated the diversion from the mundane. Not to be patronizing, but it was good to see you doing what you obviously enjoy, software/hardware woes aside. Interesting, readable lyrics and great album cover artwork too - as usual. The Desirables.

  2. A well-respected site from an award-winning software developer. Some audio tools here (and a lot of other stuff too) that you might find helpful next time - just a guess. Free, clean and efficient.

    1. 4 months later I finally check for comments and see this. Thanks. haha