In 2011, I decided I wanted to see if I could ‘up the ante’ for myself at least.
Towards the end of 2010, I had begun to formulate a plan for RPM 2011 with my musical collaborator/friend Cat from sonicmagpie. Cat and I have made lots of music / recordings together, so again I knew we could work together well (and more importantly very quickly).
Our initial talks began in late 2010 and revolved around the possibility of basing what we were going do around the concept of being ‘in limbo’. I also suggested that we should consider limiting ourselves to a basic palette of instruments and not be tempted by the Pandora ’s Box of virtual instruments. At that point, at the end of 2010 we basically left it at that.
Simultaneously, Kevin and Michael from APOD thought it might be good to participate in the 2011 RPM challenge too.
I didn’t want to turn down this opportunity and even though I knew it would a lot to attempt to do 2 RPM projects at the same time, the way I remember ‘rationalising’ my thought process on this was I can focus more as a ‘producer’ with sonicmagpie and be more of a ‘contributor’ to the APOD stuff.
In my mind, it all seemed very ‘do-able’.
As the month of February 2011 approached, at some point I thought it would be interesting if I could cross pollinate both projects with the some of the same tracks, thereby fulfilling a notion I had entertained for many years about working on the same track with a few different people, with only me having the complete and ‘big picture’ as things progress (This was a decision I later regretted, mainly because keeping this idea to myself rather than being upfront with all involved felt like a breach of trust and honesty with the creative process which at one point put the whole thing in jeopardy. However from another perspective, I am glad that I did do it because the results were extremely interesting)
I can remember an intense flurry of activity on both the sonicmagpie front and APOD in that first few days of February. On my side, I created loads of songs using a basic guitar rig set and drum machine setup. I created working titles for each piece – randomly choosing phrases from a book I was reading at the time, some of which survived to the finished product. Some of those pieces went to APOD and some went to sonicmagpie and some went to both projects.
I seem to remember working more on APOD material first; as I recall, Kevin got very sick with the flu early on and was unable to contribute as much as he hoped, so a lot of the APOD material fell to me and Michael initially. Kevin and Michael contributed many ideas which I was able to add to. I threw in a few tracks I had put in the pool using the ‘sonicmagpie palette’ – some unique to the APOD project and some that were taken in a different direction by sonicmagpie.
With the sonicmagpie project, cat very quickly came up with layers of vocals and melodies, pretty much recording everything on the pinhole mic of her macbook. This helped to create a vocal sound which I think became an integral part of the sonic character of the ‘In LiMbO’ recordings. As I was working on these songs, I kept in my head the image that we had got all of our gear set up in a basement somewhere and that was all we had to work with. I also pretended that we were recording ‘analog’ and that we weren’t using digital sequencers. Our palette of instruments consisted of electric guitar (which was either heavily distorted and effected or ultra clean in a telecaster-like indie pop way), an organ, one drum machine, a bass guitar, big reverb with one or two other occasional enhancements (like a TB 303 bass sound, or limited a few synth textures).
It definitely worked in our favor to limit ourselves in this way and as a result, we created a totally cohesive record from start to finish. I did most of the music tracks (with the exception of the title track and ‘an intricate network’) and cat did pretty much all of the singing, although I added backing vocals to few of the songs too.
A word on art work and liner notes:
On all of the above projects that I never really got involved with the production of the CD packaging and liner notes beyond making suggestions for sleeve art. Kevin handled most of that for both Month of Sundays and APOD. Cat did virtually all of the artwork for the sonicmapgpie CD. The liner notes and artwork are one of the most fun aspects of the project I think because it is at that point that everything gels completely and the concepts that you have created are complete. I hope to get a bit more involved with this final stage of the process for the 2013 RPM challenge (however I end up doing it)
The sonicmagpe ‘In Limbo’ CD can be found here: http://rpmchallenge.com/index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userprofile&user=9251&Itemid=296
The APOD ‘Looking Outside’ CD can be found here: http://rpmchallenge.com/index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userprofile&user=9258&Itemid=296