Monday, March 26, 2007

Meaning Behind the Lyrics – Part 3 “Not Again”

Although it’s a little known fact outside of the band, the original working title to Not Again was actually Metrol. Although the current title is completely relevant to the lyrics that accompany it, the original title captured the high-octane punk metal feel that epitomizes the song. For those of you who haven’t heard it, I’ve heard it described as Iron Maiden meets the Dead Kennedy’s. Beyond this merger of unlikely music styles, what makes Not Again a compelling piece, are the comedic and tragic elements in the lyrics that have been carefully woven together.

The evolution of the instrumental version of this song came about as part of our early lyric writing phase, where Will in particular started feeling more confident in the lyrics he was writing and also he wanted to challenge himself to push beyond the themes of Sci-Fi and historical writing. When I first began talking to him about it back in early 2005, he stated that he wanted to do a comedy song. Personally, I didn’t really know what to make of that. I became even more nervous when I was told that I would be delivering the comedy lines – spoken word. Well, I’m no Jack Black so needless to say I was highly curious and highly anxious about this.

It turns out that I had little to worry about. When Will finally presented to me his initial rendition of the song I was impressed. Although I was thinking something like Monty Python funny, Will was going more for situational humor. And this situation was one we could both relate to, as we had both experienced and observed the crazy relationship between our mutual friend and his wacko girlfriend. And yelling out the words, “How the hell can you remember what I did one day 5 years ago” is pretty much something any guy who’s been in a long-term relationship can relate to when they’re arguing with their significant other.

Beyond the humor though, there is a serious story behind Not Again. It’s a song of a man caught in a relationship that is poisonous to him, but he just can’t seem to let go. In each of the verses Will sings what this man would love to tell his woman, “Cause, I think you've been lyin', and now you've stopped tryin', so this time I'm telling you so.” The verses also show that the man knows that this woman is controlling him but he justifies it by saying that he does it for her love, “And I'll try to make your needs, much more of my focus, with me spending more time at home.” However, the reality is that the man is just caught in a web and he is desperate for her to stay with him which is shown in the choruses, “Don't go, Don't go, Don't leave me here all alone.” The outro is the part where finally the man has had enough and he leaves her. The irony in these final lines is that once the man leaves the poisonous relationship he is free and so much happier than before, “I actually feel like myself again. This really isn't all that bad, so, you know what,
on second thought, just go...”

If you like Not Again, please let us know. Also, we’d definitely like to hear back from you as to what you feel the music means. Does this song strike a chord with you? Does it describe someone you know, or yourself? Let us hear your thoughts. Thanks!

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Pro Tools Bug

Well, we recently wrote about the beginning of the Pro Tools XONE in an earlier blog. Now that we have been using the Pro Tools Rig for a week or two, the picture of "what's available" is finally coming clear. But first, before you can enjoy all of Pro Tools' excellent features, one has to get everything configured correctly before Pro Tools will even let you touch it's fuzzy warbles...

Jason and I were in Pro Tools Headache hell last Friday. Jason expanded the rig to by adding a Presonus Digimax FS digital interface to allow 8 of his drum mics to stay connected at all times. Well, adding one new element requires re-configuration. First, we had to get the Pro Tools to allow us to send the 8 inputs to the DAW. This meant we had to sync the internal clocks of both the Digimaxx and the Pro Tools. Then we needed to assign an input to each track for multitrack recording. Let me tell you, you do all this once and then you make a Template to start each new project with in the future. There's no way you'd want to go through this each time you set up a new project. Everything was set and then we started getting spikes on the drum mics, even though they weren't being played. It took us an hour of freaking out to figure out that the Hardware Setup needed to be configured for the Optical In, not the Internal clock. This is all starting to sound very technical and cold isn't it?
Well, that's the world of DAWs, and Plug-Ins, and Dongles, and Light-Pipe Interfaces, and XONE is deep in it now.
But it IS a lot of FUN too!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Drum Mic XONE

XONE is nuts about recording. I mean, we record everything. And everything must be recorded, in case we play something "brilliant". It sucks to have played something awesome, but you can't remember the exact progression, feel, phrasing the next day. Been there, done that! So, I learned to record EVERYTHING!

I've been recording every rehearsal of XONE for the last 6 years. In the beginning, I recorded with a Yamaha mixer into a Sony Mini-DV cam for stereo recording of every rehearsal. Then I got a Fostex VF-160 and began to multitrack record every rehearsal. It's been my workhorse for the last 4 years. It's very portable, and I basically "rubber stamp" mix my mixes so that I can have a CD of our last rehearsal ready for the guys at the next rehearsal. Obviously, I put way more work into mixing our actual CDs, but for rehearsal CDs, time is of the essence.

Since both the Line 6 Vetta and the Line 6 Bass POD Pro XT feed direct into the Fostex, they use no mics. But Drums need mics to record them. For the most part we've been faking our rehearsal recordings with a 4 mic setup. A Kick Mic on the Kick drum, a mic on the Snare & Hi-Hat area, a Left Overall mic that picks up both Cymbals, Ride cymbal, and the Floor Tom, and a Right Overall mic for the Cymbals and Rack Toms. It wasn't perfect, but it did the job, day in and day out. This somewhat easy setup has served us well for a number of years, although we used an 8 mic setup on our debut CD.

Well, all that has changed for the better!! Jason, our drummer, got an excellent kit of Beyerdynamic Opus Drum mics for his drum kit and we now have a 10 mic setup on the drums. Jason also got a Presonus Digimax FS, which is a Digital interface that allows us to hook the mics directly to the Digimax and then connect all of that with 1 optical cable to the Fostex (or Pro Tools). Talk about simple!! The mics stay in place as each one is hooked up to kit and the cables are snaked together and labeled at both ends. We now have mic coverage of the Kick, Snare, Hi-Hat, Left Overall, Right Overall, 10" Tom, 12" Tom, 14" Tom, Left 18" Floor Tom/Ride Cymbal, and Right 18" Floor Tom. I'm mixing down 2 free jams that we played after we got the new mic system setup and configured. The drums sound so 3D, it awesome!!! And that's at 16 bit! We'll be doing everything in 24 bit Pro Tools when we track our third CD starting in April!

We can't say enough about having quality mics for drums!
They are making all the difference...

Be sure to check out our latest Blog on Drum Miking Jason's Kit!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Meaning Behind the Lyrics – Part 2 “Beautiful One Day”

Will and I have always been fascinated and a little bit horrified about how women are portrayed in the media. From the time they are young girls reading things like Cosmo Girl or watching shows like America’s Next Top Model, they are bombarded with the idea that they must be thin, their hair and makeup must be perfect, and they that they should look like the idealized version of female perfection – the Barbie doll. This of course is anatomically impossible in the first place.

XONE felt that the world needed to hear that this image of female portrayal is horribly wrong and despite what the popular media sources would have you believe, men aren’t attracted to popsicle women who look like an Auschwitz victim. Additionally, we felt that we needed to branch out and tackle some song content that wasn’t either a historical account or a science fiction theme. We felt that this would be might be our version of a metal "love song".

The writing process for this song began with this idea of wanting to let women know that not everyone agrees with the popular media stereotyped image of them, and this evolved once Will brought the music from one of his old songs into the mix. From there, we began discussing the types of things that did make a woman beautiful, things like their presence, charisma, confidence, intelligence, wit, and natural charm. Many of these themes resonate strongly within the chorus parts, “your energy is beautiful, contagious as can be…” and “confidence is beautiful…” Other themes such as the implication that these media moguls are actually destroying their bodies are reflected in the verse areas such as “staring back from the magazine, like a victim of an evil regime, a world of purging behind the scenes…”

Admittedly, what Beautiful One Day ended up being was not a love song at all, but more of a call to arms for women to stand up and be in charge of their own bodies. This reasoning is reflected in the line "why don't you just stop a moment, and look at you like me...". What this means is that we actually all have the potential to see each other as beautiful and that if women could look at themselves from their lovers and best friend's eyes they would see that they really are beautiful already and don't need "fixing".

We’d like to hear from you about what you feel Beautiful One Day means to you. Leave your comment and be heard. Thanks!

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Blue Mule XONE

For almost 4 years, XONE had the same rehearsal room at The Blue Mule in San Pedro, Ca. Even though it was a rehearsal studio, the Mule was our home away from home. It was more like a clubhouse than somewhere we merely rehearsed twice a week. Some of our best material was written there and when we play those tunes, the memories come back.

I (Will) was one of the first customers the Mule had, so I saw it's entire lifetime. The Mule was our clubhouse. It may have not been the poshest resort in the world, but XONE had the run of the place. Danny Melendrez, the proprietor, treated us like family, and he only ever charged us $20 a week for what amounted to over 10 hours of rehearsal a week. Our friend Don started running the place for Danny in Fall 2003, and we spent many nights up in Don's Tiki Room upstairs, honing our lyrics and song structure. Songs like "Beautiful One Day", Young Man's Destiny", and "The Mastermind" were all written in the Tiki Room. For XONE, a great clubhouse evolves into great inspiration. The Mule afforded us that and more. We remember hanging out with Chuck and Don and watching tapes of "MXC" and having a lot of fun. That place really took away all my stress from raising kids and school. It made life easier. I personally really miss hanging out on the roof in the summers watching the world go by while we took a break from playing. I tell you, we were the richest men in the world!!

Well, the Blue Mule closed in September 2006, and we really miss it in a lot of ways. The camaraderie of bands there can hardly be replaced. We were lucky to move into a new place with our friends E Backwards E and keep that little bit of Mule history alive. We now play at KOOS Rehearsal in San Pedro. It's a nice place with secure parking, 24 hour-7day access, and our friend Jessie is on the staff there. We're glad we landed at KOOS. We wouldn't trade it for anything now, in some strange way, we still miss the Mule...

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Vetta/POD XT Live Connection

Without Line 6’s excellent work in the modeling arena, XONE would not sound like it does today. Both the Vetta and the Bass POD XT Pro help us make our sound rich and full. But how about the POD XT Live for guitar? How does it sound in context with the Vetta?

Recently, both XONE and members of the band EBackwardsE have started getting together on Sundays to create a Supergroup as a side project to stretch our abilities. It's a lot of fun, and we may even play live for a few songs at a XONE/EBackwardsE show. To start off, Jeremy Larsson of EBackwardsE, Will Austin of XONE, and Jason Seger of EBackwardsE & XONE, have been mapping out the direction of this "Supergroup yet to be named". This project has allowed for the Vetta and the POD XT Live to come together in a two-guitar environment.

It is a really cool and interesting situation. First off, I (Will) play an Ibanez RG1570 guitar, and Jeremy plays an earlier RG Series Ibanez guitar. Both guitars utilize the Ibanez V8 humbucking pickup in the Bridge slot. This could create a problem for both guitars in the overall sound since distinguishing one guitar from the other could be difficult due to their similar makeup. This is where the Vetta and the POD XT Live have become essential to giving each player his own respective place within the live mix. Overall rigs of each player consist of:

Will = Vetta HD ver2.50>Marshall 1960A 4x12 cabinet with G12_T75 speakers

Jeremy = POD XT Live>Mesa Boogie 2:90 Power Amp>Mesa Boogie 4x12 with V30 speakers.

Now some in the Tube Snob community believe that one digital modeler, will sound dry, harsh, and well, "Digital".
Similarly, they believe that two digital modelers will sound like "Stale Doughnuts".
Do the Vetta and the POD XT Live sound like stiff, stale doughnuts?
Well, in our opinion, "NO!"

Especially by utilizing the Mesa 2:90 Power Amp with the POD XT Live, and the Marshall 1960A cabinet with the Vetta, we are having no problem getting an organic sound out of our rigs. We are also creating patches for each prospective song that give each guitar its own sonic space in the live mix. It's necessary, but also a great excuse to tweak new patches!!! Last Sunday, we worked on a souped-up version of "Sweet Leaf" by Black Sabbath. We created a patch on the POD XT Live that utilized the Soldano SLO-100 model. We tweaked the patch predominantly to carry the Low and Low-Mid section of the overall tone. Alternatively, my patch on the Vetta would carry the Higher End of the overall tone. I had created a patch that utilized the Engl Powerball model for the Low End of my patch, and the Line 6 Agro model for the Highs. (Vetta uses 2 amp models at once). The Powerball carries most of my patch, but I've added just enough Agro to bring out the highs in the Vetta patch. When we played them together, you could hear each guitar's specific tone in harmony with the other's. Instead of giving off a general swirl of muddy noise, the two rigs hammered out an evil sounding, jacked-up, twin guitar version of Sabbath's classic song. It did not sound like "Stale Doughnuts".

Hey, maybe we should name the Supergroup that...
"Stale Donuts"....