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So over the last couple of days, a song kind of happened. By that I mean it moved from a riff to something resembling a full track, albeit under threat of decapitation by my wonderful press lady if I missed the deadline. Of course there’s a lot of work still to be done and it’s most definitely a demo but it’s been an important exercise in a couple of ways.
Firstly working to a real/meaningful deadline isn’t something I have to do very often, but I’m aware that it’s something I’ll have to contend with if I get the kind of work I’d like to. While it was an intense two days, in hindsight it was no more so than a busy couple of days at work for most people. It’s kind of put into perspective what could (should?) be achieved in a week, a month, a year. It’s encouraging…and alarming. But mainly that first thing.
Secondly moving past the ‘just a riff” stage has been almost impossible over the last few months. I was having a conversation not too long ago about trying to find the confidence to move forward in big, bold moves and learn to draw a line under a section and move on. In art class, I was always the kid with the mostly empty sheet of paper with an absurd amount of detail in one corner, and fuzzy over-drawn lines. I guess sometimes I approach my songs in the same way.
To that end I’ve been trying to make some changes to the way I write. For ATDE and ARLH I did a lot of the mixing while I wrote and tracked. So for each section I’d double or triple track, record the leads twice (or more specifically, many many times until the first track is tight and then many many times again until the second track is tight, all the while refusing to use drop ins for no good reason), then fiddle with the tone and start automating stuff and…well you get the picture. It wasn’t actually very conducive to writing. Perhaps it sounds obvious but when you’ve got all the tools you need to make 8 or 16 bars of music sound great, it’s hard to resist the temptation and all too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Maybe this isn’t an issue when bands write together as the only thing they’re focused on is the music, knowing full well that recording and mixing will happen later on.
Of course there’s something to be said for working with sounds that inspire you, but in any case this time I’ve tried to limit myself to one track of everything. One rhythm, lead, backing/ambient guitar, clean and bass plus whatever synths I need as and when (although I did much of the writing using a stock piano sound). And for the most part it’s worked. That’s not to say I didn’t get stuck in a few places but it’s the closest I’ve come to a complete Chimp song in perhaps a year, and it all happened in the space of about three days.
So I think there are two things that I can take from this; the first is the importance of time management. I wouldn’t go so far as to set myself artificial deadlines but certainly it wouldn’t hurt to set aside two days of each week for nothing but Chimp writing.
The second is streamlining the writing process and learning to paint with bigger/bolder strokes, as it were. The music I enjoy the most is music that’s confident, and happy to be what it is. I often sit back and listen with a mild sense of envy that a simple riff can work so well for so long (and probably didn’t take as long to write as something more complicated and over-written).
Hopefully I can keep hold of this good energy, and take my own advice. I think just the act of starting and finishing something has given me a a little more hope than I had previously, and I can’t wait for you guys to hear it. More on that soon…