Archive for May, 2011


Designing Wigs (part 3)

Monday, May 16th, 2011

After coming up with some design concepts and doing some sketches and mock-ups, I started work on the final design.

I wanted the design to look like an illustration, so I decided to use Adobe Illustrator. I often hand-draw elements, scan them, and import them into Illustrator. Once in Illustrator, I can convert the scans to vector illustrations and then clean them up as necessary.

This projet wasn’t any different.  I started off with a sketch of the central element – the devil girl – and I inked in an outline using my trusty Pilot Razor Point pen.  You can see I left some things out: hair, facial features, and other details would get attention in Illustrator.

Inked sketch for scanning

After scanning, I converted the outline to vectors and cleaned it up.  I corrected some issues (like the position and size of the back leg), and filled in the main areas with red.  I created white vector shapes for highlights, and added a few shadows. The hair took some time, since I drew the jagged blue highlights by hand.  I also spent some time getting the facial features just right.

Final AI devil girl

Once I had the girl finished, I created some 2-point perspective lines and created the shape of the room and all of the elements of the desk. Originally the desk was green, but I wound up changing it to purple because I liked the way it worked in the final design.

Yes, the desk is purple.

There was a shit-ton of detail work after that: creating the background and background textures, making styrofoam head illustrations and then the wigs that sit on them, bottles for the desk and coolers for the back wall. The last thing that I added was the DD69 logo and the title of the album, and the cover was finished.

The final cover

Once that was finished I added a hue layer, moved some of the titling around,  and resized it for use on the CD surface itself.  Since we were doing a 2-panel insert I only needed to do the design for the inside panel of the insert and then I’d finally be done.

Coming up: the inside panel.

Song evolution 3: the demo edit

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

We were so wired

When we last left our developing song (in part 2: a rough edit) we had a rudimentary song structure, but we were missing some good stuff: transitions, a chorus, a bridge.

Usually after listening to the initial idea for a while, one or more of us will come up with some ideas to give the song a little more structure or tension. Sometimes that involves adding a pre-chorus section, or adding a new hook. We usually develop some kind of bridge as well. If lyrics are happing at the same time, which they sometimes do, the words might move the music in a particular direction, too.

In the case of “Keep Raining”, words were not showing up to the party, so we were really working with just the music at that point. After exchanging some ideas we worked in an intro section, and added a little modulation to the verse, dropping down a step before the freshly added prechorus. We also came up with a very melodic bridge and dropped the dynamics down to just bass and drums right after it.

We also added some kooky turnarounds at the end of the song… by accident.

In the process of editing together the ending, which was just supposed to be a few repeating chorus sections, I pasted some measures in the wrong place. When we listened back we discovered that it actually sounded pretty cool, so we kept the mistake (now I can’t imagine the song without it).

During this process I started to have a few lyrical ideas, mostly in the “epic story” vein. Kind of like a drunkdude version of “Lord of the Rings”, about some character on a big quest who goes up to the mountain to discover knowledge. Fortunately we scrapped all of that drivel, but the one thing that did stick (at least for a little while) was a “kingly” name change: we started calling the song “Keep Reigning”, and eventually just “Reigning”.

One of the last big things we changed before getting the demo together was the tempo: we upped the tempo a few beats per minute because we all agreed that the original tempo of the jam was dragging. In fact, we posted an entry about it, which you can find here.

So we put all of the concepts together and did what is essentially the demo of the song. It’s the recording that we use to refine our parts, and to give any other musicians  a guideline of what we’re looking for. With that blueprint, we were able to move on to the next step.

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Coming up: tracking.

Saturday 69: Uncork the bubbly

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Put a cork in it.

After some cleanup and formatting, the final mixes fo As Big As You Can Get It have been sent off to the mysterious process of mastering!

We will now crack open the light and bubbly idea juice that many people refer to as “sparkling wine”.

Tracking is officially done

Friday, May 13th, 2011

There is no "try". "Do", or "do not".

With the help of KBilly (laying down some guitar parts and even a keyboard part!),tonight we finished all of the tracking for the upcoming record. I’d equate it to “pick-ups” for a movie: as we went through the editing and mixing process we realized that there were a handful of little bits and pieces we still wanted to add to a few songs.

As a result, we had a “Friday the 13th” session to wrap up the last parts. KB put down some guitar solos using his trusty Egnator Tweaker amp and his Strat, and then he and I spent some time coming up with kooky synth sounds to fill out a couple other song sections.

All in all it was a fun evening. Until KB got the hiccups, which put a slight damper on his enthusiasm. I told him about the cure that always works for me (hey, everyone’s got one, right?): clamp a wooden pencil in your jaws, pushed way back, and then drink a full glass of water (or two, or three, or however many it takes). I swear it works, although it can get you a little… moist.

Sorry dude!

Cool schwag from Memphis

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Direct from Memphis

Mike recently went down to the Memphis in May music festival, as he does most every year, and came back with fun stories, cool video and a couple nice things for us.

I snagged a cool piece for the studio: a Sun Record Company sign. When I was in Memphis a couple years ago, I stopped at Sun and the Stax Museum as well. Soaking in the atmosphere of the places where so many classic records were made by legendary artists was almost other-worldly.

Mike also got some great pictures of some of the original microphones that they still use at Sun – they’re as big as your head, yet! If I can convince him to share, maybe we’ll post a few.

Thanks for the cool schwag, Mike. Hopefully a little bit of that Sun magic will find its way here now.