Writing Streak

The past week and a half, I’ve been on a writing streak like I haven’t been since I was working on There is Something and not nothing (probably late ’08 or early ’09).  It’s been Mars Lights stuff, writing vocals and lyrics to songs we’ve already demo’d instrumentally, sometimes years ago.

Six songs down, and I have two more demos I can work with; then I’ll have to start writing more riffs :-)

It would seem premature to talk about content before you can hear the songs, but I’m pleased with the variety.  There’s a happy song (of sorts… ) for the first time, some noir, and some science.  Plus, the usual lack of first- and second-person pronouns, and general mayhem.

This will be the first bigger set of songs we’ll have the chance to rehearse and play live before recording.  For the Sides, everything was recorded first, before we ever played a show.  In many of those songs vocals were just rough sketches when we did them, and in some, they hadn’t been started at all.  For the LP we’re working on, I think three of my four were done and had been played at our duo shows, but several of Drew’s had no vocals when we put down the instrumentals.  A few of my new ones include semi-improvised sections, so I’m especially excited to work those out in the practice room before we put them down.

We have about five albums we want to make, so there are loud, weird jams for the forseeable future.


Guitar pedal demos on Youtube are weirdly addictive (especially if they’re done by Pro Guitar Shop or gearmanndude). If you play, or you’re a gear head of some other sort, hours can slide down the drain without you hardly noticing until they’re gone.

However, I’ve learned a lot. What got me started was searching for an overdrive/boost to generally duplicate what I used Drew’s Fulltone Java Boost for on the Mars Lights LP we’re working on, and at our last couple shows when I’ve been playing through his rig. I ended up with the Fulltone GT500 (video below) and am happy with it so far.

One of my requirements was that the boost come before the overdrive in the signal chain; I use boost for some extra saturation on big riffs/choruses, not so much for volume (like you might for solos). On the 500, the order of the boost/OD circuits is switchable, which is perfect. Most importantly, I like the tone; dynamic and transparent, bringing the best out of my guitar and amp.

So far, I only like a pretty narrow range of settings, but I hope that with more experience, I’ll figure out how to get more variety out of the pedal.

Of course, in my digital travels, I’ve also developed a wishlist. I’ll save analog echo for another time (the short version is: Malekko Ekko 616v2, or DMB Lunar Echo?) and focus on dirt. With my main distortion sound set, I started looking for a totally different sound to use for doubling riffs in the studio and overdubs. The goal was to spend about $100 on a compressed, colorful drive, and after a lot of work, I arrived at the ZVex Distortron.

Then, Drew mentioned fuzz. Drew loves the fuzz, and I love the sound, too, but haven’t used much myself. He’d mentioned the Death By Audio Fuzz War, which is great but doesn’t do anything like the compressed drive I want first. I circled back to the DBA page, though, and found the Apocalypse.

Low drive settings on the middle (3rd) fuzz circuit seem to produce a fairly straightforward drive, plus it’s full of crazy and exciting sounds. I love how DBA pedals feed back, and how useable the whole sweep of the drive and tone controls are. So, that’s the dream-come-true option.

The bottom line; if you play an amplified instrument, get a boost pedal, at minimum. Clean, dirty, whatever; boost roolz.

Carriage House Recordings

As Drew and I finally finish Mars Lights’ Side 3, I’ve been thinking about those sessions (back in Feb-Aug 2009!) and all the recordings we made in my old carriage house.  Here’s what I can remember (and a few photos of the drums downstairs from July-Aug 2012):

  • Mars Lights Sides 1, 2, and 3 (except a couple of guitar overdubs done in Drew’s basement) and in-progress LP drums
  • Sally Ride – All of There is Something and not nothing, and all of the overdubs for You Have To Wear The Boots (i.e. everything but my main guitar and vocal tracks)
  • “Snow is a Bear,” from XMAS
  • More mixes and masters (2012 Are Here, Believe The Honesty Bro, Making Up The Truth, White Air, The Sleepover EP) than I could count
  • Drums for Cory’s upcoming LP
  • Drums for my upcoming Ventura and semi-secret EP
  • The original cast soundtrack recording for Khan! the Musical
  • My overdubs for Cory’s The Silent Woods