Behind the Moon Gazing Panda Face with Brandon McKenzie

My live blog of Moon Gazer resulted in some questions I wanted to ask Brandon, and he indulged me in the email interview below.

One thing I felt about the album is that it seems fully realized, like you recorded exactly what you imagined or intended or wanted. How do you feel in that area?

with this album i had some specific rules. i knew what i didn’t want to do. with the first two albums, i was obsessed with having as many different sounds as possible. with maybe only one or two consistent threads going through each tune. for Moon Gazer i kept a lot of the sounds uniform. like i might have the same guitar with the same effect going through the same amp through the whole song. i also was steering clear of the high-end sounds. less high hat and cymbals and such, and more emphasis on the bass and mids. i was looking for a warmer / darker sound. i also decided to let the album just be slow and creepy all the way through, instead of trying to throw faster or more sunny tunes in to break it up for variety. i think those things had a hand in making it seem more fully realized and cohesive. besides that, it’s possible that i’m just getting closer to whatever the Panda Face sound is.

What is your writing and recording process like? (This is something that fascinates me, because people’s processes can be so different, and I usually learn a trick or two.)

i usually wait till something hits me these days. like a chorus will just pop into my head or a vocal melody of some sort. or i’ll be messing around with the guitar or keyboard and a song will just kind of spring up. once i have a decent handle on how i want the song to go, i start right in on recording it. that’s when the obsession kicks in. i find a beat and starting layering on the sounds. i spend hours searching for the right effect or perfect melody. i edit tracks like a madman. i keep going till i feel like it’s complete and then mix it down. after that i wait for the next tune to hit.

It seemed to me like the guitar/synth sound balance tipped a bit more toward the synths this time out. If so, was there a purpose in that?

i think you’re right. “King of the Sun” is the 1st tune i’ve recorded that’s completely void of any guitars. it’s not something i did consciously though. Panda Face has always been me sort of riding the fence between the guitar rock that i’ve always been a part of, and the more pop, electronic, and ambient influences that i’ve gained over the years. it’s been slowly evolving and this time the synths finally won out.

What are you doing with this record? Shows? Art stuff? Second Life? Anything weird?

not any shows to mention just yet, but i do plan on getting out there and performing the album sometime later this year. for now i’m just trying to spread the word as much as possible via the internet, and through the local record shops, media, and radio stations.

Are there any films that sync up to this record?

not any specific films, but i did watch an awful lot of animation during the recording of the album. mostly the stuff from my youth like GI JOE, Transformormers, HE MAN, and ThunderCats.

What’s next for you, and for Panda Face, musically?

i’m pretty much always recording a Panda Face album, so there will definitely be more of those coming down the pike. already got a couple of new ones in the can. stay tuned …