Monday, November 12, 2012

Drawing the Chalk Lines

Squids here. I'm back in Miami right now getting ready for the next wave of Sonic Elements and other projects in the studio. A lot of albums I've been working on are almost ready to be heard. The first full album release of music I've been involved in over the last year or so is one I co-produced with Randy McStine for his project called "Lo-Fi Resistance". The album is entitled "Chalk Lines" and it features a variety of great musicians like Gavin Harrison, the drummer for the band Porcupine Tree, Colin Edwin on bass who is also from Porcupine Tree, John Giblin of Brand X and Dug Pinnick of the band Kings X (lots of tree and X's involved). I play keys on the album and Randy McStine sings, plays guitar and a bit of everything.

First, let me mention that Burning Shed has now put the album on pre-order which you can purchase here. On you can listen to the title track "Chalk Lines" streaming and you can also get a limited time FREE mp3 download of another song from the album called "The Silent War". Check it out!

I'll give you some backstory to this and tell you how this album came to be. Randy was already working on his second Lo-Fi Resistance album. His first one, "A Deep Breath" featured my old bandmate from the Kevin Gilbert Thud days, Nick D'Virgilio. Randy was only 23 years old when making the album Chalk Lines. He's extremely self-motivated and he got the funding for his second album by using a website called which allows people to support a creative business project by purchasing various special packages from the project in advance. In Randy's case he sold the album and extras for different levels of participation. I think it's a brilliant idea and it worked. He put together a great video for it that also tells his story and a lot of the background to the album in the first phase:

In the second phase of the album I got involved and it started with me seeing a video blog where Randy was sitting on a chair in the middle of the woods talking about how he got Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree to play on his record. I admired how genuine, candid and clear he was in his mission to make a great album. I made friends with Randy and invited him to play guitar and sing on various songs with my progrock project called "Sonic Elements". Then at some point I asked him how it was going with his album and offered to help in any way I could. I suggested he come down to Miami to record at SR Studios. He's a Kevin Gilbert fan and I happen to have Kevin's old Neumann U47 mic. It's one of the best vocal mics you can find. So he came down to record vocals and we did some experimenting in the studio, co-writing together and some re-arranging of certain songs he had for the album.  

Randy then went to see John Wesley (also of Porcupine Tree, their live band guitarist/vocalist who helps Steven Wilson get great guitar tones in the studio) and Randy worked in Wes's studio to get some great guitar sounds. Check out these videos from those sessions:

Then, Randy came back to SR Studios in Miami so we could do final overdubs of me playing vintage keyboards. All the while Gavin, Colin and the other players had been sending in their tracks which they recorded in their own studios in different parts of the world. 

Here I'm playing a Hammond organ part for the epic last song on the album called "Face Another Day"

This is me trying out a guitar part on the Rhodes Suitcase instead. We ended up going with this. 

My creative contributions were in the select places where it made a difference. Randy had a very clear vision of what he wanted for the album and had most of the songs already written. It's the second half of the album that had the most room for my input at the song and arrangement level. We collaborated well together and I think the results are fantastic. Wait until you hear "Fading Pictures", "No Readmission" and "Face Another Day". You really get a blend of our styles and taste. It's also more moody, atmospheric and some of our 'prog rock influences' start to come out more. That said, the first half of the album is intense and full of catchy riffs and hooks from Randy who is not only a great singer but a very melodic guitar player. The whole album benefits from the brilliant drumming of Gavin Harrison and the tasteful bass of Colin Edwin (here's Colin's latest blog) as well as other great contributions from John Giblin and Dug Pinnick. Not only is the guest list impressive on paper but they really put their own tastes and talent to use in this new context. We all did and that's what makes it exciting. 

Colin Edwin played Upright Bass on "Isolation Tank"

There's a lot more story to tell and I will blog more about "Chalk Lines" as we get closer to release. There's more video from the sessions, interviews and all sorts of insight into the making of a great progressive rock-influenced Alt Rock album. I tell people that if they like bands like Jellyfish, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, Keane, Muse, Porcupine Tree, Radiohead and The Beach Boys then they're likely going to be into this album. It delivers both substance and sonic frills in a very concise way and the songwriting, the performances and production was done to a high standard which I find refreshing. Here's the track listing for the album "Chalk Lines":

1. Isolation Tank (5.56)
2. Chalk Lines (6.50)
3. Fall (6.45)
4. The Silent War (4.21)
5. I Move On (2.18)
6. Fading Pictures (6.33)
7. No Readmission (3.54)
8. Face Another Day (14:29)

Again, Burning Shed has now put the album on pre-order and you can also get a limited time FREE mp3 download of the song "The Silent War". Enjoy!

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