A couple of days ago, I announced that I’m putting out a new record this year. I was overwhelmed by the massive response of “Meh…” that came from virtually every form of social media. Being the glutton for ambivalence that I am, I decided that I’d write another post revealing more information on the record. And, just for fun, I’ve written it in the form of a fake interview with myself. Enjoy!
Derek on Derek: The Ink Stained Interview
Derek, thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule for this interview. I’m sure your fans–of whom I’m possibly the biggest and only one–will be thrilled to get some details on the new record!
No problem. It’s always my pleasure to talk to you, Derek. I hope I give me everything I want.
I’m sure I’ll be more than happy with me. Let’s get this thing rolling, whaddya say?
Fire away. Just try not to make me cry. I’ll only cry for Oprah.
That’s what I’ve always said about you. Anyway… First things first, Why did you call the record “Ink Stained Fingers?”
Well, that’s slightly tongue-in-cheek, but there’s a deeper metaphor to it as well. Or not. Maybe I’m just pretentious enough that I’ve convinced myself of that. [Editorial Note: Yep.] But I had all the songs, and I didn’t feel like any of them was a “title-track,” if you know what I mean, so I was toying around with a few ideas. I (literally) made a list and was crossing off potential names. I write with a fountain pen most of the time and I noticed while I was making the list that I’d gotten ink all over my fingers. So I kind of jokingly wrote down “Ink Stained Fingers” and I ended up liking it. It’s a good representation of the making of the record, since I write all my lyrics long-hand, and the ink-stains never really seem to go away…and in that sense it’s a pretty good metaphor for my life in general. Seems I’ve always got one stain or another on my fingertips that I’m trying to clean off.
Well that sounds like bullshit to me. But moving on… In your last post, you described the record as “different.” In what way is it “different” from your previous releases.
It’s really pretty stripped down. I’m letting the acoustic guitar drive the arrangements. Even on the stuff that might have otherwise felt more like a punk song or standard rock tune, I’m keeping the acoustic out front and keeping it earthy. The drums are WAY pulled back (in some places it’s just brushes on a snare) and what little electric is on it is kept mostly clean-toned and serves to support, but not lead the songs.
That sounds a little bit like the “Wayne County EP” you did a while ago.
That wasn’t a question.
Fine. That sounds a little bit like the “Wayne County EP” you did a while ago?
Better. “Wayne County” has a similar vibe, I guess…but that was straight-up folk instruments arranged to be as acoustic as possible. I’m doing more of a hybrid of acoustic and electric stuff on “Ink Stained Fingers” and unlike “Wayne County” this is all entirely new material, instead of containing any re-worked songs. Plus, the subject matter is really different from anything else I’ve tackled. But since I’m you, I know you have a question about the themes and the song-subjects a few questions down, so I’ll wait on that.
Right. Well. Are you playing all of the instruments on this one?
Yeah, it seemed easier that way.
What…so you don’t have any friends?
Well you don’t either… But that’s beside the point. I just have some very specific ideas of what I’m looking for on this one, and rather than trying to get a bunch of other people into my head-space, I just wanted to get it done. The quickest and easiest way to do that seemed to do it myself, especially when it came to things like drums. Most drummers I know would want to play WAY more than what I wanted on this one.
Fair enough. You have a fondness for using “unusual” instruments in your recordings–hammered dulcimers, tin whistles, etc. What are you playing on this one?
Nothing that weird so far. It’s mainly the ARRANGEMENTS that will be unusual–especially in how minimal I’m keeping the drums in most places (largely just a kick and snare). I’m bouncing back and forth between three acoustics depending on the song (my Alvarez, my Takamine 12 String, and my Martin) and the electric work is mostly going to be done on my Telecaster (though electric tracks are presently mostly unrecorded, so that might change a little). Bass-wise, I’m so far only using my Ibanez Soundgear–though I’m considering my fretless in a couple places. Thinking of adding a piano part or two, but maybe not. Even this description feels like it may be misleading though. I’m trying to keep it feeling “intimate” and the acoustic is really the main instrument you’ll notice if I do it right.
Yes. There are vocals on the record as well. I’m planning on doing just one vocal track on each song, with no background vocals.
Well speaking of vocals brings us to words… So… What are the songs about?
(See? Told me I had that question on here.) There are a variety of subjects. The lyrics–and some of them have been sitting around in my notebooks for a few YEARS–focus on overcoming obstacles and finding what’s important for the most part. There’s a lot of personal introspection about who I am and who I want to be, and figuring out where the two meet–NONE of us ever gets to be exactly who we WANT to be, after all. There’s love songs and songs about death and angry songs and bitter songs and a song about a friend of mine that I don’t really like, but I’m stuck with. It’s got some weight to it. Some of it gets pretty dark, but I’m trying to keep a crack in the door to let a little light in as well. Like that Leonard Cohen line, “There is a crack in everything–that’s how the light gets in.”
So the theme of the record is…?
It’s hard to say. It’s kind of schizophrenic between hope and despair. Sort of like having an interview with yourself. Ahem. Song by song (per the list posted in the last post), I’d list the following as key-words for themes: Hope/Perseverance; Broken-hearted love; Death/Priorities; Breaking-up/Reflection; More broken-hearted love; Anger/Hopelessness/Priorities; Regrets/Longing; Love and more longing; Friendship/Bad relationships/Being STUCK with someone; Priorities and Jesus; Love/Seeing the person you love realistically; Moving forward and still kicking and Jesus is in there somewhere again, too… So it’s a little bit of a hodge-podge, but it focuses mostly on life-experiences and figuring out what/who is important. It’s also the sweariest thing I’ve released. F-word’s on there twice, and another one or two words find their way in as well… I’ll try to mark those songs clearly in the liner-notes, for the kids.
I’ve stopped caring. Where are you recording it?
At home. Actually mostly in the kitchen, so far. I bought a mobile board that allows me to record anyplace and I’ve always liked how the dining room into the kitchen sounds when I play guitar in there. So mostly sitting behind the couch in the living room, with the dining room behind me and the kitchen in front of me. Drums in the basement.
The board intrigues me, since I paid for it. Tell me more about that… HOW are you recording this one?
Well, as you know since you’re me, I’ve been growing discontent with digital recording. Not so much the convenience of it–I wouldn’t give up a lot of the conveniences and the speed it affords you from an engineering and especially a MASTERING standpoint–but more with the crutches it provides. Anymore, you almost don’t have to be a musician to make a record. You can chop and cut and paste and retake over and over again until you’ve literally made something out of nothing. Back in the days of analog (which purists still use–nodding to Dave Grohl), you had to pretty much get it in one take. You had to be a decent MUSICIAN and work your ass off to get it right. I realized and grew frustrated with how lazy I’ve gotten as a musician, thinking I can just “fix it” later. I got sick of that and decided that though I wanted to keep the conveniences of digital, I wanted to return to the danger of recording how I USED to do it and take the risk of having to get it right. So I set out to find a balance between the two…
Not that I’m in the habit of doing commercials, but there’s an awesome company called ZOOM that has made effects and gear that I’ve loved for a long time. (I still use a reverb unit of theirs that I got in the 90s.) They make digital recording consoles that are pretty much the answer for a guy like me. All the ability to conveniently work in digital, but if you use it without plugging it into the computer, you’re basically working old-school, just with an SD card instead of a cassette tape. You’ve got to “get it in one” for your takes if you run it that way, because punching in isn’t really an option. I love that. I can still multi-track with it (meaning I can record the guitar then go back and do the vocal later, etc.), but I’ve got to be pretty accurate with my takes. And if it’s flawed, I either have to redo it or leave it. I love that.
But I’m also taking it one step further. I’m going to mix the whole thing on it, then use the “line out” on it to dump the stereo mix onto an old reel-to-reel player that my dad picked up from a church rummage sale for $5. So the final mix is going to be done on analog tape. Then I’ll dump it back into the computer from the tape for mastering and replication. It’ll be a real hybrid of all the best digital has to offer with all the best analog has to offer. I’m easily as excited about the METHOD of recording it as I am the actual songs!
Well that was all very boring, thank you. So will there be a physical product, or will it be an online-only thing?
I’ll do a physical product, yeah. I’ve actually been pricing the packaging for it already–I’m doing something different with that too, but if you thought the description of the super-cool recording process was boring, you’d really hate hearing about choosing the cases.
Sure would… Wait a second… What about that “All my music is now free!” thing you were talking about a few months ago? If you’re doing a physical product, you can’t just be GIVING it away, can you?
I stand by the “free music” thing. It hasn’t launched yet, but you will soon be able to download absolutely all of my solo material (including “Ink Stained Fingers” once it’s released) for absolutely free…or you can pay whatever you want. If you want to give me $5-10 a record, I won’t STOP you…but you don’t HAVE to. And physical products are the same. I don’t really turn much of a profit on them anyway, and I just want people to hear the damn things. Pay whatever you like, and if you don’t want to pay anything, that’s cool. Enough people will be nice enough to pay SOMETHING that I’ll probably about break even, which is how it’s worked so far. Only catch is, if I have to MAIL it to you, there will be a fee to cover postage/expenses…but that’s it.
You’re going to GIVE AWAY the new one??? Are you a complete idiot?
You tell me. I’m of two minds on it…apparently… Making the things has become so affordable in recent years with the decline of the CD and the rise of MP3 that I can afford to do it. So why not?
Well…you poor deluded freak…when is it coming out?
Haven’t solidified that yet. I’m still recording it, so it will probably be closer to the end of the year. Hopefully before December though. Maybe in time for Thanksgiving.
Okay…well…I think that covers everything you wanted to ask you about. Thanks again for taking time out of my schedule to talk to me. And, hey–congratulations on being just a couple of days ahead of Pearl Jam on that whole “announcing a semi-unexpected new record” thing!
Thanks! I’m pretty proud of that.
You would be. Still though…way behind Bowie on the surprise-factor…
Thanks for indulging that. 🙂
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows…and I’ll be finishing it tonight!