What do you do when all your dreams come true? The answer, from Broadcast News: Keep it to yourself.
I’ve been pretty conflicted about what to say about c. layne’s new record “The Sun Will Come Out to Blind You.“. Not because I don’t totally believe in the music, just the opposite, this one is a Big Deal to me.
But I’ve had a lot of Big Deals recently and I’m just feeling guilty about all the plugging I’ve been doing the last two months. In the end I can easily rationalize all of it because the benefits to me are a touch of redemption and a mountain of satisfaction and little else — and that’s how I want it.
I want Magnatune , Lisa, c. , Creative Commons, The Revolution, Staccato, SoundLikeRadio all to succeed. I can’t help it, I just do. For all my goofy ranting, musical anomalies, buggy coding and ridiculous interviewing I’m assuming there’s a net positive on the other end of it that enables people to enjoy making and listening to good music. I’m a lot older than most people I run into in this game so I if sound like I have a whiff of talent or wisdom it’s really a function of time and experience. Really I’m just a big, hairy passionate fan who has gotten so much comfort, joy, peace, laughter and yes, love from music my whole life that at this point all I want, god help me, is to give some back.
From about February of last year to November c. was sending me songs. Sometimes I wouldn’t hear from him for a month or two, sometimes I’d get three over the course of a weekend. He would post a ‘rough draft’ of the song along with all the parts broken out to an ftp site we set up for exchanging files. (We talked on the phone once a year ago and since then all of our communication has been through email.)
Every upload was like Christmas morning (in, you know, a house that celebrates Christmas). He writes the kind of songs and performs with the kind of honest passion that my first song writing partner from high school and I wished we could achieve. And me? I went from being my partner’s George Harrison in 1974 to being c.’s George Martin exactly 30 years later. Blessed doesn’t begin to describe how I felt to work on this music. This shit reached WAAAAY back into my psyche.
In fact there are several nods to both George’s throughout the album — does the second half of “I Don’t Care If You Lie” sound just a little like “Dear Prudence”? Do the strings in the middle of “Just My Luck” sound just a little Martinesque? You bet your Liverpudlian butt.
(Quick aside: it just so happens that I’ve re-cycled with my high school bud and he came up to visit me last week. I played him some cuts from “The Sun” and half way through I pointed to him and said “I felt like I was working with you” because they do, weirdly, sound similar to my ears. We’re talking three-exits-past-Frued back in the psyche.)
Once I got the tracks on my machine I would listen to the rough draft once to a get a sense of his vision for the song. Then I would throw that away and picture what I would do. Finally I constructed a model in my mind of what the combination should be and start building the mix.
I constructed the drumming in “I Don’t Care” manually using the NSkit soundfont. The drums in “She’s On My Mind ” is about 100% from what c. sent me. The drumming at the end of “Everybody’s Going Underground” is my programming over c.’s version.
Funny story about the “drums” he sent me for “Underground”, they were actually all him beat-boxing into a mic, you can hear it throughout that track, listen closely to the “hi hat” or the “static” in the break. Also the bass and many other “instruments” in that track are his voice. He’s so cool.
So it went for guitar and keyboards. That’s him playing guitar in “Just My Luck” and “You Are the Reason”, me in “I Don’t Care” and we’re trading off in “The King” Sometimes he sent some perfect keyboard part (like the celesta in “Just My Luck” or synth in “The King”). A couple of time I just scrapped everything he sent me (including the chord progression) and only used the vocals (like “I Don’t Care” and “Vertigo Blues”).
The parts he sent me would regularly blow me out of my chair . Several of the string parts were actually re-instrumentations of parts that c. had sent me as keyboard or vocals parts. Listen to all that shit at the end of “How Soon I Forget”, that’s all him.
I would spent about 3 or 4 days on a cut and re-post a first draft for him to listen. If he didn’t get back in 3 minutes I started pacing a hole into the floor. I could always tell he didn’t like a cut because it took him about 24 hours longer than the times he did like it. Sometimes he would complain that I changed it too much and on occasion not enough (lol).
Of course I’m not a “real” producer, I just play one in my bedroom. We never set foot into a “real” studio and from what I gather, c.’s setup is, er, less than ideal. And I’m sure most musicians, especially those that have been to real studios can hear it that way. I’m just hoping most listeners won’t give a shit once they hear c.’s heart pouring out of the speakers.
So listen to the album and let c. know (c.layne at clayne.com) what you think. Make copies, share the files on your site, audioscrobble, webjay away, podcasters ahoy, and all that new fangled stuff you kids dream up.
Thanks John for hooking us up.
Thank you c.