Throwback Thursday: Original Cover Art Sketch

I was going through some files while working on the cover art for the new album, and found my original pen sketch that became the cover art for the first Sci-Fi Romance album, …and surrender my body to the flames.

“…and surrender my body to the flames” original pen sketch

I had not intended to do the cover art. There was another artist lined up at the time, and I drew this to try to communicate the layout I had in mind. I think scheduling wound up being the downfall for his involvement, so I had to scramble and wound up doing the cover on my own.

“…and surrender my body to the flames” cover art

I’m not an illustrator, but I remain proud of how this image turned out. And incidentally, in my mind, I’ve always referred to the woman as “Delilah.” The more you know…

Five Recording Studio Documentaries

I was going through some of the footage of the band in the studio recording the new album, and it gave me the itch to watch the documentary The Wrecking Crew, about the unbelievably prolific LA session musicians who recorded most of rock ‘n roll in the 1960s. It was really good, so naturally it made me want to watch and re-watch some of my other favorite music documentaries.

I found a bunch of lists online of music documentaries, but to be honest most of them are either concert films (e.g., The Last Waltz) or retrospective interview-style profiles of bands of individuals (e.g., Beware of Mr. Baker). So that made me want to put together a list of some recording studio-centric docs in case anybody else wants to go down this rabbit hole with me.

It’s worth noting this is not an attempt at a “Best of…” list. It’s just some good flicks. We’re off!

Let it Be – The Beatles

This is the real deal, right here. The cameras followed The Beatles through rehearsing and recording what wound up being their final album. You get a sense of the dysfunction in the band, but there are some moments of joy, too, like the famous, impromptu rooftop concert scene. This movie’s been out-of-print for decades, but there are bootlegs floating around.

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart – Wilco

The story behind Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album is legendary — from the tensions between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett, which resulted in Bennett leaving the band, to the album being passed on by the band’s label, only for them to sell it to Nonesuch Records for buckets of money on its way to becoming a big hit. And cameras were there capturing it all as it happened. This movie was actually how I heard about Wilco.

A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica – Metallica

I don’t know how many times I watched this documentary as a teenager, but it was a lot. A LOT. Part one covers the recording of the black album, and part two covers their first tour in support of it. As much as Metallica became known as self-absorbed blowhards, this is on the whole a fun look at the making of an album nobody had any idea was going to change their lives forever. And the whole thing’s on YouTube.

Sound City – Various

I love Dave Grohl. This documentary tells the story of Sound City, its legendary Neve mixing console, the demise of the studio, and Grohl’s resurrection of the board in his own studio. This is as much fun as I’ve ever had watching a music doc. Appearances by Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, Rick Springfield, and tons more.

Muscle Shoals – Various

I’m cheating a little because I haven’t seen this one, but it’s about the music scene in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Like The Wrecking Crew, it publicly tells the story of something that was never well-known outside of the recording industry. And also, a bunch of our fellow contributors to the annual Couch by Couchwest festival hail from the Muscle Shoals area.

A New Bag for Old Tricks: I Attempt an Audiobook

The other night I set up mic, mixer, and preamp to record a couple of demos of new songs, and I figured, “Hey, why not try to make an audiobook?” It seemed easy enough. It’s been awhile, but I’ve been paid actual money in the past for voice over work and I know how to read, so what could go wrong?

It’s me. Making an audiobook. While the neighbors
blast “Brick House.”

Audible.com, to which I have been addicted for several years now, has set up the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), and since I’ve been writing a lot of prose of late, just released a short story digitally for the first time, and will have at least one novel coming out in the next year, I figured the short story would be a good candidate for a kind of dry run. The ACX allows authors to either upload their own performances of their work in audiobook format, or allows authors, producers, and voice talent to connect for projects. It’s pretty great.

Here are lessons I learned from my attempt at making an audiobook:

1. Read too fast is both easy, and bad. I speak fairly slowly (I’m from the South), but read aloud just fast enough to scramble words together when I’m not paying enough attention.
2. It’s exhausting. On the ACX site, they have a video with pointers for people trying this for the first time, and the guy on the video says “This is grueling work.”  So, like a dummy, I scoffed and thought “Grueling? Come on.”  Ok, it’s not grueling…I’m going to save that classification for perilous physical labor…but it is far more draining than I expected.
3. You gotta commit to voices, or leave them at home. About 90% of the audiobooks I listen to have the performers doing some kind of voices for different characters, though some are only very slight modulations of their regular reading voices. You gotta make up your mind BEFORE you sit down what your voices are going to be, not by the seat-of-your-pants.
4. Singing into a microphone and reading into a microphone = way different. It even felt far different from acting, since with a script you’ll prepare intentions for each line, etc. But even with a short story — let alone a full-length novel, you have to find a different way in.
5. Warm-ups are important. I always, always do vocal warm-ups before I sing. Why I thought I could get away with not doing it before recording an audiobook, I don’t know. I’ve got 25 minutes of lip-smacking reminding me to not cut corners, now.
6. Your neighbor’s party? Yeah, you’ll be able to hear it. I love my neighbors. They’re the best. But “Brick House” and “Rolling in the Deep” do not make a very good soundtrack for my short story.

So in the end, I was right: attempting my new short story was a good dry run. But it’s a dry run that’s going to stay locked away in an archive folder on my computer. Now I need to do it again…but for real, this time.

I guess it goes to show, even though I’ve done lots of things *like* this, I’d never really done it before, and it was nice to be able to dip my toes in before committing to eight hours or however long a short novel will eventually take.

Anyway, you can check out my story, The Lennox Kid, here for Kindle, and please leave a review if you’re so inclined.