Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Waltz For Giger - or - A Bid For Attention

A week has gone by since the release of Instrumental, but to me it already feels much, much longer than that. The passage of time has been remarkably different for me since the release of Progress Report on February 19th. I've jumped into this whole business of trying to start a career as a working artist with both feet, in over my head pretty much from the moment I started, making a scrabble to promote myself and keep folks interested and entertained at the same time. Then there's been the constant measuring of my success, which the Internet provides so many tools for, watching the numbers of Likes, Views, Shares, and Downloads thanks to Insights, Stats, Dashboards, and the constant fucking popularity contest that inserts itself into every form of social media. These numbers are enough over-stimulation and real-time measurement of one's self-worth to fuel unneeded onslaughts of anxiety and depression that if I drank and didn't already have a therapist and a psychiatrist, I'd need to sit down with a bottle of bourbon while dredging for mental health professionals through this wretched portal.

Between releases feels like an eternity, and that, along with the anxiety-fueled need to keep an active profile so I don't start to slip from whatever awareness that I've built surrounding my efforts, is probably a large part if the reason I put out as much material in as many different ways as I do. And as I start to watch the decline of the initial spike in attention generated by a release, I can almost feel myself fading away; I can almost see my career slipping like grains of sand through my fingers. While undoubtedly this is largely in my own head, there is something to be said for the validity of figures and truth to be told in the number of downloads and followers that is steadily increasing. When I'm presented with those handy-dandy graphs by Facebook and the sites that host my music and see that activity has almost tripled in almost every category since February, I'm told that my frantic efforts may be paying off. I tell myself maybe I should relax and let the Internet and the existing awareness of my work do their own thing for a little while. But then the immediate numbers begin to decline... I see visits to this blog dwindle to a trickle, or that almost no one is being reached by my Facebook posts anymore... And the frantic mad scramble begins all over again, a continuing cycle that seems to be marking the passage of years instead of days. It probably doesn't help my new perception of time that I hardly ever sleep anymore, and when I do get a full eight hours, my immediate reaction to seeing how much time has passed is, "How many windows of opportunity to catch peoples' attention did I just miss?" It's hell. I love my job, I love the work, I really do, but constantly needing to get peoples' attention and try to hold it is not something that comes naturally to me, nor is it something I enjoy. I would very much like to not worry about it, and if it could be someone else's job and I could just make art at my leisure, that would very much be ideal. But it's part of my job now, because every aspect of trying to make a name and build a career as an artist is the life I'm choosing, and I'm also choosing to be an independent artist who is currently only working for tips.

And, well, don't they say that every job, even when you're doing work you love, has its parts you could do without?

Well, enough about the parts of my job that suck. What I'm trying to lead into is that, with this newest release, I'm partly just showing that I haven't been entirely idle and I'm also offering a little "filler" (but please, don't see it that way!) for a necessary gap because, while this release was planned, it's not exactly what I planned it to be. Lately, I'm not the only person who has been telling myself that I need to stop putting out every bit of material I create as soon as it's "finished." I mean, not only is it not really finished at the time, but if I can't keep a lid on some of my creations even for just a little while, I'll be posting everything immediately on SoundCloud and only releasing singles, and I'll never let my audience know anticipation and that's really no way to market one's product. And like it or not, that's another part of my job that I'm responsible for and have to learn my way around: marketing.

As part of an exercise in this, I kept the bonus tracks on Instrumental secret, though I'm sure many guessed that material from Delving for Devils was among them. If I was really good, I wouldn't have released "They Delving" the moment I had a rough cut of it and then pieced together the mini-EP to give it a somewhat proper release as soon as possible. I should have just kept a lid on my own personal excitement, maybe channeled it into some form of sadism, and released the tracks of Delving for Devils as hidden bonus tracks on Instrumental that no one could have guessed, thus giving more incentive for people to find out what they were by downloading the album. Instead, people have probably already figured it out for themselves that "They Delving" and the Whirlwind Mix of "Dusk Devils" were among the hidden tracks. But I did keep something to myself, and those bright individuals have probably also noted that, with the Alternate Spin of "Giger's Lullaby" accounted for on the main track listing, one of the hidden tracks has remained a secret.

I KEPT A FUCKING SECRET, Y'ALL! Sorry, had to let that out. I'm far more pleased about that than it merits, but we have to let ourselves experience life's little pleasures, now don't we? Still, a week was as long as I could hold out, and it has been a LONG week. I've kept myself busy networking and promoting, as well as writing new material and experimenting; there's also been the review for Max Lilja's Morphosis that I had been promising people, as well as other projects to catch up on. I did actually allow myself two days after putting up the review to spend most of my time relaxing and forcing myself to stay out of my music programs and away from the keys. Some of the time that I had with the house to myself for a week was actually spent relaxing and catching up on my DVD loans from the library. I promoted other artists on Record Store Day while actively resisting calling attention to myself and my currently all-digital medium. And the entire time, part of me was counting the days to April 21st and squirming while watching all those damn numbers rise and fall while not doing much of anything about them.

As today began to loom rather than seem an eternity away, I still counseled myself to maintain a relaxed attitude and not do any mad dashes to produce as much material as possible. You see, I had planned on revealing the bonus tracks of Instrumental today and, while making those tracks available for individual download, putting out another release that the one truly secret track would also be a part of. My plans for this release have evolved into something other than what I intended, though. One special fan and one pirate have gotten a glimpse of what that plan was to be, but I was not about to run myself ragged as I have been tending to in order to throw together a product that only I have in mind which, not to give too much away, is another EP that I've been working on material for that for once has almost nothing to do with Progress Report. I did share a finished track with the special fan I mentioned, as their support and contributions have been enormous and I want to be the kind of artist who develops a relationship with a gives back to their fans. In the process of sharing, the aforementioned pirate (who, to be fair, probably wasn't aware that they were getting their hands on something that wasn't intended for them) managed to snatch a copy of this track. I can only say, whoever you are, I sincerely hope you enjoy that song and, if you've come to realize that it was meant for one specific person, please respect that and keep this song to yourself for a while.

Anyway, not as much material for this forthcoming EP is ready, or as ready, as I would like, and rather than half-assing something or including a lot of already-released material for the sake of releasing just two-or-three new songs, I shifted course to something altogether different that I didn't even realize I already had all the makings for. As you will see or already know (this post is for a release that's already been out for a few hours, and I posted that release here earlier as a preliminary for this article), the truly secret track from Instrumental was a new mix of "Giger's Lullaby," not only with altered and added instrumentation, but with dance beats in the vein of jungle EDM (that's "electronic dance music" for those not in the know, as I wasn't until I asked someone who clearly thought that was a term I should know considering I do some beat-work in my songs). After the release of Instrumental, I kept on playing around with remixes after enjoying myself quite thoroughly in the process of creating "Dusk Devils (Whirlwind Mix)" and "Waltz for Giger"; that's the name of the revealed-as-of-today track, and let me share an aside about it: I've been struggling more so than usual to name a genre for "Giger's Lullaby" for as long as I've been asked by music hosting sites to tag it, and it never occurred to me until doing a jungle remix of the song that it's a waltz. It seems so freaking obvious now, like I should have just been able to describe it simply as a "gothic waltz" from the moment I started writing it, and it just seemed so ironic that it was in the process of turning it into something very unlike a waltz that I realized this...and so I named this remix "Waltz for Giger." Get it? Because it's not a waltz, but it made me realize it's source is a waltz... Anyway...

When setting to work with the idea of just playing around with remixes in mind, I found myself returning to "Giger's Lullaby" yet again. Well, that's not entirely true. I returned to "Waltz for Giger," because I loved the changes I had made to the instrumentation and thought it would make for a better version of "Giger's Lullaby" than even the Alternate Spin, which I had been so convinced would be the last incarnation of the song for quite a while, maybe ever, if I just took out the dance beats and turned it back into a waltz. I created a new version with some nice, mellow drumming, relying heavily on shaker, cymbals, and tambourine, which I've never used much before. The result was quite nice, but went without a name until today after it was already uploaded on the Internet, as I didn't want to pull another "Introducing... (Alternate II)" and I didn't want to have an Alternate Spin of a remix. I also didn't have any plans to release it, as the idea for the next mix came to mind rather quickly. I never got around to subtitling that version "Step Softly" until today. Hell, there were never any plans to release that version until today.

Because it still wasn't the the "perfected" version of "Giger's Lullaby" that I had envisioned. I had made even further alterations to the instrumentation that I liked, but upon subsequent listenings, I realized that the drumming was all wrong. I had to take a step back again, like I did with the Alternate Spin in regards to the version on Pentacental, and bring it close back to its source, which I only had in the form of the demo available on SoundCloud. I didn't even have that version on my computer anymore, so there was no way to cut and paste elements from the truly original version, but I decided that what needed to be done was to remove drums altogether from the first half of the song and have them enter at the moment they enter the original version. Or the first three versions, if you want to include the Pentacental version and the Alternate Spin in that, as the drums were kept the same in each of those. I wasn't, however, able to cut and paste the original drum track due to technical difficulties (that I still can't explain) though, so I did have to write a new drum track in the place where the original would go. Looking back on it, the original drum track wouldn't have worked with the addition of the electric guitars, anyway.

So it was that five versions of the same song ended up being five steps in the evolution of what I have named "Waltz with Lilith." I was thinking of female figures in Giger's works and was going to name this version "Waltz with Sil" after the alien hybrid he created for the film Species, but when I was going through his works on the Internet, I was reminded of Lilith, who is the basis of many of his works. Lilith, in turn, is a representation of a demi-goddess from many mythologies. In fact, I've done some light research on her, and I can't seem to pin down where she originates from whatsoever, but in various works of fantasy and science fiction she was the first wife of Adam, before Eve, and is the mother of all humanity. In the television series Supernatural, she is the mother of all demons. In True Blood, she was the first vampire and is a goddess to the vampires. Lilith pops up all over the place as if she has her origins in some sort of apocrypha, but as far as I can tell, she owes her origins purely to modern mythos, and I would dearly love if someone could tell me if I'm wrong and clear this up for me. But what it seems to repeatedly boil down to is she is the mother of all evil, which I think is a terribly unfair role to place her in over and over again, and so she has a special place in my heart. Naming this version for her and celebrating her as a myth and as a work of H.R. Giger seemed like a wonderful thing to do, and so it is.

Now, in trying to come up with a way to put "Waltz for Giger" on a new release today as I had originally planned, and realizing it wasn't going to happen in the company of mostly new songs, and realizing that it would also be kind of tacky to have more than one version of "Giger's Lullaby" on the originally conceived EP to fill any holes left by unfinished songs that weren't ready to be included and that I had refused to stress about, I also realized that I had six versions of "Lullaby" floating around, five of which were ready to be uploaded. The demo version was only available in MP3 format anymore, as downloadable from SoundCloud, and that presented a problem that fortunately had an unexpectedly easy solution. As you may not know, it's common for music hosting sites such as Bandcamp and Jamendo to only accept uploads in lossless audio formats. I won't go into explaining what that means exactly, but it presented a problem. The solution was as easy as a Google and finding that there's free sites for converting audio formats that are a simple to use as upload-then-download. With that, I had six versions of one song ready for upload and to put together in a small collection as their own EP, which I could quite easily package as I already had individual artwork cropped and edited and ready to go for most of them.

With a mad scramble that only lasted a couple of hours and mostly consisted of surfing images, photoshopping, uploading, and assembling, I was able to present A Waltz For Giger to the world, in memory of H.R. Giger and in loving appreciation of his art:

So here y'all go. A collection that's not just six versions of the same song, but also six steps in the evolution of one song which I just gave an account of painstaking detail that took up a lot more of my night than I was intending (holy shit, it's almost five in the morning already). All as part of my latest bid for your attention. Enjoy!