About Me

My photo

I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Sea Change...

At the end of my work week here and I'm trying to accept that it's not all productivity and milestones.  But then I'm also constantly trying to remind myself, when I'm sitting here idle, at a slow moment in the work evening, that I did accomplish a lot earlier today (voice over auditions and work on re-editing one of my demos...oh, and rock star yoga class at noon before work) and that it's no big deal, as awful as it feels, that I'm getting nothing else done today.   It's just too distracting right now at work and so many of the things I have to do, I need to be in the home office/studio to be doing them.

I'm on at least 5 major tasks right now that are preoccupying my time:
Working on the remix project which is due Feburary 8th
Submitting VO auditions on an almost daily basis if I can
Rehearsing for the upcoming CD release parties with Lacy
Networking with filmmakers to try and get another film scoring job
Revamping some of my voice over demos and creating a promo demo so I can ultimately start soliciting agents

...and I think that's it...maybe I can count trying to clean up my apartment on a grand scale.  Right now I'm on the donating clothes leg of that race.

So, you see, very few of these things can be done at work.  I guess I can be researching filmmakers and writing emails right now but everything else needs to be done at home.  I'm in a phase with the remix contest where I really can't be doing anything in headphones.  I need my monitors.  I could be doing research on agents, too, I guess.  

But all this comes with the sinking feeling that, with a potential change in my work schedule here, I may have fewer chances to get any of my work done during the day unless I adjust my routines.  I've always been good at that though.  A while back, I lost the overnight shifts, sorry, got rid of the overnight shifts and while it is nice to be rid of them, I did get a staggering amount of work done there.  During the weekdays here it gets far too busy for me to have my laptop out and, lately, I haven't even been getting breaks because of how short staffed we are.  Having more seniority when we finally get our new hires in here, I stand to completely lose all weekend and late evening shifts, which would be nice...I mean it'd be effing great!  but the notion of doing any kind of work other than administrative stuff, and sending emails would be all but gone.  Maybe I could get away with the occasional mixing and editing of music tracks on my break, or voicing auditions in edit bays, something I haven't done in a while.

Ultimately, depending on what my new shift is, I'm going to have to figure out when during the day I can do things like submit to VO auditions and compose and mix audio.  Shutting the door to my room works but sometimes it's still too distracting when Katrina and I are home at the same time, which could happen, say, if I get a 10am - 6pm shift.  Don't get me wrong it be a rock star shift and I'd eat it up.  Imagine!  Being able to get off work at dinner time and go home and cook dinner and eat it right away instead of this shit where I make three portions of the same meal and carry it all to work, risk spilling it in my bag (happened yesterday with chicken soup), then have to microwave it later so that the vast majority of dinners I eat have been reheated.   Imagine, getting up at the same time every day and going to yoga at the same time and then having weekends off so I can hang out with people who have 9-5 Monday through Friday jobs.  I've been on horrible dates that were my weekend night but the other person's middle of the week or vice versa (worse in my opinion).

But I digress.  This blog is about my own productivity.  I see it as a challenge that, with all the things that could potentially change with my schedule, I may have to do my freelance work at less optimal times of day.  So far, I've actually enjoyed and actively benefited from working nights.  I wake up fresh, go to yoga, then come home and work my face off and then go to work my night job feeling accomplished and in a good mood, get off work, maybe have one drink and sleep and do it all over again.

I suppose I'm getting a tiny bit wistful but, ya know, one door closes another opens, yadda yadda.  I guess I'm going to post this blog and then get to doing my research.  Later on!

 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New music uploads...

I finally decided tonight to go ahead and upload the tracks I recently finished mastering to my sound cloud page.  Wanted to give you all a chance to listen to what I've been working so hard on.  This is, of course, only the beginning.  I've composed about 12 new tunes since August as well, all of them in various stages of completeness, and all of them which will eventually go to the licensing agency as well.  

The tracks.  

Black and Blue are songs that I wrote for Steve Pitre for the Insiders1 Promo that he produced last year.    I liked the idea of making them sister songs and the color blue came to mind almost immediately when I thought about what to name Blue.  Black followed rather obviously.  The versions I just posted contain some new material not on the versions on the promo.  Black got more keyboard parts that I almost cut completely from the track originally (just developed them a little more).  Blue got some guitar parts with a wash of delay effects that had not previously existed.  

A Million Shades of Blue I wrote back in 2010 but knew I wanted to send to the licensing agency as soon as I started thinking about which pre-existing tracks I could repurpose.  I wrote the song one day starting from a riff that I came up with while playing around with new sounds in my Native Instruments synths (FM8, Absynth and Massive) and, as often happens, I didn't come up with a name for it until a few days later.  I was walking home from a friend's party at around 5am with the song running through my head and my eyes wandered up to the sky.  It being a little under an hour until sunrise, the sky was displaying this amazing indigo color that faded to black the farther from the eastern sky you looked.  The phrase "A Million Shades of Blue" passed through my head and I knew immediately that that's what the song was supposed to be called.  I can't remember if I wrote the keyboard part for this one before or after the name arrived.  It used to be played with just the Absynth patch, that screaming sound you hear underneath the keyboard.  I added the keyboard on this remix to give the melody more definition there and dropped the Absynth down in the mix to get rid of the muddiness I was hearing.  

Song for the Awakened was written all the way back in 2004.  I've always enjoyed the groove of this song and was particularly proud of some experimentation I did with truncating the groove before it could finish the measure and restarting it but not doing it the same in all parts.  I found that the phrases in each instrument could fit together in all kinds of different ways if I just let go of all conventional time signatures.  The mix on the old version troubled me greatly and I had to get ruthless with it.  This was one of the milestones during this project that I blogged about a few weeks back.  Getting a handle on the mix and actually liking the song again was a great boost to my confidence.  All it took was realizing that I had three instruments playing what one could handle and that there were large chunks of the song that didn't need both the keyboard and the guitar part to be fighting for attention.   Can't remember where the name for this song came from.  Think I was re reading passages in Radiant Mind at the time and the thought of being "Awakened" resonated with me a lot.  

Daresay was a favorite from the 2004 batch and I think it actually got released with Windy April and Pastel on iTunes a while back but I didn't really promote that incarnation of the Automatic Head/Disrupt moniker.   Daresay was a tune that I wrote in Fruity Loops entirely but this version used some sampled harp from Kontakt and my own guitar playing to spice it up.  Plus I used Kontakt to splice my own drum line up and create a breakdown drum part that I actually liked this time (vs. the old version that I felt I could never get right).  I wrote a blog a while back on my main page about how to do this with Kontakt and have used the technique a few times now.  Currently using it with the remix contest I'm working on, in fact. 

The last one I want to talk about was another new one from 2010 called Sleepwalking With You, a track written with Fruity Loops and transferred to Logic.  Another of the batch of tracks for the licensing agency that I had trouble with and then got ruthless with.  This one, not so much with the mix but with the decision to add other instruments.  I had written piano parts and several guitar parts that all got chucked one day when I just started using distorted guitar and the trademark backwards effect that I got from the Grain Delay box in Guitar Rig 5 and used on the score for "The Life."  That eureka moment sent the song into overdrive and made it among the first that I finished.  I can't remember why I chose the title Sleepwalking With You...maybe just that it sounds dreamy, like you're half awake, and the phrase sounded funny to me when it passed through my brain.  Now that I listen back with the distorted guitar it sounds like it might be, not sleepwalking, but a night terror.  But it does sound sort of mournful and wistful like you're dreaming about someone you've lost or that is not in your life anymore.  

That's about as deep as I'm going to get about it.  For now, I hope you enjoy listening to the tracks and that you've enjoyed this little insight into my compositional process.  Take care! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Leaps and bounds...

Watching the President's speech from the inaugural ball and reading articles on my laptop.  Oh, and Happy MLK day!   Punched out three voice over auditions Sunday afternoon after yoga and before work.  Plus, I had one of those whirlwind days today, expertly planned out so that I could accomplish everything I needed to, cooking dinners to bring to work so I can save money, getting some yoga in and even fixing some settings with my MIDI pedal that I had been meaning to change earlier in the morning, just for good measure and because I had time to spare.

One of the voice over auditions was opened today and I saw that I was ranked 1st out of 51 other auditions (I still don't know if this means that I'm in first place or I was just the first one to be reviewed...I guess I can ask someone at Voice123.com).  Anyway, the combo of all that accomplishment in a short amount of time and all those plans coming to fruition and nothing being forgotten or left out makes me realize that I'm really streamlining my process and as long as I can always plan a few days in advance and adapt last minute (I do things like I always keep deodorant in my yoga bag and have taken to packing a change of clothes in case I decide to do a class right before work as opposed to going and coming back before work), I will always get things done.   I'm at a place in my life where I feel like if I can plan it, I can accomplish it.

A couple of things have resonated with me in the past 24 hours in all these articles I've been reading and I'll share them with you.  One of them someone posted on Facebook earlier today, an article titled:
"How to Start Over (Hint: It’s Never Too Late)"...and while it was a brief article and kind of broad, it made me stop and think.  Especially, this quote:

"It also REALLY helps to set a deadline for yourself—a date to take the leap—and work toward that…"

A lot of what the article (and some of the comments) suggest, I'm already doing.  Working on my career while at a day job, resurfacing from the ashes of a divorce (6 years ago now) and a slump in a career in TV, slowly but surely reinventing myself (granted by leaps and bounds in the last few years), and starting a new career in Voice Over to support and supplement my music career that I've wanted since I was a child.   But one thing I have never thought to do is to set a date for when I should be able to quit the day job (mainly because I'm a little afraid of taking that leap unprepared).  I certainly have financial goals and personal/professional goals that I am requiring myself to meet before I can quit my day job but I've never said to myself, necessarily, that I'm going to do it by, say, the end of 2013 or in 2 years, or anything like that. Inevitably, what would follow would be an intricate plan with stepping stones to meeting those goals that are prerequisite to taking the leap.

I've thought about this too:

http://thevoiceoverguide.com/voicetalent-accounting-and-taxes/you-inc/

and that's the first article that has really summed up the why's and the why not's.  I've been slowly devouring that guy's blog.  He works with Voice123.com as a community manager.  So much pertinent info to sift through and so concisely explained, but this particular article hit me today.  I've heard, but also sort of glossed over, the pros and cons of incorporating but the way this article is written makes it so much clearer when and why you would want to do it.  And no, I'm not ready.

Maybe that's a goal I could work towards once I've quit the day job or if/when I get to a point where I'm making the kind of money where it would make sense to do so.  Either way, I've got a lot of planning to do still.  But if I can figure out how to work a day job, while pushing forward on my voice over career, rehearsing with a band, doing stuff like this, and still have time to squeeze in yoga and the occasional drink with friends, I'm pretty sure I can make a plan this year to build even more on what I've done so far.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Optimization...

Nothing much is new this week but I feel like typing anyway.  I've started writing one new track that I still have no idea what to do with, prepared two voice over auditions, one of which I couldn't submit because I was invited to audition by the system way too late (mere minutes before they closed the auditions), and have been cleaning my apartment in my spare time, i.e. throwing things out willy nilly.

Getting rid of things I don't need anymore has been on my mind since the turn of the new year.  Even slightly before.  Probably because I was going through piles of stuff in my parents' garage while in Raleigh, NC during my vacation, and realizing that there's so much shit in there I'll never look at or need again.  On top of that some of the mementos I couldn't part with...tapes of my old band Buggstar, a printout of the story I wrote when I was a kid (by the way, it's terrible, I started trying to read it again), videos from college...could easily be digitized.

And the books?  Well, the books could be sold.  I took a selection of about 12 of them and put them up for sale on my Amazon seller account.  Within mere hours, some of them started to sell.  And some of them were actually worth a big enough chunk of change to justify bothering to sell them.  In fact, when I got back to Brooklyn and took a look at what books I had here that I wanted to get rid of, I realized I had at least 7 or 8 books that I didn't even look at anymore.  One of them, a graduate school text book from one of my seminars that I'm not sure why I didn't try to sell back in 2008, was going for $195, used, on Amazon because there were only about 4 of them.  A new copy was selling for a little over $400.  I never found out why this book was worth so much but I was thrilled.  Skeptical but thrilled.  Still, thinking that no one would possibly fork over that much money for it but that it couldn't hurt, I put it up for sale anyway, undercutting the others a little.  And wouldn't you know it?  In a matter of days, it sold.

This all has really made me want to pare things down even more.  I mean, I just got rewarded for downsizing!  So, I've been getting practically ruthless with my discarding of old things, spending as little as 10 seconds deliberating before chucking in the trash the weight of years of pack rat-ism.  And I don't even hang on to that much stuff!

It is such a great feeling to be free of the clutter of the years and to move forward into the future unburdened.  Yes, at this point, I'm not just talking about the clutter of physical things.  I'm talking about leaving behind bad habits, behaviors, friendships even.  Clearing some of these things out has made it so that I can see more clearly what's important to me, as with random junk as well.  And not just what's important, but what's necessary.  Being able to determine what you really need to function can be very cleansing.  I think of my life now as a piece of software that I have just optimized.

There's obvious value in having a physically clutter free environment in which to work efficiently.  But fixing all of this other stuff that I realized was slowing me down in my career goals and even in my personal development is quite invigorating too.  I guess this is what new years are for.

I'm not going to bother going into specifics but suffice it to say, I've been examining a lot of things lately that haven't been working for me and looking into why they haven't been working.  I guess, to put it rather broadly, the space that I have cleared in my apartment to have a cleaner more spacious working and living environment is analogous to the time I have cleared in my schedule by breaking habits, the mental space I have cleared by dropping bad friendships or just not spending time and energy on them and the emotional space I have cleared by not wasting my energy on things that aren't serving me.   It has renewed my dedication to my career and my understanding of how important it is to me to keep at this thing that I do.  Especially since I remember all to well how I almost allowed myself to give it up for a person who didn't care, years ago.  Never again.  Never again.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Masters, licensing, upcoming concerts and nostalgia...

Just finished in the studio with my man Julian over at On Air Mastering yesterday.  The tracks sound great and I was incredibly eager to push through my copyright registration and send them off to Parma Licensing.  So, naturally, I took care of that right away.

They've received them as of this morning and should be reviewing them soon.  So, now I wait.  I'm truly excited about the opportunities this could open up for me but not without a healthy dose of impatience.  Healthy because it's motivating me to devour this list of other music licensing sites.  The idea being to spread my music out over the internet to get more simultaneous exposure.  After all, my contract with Parma is non-exclusive.

The article, which I can't remember how I stumbled on it...might have been one of the LinkedIn forums that I'm on, has been invaluable and whoever spent the time compiling the information, I thank you.  Now, I'm just trying to parse it all out and figure out which ones are worth my time.  Some do not offer royalties on placements, others require a minimum upload that I can't fulfill at present, while still others have a crappy payout split.  The list isn't necessarily exhaustive but I may just pick two or three good ones for now and delve into their terms and conditions and start making profiles if they're worthwhile.

So, that's keeping me busy.  But so is Lacy's music, which is nice.  We're trying to rehearse much more now because we're gearing up for a few shows.  I'm getting extremely excited about that actually.  Now, we have three shows planned, two of which are the CD release parties.  And I have my Behringer pedal cooperating with Mainstage and my Mainstage concert set up so that I can flip through the sounds for each song as well as turn on and off some of the effects with my foot.   All that remains for me to do is to get Mobius (my software looper) set up so I can start doing some of my own things with looping and layering.  Gah, I love playing live!

The first show is this one, performing at Caffe Vivaldi with the inimitable Tania Stavreva, who is in the process of completing her debut classical album (about which I'm so excited for her!).  That should be a good show.  Lacy and I are playing electric, too, so it'll be different from our open mics.

Next up is the Philly CD release party on the 17th of February at L'etage on Bainbridge and 6th in Philly, followed a few weeks later by the NYC CD release party on the 28th of February at Drom on 6th and Ave A in the E. Village.  Some of the players from the album have signed on to play with the band already so we're almost at a full band for this.  Both of us are really excited to rock out and can't wait to bring the new tracks to life.  Also being featured at both parties will be the premiere of the video for the song "Old Languages," directed by my good friend and colleague Mohammad Maaty.  So, if you can make either show watch out for that.  It's pretty awesome, I must say.

Now that all that's out of the way.  Some thoughts.  Just the other day, I received a piece of mail from my brother that was a rare memento he had dug up from the days of my first high school band, Buggstar (one g, two r's, no spaces).  A hand written history of the band by yours truly.  I read it back to back cover to cover (okay it was about five sheets of notebook paper), and I actually got a tiny bit wistful.  Just reading the way I talked about things back then, life seemed so much simpler.  It was before my dream of having a career in music had ever been tarnished by the harsh realities of the world.  And I talked about it as though it was a sure thing, as though nothing could stop me.  It was great to remember that I thought that way at one time and that somehow despite everything that came in way between now and then, I somehow got to where I am now.

It also made me miss my old band mates, hence the wistfulness.  We had such good times back then.  Throughout my parent's garage in boxes and probably amongst my brother's things are all these notebooks filled with songs and set lists and lyrics, chronicling our entire journey just about.  That was my first experience playing with other musicians.  It really came down to me, my brother and Jeremy, our singer...oh, and the six drummers we went through.  We recorded a bunch of stuff too, which is still around, on demo CDs and cassette tapes.  Cassette Tapes!  Boxes and boxes of cassette tapes.  I used to have a four track recorder that I would use to overdub tracks onto our demo recordings and come up with all kinds of stuff. While it wasn't the height of my composing career, I still like to go back and listen to them sometimes.  The songs were complex for what we basically were: a garage band.  But, nonetheless, I figure, what the hell?  Why not?

Here's one of my favorites from my sound cloud page.  Guitars: Tim Daoust, Vocals, Rhythm Guitar: Jeremy Shaner, Bass: Paul Daoust, Drums: the elusive Russell Foley...where are you kid?