About a week ago I released a music project titled "Toroid". Besides in casual conversations with friends, I've never elaborated on the process behind the music I make. Too often I'm either focused on the next thing, but this time I want to give a look at how the sausage is made. I'm still new to his music, but I've read more about Brian Eno's process of writing and recording than actually listening to his work. Miles Davis is another musician who I highly regard with his process (as well as his music).
An artist who I look up to (well beyond music but we'll stick to this topic) is Omar Rodriguez Lopez. He was the main man for the band The Mars Volta. I had read in interviews that for their album Frances the Mute, Omar got together with the singer and they discussed shapes of how they wanted the album to look, brought it to the drummer and built a click track map to resemble the shapes and recorded drums to the album first (Modern Drummer, June 2005 Issue). With Toroid I did not draw shapes, but I recorded drums first before anything.
Recording Process: In November of 2015 I bought a Presonus Firestudio off of Craigslist and this was a very important piece of gear for me. Up until this point I had only been able to record with one microphone input at a time. The Firestudio has 8 microphone inputs. These 8 inputs allowed me to record a full drum set with much higher quality and flexibility.
During this process the only recording software I had access to that was compatible with this piece of equipment was Protools LE 8. This was only able to run via my 2009 Macbook (the white plastic one). The problem with this is is that Protools is owned by Avid and Avid doesn't like anyone to use any other product with their software besides their own products. So in turn I would record drums in the open source program Audacity, export the individual tracks and import them in to Protools to continue working. Although this was a hassle, I was excited to finally have decent drum sounds by comparison to how I had been recording prior.
With the situation I was in, having to record drums in a separate software, I could have recorded to a click in ProTools, exported the song with the click, imported it to Audacity, recorded the drums, exported the individual drum tracks, imported those in to the ProTools session and work from there. This would makes sense (besides the madness) as it's normal to come up with a riff or melody first. Given the hurdles to jump, I decided to turn on a click track and just drum. No ideas, just drum. This is how the title track to "Toroid" came about.
This process is pretty clear if you listen to the song. Everything recorded was in one take (except bass) where I would either punch guitars in an out or just take out what wasn't as pleasant in post.
Over the course of a few months I upgraded some pieces to my space, but I continued on with this process for the album. Although some songs are in pop structure (verse/chorus/verse/chorus) the length and beat in mind before anything else. After the drum parts, each riff and solo would was wrote to compliment each part of the drums previously recorded.
Concept: If you're reading this, chances are you already know I have a full time job. In the spring of 2016 I was accepted to the University of Minnesota to study Graphic Design. I was also in the midst of a project with a few friends, "Broken Focus" and working on a project with MC Danielle Chéri. What I'm getting at was there were a lot going on and yet there was still energy to work on this project.
The name was inspired by a table top Tesla Coil I built in 2015. The top part to a Tesla Coil is called a Toroid. It's a donut shaped piece that holds the leftover energy. With the description above and what was all going on while working on this project, the word "Toroid" was a bulls eye.
The lyrical content on the project revolved around the leftover energy one has. This may be work related, school related, or even just normal exhaustion related. MonopoleJoe understood the concept when I explained it to him as he works a couple jobs and creates a ton of music in his free time. With Sierra's lyrics I explained to her the trouble I was having writing about the race issues our society is facing these days. She hit me back with the lyrics within an hour. They are ambiguous for anyone who isn't in on this for their own interpretation.
One song that has an abstract approach is In the Doldrums. The effected vocals are to represent the voice of a tour guide. The clean vocals are from the perspective of the person on a tour. The tour being one's own mind. The end of the song gets a bit more intense with questions as thoughts can get dark as soon as you get a way from the said tour guide.
Extras: With each project I record under the name Wet Eyes, I like to give back energy to the music universe that I've enjoyed. Attempt to treat the music how the music has treated me. With this project I tried to give back to the soul and jazz influences above most others (genres). Of course there are other influences, but those two are tops here. (Some of the darker Billie Holiday tunes, Bitches Brew by Miles Davis and some of the deeper cuts on Van Halen's Fair Warning are some notable records of inspiration)
This album was a full circle of many parts in my life. The drums themselves were what was left over from two moves (to Las Vegas and back) and a few toms borrowed from friends. In all honesty the kick drum was a First Act kick drum from my first drum set. The mastering was done by Jordan Skophammer who I met at the first college I attended (The Institute of Production and Recording -also met Mono here as well), the artwork was done by Guedda HM who I met while attending my second college (MCTC), and I met Sierra through Dani's project who I met from a friend who I met while playing in a cover band in Wisconsin. All of the songs were recorded on the first computer I ever bought for myself (that Macbook) while I was in high school.
Closing: Now I didn't want to give away too much about this album but I've never given insight publicly on a project. Really, I've never given much insight to any project I've ever done via blog or public journal. I've appreciated when artists I look up to share their process, especially when I don't have to dig through links and forums to get to the meat. Some of the content I would like to remain ambiguous for your interpretation. You can draw your own meaning, but the gut concepts are here.
If you haven't listened and are curious now or didn't even know about the project until now, feel free to stream and download below. If you're still here, thank you. Seriously.