THE MAKING OF...
After two instrumental CDs, I thought I would branch out and attempt a song or two with vocals, thanks to some prodding from an old friend. I would have been thrilled to have one song on bikini with vocals, but I ended up with five of the nine songs featuring yours truly on vocals.
That wasn’t the only change I was shooting for with this CD. I wanted to follow the Stone Temple Pilots’ formula of writing short pieces of music - really short! I didn’t want to do any songs over four minutes and I was able to stick to that rule. The reason? Why bore people with endless verses, a never-ending chorus and a two-minute guitar solo? Get in and out as fast as possible - say what you have to say and leave. Real simple, right? That’s why the nine songs on this CD time in at just 27 minutes!
Another revelation I had with this CD - specifically with the recording process - was getting input from another musician. I met a friend through work, Tim Randolph, and invited him to play a guitar solo on the song, You. It worked out so well that I asked him to play lead guitar on an instrumental, Bravo. Tim displays some serious chops on both of these songs. It was a rewarding experience for me to "produce" his work and I look forward to collaborating with him again in the future.
I actually began recording bikini during the summer of 2000 - before I finished 11 expressions of me. I recorded the music for Zhukov’s March that summer for inclusion on 11 expressions of me, but ended up leaving it off of that CD because I thought it didn’t fit in with the rest of the instrumentals on there. I guess I really started recording for bikini in June of 2001, when I recorded Over Now. For the most part, I recorded one song at a time and for this CD, I decided to put the songs on the final master in the same order in which I recorded them. So basically, the first song you hear on the CD was recorded first, and the last song on the CD was recorded last.
Overall, there weren’t any big equipment changes for this CD. A couple of new guitars, a bass driver, a new drum machine, an E-Bow - I guess there were a few changes. The biggest challenge was the choosing of effects for my vocals. That was definitely a learning experience.
OK, what’s with the title bikini? I had read in a book about how the Bikini Atoll Islands and the bathing suit of the same name were related. I think I also saw something on the History Channel about it. For whatever reason, I thought it was a little strange that the name “bikini” came from people’s jaw-dropping reaction to an atomic explosion. “For the good of mankind” was the direct quote of the island leader who decided to agree to let the United States do atomic testing on the Bikini Atoll. Check out my Bikini History page for the brief story.
Mile Marker Unknown
Hiding In Plain Sight
1 -Zhukov's March
Zhukov’s March was recorded in July 2000, and was supposed to be included on my second CD… I never finished it in time, though, and I didn’t think that CD needed another instrumental with heavy keyboards… I came back to the track in May 2001 and added a guitar solo… I liked the way it turned out and thought it would make a good opener… what is ‘Zhukov’s March’? Georgi Zhukov was the top Russian general during World War II and pushed west toward Berlin in March-April of 1945, reaching the city limits on April 1… U.S. World War II general and future president Dwight Eisenhower called Zhukov the greatest general of the war…
GEAR--This song features my Alesis drum machine in mono, with a flange effect on it… I doubled the bass line on my Yamaha keyboard… the “saxophone” is actually my Flintstones guitar synth… I played the guitar solo on my Epiphone 335 Dot… 10 total tracks…
2 -Over Now
my first song with vocals… I recorded the song in June 2001… I didn’t plan for it to have vocals, but after I finished the basic tracks, the melody line was so obvious… I wrote the lyrics from someone else’s perspective… I achieved good syncopation between the drums and the guitar… the keyboards round everything out… I wrote the bass line on the keyboard and tried to play it on bass guitar, but I went with the keyboard version because it sounded much better… I am pretty happy with the guitar solo, too… note for note, probably the best song I have ever done…
GEAR--I doubled the guitar (left/right) with my Peavey EVH Plus and my Gibson Les Paul Junior… I singled the verse vocal tracks and doubled the chorus vocals… I purposely left the chorus vocals in the background to give it a drone effect… the background keyboards and the synth bass are courtesy of my Yamaha… stereo drums are from my new Boss Dr. Rhythm… I did the guitar solo on my Ernie Ball Music Man EVH… 11 total tracks…
3 -Peter Gunn*
I always wanted to cover this song… Henry Mancini wrote this song back in 1956… I recorded it in September 2001… the TV show, Peter Gunn, was on television from 1958-61… I tuned the guitars down 1 1/2 steps for this song – C# F# B E G# C#… listen to me playing the ‘bongos’ on my Boss drum machine at different points in the song… no guitar solos in this one… the only version of this song I had to study from was my Dick Dale and the Del-Tones CD…
GEAR--I actually tripled the guitars on each side for this song, using my Hohner, Fender Duo-Sonic, and Charvel… the bass is my ESP Jazz bass… the doubled organ is courtesy of my Flintstones synth guitar… I sped the tempo up on my Boss drum machine to 124… overdubbed some cymbals and bongos… 15 total tracks…
I started recording You in August 2001, but this song took a while to record… I completed an entire vocal line with a different melody before scrapping it for the current one… this song features a D tuning – D A D F# A D… I am very pleased with the clean guitar tone I achieved… the bass line was tough to play, but it turned out very well… not to give it away, but the lyrics are NOT about a person… something more spiritual? I was going for a Michael Hutchence-like (INXS) vibe with the vocals… Tim Randolph played the mean guitar solo in the middle AND the outro solo… great job Tim! this song turned out A LOT better than I expected… the longest song on the CD at 3:45…
GEAR--I doubled my Ibanez Bolt with the Trilogy bridge for the two main guitar tracks (stereo)… added some Yamaha keyboards… Fender P-Bass… stereo Boss Dr. Rhythm drums… threw in some cymbals and a ride cymbal… three vocals tracks… Tim used my Jackson for the guitar solos… 14 total tracks…
5 -Mile Marker Unknown
definitely the strangest song I have ever recorded… recorded in October 2001… it was intended to be an instrumental, but as with Over Now, the melody line was obvious… I wish I would have made the basic track longer… I mean, 2:02 for a song with lyrics? a little too short… the inspiration for the lyrics are the movie Fargo, the specific scene being the chase of the driver who witnessed the highway police officer murder… whatever… LYRICS
GEAR--I used my Fender Mini Strat (doubled) for this song, as the chord progression was a bit of a stretch and the smaller-scale neck on the Fender made it easier to play… I added the Danelectro over the verse and chorus for a fuller effect… bass is the ESP Jazz… stereo Boss Dr. Rhythm drums… the guitar solo (yes, it’s a guitar!) is my Kramer Frankenstein and the E-Bow… I added a little shake to the chorus and various other percussion throughout the song… I doubled my verse vocals an octave apart… I even managed a little harmony on the chorus vocals! 12 total tracks…
Tim Randolph really was a trooper on this song… after Tim’s success with You, I wanted him to play on another song, but an instrumental this time where he could play lead over the whole thing… I recorded the basic tracks for this song in November 2001, although I originally wrote the basic tracks back in 1997… Tim recorded his parts in February 2002, and he really hung in there on this one, as I had him play parts over and over again, punching him in on the track in certain spots to cover a missed note… it amazed me how he was able to play these complex licks over and over again, note for note until we got the right one… by the way, Bravo is the name of one of the atomic bomb tests on the Bikini Atoll in 1954, the largest atomic blast detonated by the United States... I listed Tim as co-writer for this song since he wrote and played all of the melody guitar lines over my basic tracks…
GEAR--not only was this song written back in 1997, but I had actually programmed the drum tracks into my Alesis back then, so the basic tracks were a snap… my guitar parts were performed on my Epiphone 335 and my Scootercaster, as well as some doubles on my Kramer Pacer and Hohner… I played my Fender P-Bass… I added a little bit of keys for the bridge before the solo (Yamaha)… Tim used my Peavey Wolfgang, Kramer Carrera, and my Ibanez Bolt… I overdubbed a little shake and some cymbals throughout… 13 total tracks…
7 -Hiding In Plain Sight
definitely the most complex song, as far as recording, that I’ve ever done… it started off with some banging on a keyboard and turned into a full-blown song with vocals… I recorded the song in December 2001… I got the title from a book of photographs with captions… the lyrics are about a person and the profound effect we had on each other… it took me quite a few times to master this one… one of my favorite songs I’ve ever done… LYRICS
GEAR--the keyboards on the left are made up of four separate tracks, as are the keys on the right… stereo Boss Dr. Rhythm drums… I used my Peavey Wolfgang and Yamaha APXT-1N for the guitar parts… I played my Wolfgang Special for the solo, doubled by my Hohner (pitch shift)… P-Bass… five tracks of vocals… 19 total tracks for this song!!!
8 -Exist Warp
I recorded this song in January 2002… Exist Warp is spray-painted in HUGE letters on a warehouse on the Virginia side of the Potomac River by the Pentagon, just outside of Washington, DC… I had this song just about completed and since there were no lyrics over the chorus part, I figured I could call it anything I wanted… I was going for a Blackmore-type guitar tone on this one… a fun track to record, but not much to it… I’m not sure what the lyrics are about, but I guess I was a roll about something… I guess I was trying to comment on making change an inward thing, as we tend to try to get everything around us to change… LYRICS
GEAR--the left guitar sound is courtesy of my Hohner and Peavey EVH Plus, each doubled… the right side is my Kramer Baretta and Carrera, each doubled… these eight tracks were all played through a octave/pitch shifter to add some low depth to the tone… I centered everything with my Kramer Ripley (how ironic) and my Kramer Frankenstein… as with Over Now, I couldn’t get a good bass sound for this song on a bass guitar, so I used my Yamaha keyboard for some really low bass lines… I used my Charvel Model 96 for the solo (my favorite)… 14 total tracks…
the last song I recorded for this CD (March 2002), I was looking to do something similar to the music on the VW commercial where everything on the street moves to the beat of the music on the featured car’s stereo… I really like that song… to do something like that, I needed to layer the beginnings of all the instruments and melody lines featured in this instrumental… I think it turned out pretty good… a really good friend of mine came up with the title…
GEAR--I triple-tracked the left guitar with my Hohner and triple-tracked the right guitar with my Mini Strat… I also have seven different Yamaha keyboard tracks going… I used my E-Bow with my Washburn and doubled it with the E-Bow on my Red Devil II, it’s only appearance on this CD… stereo Boss Dr. Rhythm drums played through distortion… 17 total tracks…
* written by Mancini 1956
** written by D.Smith/T.Randolph 2002
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