BUY MY AUDIO CD - NOW AVAILABLE! I've put together the high-quality original masters of the first 14 original tunes on this page (up to October 2005) into a CD album you can buy from:
It also includes a bonus data DVD with a bunch of cool stuff that isn't on this website. Find out more...
All the MP3s will continue to be available for free, of course. You can read about my the CD on my blog, or go ahead and buy it right now.
I've been a musician for a long time now, and I've made money at it for more than 15 years, but only in 2004 did I start posting my own (or my friends') compositions here. Since then, quite a few podcasters and others have played these tunes. I hope you enjoy them too.
My Creative Commons license allows you to do pretty much what you like with them (unless detailed otherwise for a particular track), including using them for your podcast, radio or TV show, movie, or whatever—as long as you give me and my collaborators credit and let others do the same. Of course, I'd appreciate if you let me know too.
The "MP3 podcast" or [SPOKEN WORD] link downloads each file directly, while the title link takes you to a detailed description further down the page:
Do you like these tunes? You can buy my CD, or if you don't want to spend that much, I'd appreciate a donation (any amount, credit cards accepted) via PayPal for the Derek coffee-and-musical-gadget fund.
Oh, and by the way, if you're looking for the Derek Miller who's actually a reasonably famous, award-winning Canadian musician, that's not me! You're thinking of this guy.
Tips for listening: To open the MP3 files directly in your web browser, simply click the appropriate link or song title below. To transfer the file to your computer instead, for later listening or reading, right-click (Windows) or control-click (Macintosh) on the link, then choose "Save" or "Download" and choose a location on your computer to save the file. Your computer needs to be able to play MP3s. Most can, but if yours cannot read the file, try downloading QuickTime or iTunes (both available for Windows and Mac).
Tips for subscribing: If you have iTunes, the easiest way to subscribe is to click the Subscribe link: , which should open iTunes and take you directly to my podcast page in the iTunes store. Then click Subscribe there to start getting the songs for free. Otherwise, you can search for "penmachine" in the iTunes store's Podcast directory (see instructions) and subscribe that way. Finally, you can click and drag the orange and grey "RSS Podcast" button or the address http://www.penmachine.com/rss/podcastmp3.xml to your iTunes window (or other podcast subscription program).
Back in early 2006, Roland was apparently making a short photo film with the theme "Red," and it was to be exactly 1 minute and 30 seconds long. He asked if I had any music that would fit, so I decided to write something exactly that length, which is "Less Red Than Red." Now, 1:30 is pretty short, so I made a longer mix of the same composition with some extra instrumentation (most notably piano), which is 2:45, and that is "More Red Than Red."
On May 5, 2006, well known tech and podcasting personality Leo Laporte started using "More Red Than Red" as the theme music for his information policy special podcasts at This Week in Tech. Although the two versions here come from the same source recording, I think the emotional result is a bit different, especially with the piano coda on "More Red," which was mastered (as usual) by Les Thorn in New York City. "Less Red" I mastered myself, not quite as well, but it's fine.
I took advantage of the deep Barry White voice I got during a recent head cold to create a new promo file (exactly 30 seconds long) for this podcast. Feel free to use it in your own podcast—in fact, please do. You can also get it at the Podsafe Music Network or at Podshow Promos.
Last week on January 12 I recorded an episode of "Roland's Rabble", which is Roland Tanglao's tech discussion podcast show. If you want to subscribe to listen to past and future shows, go here (RSS feed) or check out episode #7 (12.8 MB MP3 file) directly.
The show also features Will Pate and Michael Tippett, and includes what was (at least when we recorded it) the world premiere of part of my song "You're the Big Sky," which I performed live in the studio with an acoustic guitar, as shown in the photo.
We'll ring in the new year on the Penmachine Podcast with my second tune in a row where I actually sing, a month after my last one. It has been some time since an update, but there was Christmas and the new year and a bunch of gigs with my band, plus there was that CD album I released and that you should buy. But now I'm back.
This latest song has quite a story. Back in early December, my work set up a charity auction to take place at our Christmas party, where staff members paid money (which went to a good cause) and then got fake virtual money to bid on services by other staff members, such as free tech support, Japanese lessons, and so on. I offered a custom composed and recorded song. My co-worker Carl won.
He and his wife Cathy had an adorable son Kai last spring, so he asked me to write a song they could sing to him. I mulled that over for some time, and then one day it came, just like the cliché: in the shower. I had been thinking of an amazing song that my bandmate Mark Olexson had written (and which I hope to convince him to release as podsafe one of these days) for his wife Mandy for their wedding. Its first line is "There's a blue sky." I began singing a different melody in the shower, but with those words. When I had dried off I rushed downstairs and tried out some chords.
Within an hour, I had changed it to "You're the Big Sky," written the rest of the words, and sketched out the chords and melody. I wrote them for my two daughters, thinking that writing a song to be sung to someone's child, it would be best to think of what I would sing to my own. So the song is for all three of them.
The next day I recorded the acoustic guitar track and the basic vocals. It took ten days before I could finish the rest of the instruments, in dribs and drabs over nine different mixes of various complexity. The finished recording has 16 tracks in total: two acoustic guitars, four electrics (right and left rhythm, lead, and special effects), bass, two drum tracks, three percussion tracks, and three vocal tracks, plus Hammond organ. It was complicated enough that GarageBand was starting to choke on it, so I had to bounce the acoustic, drum, and percussion tracks into separate stereo mixes and then build the rest on top.
I'm very happy with the result, and so is Carl, my high bidder. "You're the Big Sky" (4.5 MB MP3 file) is simple enough to sing to a child, but works for grownups too. One other piece of trivia: every word in the lyrics (available in the Lyrics tag inside the MP3 file or below) is one syllable, no more. And once again, you can hear me singing for a change:
You're the big sky that shines down on me
When I'm sad, when I'm dark
You're my sun, you're the spark
You're the big sky that shines down on me
You are the field where the tall grass grows
You are the path that shows me where to go
When you're as small as my hand
When your smile is wide as the sea and land
You're the big sky that shines down on me
You're the north wind that can turn me round
You're the one storm that can blow me down
When you're mad, when you cry
I'd take your place, don't ask why
You're the big sky that shines down on me
Of course Les Thorn in New York City performed his usual mastering magic. The song is also available via on iTunes and the Podsafe Music Network. It's © 2006 by Derek K. Miller (SOCAN), inspired by Kai and the Miller girls. I hope you like it.
Chris Pirillo wrote some lyrics on December 7, 2005 as a blog post. Then he asked me to write a song around them. The result is perhaps the whitest possible white-boy blues, wherein two guys from the Pacific Northwest complain about an unreliable broadband Internet connection. It's "Comcast Connection Blues" (4.8 MB MP3 file), baby. You may download it and cry your broadband nights away.
It features me actually singing for a change, and also includes what I must say is some surprisingly fine lead blues guitar, which I recorded in only a couple of takes. I had the basic backing tracks (using my Godin guitar, SansAmp pedal, and some GarageBand loops) sitting around for a few weeks, so when Chris made his request, I tried his words out, and they worked pretty well without editing the bed tracks at all. So I sang them through once, with my youngest daughter controlling the Record button, added the lead guitar with my Strat plugged straight into the Mac, then tweaked the mix.
To get it sounding good, I sent it to Les Thorn in New York City for mastering, as I usually do. As I mentioned, the tape operator was Ms. L. Miller (age five). The song is also available via Chris's website and his podcast, as well as on iTunes and the Podsafe Music Network. It's © 2005 by Derek K. Miller and Chris Pirillo. Rock on.
Unlike any of my other tunes, this has no loops, samples, MIDI instruments, or other fancy stuff. It's just me playing the classical guitar my parents bought for lessons when I was 10 years old, with a microphone and some reverb for that concert hall sound. It's short, just two minutes, so enjoy it. It's also available via iTunes and on the Podsafe Music Network. The composition is public domain, and the recording is © 2005 by Derek K. Miller.
When I first converted this page into a podcast back in June, my first track was "Pirilloponzi," with vocals sampled from the June 23 episode of the Chris Pirillo Show, featuring Chris, who organizes the Gnomedex conference with his girlfriend Ponzi. They are very funny together. Well, now they have a video podcast, and I sent them a very short, modified version of "Pirilloponzi" as a theme song.
After that, I extended the remix and made it into a full tune, which I'm calling "P and P" (2.8 MB MP3 file). It no longer has vocals, but it's the same guitar part I recorded before, with completely different background tracks, and speeded up to 140 beats per minute. Give it a listen. (By the way, the photo is by Kris Krug, another gnomedexer.)
Oh, and the stained glass picture has nothing to do with aardvarks.
"I'm washing off like an aardvark!" said my seven-year-old daughter a few days ago.
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"I dunno. It just sounded silly."
"I like it," I said. "I should use it as the title for my next song."
And so I have. It's a stompin', semi-Latin hard rock instrumental. As usual, Les Thorn did the mastering. Everything else is me.
Oh, and the stained glass picture has nothing to do with aardvarks.
I've posted a little Christmas greeting for 2005: "This is Derek Miller from podcast.penmachine.com. Merry Christmas everybody." Feel free to use it in your podcast.
Slau, in New York City, composed and produced this song, which involves nearly 100 podsafe music artists (including me) in a charity recording for UNICEF. The original idea to do that came from podcasting co-inventor Adam Curry. You can find out more at PodSafeForPeace.org (now you can buy it there too!), or in Adam Curry's debut on December 2, 2005. Please donate to UNICEF separately if you want as well.
You can listen to the track online via the Podsafe Music Network, and if you're a registered podcaster there you can get it to play it on your show and encourage further donations. Here's a list of some of the podcasts that have done so already.
My friend Simon James has recorded some tracks with me here before, but this one is just him. He sent it to me yesterday, and it blew me away: he has taken some classical singing lessons, but I had no idea he could sing like this. Believe it or not, it's just him in his apartment with a nice microphone and some reverb effects.
The recording of "Amarilli Mia Bella" is © 2005 by Simon James, and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License, i.e. you can do what you like with it, as long as you note that Simon sang it. It is also available via iTunes and on the Podsafe Music Network.
Judd Bagley runs the Business Jive podcast, where he interviews CEOs and other businesspeople, and he does so in an unusual style. He edits the interview responses together into relatively short shows (15–20 minutes) backed by music. He used some of my tunes in his earlier shows, then in early November 2005 he phoned me up (and happened to catch me at the playground of my daughters' school after they'd finished class), asking to hire me to compose and record a custom theme song for him.
So I did. Here is "Can You Dig It?," a.k.a. the Business Jive Podcast Theme. It took a couple of weeks to get together, because Judd had some specific time and style requirements. I'm very happy how it turned out, and so is Judd. Les Thorn mastered it, as usual.
LICENSE: Judd has paid me for exclusive use of this tune as his podcast theme song. So you are free to download, file-share, copy, and webcast this song without having to ask me, as long as you give me credit. However, you cannot use it as a theme song or background music (i.e. you need to play the whole thing if you use it on a podcast or radio show), use it to promote anything other than Business Jive, or sell, alter, or make any other commercial uses of this track—as detailed in the Creative Commons Music Sharing License. © 2005 by Derek K. Miller (SOCAN).
Slau, a recording artist in New York City, has a Christmas song called "If Every Day Were Christmas." It's a fairly straightforward, sing-along holiday number, but ever since podcast co-inventor Adam Curry suggested using it to help promote podsafe artists, it's taken on a life of its own.
Now Slau is (with great patience and politeness, given the technical and logistical complexities of the task) coordinating a recording process where dozens of musicians from the Podsafe Music Network are recording a big "We Are the World"/"Do They Know It's Christmas?"/"Tears Are Not Enough" version of the track, with the publishing rights being transferred to charity. This podcast episode (5.8 MB MP3 file) of mine documents what my contribution to the sing-along chorus sounds like, and how I put it together. I'm not sure my voice will end up in the final mix, but I made an effort, anyway.
In August 2005, Les Thorn of New York City heard my tune "Stop Yield Go Merge," originally released in July, and remastered it for me, unsolicited, at no charge. The results were so impressive that I've had him remaster everything I've recorded here since. He also asked me for the separate instrument tracks of the song, so he could try a remix, and the result is the "Stop Yield Go Merge Extended Les Thorn Mix." He mastered it too, of course.
In late October 2005, I moved my home studio from our den upstairs to what had been my old office/junk room in the basement. That gave me the opportunity to record the electric guitars on this song differently: previously, I'd always either plugged them directly into my eMac or routed them through a few effects pedals before doing so. This time I instead wired up effects through my trusty late-'70s "silverface" Fender Princeton Reverb amplifier (with a massive 12 watts of tube power), and hooked up the old Shure SM58 microphone with a DVForge Mic Plug, which routes the analog microphone signal directly into my eMac's USB port.
So what does that mean? A couple of adjustments with the microphone and I got some really spanky genuine Stratocaster–through–Fender amp tone, in the classic James Brown-Stevie Ray Vaughan vein. It also means that, if you listen closely (or, actually, not that closely) to a few spots in the final mix, you'll hear the sounds of my two kids in the next room, where they were draining their bathtub while I was recording. Hence the name of the tune: "Take Time for the Tub" (3.5 MB MP3 file). It's yet another R&B-style funky groove instrumental, which seems to be what I do when I'm not trying to record anything else. As usual now, the talented and fast Les Thorn mastered the track for me to sweeten up and even out the overall sound.
SPOKEN WORD I keep sending feedback to Adam Curry's podcast because, just like in traditional radio, repeated exposure yields awareness. That's my theory. Here are my Halloween and November bits of feedback to the Daily Source Code. He's only played one on the air (er, on the Pod), but they still serve their purpose.
SPOKEN WORD The Editors' Association of Canada, to which I belong, recently asked me to buy a digital recorder for our monthly meetings. I just did so, and on Friday, October 21 I tested it out by recording a 14-minute podcast of how I record these tunes (9.5 MB MP3 file) on my way from my office at Navarik to the SkyTrain I take home.
In it, I talk about the equipment I use and the process I go through in constructing and releasing a track on this podcast. (I mention Les Thorn, who does my mastering for me.) Four of those tracks appear in the background: "Clouds or Smoke?", "Fresh Snow in the Valley," "Pocketbook," "Stop Yield Go Merge," and "Meltdown Man." There's also a whole ton of background noise from traffic and the trains, but I think you can hear things decently, and maybe get a sense of the hustle-bustle near Main Street in downtown Vancouver.
The recorder is an iRiver IFP-795 MP3 player/recorder, which is a good-sounding (even with the built-in mini-condenser mic), if a bit obtuse, little device, wisely recommended by many other podcasters.
It mentions my planned upcoming album, compiled from the songs on this page, and some of my ideas for it.
While I only just recorded "That's No Dream," I wrote it way back in January of 2004, six months before my first MP3 upload on this page—and before the invention of podcasting itself. My original composition was a sort of Tori Amos angst solo piano-stomp, with singing and everything. At the time, my kids and I were home by ourselves for a couple of weeks, and we missed my wife.
After she returned home, I kept playing with the chord progression from time to time, but couldn't find a way to record it to my satisfaction. So, last week, I thought I'd remove the words and try it as a groove instrumental, sort of like "Pocketbook," my first release here. I think it turned out well. I built the percussion tracks first, layering a number of loops and sounds over one another till I got the feel I wanted, then added some MIDI sampled upright bass from my keyboard controller. The Wurlitzer piano, funky Hammond organ, and changly Stratocaster guitar came last, and each got a bit of gritty amplifier overdrive to thicken them up. The song magically turned from a slow ballad into a peppy little number.
Finally, I had the talented Les Thorn master the track (just as he remastered "Stop Yield Go Merge" recently—you can hear the difference on his samples page). This is the 14th track I've posted here (not including re-releases and promos), totaling 45 minutes of music, so I'm considering compiling those tracks into a CD that I might sell (while keeping them here for free too, of course). What do you think of that idea?
SPOKEN WORD After a failed previous attempt, I finally got a piece of audio feedback/promotion on Adam Curry's Daily Source Code podcast #255, following the earlier appearance of one of my songs there. (The background track, once again, is "Cold Cloth and an Ice Pack.")
I imagined "How Tall Jennifer Is" as a Green Day-style pop-punk number, but somehow it didn't turn out that way. Instead, it's soft at both ends and fast and loud in the middle (so don't let the first minute fool you). Think of it as starting on the front porch, moving into the padded garage, and then ending back on the porch.
The Jennifer in question is one of my daughters' imaginary friends. They have many. And I don't have a clue how tall she is. The photo is how I guess Imaginary Jennifer might view one of her friends, my oldest daughter.
I had quite a bit of positive feedback from listeners to "Clouds or Smoke?", the first track I released here performed on my new Godin LG guitar (which I bought myself for my birthday this year). People liked its jazzy, slightly spooky quality, and a couple asked for more like it. I'm not sure this new tune fits the bill, but I do like "The Burning Moon," which is spooky, a bit jazzy, and just under three minutes long.
This is my first podcast collaboration with my friend Simon since "Deep Cycle Discharge" more than a year ago. He started the latest recording a few weeks ago, sending me the basic bass-and-drum track (with the keening Middle Eastern intro) as an MP3 file called (wait for it) "Tune." It had a lovely, off-kilter, dark-alley, around-the-beat feel, and I didn't want to mess with that, so I didn't change it at all, except to fade it out right at the end—so his original backing track determined how long "The Burning Moon" would be right from the start.
I started by plugging in my Stratocaster guitar (rather than the Godin) for the first time in a few months and adding some heavy tremolo from my Digitech RP100 effects unit (which you can see here). Next came what I call the "helitar," which is that vaguely insecty rotor-ish noise that pans back and forth throughout. It is really the same Strat again, but I was scraping the strings with the edge of my pick instead of strumming, and I ran the guitar signal through the RP100 set as a Whammy pitch-bender (controlled by a foot pedal), a phase shifter for the slow warble sound, an overdrive pedal and SansAmp amplifier simulator for some light distortion, and GarageBand's auto-pan effect for the stereo movement. I added some roller-rink organ from my M-Audio Keystation keyboard, and then a deliciosly lo-fi piano sample loop.
The result is something like a mashup between Moby and the soundtracks to spaghetti westerns and David Lynch movies. Thanks for the inspiration to my listeners and to Simon for getting the ball rolling. "The Burning Moon" is © 2005 by Derek K. Miller and Simon James (SOCAN). You can also find it on my page at the Podsafe Music Network and via iTunes.
SPOKEN WORD In a bit of shameless self-promotion, I sent this piece of audio feedback (2.3 MB MP3 file) to Adam Curry for possible inclusion in his Daily Source Code podcast—which already played one of my tunes earlier in September 2005. I don't think he ever played the promo, though. (The background track is "Cold Cloth and an Ice Pack.")
What happens when you're locked out from your job? Well, you "Had a Plan, Had to Change It," right? This track is dedicated to the crew at CBC Unplugged's "Studio Zero," a podcast assembled by locked-out CBC employees on their picket line here in Vancouver.
Their first episode (23 Aug 2005) used three tracks from my podcast here on this site, and in thanks for the honour, I put together this blues instrumental—inspired by similar swingin' instrumental blues tunes from Freddie King, Jimmie Vaughan, and Colin James—to dedicate to the podcasting Vancouver CBC picketers. Of course I'd be pleased if JJ Lee and the others include it in their next show, planned for Monday, 29 Aug 2005, but even if not, it was fun to play and put out for others to use. (You're welcome to do what you like with it, as long as you give me credit and have others do the same.)
As with my other tracks here, even though I'm a drummer, I didn't play drums on this track—I assembled the drum parts from loops and samples. Everything else—the three guitars and the bass—is me playing my Canadian-made Godin LG electric guitar and my Precision Bass straight into an eMac running GarageBand, augmented by the lovely phase-shifted warble of my MXR Phase 90 effects pedal in a few places. Oh, and the photo is of a T-shirt design by Tod Maffin, CBC host, longtime podcaster, and founder of CBC Unplugged.
As any proper rockabilly tune should, it features twangy guitar playing with lots of slapback echo, stand-up bass, and train-shuffle drums—and that's it, nothing else!
"Stop Yield Go Merge" took eight months to record, start to finish (plus another two months for remastering). That's not because it was hard, or even because I was lazy, but because I started it in the fall of 2004 and then forgot about it. When I found the rough track on my computer, I liked the dark string section, so I got back to work on it.
It started with the bass line, played on my Fender Squier Precision Bass. That, the drums, and the strings sat through winter and spring until I added some synthesizer bleeps and my usual el-sloppo guitar (on my lovely new Godin LG) in July 2005. Then, two months after I released it, Les Thorn kindly remastered it (for free!). It's only two and a half minutes long, so give it a listen.
Last week I bought a new guitar, so I recorded a new track with it, and called that track "Clouds or Smoke?", because one day earlier this year I was walking in downtown Vancouver and saw what I thought was smoke from a large fire. But it turned out to be merely an ominous dark cloud.
Now that I listen to it, the beginning of the song sounds like Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" (from the Wish You Were Here album), but I swear that wasn't intentional. If you're subscribed to the Penmachine Podcast, you already have it. Why is there a photo of fish here? I have no idea. I'm posting this at 1:30 frickin' a.m., so I don't need a reason.
This is also probably the quickest recording I've ever done—I wasn't even planning to keep it. Rather, I was trying to get some good sounds out of my new Godin guitar, and this was the result. Both the background track (which includes the volume-faded intro chords and bleepy arpeggios) and the lead overdrive guitar were first takes. The rhythm consists of a few of Apple's pre-built GarageBand drum loops assembled together. And that's it. No bass, keyboards, vocals, or overdubs. Almost like playing live, but it's just me.
"Clouds or Smoke?" is also available at the Internet Archive. © 2005 by Derek K. Miller (SOCAN)
Chris Pirillo and Latthanapon "Ponzi" Indharasophang organized the Gnomedex conference I attended in Seattle in June 2005. Shortly before that, they recorded an episode of Chris's online podcast show where they talked for more than an hour about how they met and fell in love. It was very funny.
So, the day after I set up my own podcast here, I downloaded their show, sampled some chunks of it, and turned it into a song. (I hope they don't mind.) I called it "Pirilloponzi"—the photo is by Kris Krug (another gnomedexer), the music is by me, and the sampled lyrics are by Chris and Ponzi. The instrumental track consists of a few of Apple's GarageBand drum loops, plus my Stratocaster guitar plugged straight into the eMac, with a bit of compression and slapback echo. No amplifiers, no keyboards, no bass, nothing fancy.
LICENSE: I'm not the only copyright holder, but you are free to download, file-share, copy, and webcast this song without having to ask me, Chris, or Ponzi (though you need to give us credit). However, if you want to sell, alter, or make any other commercial uses of this track, you have to get permission from all of us, as detailed in the Creative Commons Music Sharing License. © 2005 by Derek K. Miller, Chris Pirillo, and Latthanapon Indharasophang (SOCAN).
Four months without a new song? Jeez. I kept meaning to start work on another basic track that Simon sent me, but I was too busy and procrastinated. So last night I plugged my Strat into the SansAmp GT2 amp simulator, then into the eMac, and let 'er rip.
"Hotcake Syrup" was the result. It's a sugary, head-boppin' combination of British overdrive guitar, three drum tracks, Clavinet, SVT-style bass, and a hint of bleepy synth-percussion goodness. Yum. In August 2005, this track was featured on CBC Unplugged, a podcast by locked-out CBC radio employees on the picket line.
Simon, I will get to that other song eventually. In the meantime, this one is © 2005 by Derek K. Miller (SOCAN).
It was our big attempt to Make It. In late 1994, we'd independently released an album (on cassette!) called Light House, had set up what may have been the first self-run indie-band e-mail list, and had for the last year been living entirely off music income, mostly by driving all over the province playing crappy bars as The Neurotics, as well as busking on downtown streets. Read more on my blog, or listen to a medley of three songs from our album here (that's me singing lead on the first one, "Standing Your Ground"):
The Flu - "Light House" Medley "Standing Your Ground"/"Disappear"/"Time Laughs at Me"
1.8 MB mono MP3 file (3 min 14 sec) © 1993-94 The Flu (SOCAN) Written by Boulter, Calder, de Castell, Miller Produced by The Flu and Rev. Rick Royale Engineered by Ian Jones, mixed by Steven Drake Official 100% MAPL CanCon
Guitar, vocals: Sebastien de Castell Guitar, vocals: Alistair Calder Bass, vocals: Dirk Henke, Dennis Boulter Drums, vocals: Derek Miller
LICENSE: You are free to download, file-share, copy, and webcast this song without having to ask me (though you need to give The Flu credit). If you want to sell, alter, or make any other commercial uses of them, you have to get our permission, as detailed in the Creative Commons Music Sharing License.
Over a year ago I came up with several names for instrumental songs, and have slowly been using them up on this page. The title "Fresh Snow in the Valley" inspired the basic riff of this tune, but I originally envisioned it as much slower.
However, trying to record an interesting version at the tempo I had imagined turned out to be difficult, and the half-finished track sat for weeks while I worked on other stuff. Then yesterday I decided to try a faster, more techno approach, and it worked out well. There's a lot of layers to it, so you might hear things best if you listen through some headphones that have good bass response.
What "Fresh Snow" turned into was a hybrid, with high-gain feedback lead guitar, an echoey riff, techno bass and drum loops, random electronic noises, and funky breakdowns. In August 2005, this track was featured as the ending theme for CBC Unplugged, a podcast by locked-out CBC radio employees on the picket line.
This track, a spacey groove instrumental, started out as an accident. I had planned to record my electric guitar directly into the iBook laptop I use for work, since my wife was using our eMac in the den. But it turns out the iBook lacks an audio-in jack, and has only a tiny condenser microphone up next to the screen instead. So I recorded the basic "Gronk Patrol" chord progression playing the guitar into that mic, without any amplification, just the tinny acoustic chingle-changle of the strings in the ambient space of our bedroom.
After processing the resulting sound with an effects combination I called "bloopy tremphaser" (tremolo, phasing, equalization, heavy compression, and other sound effects), I had pretty cool atmosphere going. It's the first thing you hear when you listen to the final tune, accompanied by sampled drums that I slowed waaaay down from their original speed. Over the next several weeks I added a triple-tracked bass line (electric and synth bass, plus electric piano), as well as more drums, different amplified guitars (twangy echoes in one ear and heavy distortion in the other), then some regular piano at the end.
But never mind that. I think the result has a lot of spooky atmosphere. I like the guitar solo too.
Like its predecessor "Pocketbook," this track is an old-style R&B instrumental (well, okay, there's a bit of synthesizer in there too). "Cold Cloth and an Ice Pack" started life as a loopy, deep-down line I played on my Fender electric bass.
But after I added some funk guitar and drum loops, chopped-up greasy organ samples, and sloppy Neil Young–style lead guitar from my Stratocaster (pictured), the old bass line didn't fit anymore, so I ditched it for a new one. Finally, I layered in some echoey analog synthesizer and shimmering tremolo guitar for atmosphere.
Most of the noises come straight from the Fender guitar and bass, in addition to the built-in loops, samples, virtual instruments, and effects in GarageBand—except for the lead guitar sound, which is the Strat played through a Danelectro Daddy-O overdrive pedal. The song's name comes from my oldest daughter, who likes to have a cold cloth (a wet washcloth) and a blue-gel ice pack at her bedside at night. She's always been a heat factory—on sweltering summer nights, she'll sometimes put the ice pack right on her pillow and sleep on it.
In August 2005, this track was featured on CBC Unplugged, a podcast by locked-out CBC radio employees on the picket line; just before Labour Day in September, Adam Curry played a chunk of it on his pioneering Daily Source Code podcast (episode #235) as well.
In 1987, when I was 18 years old, I first met Simon James at the same New Year's party at which I discovered I could play the drums. We've been friends ever since. He played keyboards in an old band of mine nearly 15 years ago, I've seen him sing opera in front of a crowd, and for the past few years he has been living in Vernon, B.C., studying to become a massage therapist. (He also does some DJing, as you can see in the photo.)
A couple of weeks ago he came to Vancouver to visit his parents and friends, and one night he joined my family for dinner. Later, as my wife and I were putting the kids to bed, Simon sat in the den, tried out my new MIDI keyboard-GarageBand setup, and created this little techno number in about half an hour. He's been using synths and samplers for ages, so he knows what he's doing.
After he'd gone home, I rearranged the tune, gave it some structure, mixed it, and added some organ to the fade-out at the end. I also gave it a name: "Deep Cycle Discharge" (written and performed by Simon James, produced and mixed by Derek K. Miller). Enjoy.
You may also download "Deep Cycle Discharge" from the Internet Archive. © 2004 by Derek K. Miller and Simon James (SOCAN)
In mid-July 2004, I picked up an M-Audio Keystation 49e MIDI keyboard controller, and that finally let me easily use Apple's GarageBand software on my eMac. "Pocketbook" was the first thing I created, and only took a couple of hours of fiddling with GarageBand to produce.
It's based on a bass-and-drum loop I put together using one of Apple's pre-existing Funk Drums loops in GarageBand (with some of my modifications), and a pattern I played using the Upright Bass software instrument there. The main organ is derived from Apple's Classic Rock Organ, which I processed a bit with some amplifier distortion and Leslie speaker tremolo (I call it Crunch Hammond), while the horns are chopped-up and rearranged chunks of a few of GarageBand's R&B Horns samples.
The song itself has no vocals (I haven't plugged in a mic yet), and is in a Meters-MGs-groovy soundtrack–style. It has no chord changes, and I think it starts off better than it ends, but I think it's pretty good for a first try, especially since before my daughter started taking piano last fall, I didn't even know where middle C was on a keyboard.
Page BBEdited on 14-Feb-06 (originally posted 18-Jul-04)
© 1994–2006 Derek K. Miller unless otherwise noted. Some rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted for an individual track, go ahead and download, file-share, copy, webcast, remix, and have fun with these tracks. You don't need to ask me, though you need to give me credit, and let other people do the same, as detailed in my Creative Commons License.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada License.