I just realized my company hit the 6 year mark last week! To mark the occasion, I thought I’d share a very early (as in.. before I knew much of anything about music production) project with you guys.
In 2005 (a full year before going into music as a profession) I made this theme song for a random guy on the internet (Chris Dodgen) for his sketch comedy series “Stranger Than Fiction”. Although the series never came to fruition, making this theme and a bunch of other random STF tracks was one of my very first tastes of what is now my day-to-day experience as a composer/producer.
This features longtime bandmate/friend Les Ohlhauser on rock/shred guitar, and myself on trumpet, accordion, metal growl, and the one synthesizer I used for everything back then.
Certainly I had plenty to learn about mixing music, but I still look back at this one fondly.
This week I thought I’d do a quick write-up of a project completed before I had this blog called “Turn and Smile”. Basically, CollegeHumor asked me to make an 80’s sitcom theme a la Family Matters or Full House with piano, bass, and a scratchy soul singer. So, I listened to a LOT of sitcom themes on youtube, and did my best to incorporate the defining qualities of the genre into the above song.
My friend Hawk Colman is easily one of the best soul singers I know in Chicago and was a no-brainer for the lead vocal. I was dying laughing during the session, as Hawk is a natural with his delivery and knows exactly what lines to really sell and HOW to sell them (e.g. the way he sings “whichyo family” at 0:47, the slight character change at 1:10 for the “grouch” line, the airiness he throws in choice words for the outro at 1:26, etc). Also, when he sings “show’s created by THIS man” at 1:30 we discovered the way to get the perfect take was to have him VERY emphatically point at something when he sings “THIS”.
I remember the main note I gave him was “Hawk, that’s too soulful. Try to sound more like a white guy TRYING to sound like a black guy, and channel Rod Stewart”. And did he ever. I miss him greatly as a friend & musician out here in LA.
Max Crowe expertly laid down several layers of guitar, then I brought in a bunch of my best friends / neighbors for the gang vocals (Max, Alice Wedoff, Johanna Wiesbrock) and instructed them to sing as sitcomy as possible. Lastly, I added plenty of extra layers to stay true to the arranging style of that period: strings, french horn, and OF COURSE plenty of wind chimes.
Kudos to Vince Peone for directing, Dan Gurewitch for the lyrics, and to everyone else at CH for making such a solid video.
Here’s an early score I did for CH, a little multi-genre challenge.
As I didn’t have any sailors handy, you get to hear my best attempt at some Gilligan’s Island style singing. I used a ribbon mic to make it sound more old-timey, and layered in a whole bunch of Carls to sound like the original.
Two of my favorite people got married last weekend: Jeff & Kate Becker! As a surprise wedding gift, I made a song (warning: 5min) for them and played it as a ‘toast’ during the reception (click link to download):
It of course contains a few inside jokes, but these facts might help you make sense of it:
Jeff and Kate live together in Madison.
They have a dog named Barkitron 3000 (see his blog here), who was pretty old when they adopted him. Jeff once explained he envisions himself as running a “retirement home for dogs”. Bkt3k rarely barks.. but when he does it is deep and earth-shaking.
Jeff proposed to Kate in a treehouse. (awesome)
This turned into quite the epic scale project when I decided to involve as many of our mutual friends as possible, and even some of Jeff’s family members..
I managed to get Jeff’s mom and one of his brothers (Matt) on the phone to narrate during the verses - I basically just interviewed them for 5 minutes each and edited it down later. I had no idea what to expect but I think having family members handle the 'verse’ narration was a great route.
For the bridge section I decided to make a “life advice” section full of half-serious/half-ridiculous thoughts by all the other friends I could manage to either get in front of a mic here in Chicago or over the phone: Mike Sudmeier, Rich Kirkendall, Max Crowe, Mark Quiner, Paul Skinner, Alex May, and Nick Thompson.
Hawk Colman (vocals, some narration) is a great friend and one of the most talented singers I know. He’s actually never met Jeff & Kate.. but was up for helping out. I’ve had him in mind since I came up with the initial idea a year ago… thanks again so much for the session, Hawk!
Nick Thompson (tenor & bari sax) lives here in Chicago, and stopped by to knock out the parts one afternoon.
Kestrel Wright (french horn) now lives in Seattle but just happened to be in town for a few days. I hadn’t seen him in years and the first thing we did was have a recording session… after that we went to a Thai restaurant to catch up.
Will Roseliep (cello) is in Boston and recorded remotely with a flash recorder, playing along to a rough mp3. Will’s pretty hi-tech.
p.s. dear other friends: I wish I could do something like this every time someone gets married, but holy moly did I ever underestimate the amount of work it would take… so I’ll probably have to go a more traditional route for future weddings to stay healthy & sane. Take my word that I love you equally!
Earlier this year I completed a theme song for Chicago’s live graphic design talk show, The Show ‘n Tell Show. My friends at Optimus made a video for it featuring Chicago’s improv puppet troupe Felt and have posted a few behind-the-scenes pictures of the shoot here.
I’ve also posted some candid (read: blurry) photos from the shoot on my facebook page.
Finally, if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the final product (I cameo in a labcoat taking cloud readings near the end):