Twenty Thirteen (2013) was a year of tremendous personal growth, things going nowhere, and things going somewhere.
– I began doing a lot of recording and prep for my album that would have to wait until 2015 for a proper release. There were many tunes left on the cutting room floor in the process. Lots of practice and rehearsal with other musicians, which was wonderful practice for me, since so much of my career was spent playing alone, or with overdubs I made.
– I switched exclusively to a voice agent, who began giving me a good understanding of the real world of voice acting. I had so much to learn, and I am eternally grateful to her, along with the voice acting programs I took. I wish I could share audio from all the auditions I did, and have done over the years. However, even the ones I have – legally speaking, wouldn’t be kosher to share.
– This year was when I actually booked Fangbone and recorded the pilot (and wrote the theme song), and did a test in a green suit for what would ultimately become ‘The Stanley Dynamic’. I also booked some other things, and sometimes, were just given parts.
– I was taking my first of two very rigorous leadership programs which demanded many hours of me weekly, and also gave me many awesome results and skills that I would carry for the rest of my life. I began leading introductions for the leadership company as well, and that gave me the opportunity to coach total strangers in reconnecting to whatever truly matters to them, and creating possibilities in areas of their lives that weren’t working as well as they wanted them to. It was a truly beautiful experience. The stories I could tell about taking these programs. The unreal people I’ve met, the journeys I’ve had. Oh man. For another time, another place.
– There was a particular month near the middle of the year that was very dark. I was living in a strange part of town, mostly shut off from my friends – and I had just found out that there were health issues with a close family member that we didn’t yet understand. It got to the point where I truly had to start making a living without any familial support – which scared me, because I vowed at an early age, out of artistic integrity, to never work a day-job that wasn’t in the arts. However, all the personal growth training came very in handy, and I booked Fangbone soon after as a result, and wrote the theme song too. Suddenly, things were looking different – especially when I gave up a pyramid scheme for extra money that I’d almost gotten roped into!
– I directed some music videos and snippets for my friends in the many-piece band ‘Copycat’, in addition to some other online fare.
– I also was playing frequently with other musicians in the pursuit of creating band tracks the summer production of ‘The Beaver Den’, my musical, when it was performed at The Winnipeg Fringe Festival. These band tracks never really came to pass and were considered too risky to be implemented based on the calibre of the cast. These were rehearsed in an awful basement, and then recorded in rehearsal facilities at York University that were never meant to have lots of recording equipment inside them. It was really just me trying to do something that usually you do for many more bucks on a shoestring budget.
– I was asked to be the musical director & songwriter for a new children’s theater production called ‘RAPunzel’, a version of Rapunzel for children, where she’s a budding rap artist. I worked in raps, but also straight-ahead normal songs. Basically, the actors, director, and myself all contributed to the re-tellings story, and I wrote the music. I also played the ‘narrator’. The show would also get re-staged for a few special Toronto Harbourfront Center performances in 2014.
(Click on the images in the slideshows for occasional details, and a larger view)
(Below is a playlist of a fancypants photoshoot. A bunch of the images from it, not all. Be ready for longer load times.)
Click On A Title Below To Be Directed To That Section:
Demos & Studio Songs In-Progress, Beaver Den Demos, RAPunzel Music, Videos, Lyrics Poems Etc, Bryn & Taylor Minis, Dictations
Demos & Studio Songs In Progress, 2013
Demos are ways of recording a song without solidifying the final performance, arrangement, and whatever various studio magic can be done to a song so it sounds ‘stereo friendly’. The fundamental purpose of a demo is just to get a song down, so you can hear it objectively and figure out what is working and not working about it. Usually, I have the tendency of making a demo and then neglect the song for a new idea. However, sometimes, old ideas filter back into the new ones.
Most of these are recordings in-progress of songs that either would, or wouldn’t make it onto ‘The Very Best Of Mr Freeze’ in 2015. This album was greatly delayed due to landing some big acting jobs which literally ate up five days a week, all while taking a rigorous leadership program that had me flying around the US.
These works in progress tracks often have me making mouth horn sounds, that were then transcribed to be played by real players in 2014. I would work on the transcriptions and setting up the record sessions for the string and horn players whenever there was a window of time to throughout 2014. It was also a delicate process – I really wanted players with the right mentality, who were very coach-able, patient, and had a certain je ne sai quoi I wanted in every player’s tone. It wasn’t enough to just play well. Scheduling that, and having everyone ready was quite the journey – and the extra patience was worth it. Some tracks are very bare, me literally just figuring things out with the players in some dank basement, or recording a bed track in the studio. The vocals are often not the final vocals in the album. The mock horn and strings would serve as a great inspiration, and sometimes be used in the album or re-recorded for the album when they just felt necessary.
The terrific bass is played either by Michael Herring or Nick Arsenau, and the amazing drums by Bobby Ben, or Dave Clark.
Track-by-track reflections are below the playlist.
You can also find sheet music examples for some of the song’s horn & string parts, along with a lyric and chord booklet for many of these tracks, by clicking here.
Track Reflections, April 2015:
“Ghost Girls Theme 1” was a fun little theme song I made for The Ghost Girls, a Toronto comedy duo who once pulled me out of the crowd for a bit. They love this theme song. I just made it as a little gift. I like how it doesn’t rhyme, and feels very childish. Very in keeping with their own endearing absurdity.
‘Fangbone!’, is the show I voice the titular character for, and then wrote the official theme song. I played the executive producer ‘Johnny Love’ from ‘The Beaver Den’, and she was blown away. Then, I asked about having a stab at writing the theme. Its an industry where normally that goes to the big jingle houses, and she admits that she allowed me to have a stab at it, but thought it would go to one of them. Boy was she wrong! The folks at Disney and all the kids liked mine the most. I remember immediately thinking of the hook melody, the moment they mentioned they were looking for a theme song – it was sent down from heaven. Or, from writing tons of music on assignment throughout my life, so immediately knowing how to make something that fits the necessary mold. I gave them two options – a 45 second one with a spoken exposition (since I was worried I was explaining too much too fast), and the sung exposition verse at the start. The song was written based off of notes by the show runners; Conan feel, hard rock, possibly rap, 1 minute or 45 seconds exactly, etc. They also had certain lyric lines they had as suggestions for the thirty companies (plus myself), who were all writing their own versions of the theme, and I used a couple of those.
Disney was initially just going to have me sing the song, since the kids responded so positively to my voice. They were in the midst of scheduling a studio session with me. However, a Disney person happened to hear July Talk in concert, and thought it would fit better with the gruff feeling of the show to get one of their singers, Peter Driemanis – who kills it in the final version. They let me see a little video of them laying vocals over vocals with him in the studio – it was awesome! His tone is as terrifying as Tom Waits – couldn’t be further than the sound of my voice! Perhaps that speaks to the quality of the theme song, that two very different singers can do versions that get a positive response.
You’ll notice some subtle, yet major differences between mine and the final one used in the show. Here, I imagined Fangbone singing parts of it – but it truly is an unnecessary thing, and a bit out of character for Fangbone to do so. In a desperate bit to fill up the extra two seconds I had to meet my one minute time, I also had Bill’s Mom call out ‘Boys, dinners ready!’. I think its pretty smart, really – it justifies them wondering if they can leave to get food (‘Song of theme done?’, ‘Eh pretty much!’), and it rhymes with ‘Legendary’. The reason I could see for that removal is because Bill’s Mom isn’t a major part of the show, so to feature her in the theme song seems strange – it also undercuts the serious epic-ness of their adventures to have Mom suddenly show up. No kid wants a Mom messing up their theme song! I think they made smart little subtle changes.
Finally, There’s two small technical songwriting things I regret in this theme tune – little mistakes on my part. First off: the placement of ‘fighting to keep their rule’, I wish I made ‘they fight to keep their rule’. The ‘ing’ lands on the 1st beat of the next bar, giving it undue emphasis. Peter, when he sings it, does a good job at trying to underplay it, but the issue lies in the writing itself. Secondly, the line ‘They fight to keep their rule from the evil magic big toe of…’. The ‘of’ and ‘from’, for clarity, should be switched. I suggested this after the fact – it may be something that can be changed in post with the same audio source.
“Roadkill” was a jingle for an anti-drunk driving campaign a friend of mine concocted and paid us to make. Bryn & I worked together. Since we were, for a period, not living in the same place – it was nice to have an excuse to make music together again. As I type this, the video and PSA hasn’t been released yet, and this whole tune will surely be re-recorded – so really, this acts as an early version of it. He conceived of most of the lyrics, and I created the music and the other lyrics. Bryn plays drums and harmonica. The sound at the end is also a harmonica, believe it or not. Ridiculously cheesy rock & roll feel.
‘Wrappin It Up’ is a cryptic rap I made as a Christmas gift for Bryn that feels like a throwback to our University days. I always make gifts for my friends and family at Christmas – screenplays about them, short stories, crosswords, videos etc. I make a ritual out of staying up really late on Christmas eve and making things for them, in addition to the more conventional gifts under the tree. Its fun to hear this just to hear me attempt rapping, something mostly out of my territory. I try and impersonate Slick Rick in this too. There’s lots of embarrassing footage of Bryn & I free-styling in second year University and making tracks for lady friends of ours. We had lots of great times free-styling – we would do that instead of watch TV, basically. Bryn really started as a hip-hop artist!
“Mr Freeze”, as with all the demos here, are a blend of studio recording and my ‘mock’ horn & strings. Definitely a song in a Randy Newman spirit – the narrator becomes hard to trust for a lot of the song. These mocks would be replaced by the real thing on the final album, along with numerous other differences. It is a tune written in a brief period where I was doing background work on Degrassi, before everything picked up for me. A background actress and I got speaking about the psychology of narcissism, and that somehow inspired these lyrics. I had my ukulele with me, since it was a portable instrument. At lunch, I walked around the giant city street set they have and started putting this premise together. I discovered then that I wanted to add part of ‘Everything Wants To Rhyme’, a Hyphenates tune of mine, into the tune as well. This was an interesting excercise is making something that sounded cutesy and indie in its simplicity, but clearly not being that simple. Its a song about being baffled that a girl likes you, despite being a very cold, bitter individual. The confusion with the Batman vilian is just a bonus. Its really me saying all the worst things I’ve ever thought about myself in a happy little tune. I really like this song, and am very happy with how fat and tight it turned out. My favorite lines take place more in a projected future of where I think I could be, when I’m being rough with myself.…..
‘Everybody loves me, I’m the head of my cult,
Lord knows I must be good because they’ve paid for my assault.
And if I’m feeling lonely, give unwarranted advice,
Then find me a new brunette Caucasian wife.’
I find it super amusing that the narrator is such a close-minded jerk, he’ll also only have brunette, white wives.
‘Frozen Guys’ is a generally really awesome song, that just didn’t quite make it! At least, as I type this. Vocals are very early on this version. I had to be very selective about which songs were worth finishing for the album release, and this puppy just didn’t quite feel like it had a place on the album. This was also written initially back in 2011, so the subject matter I couldn’t identify with as much – I simply am not that whiny guy presented in the song, and don’t have nearly as many qualms with the world. I hope to do something with this, however. I’ve played it live a couple times. Bitingly true at times in its depressing and peppy nature:
I heard a star just died, finally lets cry.
Join together for an hour, like he begged for his whole life.
Watch the local white kid rise up, till he hits the wall,
Another undiscovered genius workin’ at another shopping mall.’
Just take the shattered promise highway, past the bouquet of decay
To the apple, just the skin, where its saggin’ by the day
Takin pretty pictures, so the aliens will love us
But they read em’ like a lie detector, they’re way too far above us.
I’m a frozen little boy, in a frozen little world
I’m not sure what’s worth believin’, I just want to squeeze a girl.
‘Changed Guy’, with very early vocals here, was written after spontaneously meeting an awesome girl. I was so excited, I wrote this quite immediately. She quickly disappeared, as some girls are ought to do. This features a re-purposed guitar idea from Here’s Some Songs ‘Real Love’. This really works well… god, I’m second guessing everything now. Maybe this should be on the album too, fully fleshed out. This was very much inspired by Wing’s ‘Silly Love Songs’ in so far as it has so many interlocking parts, all intended to be heard near the end there, but not included yet.
‘Nothing’ in early mock horn/string shape here is really striking. Its a song I’m very proud of, and my small adjustments to it over the year. The bridge and last minute of this, even in mock form is pretty killer.
‘Intuition’ was written in little bits. It started in a parking lot at York University, just aimlessly walking around dictating things one night. Some of these lyrics would change. Very proud of how this song is constantly changing keys, but it feels natural and refreshing rather than jarring. This also borrows guitar ideas from my earlier tune, ‘Daylight Star’. Love the shape of this tune. The bridge was also another idea from years prior that I tried re-inserting. Lots of my final tunes of mine end up being nice ideas from five previous songs.
‘Talk To Ya Honey’ (with lots of early performance elements in it here) really became what it became on a lonely bus ride home late at night. Its very much written about the difficult situation of seeing fascinating people in public places, and not knowing how to broach a conversation – especially if someone has headphones on. Sometimes I just want the world to stop using electronics so we can all get to know each other. The chorus started in 2012 more as a throwback diddy, without the subway substance attached. This song also inspired me to put together things like ‘Everyone’s Talking’, where groups of people get together to talk to strangers on the subway as a community. I have a strong tendency to speak on the subway anyways – but I think this is an important song for others, and for myself. Its absolutely weird how quiet and dead people are in public. We could solve major world catastrophes much faster if human beings were willing to put their concerns aside, and show the courage to really connect. It used to depress me endlessly seeing the agonizing silence on the subway, now I see it as something I can transform and do something about. Really like this song.
‘It Keeps Turnin’ has a very different form than other versions of it here. This was super drummer Dave Clark’s idea. I was bold and tried it out. I think its just as good as the other way, but not necessarily better. Of course parts of this song would make it into the Taylor & Bryn song ‘The Never Ending Question’ that I carefully adjusted. The guitar solo took ages for me to do – my fingers hurt like hell from playing that day, and I wanted to fit that in before my studio time was up. Love lots of things from the ending – most of those vocals were from the ‘scratch take’, the first take that is done so the bed track musicians can have a guide to help them lay down the bulk of the form. With songs as complex as mine, this is really important.
‘Something’, in early studio form, began as a lyric right after finishing ‘Here’s Some Songs’. Its sort of a Maroon 5/Squeeze hybrid. The chorus melody & bass is sweet, and for that alone it ended up having album inclusion. Beyond that, it feels like rather by the books pop to me, and doesn’t speak to me as much anymore, the lyrics in the chorus especially. Dave Clark & Michael Herring backing. Amazing players.
‘Your Heart’ would be performed a lot by Bryn & I. Its a bit too slow here perhaps in a slightly earlier form, but its also very nice that way too. Just a little uncomfortably slow, adds to the sweetness. I like a lot about my vocals here too.
‘I Don’t Care Anymore’ was a relatively new song at the time. I knew it was one of the best melody and guitar combinations I’d written by that time. Love this drum feel on it. It also comes from a very real and vulnerable place I was in, where a very passionate relationship was simply not working out despite how much we wanted it to. It was an exhausting and confusing time, that would ultimately feel totally crystal clear, perfect and complete after we had the right conversations.
This playlist ends with some different very early versions of certain tracks, just recorded in a basement for reference for the band so they wouldn’t forget the general shape of the song. Vocals go in and out being performed, etc. There’s some flubs on it of course.
‘Tale Of Me’ is another totally lovely song and melody. Feels a little like ‘Tears In Heaven’, but also very different. Totally feels classic – I still wonder if I wrote it actually, or if I stole it and I don’t know the source. I hope something happens with this tune. It deserves it! Love the bridge just as much as the rest of it.
Beaver Den Demos, 2013
The Beaver Den is a musical I began creating years ago with Jennifer & Jaclyn Enchin. Its a show that is slowly gaining a cult following due to its ribald humor, its heart, and its unapologetic-ally Canadian charm. An early version made the Top 10 at ‘Best Of Fringe 2012’. As of March 2015 when I type this, Five different productions have been produced, including one that a bunch of enthusiastic small-town high school students created themselves. We’ve received lots of four star (out of five) reviews from various entertainment publications, even just from these early versions.
If you’ve seen the show, you already have a sense of the story of the show. Its really not my jurisdiction to directly share the story, but I will give you a general premise at this time. First off, here’s a general promotional summary:
‘Set in 1999, at the wake of the children’s entertainment revolution, a cast of young Canadian actors are “stuck” on an outdated kid’s show filmed in Northern Ontario. Will they save the show from complete corporate takeover? It’s a musical…so probably. Get ready for a hilarious, outrageous, and perfectly polite time at The Beaver Den’
Now, a summary from the journey of a main character: ‘Tom, a budding actor from Toronto, finds himself at The Beaver Den – a long running children’s program that is struggling to keep alive. But after he begins enjoying his time there and truly becoming a ‘Beaver Bud’, he’ll have to discover what matters more – following the path of his hero, Keanu Reeves, or being there for those who need you.’ There’s a variety of interesting characters, all with their own journeys. I’ll dig a little more into things in the song summaries.
On This Year’s Beaver Den Work:
2013 was the year that there was another workshop production, flung all the way out in Winnipeg for the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. My idea was to record band tracks for all the songs with actual musicians on a shoestring budget in order to give the music a big, satisfying sound. Ultimately, the idea got scrapped – too much for that cast and crew. Regardless, there’s plenty of pseudo-finished recordings from this period where I am working out songs with that full band in a basement, and samples recorded with good equipment as well. It all still sounds pretty bare and stiff, but has its moments.
This was all quite a journey, and two of my core players – Nick Arseneau (bass) & Bobby Ben (drums), I would continue to use for my 2015 album at times as the bassist and drummer. Demos this year were a great way to get comfier with playing with, and leading a full band. It was something I wanted to get rigorously comfortable with in general, so things would sound very tight on my album. We recorded a lot of the audio in practice rooms at York University with some rented equipment we were lugging around. Lots of prep went into this that didn’t directly amount into anything.
There are also speculative songs – things that never really made it, or got fleshed out later on. This was during a period where I had promises that we would be re-writing the show together for the Winnipeg version. However, my creative partners were notoriously flaky at this point (they’ve gotten a bit better since), and a bunch of my ideas had to wait. I got very used to being told ‘no’ every step of the way with this show, and practicing being very patient.
I was also spending lots of time trying to get charts from the previous run corrected, and in a huge, ridiculous oversight by the crew – none of that got used either.
You can also find some of this year’s Beaver Den lyrics, lyric fragments, chords charts, etc by clicking here.
Track reflections are below the playlist.
Track Reflections, April 2015:
‘Trendy’ is a sample for you of what our attempts at fuller ‘studio quality’ band tracks were going to sound like. Sweet synth solo by good friend James Atin-Godden. I got my friend Mark Onderwater to contribute some DJ scratches. Naturally, this is a band track that got further along before the band track journey got scrapped. I have ‘mock’ horns and strings on this too, like with my album. I am singing the horn and string parts, later to get replaced by actual instruments. The initial idea was to get these horn and string parts done simply by the players hearing it and then knowing what to play. I learned quickly you can’t count on people’s ears no matter how good they say they are – so, all horn and string parts would get carefully transcribed from here on out after these attempts.
‘Beavers & Barenaked Ladies’ raked up a few hundred views on Soundcloud because it was uploaded publicly before being made private. Click bait for dirty minds, I guess. This is a lovely little Jobim bosa-nova inspired tune with a nice melody, and would have been a pretty song for Derek to sing with Beavy after his love, Johnny, left the set. There was concern that it was too obvious. I still really like it, and I may just fight for it to be in a future production if it seems appropriate. I think I was getting after a cold based on how raw my voice is.
‘Fun & Pretend’ was an earlier attempt at ‘I’m Your Guy’ for Johnny, when he was still a closeted rocker junkie. I love a lot of the wordplay in this, and the clever idea of when there’s an ‘elephant in the room’ being a good thing, making it a double entendre. This is very Sharon, Lois & Bram, which is why it would have been quite appropriate in normal situations. ‘Don’t look the director directly in the eye when you go for your big audition/And if you’re on tour, talk about your VHS before the intermission’, I really like. There’s other versions of this from before with slightly different lyrics. Very hard trying to figure out what the purpose of this song really was, despite how fun it was, and nice the melody was. So, it got the boot. I know its a little hard to know what’s going on without knowing which characters singing what, since the lyrics aren’t right in front of you, but its still an entertaining tune.
‘The Legend Of The Holy Zamboni’ was my second attempt at song to fill the gap where Patty needs to discover what she’s all about. Initially it was ‘You’re Only Getting Closer/Princess In Me’. Its too long, but its crazy fun. This would sort of be assimilated into ‘Three Headed Swamp Moose’ later on – a more succinct song that still gets the Gordon Lightfoot vibe across. There’s parts where it sort of awkwardly cuts to points where its clearly recorded by different equipment – this is me slapping that in because I changed the melody or lyrics a little bit after the fact, and it was faster. Its just a demo. This song took a couple days to get really together – and then, like usual, despite it being much enjoyed by Jennifer & Jaclyn, it was a ‘no’ to actually being in the show. So appreciate the tune that was a ‘no’ here, and make that time less in vain for me :). Some sweet harmonies in this, lyrics, and a great melody. The story gets hard to follow and weird by the last two minutes unfortunately. I had to do a lot of googling on hockey for this, which made ‘I’m Your Guy’ a little easier to write for the Feb 2015 workshop production.
I’m sure the full lyrics are somewhere in the 2013 lyrics poems, etc link.
A story is said of home-ice advantage
In the playoffs in a face off, prepared for overtimin’.
The center hooked the defense, who hip checked the enforcer
Whose saucer pass broke the glass and knocked out the lines man.
The net was wide open when the line brawl began
Fifteen match penalties and five injured fans
Fifteen match penalties and five injured fans.
But hurt most of all was a man in the wing,
A hungry devotee for washing the rink. (You don’t mean a…?)
Zamboni man, with a wheel in one hand,
And a squirrel that he kept for safekeepin’
Dreampt his Zamboni machine could keep the whole world clean
Not just a rink… in Edmonton.
‘A Boy And His Beaver’ was a sweet idea I tried to work in numerous times to the show. This is it in a more concrete, smaller form. I wanted a showstopper early in Act 2 that could rival ‘Johnny Love’ for Derek. This could have been it, really. The chorus lyrics are a little weird and would get straightened out in my second attempt at working this into the show in 2015. Who knows, maybe this stuff will actually find its way in eventually. Getting over a cold again I guess while I was making this.
‘Basketball’ here, is a totally different song, an attempt at something in Act 2. I would try to rework this again for the 2015 February version. Trying to make something more compact. Very complex idea, very hard to get into a 4 minute song.
‘Tap That Tree’ in this form would never get performed, though definitely better than the 2012 version.
‘Princess’ is improved in small ways here. Also, none of these changes would ever see the light of day for later productions. All my Den work this year was mostly futile.
‘Johnny Love’, in small part with different voice for some odd reason, and then with full vocal backings. are included here. This one includes the full band again, and gives a sense of what the tracks were starting to sound like with a full band being recorded with good equipment and consoles. Total shoestring budget! James Atin-Godden on keys, Nick Arseneau on bass, and Bobby Ben on drums.
‘Computer…’ is literally some samples of how particular I was getting with corrections to be made to the charts at times, being read by my computer. Not really a demo, but an insight into the process. I couldn’t understand how people could hear melodies so differently, when they were right there for all to hear in these audio files. Very tedious and time consuming dealing with explaining all these corrections. It also took a few meetings to get all that incorrect stuff sorted out. I also dealt with a bunch of these sorts of things in early 2014 as well. I would take the much smarter route in the future of ensuring I had the Sibelius files of the transcribed charts for the songs myself, so that then I could personally make a lot of the corrections. I have this thing where I’ll accidentally press a key from time to time, and my computer will start reciting my text back to me, and just recorded it when it happened.
Then, there’s a ton of early full band tracks of all the songs. These were intended to have more stuff added to them, so they really came alive once people sang to them, and get well mixed. Some of them were digitally sped up a sliver in an attempt to shave a few seconds off the show, when we still thought we may be using these band tracks for the performance.
I’ve also included a bunch of rehearsals that were dictated so the band could listen and learn the songs better in between rehearsals. These were done in a horrible old basement, that I think had electrical grounding issues. I felt a little electric current go through my body whenever I used the guitar, and it made me feel sick. There was a different bassist here, who bailed a couple days before we were scheduled to record a bunch of the official band tracks with studio equipment. Nick graciously filled in, and did a terrific job.
I remember how fun it was to play with these guys. James’s wonderful energy is always infectious. I see no reason really not to use these guys whenever a proper show is put on and we get a pit band.
This year, I was hired to be the musical director & songwriter for a new children’s theater production called ‘RAPunzel’, a version of Rapunzel for children, where she’s a budding rap artist. It was performed about fourteen times – at The Red Sandcastle Theater in Toronto, and the Maja Prentice Theater in… I forget now! I worked in raps, but also straight-ahead normal songs. Basically, the actors, director, and myself all contributed to this re-imagining’s story, and I wrote the music. I also played the ‘narrator’. The show would also get re-staged for a few special Toronto Harbourfront Center performances in 2014. It was a fun way to spend a month, just keeping myself active, really.
This show was really made for little kids – like, Kindergarten to Grade 6, tops. And even Grade 6 is pushing it.
Track Reflections, March 2015:
‘Rocker Opening’ is how the show would begin, and then I’d run through the audience onto the stage. The laser sounds are stolen from the start of ‘Jungle Love’ by The Steve Miller Band. Most of the electric guitar soloing you’ll hear throughout this is graciously done by my then roommate, Josh Goldman. He’s an awesome performer, who goes as ‘Goldman’, where he literally paints himself gold. He’s a good friend, who also helped with a bunch of the transcriptions for the horns and strings on my album. Great guy – miss him! He moved far away to take care of some personal matters, and take a great music gig. But he’s coming back soon!
‘Rapunzel, That’s R.A.P’. I seem to have a cough or cold as I’m recording the demo. Very soft, uncomfy. Really crud demo, just had to get an idea of it down for people. I remember the singer being a real natural and effortlessly capturing the subtleties of the song. She was a finalist in one of those big TV singing search contests. She also wrote a couple of the rap lyrics. There was an initial period where we were both writing a bit of the songs. I would have final say, but everyone usually contributed a little something. I’d say the music is 85% me, then 15% everyone else. There wasn’t the sense of urgency and ‘gotta make something brilliant’ with this show. It was just a pleasant show for kids. The songs do their job, and more, however.
The ‘R.A.P’ bandtracks were what was used for the actual shows. I would play additional live guitar to go along with it and fill up the space more. It had to be broken into parts depending on certain cues. I volunteered to make band tracks as I knew it would just make the show sound bigger. The drum machine is pretty brutal 🙂
The rap beats had various fun rhymes over them, and were doing either as rap battles where Rapunzel choked, or responded with raps that empowered her without putting the other rapper down. In the ‘Guru’ rap beat, she got the audiences help for how to figure out rhymes, letting the kids yell out lots of different rhymes based on whatever was happening. Can’t remember many of them. Just remeber: ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, this should be fun-zle. You think you can rap, but there can only be one-zle. Rap battle champion, that’s me! Rappin Steve the top MC!’. Not even really clever, but its what I remember.
‘Being Different Blues’ was definitely a collaboration between me and the singer. It would only be done live, no band track made for it – none really necessary. Definitely a show for kids. Obviously the middle part would have different things, depending on whatever the kids would share. I was just filling up the space, giving the gist. Rapunzel runs away from home because she’s bullied by Steve through rap and wants to get away from it all.
‘Bingo, Bango, & Bongo’ are the hairdressers that don’t cut Rapunzel’s hair because its great just the way it is. Its a heavy-handed lesson in inner-beauty 🙂 They promise they’ll give her the best haircut, and she’s miffed because her hair looks exactly the same. They also end up showing her the way to her favorite rapper, MC Guru (one of their clients), who lives up on the Mountain. She goes to learn from him. I remember having to write and record this frantically in an hour and a bit while I was a hotel room somewhere in the states during one of my weekends for my personal growth/leadership program of the time. This is a really fun one – I work well under pressure apparently :). I like the ending especially.
Dreadful MIDI instruments in the bandtrack!
‘Mountain Cave’ impresses me!! So Gregorian! So convincing 🙂
‘Rock Song’ is clearly my version of South Park and Team America’s ‘Montage’, but for this show. It has very different lyrics in the performance version than that demo. The first part of them I remember, and they were:
Watch the action, will she get the reaction from the master that she needs?
To keep it true, for that MC Guru and win Winter Jam 2013?
Doing her workout, keepin out the doubt, gotta get herself in the game.
Mom is worried that Rapunzel’s in a hurry since she read that Chatelaine*.
(*There’s a joke in the show that reading Chatelaine Magazine corrupts young minds, nobody ever laughed at it).
The bandtrack parts are pretty sweet. Josh Goldman rips at the electric so effortlessly. I play the rhythm electric. I would also play some acoustic live that would go along with this. Love the outdated synth sounds so much! I would also keep vamping the guitar in-between the two parts of the tune.
In the end, RAPunzel beats Steve in the rap battle at school the right way, without tearing him down in the process. It also turns out her mother was friends with Mc Guru when she had her own rap phase and was training to be a rap artist too. There’s some other cute things as well that I forget. The close is pretty much your obvious reprise of the opening song. It was a short show for kids, about an hour – like many children’s productions.
All videos completely edited by me, except if on another channel than mine – but even then, sometimes they are still by me. Ordered generally from newest to oldest, with some of the highlights placed near the start. Plenty of these are only visible here, and have since been made unavailable on the main Youtube page. This is simply because some of these are so old, they no longer reflect me, are honestly (embarrassing!), and it would be confusing for newcomers to my page to see such drastically different Taylors from far bygone years hop around their ears.
If a video bores you, don’t be afraid to skip ahead, I’m sure you’ll find something you like.
I’ll make some notes on some of the videos below the playlist. However, I won’t make as many notes, since you can click on the videos themselves usually to learn more about it, and read the video descriptions.
Video Reflections, April 2015:
‘RAPunzel’ is a little promotional video I slapped together during one of our rehearsals, with the cast. I think it speaks for itself, and is just fun fun. I make fun of how much I’m saying ‘uh’ throughout the video. They were a very talented cast. We worked in a lot of humor that went over the kids heads I think – since most of the times they uproariously laughed was whenever someone would get hit by something.
‘Rize Studios’ was a startup company. I’m friends with some of the people who work there and are making it happen. They had a lovely space to themselves, maybe for a week by that point, and I came in to take a look. I also spontaneously sang an improv song to their ‘Rize’ balls that they filmed, little promotional foam balls that they had copious amounts of. Lots of those high notes were a ton louder, there was something about the audio compression on the camera. This is pretty sweet! ‘Little ball – lady ball, not a testi-call’.
‘Work Like You Do’ is a video I directed and edited for my friends in Copy Cat (A 9-member or more collective, I’ve lost count!). I also edited some little interstitial videos as well for them in between their other major uploads. They recorded a whole live concert in one day in a studio space that myself and some other people with cameras helped film – then they had various collaborators create a variety of music videos for select live tracks. Mine, I think, was the last one to get uploaded. I worked on this obsessively on a computer that really didn’t function very well at video editing, but I’m definitely proud of the final product (even though it lacks the immense detail and budget required to flesh it out the true version in my mind). I conceived of the premise for this by closing my eyes and seeing where the music took me – I saw a man in a cute, cardboard box, looking a bit like Wall-E, running around with flags in his hands. I also saw lots of other stuff, blending into a story about discovering how to learn to take the box off. I always get very vivid imagery when I listen to music and I flex my creative muscles. In my formative years, I enjoyed my internal music videos more than any real music video – simply because I had an infinite budget in my mind, and I could see and create things I could never properly explain. James, the lead singer of the group and good friend of mine, donned the box costume. He was worried this video was getting to schmaltzy, but the lovey-dovey footage was definitely my favorite part when putting it all together in post. In a semi-impromptu video making session, you gotta work with what you get. I of course also did the cute little bit of artwork at the front of the video. This video is very in the charm of the group – its a bit messy, a bit silly. You want to laugh at its ridiculousness from time to time, but you’re also dazzled by their inventiveness and great melodies. The super-imposed parts in the video don’t work that well. I was so used to the song that I was adding in quick little things without looking objectively as a viewer anymore – and so it definitely becomes a bit disorienting. Perhaps the special-est part from a historical perspective is that this was filmed partly in Honest Ed’s, not long after the world-famous institution to bargain shopping would be torn down. We weren’t really allowed to film in there – but hey, someone had to document that place.
I love my little ‘Intermissions’ for Copy Cat, since they are really out there and quick and fun and easy to edit. Some stuff was filmed of James for a video that never happened for another one of his songs recorded that day, where he sounds very Tom Waits-y, and its very in keeping with the ‘What Was The Plain Again?’ title, a title that rivals Talking Head’s ‘Stop Making Sense’ in compacted wit. They’re all pretty freaky, and the incessant turkey footage from my house of origin makes me laugh. The footage of the geese in black & white was taken by me in a 2-person plane. I was getting a little flying lesson from a friend that scared the crap out of me! There’s lots of fun footage from that day actually, that was never officially edited together into something, as I type this anyway. Casey Sokol is also featured in that one, a professor that meant a lot to many people from our little corner of the Toronto arts community. I decided to leave a bunch of that video silent, just it would make less sense and seem even more like a weird, incomprehensible art-house film that you can only laugh at cos its so dumb. The piano seems to trigger the other piano to begin. There’s also a bad lip reading by me at the end of that one which kills me. ‘Santa Claus, shower me with water (gasp!)’
Then, we have some improv songs from me. ‘Perfect Pizza’ is a midly solid one, done after performing a bunch of Beaver Den songs at The Supermarket, Toronto. ‘Your Shirt’ is also pretty solid, done at a show Bryn put together. Not much to say about these, they just are what they are. Lots of better improv tunes weren’t recorded or get lost in time, and that’s simply the nature of the beast.
I hadn’t done any talking/music video in so long that I did my ‘Big Cruddy Looking’ update video. This is pretty sloppily edited, but its nice. And long. Funny how I talk about the album almost being done – it would get pushed and pushed and pushed! I think you can tell which songs are mine or not in it, I hope so. My voice is very tight and breathy here, an issue I ran into in the places I was living in before I could afford some privacy. There were a bunch of songs that clearly didn’t make the cut for various reasons, for the 2015 studio album anyways.
‘We Are Ready’ was for a friend, John Tayles, who had made an online challenge for people to cover his very empowering song. I farted out a little video for it. I’m taking a break from doing a training session from my rigorous leadership program. There were times I was actively participating for 20-30 hours a week. It was worth it 🙂
‘Beavy And Silly’ at the Winnipeg Fringe, two of our cute puppets of The Beaver Den musical, taking a rest from the performances. There’s also a little clip of them advertising the show on local TV.
I was also a guest on Meghan Morrison’s webcast concert thing. There’s lots of stuff in here of me, long video. I think I had just recorded the pilot for Fangbone earlier that day, so my voice was shot by the time I somehow made it up to her.
‘Making An Album’ is right in the thick of the lovely, mellow studio on Toronto Island. My guide vocals are pretty painful to listen to.
I also included Copcat’s ‘Walls’, which I didn’t edit, but I filmed some of.
‘Really’ is a second New Years song, farted out the next day after the infinitely better ‘Auld Lange’s Sign’, included in the 2012 videos. This one sucks, its biting and scathing and sarcastic in a way that doesn’t have much tact. I’m basically playing that person you meet, and then never want to meet again because they’re clearly locked in some dangerous level of delusion. I like to talk those people into reality too, but if someone’s not willing to budge, you have to step away at a certain point, for a time.
Lyrics, Poems, Etc 2013
Click here – literally, right here – and you will find a zip folder rife with some of the lyric/poem/etc fragments or final results that were typed out in the year 2013, for an insight into the creative process. Just like with the rest of The Abravault, the idea isn’t to only present things I’m proud of.
Also, there are sheet music examples for some of the demo’s horn & string parts, along with a lyric and chord booklet for many of these tracks, available by clicking here.
You can also find some of this year’s Beaver Den lyrics, lyric fragments, chords charts, etc by clicking here.
Bryn & Taylor Minis
These were a selection of conversations I (usually) secretly recorded between Bryn & I around this time, and put up as a sort of spontaneous podcast. I had totally forgotten about them until I luckily stumbled upon them. Fun, meandering discussions about a variety of things.
For some reason, that podcast channel also has my 2011 demo of ‘Genes On The Other Side’ in it, so its in the playlist below. C’est la vie! Enjoy! Hope you can endure the word ‘LIKE’ being thrown in conversation, like, all the, like, time. Its a habit I’ve somehow curbed in many instances.
Dictations are generally that capturing of an initial spark of an idea. These can be done in a variety of circumstances – with laryngitis, very softly as to not bug the people around me, full-out, etc. In the playlist below is a sampling of dictations. I would be crazy to truly go through all of them. Really.
If I truly looked through all of my recordings on my phone, laptop and other devices – the amount of content to sift through becomes 500-1000 files per year – ranging anywhere from a second to a couple hours each. Simply put, I would probably spend the next year of my life reflecting on my life and sifting through files rather than living it. This screen-cap put some of the tedium in perspective of how much there would truly be to look through. At a certain point, I have to trust that the best of my thousands of dictations find their way into my work unconsciously.
After the playlist, there are reflections on some of the dictations that are included here.
Track Reflections, April 2015:
‘I Won’t Put Up With It’ I love. I pause a lot near the start cos I’m really figuring it out. This is my first time trying to really refine the melody and play guitar to this idea. This is really a great pop song structure, and I want to finish it somehow. Latter half of the file is a more coherent version after experimenting more in the first half. I want to finish this idea up for sure.
‘Aegan’ is a little birthday song I spontaneously sent off to a nice Youtube friend who has always been supportive.
‘You Wouldn’t Like Me’ is a bit of a song that would become a ‘Turn It On Again’ by Genesis style tune. Progressive, very ominous, but also very poppy. It would be a song that would turn on a dime. Its clearly not anything full yet here.
‘Messing About’ of the start includes a wonderful, simple, poppy, sad, guitar idea I keep returning to and trying to do something with. This is an example of just recording myself messing around and seeing if any lightning strikes. Sometimes you can only tell by listening back after. I’m sure there’s a bunch more of these. A lot of these files become strange medleys, trying different ideas together, or more of a coherent improvised performance piece like this.
‘Obese Pidgeon’ isn’t really anything. There’s another file, I think in the 2012 where the early part of that track. There’s a lot of ideas that I would start dictating on my phone exclusively, so the ones on my computer became more scare. Not really willing to dig through the phone ones that seriously, just yet.
‘Pocket Dial’ is what it sounds like. Somehow someone pocket dialed me while they were playing guitar, and I got to listen in to their practice. And now you can too. The weird wonders of the digital age.