Its amazing how much perception can change according to situation.
When I started this project, finishing and releasing a piece of music was a mountain to climb, now it’s more like a molehill. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, because I’m relaxing a little, well maybe not relaxing exactly, but I’m starting to be a lot less precious about it.
This is allowing me to enjoy the process much more which I think is starting to come through in the music. This might be because at week 8 I’m well over the hump, but I think it’s more than that.
So why is this happening? Enjoying writing (and more importantly) enjoying finishing music?
The ever inspiring Seth Godin has it excellently explained in his recent blog post about finding inspiration instead of it finding you. As I’ve been experiencing with 10 tracks 10 weeks, he suggests that if we make a commitment to complete something regularly and on deadline, then:
“Your first idea might not be good, or even your second or your tenth, but once you dedicate yourself to this cycle, yes, in fact, you will ship and make a difference.”
Click here to listen to and download “Weird Beard” for free.
Posted by: Mike Monday on September 8, 2010 @ 10:54 PM
But ever since I heard the most amazing noises I’ve heard in my life – those incredible utterances that emanate from my first child Harry, I had to record them and use them in a piece of music.
It was Mrs. Monday who recorded most of them with her iPhone and it was a challenge to trawl through the hours and hours of coos, gurgles and shreaks without dying of an overload of cute.
The other difficulty with sampling baby noises is to avoid sounding mawkish, and I hope that by using the big fat funk groove and keeping it short and sweet I largely avoided this.
I suppose this tune is a little self-indulgent, and it might only work for me and Mrs Monday, but one of the points of this project is to do what I feel like, and I just had to give it a go.
But whatever you think about the finished piece I’m sure you’ll agree that my son Harry has a great future ahead of him – the quality of his vocal is simply stunning and you’ll have to take my word for it that he’s definitely got the moves. Watch out Justin Timberlake.
Is it its ability to touch many people? Or that it stirs strong emotions? That its technically clever? Simple? Does it fulfill a function well (such as making you dance)? Is it original? Shocking? Fashionable? Timeless? Maybe it perfectly sums up the Zeitgeist?
All are valid reasons to decide that a piece of music is good, and depending on who you are, your judgement of its quality will depend on which combination of these are most important when you listen to it. Why we think of a piece of music as good is complicated, and crucially not the same as liking it. I don’t like much music that I know is objectively “good”.
The reason I’m talking like this is that I’ve been asking myself this question constantly this week. I wanted to do something more carefree than the last couple of tunes, and had this piano idea saved in my sketchbook since late 2008 which I thought would make a good starting point.
I spent four days adding to it, changing it, trying to make it more clever, powerful or original. But every time I altered it, the next morning I realised that my initial idea (that if my memory serves me took me about an hour to put down) was better – or closer to “good”.
You see, there’s a few criteria that have become important to me as a producer. Originality, emotion, and how technically complex or clever (while still sounding effortless and simple) the piece is make me think what I’m doing is objectively “good”.
But Old Joanna doesn’t tick any of these boxes. Its simple almost to the point of being naive and certainly couldn’t be described as cutting edge or original. But ironically that’s what I found appealing about it and throughout this week I confronted this disconnect between what my mind and my ears were telling me.
So – is it any good? I have no idea. But I like it.
Posted by: Mike Monday on August 26, 2010 @ 10:12 PM
Posted in: Free Downloads
“Less is more”. Easy to say, incredibly difficult to implement.
I often blithely bandy this phrase around, but in the final analysis rarely put it into practise in my music. I’m not confident enough to do it. To make something really simple you need an unshakeable belief that your ideas will speak for themselves in their most basic form. In short you need balls.
But at the half-way point of 10 tracks 10 weeks I’ve realised that one of the projects unintended (but very welcome) consequences is that I’m growing some.
(Of course this might turn out to be a bad thing as it’s possible that my “fear” is in fact an innate quality control device.)
While writing an unashamedly emotive track like “Lullaby” I’ve discovered what I knew already but never really followed through: using few parts makes the whole sound bigger.
So I spent many hours working on very little. For instance, the whole of Tuesday morning I just practised the piano part so that I didn’t have to quantize it. I wanted to retain a live human feel to the piano, essential if this track was to work. This was particularly difficult given that I don’t have a decent weighted keyboard, just a synth, which is like playing a bag of cotton wool.
I also focussed on the rhythm track for hours and experimented with different techniques for mixing it. The whole rhythm track consists of only five parts and rather than adding to it I worked hard on making what I had sing. I do confess to a wasted Wednesday of trying some extra rhythms, melodies and fluff but scrapped all of it, realising that if I was to get away with a tune like this it needed to be simple.
It’s ironic that after adding so little, “Lullaby” is the most expansive and symphonic sounding track I’ve produced. The result is what I imagine a power ballad written by Vangelis and Sebastien Tellier might sound like. It seems that less really is more.
Click here to get “Lullaby” in any format and any quality for free until September 27th 2010.
Posted by: Mike Monday on August 16, 2010 @ 9:07 AM
Posted in: Free Downloads
In order to be this prolific I’m learning how to let go fast.
After a total meltdown on Saturday afternoon, I faced the very real possibility of releasing something on Monday that I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about.
This goes against every fibre of my being. But to follow through on what I’ve very publicly set out to do, I sat there attempting to finish something I wasn’t sure about. This is in stark contrast to my experience so far.
I didn’t even know whether this lack of enthusiasm was due to the music being pants or my state of mind/level or tiredness at the time, as (to coin a phrase) “my mind was telling me no but my body was telling me yes”. So I went and had a freak out on the ever sympathetic Mrs. Monday before pulling myself together and attempting to get back to it.
When I sat down I indulged in a little procrastination and followed a tweet to this article on how to be prolific. While the tone of the post irritated me, the underlying thrust of it changed the way I thought about what I was doing. For the better.
This project as a whole is more important than the sum of its parts. If I end up writing something that I’m not 100% happy with, then so what? I’ve another chance to write my masterpiece the following week. Its more important to get something out, anything, than nothing at all.
And with this new understanding I promptly nailed this weeks track “Crush” within 24 hours, and ended up loving it. Its one of my favourites so far. Isn’t it amazing what a little targeted procrastination can do?
I’m told that if you’re on the right path in life you won’t procrastinate.
But I’ve never believed it until now. Before I could start on this weeks track I had to complete some other studio work (the increasingly rare kind that pays money) and procrastinated terribly until I could no more and just about hit the deadline on Friday. While doing this work I felt listless, uninspired and that irresistible urge to catch up on the goings on in Ramsey Street and Summer Bay.
Contrast that with my demeanour from Friday onwards where I couldn’t wait to get into the studio. We all have to do stuff that we’d rather not, but the difference in my attitude and general work rate was startling.
I’ve yet to work out what part of this project is getting me so energised, whether its immediacy, the freedom I’m allowing myself, or the feedback, but I think for now I’ll just go with it. This music lark is fun innit?
So when I finally got around to it on Friday my challenge was to write a piece of music that would appeal to a house or techno DJ but which would also work on a home listening album. The problem I have with most albums by artists who usually write for the dancefloor (and I include myself as one of them) is that what works in your average house or techno club simply doesn’t translate well to the home stereo. Unless you’re having a party in your kitchen.
So why bother writing any house or techno for this album at all? Or why bother writing an album, why not stick to writing tracky tracks?
Because if I’m to follow through with what I said in my style vs genre piece, it should be possible to write house or techno that fits my vision. And with “Contains Nuts” I feel I have, or at least gone some way in getting there.
Stuff I Learnt This Week
1/ Writing music is like being in love. You know when its right because you won’t care about anything else.
2/ The number of hours spent writing or producing a piece of music is not proportional to its quality. Its more likely that the opposite is true.
3/ Too much leaves one wanting less. On Sunday I wasted a good few hours undoing what I had done on Saturday evening. I must continue to stop myself from over-producing. And yes, I’ve said it every week so far.
Two different mixes this week, the album version is of course completely free and you can get the extended club mix (specifically tailored for high-volume night-time use in front of a sweaty mass of baying punters at your local discotheque) for 99p.
Listen & Download: Mike Monday “Contain Nuts (Album Version)”(Download via Mikemonday.com Here)
Posted by: Mike Monday on August 2, 2010 @ 10:37 PM
Posted in: Free Downloads
I felt like jacking it in a couple of times this week.
Much of this was the anti-climax after the excitement of the first release, and the dawning realisation of the frightening task ahead of me. I’ve also got some other studio work on at the moment which I have to finish on Friday, so after that I hope things will get a little less fraught.
Despite this, I feel like I’ve hit my stride musically. There were a couple of times when I found myself falling into some old bad habits, like spending waaaay too long trying to find the “perfect” sound, but if I hadn’t I’d have finished Robot Go Disco very quickly. I had more trouble thinking of a name for it than writing the thing.
There are some implications that I hadn’t thought of previously in writing an album track by track in public. My ideal of writing music for myself alone would only really occur if I didn’t ever play it to anyone. Releasing the tracks as I write them means I’m opening myself up to (both good and bad) criticism way before the whole album is finished. This is bound to affect my album writing process, no matter how hard I try to ignore the noise.
For instance if I release a tune and it gets double the number of downloads of anything else, I might be tempted at worst to replicate it, or at best to make subconscious decisions in the studio as a result of the perceived success of that track. I’ve noticed that by just playing my music to someone else fundamentally and permanently changes my perception of it, so you can imagine what releasing it does!
But so far the benefits of this process are utterly out-weighing any downsides. Despite my couple of freak outs this week I’m loving it. And the weekly deadline, knowing that the world will be able to hear whatever I’ve done that week, is forcing me to write out of my skin. For every idea I’ve committed to audio there are another three that I can’t wait to get out.
Stuff I Learnt This Week
1/ At all costs I must avoid getting bored of the track I’m writing by over-playing it. Ironically this tends to happen with tracks that I’m most excited about. If I’m in danger of getting bored I must stop or move on. And constantly looping the same bit so I can have a boogie in the studio (whilst being fun) probably isn’t the best idea.
2/ My first idea has always been the best this week. Tinkering, editing or changing what I record has just made it worse.
3/ I musn’t overproduce. I should just leave it, as if it’s a bit rough I can get away with more musically.
4/ I need to stop checking my traffic and download numbers every five minutes. Its a pointless waste of time at this stage of the game. From now on I’m instituting a policy of two checks per day.
Click here to check Robot Go Disco and download for free.
Writing 10 free tracks in 10 weeks is an attempt to work out what I’m about musically, and this week I’ve realised just how much I love to write stupid music. I had a lot of fun with this one.
While I also enjoy music with more substance, one of the things that can frustrate me about music in general and electronic music in particular is its need to seem important. I’d rather listen to something that was entertaining and honest than something with an inflated sense of its own significance. Coldplay anyone?
One of my favourite bands of all time is Parliament, who are the kings of brilliant and silly music. Their lyrics are politically charged and all the players in the band have always been incredible musicians, but the music itself is always fun (with a k).
The bassline hook that kicks off Hello Hello is inspired by their track Sir Nose D’Void Of Funk, and it served as the starting point of the whole track.
I’m happy with how its turned out, although the start of every phone call I’ve had this week has been a little surreal.
Stuff I Learnt This Week
1/ I’m very serious about stupid music.
2/ I need to give myself less options. An abundance of choice is the enemy of creativity.
3/ I always overcomplicate things. If I had more time, I’d try and see what I could take out of “Hello Hello”, especially towards the end. I kind of like it though as I’m feeling the chaotic party feel.
4/ I should just go with it. I’ve driven myself to distraction with worry over-thinking the process whilst in the middle of it. It’s only my wife Sally who has stopped me from going insane. “Just go with it Mike” has become her mantra.
5/ I need to let go. In some ways this contradicts the point above, but when something sounds great but doesn’t fit with my vision for this album, I must save it to my sketchbook and move on.
In general I’m very happy with how its gone this week. Although strictly speaking I spent close to two weeks on this track and won’t have that luxury from here on in. But if I put into practice what I’ve learnt this week I shouldn’t lose all my marbles. Yet.
Every Monday from July 19th to September 20th 2010 I’m releasing a new track for a very reasonable $0. You can download all the tracks in any format and quality (by clicking “download” under the player to the left of this page) and the whole album will remain free to download until 27th September 2010.
And as I continue with this 10 tracks 10 weeks project I’ll talk about how its going over in my studio diary. And if you want to know what the blazes moved me to embark on this harebrained scheme you can find out here
Until September 27th you won’t be able to find the tracks anywhere else (legally anyway) and I’d respectfully request that you don’t distribute the files yourself.
Instead please send people to this site where they can get it themselves for free. Alternatively you could embed the track players wherever you wish on the world wide web by clicking “share” beneath the player.
If the music delights and astounds you so much that you simply have to fork out some of your hard-earned moolah, then please be my guest and click the donate button, but that is completely up to you, I’ll still love you just as much.
To make sure you don’t miss out on any of this free music subscribe to my RSS feed (what is RSS?) which will inform you whenever I put a new track up.
I hope you enjoy the music as much as I’m loving making it.