Sunday, November 27, 2011

how I wrote and recorded funn




"Funn" is by far the oldest song on "A farout indian" and so it makes sense that it would come first on the album. It was originally slated to be on a concept album I was working on called "CatCity". I abandoned "Catcity" after a failed attempt to incorporate cat sounds into my live act, in addition to the theme being to similar to my previous album "Elron Hubbard". But Funn Survived the overhaul because it adapted well to "the Jerk" (a guitar like instrument I created).

"Funn" is another song in a long line of songs I've written as a response to songs I've liked, in this case, it was "funtime" by iggy Pop.



The first time I heard "funtime", it stuck with me, and though it took a little time for me to realize how clever it was, I liked the idea of having a chorus about fun--rather than a chorus about something you really think is fun (like dancing). to me it's as if all the rivers of activities, lead to the ocean of fun. The only other thing as universal as fun, is death, and so I thought about that too when I wrote the song. Fun and death.

Musically, It was meant to be a dance song, that you could dance to without jumping around, a groove more than a club mix. I think I was listening to "more bounce to the ounce" a lot at the time.


"More bounce to the ounce" went on to influence "(we come to your party)" more than "Funn" but it seems relevant to bring up anyway.

"Funn" and most of the songs on "a farout indian", use synth tones in the place of hi-hats. Electronic hi-hats are by far my least favorite sound, but hi-hat on 16th notes can be helpful to make a slow song seem faster. By using a synth tone instead, in this case an E, I was able to get the same effect without using the hi-hat .

I used a reverse snare to give the beat a feeling I can only describe as "slide-y", the way some beats seem to slide into each other, a trick that George Clinton the master of. I think he used a noise wave and changing envelope to to get this effect instead of a reverse snare, but the general feel is similar.



The intro dialog in "Funn" could definitely be at home on a George Clinton album as well.

I recorded an acoustic snare and shaker to fill out the beat. Initially, for recording acoustic percussion, I was utilizing the "Glyn Johns" technique, but I found it to be less useful for recording single drums, like a snare (rather than a whole kit), so I went with a single mic (a rhodes tube mic) about 3 feet away and a foot higher than the snare. I would angle the mic to change the tone.

rathar than on previous albums, where I used my live tracks as the basis for the recorded song, I re-recorded all the synth parts using my Mopho synthesizer. I used long slow LFO's to control things like resonance and cut-off frequency to keep the tones changing through out the entire track.

I did several synth overdubs where I basically just noodled around until I got something I was happy with, I felt that this was in the spirit of George Clinton and would help loosen and warm up the album as a whole.

I tried playing the "the Jerk" guitar part through an amp and Mic-ing it, but I never got a sound I liked, so instead, I recorded it direct using my Sansamp para-driver direct box. "the Jerk" is layered in several parts. for one layer, I shoved a t-shirt under the strings and strummed an open E (on the jerk, that means EeBbEe) for the entire song. then 2 layers of the more noticeable guitar on verse and chorus.

initially, when I set out to record this album, I wanted to recorded most things through amps and not direct, but I found with all the layering I was doing, it really made the album murky. So I went back to running synths and such direct, but I did find that by recording some things mic-ed (like snare drums, roto-toms, vocals and shakers), the room sound that does come through, and sort of suggests that everything was recorded in that room.

from a production stand point, there is almost no effects used on the album. For the vocals on "Funn", I used an extremely minute amount of reverb (for the most part, the reverb comes from my living room, where I recorded the vocals). the most fussing I did, was adjusting levels, which change when the song moves from verse to chorus. I also trimmed off most of my S's from the vocal takes. as far as EQing goes, I screwed with that forever, but in the end, I turned off most the EQing I did and went with the original tone. though I did find, turning up low end on my vocal takes helpful. The girls vocal takes are mostly un-touched besides removing the S's.

I tried several times to add roto-toms to the song. I had my friend Geoff come over and try for something which got cut, I also had my friend Marty come over with a hand drum and try for something which also didn't seem to work. The keyboard solo thing was a last ditch effort for something to happen in the middle of the song. In my mind, it sounded too 80's for my "new" sound, but I let it sit in there for a bit and eventually it grew on me and now I'm very happy with it.

In my mind, the album starts with "Funn" as sort of a Tarantino move. To start at the end.