Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nomads on the plains of time---and why?


"Nomads on the plains of time" or, how I will refer to it from this point forward, "Nomads", was born on the acoustic guitar, with the most basic of chords, G-D-C, But really the main driving concept for "Nomads" was cooking in my mind for months before--Mainly, I wanted to write a prayer.

Prayers use soft language, like "let", or "may", and I think it's because, to use hard language would challenge god. to say things like "you will walk upon the earth and always be free", is disrespectful to god. so the minister or the prayer, speaks to god as if god is the king and they are his advisers, afraid of his wrath. Strangely enough too, it seems as, whenever god says "let", it becomes a command. "let them breed and populate the earth". After I wrote my prayer, I started to notice this language in other songs.


My goal though, was not to emulate the cars, or bring god into the equation at all. I just like that soft language, it lends it self to letting go of your ego and accepting your situation. To me, we are all nomads on the plains of time. We never get to take root in any time before we must move again. Time never stops, and this was a prayer to calm the worry of the time traveler. Speaking of which, I can't believe I've been playing music for so long.

When I first put the song together on the guitar, I felt like it didn't have enough uniqueness to it. So instead of leaving it as G D C, I threw a Capo on the first fret and moved it up a step. this was fitting too because a few other songs on the album end up in this key too (man with keys, tribe from 3005). It still felt too traditional to me, so I reconciled this in the bridge by putting an unsuspecting and out of key B chord in. I managed to incorporate it so naturally in the song, that I almost don't believe it's out of key anymore, and it might not be, I still don't totally understand this sort of stuff.

It's becoming increasing more my practice when writing songs, to save some for the album and not play them live first. Trying to create systems for playing songs live, is a little like trying to make lots of different meals out of the same 4 ingredients, and by waiting until I record them, to flesh them out and solve all their little problems, I leave myself more options, and more flavors, and that was definitely the case with this song. It's unlike anything I've release before.

I layered 2 takes of acoustic guitar. I played with felt pick to try and reduce the strum noise. The bass synth line, went through several major changes before I settled on a very simple and subtle octave riff. Here's an early demo of the song with different bass.

Nomad Demo by CharlieSlick

The mood I was trying to capture with that filter bass synth on that demo was right but It wasn't as compelling as what I eventually landed on with the the meandering lead synth--like mystical flute, or organ, or more accurately, mystical noodling on my Mopho synthesizer. A mood, maybe influenced by Roxy Music, They were dominating my record player at the time. songs like this....


Keeping with the mystical type theme, I layered about 8 vocal takes, to give it choral sound. They are all me except for one take of Molly. I changed the tone by speeding up the song and recording a few takes, and slowing the song down and recording a few takes. It's a very "4-track" type trick, though I recorded the album on my Mac Mini. in reaper, you can get this effect by changing the rate. It's far superior to any pitch shifting plug-in, don't even consider using them.

The main shaker I used on the album was a cabasa. It's really fun to play and more interesting to me than a regular shaker.


I did run into, on this song and others, what I will call "Shaker tunnel ear". I was trying to find a place in the mix for the shaker, and so I would be focusing really hard on the shaker, trying to decided if it was to loud, or too "tin-y' and I would lose the rest of the song-- and it had a strange lasting effect. days later, when I'd go to listen to the song, I would have to focus really hard on other parts of the song, like the vocals or bass or something, in order to not focus on the shaker. It made it really hard to know if the shaker was in the right place. I've experienced this before, with other instruments, like focusing to hard on the guitar or keys, but the shaker takes the cake for being the hardest to lose focus on. It's like when you meet someone missing an eye or something.

As far as the linear story in the album goes, this song represent the Indian, living peacefully in the past, with his tribe, unsuspecting of his impending call to adventure.

We shot some video, not specifically for this song, but the fun and togetherness of it all, seemed to capture the mood and so we went with it. It's cool to play with a band that knows how to have fun and enjoys my company and still gets as excited as I do about ideas. I built that spin-art machine out of crap I found.