exploring the creative and compositional process of everything


The Song
Tame is an electro-pop tale about the push & pull nature of romantic relationships and the emotions they conjure up. It is about overriding the unspoken rules of the game; the delicately choreographed dance that everyone practices, yet on the surface they are all pretending there is no music playing. Tame is one’s desire to bypass the charade, and to articulate the full range and intricacies of the emotions that a new love interest inspires without fear that honesty will put them in a position of vulnerability.

Tame is dark, danceable, electronic pop, and in some respects a throwback to earlier electronic pop artists like New Order and Depeche Mode. Electronically produced melodies are combined with the lovely string work of Matthew Everett, a seasoned composer, writer, and collaborator/contributor to the sound.

The Process

In its early form Tame was the beginning of a completely different song, and had a wealth of melodic and textured tracks. These tracks had two distinctly different sounds, and therefore were separated and split into two different songs, one being Tame, and the other currently an unreleased track by the name of As I Wait To See You.

Like many of the songs, Tame combines electronic hardware (Roland MC202Emu Emax Sampler), virtual synths (Korg MS20 and Polysix), and acoustic instrumentation (viola, drum kit).

The extracted elements that began the song were a virtual MS20 bassline, and the basic drum beat which combined drum machine patterns I composed with live drums played by Mike Lamantia Jr. of makeupbreakup.

Tame: Drum Section

The Synthesizers

I synced a pre-midi Roland MC202 to a sequencer using a Roland MSQ-700, and composed an acid pattern.  I applied distortion by overriding the signal in the mixing board, and also ran it through an Envelope pedal.  I recorded multiple takes so that I could have a different filter sweep pattern panned hard left & right in the final mix.

Tame: Roland MC202 Distorted Sequence

I then recorded two additional MC202 tracks, playing the instrument directly over the track.  One overdub consists of an improvised blip & beep sound, and the other overdub is a distorted melody for the chorus section of the song.

Tame: Roland MC202 blip bleeps & distorted melody

With these elements in place, I designed a synth pad using the virtual version of the Korg Polysix, and wrote a pad melody for the verse and chorus sections of the songs.  I built on top of the chorus melody by adding an additional piano melodic progression using an Emu Emax, and sculpted the panning of each note to create a fuller, more complex sound.

Tame: Korg Polysix Pad & Emu Emax Piano

The Lyrics

Once the core elements and arrangement was in place, I began developing the lyrical components to the song.  I repeatedly listened to the song in the studio, and  developed some of the lines for the verses and chorus.  I also recorded a number of stream of consciousness vocal takes from which I would extract additional lines that worked with what I was developing for the song’s lyrics.  Like many of the songs in the Grand Strategy series, I uploaded rough mixes to my iPod and listened to them as I walked in order to refine the arrangement and develop additional lyrics.  Once the lyrics were complete, I recorded a final vocal.  The vocal track was then processed using the virtual Korg MS20, and a delay plug-in.

The Addition of a String Section

With all the elements already in place, I could see how the addition of natural strings would tie everything together.  Matt Everett and I spent at least two recording sections developing string parts.  Of course Matt experimented with his viola plucking style, which complimented Tame’s other melodic components.  We then took several passes over the same sections, building layers of viola on top of one another.  After some thoughtful editing and the proper placement within Tame’s arrangement, the strings added a dramatic nature and human feel that I felt the song needed for completion.

Tame: Viola Layers


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