Notes - December 2006
So here's our attempt to be Rush.
This track warns us against the dangers of using technology for its
own sake. The lyric has always wanted to be, "We
live in the 21st century" which was always chronologically incorrect
until recently! I never thought the song would remain unfinished up until now.
I started out using "Funk
Fingers" with the Ibanez
fretless bass but lately I have fallen in love with the sound of
regular fingers on the Carvin so
that is what we end up with here.
This piece emerged on the scene pretty well fully-formed, complete with
lyrics. Actually if I recall correctly the basic lyrics may have come first and the music written around
them. Of course it wasn't until much much later that I found myself in a
position to try and sing them... The earliest version in the archives
dates from the latter half of 1990, produced with a Fostex 4-track
cassette recorder, and features a Korg Vocoder (the
that I borrowed from the local music store. I don't think I had any real
intention of purchasing it but the guys behind the counter were so used
to seeing me (and they had sold me an M1 the year before) that they just
told me to take it home and have fun with it, and to not break it if I
could help it. That version was recorded 16 years ago. (Yikes!)
We live in a world of inequity
Where some die of hunger, and some learn to fly
We welcome tomorrow, and look to a future
Safe and secure, in cities that reach for the sky
It's tense in the present
The future's imperfect
Our vision obscured by the stars in our eyes.
We entered the Race, advanced with technology
Listening to voices of reason, telling us why
We live in the 21st Century
Sometimes I feel that we shouldn't have tried
Every day we get to live with our legacy
Reflecting in windows of buildings and blinding our eyes
Remixing the media, framing the news
the picture they're painting says everything's fine
but look through the cracks, to the fault of society
the closer you look the more puppets on strings that you find
Wake up from a dream, and we're back to reality
The state wants to know if we wish to complain?
They've got our description and left us with memories
Of spies in our bedroom, pushing at things in our brains
It's tense in the present
The future's imperfect
Our vision obscured by the stars in our eyes
We stay in the race, enslaved in technology
Silencing voices of reason, questioning why?
I don't consider this track to have weird vocals or anything but after
listening to it, Eldest Brother asked me what I'd done to my voice. So
here's the process:
First, I recorded 6 or 7 takes of the vocals. I use a nice cardoid
condenser microphone with a pop screen but no additional FX, accepting
the natural reverberation of my studio room.
I cut the tracks into separate clips for each contiguous lyric phrase,
and selected the best to construct a single best take for each verse,
and two best takes for the choruses. Not surprisingly, usually I ended
up selecting from take 2 or take 3.
After assembling the vocal tracks, I use the Tools menu in SONAR to run
Adobe Audition 1.5 as an external wave editor, and clean up each clip -
removing any obvious spikes and reducing "breath" sounds, not to
eliminate but just to reduce them a bit. This step could have been done
using a compressor FX during the recording, but I've tried doing that, and I prefer to do it manually.
(I probably just don't know what I'm doing with the compressor
At this point I cheated very slightly and used a pitch correction tool
to fix the worst vocal glitches. It was usually just two or three
slightly flat notes per verse. The tool in SONAR is called V-Vocal and
although it has an 'auto-tune' mode, I don't use it. I fix the flat
notes manually, basically just moving them enough so that you no longer
notice the flatness, rather than making them perfect. Subtle is best for
this sort of thing. It's easy to inadvertently introduce noticeable
pitch artifacts so I always listen carefully to keep it natural.
For the choruses I panned the two takes 25% left and right for a
The verses are the single take, panned center. I also made a duplicate
of the verse vocal track, and applied a "Guitar Amp Distortion" FX
plugin to it and reduced the volume, so what you hear in each verse is
the natural tone plus just a hint of the distorted version, giving the
verses a slight gritty edge.
I have separate busses for the vocal reverb and vocal delay effects, and
I use buss send envelopes on the vocal tracks so that I can be precise
about what parts of the track have reverb and delay applied. That's why
only certain words in the phrase are accented with echo delay, and only
certain parts of certain words get reverbed. The effect is to make the
lyric flow and sound good without drowning it.
Finally, and most obviously, in this track I have duplicated certain
select phrases from the chorus and placed them into a separate track,
using the Pentagon I virtual synth as an FX plugin to get the vocoder
effect (the technique is
explained here). I've used the Pentagon's 'PWM Pad' patch for this.