Saturday, September 2, 2017

Demos/Unused Tracks 3 - Unspun

Unspun "One" Demos 1998

My old friend from Last Tribe, John Smith and I decided to record some songs together after a 5 year break from writing with one another. Smith and I did most of the writing for Last Tribe and always had great chemistry. We would get together in my apt. and dig into the new tunes on my 8 track Tascam 38 reel to reel recorder. Usually I would supply the meat of the song.... structure, some type of simple beat on an Alessis drum machine, bass, guitars and sometimes a lead vocal. He would stop in and lay down a song idea, do some singing or add his textural guitar stuff, which he does so well. The songs we had were strong and before we knew it we had an album of about 11 songs. We spent a lot of time on each song, taking it slow and trying to not rush to the finish line. As a result we ended up using a lot of the guitar, percussion and keyboard parts recorded in my apt. on the actual album. They were parts that we never could have reproduced, so we did a big transfer at the start of the actual recording at Little Bear Studios in Suffern, NY. In the end we re-recorded all of the vocals, bass and drum tracks that are on the "One" album. Listening to these demo's, John's voice was so strong we probably could've kept those!

Senses In Bloom - This is one of John's best efforts and a perfect example of using tracks from my apt. demo. My loop beat, tom tom verse parts, John's chime guitar parts and his Zoom effected end guitar part, my ebow parts and tremolo guitar, as well as a 2nd effected echo drum loop on the chorus all made it onto the final cut of Senses. We played all of this for drummer Mike Greenfield in the studio and he nailed a great drum part. John's amazing chime parts were totally random and one of those lucky accidents. He played each one without listening to the other and when we turned them both up they formed an interwoven, jagged melody that we never would've been able to create if we were trying. Cool stuff.
Pale White Horses - I am probably most proud of this song. I originally sang lead vocals on this demo but there was no denying Smith's powerful voice and he really owned this one. He also wrote the great lyrics/melody on the descending outro to go along with my "where's the love now?" This is totally influenced by my listening to Radiohead, Verve and other 90's English guitar bands. I tried to keep the parts interesting and atypical. This is just a shell of the final version of the song but the tune holds up.



Here It Comes To Kiss Me - I originally heard this song being played by my friends Dave Corey and Kevin Scanlan back in the 80's. The way those guys did it was kind of punk-ish and the bass line was very catchy.  I asked them if I could use it and write a new song using elements of theirs and I came up with this. Smith and I kind of turned it into an Echo and the Bunnymen/U2 thing.
Made Of Wood - Another of John's. It's such a moody and intimate song of introspection. We came up with a Biko-like rhythm and tried to play with the production on this. A lot of these demo parts also made the final cut as all of the ebow parts, atmospheric keys and guitar swells could never be reproduced. I actually had the massive ebow intro part sitting on tape somewhere and we just put it at the front of this with the dramatic build up and cut to the quiet acoustic guitar.  Synchronicity.
It's Only Blood - A more straightforward tune of mine. The original demo had my voice on lead but again, John did great job with this. Just a basic sketch of the song on the demo, really. All of the guitars on most of these versions were cut direct into the board with no amp involved, hence the shitty distortion and clean sounds.
Bombs Away - All 6:40 of it. Actually two songs in one with a central theme of self empowerment and shedding of skin. I actually wrote the second half of this on acoustic guitar before I had the first. It was decided along the way that John should sing the more urgent 1st half and I should do the 2nd "won't be long" part with a chorus of voices coming in to build to a big ending. People still don't know what we are saying on the vocal call outs at the end but there were a few theories, my favorite being, "It's a long, a long....It's a long a, long a brown 'haya' (hair)!" Pretty funny.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Demos/Unused Tracks #2

Reveille - Written for my first born, who did all the things mentioned in the lyrics. She was my 'reason' during a difficult time in my life. I created an electronic rhythm track and proceeded to write a nice waltz. This was never on any release but it is one of my favorites. Is my voice really that high?


Stride - An early 4 track cassette demo of a Last Tribe song that never saw the light of day. I was convinced this one would be great live, especially with our rhythm section digging into it, but it was not to be. I put the whole track together with a drum machine and gave it to Smith who came up with these lyrics and phrases quickly.. we recorded the vocals in my bedroom and I think he was still writing as we were laying them down! The sound isn't great but you get the picture... I remember straining my voice doing the BG vocals on the left side during the chorus. I miss 4 track machines.

Another Quiet Moment - A "where am I and where am I going song".... A reference mix and a late night guide vocal on this.... I never got around to laying a better one down. Dave Ramie played a nice, groovy drum track in my garage and I spent a few days EQ-ing the shitty sound of the room out of it! It could use a solo (any takers??) but there are some nice guitar parts that keep it interesting during the chorus. Maybe I'll finish it one day...

Cry For Pity - One of my favorites from the early Last Tribe days. This was written around 1989 when LT was in honeymoon phase. The Central Park Jogger/rape case was in the news and NYC was still stuck in the muck. "Gutter rats the size of dogs" was inspired by a giant rat I saw outside of Tavern On The Green, one of the city's swankiest restaurants at the time. Young and impressionable, this was my naive take on NYC. Musically, the guitar parts and everything my bandmates added to this just seemed to work and it was always a crowd favorite. This recording suffers from midi drum disease but everything else sounds great thanks to producer Dave Schwartz. We did this in a fucking condo!!! Midi drums and half inch 16 track tape.... ahhh, the good ol' days,

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Demos/Unused Tracks #1

Over the years I've recorded a lot of music in my studio and others. I have a bunch of tracks that were demos, half finished songs, music only tracks, electronic stuff and some experimental tunes. Sometimes you do a demo and it never translates when you try to "properly" record it and you end up loving the demo.. A few of them are (to my ears anyway) pretty musical and worthy of a listen.... but they never found a home on one of my releases. Here are a few:


Long Way Down - A good one that got away. This one was done in-between "Interim" and "Tape and Glue"and features Dave Ramie playing a weird mix of electro/acoustic drums. At the time I had my friend Jeff's Gibson SG and it was giving me a killer, biting tone that inspired me to play the main riff of the song. The whole song was built around those couple of early bars.

Perfect Day - I wrote this with my niece, Shannon when she was about 11 years old. She came over for a holiday visit and was showing interest in music so we put a song together that came from her diary. This is not that version.... the version from that day was much more simple and kid-like. I realized later that it was a pretty good song and I decided to snaz it up a little. My goal was to think outside my box with the instrumentation and make it sound more electronic and dreamy.

Resumé - Written by Unspun towards the end of our run. We played this a few times live but never had the chance to really dig into this song. This was recorded in the same sessions as "Start" and "Stop Me Turning Grey" which we did finish and release in limited quantities. Eric Helmuth recorded this in his loft studio in Portchester, NY. We were lucky enough to rent some vintage gear, including a Neve sidecar mixer that arrived straight out of a Smashing Pumpkins session. No vocals on this as we never got around to it and a lot of this was recorded live to tape with a few overdubs.
Personnel: RD - guitars, John Smith -  guitars, Christian Celeya -  bass, John Joyce -  drums.

Reunion - This one is a few unfinished songs/parts in one. I had lyrics but never got around to singing them. It's pretty thick and there are a lot of sections and textures. It was definitely inspired by Pete Townsend and some of Radiohead's more rambling songs. To me it sounds a bit like prog rock. Those who know my stuff will hear a couple of familiar melodies. It was recorded at my house around the time of "Interim" with Dave Ramie on drums. I played everything else.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

If you listen to music on Spotify, there’s a small thing you can do that will be a big help to me: FOLLOW me there! Once I get to 250 followers, Spotify will “verify” my account, which opens up some cool possibilities for my music, and I’ll also be able to keep you updated whenever I release new songs or playlists. If you have a second, please click “follow” below. Thanks, I really appreciate it! RD