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Topics - benjaminscottfolds

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Album Board / Long Piece About Bats, Stems and Lyrics
« on: November 02, 2008, 08:26:03 PM »
YOU RANG?

As you know I hang upside down in a dark closet like a bat until summoned.  Did you know bats piss themselves to regulate body temperature?  Any other bits of bat trivia would be welcome. 

Stems are a fine idea!  I have a label to run this by.  I'll see what I can do.  I don't mind people signing a petition at all.  It means you give a damn and I can't argue with that.  Thank you.  Senselessdrum seems to be the most outspoken about all of this at the moment, and to you I say:  Yes sir!  The quality of an album is ultimately the responsibility of the artist.  Some people love this album, some hate it, some don't care.   Its all a matter of opinion.  I love opinions.  I don't love opinions that are stated as if they are fact but I suppose we're all guilty of that from time to time.   I’m thrilled you care, and so I don’t mind spending some time caring back.

If this album was a movie I was the actor, passing on director's responsibility this time around so I could get a different perspective.  I chose a director, a producer who's made many more albums than I, who had a totally different way of looking at things - a yes man would have would have just done as I said in which case I would rather just produce myself.  I believe in giving a producer a lot of authority, like Amanda Palmer did for me recently when I produced her album.  Of course when a dissatisfied audience member leaves a movie early and throws a half cup of melted ice and coke at the poster in the lobby, its the picture of the lead actor that gets wet.  And I did say in my thank you section that anything less than perfect was my fault.  So I’d already agreed with that point.

As far as the sound goes, I wasn't involved in the engineering but I suspect what a lot of you are reacting to - the compression and distortion - began in the recording phase since during the mix there generally wasn't the option of a clean sound.  Compression seemed to have been committed to tape.  That effect was compounded in the mix and again in mastering.  So I don't believe its simply mastering that some of you are finding disagreeable.   

Dennis and engineers were actively going for this sort of thing.  A broken ribbon mic was chosen for many of the vocals and Dennis had me singing about a half inch from the mic.  They compressed and EQ'd the vocals heavily to tape.  I wasn't aware that they'd all been effected that way until the mix and it became obvious that there was no changing these things at that point.  So I embraced the effect and went with it.  Mixing from stems and self mastering could gain quite a bit of dynamic and would be interesting to hear.  I may do the same thing for the hell of it. 

I don't have perspective on the production of the album at this point.  Its too soon.  I usually hate what I’ve just done until I start making the next record.  I’m just now able to hear what’s good about Silverman.   That's why when I'm the producer I like to move quickly if possible because I lose perspective quickly.  I don't really like to get heavy on effects and compression but that's my personal slant - I'd like to see the music do most of that work but I also don't like to get stuck in my own rules.  I've produced a lot of my recent stuff so I thought it was time to try something different - Dennis was definitely different.    In mastering I tend to like a slightly lower level that makes room for dynamics, headroom for low end, transients etc.  This is old fashioned and sometimes it really just sounds dumpy when put into context with "modern" music - like when I hear my music at a restaurant and the next song by some other artist blasts it out of the room.  So I was open to this loud method.  I'll try anything once.  Or four times even.   

I wasn't at mastering so I'm not sure what was done.  Not because I didn't care, but because I didn't feel I had anything to offer aside from my typical "turn it down and take it easy on the multi-band compression" comments.   

Loudness is definitely now an official industry wide issue.  Its spread into the general public via articles like the one in Rollingstone about the Loudness Wars.  Loudness is like contrast in black and white printing.  High contrast is often the symptom of a hopeless amateur, although some master printers, like Ralph Gibson use it to amazing effect.  Loudness is also like a tattoo.  If your friends talk you into it on a drunken night, you can't really bitch about it the next day because its on you for good.  Might as well embrace it.  Or go even go for the full sleeve! 

Loudness might currently represent the dinosaur of the old music industry that's desperate to compete.  As that dinosaur becomes completely extinct its possible that all production with Loudness will be buried alive with it, including albums like mine.  A Loudness witch hunt may ensue, half of the Loudness haters not even knowing what compression is. Years from now some of those albums might be revived.  Disco was Satan for years and then we discovered Abba and the Bee Gees again.  All disco wasn't bad. 

Lyrics?  I can speak on that subject better because I was the lyricist.  I stand behind every syllable and would change nothing.  Reviewers who have been critical of the record seem to have a lot of really aggressive nasty things to say about who they think I am with very little to say about the music.  The most recent one actually just came out and called me an assh*le and suggested I see a shrink! Not even a pretense of a review.  It reminds me of those stories about soap opera actors who get yelled at in the groceries store for something mean their character did in the last episode. They are interpreting the lyrics in a way that I didn't intend.  Usually they seem to feel that I'm ‘angry’ and ‘bitter’ and that the record is one ‘long rant’.  Seemingly inspired they go on to write their very own long, angry and very personal rant using the word ‘irony’ occasionally but missing its existence in their own review. It is as if these people have been chomping at the bit since they were fifteen to rip me a new assh*le and they’ve come charging out of the gate, not failing to mention all their least favorite parts of my past albums while they were at it.  I hit a nerve is seems and I don't even understand the nerve I hit!  The one healthy criticism I might glean from these reviews, even if I’m reading between the lines, is that perhaps my lyrics weren’t clear enough!?

Then again, I see loads of positive reviews, many of which seem to get the lyrics.  The Suburbs’ very own Emerald, for instance could easily explain nearly everything I was trying to do.  So its possible that there's more to the lyrics than meets some eyes, even if its not your cup of tea. 

Effington has been called an ‘angry tirade‘ aimed at middle America (I hate freedom?!).  I'm not sure how they got that but they were c*cked and ready to defend the heartland.   Its just that I always daydream about veering off the road in random towns, getting a job, a new life.  Its a choice that you could make and I’ve always been fascinated by that.  I was on a bus with a youth orchestra traveling through Poland during the cold war and kept wondering what my life would be like if I were to slip off the bus at a truck stop and disappear into some random village and learn Polish... The concept isn’t too damn deep, but certainly nothing near a “tirade”.  Even the ‘effing’ in cars and houses stuff.  Don't you look at a town when you're passing it and just once wonder how many of the buildings are concealing full on mating rituals?  Haha.  Well, maybe not, but its occurred to me anyway.  Anyway, the mayor of Effingham has a sense of humor since he’s promised me my very own plot in the graveyard!

Free Coffee is my ‘rant ‘at baristas who give me something for free?  Nah.  And the imagery in this one is very careful and intentional.  Why has the old guy driving with an ice cream cone of all things?  How many many tasks is he taking on at once and where is he going in his car, in life?  He's still a child deep inside right?  He was always told life was short but it doesn't seem that way sometimes and he always finds himself back at what seems like the beginning.  The only difference is in the way people perceive him?  Maybe the free coffee is the senior coffee at f*cking Burger King so its pity coffee and not the fringe benefits of rock stars?  Whatever the case, he's just peering out of his vessel thinking how bizarre life is while unable to resist getting caught up in the pressure of it.  The character in Dr Yang isn't kicking ass and taking names across the medical profession.  This character is just trying to get it right.  If you got more time on your hands you start trying to fix yourself, or even finding problems that don't exist to fix.  That's not so bad.  But you have to laugh at it sometimes.   

Speaking of laughing, yes I knew people would probably laugh at the diaper line in Cologne and I do realize its a fairly radical thing to do in a pretty song.  But its not a joke.   Isn’t life sad and funny at the same time?  Its a pretty desperate situation when you’re so tortured and obsessed that you'll sit in your own piss for 18 hours.  That's focus!  And its real life.  This is the kind of drama that actually happens.  Is it allowed to be in a song?  I say yes, but it will put some people off.  Its also the kind of thing you might notice in a paper and wonder if your soul mate who's far away has seen it too.  Imaginary conversations -  the poets who look up at the same stars as their long distance lover might, hoping for some connection.  Only these days we see the headlines more clearly than the stars.  I am sorry if it provides an awkward birth control moment in an otherwise booty grabbing number.  To each his own.  It at least gets two points for being unique.  But I'm not trying to be Weird Al.    God I could go on about each song.  Yeah, some of them are barbed in places but I can find almost all of the ‘’easy targets’ in myself.  Often I enjoy writing from a less likable point of view than is normal in a business which hinges on heroes. If others feel uneasy as they find parts of themselves in there too, join the club. Life’s a trip, isn’t it?

Still, that's a very small part of the album and if music means anything in the equation I feel like the record is just about energy.

Once, my then four year old son Louis was in tow for the long trek from Australia to America and was playing with some wooden blocks on the airport floor in LAX.  They were Waldorf toys I think – something seemingly simply that requires imagination. He was engrossed.  He and his twin sister had spent most of their early years in Australia where children aren’t bombarded quite as much with the culture of videos and action TV at such a young age.  An American kid his age sat with down and tried to play with him for a moment but decided the blocks weren’t cool.  "Dude that's totally boring!"  Louis had been imagining all kinds of worlds of characters by himself and some video game kid who said "dude" informed him he was an idiot for enjoying his own creativity.  Louis looked pretty deflated and put the toys down because he didn't want to be uncool.  Damn shame.


2
News / Last one from Ben (and its even longer)
« on: September 01, 2008, 07:25:15 PM »
I know i slacked on the caps for a bit - a relapse.  I will work on the paragraph structure as well.  But let me tell you that I'm somebody who passed music theory and ear training with D's.  So I'm not always with the program on form.  I knew the material in my own way but I just didn't do shit like put the do re me in my sightsinging or put the time signature.  I should have.

You might have read it, but I had a back and forth with the .org that turned into an interesting dialogue.  They're not so bad.  I suggest we all light candles at midnight, hold hands and sing songs of hope and peace together.  After having signed up a screen name over there and over here, I'm going back into remission soon.  I'll leave you all alone.  But first a blog with length and girth of mind numbing proportions!

I'll just speak some about the album in a way that I'm not going to be able to articulate in the wider press.  The album will probably be taken a dozen ways.. well, probably two ways.  Literally and not.  I can't complain if people go the literal route.  I have courted that in this record and will have to face the music when its taken on face value, from the songs to the artwork.

The artwork is of the movie stills variety.  Its playing on the same character that nobody can possibly feel sorry for;  the poor rich guy who doesn't have to pay in coffee shops.  

We borrowed a hollywood style mansion for a day and shot in every room.  I just sat and made the same sad face in each shot while Jared and Sam were paid as butler and car driver to hang out with me and make sure I wasn't going to kill myself.  Its really silly.  But the idea was to put one line quotes from the songs, rather out of context to set each photograph off in some way.  Although my favorite line/photograph combination ended up being a blank black page that just says "its just a thought but where did it come from".  Last page.  Anyway, you get the idea - sad rich man, lonely in his mansion, eating his TV dinner, putting up his golf clubs and occasionally trying some eastern ways of life.  This is supposed to be me, but of course my own 1800 square foot tudor house with kiddie stuff strewn and stacks of books with no shelves wouldn't have quite suited our purposes.  The British packaging style would have been to stay in character for the whole package, but we're American and so we have to show the behind the scenes too just to show you I'm real - thus the smiling candid black and white in studio shots in the center of the artwork.

The concept grew out of the songs like Free Coffee, The Frown Song, Dr Yang.  I see a lot of frowning people who don't seem to be very grateful for what they have.  They've always been around but it seems like they're coming into vogue.  They're in magazines ,ads, and especially present in the new age/ yoga sector.  That doesn't mean everyone who has money or who goes to spas is like this - I'm just amazed that there's some kind of marketing power in their poutiness (izzat a werd?).  I used to wait tables for people like that, but I feel they got worse or proliferated somehow recently.  I honestly don't think they're as sad as they appear.  I think its just in style, like being bored was in style for a while.  Anyway, this is what was on my mind when I was writing those songs.  I just wondered if those people couldn't just remember a few years ago when they were the servants... it seems to be the new rich that are the mean ones.  I'm finished thinking about that now though.  haha.  I got it out of my system and now its on a record.

Free Coffee was also an attempt to sum up how fast my life has flown by.  BFF literally took days off of work to play a few gigs in 1994 which turned into more gigs which turned into tours and albums and promotion... then one day (years later) we came home for a few weeks.  When I came back I had all this shit I didn't have before.  I wanted to make that unfold in one absurd verse.  I still have that backback although its on its last leg.  People treated me differently but I felt the same.  I was always happy to get nice treatment.  But getting free shit when you're successful drives home the snowballing value added benefits of capitalism huh?  I don't mind that I didn't get it before, or that I get it now.  I just think its funny to say and I've never quite heard it in a song.  Its very ugly to hear someone say they're rich unless its a rap record... its still ugly I guess.

Speaking of ugly - Hiroshima.  For anyone that just can't deal with the literal tone of it and its repetitiveness its really about public failure .  The literalness and the repetition is part of it.  Its ugly to say you're rich and its just as ugly to sing your woes moment to moment about being famous and falling off a stage.  But public humiliation is a fascination in our society whether its a governor with a call girl or a president falling down stairs.  I had no interest in weaving those messages in like you would in a term paper (which works for some songs) nor did I have interest in complicating the chords or melody.  All those things I tried sounded too brainy for me.  I didn't want people to think I was talking ABOUT those things - to speak from a perpective of awareness.  I wanted to BE those things.  That's uglier.  They're watching me fall (Big deal assh*le!)   And in case anyone is interested in what's in my head, I've got x-rays but that's about as much as I'll ever let you in on.  The other sub-angle intended with the lyric is the suggestion that I might have gotten brain damage which one could speculate brings about some of where the hero finds himself as the album unfolds.

But I wasn't into ugly for the whole album - I was just enjoying the effect of it.  I remember when I would catch all kinds of shit for writing words like "stupid" into a song called Emaline.
People didn't do that so often and I've always liked pushing clunky lyrical ideas where they're not musically welcome.  "Maybe he's been seriously hurt" in Annie Waits caused a long long argument where the producer wanted me to take out syllables.  The diaper line will put off quite a few listeners but that's the kind of stuff that comes across your field of vision and into your head while you're in the middle of life.  Sometimes its a good effect and sometimes not.  I think I'll let time decide about some of these.  They're intentional, and they're intentionally not flattering.  Who knows.  You just have to do whatever it is that floats your boat.

Takes a deep breath and finishes a post in part two (8000 characters were exceeded...)


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News / The Other Post From Ben
« on: August 28, 2008, 05:54:56 PM »
Hello!

I'm trying to write with properly with caps starting... today!

I would like to take this opportunity to mention that I don't hate the benfolds.org people.  When I posted that fairly serious note last week I had just needed to point out that compounded gratuitous negativity posted on the internet can have an effect on things that happen in real life.  That's why there are laws regarding defamation of character, libel, slander etc.   Its not to protect egos but to protect livelihood, family and friends.  Sometimes stuff that seems funny on the net, not matter how much of a sense of humor you have, holistically doesn't have funny effects.
So please!  Criticize the music all you like.  I would never want to imply that I have a problem with people stating their musical opinions.
A miles' worth of things to say about it all come to mind but its a waste of words.  Just know I'm fine with people ripping my music apart.  And I'm not angry with the .org people. 

There is however, one thing left while I'm hanging out that I'd like to clear up.
One guy on the ".org" who seems really concerned about some comments I made in the New York Times a few years ago about Wayne Coyne and Tori Amos.  I've done thousands of hours of interviews and yeah, that has always stuck out as to me as one of my lesser proud moments in phone interview world.  I cringed as it came out of my mouth and I cringed when it was printed.  I happened to be talking to Scott, the Lips' manager around that time and I nearly apologized but I gathered he hadn't seen it so thought maybe it would be better to blow over and not draw attention to it.  Tori stays too busy to notice or care.

Wayne and Tori had both turned down doing a song on the William Shatner record I produced and the next day I found myself spouting a very ill conceived half assed theory to a journalist that just came out all wrong.  Basically, I was trying to make an abstract (and feeble) connection between the working class in society and a figuratively named artistic working class, both who feel the need to please and entertain.  The upper classes socially and artistically would then not be as concerned with making people happy and might be free to make their art.  The working class would take any project on, because you don't turn down a gig, but art would be a byproduct - the artist often being unaware that they'd created something worthy of hanging in a museum. 

Shatner could be said to be the type to just take the gig, working class artist,  and go with it and yet he's made this splash in pop culture that must be art on some level, though he and sometimes we aren't aware of it.  Wayne and Tori are more aware of spending their time on art specifically.  I repeat, this was a bad theory and in truth I was more disappointed in their turning down the Shatner record than I knew until I heard myself spouting crap.  Its called human and I highly advise against it since there are those of us who are probably perfect out there behind a screen name.    Anyway, Wayne certainly has done his share of ripping into others - check out what he's said about Beck.  So he certainly could at least sympathize with my having been careless in my 6th hour of phone interviews one day.   Actually, Wayne had a few not so nice things to say about Ben Folds Five's cover of a Lips song but he left me a phone message years later apologizing - he says he likes the version now.  I'm glad.  I loved the song and that's why I spent time rearranging it.  Not to make fun of it, but to point out how versatile a good song is.

Wow.  See?  I meant to make this brief. Wayne and Tori both know I consider them both to be geniuses and Tori has always been amazing to me.  I did ten minutes of phone interview nonsense that's remembered in infamy yet I probably did hours telling people I thought they were amazing.  We're all fine and have moved on.  I hope that guy on benfolds.org can let it go.  He should be happy someone spent that much time on the subject just because he bitched about it a few times - A few minutes of internet fame before embarking on a life in a cubicle.  I extend for a handshake.  Hell, even a good ol fashioned man hug!

So... what else... The next US tour is going to be quite a bit different.  I thought since touring business is abysmal in the US right now I'd just hire extra people and up the production.  We're even having a production MEETING tomorrow and a week of rehearsals.  This is really strange behavior around here.  But we're having a fine time and the ideas are flying.  I have to stop coming up with production ideas for the fake songs though until we're finished with the songs on the real album and the medley of cover songs.

I've been doing homework today.  I just finished signing a thousand posters of myself to go into a special package.  There's something really wrong with that - not the package, but looking at yourself for that long.  I gave fifteen or so magazines the 'top ten favorite songs' lists they asked for.  I'm reading "My Life" by Fidel Castro and I'm waking up around 4am because I'm jetlaggin' pretty badly having just come in from Japan. 

We've been planning something for Chapel Hill on Sept 18th that I'm told we have to wait a few more days to announce.  There will be those who shit.  I know I will.  Very excited but I gotta hold it in a few more days.  I've been maintaining my caps rule this time!

Anyway, I said I'd come by and post and so here I am.  Thanks for reading.  No hard feelings to the benfolds.org unless that's what you want in which case you can all go smoke a ten foot dick?  Is that in the spirit?  God bless you all.
Love,
ben

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