"ableton", "creation", "doom", "goth", "guitar", "live", "music production", "music", "noodling", "process", "recording", "riffing", "riffs", "rock", "songwriting", "thrashing", "writing"


As those of you who have been following my album writing project more than likely know, I was mutated into a disgusting mucus generating slime-beast with my head clamped in a migraine-inducing vice for a week and a half. That's how it felt anyway. Well luckily I started feeling functional again on Friday and was able to get back into action!

So needless to say, since I lost around 1/3 of my time I allocated for myself for this project, it's going to end up being more like an EP than an album. I know, I know, you can tell me I'm lame in the comments if you like ;)

But actually, this is probably for the best, because the path I've taken is uncharted territory for me style wise. You see, in the midst of my sickness I had time to ponder the things I was playing with before, and I was really liking the clean channel stuff I had going. So I decided to focus entirely on playing with that sound. So needless to say, if you're expecting some crazy thrash riffs and pinch-harmonics you're probably going to be disappointed...hahahhaa.

As a heads up, I wanted to record video of me playing while doing these recordings, but it causes too many latency and playback issues if I try to record video at the same time I'm actually recording into Ableton :( So no guitar videos this time around folks!

Now onto the first track! This one is still pretty short at less than two minutes in length. Out of everything I currently have going this is definitely the most "rock" oriented song. I'm using Ableton Live to do all the recording and mixing. For the drum sounds I'm using my trusty plugin BFD2.

I started by recording the base guitar tracks into Ableton by simply playing along with a metronome. I recorded each riff individually into the Session view. This is not how I normally operate. I usually write all my tunes and just record them linearly in Arrangement view. But this time around, since the name of this game is Trying New Things, I went for a different approach. Here's a glimpse of the base riffs in Session View:

"black metal", "brainstorming", "creation", "guitar", "metal", "music production", "music", "noodling", "process", "recording", "riffing", "riffs", "songwriting", "thrashing", "writing", sound


Well the flu certainly put a bit of a damper on my productivity the past few days. Regardless, I was able to at least sit down and crank out some riffs. This time around I'm mostly playing in C#G#C#F#A#D#. Also began to play around with some clean channel stuff that I'm digging the vibe of. The cleans sound a lot better "in real life" than in these crappy little recordings, but it gets the ideas down.

I'm starting to get some ideas of some structuring, and a few drum beats are starting to play out in my head. I'm starting to hear a lot of potential for some pretty dark industrial beats and textures to accompany these riffs...

Going to start recording some of these guitar parts proper and play around with some drum beats and some song structuring tonight.

Here's the vid. As always, questions and comments are welcome!

And if you're interested, here's the previous two parts to this project:

Part 1

Part 2

"black metal", "brainstorming", "creation", "guitar", "metal", "music production", "music", "noodling", "process", "recording", "riffing", "riffs", "songwriting", "thrashing", "writing"


Here's a slew of new riffs I came up with the past couple days for my balls-to-the-wall album writing project. Lost some progress last night due to being hit like a freight train with the flu. But after sleeping for about 18 hours straight I got back at it late this afternoon.

So far a lot of what I'm coming up with is pretty slow and sludgy. I'm playing in Drop D with a capo on the first fret, so D#A#D#G#B#E#. I'm finding it provides for a lot of really dark and strange tones. Any questions or comments are welcome!

Also, if you missed it, the first part can be viewed

"black metal", "brainstorming", "creation", "guitar", "metal", "music production", "music", "noodling", "process", "recording", "riffing", "riffs", "songwriting", "thrashing", "writing"


I'm writing an album over the next few weeks and documenting the process as much as possible. I'm not trying to write anything legendary or blow any minds. It is simply a personal test to see what I can accomplish musically in a small amount of time.

What's the point of this? Having to complete an album in such a short amount of time forces me to write and act on instinct. I won't have time to over think, or barely think at all. I will have no choice but to write in an extremely primal and emotional manner.

So there you have it. I'm psychotic aren't I?

I'll be posting warts and all process videos and clips as frequently as I possibly can. So here we go, the first segment is below! In this first part you'll hear some initial riff ideas I came up with the past couple days that I'm pretty happy with. You'll also hear plenty of mistakes and guitar squawks. Let me know any thoughts, questions or anything else you might have in the comments below!

"andersen prunty", "book covers", "design", "graphics", "process"

Instinctual Design / The Fuckness Process

While studying Graphic Design in college I learned that  Concept is King. We were essentially beaten down and rebuilt as designers to develop strong ideas first, and then design based on those ideas second. Essentially, without a strong concept, design is fluff.

From my own experience as an artist, I have learned that Instinct is King. Many of the works I have made that I hold closest to my heart I began with little or no planning. Put on some music, throw back a few beers, and let the subconscious manifest itself.

It doesn't take much to realize that these are two entirely different creative approaches. For years, I was torn about which side to take. Which King to stand by and be willing to die for.

As I am pushing 30 years old and have a decent amount of experience under my belt, I have come to realize that I don't have to pick sides. I can set up camp off in the distance with a clear view of these warring castles and learn from both sides.

This has been my philosophy with the majority of my work at since late 2009-early 2010, coincidentally around Andersen Prunty's inception of Grindhouse Press and Atlatl. It was like the planets aligned. Two new publishing lines and a fresh outlook on my creative output.

Enter early 2011, when Mr. Prunty approached me to do a cover for his book Fuckness. With this particular cover, Mr. Prunty initially requested a quick and simple image to use for an initial release on the Kindle, with the probability of it being converted into a full fledged, published paperback down the road. Therefore, simplicity and flexibility while leaving room for further development was absolutely necessary.

Here is a look into the cover art for Fuckness from start to finish. But please remember, it is what is on the inside that counts. Fuckness is now available for both Kindle and Paperback at Amazon. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you have never read anything by Andersen Prunty, you are making a big mistake.

It all began with my sketchbook. Though not with a sketch, just the paper itself. I liked the subtle gray, the grain and the feel of the paper itself. So I scanned in a blank sheet to use as the base of my composition.

I then individually copied and pasted the appropriate letters for the title and author's name from my personal scanned type library. On a regular basis I scan in newspapers, old magazines, stuff from antique stores, anything at all with cool type and keep it all in a huge archive on my iMac. I design like a serial killer.

I then started to play around with size and arrangement of the type. With a title like "Fuckness" you might as well make the title as big as possible, right? So I divided the word in half and stacked it to fill the page. Obviously, I also inverted the colors. Not for any particular reason, just working on instinct.

Once I had the layout of the type how I liked it I merged all the individual type layers to save memory and to keep things tidy. I should note that the document is 12.5" x 18.5" at 300 ppi in RGB color space. I always work larger than I need to in Photoshop.

I was liking the black and white, but it just wasn't screaming. And if there is one thing I wanted here, I wanted screaming. I kept the inverted newsprint and applied a layer of red with the Blending Mode set to "Lighten" on top. I also duplicated both the title and Mr. Prunty's name, re-inverted them back to black and offset them about a quarter of an inch.

The look of Mr. Prunty's name was bothering me. I came to the realization that the problem was the offset type effect on the smaller sized, ultra tall and skinny type. It was just too busy. So I removed the black layer of his name, used the lasso tool to select a really loose rectangle from the Paper layer, and copy & pasted that big black bar behind his name, but on top of the red. As Duke Nukem would say, "Ahh...Much better."

At this point, I leaned back in my chair and chuckled to myself. That's usually a sign that I'm done...At least with the initial version. At this point I sent off a jpg to Mr. Prunty to begin using for the Kindle release.

A few months later, Prunty contacted me with the great news that it's time to convert the initial design into a full fledged, print ready cover. Up until this point, I was designing purely on instinct. Why did I do anything that I did? Because it felt right. That's what came out naturally. This goes against everything I was formally taught while studying Graphic Design.

But now that the book was going to print it was time to take a step back and really put some thought into this. First of all, there is the simple fact that preparing a cover for print is a bit trickier than it might seem. There are very precise measurements, guidelines and safe areas to work within. Second, now that the book was actually going to be a tangible product, I felt it was necessary to push the design past instinct into concept. Evolution, if you will. From ape to man. Only faster. But let's not forget...We're still hairless apes. So, while developing the concept I was still working on instinct.

Instinctually, I felt the cover could use some some sort of container for the text. So I start to throw in some random lines and borders.

Conceptually, I introduced an element that ties in with the subject matter of the book: Demon horns.

Technically, at this point I took the print template, provided by Lightning Source, set up my guidelines, placed the UPC, and pasted in the back cover description provided by Mr. Prunty. For this amount of text I use an actual text object rather than copy and pasting each individual letter. With the back cover there are often revisions that spring up in the middle of the design process, so I kept it easy to edit.

The black and white bars I threw in before weren't sitting well with me. Everything felt a bit too flat. So I created a mask on the Red layer (To reveal the inverted Paper layer), and very quickly drew in a bunch of diagonal lines to give it a little dimension. At this point I felt like I was on to something, so I kept rolling with it...

I dropped in a layer of red on the back as well and again drew in opposing diagonal lines. For the back, I worked in reverse. Rather than revealing the Paper layer beneath the Red layer, I revealed the Red layer on top of the Paper. I also dropped in a little subtext between the horns to properly introduce the madman behind the book.

While I really liked the big block of text, front and center, I really felt it needed something else. There wasn't enough contrast, and the addition of the horns wasn't conceptually strong enough to stand alone. It was lacking a centerpiece. Everything on the page was, well...just a bunch of shit on the page. After thinking about it, I remembered something I learned in college: Dominant/Recessive. There was nothing that was visually dominant over anything else on the cover.

There are numerous ways to fix this problem in design. Since I had already established that lack of contrast was bothering me, I figured that would be a good solution. So I grabbed the shape tool and drew a big white circle right in the middle of the design. Instant Dominance. I then went back through and manually erased, cut apart, and redrew portions of the type to make it conform around the circle.

At this point I was feeling good about the composition. The diagonal lines weren't quite crazy enough though, so I offset them with white. I still wasn't sure what this circle was for or what should be put in it, so I began conversing with Andy to bounce a few ideas around of an appropriate symbol to use from the book. After a few e-mails, we decided upon...

An American flag. It fit like a glove in both its design and the ideas in the book. This is the moment when the cover officially put its childhood behind and was ready to be a man. It also amplified the screaming factor ten fold. And you just can't go wrong when you have the American flag in the same layout as a pair of devil horns. As a finishing touch, I rasterized the type on the back and went over it with the Liquify tool to fuck it up a bit.

Flatten, slap 'er on the ass and send that bitch to print.

After a few weeks, Mr. Prunty kindly sends me a couple complementary copies of the book. There are few things that make me happier than holding a tangible copy of one of the books I have worked on in my hands. This cover feels especially good, too, as Andy went the extra mile and chose a soft, satin finish.

There you have it. I hope that my fellow artists and designers can take something from this. And by all means, if you have any questions or comments feel free to post them below!