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Projects > Compilation No. 2

Welcome to Compilation No.2!!!

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This comp features 5 cover songs that couldn’t be much different from one another from the misty sunrise of Ryan Trager’s cover of MGMT’s “Time to Pretend”, to Mighty John Henry’s masterful swagger through a live version of the Merle Travis classic “16 Tons”, Shane Coburn & Chris Pitzen’s unapologetically raw practice space recording of Nirvana’s “Breed”, followed by Chris Scott covering Beck’s “Putting It Down” through his cheshire cat grin, and finally One Million Teeth careening off into oblivion with a cover of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”.
I am happy with how this group of songs came together, and grateful that the guys involved were willing to share some background on their process. If you are one of those people who feel that talking about the creative process somehow detracts from the art itself, stop reading now.

1.“Time to Pretend”- Ryan Trager covering MGMT

I started playing guitar at 13, and played in bands throughout high school and college in suburban Detroit and Ann Arbor. I moved to Seattle after college, became a guitar teacher, and started messing around with home recording. 10 years later, I still feel like I hardly know what I’m doing, but my recordings definitely sound better than they used to.

My goal was to transform the emotional triggers of a song. To make the same set of lyrics and chords evoke a different set of feelings. I always felt like the lyrics to Time to Pretend were sadder than the song conveyed. Perhaps that was intentional, but I liked the idea of taking something viewed as a kind of anthem for party kids and making it more about self-identity, nostalgia, and regret.

An interesting challenge for me was to find a way to play the main melody and root notes simultaneously in a way that sounded unforced. It took me a while to figure out, but I ended up using a variation of open C tuning, dropping the 5th string down a whole step to F so that I could play the bass notes of the main progression (I-IV) using open strings while doing a descending waterfall thing with the melody. So, from low to high it was C-F-C-E-G-C. It’s a pretty, yet heavy tuning. I had my acoustic tuned this way for weeks and had a lot of fun messing around with it.
After the main parts were recorded, certain sections of the song still felt empty, so I started experimenting with ways to thicken up the sound. I tried every keyboard sound in my bank, but it all sounded sort of artificial. II ended up recording three tracks of guitar harmonics using the notes of the open strings. Then I reversed the tracks, which created a sort of swelling bed of sound that added a cool texture. I looped that a bunch of times and just layered it in throughout.

-Ryan Trager
Check out more music from Ryan Trager here.

2. “16 Tons” – Mighty John Henry (live) covering Merle Travis

Been playing guitar since I was a wee lad of 14. Well 14 is not all that wee then I guess. Trying to find something interesting to say about myself as a musician is always a bit of a stab in the dark. I have been interested in anything experimental since I was 12 but at that time I thought Led Zeppelin were experimental. So, then what the hell? If not particularly well grounded musicians stabbing around in the dark describes experimental music it also describes a pretty large chunk if not most of the rock and roll universe over the past 60 years or so. So I am either an experimental guy or just a typical rock and roller seeing where he can go with it.

I have been active in the Tokyo scene for the past 30 years and have done everything from full on Japan noise to Eurobeat to Jazz.

The objective in my mind when I formed Mighty John Henry was to have a rock band that approached the music more as a jazz trio than a typical kickyerass locked in rock band. Basically 3 guys in a loose orbit around my songs and in this case a cover I had liked from way back.

As for what we used. Well back in those days I was using a Roland VG 88 primarily for the polyphonic pitch bending effects you could get with the pedal, and, well really that was about it. I usually got to my gigs either by subway or taxi so just out of sheer laziness I tended whatever amp they had at the club and I was actually fairly partial to the Yamaha solid state 2-12 combo they had at the Crocodile. I think I was using my dan electro fuzz box for the extra kick in the the solo bits.

Makio Tada was a monitor for Sonor Drums at that time and he had a beautiful six piece solid shell kit. He was always such great player to watch I did my best to get him on the front of the stage for every show instead pushed into the back like the usual rock band set up.

Hidenori Yokoyama always carried around a pedal board for his bass that was about the size of a surf board. He is not a big guy and that that thing was heavy to haul around on the taxis so I always appreciated the effort. About half the items in it were fuzz boxes and he was always looking for another one to add to his mobile collection. The space invaders sound you hear in the intro is him playing with a toy ray gun in front of his bass pick ups.

16 Tons was always a fun song for me to end my set with with because it is dynamic simple tells a good story and does not have the the freaky chord and meter changes that my own songs tend to have so it was just nice to relax and Jam it out without having to protect some difficult song structure. I liked the kind of crappy version that, I believe, Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd did on SNL in about 1978 it was just one of those tunes I always wanted to cover.

-Dennis Gunn (vocals and guitar)
Get 3 free tracks from Dennis Gunn here.

3. “Breed” – Shane Coburn & Chris Pitzen covering Nirvana

I had my first guitar lessons when I was in second grade. I was mostly motivated because my dad was always in bands, and I was so drawn to the guitar, and all the sounds you could make with it. I really didn’t start getting serious though until I was about fourteen, when Dustin and Richard asked me to be in a band. We were joined by Chris Pitzen (who plays drums in this recording), and played together for nearly ten years.

I decided to play Breed because Nirvana’s Nevermind album took music to a whole new place for me. It is passion, beauty, art, and pain all in one. Breed does all these things with a simple driving rhythm and guitar riff complimented by simple poetic lyrics. I think a musician’s favorite songs are ones that he wishes he would have written, and the main riff of this song is one of those for me.
I recorded this song with a Yamaha aw16g 16 track digital recording machine. Every instrument was miked up and recorded in the old school analog way. One thing I regret is that the whole time I recorded the song, I had a $600 condenser microphone on my desk and never used it. The mic is so sensitive that I was picking up noises from all the way down the street. Although without that microphone, I was able to get the nice raw sound that I was looking for. I thought this would be the best compliment to a garage type band (Nirvana), who somehow was able to pull off one of the best produced albums of all time.

Recording this song was the first time I was able to play with my old drummer and best friend Chris Pitzen in 12 years. We got to record the drum tracks in our old practice space where Spike and the Impalers now practice. It was pretty special to get to rock out in that old room that for years was a place for my friends and me to get together a couple times a week and have practice and hang out. In that way, I feel like music is one of the big factors in bringing together my group of friends, specifically that era of music when Nirvana and many other Northwest bands were thriving.

-Shane Coburn

4. “Putting It Down” – Chris Scott covering Beck

Help my name is Chris Scott

I’ve been playing music for twenty bones now. It all started in the land of Burien, at the playground was where I spent most of my days. Then a couple of guys (Chad, Jeremy and Nate) started making music at Nate’s house. Just some old acoustic guitars and some pots and pans; I was hooked. I chose Putting It Down by Beck from Stereopathic Soul Manure because I love Beck’s early albums and I think Kanye should respect his artistry. This song is a great vehicle for my mission in music, to find the place where the pyramid meets the eye.
Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes but if I could turn back time…I’d go back to the mid-90’s to hang with the bros in Steve’s woods and roll in the Audi, pop can in hand.

-Shish Shcott

5. O Superman – One Million Teeth covering Laurie Anderson

I started making music on my Yamaha MT-50 cassette 4-track almost exactly 20 years ago and that transitioned into some time focusing on solo acoustic material. The solo acoustic stuff evolved into the nevVers followed by the first two forays into the world of One Million Teeth.

With the O Superman cover I am opening a new chapter on OMT.

I heard the song O Superman for the first time when I was 8 years old. It totally blew my mind. I didn’t sound like anything else I had ever heard. It was hypnotic, creepy, and the lyrical narrative seemed full of mysterious implications. I have my ideas, but I am still not entirely sure what the meaning of the song is. Laurie Anderson has said that it is some sort of response to the Iran-Contra scandal.

I chose to cover this song because hearing it back then significantly broadened my interpretation of what art and music could be.

The process of recording this song was a struggle. It took 8 months from start to finish. I felt like there were a couple of different ways to approach the song, the easiest being to turn it into more of a pop song. However, I decided what I wanted to focus on the effects of different textures, while building evolving themes throughout the arrangement. Several times I found myself getting off course and sort of compromising my vision. I had to start over 4 times, but I’m really happy with the way it turned out. It was a challenge to make and hopefully its a challenge to listen to as well and rewarding on some level.

-Nate Gunn