Here it is, me finally blogging about the current project I’m working on. I’m gonna try to kinda keep this series organized. I also kinda gave headings for the various parts of this, in case, say, you didn’t want to bother with the preface or parts of whatever (e.g. preface is irrelevant to what I’m actually up to)
WHAT I’M UP TO
– Historical Context
– The Beginning
I went through a phase where I debated if I wanted to discuss the current creative project I’ve been working on, or if I just wanted to work on it and whenever pieces of it start to surface, it would be what it was. For whatever reason, I tend to hold my pet projects very close to my chest. For instance, the mini-series I’ve been developing for the past year is something that I don’t even really discuss with any other member of the crew. I have so many ideas for that thing, from characters to visual techniques and so on, I guess a part of me is paranoid if I blab too much that pieces of my precious baby will be transplanted into other unrelated projects/crew videos, where as this is something I have a really strong vision for and don’t want anything diluted. This mentality is pretty ordinary though, people in similar spheres often poke fun at photographers and how paranoid they are with their endless watermarks and other methods of ‘protecting’ their IP and work. I will say one thing, ideas are everything to me, and I just like the whole potential shock factor– as in, when something finally gets produced, hopefully someone (who likely knows me) sees it and will think, “wow he did this?,” and hell, maybe that is coupled with a negative connotation instead of positive, but at least I surprised someone. It is that whole self-expression thing. I don’t feel like anyone really knows me until they see these grand schemes that are extensions of myself that also explore the realms of art and creative energy.
Anyway, back to the point: I realized a few things. In summation, I was being foolish. For one, this isn’t one of those “idea is everything” kind of projects. It relies more on execution than the idea, just ask Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix. Secondly, and I’m surprised how long it took me to realize this, I can talk about any project I might be working on in a vague enough manner to not compromise any details that might need to be protected– if that were ever something to worry about. I already have an tendency to be over ambiguous as it is. Finally, I am pretty sure that most people who ever read this are people who have actually mentioned reading it or discussed my blog with me before, these are people who likely have heard me talk about these projects in some way already, or I wouldn’t mind talking early details with and so on. On top of that point, anyone who I don’t know of reading this, it isn’t like I care because I’m not giving away the secrets to immortality or anything anyway. I guess the main point is that my audience is really small, so if you’re cool enough to be in that audience, then you deserve that extra insight and exposure to what I’m working on.. not like that’s a great life bonus or anything (but it is good resume material). I’ll also go ahead and say that if you do read these entries and I don’t know you do, you’re more than welcome to mention it to me, even if I don’t know you well. Because that makes you cool to me (ego fertilizer), and gets you up on my employee of the month wall. OK..
WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO
Let’s start it like this, I am now one half of what can only be referred to as a ‘pseudo fictitious hip hop duo’.
I feel like, from a surface view, this is one of the most unlikely things I could end up saying about myself, but I must reinforce that my idea of exterior perception is often pretty off, so who knows.
This project is much more than that, though I was recommended to introduce my project like this by a friend, and I agreed with that suggestion. It’s like the triple threat/attack in basketball, I can pass, shoot, or dribble from that point– take it any direction. Let’s take it back to the beginning.
This project has roots that begin in high school. Years blur into each other at a certain point, but I’m thinking it was junior or senior year, so 2005-2006. We, the swb crew, had a really simple idea of taking Ryan Baker (our resident rap encyclopedia and tall guy) and making him spend a week or two pretending he was trying to become a rapper. The two main ideas that led to this general idea were the though of having him go to an open mic night somewhere acting like your average suburban, middle class caucasian’s idea of a rapper/wigger/gangsta blablah, looking and acting the part and then trying to rap. Of course, the furhter away this open mic or writer’s night was from that genre of music and subculture, the better. Secondly, we wanted to put him somewhere, like perhaps on the streets of downtown Nashville with the whole donation hat or whatever and him try to freestyle to people walking back and so on. Basically, just another ruse that we thought up to make Ryan make a fool of himself and film for our own enjoyment.
It was a great idea for us at the time. Little planning needed, fewer resources, quick and easy to shoot and also gave Ryan a role, which was always important because he would come around pretty rarely, so it was always important to use as much of the limited mileage as possible. Of course, this project was never to be, just like dozens to hundred of others. I think Ryan’s availability was the main thing, plus we probably were mostly all talk on it.
A few years of dormancy passes until opportunity springs out of the earth, much akin to the moment that Jed Clampett misfired at some game and oil came gushing out. Except this oil geyser was carrying the precious gold statuette of Ryan Baker, the rap artist. Double jackpot. Around this past April, Ryan told me he was going to be in Fairview, or at least Middle Tennessee for the entire summer. Working off of a few assumptions, I knew that the people in the crew with the most availability would be solely me and him. Basically, my schedule was wide open, his would be wide open, all the other guys would be in and out. It was obvious. All my other projects I had been working on were so far down the pipeline. So I pitched revisiting the idea to him, he was down, though I’d also guarantee he didn’t take me seriously, or believe I was going to take it seriously.
The format was supposed to be weekly to bi-weekly web episodes, with the goal of being able to compile them into somewhere in the vicinity of a feature length mockumentary. In my head, it was the perfect solution. I saw this as having the same commitment level of the original idea. Something that doesn’t take much forethought, or work to execute and push out. We’d be able to rely on always having something to work on each week, while having room to do other swb crew projects, and then I started working on the thing…
School got out for me and Ryan said he wouldn’t be out of Knoxville til June. This was a bit of a disappointment because his initial declaration made it sound like he’d be around sooner, but on the other hand, I had the green light from the girlfriend who was excited to see me actually working on something after 1-2 years of nothing, no job or school clouding my time, a new computer that I had dedicated to video and music production to keep me away from gaming too much, and so on. Basically, I was set to launch, so I decided to do some test flights and work on some of the music end. Since we wanted to do everything in house, I was taking on the burden of pretty much every aspect of musical production. From songwriting, producing, even singing and rapping. Of course, I didn’t have plans on actually being on any of our main character’s tracks, but rather just recording scratch vocals so Ryan could get an idea of what I was thinking for any given song and beat. Problem was, he ended up liking what would eventually become my parts. This led to the birth of another character in our mockumentary and eventually to the evolution of one man with a dream to two men in a group with a dream.
That summer had many plan changes, for instance, Ryan was only around a tiny fraction of the time he said he was going to be… then he moved to California. Your lead man being that unavailable is pretty gamebreaking. That, I think, has been more of a good thing than a bad thing though, because the entire time I’ve been able to focus on the music aspect of the entire project.
I’d consider this at least a three tiered project. Music, performance and film. The music has to come first, we want the music to actually be good. We have to build the idea of legitimacy even if the characters and personas are ficitious. Of course, the music sometimes is coupled with these characters, so things like subject matter and what not are not as immune as the music, but I want to get into this later. Then once the musical foundation is established, build off of it and get into the performance and filming aspect, which are tightly coupled, but not quite joined at the hip with each other.
All things of the filming part fit in well with my experience, but the other two are only in the periphery of my background. Music production is time intensive as it is, I’d say more so than anything performance based. For instance, I can write a song, and to get a demo out of it will take exponentially longer than if I wanted to go grab a guitar and play it at a writer’s night. So like I said, it’s been good how things have worked out so far, because I’ve really devoted enough time and energy into the music for this pseudo fictitious hip hop duo to crush an anvil. There are other elements, such as writing and idea and character development that are brought along at all stages, but this is how I divide it up, and this is the stage that project is currently under.
So we arrive now at one of those retrospect moments. In retrospect, I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time. It’s kind of funny that I expected to be able to one-off on these songs and get them out quick, but then again, at the time we were expecting to merely make stuff that was passable for the character. The problem is, if I get started doing something, there is only one way for me to do it: do it right.
Volume 2 – My Odyssey into Music Production