OCTOBER 2017 - A REINTRODUCTION
My name is Les Heifner, and I spend my time working, writing, waiting, reading, recording, running and resting. That’s all anyone out there needs to know. I have enough difficulty trying to think of something interesting to say to a co-worker on any occasion, let alone everyone I could connect with online, on a daily basis for months on end. Perhaps this will change at some point. For the present moment I’m going to refrain from using most social media, unless I’m talking about music. The exception is this page.
Around 20 years ago I was getting my first full doses of the internet. Simultaneously the internet was getting its first lousy doses of me. It was so much different then. I spent the better part of the last 20 years online. Somewhat recently, I brought this to an abrupt end. Projecting my personal life online doesn’t serve me personally. But creating an archive of my life’s musical work is an acceptable task for the moment.
Over the course of this same 20 years, I’ve written and recorded a large, perhaps unreasonable amount of music. A recent estimate puts the total time of my recorded materials at somewhere near 400 hours. It would take 20 more years to do a heroic job cutting and mastering all of this material, and I’d rather be making more music. Occasionally, throughout the process of remastering and playback, the mental/emotional/physical lightning bolt that is the creative process will strike. I’ve been letting that happen.
The archival process is taking years, with an hour here or there dedicated to the task. Until I’m finished with this archival process, I’m keeping new writing and recording to a minimum.
That’s what’s going on with me.
NOVEMBER 2017 - REORGANIZATION
Despite my best intentions, the mixing process is taking much longer than originally expected. My suspicion is that the trouble isn't with shortcomings of a technical nature,
or with the quality of equipment I have. It's the quality of the attention that I'm able to bring to the table.
I was recently reading about the journalist Jim Leher, and how he went to high school 1.3 miles from where I currently sit. The article went on to describe how besides being a famous journalist, having moderated countless Presidential debates, he's also written over 20 novels and 3 memoirs. How is this possible? Are these novels 200 page novels? When could he have possibly had time for such a refined past time? Perhaps he was only doing 6 hours of news a day, but I highly doubt that.
During 2017 I've gained insight into the magnificent role that a consistent sleep schedule plays in the quality of life.
Therefore, when I stayed up until nearly midnight last night working on my own personal (educational) version of King Crimson's "Lark's Tongues in Aspic Part One," it was a rare flashback to seemingly endless nights of drunken music making and mixing. Only now, I've pushed aside the alcohol for my own convenience. I allowed myself 7 hours of sleep and woke up about 2 and a half hours later than usual, no hangover, ready to approach the mixing board again.
Progress on my gargantuan musical project of archiving continues, but at a pace that will serve as compelling evidence next time I decide to remix and rerecord decades worth of recorded material. A mental and emotional change of perspective may be necessary for a jumpstart.
That’s what’s going on with me.
DECEMBER 2017 - RESET BUTTONS
Parallel to a more than full-time job and plenty of other mandatory responsibilities, the life's work continues. A few days ago, as I drank coffee and looked at the gargantuan task ahead of me, I had an interesting thought. What if I organize these albums into week-long or month-long projects? I'm going to try it.
One difficulty I've encountered is that my first inclination is to pick my favorite material to tackle before my less favorite material. This creates a workflow problem. However, remembering that this project is not to painstakingly recreate demo recordings, but record these songs as they were originally intended, I can allow myself plenty of creative room to make up for the drag.
A piece that exemplifies this notion is from an album called The Norm. It's called "Go Get Engaged." Originally written and demo'd back in early 2001, this song's finale found it exploding into factions of unorganized nervous ticks. It was an ending that always disappointed me. 2017's ending actually completes the song and takes it to the point it needs to be taken to, before the next track. The rest of the song is in working order and stands up to the original demo quite well, for being 16 years separated.
The Norm was recorded primarily in New Standard Tuning (from low to high, C, G, D, A, E, G.) There was one issue that I forgot about from 2001. I was not in tune. In some cases I was 3 or 4 steps higher than I needed to be. Depending on the gauge of strings you're using, this can be quite unhealthy for a guitar's neck. However, staying true to the original pieces, I've gone and tuned the Dean Evo up like crazy, with the house capo missing in action, unavailable for cutting corners.
After I've completed recording on The Norm (now 75% completed,) I'll be switching focus back to Mechanical Echoes, the new album that I'd like to release completely before the end of this year. I've got 3 weeks and some change. That should be enough time. More to come.
JANUARY 2018 - RECORDING
After my last entry, I recorded the majority of a new EP called 'Twenty and Seventeen." This is the way it works, when it works. From the first note to the last, this record basically recorded itself. The idea was to create a record with heavy synthesizers, deep synth bass, supportive guitars, and two separate sets of drums. Essentially, it's a drum machine on the left, and an analog drum kit on the right. Recording began as ideas began to arrive on December 17th 2017, and most of the material was conceived within 10 days. One song after another, presented itself in clear, opportune bursts. You learn to take advantage of these if you know what's good for you. They're rare, and game-changing. Otherwise these kind of creative opportunities float by in their tempting, distracting manner, before evaporating forever.
The remainder of recorded material will occur arbitrarily in January of 2018. Vocals are last. The majority of the lyrics are written, but I don't event remember what they're about, if they're indeed about anything. The aim is for a February release on Amazon Music and Bandcamp, and March for iTunes.
FEBRUARY 2018 - REMINDING MYSELF TO RECORD VOCALS
Opportunities, cleverly disguising themselves as challenges continue to arise. The most difficult part of writing and recording music, in my strange, disconnected musical world, is the challenge of recording vocals. The singing is easy. It's the recording location that eludes me. In order to sing affectively, a certain volume threshold is required which I cannot easily come by due to the environment available to me. Another way of saying this is that I don't want to record vocals at home. From inside the house I can hear the tiniest of squirrel arguments and avian domestic disputes. Often I can hear a single acorn touching down on the bare pavement. I can only imagine what types of terribly embarrassing vocal attempts could be audible from the outsides of these walls. This altogether ignores the internal echo
The one thing that keeps holding back the finalization of my musical projects is the lack of recorded vocals. I've thought of tackling this in multiple ways. One idea was to simply have someone else sing. If this was a "band" per se, it would be ideal. This solution would satisfy my laziness and my distaste for recording vocals. But it would actually require more time, work and committing to the task of involving another person in my solo projects. "Yeah, I play every instrument, but someone else sings." That's not going to cut it right now.
To complicate matters, work on new music has commenced. A new song cropped up in the last week, and with 20 minutes of attention here and 20 there, it's coming along quite nicely. It's a different approach from the two-drummer approach of the last project. One set of drums will do, along with bass, guitar, synths, clav, electric piano, mellotrons, a vibraphone and some wobbly noise rhythms round out the sound so far.
However, the current primary focus, in my free time, remains the bulk of archived material behind me.
MARCH 2018 - TALKING TO THE WIND
The month is already nearly over. It was one of those months that began completely different than the way it ended. Work was filled with powerful and time-consuming changes. I began exercising again and keeping my schedule. I began a personal new requirement which forces me to sit down, turn off the rest of the world, and plug in the guitar, for at least 20 minutes, every day.
My musical activity seemed to have seen a bit of a downward trend this month. But then I looked at what what I had gotten done. With one terrifyingly embarrassing exception, every attempt to write and record new music has been met by the muse. Yet another new record is coming together, seemingly at the speed of sound. This new record has a tentative title of "March Coming Together" and features the following tentative song titles in no particular order that I am aware...
1. Imminent Launch (A "let's get serious and rock out right off the bat" song.)
2. Door Jammed (Waves of the ocean in a ballad.)
3. Nonsense (Think Bonanza, Studio 54 and flying into space.)
4. Released from Freedom (Creepy.)
5. Lore and False Truisms (Creepy and exciting.)
6. Valve (A smart-ass, terrifying track.)
7. Back Off (Something short and to the point. Content, but creepy.)
8. Reset on Reset on Reset (A musical contribution to music that isn't made anymore.)
9. Catching Light (A ballad that seems kind of exciting to me.)
Tentative song titles have the advantage of having something recognizable to call the track, and the disadvantage of being poorly thought-out and un-evocative.
As of this morning, this is 29 minutes and 51 seconds of material. This means each song is about 3.22 minutes in length so far. For my goals, I need at least 10 more minutes of material. I'm sure everyone else has their standards, as I have mine, but to me, anything less than 39 minutes just isn't an album. It's a rule I arbitrarily impose on myself. Otherwise, I'd have written nothing but EPs. If I've been guilty of anything in the past, it was making albums that were too long, but that's a less arguable offense than making an album that is too short.
All of this brings about a reminder. What happened to recording vocals on the last 5 records I wrote and recorded? The answer is that I've been rewriting lyrics for them. Another legitimate delay is a blessing. I've made a breakthrough in mixing and mastering in that my mixing are working now, nearly every time. I know I've hit the right spot when I have room in the mix to fine tune the spacing of the sounds in the recording.
So the bad news is, I have a lot of catching up with my music catalog and keeping up with new writing. The good news is, everything is going to sound a lot better, and I'm writing better lyrics. If only I could become a better vocalist.
AUGUST 2018 - HEALTH PROBLEMS SUCK
Health problems affect your body’s ability to do all it’s good stuff during the day and night while you’re forcing it to do the work you need it to do. Therefore, health problems affect the quality of the work you need to do. It also wears down on your ability to do this work with a good attitude. Some work has been getting done and some hasn’t.
I’m currently checking in on my website, and honoring my commitment to keep it current, update it with content, and get something done for myself on a hot Texas Saturday in August.
If you’re one of those lingering creepers who strolls through these dark parts of the internet, you should be glad to know I’m beginning the process of reengaging with the public as an artist. This will be a slow, calculated process, focused on promoting my art and my music.
As for everything written prior to this point, it’s all still being worked on, and perfected. I have some new tools, better knowledge and a better understanding of what I’m doing.
Right now my personal focus looks like this.
Were I to draw this triad to be proportianal to the attention each item gets, you wouldn't be seeing a triangle.
Despite three months worth of a lack of energy to write new music, the energy is there, it's just waiting to come back with a vengence. It seems as though 2018 will have been a busy year for my music. It isn't. In the past, say the early 2000's, I spent dozens of days per song trying to get the right take. I would rack up 15-20 takes of the same guitar part, over and over. The process required massive amounts of attention. The efficiency of my workflow in 2018 makes 2006 look like the 40's.