Friday, June 17, 2011

What is AlbumQuest?

My name is William Augustine Smyth.  Call me Will.  I am the lead singer in a band called Skunk Baxter.  We have been together the better part of the last ten years.  Not all of the ten; we broke up and got back together (like all great love stories, it's a long story - I'll explain later).  While we have been to a professional studio at least seven times to record, released 3 singles and 3 EPs, had seven of our songs played on FM radio, and have won awards for songwriting and performance, we have never recorded a full-length album.

I have wanted to record and release an album since I picked up a guitar. 

Now, as Page (keys) will tell you, we have recorded album-length live shows and offered them to the public; but I do not consider that an album per se.  An "album" by my definition is that amount of recorded popular music which can be fit onto a 33 1/3 rotations-per-minute long-play vinyl record.  Those old round things with round stickers in the middle, which you lay on a turntable and drop a needle on to produce noise out of speakers in a wooden box (invented in fact by Thomas Edison).  It's between 35-40 minutes worth of songs, with an "A" side and a "B" side.  Being that you have to get up and flip the disc over to hear the "B" side, you figure the "hits" will be on the "A" side and the "B" side is for more die-hard fans.  Pretty simple formula - perfect for American popular music.

My intent is to take the reader on a journey of sorts... a journey into the mind of a songwriter as he envisions his songs, arranges them, delivers them to his very diverse and very opinionated band members (i.e. they tell me when a song sucks), then gets them to learn them, like them, believe in them, and then play them out loud, then play them courageously in front of actual sentient beings, then record them really well so that the recorded sound approaches the wonderful sounds I hear in my head.  

I'm giving you, reader, unprecedented access.  Imagine if you will that you could read the personal journal of Robbie Robertson in those months while he was squatting in Big Pink messing with tape players and screen doors.  What books were there that he was thumbing through?  What conversations did he have?  Who were his musical inspirations and influences?  What artists deeply inspired him to create?  What was his motivation and intent with certain lyrics and sounds? 

Well, I'm aiming to tell you that.  Why?  Maybe because I would like to teach the younger generation of talent coming up how it's done and how to think about the creative process (it could save a considerable amount of time for you).  Maybe for music fans it will enhance their appreciation and understanding for what other, far greater artists than me go through to create the music you love.  Maybe because I think this may be my last hurrah as a performer (how long, really, do you want to be playing loud music in a bar until 2am?) and I want to document it for posterity.  Maybe it's because I think a band is way better than a solo act because you can learn a lot more by working with a team of craftsmen who are honest with each other than by yourself, alone in a studio, for hours and hours (I'm talking to you, Sufjan Stevens).  I'm examining my sub-conscious mind as I write this and there may be some other reason that is trying to win me over in my head.  But for now, I'm choosing the side of the angels - this is a noble quest and my goal(s) are honorable. 

My plan is to post at least 3 times a week for a while and see how it goes.  I've got lots of juicy topics to dive into.  Just wrote down the first 15 blog topics.  Depending on the response from you, dear reader, I'll keep going and hope you will join me and comment & share your experiences.  Hopefully it can be a learning experience for me and for you.

Mahalo ;)=~

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