This is for to listen to, share, enjoy and spread the love….
Click on the link below to listen to Enigma
Vinden’s comments on Enigma.
If there is to be a cheesy music video, then this is to be the one that Gareth is shot doing or portraying something “Suggestive/Raunchy”. I am sure the interpretation of this song could be tailored to such a video shoot, especially with the words “Desire to feed this demon seed” contained within the song ……Mmmm, I wonder.
For me, this song is relaxed, it has a pleasing structure and flows beautifully with the melody/dynamics. There was no need for encouragement from the drums, I just filled the spaces and tried to compliment what was already a great song from Gareth and Jay.
This song was an excellent idea from the mind of a man raised by wolves…..allegedly. After Rhayn conceived this idea, he immediately ran naked to Jay’s house for the screening, disinfecting and polishing process………and to demo this track of course. There were many phone-calls that night, I was waiting in anticipation.
Finally, in that same evening, two excited musicians appeared at my door.(ed note: That was after 10 hours in the chair/s retracking, rerecording and re-realising the rough demo - long night!) They handed over the demo, I was grateful to say the least. We listened together and realised this song was going to be a gem…..
The demo was without lyrics, I did chuckle at the thought of Gareth trying to write the lyrics for it.
What is now on the EP is a solid song that is exciting to play, and initially was quite a challenge to forge from the outset. This song is definitely my favourite.
As They Lay My Body Down.
For me, this is another cracker of a song, except I’d rather be playing a violin for this one.
This song doesn’t need any encouragement from the drums, maybe this song can touch people somewhat deeper than the other songs on the EP.
This is not a song for the hairy-assed bikers!
I first heard the demo of Full Flow from Jay and Gareth whilst we were having a meeting prior to my joining of Sankara. It was this song that convinced me to join in the fun, especially after hearing Gareth’s “Robert Plant” impression. I’d not heard Gareth sing like this before, this was very exciting and encouraging to hear.
Whilst listening to the demo, I knew this song needed accenting to punctuate Gareth’s “The Plant” vocals in parts, and it needed a solid driving force to exhibit the songs full potential throughout.
You can hear these ingredients bubbling away throughout the song. Plus, this is the last song on the EP. What a way to finish, I saw the drum outro as quite cheeky.
Gareth’s Comments on Enigma
Enigma was the first song written by Sankara. It started as a germ of an idea that was little more than the opening piano riff. I thought it would be a challenge to try and make the song melodically interesting, while keeping the chord sequences in the verse, bridge and chorus exactly the same. If you listen closely, the only difference between them is the arrangement. The song progressed by passing it to Jay who added some heavy guitars, but decided to restrain himself and cut them right back in the verses in order to create some dynamics.
The song is about right thinking people who persist in courses of action that to the outside world seem to be complete madness, and trying to understand the reasons for it.
Rhayn brought a rough demo of what would become Exalted Star to the rest of the band, and I could immediately hear a decent melody over the top. It’s probably the song that underwent the most changes as we recorded and rehearsed it. The main bulk of the song remains the same, but we struggled with writing a satisfying intro until Jay came up with the guitar part that appears on the EP. I doubled the line with a phased synth part to beef it up a little. An outro complete with lyrics and a new melody were added to the song, but ultimately excised in the interests of brevity. No prog-rock odysseys here!
Rhayn presented the song with no lyrics and under a different title. I wanted to experiment again with the song writing process and have always found lyrics difficult to write. Given that I had a melody and wanted to complete the song as soon as possible, I opted to write “stream of consciousness”. I had the title and just let ideas and words flow from my brain onto the page with little regard for whether they made sense to any specific concept. It’s only after I finished the lyrics that I sat down to analyse what they mean, and I was surprised to find that they were reasonably coherent! It’s a song about making the most of opportunities (whether seemingly good or bad) and trying not to get stuck in a rut. This seems to be a common thread for song writers who come out of the insular communities of the Welsh Valleys!
As They Lay My Body Down
As They Lay My Body Down was the most complete song brought to the writing sessions. I wrote it almost in its entirety in about an hour while noodling on an acoustic guitar. The structure has changed very little during the production of the EP, though my initial arrangement was full of bluster! Jay wisely had the idea of completely stripping it down. As a result, there are no crunching guitars and a fairly gentle solo at the end, which I wanted to resemble the guitar solo at the end of ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush. I couldn’t tell you why, it just felt right!
It’s a song about loss and regret. About the ways in which your life (or you as a person) is only partially shaped by your action. How the action or in this case, inaction of others is an equally potent influence. And ultimately about how you make your peace with that. It’s not meant as an angry song, just a little melancholy. It’s also a brief moment of self-reflection on the fact that some people (especially Scorpios like me!) can be slippery bastards. We never like to admit that anything is our fault.
Full Flow started life as a guitar riff buried in amongst a slew of other ideas that Jay passed to me to see if I could do anything with. I responded to that one in particular as I thought it had a bit of a Led Zeppelin vibe and I fancied unleashing my inner Robert Plant. Of course, the idea of a Robert Plat vocal filtered through my sensibility and vocal chords means that the final recording sounds nothing like Robert Plant, but it’s a nice exercise for the pipes anyway.
As a nice mirror of the fact that the melody gives me a chance to be a little more ‘free’ than people might have heard me before, the lyrics are a short diatribe about letting people push their boundaries and how denying these opportunities can lead to resentment. They were jointly written by me and Jay.
Jay’s Comments on “Enigma”
Gareth wrote the majority of this song on keyboard and the challenge for me was to create enough differentiation between the various sections. We had to build the arrangement to reach a chorus, then bring it back down enough to build the dynamics up to the second chorus. The toughest thing for me was fitting the guitar around his existing keyboard parts without stomping all over them and losing that build up. Sometimes it’s better not to play anything than attempt to crowbar your ideas into a song.
The instrumental parts on Exalted Star were pretty much written by Rhayn. I very slightly tweaked a couple of things and then Gareth added the lyrics. I wanted a more attention-grabbing intro, though, so I came up with the lead part over the existing chords and then got Gareth to double it on keyboards.
As They Lay My Body Down
This is one of Gareth’s obligatory ballads. He wrote it on acoustic guitar and envisaged the arrangement as “sort of floating away”. My initial approach was completely wrong! While Gareth and I were putting together the structure, I was trying to fit distorted power chords in the verses and sticking riffs everywhere and it just wasn’t gelling. After Gareth left, I stripped everything I’d done off and took it back to just his voice and acoustic guitar. Then I added a few country-sounding lead parts on acoustic and the song came alive. Yet again a salutary lesson in knowing when to shut up! Gareth wrote the solo and got me to track it line-by-line with the idea of getting Rhayn to play it on a classical nylon-string guitar, but ultimately “demo-itus” raised it’s ugly head and we went with my electric solo.
When we formed Sankara, I gave Gareth a bunch of riffs and song ideas I’d originally written and demoed for Bluehorses that we never used. Gareth took one of these, cut it up and shifted parts around to suit him. I then added the intro, linking riff and middle 8. It starts with a solo simply because I was feeling indulgent and wanted to channel my inner Michael Schenker. I helped Gareth out with the lyrics on the last two verses when he got stuck.
Rhayn’s Comments on the “Enigma”
This was the first of a handful of songs that were played to me right at the beginning when I was asked to join Sankara. What struck me straight off the bat was the melody and the lyric content. My additions here were few as the structure had already been set. The original verse bass line was the rhythmic starting point, however once I got stuck in and started playing along to it I felt that having a chorus and a verse with the same chord progression was a bit much. I mean really, who wants to play root notes all night? So I altered the verse with some subtle polychords. The original rhythmic cell was extended and altered to fit in with Vinden’s drum patterns and my own sense of what I felt was right; no one complained so they have remained.
This was the first demo I brought to the table. Originally written on acoustic guitar the form and harmonic content have pretty much remained unaltered. Jay felt that a middle eight was needed and that the outro was extraneous – so they went. The key changes and odd time signatures (5/4 and 15/8 for those who care) are very much a part of my signature. I feel songs are meant to take you on a journey and that means rhythms and modulation, baby! The keys are relatively dark, lots of flats, to complement Gareth’s vocal range. Once we had recorded the demo, it was played and worked (and reworked) collectively, both in rehearsal and live, for ages before being recorded.
As They Lay My Body Down
This was the part of that first batch of Sankara songs I was played at my “interview”. It was also the song that stood out the most straight away. Its bitter sweet themes and strong imagery are captivating – even now I still listen along whilst playing. Again the form and harmony was decided so it was a case of adding a bass line that fit. It turned out that the groove was paramount to getting this right and took me a lot of repeated plays and reworking of my ideas to come up with a bass line that moved the song forward without being obtrusive. Subtle use of straight runs and legato ideas, whilst holding a strong rhythmic persuasion required a hell of a lot of constant listening and process.
This was on the first batch of songs given to me, and probably was the slimmest of original demos (a ballsy slide guitar intro – sadly binned, a verse and a chorus) and that was it! Even so the ideas were very catchy and strong and had a very particular seventies rock/blues slant. The slap bass line pretty much was formed within two or three play walk throughs. It was reworked again through rehearsals and on stage to the point it is today, a sleazy swamp blues feel.(However if I’m honest, I’m still messing with the it) The finger twisting runs were added one rehearsal where Jay though it would be funny to watch me try and pick them up straight away!
How to record an EP without spending any money (except on Jaffa Cakes!)
Most of us are familiar with the “Classic Albums” documentary series made by Isis Productions and distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment. When focusing on the production of a landmark album there’s a fair amount of footage of some Grammy-award winning producer, sometimes accompanied by one-or-more of the musicians (depending on whether they can remember which particular ego-fueled incident caused them to fall out with one another), enthroned behind a suitably gargantuan mixing desk. With fingers delicately poised on faders, said producer will lovingly bring up individual instruments hither-to concealed in the mix, all the while pontificating about how wonderful the recording experience was.
The general conception of recording revolves around the idea that you throw a bunch of well-rehearsed (sometimes well-lubricated) musicians into a cavernous acoustically-tuned room, give them some great-sounding instruments and amplification, position a bunch of good-quality microphones around them, press record and lean back (or forward over a mirror if it was the ‘80’s). Well, recording the Enigma EP was absolutely nothing like that!
A very clever man named John Storck codified the idea that you can bring a project to completion quickly, cheaply or well, but you’ll never succeed in attaining all three. It’s taken us a year to go from the first recording session (Vinden’s drums on the 19th of September, 2010) to the CD being sent off for production, so we’ve hardly been quick. I’m the wrong person to ask about the quality, as I always want to improve on things, but I can resoundingly state that it was cheap to make; in fact the recording cost nothing!
How did we manage this? Well, partly in the time-honoured method of blagging, borrowing or stealing and partly because recording technology has moved away from the analogue paradigm towards a computer-based setup. You still need to get the audio into the computer, but any reasonably modern “off-the-shelf” PC is more than capable of handling the processing once you’re in the digital domain. If you want to record an entire band at once (and actually have any control over balancing the level and tonalities of the individual instruments) then you still need a mixing desk connected to enough analogue to digital converters to get your 24 or more discrete tracks of bits & bytes laid onto the hard drive.
This is a problem. Audio interfaces that can handle that much throughput of data are expensive (at least any that are of good-enough quality for commercial use), so are the preamps necessary to take the (extremely quiet) signals from the mics and amplify them to line-level. And finally, the average living-room or garage is not sonically conducive to having a bunch of noisy oiks thrashing around at 100dB. We could have booked a recording studio at a few hundred quid a day, but this is our first release so there’s no money in the band kitty to spend a couple of thousand pounds poncing about pretending to be rock stars and annoying a recording engineer by spouting drivel like “can you give me a couple of dB more guitar in my cans, please?”
So, Rule 1: everybody overdubs. Yes, you at the back, I can see your hand up. I’m aware that there appears to be a paradox in operation. Let me explain…
We demo every song we write. This means that as the song is being constructed, it’s being recorded. I don’t mean the ‘stick a cassette deck in the rehearsal room’ kind of recording; I mean recording each instrument onto a separate track of our digital recording software, using programmed drum parts just to make it sound more like a finished recording, doubling guitar parts for a more layered approach, adding vocal harmonies. In essence it’s a dry run for when we record a song for commercial release. But thanks to the power of audio recording software we can move sections around or drop the middle-eight in after we’ve worked out the ending. Eagle-eyed readers may notice that I’m apparently contradicting myself (see Our Process Needs More Process), but I’m talking here about the way we write the material, not how we record it for public consumption. I’m not bothered about cutting and pasting the chorus for subsequent choruses – the purpose of a demo is to give the rest of the guys something accomplished to listen to. And here we get to the ‘everyone overdubs’ bit – the demo also provides us with guide tracks to play along to when recording.
Drums are the trickiest thing the home-recordist usually has to capture (unless they’ve decided they just have to have a marching pipe band on a track1!). The amount of ‘good’ microphones needed to record a drum kit can cost over a thousand pounds, plus there’s the problem of using a poor acoustic space to record in. Recording the drums in an average living room doesn’t sound great – nor does a garage with carpet stuck all over the walls and ceiling. Thankfully, a friend of Rhayn’s and Vinden’s teaches audio engineering and happened to have a reasonably sound-proofed live room we could use, a Toft 32 track mixing desk (lots of money), and a fully-featured Pro Tools HD rig (lots and lots of money). Viv Lock (for it was he) kindly agreed to record the drums and vocals for our EP, his commitments willing. I made ‘drum karaoke’ mixes for Vinden to play along to, complete with click tracks, and away he went. He got the drums for all four songs recorded in one session, we transferred the files onto an external hard drive to take away with us, and we were rolling.