A Little Something Extra
I wish I could remember the potential names that I was throwing at my wife to consider for the CD that would eventually be called Lemonymix. None of them were particularly great, even if they were sometimes clever. The problem that Emily was finding with them is that they were too cheeky. She understood my need to diffuse any of my earnestness with a little bit of the tongue-in-cheek humor that I adore, however, she also knew that I didn’t want to be “cute”, “precious” or too “funny” about it.
After all, it’s one thing to play with a bit of irony, or to distract; it’s another to completely misinform or to downright give the wrong impression. Calling the CD something like When Life Gives You Lemonymous… (which wasn’t actually one of the titles – I just thought that up now and kind of like it… but Emily would shoot it down right away… for good reason) is just not what I was trying to do. Period.
What I was trying to do was add a little something extra to this Lemonymous anniversary – to give it a little kick in the pants with something new to chew on, since it was clear by mid summer that I wasn’t going to be putting out a new album by the Fall. I was inspired by some of my favorite artists, like U2 (of course), who have always included extra stuff with their reissues or anniversary releases. I thought “why not do the same thing”? As it was, I fully intended to something along these lines with the 15th Anniversary of Neon Apocalypse (as I already had various mixes of the album’s songs laying around waiting to be cleaned up), so why not take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the Logic X platform by making songs almost from scratch, whilst at the same time releasing what would be, for the most part, new material?
The Bonus CD Plan
With Lemonymous mixed and mastered and sent off to Discmakers for production, my plan for Lemonymix was to release alternate mixes for most of the songs from the original album, and to fill in the gaps left by missing songs (I decided not to do remixes for “Not For Lack of Trying” and “Epiphany“) with some “rare” stuff.
Accomplishing this, I was sure, would be super easy. I would simply take the songs as they were, remove the parts (or instruments) that I didn’t want, and create (via synthesizers and midi) or perform all new parts to replace them. In some cases, like with “Hide and Seek” and “So Can’t I“, I would also cut the songs up and create real remixes.
And those two missing songs would be replaced with a demo of “Manipulation Under Stress” from 1998 (at the time a garage rock tune called “Goodbye” that appeared on my demo The Ender of Something Beautiful… Where was Emily then?) and “Another Moment“, a song that was recorded soon after the release of Lemonymous in 2005, was added as a bonus track on the Special Edition in 2009 and would be remixed and remastered for Lemonymix here.
No. Not right.
Because, as per usual, I bit off a little more than I could chew. I’ll give you a little run down.
Why The Bonus CD Wasn’t As Easy As I Thought
“Hide and Seek“, one of the first songs I went ahead and remixed, was actually fairly easy to do. I just plucked out the parts I wanted to keep, removed the old ones and did a lot of cutting and moving clips around. From there I simply created new electronic bass and synthesized parts to round out the sound and, I think, create something completely different.
I actually did the exact same kind of thing with “So Can’t I“, creating what I believe to be a real dance mix. In both cases, I took advantage of Logic’s drummer function – based on some parameters I set, the program creates drum patterns on its own. You can do this with “real” drummers or electronic DJ “drummers”, but for these songs I went with the latter. Mixing these really wasn’t that hard.
“Manipulation Under Stress” had a lot of the same ethos, however, I kept the entire structure of the song intact (meaning I didn’t move stuff all over the place). I created new drums, new bass, and pulled back on the guitars. What I ended up doing was practically reversing what I did with “So Can’t I”. For all intents and purposes, the version of “Manipulation Under Stress” on Lemonymous is a dance number – the Lemonymix version is certainly dancy, but it has much more of a retro/80s feel to it. I tend to like this version of the song better.
It’s also a demo of this song that appears as track 6 under the name “Goodbye (Manipulation Embryonic Lemonymix)”. See, back in 1997-1998, this was actually one of the first songs I tried to record on four track. I’m fairly certain that it appeared on my very first demo tape Lemon Tea in 1997, but I know for sure that it was on the afore-mentioned The Ender of Something Beautiful. I don’t know why it never made it to the first couple of albums and it wasn’t until the third one that it appeared in some form, but I suppose if you listen to “Goodbye” you’ll get a sense as to why. Its structure never really changed, even if its genre, lyrics and, in some cases, vocal melody did. I pulled this demo off of one of the original tapes that I still have, and cleaned it up with Logic and LANDR.
With “March of Thieves” I decided I essentially wanted to leave the entire song as it was but to redo the vocal with what I had intended to do the first time I recorded the song. But in completely re-singing the original lyrics, I quickly reminded myself why that hadn’t worked the first time I did it back in 2004 – it’s a really tough vocal to sing. And I’m not going to lie to you – I’m not a great singer. I still sang the vocal over many takes over many hours, but it took a lot of pitch correction (and Logic X’s Flex Pitch) to get it completely right. Even then, due to time constraints, (something I dealt with a lot on this), I didn’t get the mix as perfect as I’d wanted it. In any event, the final product gives you a real idea as to what the original song was supposed to be in the first place.
For “Like A Dream“, “My Girl, My Love, Let’s Kiss“, and “Alive“, I essentially pulled out just about everything except the synth/string arrangements, and recorded acoustic guitar parts in place of everything else. I think I even redid the bass guitar parts on all of these. In the case of “Alive”, I recorded an all new vocal. I hadn’t wanted to, but unfortunately the original vocal had too much bleed (extra noise from the rest of the song… which means I likely recorded the original vocal while playing the backing track live through speakers instead of through headphones) which was completely audible in the quieter acoustic setting. The good news is that while it did take quite a few takes to get it right, it still sounds pretty good and didn’t require a whole lot of pitch correction.
You have some on and off days with that.
Speaking of, I had somewhat of an “on” day when recording the vocal for “Reverse Psychology (Alternate Lemonymix)“. This was actually the only song that I recorded completely from scratch for Lemonymix, as the original song (an instrumental) was far too fast to turn into the ballad I’d always envisioned for it (I had always pictured it in my mind as two different songs built off of the exact same sound, but one fast and instrumental and one slower with lyrics). Thankfully, though built from nothing, it took little time to do – I knew all the guitar parts, the drums were easy to program (based off of Passengers’ “Miss Sarajevo”) and the lyrics came incredibly quickly, told very much from the same heart that will be coming through my next new album. The vocal is not perfect, however, I don’t think I truly wanted it to be. I wanted it a little bit broken, like the singer.
I don’t really want to talk about “Fate“, aside from the fact that my intention was to take a song that was built off a house beat on Lemonymous and turn it into an in-your-face pop/rock song with a little glam and glitz for Lemonymix. I think it would have worked but, again, due to time constraints and despite my dissatisfaction with the guitars (the sound is what I was going for but for some reason, even after I don’t know how many takes, they still don’t sound right to me), it was mixed and mastered and sent out into the world.
I love the remix of “Autumn“. I genuinely wasn’t sure I was going to include this on the album in any kind of remix form but, strangely enough, I thought of the Enya song “Only Time“, which was a beautiful instrumental number that, for radio, got a bit of an industrial tape loop drum remix. I thought, “why not do that?” and so this remixed version was born. I’m a fan.
What Happened After The Bonus CD Was Ready
The album recorded and mixed, mastering was finally completed at roughly the end of August using LANDR. I didn’t go through the same process I had gone through with Lemonymous, where I tried and failed to master it myself. I didn’t have time to waste as the release was right around the corner at the end of September.
What really irked me though was that in uploading the music through Discmakers and preparing it for digital worldwide distribution through their sister site CDBaby, I was informed that the “Lemonymix” portion of the titles was going to have to be changed, and I only found this out when I did a double check on the song titles a few days after my initial submission – songs like “Hide and Seek (Lemonymix)” were changed to simply “Hide and Seek” and songs like “Reverse Psychology (Alternate Lemonymix)” were now “Reverse Psychology (Alternate Remix)”.
Since I was playing cheeky with the theme, and had already printed up the song lists and titles as I had intended, this wasn’t going to do. In discussing this with CDBaby’s very awesome (I’m actually not being sarcastic – they are awesome) customer service staff, I was told that not all of the distribution platforms (like iTunes, for instance, though I don’t know if they are one of the specific guilty parties here) accept odd titles like that. Most of the time they reportedly deny adding them to their libraries. What we settled upon was adding “Remix” after every title.
So, in other words, the two examples above are now “Hide and Seek (Lemonymix Remix)” and “Reverse Psychology (Alternate Lemonymix Remix)” for the purposes of digital distribution. It sucks, and it’s really annoying but I couldn’t allow the “Lemonymix” part to be dropped.
But that’s not where the story ends anyway. I still had much more work to do.
In fact, we’ve still got another crowdfunding campaign to discuss!
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As you’ve read above, LANDR completely changed the way I produced my music, and it helped me save time while also creating a final product I could be proud of!