Tag Archives: Music Production

Gratefulness 2018

Feeling entirely grateful for the 2nd half of 2018 which was much better than the first!

I’m super grateful for the live sound gigs I got this year (especially with The Piper’s Club who are most kind to me and have invested so much faith in me. With them I’ve really gotten the chance to be a sound engineer and learn about the job.) I’m not the most technically minded person and my nerves still get me, but I am a visionary and an extremely hard worker.


Without these gigs, I’d more than likely have chucked it all in by now- some people are utterly false and have no problem making me feel small in a crowded room. It’s entirely hard for me not to allow myself to feel that way.

It’s very easy to stay put in my music room and live in my bitter circle of loneliness and intermittent creativity. I felt so useless, alone and pointless. I despaired. Often. I literally needed someone to say “We want you to do this!”, and even though I brick it, it always goes well and people shower me with praise.

The gigs mean so much to me.

I’m grateful for the friends who reach out to me and check in on me and make me laugh. I’m grateful for the new friendly faces too. Thank you for being there.

And thank you to the false ones for f*cking off, out of my face.

And most of all thanks to my fiance for understanding me and still loving me. Thanks to my family for financial support this year (my worst year for money since 2008). I’m doing my best to kick anxieties in the arse, I’m starting to think my overthinking is utterly stupid and needless.

I’m grateful for my good health and my friends + families good health, the roof over my head, good food to eat, enough cash flowing to see me comfortable, my kitties and my freedom.

May 2019 be a fantastic year for you all. Thanks.

Thanks Rachel for the affirmation cards, this one is my favourite.

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My Beach Road Studios Workshop Experience :)

Since the beginning of time, (okay LOL!), since I can’t remember when, I’ve been aching to go to a Beach Road Studios workshop. After stalking/befriending JUNO award winning producer Siegfried Meier for many years on Facebook, the timing suddenly became RIGHT earlier this year. He announced he would be running the final ever Beach Road workshop this autumn and I knew, this was it! It was like the stars had alligned for me as it was happening on my week off! Within minutes (yes, I made the decision that fast) I had flights and accomodation booked, Canada, here I come!!!!

But how does a random audio girl from a sleepy, Irish countryside Nowhereness, find out about a mega, award winning, from Germany but living in Canada most of his life, music producer and his private, super-amazing-awesome studio?

Through Kittie.

When Kittie blasted onto Irish TV screens via the kick-ass medium that was (still is? is it? I don’t know!) MTV2 with the even more bad-ass video for their second single, “Charlotte” in 2000, I was hooked. Four kick-ass girls my age absolutely knocking it out of the park with a savage tune, how could I resist? Back then it was actually pretty hard to find out much about anything, even though we had electricity (LOL, Internet was dial-up and I wasn’t really allowed use it), I did my best to find magazine clippings about the girls. Metal Edge was the only place I could find anything about them and even then, I only ever got my hands on like, 2 copies, cos Nowhereness is in the middle of Nowhere, you know?! I got my hands on their debut Spit (produced by Garth “GGGarth” Richardson, 2000) when I went stateside that summer and it didn’t seem too long after that, their 2nd album Oracle (also produced by GGGarth, 2001) was released. That I did buy here in Ireland. The band developed and progressed over the years and while I kept an eye on them, Facebook brought them back into my world in 2010 and that’s when I discovered Siegfried Meier.

Kittie, circa 2000. Source: https://www.stereogum.com/1989753/heres-to-20-years-of-kittie/franchises/sounding-board/
Kittie “Charlotte” music video still, 2000.

So Siegfried worked on their Oracle album back in the day (credited in the album notes as Siegfried “Private Dancer” Meier!) as an assistant in Emac Studios (London, Ontario) and then became their producer for their 5th In the Black (2009) and their 6th, I’ve Failed You (2011), producing the band in his Beach Road Studios . Cue a new style, sound and sonic force of awesomeness for the band. Kittie has been a highly creative and unique metal band from the get-go but the Sig albums are f**king HUUUUGE.

Kittie In the Black, 2009
Kittie I’ve Failed You, 2011

Their 2018 Origins/Evolutions 20th anniversary release, which documented the band’s career, cemented my personal opinion that Siegfried was one seriously cool guy (I could discern from the Internet that he’s a musician, producer, songwriter, audio engineer, mastering engineer, cat lover, and all-round super dude). But the footage on that documentary simply blew my mind and I ached for the chance to visit. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait too long!!

Source: http://www.siegfriedmeier.com/about-2/

Fast forward a few months and I find myself driving an automatic VW Golf (black, shiny and sexy as hell!) on a 5-lane highway in Toronto, on the opposite side of the road. Huge trucks zooming by me and the setting sun in my eyes, my heart races with trepidation, I’M HERE CANADA! Immediately charmed by the picture perfect towns I drive through, hours out of busy Toronto, I just knew, this was a slice of Heaven right here and this was exactly where I needed to be (you know, you do kind of doubt yourself- am I mad to go to Canada for a couple of days?! How will I handle driving in another country? Will my Irish awkwardness ruin the vibe?! Am I still rock n roll enough to handle this?!).

The excitement!

I need not have worried. I may have been shaking in my runners driving down the magical road to the studio, parking the car after confirming I had indeed found the location and not some random persons house (imagine if I did that though LOL!), spotting drums through a window but the very second I opened the door and let myself inside (let’s face it, I still don’t even let myself into my fiances house 14 years on! I have to ring the doorbell and text prior to my arrival- that’s my own awkwardness, not their house rules!), I felt this absolute WAVE of love. Everyone smiled at me (walking into a room of 10 guys is a little bit scary!) and I was enveloped in Siegfried’s welcoming arms instantly. I actually didn’t feel shy!!! From the get-go I felt like I knew Sig forever and that it wasn’t my first time meeting him. It struck me it was a special connection and all my suspicions about him were confirmed- this guy IS the coolest person EVER! Larger than life itself, his warmth, genuineness, humourous wit, easy-going, relaxed, bubbly, passionate and humble personality shone like a white light. Just being around him made me feel an excitement and joy I haven’t felt in years. I probably looked goofy and starry-eyed as I openly gazed at him but that wasn’t for his incredible awe-inspiring career, it was for him as a human being. He’s the kind of person that you only find once or twice in your life and you recognise instantly he’s making the world a better place by just being in it.

Walking into his control room, my breath left me. What a beautiful room! Surrounded with a mix of vintage and modern equipment, yet with a vibe of home, I can see why musicians come to make music here. His welcoming personality is mirrored by his creative space. If I was a musician in a band, I would be extremely excited about making records there!

Source: http://www.siegfriedmeier.com/studio/

After a short introduction where everyone (Sig, the students and the rock band, Breaching Vista) got up and said a little something about who they were and confirmed they were indeed cat-lovers also, Sig dived into audio theory and concepts to ensure everyone was on a similar level. Notes were passed around and we were invited to jot down as much as we like. Standing on a footstool behind his amazing rare Amek/TAC Magnum console, Siegfried explained higher level educational audio concepts in a logical and exciting format. Hanging onto every word he said, my mind raced to keep up.

After coffee breaks and lunch, the fun really kicked off.  The importance of preproduction was explained and a guide track was loaded into Pro Tools. Track tempo was discussed and experimented with and yes, I even learned a new thing. Sig gave us a golden nugget concerning click track headphone bleed (I admit I actually made that f**k up on my own most recent recording and even kicked myself afterwards for not paying enough attention). Drummer Micheal Sferrazza (also a talented pilot, no less) was invited to take up his sticks and we all ushered into Sig’s, huge live room. I momentarily got starstruck as I recognised the wall of guitars and the placement of the drums, for I had seen this room on Kittie documentaries and photographs before (imagine being starstruck by a room! NERD!). My jaw dropped at the sheer size of the converted barn (Sig built and designed the entire studio in 2006, with the help of his colleague Lee While, acoustics professor from Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology), again, huge but welcoming! The room was chock-full of equipment, instruments, consoles, computers, microphones, amps, cables and more. I do believe in that moment that I died and went to Heaven.

There we experimented with a dedicated Pro Tools 6 rig and Sig explained the importance of gain structure, what exact signal flow he was implementing and set up the Glyn Johns drum recording method. A method I’ve read about and listened to all about since the beginning of my audio schooling, but one I’ve never actually witnessed for myself. Well wasn’t my mind blown?! A great kit in a great room played by a great drummer with only 3 (also great) mikes equalled MAGIC. Hell, that was a drum sound I would killed to have gotten in my production projects in college.

Drum miking techniques with Siegfried Meier

After that the room was set up for the actual recording of the single for Breaching Vista. 20+ mikes were set up- close mikes, room mikes and even bulls***t mikes. Each mike was explained in fine detail and I got to meet many of which I had only read about in my studies and some of course, I had never even heard of before. Jet-lagged like never before, I think I was probably swaying standing up, I wondered was anyone noticing I was ready to start sleep walking! But that wasn’t going to last for long because before I knew it, we were back in the control room, listening to the sounds of the drums and setting up appropriate levels. Snapped awake by the exciting sounds, my heart raced as Sig explained what he was going to do next: track the drums in the digital domain AND on analogue 2 inch tape! WOW! Tape!! I remember I was asked in an interview in Derry in 2014 which I preferred, analogue or digital? and I fobbed off a bulls**t answer. How could I answer such a question when I had basically zero experience of analogue? I think I said I liked the idea of analogue but really all I knew was digital and therefore I liked the good things it had to offer. Maybe that wasn’t a bulls**t answer afterall, but I always thought about it afterwards, feeling like a twat that I couldn’t actually REALLY give an opinion about that subject. Sig gave us a highly detailed history and informative block of information which detailed tape anomalies, machine care, and so much more. Brand new stuff for me. Please let my brain absorb all of this!!!

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This. Place.

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A very small (surprisingly small- there have been sessions where I pushed 12 takes out of my drummer, the poor unfortunate soul) number of takes later, along with the band for guides, the drums were recorded. It was already getting close to midnight and Sig bounced the analogue drums back into Pro Tools, using the Studer tape machine as an audio processor to get a very different sonic character. There we ajorned for the night, for tomorrow there would be more- drum editing, bass recording, guitar recording, vocal recording, editing, mixing and mastering. I left Sigs close to 1am and drove back to his local town, my mind racing and my heart bursting. I fell into my bed thinking I’d probably never sleep but boom, I was out like a light.

Feeling surprisingly refreshed, the next morning there was a beautiful spread in my B&B. The sun was shining and with a spring in my step, I drove to Beach Road, feeling confident about driving on the correct side of the road and feeling like a local because I knew the roads already. I practically skipped in the studio door, proclaiming I was not jet-lagged and took my seat behind Sig’s racks. He kicked off swiftly, explaining he was up since crazy AM, editing last nights drums and showed us swiftly exactly what he did and how he did it. We A/B-ed the Pro Tools, digital drums with the tape, analogue drums, understanding the sonic differences between the two and the benefits/downfalls of both.

With the drums edited, it was time to get really serious. Bass guitar (Mike Chhangur) was up and there, Sig explained that he was not going to use just one mike on his bass amp (hang on, you can use more than one?) but four AND run more sources (okay this bit went a little bit over my head, studio routing is not an easy thing to get initially) but there, the audio concepts discussed yesterday came back into play and yes, it made sense. The importance of using the same tuner for the entire band (the very same tuner, not the same brand, but the same actual device) was explained and boom, we were away! Again, a few takes later, we had a phenomenal bass track recorded and edited.

Bass, bass, bass

Next up were guitars, rhythm (John Maksym) and lead (Al Malnar), I’m not going to go into any sort of detail but it was more mind blowing stuffs! Definitely the kind of stuffs this guitar girl loved. Again, epic players using using gear in an epic room, produced by epic ears. More editing tricks, beautiful recording methods and tactics, next up it was vocals. Vox were a sheer delight to watch. Using a mike I actually own myself but never ever use, I was enthralled. Sig’s vocal chain was delicious. I’ve never been so gear hungry in my life! After editing and comping and a host of processing, I was delighted to be affirmed that what I do myself is actually correct and I learned a few little extra things too.

Shortly after that, dinner was up and can I say right here, that Sig’s wife Rachel is the most talented cook I’ve ever met, as well as a fantastic studio momma and all round lovely, lovely person?! Her food was out of this world and she looked after all of us like her own. Her presence added more love, light and sparkle to an already sparkly, beautiful, heavenly place. I didn’t realise so much joy was possible in one space and I was sent to pick up my fiance who was invited for the party. Brotherly “I know you!”s were exchanged as I watched the love of my life meet the inspiration of my life, and Sig swept him up into his world, a world he knows just enough about to be floored by what he saw. That’s when I saw Sig has a huge salt lamp upstairs near his mastering suite, of course! Good energy huh!!! After all of that, the class resumed and the final touches of the workshop were completed, mixing and mastering to quarter inch analogue tape- SHREDDER!

Slay indeed bae

We partied until an absolutely crazy hour, how Sig wasn’t totally crashing out (for he was up at the crack of dawn to edit drums, remember?) I’ll never know. Maybe it was the amazing maple syrup we ate raw from a dessert spoon?! Or the giant bag of those peanut butter M&Ms John brought and we all devoured?! The sheer joy of 14 like-minded people in the same room, simply enjoying each others company, exchanging thoughts, ideas, stories and culture, I suspect is what kept us all on Cloud 9.

My experience at Beach Road studios was simply second to none. I left Ireland thinking I might learn a little thing or two but instead I learned a brick tonne, felt joy and love like never before, got swept off my feet and felt a whole-ness I never felt before. I’ve definitely left a piece of my heart in Canada for I can never bear to say goodbye. Poor Sig had to get Rachel to pull me off his leg as I wept “Don’t make me go home!” I’m kidding of course but inside I was dying.

What an honour it was that I was allowed into Sig’s very special creative space, into the amazing building he built on a foundation of pure love and light. No wonder Beach Road has housed amazing musicians from so many genres, it’s the kind of place you gravitate towards and it wraps you up in a big cuddly blanket of passion for music. How lucky I am to have walked around those famous rooms and to have studied under the most passionate, intelligent, talented, skilled, witty, loveable and humble human I’ve ever met in my life. I’m so very grateful. Siegfried Meier is the producer I aspire to become one day. I can see why he makes brilliant records. Brilliant artists, brilliant gear, brilliant rooms, brilliant ears, brilliant skills, brilliant home. I haven’t even remotely touched on his history as a music producer- I urge you to visit his website Siegfried Meier and to pop his name into a Google search, you’ll be blown away by what you read and understand why I literally jumped onto a plane to visit a country I’ve never been to before, a journey of 5366kms each way. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I hope I see my friends Sig and Rach and the rest of the class group again in the near future.

I believe if everyone met Siegfried Meier, even for just 5 minutes,  the world would be a much better place.

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#NeverStopLearning

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10 Years After Black Daisy: Happy Anniversary to the “Disturbing New Fashion” EP

It’s not often (never before actually) that I blog about my old band, Black Daisy, though I have mentioned in my bio that I was lead guitarist and backing vocalist for the all female rock band. If you’re a first-time reader on this blog, I parted ways from the band in early 2009. The band was formed by myself and LA Halvey from the ashes of a band we found ourselves in which formed in autumn 2002. That band was named Ali, yes we all hated the name, but we couldn’t think of anything better so we ran with it (it was hoped we would get Bono’s attention! pfffff, as if!). We had high hopes and we actually did a few very cool gigs (Mountjoy Prison Christmas party 2003, MTV’s Breaking Point, a couple of appearances on RTE’s You’re a Star). The band eventually burned out but myself and the singer still had faith and we continued writing, recording, auditioning musicians and gigging. We eventually found the other half of the band circa mid-2007 (Nicki Billings from Wicklow on rhythm guitar and Asta Mileriene from Lithuania on drums) and became the last incarnation of Black Daisy. Well, until I was out of the picture but that’s a different story.

Newspaper clipping from the Ali Mountjoy gig. It was a blast. Apart from me being called Avril Lavigne all night long LOL. Kinda deserved that though.

 

Stuffs from the early Black Daisy days.

So the reason I’m blogging is because on this day 10 years ago, Black Daisy independently released our debut EP “Disturbing New Fashion”. It was available through downloadmusic.ie and a small number of Irish HMV and record shops.

Disturbing New Fashion album artwork

We recorded it in Donabate (Fastlane Studio) with producer Stephen Brett (now CEO of InMusik), who said our drummer Asta, was a “machine” (she actually was though! you’ll never find a drummer who was on the beat like her). We had a lot of fun recording it and it happened very quickly. His studio was really cool, at the time I was interested in production but it was all a massive mystery to me. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what DAW he used (probably Pro Tools) or anything like that but I remember how I felt and that’s always the important thing. We had such great giggles, I remember we all got on really well, Stephen was a lot of fun to work with, we felt at ease, he “got” us, he let us do what we wanted to do and he pushed us to try out new ideas. It was a cosy space to work in, not small but not massive. Perfect for us.

Blink and you’ll miss me! This grainy footage of an acoustic song we were working on at the time is still on YouTube. This was shot in Fastlane and aired on Channel Six.

So before we went to studio and before we even started rehearsals, the songs were all demo-ed by myself. I had just discovered Apple’s Garageband and I put together all the tracks using drum loops, my recordings of guitars, basses and LAs vocals. We had lots of fun recording in my bedroom and at the time, we suddenly felt empowered with cheap recording gear. In fact I wrote “Disturbing New Fashion” by putting together a bunch of Apple drum loops, recording them onto my Boss Loop Station and overdubbing guitars and vox over and over. I wrote most of the lyrics too, inspired by a documentary about festivals- I remember they were talking in particular about Lollapalooza, and the phenomenon of people losing their **** in the pit at the gigs. How disturbed the audience seemed to the onlookers. I thought that was seriously cool, so that’s actually what the song’s about! I still have some of those demos knocking around, not the session files (I suffered a massive hard drive crash in 2010 and lost all my digital memories from Black Daisy- photos, music, videos- all gone to digital heaven), but I still have some of the stereo bounces on mini discs.

Taking selfies before it was cool. Camera on timer and GO! Strike a pose! – random hotel room in Limerick, 2007 (we were playing Dolans that night).

So anyways, our preproduction was really important, we spent a lot of time as a band in our rehearsal space (Monster Music in Blanchardstown was the BEST place ever), going over each and every detail of the songs. We were very mindful of our limited recording time and wanted to maximise whatever time we had by sorting out the nitty gritty in rehearsals. It wasn’t always fun but we learned how to play as a band and we actually gelled really well during that time.

I was always happy with the finished product and I’m still proud of it. However my role with the band at this stage was on borrowed time, as I didn’t forsee the Eurovision fiasco at this point and I had every faith that the band was moving forward in a healthy way. We were playing great gigs on the back of RTE’s You’re a Star series 6, writing new songs and getting on like a house on fire. 6 short months later, it all would change.

We took ourselves awfully seriously- backstage in a random stairwell in the Helix before our last You’re a Star live performance.
Larking around in The Late Late Show’s green room, we were having quite a giggle taking these pictures but we didn’t think they’d end up in the paper! I still like that photo.

I suppose it’s only fitting that 10 years on, I’m in the middle of my music masters. It all seems like a lifetime ago, I suppose it was. I’m ever the sentimentalist. Being in Black Daisy was a huge part of my life infact, it was my way of life. Everything revolved around the band- my jobs, work hours, my clothes, what I spent my money on, getting up and down to Dublin, countless hours on Myspace plugging the band. I even put college on hold in 2002, and never thought I would get there until I had my BCFE interview in 2009.

Part of me still thinks: I shouldn’t have bothered, I should have went straight to college in 2002, I should have spent more time focusing on an actual proper job, what’s to show for all the politics and drama anyway?

But then, I’d have never experienced so many cool things: the epic recording studios, the knowledgeable music producers, the experienced session musicians, gigging all over the country, the road trips, the late night sleepover giggles, the tense photo shoots, the fun video shoots, the nerve-wrecking radio interviews, the exciting TV shows, doing each other’s hair and makeup, swopping outfits, the car breakdowns halfways down the country, the parties, the clubbing in Cork city, going to Galway for the craic because the show was postponed 24 hours and we didn’t want to go home, the saucy jokes, the dodgey rehearsal rooms in Temple Bar, the serious songwriting sessions, the hunt for band members, the excited fans kissing my biker boots at gigs, the people dancing to our music, blowing away skeptical men with crossed arms at gigs, making our home demos and of course, the girls. I’ve probably forgotten half of the shenanigans. Feck, I’ve actually played the Ambassador in Dublin! So yeah, it was a good thing. It was a life experience and I wouldn’t understand band politics and musician’s emotions as well as I do now, only for it. Maybe it’ll stand to me when I produce a new band in the future or when I engineer my next gig or when I become a teacher.

There’s still one or two CDs knocking around on Discogs and eBay if you’re at all interested. I still think it sounds effing awesome and believe we were something unique. I also think we were a band at the wrong time of the industry, when everything was up in chaos and no-one dared (or cared) to invest in talent. The EP is no longer available on iTunes but the “Disturbing New Fashion” video (directed by Zoe Kavanagh) is still on YouTube if you want a quick peak.

“Disturbing New Fashion” CD package. That font still offends me though.

 

My Names A, Your Names Zed… New Music from El Grey

For the creators and for the fans, active listeners or passive listeners, music has the power to move us all incredibly deeply. Sometimes we’re right here- in the moment and sometimes we’re floating in a sea of sounds- we blissfully lose ourselves for a tiny while.

And sometimes we’re both- Here and There.

The latest release My Names A, Your Names Zed from El Grey is exactly that.

el grey my names a your names zed
My Names A, Your Names Zed

If you’re already a fan of El Grey you’ll come to expect haunting, stunning and breathtaking vocal performances as standard. You’ll also expect crunchy beats mixed with a wash of synths and gentle acoustic guitars. You’ll also be aware that her music is deeply personal to her and each song is a little piece of her soul, committed to record.

Take all that you already know about El Grey and put a little twist on it. You won’t find this track anything like her previous release El Grey, but you will find her distinctive, trademark vocals affirming her ardent passion right here. Glistening synthy motifs bounce over and back a sound world of luscious piano playing and looped, reverberant vocals. Instantly you’re taken by the hand of El Grey herself into the infinite cosmos. If you haven’t gotten goosebumps multiple times within the first 60 seconds then you’re not ready for the journey she wishes to bring you on.

Hypnotic yet deeply grounding, her chanting vocal pulls you right into the centre. Looped over and over with additional harmonies, her voice guides the way- “Grab a coat, find a home”. While the chant gives way to a choir of swirly, angelic vocal expressions, we’re lifted further into the heavens, soaring high, looking for Home.

The mood changes somewhat after this point. You’ll hear a male voice enter- another new sound for El Grey. You’ll know that there’s something very special going on here- something very deep and very personal. In absolute contrast to what we’ve been listening to, she sings in her native tongue- and it works brilliantly. Switching languages in one song is a new and brave move for El Grey for she has something personal to say-revealing another dimension of herself and affirming her spirituality though her music.

El Grey

For me the most poignant lyric comes in around the 7-minute mark- “It’s just one heartbeat away from you” with echoes of “one” bouncing around, underpinning it. The music producer in me loves that line. The sentiment in me loves it too. It’s a line I’d hang on to for dear life.

This recording is 100% live and one take only. There was no pre-production. There was no doctoring this up in post-production either. The barest moments of extraneous sounds pop in and out here and there but these are not faults. Such sounds tickle my imagination and for me, they add to the soundscape. The piece in its entirety has a completely natural feel and I’m certain the musicians lost themselves in this performances-lost themselves to find a little something on the way back.

You could use a multitude of words to describe this track (atmospheric, holy, meditative, serene, gripping, stunning, special…) and you could find a multitude of situations to enjoy it in – at home with a candle, on a long, night-drive home, walking around a busy city- for it’s completely immersive and completely El Grey.

Enjoy the music here: My Names a, Your Names Zed – EP by El Grey on iTunes

El Grey: My Names A, Your Names Zed – Music on Google Play

el-F# | El Grey

elf logo7

El Grey perform tonight at the Hot Spot Music Club, Greystones in support for Oxfam Ireland alongside bands Calm State, Woodlark and Retrofix. More info: El Grey, Calm State, Woodlark, RetroFix play for Oxfam

 

 

For Your Ears, Heart and Soul: Leaca Bán – Na Tonnta

Posting and sharing with you, my most recent music production project, the beautiful Leaca Bán by 5-piece, traditional Irish crossover group, Na Tonnta.

Na Tonnta
Na Tonnta

Introducing Na Tonnta (L-R as above): Daniel ‘Hearthrob’ Whelan, Ellie ‘Ellington’ J McGinley, Sinéad ‘Brings her own teabags’ O’Malley, Ciara ‘I♥ Beoga’ Moley and Fiachra ‘Figgy’ Meek. The group met while studying Music in DkIT together and bonded through their love of traditional Irish music, popular music, tea, biscuits and cakes!

My journey with Na Tonnta began in September 2014. I was searching for a musically-new band to introduce to the recording studio and collaborate with for my final music production project at DkIT, resulting in three songs- one being the core and most-polished production.

Approaching Na Tonnta was an easy task. It was actually perfect timing! I already knew Sinéad, their flute and whistle player from the Norway erasmus trip in 2013 and I worked with Ellie, their vocalist and fiddle player on my previous production project, “Crystal Hearts” feat. Fiona McErlane by Audio_Girl | Free Listening on SoundCloud.

I knew I wanted to carry forward my love for traditional Irish music while bringing it into a contemporary production and I also knew Na Tonnta were a hard-working, creative and driven group from my Facebook stalking since they formed in October 2013!

Na Tonnta warming up for the Spirit of Folk Festival, 2014
Na Tonnta warming up for the Spirit of Folk Festival, 2014

Leaca Bán began in the rehearsal room. Sinéad introduced the idea to the group with the beautiful, haunting traditional tune, 250 To Vigo, accompanied by accordion player, Ciara. I sat, mesmerised by the performance- the beautiful tone of the B flat whistle, the rhythm of the tune, the sombre accordion, gently accompanying the haunting tune. The hairs on my arms stood and I knew instantly that this was a tune I wanted to be a part of. I could already hear our studio recording in my mind’s ear!

What happened next lifted my spirits even further. There was a lyrical idea. In fact, there was more than just an idea- there was a theme, a mood, an atmosphere and a poem! A vintage book was produced- a little blue book with yellow pages, about to be tossed out from a local school library where Sinéad worked. For some reason unknown to me, Sinéad opened the book and there was a beautiful poem at the beginning. The Lights of Leaca Bán by Alice Cashel is an old book intended for secondary school children but the poem simply titled Leaca Bán, found at the begnning of the book, is a literary work of beauty.  It was suggested that Ellie fit the tune to the words- amazingly, it worked like a dream. Ellie suddenly started singing the poem and it was just right.

Ellie and Fiachra in the rehearsal room
Ellie and Fiachra in the rehearsal room

By Christmas a humble demo which consisted of a vocal, fiddle, tin whistle and accordion was recorded and then my audio fun began. What I already had was a beautiful tune which was deeply Irish and could hold up on its own with such a small ensemble- how about adding drums? Synthesisers? Guitars? More vocals? How big could we go?! How big did I dare?!

Well, here’s the final production.  Listen for yourself.

My Week at the Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award Bootcamp 2014

I can’t believe it’s Monday already! This time last week I was sitting in this exact chair in Starbucks, DkIT School of Informatics and Creative Arts, planning my journey to Derry and feeling rather anxious about it!

What in the world was I worrying about? Absolutely nothing!

My journey begins with the completion of my music production project “Crystal Hearts” feat. Fiona McErlane by Audio_Girl on SoundCloud – Hear the world’s sounds at the end of last semester. On a whim I sent off my song to The Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award – Honeycomb – Creative Works.

Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award
Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award

I heard about the award through one of my lecturers at DkIT, they insisted I give it a shot. Normally I wouldn’t even dream of entering competitions!

You can imagine my surprise when I received an email a couple of weeks later telling me I was chosen as one of the top twenty digital creators of class of 2014 from colleges and universities across Northern Ireland and the six Republic of Ireland bordering counties! My prize was a week of workshops in Derry, meeting industry professionals, attending interesting talks about creative arts and business, working with the 19 other winners and an opportunity to pitch my skills to a panel of industry experts in a bid to win the grand ultimate prize!

I was immediately delighted but also a tiny bit anxious! Travelling 190 km to spend a full week with strangers! Shy, self-conscious and over-thinker- Steff almost completely backed out- if it wasn’t for the same lecturer who assured me attending the bootcamp was something I absolutely needed to do!

And glad am I for their assurance!

My drive up to Derry was very pleasant. As soon as I arrived at the hotel I met some of the other winners and I was immediately put at ease with their big smiles, interesting chat and genuine warmth. These were people like me!

That night we were treated to a fantastic meal in the Exchange restaurant in Derry city centre. The craic was ninety and the food was delicious!

The next morning (Tuesday) bootcamp officially kicked off with lovely welcomes from the Honeycomb team and straight into a fun personality workshop. After a card game which got the group instantly giggling and working together,  I learned about the four general different types of people (not that anyone can be labelled into any one type of course)- the two extroverted types and the two introverted types. I learned how these kinds of people generally think, behave and react to each other. The card game revealed that I am indeed an introvert- the kind who responds to others body language instantly, smiles a lot, tends to procrastinate, is generally quiet and shy and likes to take direction from others (over a cup of tea!)- yes, that’s me all over! I knew this already but it was lovely to learn there ARE others like me and how to approach the extroverts!

This was followed by a fantastic talk from Richard Williams from N.I Screen with great advice and useful information for us.

Great talk from Richard Williams to Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners. Really good advice on how to get started! pic.twitter.com/t8LCnKXgBi
Great talk from Richard Williams to Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners. Really good advice on how to get started! pic.twitter.com/t8LCnKXgBi

After lunch we started working on our pitching skills, learning how others deliver successful and smart pitches quickly and with structure.

After this we attended a Culturetech event in the Craft Village (much to my delight as there was a beautiful little shop I wished to visit there!) about starting up businesses in the creative arts. We listened to fascinating stories from three speakers about their ideas, their initial struggles, their developments and their successes. It was fantastic to hear how they went from their normal day-job to the job of their dreams.

Wednesday started with a workshop which was all about thinking on your feet- how to improvise. This was a lot of fun as it was all games that got us interacting as a group. I was initially terrified of staring into a strangers eyes- I tend to find looking into a strangers eyes unsettling- it makes me feel invaded and uncomfortable! And in turn, I tend to think I’m making them uncomfortable! I’m always aware of trust issues regarding eye contact but this is not my intent! (People I know and trust I am ok with!) So some of the games really freaked me out and I very nearly bolted but the ladies running the group were very understanding and said my feelings were totally ok- something I was never told before! It wasn’t long before I felt brave enough to join back in and enjoy the craic!

This workshop actually turned out to be one of the biggest benefits for me on reflection. It tied in perfectly with my life coaching that I’ve been working so hard on during the summer- building my self confidence, accepting myself, learning to feel joy towards myself and others, not feeling lost in the crowd and indeed- looking people in the eyes without fear.

After another amazing lunch, Josh Richards (science comedian and speaker, physicist, ukulele lover and astronaut candidate. graduate short-listed among 705 to colonise Mars with ) captivated us with his stories, his dreams, his infectious laughter and smile. We fired loads of questions at him and even though his hour ran out, he stayed back and chatted some more with us over coffee, we milled around him, taking photos and asking as many questions as we could! He really touched my heart and he will very well be the source for inspiration for a very future song I wish to write!!!

Meeting Josh Richards!
Meeting Josh Richards!
Funny Twitter conversation with Josh later!
Funny Twitter conversation with Josh later!

We continued our pitching skills workshop afterwards, pitching fun ideas to each other and then working on the tough stuff- our real pitches to deliver to the industry panel the next morning! We also received mentoring from industry experts- invaluable experience!

Teamwork!
Teamwork!

The next day (Thursday) was the day of truth- we were all a light-hearted bunch of people with all of our different personalities but one thing we shared- an anxiety about pitching our skills or business ideas to an industry panel! It was a big deal as we wanted to do our best- it wasn’t about winning, it was about doing a good job and pushing ourselves that little further.

My pitch went good! I couldn’t help but be nervous, my voice revealed that! But I felt good- I did push myself into something I would normally run away from- and hey, it didn’t hurt! 🙂 I pitched to them my skills as a music producer- what I could offer them if they were a top music studio, what ideas I have for the future of recorded music, my experience etc etc! My three minutes flew by in a heartbeat.

After a very pleasant walk around the city and lunch, there were more talks to listen to.

Greg Spence (producer of Game of Thrones) inspired us with his stories of the work he’s done, his journey and what he loves. He showed us the incredible work that goes into Game of Thrones (I knew it was brilliantly done but their pre-production is out of this world!!!). He didn’t just talk for the film/video/tv people, he spoke about the other creative work that goes into making a tv show (music, art, design, textiles, animation etc, etc.).

Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners 2014 with Greg Spence, producer of Game of Thrones.
Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award winners 2014 with Greg Spence, producer of Game of Thrones.

The last talk was more business- how to get investment in projects etc- valuable information was learned.

Bootcamp came to an official close that evening with two announcements- the person who came up with such a brilliant business idea that it was going to get further advice from an industry professional and the overall winner of the Honeycomb Creative Buzz Award.

It was after the celebration that our lovely group parted- some of us left for home and some stayed for further partying and Culturetech events! I went home as Derry is about a three hour drive and well, I missed my cat 😉

My cat missed me too :)
My cat missed me too 🙂

It took me the rest of the weekend to recover from such an intense week! The wonderful thing is we’re all keeping in touch. All the Creative Buzz Award winners are connected online and we are doing a great job staying in touch!

The seven graduates from DkIT who won the wonderful week of bootcamp (Rebecca Dykes and Sinead Duffy - graduates of the BA in Communications in Creative Media. James Heffernan - graduate of the BA (Hons) in Communications in Creative Media. Stephanie Caffrey, Ashling Grufferty and Sean McKeown – graduates of BA in Music and Audio Production and Hugh Thornton – Graduate of the BSc in Computing in Games Development.)
The seven graduates from DkIT who won the wonderful week of bootcamp (Rebecca Dykes and Sinead Duffy – graduates of the BA in Communications in Creative Media.
James Heffernan – graduate of the BA (Hons) in Communications in Creative Media.
Stephanie Caffrey, Ashling Grufferty and Sean McKeown – graduates of BA in Music and Audio Production.
Hugh Thornton – Graduate of the BSc in Computing in Games Development.)

Thank you Honeycomb Creative Works for a brilliant week. I gained so much, I’m so glad I went! You did a brilliant job and events like these really do perk up people like me! I have new friends, new contacts, new skills, new self-confidence and new experiences!

Enjoy Derry! Yours truly sitting in the Mayors Throne in the Guildhall!
Enjoying Derry! Yours truly sitting in the Mayors Throne in the Guildhall!
I may have come home 2 stone heavier ;) yum!
I may have come home 2 stone heavier 😉 haha yum- worth it!

Update: The seven DkIT graduates were featured in this weeks DkIT Times, read the full article at DkIT graduates attend CultureTECH festival | Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Words That Burn Release New Single “Before The Fall”

Attention metal heads! Dundalk-based metallers Words That Burn released their new single “Before The Fall” via BandCamp over the weekend. And it kicks serious ass.

For me personally, the song brings the likes of Primordial to mind. The excellent production showcases the band as a mature and highly-polished unit with plenty of edge and energy expertly performed. Catchy guitar hooks, tight as hell bass and drums, excellent lyrics and a savage vocal performance make this latest release the bands finest output to date. I love the fabulous contrasting middle eight for the well-considered, layered vocal harmonies- the lower register of Ronan’s vocal gets me every time.

Download the song at the link here: BEFORE THE FALL | Words That Burn. Name your price! It’s free if you want it to be!

The accompanying video was released this evening on YouTube- excellent work! Check it out below:

 

Their previous album Praey is also available on BandCamp to download- name your price: PRAEY | Words That Burn. Also awesome merch is available here: Home / Words That Burn Shop.

The band’s next major gig is at PhilFest 2014 in Fibbers, Parnell St, Dublin (Sunday the 29th of June)- a 2-day heavy metal event with a fantastic lineup for a mere €5 per day- you’d be bonkers to miss it!

Get liking Words That Burn on Facebook.

Get following @words_that_burn on Twitter.

Rock out!!! \m/

WTB

New Song: “Crystal Hearts”

I would like to share my major production project “Crystal Hearts”- a contemporary Celtic New Age song about the divine connection and eternal love of soulmates that I have been working on this semester. This is an alternative mix to what I’m being graded on and I hope you all enjoy listening to it as much as I did producing it! Love and light.

Composed by Stephanie Caffrey

Lyrics by Keith Caffrey and Stephanie Caffrey.
Produced, recorded and mixed by Stephanie Caffrey.

Vocals: Fiona McErlane
Drums: Jay Ruddy
Bass: Shane Piper
Harp: Shane Taaffe
Fiddles: Ellie McGinley and Stephanie Caffrey
Low Whistle: Corentin Morgble
Bodhran: Corentin Morgble
Synths and drum loops: Stephanie Caffrey
Piano: Stephanie Caffrey

Assisted by Shauna Kearney and Scott McLoughlin.

Alternative Version of “Close Your Eyes” is Online Now!

Some vocal edits, some tweaks, some mix balances, I don’t think I should call it a remix but a small re-work of my original song “Close Your Eyes” which features Fiona McErlane and Keith Caffrey on vocals.

Fiona McErlane
Fiona McErlane
Keith Caffrey
Keith Caffrey

I personally prefer this version. I intended on making the female vocals and drums clearer. I especially hope the listener is drawn to the delicate subtleties of Fiona’s voice.

Both versions will stay online! Enjoy!

New Song Coming Soon!

Thought I’d post a little update of my own creative musings!

Yes, I have been busy musically. I’ve been working away on my next New Age/Chill Out/Sexy Celtic/Whatever You Wanna Call It track! It’s an idea which sparked off a few weeks ago but I did not have the energy to continue, now it’s full steam ahead!

I’ve been having fun blending my favourite sounds from Logic’s ES2 and EX24 synths as well as making my own sounds in the Sculpture synth and recording lush harmonics from my 12 string acoustic, reversing them and having fun with my Roland Gaia SH01 synth.

Vocal ideas suddenly came and with them, a lyrical theme. These were sent off to my songwriting partner Keith Caffrey and although he has only indulged me with a tiny taste of what he has written, I have been blown away. He has possibly outdone himself this time! I can’t get over what a gift he has with words, he really writes so beautifully and from the soul! Every lyric Keith writes, whether it’s for our acoustic-rock Shock Sorrow duet, his heavy metal band Black Svan, his own solo material or for my solo New Age/Electronic music, is always deep, meaningful, interesting, emotional, personal and universal. I can’t wait to hear his lyrics with melody! (Oh I forgot to mention his amazing melodies, guitar playing and all round gift for music, any instrument Keith puts his hands on, he can play it!)

Keith Caffrey
Keith Caffrey, great photo of a great musician and friend.

I recorded some violin ideas last week on a whim, when I say “violin” I really mean “fiddle”! My love for Irish traditional is clearly evident in this one! I always preferred playing traditional music, be it fast or slow (really love the minor and modal pieces I learned from a great old fiddle player many years ago) to the classical, technical pieces (which are of course wonderful but that style never felt right for me- though I do not knock for one second the theory and technicality I learned through those pieces!) I studied in my school days.

Having the craic in college in semester 3, the lads thought it was funny to put me in the middle of 6 AKG C414s! (and not plug them in!)
Having the craic in college in semester 3, the lads thought it was funny to put me in the middle of 6 AKG C414s! (and not plug them in!)
Sneak peek of what I have so far...
Sneak peek of what I have so far…

I decided tonight that yes, indeed, there will be a fiddle solo in this one. 😉

That’s really all I will say right now, until I hear the rest of the lyrics with the melodies, I can’t finish the structure but I really am looking forward to recording this. I’m thinking of asking a guest female vocalist to sing it. I’m also strongly thinking that this might well be a demo for a possible future college recording project, real drums would be fantastic… now to find a drummer… if you know any, send them my way please!!! (stephaniecaffrey@gmail.com, for reals!!!!)

Still on a high from the Trouble Pilgrims gig over the weekend, still badly wanting my own Burns Hank Marvin signature series electric guitar!!!!

Also I see Logic Pro X has been unveiled today! Looks pretty slick, I gotta say! I do like the new interface. I was afraid it was going to go all GarageBand and childish in style- I LOVE GarageBand-hey, it was how I started, pretty much (if you don’t count mucking around in good old, Cool Edit years and years ago) but desperately hoped Apple would keep Logic professional! It sounds good with new features Drummer, Flex Pitch, Track Stacks and an Arpeggiator! I am excited! But I have absolutely no reason to upgrade, I love Logic Pro 9, it’s stable on my iMac and Macbook Pro, it works a treat. I wouldn’t mind having a go though! The Apple Press Info hasn’t said whether it has changed it’s plug-ins at all, like Pro Tools 11 has (oh dear! Big no, no for me there! Happy to stay with Pro Tools 10 for college work, even if off-line bouncing is a desirable plus!). So for now, I’m sticking with Logic Pro 9, it’s the only Logic version which ever appealed to me (7 and 8 were disasters for me!) and the only version which ever inspired me!

Read more on the new Logic Pro X via Apple – Press Info – Apple Unveils Logic Pro X.

Signing off for now… I will of course publish more soon. Happy out y’all.