Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Making of Lost Frequency

The Making of Lost Frequency

Coat of Arms - By Adam Cartwright

In 2010 I had an idea. I wanted to create a crossover between my two passions: Music and Comics. I had been working on a sci-fi comic for a few years and the idea of bringing music to the world and art to my music was really exhilarating. My band was on the rise, working on our first album (Self Titled), and I was eager to create some original music. In short, Adam, Miguel and I wrote a few songs, the band disbanded, I bought the rights to the music, and reformed the band with a completely new membership.

The new band recorded/released Unavenged as a matter of necessity, because we desperately needed recordings that were reflective of our new sound, however, I hadn’t stopped working on this ‘Space Album’ idea I had. In fact, I was already in talks with Yoshitaka Amano (Final Fantasy) about cover art, and swapping emails with a Japanese translator who could help me communicate with my future collaborators.

The original sketch from June 16, 2012

The intent was to write a series of songs that all tied together to form a story that would tie into the comic book world. I would attempt to collaborate with a few key composers and musicians whom I greatly admired, and who had inspired me to become a musician. As a kid, I specifically started listening to music so I could hear the catchy tunes from video games, and as a teenager I learned to play the accordion so I could play those tunes. The idea of possibly talking to and working with the very same people who unknowingly introduced me to music still gives me goosebumps, but I made it my goal.

Big Dreams for Vinyl
Since the band was a democracy, and the others didn’t fully understand my vision (I was notoriously bad at explaining things back then), my Space Album kept getting pushed further and further back in favor of learning more video game covers for live shows. Being a live band, there’s a pressure to always bring new music to the stage and it’s not as easy as you might think to learn too much new material at once while maintaining a regular set of songs people have come to expect from you. However, I was able to forego more sleep than the others and by 2012, I’d already written outlines for 20+ songs. I was arranging these songs into sequel stories/albums. I actually had a release schedule too, which outlined proposed releases for the next few years, leading to a meeting of the characters from the comic with those of the Space Album in 2018. It all seems sort of silly in retrospect, but I was really passionate and organized about it. I also must have been annoying because on more than one occasion the band basically said that I was forbidden from mentioning the Space Album or anything to do with it for three to six months.

The music, which was fully original, drew inspiration from video games to give many of its songs context in a story sense. A careful ear can discern subtle nods to the Mass Effect, Diablo, Silent Hill, Wizards & Warriors, Metroid and more.

Character Concept - Adin
As we passed the end of the world into 2013 and released the Dead Labs single (from Space Album II) I began talking with the collaborators I’d mentioned. In addition to working with friends and local musicians like Adam, Miguel, and Michael (and my cousin Johnny), a chance encounter at MAGFest led to talks of a collaboration with Kinuyo Yamashita (Castlevania)! I had also begun to hunt down the original mod (WAD) team & composer from Doom II's HRII, a process that took something like 18 months (and used a LOT of old email extensions). I had also begun talks with Terri Brosius, the voice of SHODAN, about reprising the role for a song I’d written! Somewhere in 2013 the band voted to release a new album consisting of 50% original and 50% cover songs, basically so we didn’t upset our fans with a 100% original album too soon. I, banned from talking about the Space Album for six months, used the extra time to refine the songs I was writing, and ultimately gave up one of my ‘Space Album’ songs to finish the album (LMTYAS) on time... without telling them that it had anything to do with the Space Album and the emptiness of being alone with your thoughts for too long.

Recording with Eric
Between 2013 and 2014 many amazing things happened. The stars aligned and Amano was able to find time in his very busy schedule to create not only the cover art, but 9 additional pieces for the album, I also finally made contact with the right person on the DOOM II HRII team, and I also flew to Boston to create the System Shock inspired ballad with Terri and Eric (who composed System Shock and created the effects for the SHODAN voice)! A series of extremely fortunate events (and two amazing tours across Florida and the EU) also led to us working with Tommy Tallarico on a track! On the side, I also started working with Wily and Bruce (of the NESkimos) to create 15 rough songs for a new story within the Space Album/Liberty setting. I also somehow got to hang out with Brian Johnson (AC/DC) a few times (just us! It was insane!) and he said quote “I love that Hacked song!” Mind. Blown.

I cannot express how great these two years were from a writing/creative perspective.

Concepts for Grey and Arkhain by Casey Bailey
However, on the band front, Moose’s job became increasingly demanding and he had less and less time to practice or learn new material. The two times we arranged for him to go to a recording studio were both cancelled by freak accidents (he nearly drowned himself after hitting his head on a rock, and after recovering from that he was hit by a car while riding his bike and briefly hospitalized). Moose and I had Phil (Careless Juja), Michael (Star Lake), Adam (RE), and Wily (NESkimos) record live drums for the entire album, while Juja, Michael, and Johnny recorded live guitars and bass for 1/3rd of the album to help speed along the recording process, unknown to the rest of the band. The others, who were now out of college, had less and less time to learn the songs outside of our limited and very busy practice schedule. Since many of the songs would probably not be performed live, having close friends record parts for the album, with Moose’s blessing, seemed logical from my perspective. However, when revealed, the others were not as enthusiastic and expressed that they wanted to contribute musically to the album (which is understandable). So, all of these tracks, about six months of work, were completely scrapped. Around this time it was also put to a vote that I would not be singing on the album, as I have a fairly limited vocal range.

Powerless without the others, progress on the album slowed and eventually ceased. We set up deadlines multiple times that we consistently missed due to legitimately great opportunities like shows, tours, and the chance to write our own video game soundtrack. The band created/released the Big Blue EP and started talks of a completely new full length cover album that would be recorded before the Space Album but by that point my own ability to spend the entirety of every weekend in Orlando had also diminished as met my future wife and I got started on my career path.

Lone Survivor by Casey Bailey
While I was leaving the band, and at their request I didn’t mention the Space Album for about nine months until after they were squared away with the incredibly talented Jackson. They actually had a joke inspired by a Fight Club line: “What’s the first rule about the Space Album”. By this point I was fairly disheartened, and basically took the best tracks from the various Space Albums I’d written that could fit the story of Lost Frequency and cut everything else that even felt vaguely weak to me or that didn’t directly push the story forward. Clearly the one album would be it, if it would ever happen at all. I was fortunate to be working with the incredibly composer and musician Steven Melin on two of the last “missing” tracks I needed to complete the story after the cuts were made. I was now able to effectively use my own experiences in creating the album to write better lyrics too. While I’d started the album superficially writing about the emotional journey of the protagonist, to me the creation of the music itself now represented a very personal journey of loneliness, bitterness, silent victories, anger, euphoria, and depression, which I was able to use to write better lyrics. In many ways the album’s very tone is a reflection of its creative process.

Sometime after I left the band we started talking about the Space Album again and it was agreed that it would make the most sense to release it as Random Encounter, as the art strongly reflected the membership of the band, I had approached all of the guest artists as the band Random Encounter, and because Kit & Konami had both invested time in learning the music. Somewhere around late 2015 we had a meeting where Kit promised to create the drums for the album, Konami & Kit would both work to create the guitars and bass for what was left, and I’d work on accordion, violin (did I mention I took two years of violin lessons?), and keys. It was fairly hard work and Konami & Kit vastly improved upon my creations and added their own songs to the mix as well, which I swapped out for more cut songs.

Anyone recognize those guns?

At some point, when I used my comic’s social media to mention the Space Album, the band expressed that most of them were unaware of my plan to set the album’s story in my comic book universe. It had been years since we’d had any formal discussions about the album (I’d only just been ‘un-banned’ from talking about the album… again) and they’d felt blindsided by this idea. The short version is that the Space Album would no longer be a part of my comic world.

A full year and a half or so later, the final tracks were submitted and much to my delight, probably due to time constraints, my original vocals for one of the songs was passable enough to be left in! I will say that while Konami is a much better vocalist than I am in most ranges and styles, and brought a dept I couldn't have hoped to on pretty much everything he touched, there's something about singing the words to your own song that feels nice. Brandon Strader worked his magic over the next few months to make the album sound great while Kit and I revised the story booklet. Hearing the final mixed songs brought a smile to my face. Strader, Kit, and Konami did a fantastic job.

Though I had deviated some from my original intent, I’d accomplished something far greater and grown up somewhere during the process.

So, inspired by the very people who helped bring it to life, fueled and lovingly crafted with real and very raw emotions, Lost Frequency is finally complete! I hope you’ll take the time to check it out now that you know the story behind the music:

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