When Dead End Days was a solo thing, I recorded everything and just did it myself. Those days are over for the better, however, the last album is full of things only I know about. I’ve always wanted to list them for people to take in, if interested in a creative/production sense. Here’s the list, the official production and lyrical cheat sheet to “The Longest Day of My Life.”
Start: I’m not even kidding
The noises are drum tracks and vocal tracks that were cut up, reversed, and processed with various plug ins for Pro Tools. One I remember was a the vocoder effect that makes an oo-ah-uhh on any sound. The “ohhhhh-ahhhhhh” you hear is actually a reversed guitar with that effect.
The person speaking was a friend of mine who called me at 3am on a Wednesday.
I don’t eat Syrup, I’m a Man.
Acoustic intro was a two mic room set up in my bedroom, my roommates hated me because it took about 2,000 takes for me to do on a week night.
0:57- keyboard is a small Casio I found at a thrift store in NE Ohio, it has 100 sounds, can’t remember the setting. I bought it for 4 dollars. To my knowledge, this is its only appearance on the album.
1:25- The acoustic “hook” part was made up on the spot when I recorded it. I remember thinking “This sounds kind of cheesy.”
2:44- If there was one standard thing I stole from Bomb The Music Industry! it’s this guitar hook. The electric guitar running up the scale was literally just something I added in last minute for effect and intensity.
2:47- I like doubled vocals (especially with bands like D4, Banner Pilot, and Jawbreaker). I knew I wanted a part on the album with just bass and doubled vocals.
3:17- I recorded vocals in my closet with sliding doors. That sound you hear stereo right was me sliding it closed after recording my vocal part. It was a happy accident and I kept it in the mix because it’s a unique precursor to the change in the song.
3:27- The electric guitar tracks on this song were the first thing I recorded. They are out of time to the original metronome click track. The drums we a pain to record and you can hear the time change in the snare fill. Also, the right guitar is louder than the left in the end, still never figured out why. So, if you’re learning audio production, STICK TO YOUR CLICK AND MIX IN A STUDIO, TRUST ME.
4:00- Scott Danielson had the idea to do 3 last drums hits at the end. It gives the song a very dramatic effect and I kept it in because of that.
4:10- One day, I was messing around with reverse effects, and this part just happened to sneak into the end of the song. I loved the drastic feeling it gave the song at the end.
This song has a lot of lyrical confusions and to this day. All I can say is that it made sense to me at the time, now, not as much. The lyrics were basically anything I could throw on paper to describe my freedom from a crap relationship and terrible friends. I wanted something positive and catchy. I know that some of the words were changed while I was recording vocals, this is most likely why it’s a little rough on translation.
Guitars- I kept the electric parts for the end of the song because of the impact they made. This whole song is right/left doubled acoustic parts (most of the album is anyway).
0:44- I always wanted to put a riff in the non-vocal parts of the song, but I was crunched for time and so they just remained root chords.
2:05- One of my favorite parts on the album. The bass is real clunky because it’s all direct input, no bass amp was used the album. The bass wasn’t mine either (Thanks, Spenser). The keyboard is two part right/left stereo doubled Yamaha Portasound.
2:25- Once again the left keyboard held dominion in the mix over the right, oh, the wonders of mixing at home on a deadline.
3:20-My friend Jason Utes does kind of look like Michael J. Fox.
This song and Declaration of Independence are both live bedroom recordings. They were both recorded differently and have different purposes. I can’t remember the mic set up, most likely two condensers on guitar and a large diaphragm on vocals.
0:01- When I mixed this, I felt that there shouldn’t be a fade in or out with audio, representing the song’s stark details and darker sides. I also cut in on when I was sighing, which gives it a really weird and awkward start that I liked a lot.
0:05- When I would record everything at once (vocals, guitar, etc in one attempt) I would just press record and if I made a mistake, I would just re-attempt instead of stopping the recording and going back to the beginning of the track. Thus, when I said “6:19” out loud I was was just making note of how long I was recording so far (6 minutes and 19 seconds). In that 6 minutes prior to the final take, I probably did about 5 attempts to the song, at least to my knowledge.
2:25- “I’m a loner inside a catastrophic mind” is a reference to Aramatage Shanks, by Green Day. I was listening to Insomniac a lot during the recording process and that line was the epitome of how I felt, thus, I wanted to reference it when discussing my anxiety in the second verse. Plus, that album rules and it’s my favorite Green Day album.
2:35- “called up a good friend…” My friends, especially my friend Brian, got a lot of phone calls from me at 3am to discuss why I was losing my mind.
3:38- Another point where I wanted to do a keyboard part but the song felt right was just me and a guitar.
4:47- “Maybe..” was another short for “Maybe that take didn’t suck.”
4:49- My roommate spilling his heart out to me. During freshman year I was a straight edge kid in a college dorm, he was the only other in the dorm who didn’t drink/knew about punk music/hardcore.
Life in the Malebolge
This is the most embedded song on the album lyrically. It’s about my dreams and specifically a former relationship (yeah, not obvious at all, right?).
DANTE’S INFERNO- I was taking a class my senior about The Divine Comedies. Malebolge was the 10 “evil ditches” that represented some of the dirtiest and worst parts of hell. Since our apartment was dubbed “The Inferno” and since this song was about my nightmares, the name stuck to it.
0:05- “cemeteries” I would walk by the cemetery and river on nights I couldn’t sleep/needed time to myself. It was oddly scary but calming, especially in small a Appalachian town.
0:43- “vices” meant “beer, self loathing, and pizza.”
1:00- “7th round/down and down” references the 7th to 8th level of Hell. The situation grew darker for Dante and Virgil when the rode on the back of Geryon, a winged beast, into the 8th level of Hell- thus, my own personal Malebolge awaited.
1:44-“Swung my arm into this demon’s chest” references a nightmare I had where I was in a bathroom and a demon appeared when I looked at myself in the mirror. I then ended up escaping to a beach when I fought and drowned the demon.
1:55- “You greeted me” in that same dream, I eventually spoke with my ex after I killed the demon. Yeah, pretty personal stuff, I know. I won’t go into detail, but you can see why I connected dreams to The Inferno. These nightmares continued for months in many formats until after I finished the album. I blame a lot of it on seeing the movie Paranormal Activity at the time, because well, that movie was terrifying.
1:59- “Walked to the lake” in reference to lake Cocytus. Another obligatory Dante reference.
2:09- “Bird of Paradise” is a reference to song “Bird of Paradise” by The Appleseed Cast. Low Level Owl parts 1 and 2 were in HEAVY rotation at the time. It was the song that reminded me of my ex, thus, if the bird flew away, then so did our relationship.
2:31- If you listen closely you hear ruffling in the left and right stereo. During both acoustic guitar takes I was adjusting the guitar at the same time during the silence. I kept it in once again because it gave the production a unique touch of honesty.
2:34- I was all about the weird tonal dueling guitar parts on this song. I also wanted a strong build up, so dueling hammer on parts really made it breathe and emphasized randomness, intensifying the next moment of strength.
2:49- Back up vocals are all distorted and right/left stereo. I really liked the strength of the chorus being really powerful.
3:28 and 3:35- Every time I hear the alternate guitar part I think of those old SAIBAI TV shows like Power Rangers and VR Troopers. It has a cheesy 80’s metal feel to me, but it wasn’t something I was opposed to considering I wanted the guitars to really compliment each other.
The Declaration of Independence
This song went from being a full blown production to a simple live record. Honestly, it was for the better, since we always received a great response about this song. The reason why I scrapped the live record is because A. The Pro Tools session went crazy and B. the drums I recording for it didn’t work. In a scramble, I just made it acoustic. This was the most stressful song on the album when considering getting from point A to point B. Ironically, it has the least production notes.
1:03- I didn’t put a lead part here mainly for build up purposes later in the song. It’s kind of dry, but hey, it could be worse.
1:42- The hook was created one day when I was just listening to the mix. I set up two condenser microphones recorded it. I knew at that moment the little things would brighten up this song a lot.
2:56- I love this part on the album. I think it’s definitely one of the best conveyed feelings when considering intensity, lyrical content, and production. I also think everyone can relate to avoiding their ex, right?
4:00- In the original version, I sighed before I went back into the final part, I don’t remember why I cut it, but I wish I would have kept it.
“Record Executive Guy”
When I asked friends to call my cell phone and leave voicemails for the album, I knew Jason’s voicemail would be it’s own track. I cut some of his ranting out from the, but not much.
0:46 - Jason said “Athens” weird so I edited it and made it sound weirder (naturally).
People are always like “How the hell do you say that song title?” Well, it’s a palindrome and that’s mashed together. Really it’s “Ten animals I slam in a net.” I’ve learned my lesson and won’t be doing this from here on out with song names.
0:00-0:32- one or more guitars maybe slightly out of tune. I liked the dissonance of it, so I kept it anyway.
0:33- When I was trying to figure out a proper way to introduce the electric guitars into this song, I was jokingly just strumming them as fast as I could on one of the takes. I eventually liked it because it sounded like noisy alarm clocks that come out of nowhere. This song was about finding identity and strength by waking up and taking control, thus the muddy distorted guitars stayed.
1:00- 1:25- Once again, because I wanted to build up, I kept the root chords on the sequence where I didn’t sing instead of adding keyboard/guitars.
1:26- I knew from beginning I wanted an acoustic guitar part to increase the dynamics of the full production, and also give a singer songwriter feel for a quick moment.
1:52- As you can tell by this song and ONWARD! CAPTAIN! I love clanky guitar parts that come in before the other instruments. It always adds a nice touch of sarcasm and emphasizes anxiousness for increased dynamics.
2:33- This lead guitar part always reminds me of the opening for “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger.
3:52- I recorded this on a separate day than the first chorus. I was freaking out because they sounded sort of different, but then realized I was just paranoid about the song mix (this happened 27,612 times throughout the six month recording/mixing process).
invisible grand finale.
I knew I wanted the last song to be sweet and simple. A summation of my feelings about my life at the time. I wanted a positive ending to the album.
Double Vocals- I love Pedro the Lion and David Bazan. He has an EP that has both full production and acoustic versions of the same songs. On a couple of the acoustic versions he does right/left stereo vocals, I knew I wanted that on this song.
0:00- 0:10- This is me walking across the room with shaker, I kept it in because it sounded weird and started off the song in a different way.
0:26- Of course, another catchy little hook part with the guitar. This one was planned out before recording, rather than being created on spot during the recording process.
1:16- The bass does a very “cow poke” fill. I did the bass track on the fly with this one and I remember thinking “Let’s try something different here” and then I not liking it. I believe the bass track is first take, the song was too simple to really create anything else, thus, the bass acts as a low end audio element more than a “bass part.”
2:01- I did octave harmonizing on this one line to emphasize the idea of the song.
The idea of the concept for the album was for it to feel like a dream. The reasoning was because the whole process and series of events in my life at the time felt surreal. So, of course I wanted this end part to be sort of a break down of noises and bits with an abrupt ending, as if someone were waking up. I utilized the plug ins, and then pieced it together.
And that was that. Thanks for reading.