A Map and a Pocket Knife
Liner Notes from
In April of 2013, with a microphone and an obsolete, malfunctioning Roland VS1880 Digital Studio Workstation (top of the line home digital recording in 1999) I began recording some original songs in the bedroom of a Huntington Beach, CA apartment. My original intention was to make a rough demo with the sole purpose of recruiting musicians to start a band - but as I became more involved in the process, started to really believe in the material and learned more about recording and mixing techniques - I also became more inspired to attempt to create something I felt was interesting, creative and professional enough to share with everyone as 'art'. In May of 2015 I finally called it finished - the final CD being entirely written, produced, engineered, recorded, mixed, released and set up for manufacture and distribution by me - as I did my best to learn as much about the process as I could along the way. My brother Chris Slama sings backup vocals on many of the tracks (and whistles on one) and Viking plays bass on 3 of the tracks but besides that all of the performances are mine - tracking out one layer of guitar on top of the other, then bass, then vocals, etc.
I knew I would be facing many obstacles that perhaps wouldn't be present if I had chosen to record in a studio - but I was determined. The first thing I had to do once I had settled on this more lofty goal for the recording was to go back and redo any take that had a dog barking, kids playing, a car horn honking, a door slamming, traffic sounds, car alarms, helicopter, etc in the background - which was pretty much all of them. Eventually what became a "good take" was not the performance with the most inspiration, emotion, passion or skill - but the take without kids playing handball against the back apartment wall. Another major obstacle was the Roland - I thought it would suffice when I first began the project but as I learned more about mixing I realized how limited I was by having to do all my mixing inside that box, limited to 15 year old technology, 15 year old signal processing, only being able to use 4 effects at once, a hard drive that kept crashing, and an effects signal path that would create digital clicks in my recordings. Many times I wanted to start over on modern computer recording software just to be able to have a 4 band EQ and compressor available for each separate track (with only 4 effects I could only use compression and EQ on 2 tracks at once) and to not be forced to negotiate around digital clicking noises on the recordings - but I had already come so far. Money and time also became a challenge because I wasn't gainfully employed so there were times when I would be couch surfing, loading all my studio equipment into my car, setting it all up at a generous friend's house to get some mixing done, then loading it all back up and moving to a new place to continue working (all the while keeping up an active festival/ camping/ unemployed lifestyle). Not only was this a tactical challenge but it was tough adapting my ears to new mixing environments while trying to keep the same direction on how I wanted the mix to eventually sound. I am forever grateful to all the friends and family that helped me out along the way - and it all has been a very fun adventure and learning experience.
Recording alone also was a challenge because my songs were absolutely written for a 'band vibe'. A drummer, bass player, keys player, guitar player, etc all bringing their own tastes, influences, skills, interpretations, etc into the song structures and all playing off each other, adapting to each other and grooving with each other definitely have more potential to produce a danceable CD than one guy layering guitars on top of guitars in the digital recording realm. Even a different producer or mix engineer adds a lot of variety, taste and input to a final product that would make it more dynamic and multi dimensional than just one person following their vision. As I was finishing tracking the performances I realized this and asked my brother Chris Slama (a great singer/ arranger of vocal harmonies) to listen to my rough mixes and see if he had any ideas. In the following weeks - through hot, sweaty, summer afternoons locked up in my apartment bedroom with all the doors and windows closed (for outside noise) - he dreamed up, figured out, and sang all his backup vocal parts into the mic with more enthusiasm and energy than I thought would ever be possible in a professional studio on some engineer's clock. Those moments were such a pleasure for me to produce and witness and his contributions are a delight to listen to on the CD. I knew the CD needed more groove also, so I asked a local bass player friend Viking (of Delta Nove and other funk, fusion bands) to see if he could track some bass. In one night, in just a few hours, he came over and listened to three of the songs, learned the changes, the nuances, figured out what the songs needed and in a few takes put his low end, groovy, funky magic on those three tracks. When I listen to those tracks now I'm still amazed by how quickly, efficiently, skillfully and tastefully he had worked, that we did all that in a few hours in one night, and how lucky and grateful I am that he lent a hand.
I had finished recording just about all the performances by winter of 2013 and had read a few books on mixing - but I had no idea what I was in for. It's amazing how much information (and misinformation) is out there on the internet on just about any subject - and from there my self teaching began (and months of trial and error). Come summer of 2014 I thought the mixes were nearing completion and it occurred to me I had no art work for this CD which I was considering releasing as 'art'. It didn't bug me much, I just figured I would put my name and the album name in black and white across the front - but some articles which I had read convinced me this would be a bad way to go if I ever wanted even a chance that people would take the CD seriously. I have zero visual art or graphic design skills so I started bouncing concept ideas off people who did. Eventually my friend Cat Riley painted up a map concept - like a fantasy, adventure filled planet floating in a starry sky - for the CD artwork. I was so touched by what she had created I felt obligated to create something that would be worthy of that cover art so I went back to trying to work more kinks out of the rough mixes I had almost been ready to call finished. In November of 2014 I began talking with printers and packaging people and was told the different digital formats and sizes and such my artwork needed to be in to be usable (none of this made any sense to me). I sat and looked at this beautiful painting which Cat had made, holding it my hand, scratched my head, picked up the phone and called my dear friend Connie Benedict. With her expertise in this field we had it digitally scanned, photo shopped, digitally sized correctly, album and artist name put across it in the perfect, artistic, handpicked, stylistic font for the existing art and matched up to the printers template and ready for print. Connie also took the art idea and ran with it to set up the CD surface art and the background of the back cover. When I look at the CD art and packaging now I'm still filled with wonder by my friends' talents and generosity and how it all came together - how I went from having nothing to watching everything come together and really having no idea how..... but here it is.
In December of 2014 the project started to seem never ending, I was having a hard time finishing the mixes and money was running out. I started a Kickstarter campaign to raise some funds but as I did so I also realized that the moral support and encouragement I received from my friends was just as needed to inspire me and keep me enthusiastic about completing the CD. I met my goal and was able to use the funds to get the final mix mastered (once it was completed in May 2015) and I'm so thankful to all those who contributed. Thanks not only for the financial contribution - but for caring.... it means a lot. It's really hard to get people to care about his sort of thing (funny, it seems there are actually people that will subtly root against you when you're trying something like this) and I know it will be hard to even get people to take a listen, but I'm happy I tried. And to anybody out there that may be reading this, maybe even after listening to the CD, I sincerely thank you for taking the time and giving it a little bit of attention when there are just so many things out there competing for your time and attention at every moment. And let's all keep rooting each other on.
And be on the lookout for a band setup up in the future. Jam band with electric guitar rather than acoustic, edgier, more jammy, dancey, funky, psychedelic, energetic and hopefully more layered as different, diverse musicians add their input and influences to the vibe.
released 02 June 2015
Daniel Slama - vocals, guitar, bass, drum machine, hand claps
Chris Slama - backup vocals and whistling
Viking - bass on tracks 1, 6 and 7
All Songs Written by Daniel Slama
Produced, Recorded, Mixed by Daniel Slama in different rooms of various homes and apartments from Huntington Beach to Fallbrook, CA between April 2013 and May 2015
Cover Art by Cat Riley
Cover Layout design by Connie Benedict
Mastered by Ron Leeper at Sound Affair Mastering, Santa Ana, CA
(c) 2011 Daniel Slama
(c) (p) 2015 Daniel Slama
All rights reserved. Lyrics used by permission only.
This CD would not have been possible without the support of: Mom and Dad thanks for everything - you guys are the greatest and I love you very much; Jason Corbin wow! so much gratitude for all that you do; Chris Slama thanks for all of your encouragement, support and patience and for rocking the backup vocals; Khalid Raza thanks for your kindness and spirit.
Thanks to Jeremy Frieze this whole thing wouldn't have been much fun without you; special thanks to Shanaz Raza; thanks to everyone who contributed on Kickstarter - Damon Barry you're awesome.
Thanks to Connie, Cat and Viking for your contributions to this CD - the heart, talent, expertise, time and effort you put in is greatly appreciated.
Thanks to all the friends, family and casual acquaintances who inspired and roused me; and all the cosmic strangers which I have met, danced with and/or strummed songs with at shows, festivals, trails, campgrounds and highways along the way and all the artists that made all the music which helped bring us all together - you're all in here.
Copyright © Daniel Slama