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“Change… is good, because Change… is CHANGE.”

March 26, 2009
…that is from an episode of Season 3 of the show “Weeds”. Matthew Modine plays a charming real estate bigwig with a lot of charisma and questionable ethics, and he delivers that line to an enthusiastic mass of people just before his hysterical humiliation. I love that show… can’t wait for Season 4 to come out on DVD.

There is certainly change afoot in just about every area of existence these days… my life is in a particularly intense state of flux, and though there is uncertainty, I’d have to say I’m much more excited than I am stressed. I’m recording again, and I am HUGELY excited about it.

The last time I recorded a record was at the end of 2006. It was a small production, and it became the “Happenstance” EP.  Everything on the album was either my voice or my bass, so I was the only person being recorded, and the process was mostly done on a pretty small scale; Kent Miura and David Peters both actually came to my house in Reno to record me. I had been hearing from my listeners for years that they wanted me to make an album that was just like my live show, with no other musicians or slick production, and so I set out to make everyone happy.

But the vast majority of them didn’t like it as much as my records that have a band on them, and for awhile I chanted along with the musical elitists, saying, “Don’t listen to the people; they have no idea what they really want, and they’ll complain no matter what.” After I thought about it for awhile though, I realized that I wasn’t taking enough into consideration. It’s not enough to say, “People like my solo concerts, therefore they will like my records if I make them the same way”. The enjoyment of a live concert comes from all five senses, and from the general experience of the show. To take only the music from a live concert and expect to get the same reaction is not necessarily wise.  A record album is a LISTENING experience, and needs to be produced with that in mind, so this time, I decided to find out what my listeners wanted from their listening experience. But what’s the best way to do that?

Let them help produce it.

Last summer, I opened up the album production process to my entire mailing list. The model was simple: anyone who invested in the album got to hear and provide feedback on the songs as I created them, one song each week, for twenty weeks. At the end of the process, these producers voted to narrow down those twenty songs to ten for inclusion on the final album. While I was sure this process wouldn’t appease any individual 100%, I was also sure that these outside opinions would provide me with valuable objectivity, and help me create a record that would appeal to the widest cross-section of listeners.

“Fie on that”, said critics of the process… “they’ll water down your essence and stifle your artistic expression!”

Not true.  Though I occasionally needed to crack the whip and remind my producers what we were doing, I am absolutely indebted to them on a number of key matters of judgement… I definitely would have made a few bad calls without their voices in the back of my head. Sometimes what a musician feels is their ‘artistic expression’ comes across to listeners as overly indulgent, melodramatic, or both. I’d like to think I was held back from both of those pitfalls by listening to my listeners, and I appreciate their help.

So, back to the present:  I just spent five days in Upstate New York in The Belfry, a church that has been converted into a state-of-the-art recording studio, and began the process of creating the final album versions of the songs that made the cut. The Belfry was created by my friends Timothy Daniel (a stellar singer/songwriter in his own right), and the mega-songwriter engineer himself, David Peters. They have created an awesome creative space with awesome equipment for capturing awesome sounds, and I am freaking out over how awesome these songs are sounding now.

...nary a razor touched my face during my time at the Belfry...

...nary a razor touched my face during my time at the Belfry...

Joining me in the studio was New York City drummer Ryan Cavan. I’ve known Ryan for seventeen years, since I was graduating 12th grade and he was graduating 8th. He was a startlingly fantastic drummer even as a young kid, and his parents will probably never forgive me for dragging him off to bars around Buffalo the summer before his freshman year of high school in two of my bands. Since those days, he’s one of the only people I know who went on to become a full time professional musician — and though we’ve talked about playing together dozens of times over the years, it’s been nearly impossible because his schedule is so packed… he very nearly couldn’t make it to the studio this time because he was on tour in Europe.

Don't let the angelic lighting fool you... Ryan is a bad, bad boy.

Don't let the angelic lighting fool you... Ryan is a bad, bad boy.

See?

See?

I brought Ryan in to play on seven songs, and secretly hoped that we’d get them all done in four days instead of five so that I’d have an extra day to mess around with David’s studio toys. At the end of Day Three, Ryan had nailed all seven songs plus an eighth he had never even heard before… and I got to spend the final two days laying down massive-sounding bass parts, and even a few vocal takes, on all those tunes. Looking back on it, we worked at an incredible pace, but it didn’t feel like it while we were there. It was even… FUN. What a great time. :)

I think what I'm thinking right here is best summed up as, "unh".

I think what I'm thinking right here is best summed up as, "unh".

Now I’ll spend the next month re-organizing — I’m doing an impromptu Midwest mini-tour (check my tour schedule for details) on my way back out west, where relocation is in my future: by May, I will most likely be a California resident again. I’ll be accepting new students once I’m there, so if you or anyone you know in Central CA might be looking for private music instruction this summer, drop me a line at sethhoran@yahoo.com ! Also, I’ve been asked an awful lot recently if I’m still working with Warwick. While I am still playing my Warwick basses, I am not employed by the company. I was not invited to this past January’s NAMM show by Warwick, but that’s okay, because the good folks at Gallien-Kruger bass amplification wanted me around. :) The most exciting development that has stemmed from this free-agent status is currently underway… very soon, I will be receiving my first custom instrument from JC BASSES, based out of Auburn, California. For those who love this sort of thing, you can see the progress of the bass as it is built over at the JC Basses Progress Blog: http://www.jcbasses.com/sethhoran5.html

There is no bad blood between Warwick and I; it was a combination of factors with the company’s distribution and the World economy that ended our relationship, and I won’t be putting tape over the “W” logo on the instruments I already play anytime soon. :]

Once I settle into California, I will be tracking down Ed Sheets to come put some of his six-string deliciousness on a few of the new songs, and will start to plan for this new album’s imminent release. I figure we should plan some CD release parties before CDs become extinct! ;]

And of course, I’ll post more updates as things continue to change…

…because change…

is CHANGE. ;)

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3 comments

  1. Hey Seth, which Gallien Krueger rig are you using? I’ll always have a loyalty to Traynor, but Yorkvillle also distributes GK in Canada, I’ve been using a Neo1001/212 combo for a lot of my live gigs lately…got turned onto it by buddy Norm Stockton (MTD/GK endorsee), really digging the tonal possibilities with this amp!

    Looking forward to the new custom bass, peace!

    Drew/A.J.


  2. As with the video blog, word-type blogs from the Head Horanimal are awesome!

    The photos are cool, and I am really impressed by the view we have of the Belfry (both as regards its appearance and its contributions to the upcoming Seth CD). I’m glad to hear that things are going so well and will look forward to further updates in all areas.

    And not being a bass nerd, it probably makes no sense for me to ask how the in-progress Red Beast (if you decide to name it, let us know, and I’ll use that in future) will differ from each of your Warwicks, but I am interested nonetheless–like, do you think the bolt-on neck will have an effect on your tone that non-bass-nerds will be able to discern vs. the tone with the through-neck models?

    0_o I am not sure I even know what I just asked. Still interested in the answer, though…


  3. Hi Seth
    I just wanted to tell you how cool it was meeting you at Silvies and how much I enjoyed your performance…you are immensely talented and I have a great respect for what you do…I’ve NEVER seen anyone like you before…! Rock on Brother

    Herbie



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