And obviously. This one, hard to believe, was very close to making it onto REDWOOD SUMMER. I like it. I was playing around polyrhythms, where you have different rhythmic times all stacked up on top of eachother. A lot of African music gets crazy with polyrhythms.

I used weird instruments on this one, one in particular called a ukelin. It’s this very odd looking beast, which mysteriously was given to me by my physics teacher in high school. I can’t even really explain why h would just give me such a gem, and why it was given to me by my physics teacher and not my music teacher, but I’m not complaining. It has like 300 strings. Ok, it has like 60 strings. I haven’t ever figured out how one is supposed to tune it, let alone play it.

The other instrument you hear is a mandolin. And frame drums. And weird lyrics (per usual).

It didn’t make it to REDWOOD SUMMER because it didn’t fit. The album is kind of all over the map emotionally as it is, I didn’t feel like “super whimsical” was what was needed to be added.

So yes, enjoy. Thank you for stopping by. And happy holidays. Oh yes, I forgot, that is the reason I went ahead and published this now. It could, in some parallel universe, or exotic country, or in your stereo perhaps be some type of holiday song somehow. It has the timber, I suppose.

Stardust Is Stardust

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Yesterday REDWOOD SUMMER finally made its way onto iTunes which signified a kind of final touch to the release of an album. (JUNEAUREVOIR is still on its way there)…

So how does an album come about from start to finish? I’ll tell you the story of REDWOOD SUMMER…

Basically a year ago I decided I was going to record a new album… the steam had stopped whistling for MIDNIGHT DOOR and it was time to explore new songs again. Only I became distracted when making MIDNIGHT DOOR… I was frustrated that I had recorded all these songs off that album without having a real live setup for performing them. The songs were written on the road and out in the world, not the usual where you try out songs live generally before they make it on the album. I was stripping the songs on MIDNIGHT DOOR down to the drum and bass tracks and pressing play on my ipod and performing along. Which, I have come to accept, is totally legit, especially of course if it is YOUR music you are playing along to, your beats, your sounds. I used to think it was not so legit, until I saw a few performances that incorporated the same technique, and it didn’t feel or seem weird to me at all. One caveat of this is that I really think if you play along to beats it HAS to be electronic… it’s true to me that playing along to ‘real’ sounding drums from a machine is kind of cheesy looking/sounding (in my opinion). Plus, then you are truly playing with the whole organic meets electronic thing, which does yield some interesting results and feels very much a part of our times. I think I like Thom Yorke’s solo stuff so much because he is able to work with (besides the brilliantly abstracted beats and great compositions) his raw voice, very plainly effected, wafting over the top of what feels like a Bladerunner landscape.

Holy tangent.

Anywaaaaays, the point is is that I got distracted by working on beats and effects that I could perform live, without accompaniment, and most importantly, which left lots of room for improvisation if necessary. My thing with electronic music and all music really is that if there is no room for improvisation at all, if it is super super polished and things are always done “perfectly” and the same, it is not really music. It’s theater. Which is fine. But I feel like at the core of music is the subconscious and its yearning to budge in and elbow things around here and there. I feel like it’s about the emotions of a room becoming one with the music. Et cetera.

So I worked on that and played a few different art party type things, improvising cello over beats around set songs and making the beats go this way and that and using lots of effects.

How did that lead to REDWOOD SUMMER which is very organic and non-electronic? Well, I just kind of missed making bedroom acoustic guitar anthems. I got so far away from home with that stuff that I really felt sentimental about sitting down and writing poetic lyrics by a fire with an acoustic guitar. Which is EXACTLY what happened with the writing of REDWOOD SUMMER… we had the opportunity to house sit a really beautiful house in Nevada County, with vistas of the foothills and gorgeous star filled skies, and there was a woodstove and no tv and no internet and the evenings were cozy and quiet. And I just started writing songs like crazy.

Most songs you hear on REDWOOD SUMMER were written in a three week period in January (more irony). Usually the process was to just grab ideas quickly, really as quickly as possible, meaning not interrupting the flow of musical idea by writing it down… this time I just used a handheld recorder, played through a new “song”, whether it was finished or not, and then started another. If it was any good, I kept it and worked on it. I’m not sure what my lyrics sound like to you, but you might be surprised to know there was a pretty good amount of polish on them. Obviously I’m not a real storytelling songwriter, but I do like to make the words work their own story and set their own stage. I spent a lot of time on various pretentious preconditions that I won’t bore you with.

I really wanted to record these songs to album as quickly as I was writing them, but you know, life gets in the way. We had to leave that housesitting gig but actually ended up returning in April I believe it was. By this time I was anxious to get this REDWOOD SUMMER thing on tape, I had a good sense of what I was doing and what I wanted, and I didn’t want it to slip by… so I set up my recording equipment in the upstairs bathroom of this great house, which had a really big all tile shower. I fit all my mics in that shower. I liked the closeness of the sound that the mics picked up in there. I tried just doing things simply, getting good guitar takes first and foremost. A huge part of REDWOOD SUMMER was playing guitar a lot again, so it was important to lay that down. Another part of the album though was actually, really, fully incorporating the cello into the main thrust of the song, making the cello NOT a supporting instrument but the center of the sound.

So what I wanted, by the way, was a country album. Well, not a country album in the traditional sense, but an album that felt like the places I’d grown up, the woods. I’m not sure that that makes sense or that it translates at all, but that’s why you have side A with its sparkly, sunny, swaying rhythms, and side B with its darker undertones. It feels like meadows and forest to me, it feels like Northern California to me. And of course, I wanted the process to be more “like it used to be” when I wrote songs: the edge of a bed in a lonely room to sit on, a quiet spot on earth, and no “coolness” filtration, no “authenticity” filtration, no input whatsoever from the “tastemakers“.

So I got most of the basic tracks down. I recorded cello and guitar, and I sang most lead vocals.

By that time it was May and soooooo much more time had gone by than I wanted.

The last four months of album making are probably the strangest for an independent musician. You gotta understand, when you are working full time and being a musician in your other time, there is no label pressure for a drop date, there is no pressure whatever, and so it is very very easy to let albums slide along and before you know it it takes 5+ years to finish an album. I have seen this happen many times, and I just really wouldn’t like the feeling. For one, or perhaps the main thing is that I try and capture a specific window of time/my life/my thoughts/the world in my albums, and if it takes more than a year it just seems like too much input on that front, too many influences. I mean, I had already been completely influenced by the Nevada City music scene subconsciously… I really thought that the mountain melodies and rocky yuba campfire cabin ghost song vibe wouldn’t get to me through Mariee Sioux, Alela Diane, Casual Fog, Them Hills and others, but they did, dammit I admit it, they did influence me. They inspired me to return to my personal truth being the core of the music. Purity of vision, untampered. It was really playing with Aaron Ross that had this affect on me the most. I have never heard let alone met a songwriter so talented and so potent with their own truth in music. And I was hanging out with him all the time, recording albums, playing shows!

The last four months were just a matter of gathering people in one place. It seems easy but for some reason it can be maddening. I wanted a real ‘community’ vibe on a lot of the songs, and getting Aaron Ross and Cody Feiler to sing on a lot was essential. Molly Allis banged out the drums in one day (one one take mostly! she is amazing), and of course Chuck Ragan and I met up for an afternoon to trade music. There were still lots of little things missing, the cello solo in the middle of ‘True North’, a piano for ‘The First Step’… these things really just kind of slowly slowly fell in line. But the finishing magical touch was realizing that my beautiful and way too modest girlfriend has a beautiful voice. We started by recording her voice on ‘Soundless’ and I realized I needed that voice on a lot more of the album. What was good about that was that it was pretty easy to get her in the same room with me! The “choir” you hear in ‘Strobe Light’ was recorded the day before I finished off the album, layering loads of her lovely voice until a big enough sound was achieved.

So, yes, this is an epically rambling post and I congratulate you for reading this far…

So you’ve got the thought of the album, you’ve got the writing of it, you’ve got the preliminary recording, and then the tricky follow up recording. Now you’ve got to do something with it.

As an independent musician (without a lot of money) you end up doing your own mixes, and therefore listening to the songs over and over and over and over and over again. I’m not very good at mixing, I always want all elements to be louder, and have a hard time with nuance in sound, but I learned a lot with this album. In the end though I’m not sure if I would have ever landed on what I wanted, it changed too much. It would be ideal to hand off songs to an external ear that you trusted and then say “have at it!” but it’s just not possible for me. I’m a control freak about my music, and plus, I felt my tracks were a mess and wouldn’t want to do that to someone!

Basically what happens is you spend four hours straight looping the chorus of one song trying to decide if the cymbal is too midrangy and whether the cello should have a touch more reverb. It’s kind of awful and time consuming but somehow rewarding.

Lastly you just set a date to send it off to be mastered and you stick to it. Because the mixing could literally go on for-ev-er. Thankfully Grass Valley is blessed with the best engineer with the coolest studio and greatest gear and mostly an incredible ear in Dana Gumbiner of Station To Station Recording… The luxury of calling him up is not something I took for granted.

He took my final mixes and really really filled them out. He made the sound of the cello big, and the sound of the backup vocals full. He kind of technicolored the album, in short.

So, and really, this is the part I want to get to… so you are done. You have the final mix, all mastered, and in your hands.

You may have noticed that there is not a lot of time to think about promotion, with everything else going on, let alone booking shows. But that, my friend, is what you must go and do.

I make my CDs through a ridiculously great and anonymous company that cranks them out quickly for me, and most importantly, for my meager budget, does not require that I buy 1000 at a time. At that point I send them to CDBaby, which gets them for sale, and also sends the digital files off to iTunes and Amazon and a number of other digital retailers. CDBaby truly is necessary for the independent musician, especially moving forward into the digital age.

And also, because if you’re reading this deep into the post you must be somewhat interested, also you wait. You put the CD out and you wait. You wait mostly to hear the pebble reach the bottom of the well. A few friends and family casually tell you that they like the album and it makes you glow for days. You check your email and website statistics incessantly to see if it is spreading on its own. You spend a lot of time doing that, it’s true, and I bet it’s true for most artists so I’m not afraid to admit that I’m in the phase where you are rather keen on listening for whispers of feedback.

The next and perhaps last step of an album though, and don’t you forget it, is to go out and play shows. You can’t can’t can’t sit around waiting for feedback. You have to go and bring the music to people directly.

And so the life of an album evolves. I still really really want to put out a vinyl version of REDWOOD SUMMER and JUNEAUREVOIR. I think it would sound great on vinyl. I’m working on a big move, and I really would like these albums to get wider distribution. It would be great, of course, if a label with reach picked either of them up. Playing more shows will be great. Getting JUNEAUREVOIR and its cello epicness into film would be my dream with that.

But mostly you, sitting somewhere, maybe standing, maybe headphones, maybe not, maybe at home, maybe in your car, maybe with yourself or with friends, mostly you hear it. Mostly for maybe only 1 minute, it makes a dent on your day and makes your day more important and beautiful the way that music can do that. Maybe it becomes a companion for a few months because it speaks to where you are at in your life. Maybe you know someone who it seems like would love it. That’s the final, and most important step. It could be now or 20 years from now. That’s one thing I love about making things. You never know…

Wow thanks for going with me down those million tangents. In short, REDWOOD SUMMER is done but not done. Hope this inspires you to bring things to completion (but not completion)… if anything, it might be oddly inspiring that 10 songs could take over a year to get out to the world… and yes, the year is worth the effort.

Be well, enjoy October,

Luke.

Just took down the full album preview of REDWOOD SUMMER on MySpace… now it is time to get the whole album. It’s available at several outlets, digital and physical versions, and it wants you to get it today…

Things are on the move, I’m planning a massive change in scenery, heading from the Nevada County mountains to the Los Angeles hills. Yeah, big change. It will be a fun adventure. More on that later.

As promised, two more albums are in the works, to complete my initial vision of 4 total, all different in theme and tone. The 3rd and 4th are more electronic, one instrumental dance music like I’ve been playing at parties and gatherings, and one full on singing and beatboxes like I’d been doing live previous to REDWOOD SUMMER.

Go check out my myspace or facebook page to hear the second track off the upcoming ‘Redwod Summer’…

Features the amazing Chuck Ragan, of Hot Water Music. He has an incredible voice and totally ripped it singing the chorus on this track.

myspace.com/lukejanela

facebook.com/lukejanela

While you’re at it, be my friend on myspace…

or fan me on facebook:

Luke Janela on Facebook

Thanks! You’re the best!

To celebrate the final mix and master of Redwood Summer, I’m sending you this album version of track one: Strobe Light.

You heard it before, perhaps, but that was before the choir got added!

Enjoy!

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You hear: rock cello, acoustic guitar, 2 drum sets, many backup vocals, a choir.

The first best thought when finishing an album (or two) is that revelation that a big project was indeed taken on and finished.

It takes a while. A lot of hours. I mean, you can do an album project in 2 weeks or 2 years. It could be the same music. It could be the same end product more or less. There is no end to the tinkering that can be done. The layering, the “perfecting”.

It’s like any big project. Starts as an idea, takes its mutations, many different hangups, lots of different things to learn, and then, finally, after that final push it becomes a reality. It’s important to remember the process.

When you record and mix your own stuff, it’s a bit different than handing it over to an engineer to finish off.

That’s where a good amount of critical feedback is good, from yourself mainly. I am stubborn, but that’s not why I don’t like to hear about the flaws until after I’m done. I do get feedback though, and lots of good ideas from friends. But as far as the “artistic” influence, I try to stay true to my instincts. On the other hand, sometimes your ears can’t hear it anymore. I’ve had a huge amount of feedback from my girlfriend and good friends and family on these albums. Volumes too loud or not loud enough, ideas on how to introduce a new part of the song, inspiration for the concept… sometimes I just needed someone to listen to it so I could watch their face during certain parts of songs.

Redwood Summer and Juneaurevoir came about as a concept. They both were about getting down to my more straight forward roots musically. Do what comes naturally, don’t over think it. Why haven’t I recorded an all cello instrumental album yet? I mean, it’s fun, it’s rewarding, and it can be enjoyed by a huge spectrum of people. And with the rootsy sound of Redwood Summer, it harkens back to my earliest albums: no self-censorship, no attempts at adhering to a certain sound per se, just songs straight up.

In retrospect Redwood Summer is very pop oriented, in the sense that most of the songs have a traditional verse chorus verse chorus bridge chorus format. I always thought that would sound formulaic, and it is formulaic, but you can’t tell, that’s not what I listen for anyways. All my favorite popular music has that going on, and, yes, it’s trite, it’s been done before, but it sounds good.

In retrospect Juneaurevoir could be more ‘perfect’. I have been nice and open to the different tones and sounds. I didn’t use much in terms of effects, but I had thought I would use no effects whatsoever, like a recording of chamber music. I don’t have written versions of the songs even. Someday I’ll do that. This is the first in what I hope is a long string of cello albums.

Anyways, after mixing for 80+ hours the past couple weeks after work, I am struck by how big every ‘little’ project is.

But getting it done feels amazing. It makes it all worth it. I’m just waiting for a call and then they get mastered, and then I don’t get (have) to work on them any more…!

You can pre-order them now. They’ll be at itunes in September, and CDs will be available 9/9/9.

Thanks for stopping by!

OK so I’ve been talking about this for a while but now the album is getting mastered this Friday!

I’d really like to have any and all of your voices on the backup vocals for the chorus (just the chorus… easy!) of my song ‘True North’

The lyrics are simple and maybe cheesy, but whatevs. They are:

“Start a great fire
start a great fire
start a great fire

in your hearth

turn a blind eye
turn a blind eye
turn a blind eye

to the lie”

The way I envision you being able to do this is to simply open up any audio recording program on your computer (garageband on mac, audacity on PC), put headphones on in another program (say, itunes) press play on “true north”, press record on your audio program and sing along during the chorus into the computer’s mic. Yup, that mic is fine. It’s ok if it sounds treble-y, it will create a roomy ambience, it is the easiest option, and I will fit it in the mix however it goes. I don’t care if you sing it amazingly or not. I want the sound of many voices. If you have a better mic that is fine too.

Then you press stop on the audio program. Save the file as pretty much any audio format, and email it to me. No, I won’t hear the rest of the song because you had your headphones on, but don’t clip it down to just the chorus or anything like that so that it is easier to line up with the recording.

If you have time that is more than great. If you don’t, I understand. But please just take 5 minutes to do it if you want/can! You will be immortalized forever and most likely a radio signal will send your voice into space. Most likely. You will get credit on the album. You will be irrevocably awesome.

Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me know if you think you will. I need it by thurs at the absolute latest (Sorry for the late notice… )

The mp3 is noted here. If it doesn’t show up in this facebook post, go to http://midnightdoor.com/word/?p=467

Thanks Guys!

First and foremost, the show on the 10th with Chuck Ragan was incredible. Thank you to all my friends and family who made it out, some of whom drove 3 hours one way to be there! I know they came for Chuck and not me, but that’s cool. Just kidding… thank you!!!

Seriously that show was a big highlight for me personally and musically and it re-invigorated my sense of… possibility.

Along those lines, a few changes are coming to this site:

Two New Albums
Redwood Summer and Juneaurevoir are coming. Really. I swear. September.

Re-design
Working on a redesign, to be launched very soon. Ideally it will make everyone’s lives just that much better. And it will be cool. Still will be a blog.

Blog Re-tuning
Part of the redesign for me is that I kind of resent that I can’t let it all flow, I constantly censor some of my content in the sense that currently the blog is the first thing many people who don’t yet know my music see. I’d like for the music to be there in their faces first.
Also, I’m into this idea of useful content. You’ll see what I mean when I get it up here 😉
I am insanely inspired to do more with videos, bootlegs, demos and general media. More on the blog.

Touring Australia & New Zealand
September. More details to come. But it’s set.

Yes. So. Stay tuned. I apologize for a lack of content flow, my lives (I meant that) have been very very busy. But I’ll make it up to ya’.

Download this action while you can!

Part of me knows I shouldn’t be too impulsive and leak out my own stuff, but my feeling is that, hey, if you are here at the site, you deserve to have it.

So here is your summer jam. I’m just so excited about this track. It’s a new kind of anthem for me to write, and it’s not even finished. Picture some sort of church choir in the middle instrumental. It’s on the upcoming “Redwood Summer” album. Lots of deep rock cello and crazy layered vocals.

Download it now, I’m gonna take it down as soon as I regain rational thought… enjoy!

So here is one of the tracks I was workin’ on this weekend.

This one doesn’t pull any punches lyrically, and I find I’m enjoying adding strange little sounds to the percussion.

Sorry it’s just a sample, it’s just that some weird sites out there are dumping my tunes all over the interwebs, which is not a bad thing. On principle though, I’m not ready for the world to hear the finished versions of songs off the upcoming Redwood Summer. But here, indeed, and without further ado, without many more words, without mincing, and as promised, is a sample of what I’ve been up to…

Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by!

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“Redwood Summer” was as close to being done as an album could be and then I gave it a good listening recently… I had not heard it for a few weeks, which is rare, since, when working on an album I tend to listen to it again and again and again. So I had fresh ears.

I decided it needed just a bit less on the mellow and a bit more on the uppity and so I spent all weekend recording new tracks. I was hesitant to even begin working on this again, as recording is such a different state of mind than finishing…

But I’m really happy with the progress. I’ll post a clip of yesterday’s rough work, and keep you up to date on the progress.

Pressing away at the new album. I’ve been finishing up Aaron’s album and busy all around, but a lot of cool stuff is being added to Redwood Summer and this track will be on it. It will evolve, that I guarantee, I’ve got a couple more people I want to track for this! But here you go, oh wonderful faithful blog readers, True North. Enjoy!

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True North is going to be on the album “Redwood Summer”, my return to my roots album… no beats or synths, more roots. More Summer. Check out the other track off the album: Fever Saved Me

Signals

The albums are coming along. I had the pleasure of recording some drums with Molly from Huff This!. She adds such a rock sound to the tracks. It’s perfect for the feel of the album.

So here is a more rounded out version of the song I posted a few weeks ago. This is the sample of the more rock, acoustic guitars and cello based album I’m calling ‘Redwood Summer’. Enjoy!

Remember the earlier version of this song?

Here is my sample from the electro-cello album tentatively called ‘Half Moon’. It’s the stuff I’ve been playing live lately.

Here is a sample of my all cello instrumental album, as yet un-named.

Here is where the electronic-instrumental album will be coming from.

So I have been hell of out of the loop, removed from reality in so many ways, both living out in the woods and absolutely inundated with work. I’ve been thinking of the big posting I would put here, announcing the fantastic things going on, but just haven’t had the seconds.

The house I was staying in was outside Nevada City in Northern California, totally beautiful views of stars and wooded hillsides… it was a perfect place to get to work on the album that I’ve been wanting to do for a long long time. I call it my “old Luke” album. It’s basically like, no electronics, no avant attempts. Just simple songs, like the ones I used to rock over the hills and dales of Ukiah and Santa Cruz. And the open mics of Portland.

No concept per se, but I intend to have at most on each track the same instrumentation: cello, acoustic guitar, and vocals. I have an inkling to put drums on a couple of tracks, like the one I’m posting here, but if I do, they will be straightforward rock drums, etc.

It for me is a return to my roots: a certain Northern California sound. Not hippie, not punk, not folk, not really in between. Just who we were and are in that wooded corner of the world.

The album is tentatively titled “Redwood Summer” and is set for release April 14, 2009.

This track is called ‘Fever Saved Me’

Thanks for stopping by!

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