OMNIVERSE Album Drops Today!

My newest album, OMNIVERSE, drops today! This is my first full VOCALOID album, and features twelve original works and one cover song. Over the next month or two I plan to share more background information, release a few more single versions, and create more promotional materials like lyric videos. For now, let’s just get directly to the music!

 

So, obviously I want to get this music into as many ears as possible, so please like and share, but also let’s get some conversations going. Comment on the things you like, and even things you don’t like! Ask me questions so I know what you’re interested in learning about. I realize that Vocaloid is new for a lot of people, and I’m more than happy to share what I’ve experienced in my limited time working with this fascinating technology.

Also, subscribe to things! Especially YouTube and Bandcamp. The numbers help, but also, these are usually the places things will show up first. Videos go up on YouTube hours before I start announcing them or blogging about them, and Bandcamp has actually had the album live and available for sale since Friday, because I upload directly to them, instead of going through a distribution service like I do for the more popular services.

And while I’m on the subject, sometimes people ask me if I have a preference regarding which service they purchase/stream from, and that’s an easy answer: Bandcamp. They give me the biggest share of the profits, deliver that money to me the fastest, and give you the best quality product (or at least the choice, since you can stream or get MP3s from them if you want to) of any service. I’m thrilled to have you listen wherever is convenient, cost effective, or just preferential to you, but if it doesn’t make any difference to you, please consider giving Bandcamp a try!

Enjoy the album, let me know what you think!

Love & Music,

-David

First Single: Repress For Success

I’m in the middle of unpacking from my recent move, and I’m pretty sure I developed a hernia in the process, so I’m going to have to keep this brief so I can get back to dealing with all of that. I just want to drop some quick updates to let y’all know that I have released the first single, “Repress For Success”, featuring Megurine Luka & Dex, from my upcoming album, OMNIVERSE. You can check out my hand lettered lyric video now!

I wrote this track shortly after graduating with a B.S. in business administration, and feeling very lost. Despite having done well and accomplishing a lot, I felt like I really hadn’t learned what I set out to learn, and it definitely had nothing to do with who I am as a person, or my long-term goals. I was also struggling a lot with some very deep identity issues. I felt like I was presenting a different face to the world than the person I actually am inside. I still feel that way sometimes, and I think maybe that’s just something people feel from time to time, and I hope this song captures it well.

I feel like Luka lives in two worlds, being a primarily Japanese VOCALOID who also must sing in English when needed. She is probably embraced more by the English VOCALOID producers than most other Japanese VOCALOIDs, and so it seemed quite appropriate to me that she sing this song.

I’d like to give a quick shout out to all of the people who helped make this (and the soon-to-be-released album) happen: Marishelle Buchess for her awesome art, The Human @ Human Studios in Portland, Oregon, for his outstanding production work, support from Nathan Miller, Andrew & Michelle Haws, Stephen & Elizabeth Pate, my mom & brother, the folks on various Vocaloid groups and the Vocaloid Amino, and my local support team, Ann, her parents, & Kirby, without whom I would still be able to find socks.

OMNIVERSE & Other News

Not a lot of time to write this up because we are in the middle of painting the studio in preparation for moving stuff in, which is slated to happen at the end of the month:

But in the meantime, I am nearly done composing my next album, tentatively titled ‘OMNIVERSE’. Not only that, we have pretty close to finished tracks (mostly waiting on final tuned vocal tracks from me) on well over half of the album! The album will feature Luka, of course, as well as Avanna and Dex from Zero-G. At this point I am shooting for a roughly late June or early July release, which seems totally doable unless ‘life’ happens, heh…

Here is some awesome cover art by Marishelle Buchess, which I commissioned. She is also working on art for several single releases, so everything is on track (ha!) for releasing when the music is finished.

So, some updates regarding my previous post: I am no longer streaming Final Fantasy. It was a fun test, but ultimately off brand. A lot of my Vocaloid community colleagues have indicated that they would love to see streams of me tuning the Vocaloids, so if I can figure out an effective way to set that up I will!

I may also give up on Trello for organizing albums. I’m not 100% sure what I will ultimately use to manage my music projects and share that process, but Trello isn’t cutting it for me, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve taken to using a physical white board and/or scraps of paper again instead. I will find a shareable digital solution eventually, but Trello doesn’t seem to be it.

That’s all the updates for now. Should be able to do more updates more regularly once moving is complete and the new studio is set up properly. In the meantime, rest assured that I am constantly working on stuff, I just don’t always have time to post about it 🤓

Quick Update

Life got busy. Most of what has been keeping me busy has been very positive. I’m getting ready for another long visit to the Oregon Coast, and I’ve re-joined my raid team on Final Fantasy XIV after taking a long hiatus (mostly due to the fact that I didn’t like the raids in Heavensward, though that’s really a subject for my gaming blog…) The latter has lead to a few hours of extra work in game ‘gearing up’, studying a few raid videos, etc., while the former is really what this quick update is all about.

Normally, when someone drops a new album, like I just did with RePulse, they would promote like crazy. I’ve done some advertising, dropping links on Facebook and Twitter, but it’s been pretty limited. A lack of marketing budget means that all promotion has to be clever and/or time consuming. Since I am not particularly clever, that time factor is huge. Every piece of content I write to promote the album is time I’m not spending working on the next album, which really bring us directly to the point: Much as I love RePulse, and hope it finds its way to as big an audience as possible, I am taking the next few weeks before my next trip to get as much work done on the next project as I possibly can. I will be bringing all of my tools with me this time (my full computer, speakers, analog synth, etc.) so that I will be able to work as efficiently there as I do here, but I also know there will be downtime. Gear has to be set up and tested. Travel will happen. Gremlins will eat the most important cables. Because life. Also, my work with mixing/mastering maestro The Human is likely to be more efficient in person, so I’m hoping to cram as much of that in as possible before I go. Finally, there is a sort of ‘seasonal deadline’ for the next project anyway. Even if things hadn’t gotten busy for me, I might still feel the need to cram for this next project because it’s, shall we say, a time specific release.

So, if you haven’t listened to RePulse yet, go check it out! It’s in all the usual places: iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, Groove, and my personal favorite: Bandcamp (where you can get exclusive extras like a 24-page digital booklet and a link to an album-length video for a complete audi0-visual experience!) If you love it, go ahead and share it with.. y’know… everyone! Y’all are basically my promotion team at this point. Nothing I say about it will mean half as much to your friends as what you say, so I greatly appreciate any and all efforts you guys can make!

And then stay tuned, because the next project is going to be (cue the ‘dad pun’ voice…) very merry!

My Vocaloid Future

This is a fairly long post, with a lot of personal history about my relationship with music and technology. I hope you’ll find it as fascinating as I do, but if you’d rather just skip down to the bottom, there are some great examples of what this whole Vocaloid thing is all about under the “Vocaloid: Examples” header. Either way, enjoy!

New Musical Frontiers

Much of my favorite music is the result of composers and artists experimenting with new technology. Apparently Beethoven pushed the limits of the pianos of the time when he composed his 14th sonata, the “Moonlight”, using the full keyboard and taking advantage of the variety of sounds that were inherent in its construction. Wendy Carlos and Isao Tomita pushed the limits of the Moog Synthesizer and the recording technology of the time to create otherworldly versions of classical pieces, with Carlos in particular working directly with Bob Moog to develop new modules and controllers to allow for more stable and interesting sounds and better musical expression. Brian Wilson was reputedly so far ahead of his time attempting to construct complex, layered, multipart music that his 1967 SMiLE record couldn’t be properly finished until digital technology allowed Mark Linett to piece it together for a 2011 release. Although some of the details of these examples may be debatable, and this is hardly a scholarly exploration, these are just a few pieces off the top of my head that I have obsessed over at various times in my life. All represent artists pushing the envelope and exploring new technological frontiers.

And that is exactly the kind of artist I’ve always wanted to be. I want to push myself and the tools I use to create music. When I first started writing songs, I wanted to explore genres and try writing in different styles. This lead me to move from writing on guitar to using notation software to compose MIDI arrangements. Once I had pushed the limits of the built in samples, I started experimenting with creating my own samples, and then started using synthesizers. Later, as I discovered alternate tunings, I began experimenting with them in Logic, composing music that relied on tunings based in non-western music in order to sound right. For the Pulse Depravity project, I went out of my way to write in every western ‘mode’ and in less common time signatures with odd numbers of beats per measure.

Vocaloid: My Next Frontier

I now feel that the next step for me is Vocaloid. The Vocaloid software is a plugin platform that allows a composer to use one or more voice banks to create virtual singers for their music. Each voice bank is associated with a specific character, with the most famous being Hatsune Miku, primarily due to her popularity in Japan. It probably seems like I’ve gone full ‘weeaboo‘ at this point, and I don’t really know enough about it to argue one way or the other. The fact is, I was watching an interview with Isao Tomita, and he mentioned Miku as being a musical frontier that was impressive to him. That got my attention. I had been looking into vocal synthesis for a while, especially some German software reportedly used by Kraftwerk, but it was nearly impossible to get in the United States, and it honestly didn’t sound that great (enunciation is very tricky for pure synthesizer). Within a few minutes of hearing of Miku, a quick YouTube search revealed tons of amazing vocal synth parts (and a lot of terrible ones, but that’s another story). I actually became interested more in anime, J-pop, and Japanese culture in general because of Miku, for whatever that’s worth. But, alas, my interest in Miku has waned slightly, in favor of another character…

I will be using Megurine Luka, because her voice is a bit less ‘cute anime style’ and a bit more ‘adult woman’ sounding. When ‘tuned’ properly, such that her voice is used well, and the enunciation is fairly accurate, Luka’s vocals can be as beautiful as those sung by the greatest pop stars I’ve ever heard. At times, she even sounds ‘human’ (though I have discovered that, as with pop vocals tweaked and ‘effected’ in the studio, ‘human’ isn’t always the most desirable sound). I am very excited to start working with the software and have Luka sing some of my music.

Vocaloid: Examples

There are many examples of great Luka vocals, but a lot of the best ones are in Japanese (most of the best composers of Vocaloid music are Japanese, and her primary voice banks, like those of Miku and the other Vocaloids, are in the Japanese language). Here is an English version of one of her most popular songs, as performed at a Miku Expo in New York City in 2014:

This is a fairly well tuned R&B style version of “Fly Me to the Moon” (a classic hit for Frank Sinatra, among others), and it really showcases how flexible her voice can be when compared to the other examples here:

But I think finding this track really sold me on Luka. The content is seriously ‘messed up’ in the same way some of my music and lyrics get (like… WTF?) It has a little bit of a classic Depeche Mode feel in the synth work, and the vocals make great use of effects to sell it as a cohesive piece, while still allowing the samples to sound properly enunciated:

My Big Plan… sorta…

In order to purchase the software, I decided to take advantage of my impending birthday to crowd fund both that and a solid-state drive upgrade for my computer. At this point it’s about 2/3rds funded, and I’m still holding out hope that it will eventually get in front of enough eyeballs to finish funding. But I couldn’t wait. Amazon was down to the last copy, and, as a Japanese import, it’s hard to say for sure if they will get new copies, when it will happen, and what the price will be. So fingers crossed for the SSD to finish funding. If you can help contribute or share, I will greatly appreciate it. Either way, new music featuring Luka will be coming as soon as I overcome the reputedly steep learning curve. As Yoshi-P* would say, ‘please look forward to it’.

*Producer and Director of Final Fantasy XIV, my obsession with which might actually be a reason why I can’t argue with anyone who calls me a weeaboo, heh….

My Dad Passed Away

My dad passed away on Tuesday, March 28th, about two days ago as I write this. He was a very private person, and normally I am too when it comes to things like this, so it took me a couple of days to decide to go ahead and open up publicly about what his life meant to me, and how his death changes things.

Aside from the obvious things every parent passes on to their children, the greatest gift my dad gave to me was an appreciation of high quality sound and music. Both he and my mother have always done what they can to support my musical pursuits, and that continues even now. But I’ll get back to that later.

Growing up, my parents always sang in church choirs, and I grew accustomed to hearing vocal harmonies as a regular and important feature of music. My tastes in music, while sometimes wildly different from my dad’s, have always tended toward lush harmonies. We shared a love of those harmonies, and I will miss listening to those kinds of recordings with him.

My dad didn’t have a lot of synthesizer-based music, certainly nothing like modern EDM or Kraftwerk or YMO, but he introduced me to what is arguably still my favorite synth album of all time, Wendy Carlos’ “Switched-On Brandenburgs”. The sound of Bach’s epic orchestral pieces performed brilliantly by Ms. Carlos on a modular Moog is still emotionally moving to me even after quite literally (according to my play count on iTunes) hundreds of plays.

As I got more into creating my own synth based music, I eventually bought my own small Moog synthesizer, and lamented the fact that it had no white noise source. My dad set to work building a small custom analog noise generator. He loved to work with electronics, and his years as a professional technician meant he was really efficient at it. We eventually named the module “Noizilla” and even discussed marketing it. We had discussed creating some other custom generators and effects.

My dad and I used to talk about social media, and where to draw the line in terms of sharing openly with the world. For us, it’s not a matter of personal embarrassment, or fear of identify theft, or other concerns for ourselves. The biggest issue is that other people are always involved. It’s very difficult to mention a major life event without also ‘outing’ other people who have participated in that event. So particularly when the event is negative, it’s easy to paint oneself as the ‘hero’ and dump all over other people involved, and that doesn’t seem like a fair portrayal in most situations.

Also, it often seems like a plea for attention, and neither of us are looking for that. Except, wait, I totally am. Sorta.

Here’s the thing. My life has had a lot of bumps and sharp turns and pitfalls and things just not going as planned. If you were to start writing a story about a total loser according to American stereotypes, I might be your protagonist. Without getting too much into the specifics I am very much living off of the generosity of others right now, trying to rebuild my life as a musician. And the person who most helped me figure out that I needed to do that was my dad. I don’t want to minimize the contributions of other family and friends, because there were and are several people contributing financially and emotionally to my continued pursuit of music in the face of overwhelming odds. But my dad has to top the list. He was the first person to put his resources on the line and allow me to stop being practical and just focus on music full time. The rest of my family was, and is, graciously attempting to continue that support, and it is really tough, because without him resources are even tighter.

I miss my dad. I want to honor his memory, and the best way I can think of to do that is to continue on the path he helped put me on. It feels selfish sometimes, since I know how much sacrifice it is for my family and friends. It’s especially difficult with an artist like me who does things far from the mainstream. I don’t know how long it will take to build an audience. I don’t know how lucrative it will be once I have an audience. I only know that I have to make the art that comes to me, and hope it finds its way to the people who will appreciate it.

My current project, focused around the Pulse Depravity album re-work, is representative of my most experimental and perhaps ‘darkest’ work. Going forward, I will also be doing music based on classical works, video games, my own ‘synth pop’ style songs, and ‘cover versions’ of popular songs from a wide variety of genres. A lot will depend on who I meet and work with, and what kinds of resources are available. I want to make music that people will love, while still being true to the sounds and ideas that come naturally to me. I hope that eventually all the people who have believed in and supported me, and continue to do so, will see that work pay off somehow. No one does anything alone. We all require so much support in so many ways. I lost one of my strongest supporters, but I have to stay strong and not let that support be in vain, and that’s what I intend to do.

I realize that when something like this happens, people want to help. I really appreciate that, and I’ll be honest, I don’t know what will help the most right now. Obviously money is always helpful, but I don’t want people to buy music they wouldn’t otherwise buy out of sympathy, much as I appreciate the gesture. Sure, if you want to buy my music because you like it and want to listen, that would be fantastic, but there are other things that might allow us to establish a more honest relationship. First of all, if you like or don’t like something about my music, my artwork, my videos, please say something! Feedback is the most useful thing, especially at this stage of my re-boot. I have no idea what people really want or don’t want, if I’m communicating my messages well, if people can even find the content I’m trying to distribute, unless I get feedback. If you want to contribute financially, but don’t necessarily care about downloads (for example, if you just like Spotify or YouTube), you can always donate via my Artist Union page. By far, the best way anyone can help right now, however, is simply by sharing like crazy. Like and follow and share everything, a lot. Make your friends wonder why you keep sharing my stuff, so they get curious and start listening, because even if maybe you’re some crazy person who doesn’t happen to love the music I make, your friends might be!