Tag Archives: experimental music

The Struggles of Being an Experimental Freelance Musician

 

That’s me a couple days ago when I was thinking about all the struggles of being a freelance experimental musician (I know, boo hoo, right?) haha. Anyway, this post isn’t for you to feel sorry for me, but rather to reach out to those of you that are in a similar boat as me.

I’ve been making music since I was 10 years old, and started producing my own music when I was 20 when I got my first cassette 4 track recorder back in the 90s. Since then I’ve created my own record label called Anthill Recordings and self-produced over 20 albums. As far as sales, some have done okay, some have had literally no attention at all, but absolutely none of them have done extremely well. At this point it doesn’t bother me that much, but there was a time when it did.

When you pour your heart and soul into something you think is unique, passionate, and extremely well done, and others do not respond to it at all, it can be a disheartening experience. At the same time when you observe others seemingly churning out the same old thoughtless dribble and getting praised for it, can be even more maddening. The problem is with our society is it rewards conformity and punishes uniqueness. This is something we all learned well in grade school. All of the most popular kids were doing whatever was cool. Football, cheerleaders, jocks, whatever music is on TV or the radio they liked, they wore all the same name brand clothes. They’re all good little sheep.

So it really should come as no surprise to me when I craft something as unique as my album Turn of The Scroct that has a measly 4 bandcamp supporters, while vaporwave artists are simply re-releasing slowed down previously released pop music and are getting thousands of downloads. Here we are again, people just following what other people are doing. There’s literally hundreds of thousands of releases like this, none of which have any originality whatsoever. Contrary to what I just wrote, I don’t hate vaporwave, and have dabbled in it myself, but took it as inspiration. I didn’t merely copy what everyone else was already doing and slap some statues in front of a Windows 95 screenshot and call it a day.

I spent time making my music, thought about it, tried to make it different, tried to make it unique. I took time to perfect my playing, as a drummer, and with all the other instruments I put on my recordings. Am I rewarded with sales? No. No I’m not. To me it’s not desirable to fit neatly into a specific genre of music. This is a huge problem with today’s music and marketing. If it doesn’t neatly adhere to a specific hashtag, nobody cares about it. Because hashtags seem to define people’s identities these days.

However, I am rewarded with my own love of creation. When I listen back to what I made, I think about how good it felt to finally be able to play the drum part I struggled with, how I was able to achieve such a strong sounding mix, how I was able to press a vinyl record after playing every single instrument on it, recording it, mixing it, mastering the vinyl, all by myself. And the few that have reached out to me thanking me for my efforts have done so in a very heartfelt manor. One listener even called me on the phone after I released my album “In The Park” and wanted to personally thank me for making it. This was really nice.

But again, this isn’t why I do it. I do it because I love the process of creation. Making something that I am proud of, that my own thoughts, ideas, focus and energy went into. Knowing it came out exactly the way I wanted it, and maybe one day people will find it and enjoy it as much as I do. But even if they don’t I don’t care. In a way, I’m glad I’ve freed myself from needing other’s approval of my music. Now I create for me. But what I do wish I was getting more of is….. money.

Yes that’s right, I said money. I work hard and I would like to be rewarded financially for my work. I don’t care if people are calling me a genius, or if my music becomes the next trendy thing, I want money, lots of it. So over time I’ve found little ways to make a bit… not lots, but I keep trying to learn new ways to make more. Some of which are making gear reviews on YouTube with my music, creating exclusive content for music licensing, as well as offering my mixing and mastering services to others. Do I make as much money as the amount of work I do? No, not at this point, but I’m going to keep trying. To me this is the ultimate struggle, but I will never give up.

-Justin

Demonic Sweaters – In Depth – Now Out For Patrons Only!

My latest album, In Depth is now complete, and I am really proud of this one. I think it came out great! The album is available right now for Patrons only, and will be released later this summer for the rest of the world.

This amazing cover art was done by my friend Ligang Luo. I really think this album is one of my best to date, and features a nice mix of live instruments with tracker tunes, drums, bass, guitar, synths, and Milkytracker. It’s experimental, and lifts you up in sections, then takes you to the depths in others. It’s 11 songs and about 40 minutes long. If you become a Patron for any amount at https://www.patreon.com/demonicsweaters you’ll get it right now. There is also a beautiful foldout insert also done by Ligang. You can really help out by becoming a patron, plus you’ll get some awesome music!

VHSc Video For “Sculpted View” off Unlmited Dada (2014)

So many times people say, “why don’t you put vocals on your recordings?” well I do sometimes, like on this song/video above for the 2014 song, Sculpted View. I made this video with my old VHSc camera and with the help of my Boyfriend Victor as camera man. I just realized it’s been on YouTube quietly for years, so thought I’d give it a little push again.

The song is about my first boyfriend after coming out, and the image I made of him in my head verses the reality of the type of person he was.

fulkramick Interview – Mark Lavonier talks about making music

fulkramick is the musical project of multi-instrumentalist, Mark Lavonier. His music is highly experimental, creative, and really is not very classifiable. There’s elements of psychedellia, math rock, ambient, folk, and even some post hardcore. But you really can’t call it any of that. It’s basically just fulkramick, and is one of the reasons I love it so much.

Mark graciously agreed to answering some questions I had, and became the first musician to be interviewed on demonicsweaters.com!

Demonic Sweaters: How did you get started in recording your own music and how long have you been doing it?

fulkramick: I’ve played in bands on drums since the early 90’s and started recording my own stuff later in that decade on a karaoke machine that had two tape decks. Using two cassettes, I’d record a track onto a tape, throw it in the play deck then record a new track with the plugged-in microphone while playing the first tape. It ended up giving the music a distant sounding quality because by the time a song was done, that first recorded track was now a fifth or sixth generation, so in a sense, my new stuff instantly sounded old.

Demonic Sweaters:  What instruments do you use for recording? I’ve noticed bass, drums, acoustic guitar, vocals, and plenty of unidentified sounds. Are you using any synths? 

fulkramick: As the British say, “You’ve got it in one!”. I usually lead the writing process with lyrics as a guide and record drums first, often before writing anything else, then go from there with instrument layering. The synth I use is a basic Casio from the 90’s that has about two really cool sounds out of one hundred, so most synth sounds on recordings are coaxed to something I like through post production.

Demonic Sweaters:  Please explain your miking techniques for drums and anything else.

fulkramick: Just as it’s important to know your monitors, it’s important to know your room. I’ve been recording in the same one for close to fifteen years now, so placement is not so much of a grand experiment. I gather as many SM57’s as I can for the shells, typically going under or aiming it about an inch over the drums but not pointing down. I use a Shure bass drum mic and a couple of old condenser mics for overhead/cymbals. Where I do experiment is a “room” mic. Usually just one odd one I’m not using and I place it in the corner or in the next room over to see what it picks up. My methods are more based on what mics I can round up and a sense of the space. There is definitely a “magic spot” where one mic can capture my kit perfectly for the writing process. Bass recording is done with an SM57 very close to the speaker and a direct line out – so I try to get a good mix of the two. Acoustic guitar and vocals, you guessed it, an SM57. My comfort level with that microphone is very high.

Demonic Sweaters:  How many channels at once do you have available for recording?

fulkramick: When recording drums, I usually run everything through a 10 channel Behringer console. Everything else is usually a one or two track affair.

Demonic Sweaters:  What is your drum miking approach?

fulkramick: Depending on the mood of the song, for me it’s deciding if I want something authoritative or dream-like. For a more surreal sound, I’ll cut some mics or back them off to give that depth of space and try to bring them a little closer for something more aggressive. A good example from the “Casing the Sill” record would be the drums on “Stuckstruck” which is meant to convey a more desperate and manic sound where I tried to make the kit have certain definitions though mic placement, as opposed to a couple of songs later where “Ripcord Whip” has a more washy effect, even though the parts have their moments of sharpness, I backed some of the mics off and cut sound from a few throughout the recording because it was a more “in a head trip” feel through more pronounced cymbals and the like.

Demonic Sweaters:  I’ve noticed very creative use of fx in your releases. How do you come up with these little production touches? For example, I’ve noticed sudden reverb on a single snare hit, or a quick delay on one note etc…. Are you manipulating this stuff in real-time, or are you going in painstakingly editing little bits of waves?

fulkramick: I’m absolutely editing each of those, which is a fun process for me. I get into some very obsessive listening with each track that gets recorded and the touches present themselves to me as the different instruments come together. When one occurs to me, I ask myself if it is serving the song, and how so? At times it can be for reinforcement of the soul of the piece, or in a utility sort of way that aides a transition, other times it’s to undermine a part. In that case it’s a brief moment where I’m saying that I’m not comfortable, this is not straightforward, there is a nick in the iron that calls a focus to itself as part of the story of the song. I will say that every inch and sound is placed or manipulated for a reason.

Demonic Sweaters:  What recording software do you use?

fulkramick: For the most part, I use a versions-old version of Adobe Audition. I’ve been using the different iterations of the program since it was “Cool Edit” in the later 90’s. Like any editing software, I still discover new things all the time, it’s a great education and I’m comfortable enough with it to lay down what I’m after.

Demonic Sweaters:  Why do you make music?

fulkramick: In bands, it’s for the harmony and experimentation of communicating and playing with others, the unique thrill of performing live and at times reaching out of my comfort zone to write something that still expresses myself and the theme of a song. When I musically do things on my own, it’s really to illustrate the times in my life that can’t be excised in any other way. It’s like taking a class in myself as doors open, light comes in and presents a picture best described through instrumentation. Often, I’m brought to more neglected places where things need to be swept up – and the new, heightened understanding of said place, for me, can be best interpreted and even healed through music. Plus, with the “fulkramick” solo work, it’s fun to call all the shots.

You can check out fulkramick’s latest release on his bandcamp page and a video for his latest single “Fession” below!   

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