Brilliant Shower

Nik Furious: Brilliant Shower: Speechless

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Nik Furious - Brilliant Shower
Brilliant Shower artwork by Shawn Atkins

I fell asleep while I was recording Speechless. In fact, I didn't even realize I was recording the song at the time. All I knew was that it was 2 AM and I simply couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.

See, I'd laid down 10 minutes of funky electronic drums. But I was having a hard time coming up with a melody for the beat. I decided to improvise an extended jam on top of the drums. My plan was to relisten to the recording and cherry pick the best moments of the performance to create loops for a rap track.

Well, that never happened. I listened to the recording over and over again -- for years, really -- trying to find the best parts to loop into a beat. But somewhere in the process of relistening to the song, I began to really enjoy it as a work of its own.

Speechless was raw and improvisational, capturing the moment instead of trying to fit riffs into a tight structure. I really appreciated the free qualities of the song.

INTERMISSION! Speechless on SoundCloud:

And before I even realized it, I was copying my accidental recording style to make new songs. I'd construct a 15 minute drum loop and lay a few raw tracks over it. That's how Purple Suite and RAW both came to be.

So despite the fact that Speechless was an accident, I learned to cherish the way it was created. Nowadays, most of my songs are built with the Speechless method. Eventually, some get shaved down into tighter sections while others retain their spontaneous qualities and remain just as they were performed.

NEXT: Digital drums built for an abandoned ditty about street food set in 6/8 time become their own musical beast.

Nik Furious: Brilliant Shower: Remix the Phoenix

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Nik Furious - Brilliant Shower
Brilliant Shower artwork by Shawn Atkins

It began as Phoenix Bay, a stripped-down groove with a lot of 'tude and li'l bit of funk. While I dug some of its qualities (including the name, inspired by Jean Grey's experience in Jamaica Bay), it didn't resonate with me. It felt too minimal.

Determined to not abandon the framework, I built upon the foundation of Phoenix Bay and added extra layers, amping up the funk and rechanneling the flow. And thus Remix the Phoenix was born.

The most obvious addition was a heavy coating of frantic percussion, making the song feel twice as fast as before. I also decided to rework the melody, something which was seriously lacking in the original. And that's where things got interesting.

See, I wasn't happy with all of my new melodic synth performances. In fact, I recorded several different versions because I was having a hard time picking a favorite. And that's when a mistake turned into inspiration.

Any musician who multi-tracks can relate to what happened next -- I left on both of my synth performances by mistake while replaying the reworked Phoenix Bay... and I liked what I heard. Two similar-yet-unique synths swirling back at me, challenging my brain to a game of "Can You Follow the Melody?"

INTERMISSION! Remix the Phoenix on SoundCloud:

Instead of trying to pick one single melodic line, I decided to use both. It was a trick I'd learned from listening to Pavement as a kid. Often, their guitarists would solo at the same time, creating an experimental and sometimes exciting sound.

After a lot more editing, I finally had something I liked. Phoenix Bay was saved! But in the process of my rescue, I'd created a different body of work. So I changed the title to indicate its remixed status. And that's how this song was born.

NEXT: How falling asleep on my keyboard led to some interestingly long results.

Psssst! Here's a secret.

Nik Furious: Brilliant Shower: RAW

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Nik Furious - Brilliant Shower
Brilliant Shower artwork by Shawn Atkins

RAW stands for Really Awesome Woman. And I gave this song as a gift to Justique... my really awesome girlfriend!

I'm a bit ashamed to say that I can't remember the holiday/occasion that was behind the gifting of this jam. Uhhh, maybe it was xmas? Or maybe a birthday? Or our anniversary? Damn, I just can't recall.

But I do remember the particulars of the recording because I composed, performed, and mixed this song at work (back when I had a day job, that is). In fact, The only thing I did at home was master this puppy.

I used to work for the marketing department of a Pittsburgh law firm. It was a good job, but it could get really dull. To the credit of my employers, they tried to keep me interested as best they could. So when they needed a jingle for a TV commercial, they asked if I'd like to take a crack at it.

I jumped at the opportunity to get paid to make music in my office. I brought in my drum machine, synthesizer, and guitar to record a few demos. And guess what? They hated my jingles!!!

INTERMISSION! RAW on SoundCloud:

I was bummed that it didn't work out. To pick my mood up, I spent my lunch break playing music. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I'd spent hours writing and performing nearly all of RAW! The song came together that easily.

I'd say that the entire performance -- largely improvised, because that's how I roll -- couldn't have taken more than two days. I mixed it in short order and I knew that I had a new Nik Furious album track on my hands!

The finished product reminded me of something Justique might like. She was already a big fan of Purple Suite and Speechless, my two longest songs. So I decided to make RAW -- my longest track to date -- a gift for her.

NEXT: A song so tricky that it had to be reborn before it could breathe.

Nik Furious: Brilliant Shower: Purple Suite

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Nik Furious - Brilliant Shower
Brilliant Shower artwork by Shawn Atkins

It was night. All of the lights were off, but it wasn't pitch black in my apartment. See, the Pittsburgh city sky never goes black -- it goes purple.

I started laying down a beat on my Zoom MRT-3 drum machine. As the rhythm grew more complex, the lights on the drum machine formed a hypnotic pattern of flashing reds and blues.

Purple Suite began as that drum pattern. And later that night, I laid down a few synth tracks on top of the beat. But the different parts didn't gel.

I can't remember if it was hours, days, or weeks later... but eventually, I added the thick bass (playing it with a pick, which is something I rarely do). Once the bassline was in place, I improvised the synth on top. And it was complete.

Purple Suite on SoundCloud:

I've never been totally satisfied by Purple Suite. For years, I used a different mix of the song that featured a far quieter lead synth. When it came time to finish up all of the tracks for Brilliant Shower, I remastered this song and raised the solo.

While I'm unashamed to say that I enjoy listening to my own music, I don't always enjoy listening to Purple Suite. I like the drums and certain parts of the synth performance. But overall, it's not the type of song that I usually seek out.

Still, I'm proud of this track. I hope you enjoying listening to it more than I do!!!

NEXT: If you think Purple Suite is long, just wait until you hear the next song on Brilliant Shower.

Nik Furious: Brilliant Shower: Invisible

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Nik Furious - Brilliant Shower
Brilliant Shower artwork by Shawn Atkins

Invisible is one of the oldest songs on Brilliant Shower. It's also the first time I ever sampled myself.

I wasn't a music major in college, but I was fortunate enough to get into some advanced sound recording classes. The techniques I learned have been invaluable to me as both a musician and podcaster. (Thx, Riccardo Schulz!!!)

I'm not a great drummer by any means, but I can hold a beat. We needed someone to play drums for one of these classes, and so I volunteered. I played a few different beats, nothing spectacular. And when all was said and done, I got to keep the recordings of my performance.

INTERMISSION! Invisible on SoundCloud.

A few months after I graduated in 2004, I pillaged all of my old recordings to try and find the best songs I made while I was in college. After the Wink was one of those. Try This was another. And in the process of drudging through my old stuff, I found the ProTools files of my aforementioned drumming.

I tried looping full bars of my drums, but I couldn't get anything that sounded tight. So I went through and I sampled individual hits. One tap on the high hats. One on the snare. A couple of kick hits. And then I proceeded to lay out the beat in ProTools just like I was using my drum machine.

Nowadays, I understand the concept of sequencing (despite the fact that I still don't do it... nothing against it -- I've just never tried it). Back then, I had no idea or otherwise I would have tried out something like that.

Anyway, I did things the hard way but I built a drum beat I'm still proud of to this day. Obviously, I also laid down some bass and synth at some point... which, if I recall correctly, happened months later when I was living in Brooklyn.

Invisible is currently the theme for the HyperComboCast, a fighting games podcast I co-host on the AudioShocker.

NEXT: 9.5 minutes of purple.