A Personal Journey: Revisited

March 30, 2016 by  

Hands up: who has the first LORD album, A Personal Journey?

Yeah, I see you both standing there! Hi! HAHA!

A Personal Journey (2003/2005)

To say that APJ was kind of lost in the background noise and eventually ended up as “that weird early LORD album I discovered when I looked through their back catalogue” is pretty accurate. That’s a bit of a shame because there was a lot of cool stuff on that album, although it’s kind of simultaneously the odd one out and the one that needs the most love given to it, at least from a production point of view, to bring it up to the standard of what we’re doing now.

Ah yes, if you haven’t already worked it out, we’ve decided to do a fresh take on APJ, very similar to what we did with The Dungeon Era. We’ve taken a slightly different approach with this new version though, but before I get to that, I should explain a little bit about the history of the original APJ album and why we’re actually doing what we’re doing.

If you’re not much of a reading fan, here – check out the PR video and then skip to the end of this page:

So, APJ – and LORD in general – was kind of born out of frustration with everything that was happening to Dungeon in the late 90s. I’d already started toying with the idea of doing an instrumental solo album sometime around 1994 or so, and demo’d a few things on a busted 4-track recorder, then redid it all again on an 8-track cassette recorder around 1997 or thereabouts. The drums were all a Roland R-8 drum machine, connected to a MC-500 MIDI sequencer, and I’d just bought a W-30 sampling keyboard, which was amazing for me at the time despite the MIDI jitter being all over the place (meaning the timing was never quiiiiite where I wanted it to be) and the sound quality being far less than even CD quality. All of the guitars were done with a little Zoom 9002 pocket processor, all DI.

rolandr8   Roland-MC-500

 

I figured I could record everything on the 8-track, then take it into a proper studio later and mix the tracks through a proper mixing console and get something that sounded halfway decent if I was lucky. I really had no money to do anything more, so I really had no choice but to do it this way.

Dungeon was going through a lineup and label change and undergoing a bit of an identity crisis with our musical direction. We’d always had a lot of melodic rock elements in the sound but they were being phased out in favour of a more thrash and power direction. I loved the new stuff but was feeling a bit uneasy about losing some of where we came from, and there was a lot of butting heads internally. I’d started writing material that just didn’t feel right for Dungeon’s focused style and was wondering how I was going to make it all work (in fact, we even rehearsed stuff like “Footsteps in the Sand” once or twice but it felt really weird to do), when a huge argument broke out which saw me quit the band and take all of my new songs with me, and add them to the pile of instrumental songs I’d already recorded on the 8-track.

Well, you guys know what happened next. I rejoined Dungeon, things really turned around for us and we did a heap of cool stuff like international tours and a string of really well received albums and DVD, etc.

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I still wanted to release all of my solo album stuff (which I was calling “LORD” after my ridiculous stage name) so I set about getting it all recorded. Home computer prices had become reasonable enough to put together a recording computer to get everything down. Check out these computer specs: A Pentium II 466 MHz (overclocked to 502 Mhz! WOW! Half a GHz!), 16 meg of RAM, a 2GB IDE hard drive (which was slow as hell and would choke on more than 16 tracks of audio) and sound got in and out of it via a Soundblaster AWE32 card. For those of you that don’t know anything about computer specs, have a look at your phone specs from about 5 years ago. Your old mobile phone sitting at the bottom of your junk draw was many times more powerful than the computer I recorded this album on. To make things worse, I couldn’t bring myself to re-record the solos from the 8-track tapes so I dumped those into the computer, all though the Soundblaster card. Everything going in had a big layer of hiss to remove, the tape stuff especially. I spent more time fixing things than actually recording it I think!

I’m telling you all of this stuff to demonstrate a point: Although the album was eventually professionally mastered, and I did drop the money on a weekend of doing vocals in an actual studio, the album you hear today was basically recorded for zero dollars in a spare bedroom on a glorified toaster. Put that next to, say, Digital Lies, or What Tomorrow Brings, which have massive production by comparison, it all kind of sounds a bit… small.

lord_march31_web March 31, 2016 marked 10 years to the day that LORD became a legitimate live band when we played our first show in Sydney. If there was ever a good time to cast an eye back to the band’s origins, it’s now.

We took a huge risk doing The Dungeon Era but it ultimately turned out great, was really well received and thankfully also made our money back, rather than sending us into crippling debt (which was actually a big possibility when we were making it). Hearing all of those great old songs done with the new modern production definitely set the cogs moving in my brain, in that what we did with that material could also be done with APJ. We really managed to retain the spirit of the original Dungeon albums while getting it to sound like it was recorded this century.

I remember when I started getting the material together for APJ on my crappy old computer, and how shit-scared I was that I’d never be able to recreate the solos I did on the original tape recordings, and that led me to dumping the takes in from the tapes and lining them up. Doing The Dungeon Era really changed my perception of that side of things. Now, having my own commercial recording studio, I could put in the time to really capture the intent of those original recordings with no compromises in sound or performance. And finally, after all this time, these songs have real drums, just as I wanted in the beginning but didn’t have the means to make it happen. Tim Yatras once again stepped up and made it all happen, and did a sensational job (as always!)

And that brings us to what we have here now: A Personal Journey: Revisited.

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Like The Dungeon Era, this isn’t meant to replace the originals; it’s more of a companion piece, a HD remaster of a director’s cut of an old favourite film (or in this case, some obscure movie hardly anyone has seen that could be great if the special effects weren’t so dated looking). I don’t think you’d locate anyone who finds the original album as special as I do, obviously, so erasing from history it or pissing over its legacy is something that I really wanted to avoid when we did this Revisited edition.

So what did we do on this new version?

Music-wise, aside from being respectful to the original (and the original intent of the songs – meaning some things were a big compromise back in the day because of budget or technology, so we tried to recreate what we wanted to do if we could rather than replicating what we were forced to do), we also took the same approach as we did with The Dungeon Era in that we needed to look at this stuff with fresh eyes and not be afraid to update things if they needed it. Some sections were removed to make a song more snappy, orchestration added in, new solos… that kind of thing. The biggest thing was real drums, and having the means to do the huge vocal layers I originally wanted to put in but couldn’t. This finally brings the production and sheer size of the recording in line with the rest of our back catalogue, so we’re not having to make a “well it was our first album with no budget” excuse. The album can finally speak for itself.

With the packaging, we took cues from The Dungeon Era but literally thought outside of the box with parts of it. This release doesn’t come on CD at all.

OK, wait! Hear me out before you round up the villagers with burning torches and pitchforks!

Like it or not, the world has moved on from physical media for the most part. For all of the resurgence vinyl has had lately, it’s still a tiny fraction of what online streaming is doing. The biggest problem with streaming or file transfers is two-fold: First, there’s nothing tangible about it. If you’re the kind of person who likes to hold a physical album in your hands, being able to look at the booklet and have something that makes you feel like you actually bought a product rather than a bunch of zeroes and ones in a data file, file sharing sucks. The other thing is the audio quality is rarely close to even being CD quality, let alone the full HD quality you’d get from the studio masters.

We had a good think about this and found a good middle ground between a lot of different mediums. We wanted to have the convenience of data files for easy transfer to your portable media player, but have the same quality as the studio masters, but also offering a package that also had collectible parts and a large booklet that you can admire the artwork and read along with the lyrics.

So everything in this case is ripped to both MP3 and 24 bit HD FLAC files, which are greater than CD quality and sound exactly the same as the studio masters. This is all presented on an “Access All Areas” style pass that folds out to be a USB key, similar to what we did for The Dungeon Era.

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Booklet-wise, we wanted to get close to the feeling you get when you look at a record sleeve. Even CDs are kind of inferior to seeing the larger art and sleeves that you get with vinyl. We chose a middle ground between CD size and 12″ vinyl sized and did an A5 sized saddle-stitched booklet with heavy card covers and glossy pages. It’s probably closer to a collectible tour program than anything else, I guess, but it’s got everything you want in there – all of the lyrics, liner notes, a LORD history (not quite as extensive as the Dungeon one, but still pretty substantial), credits, pics and large cover art.

book_cover_sml       book_pages2_sml

All up, I think we have a pretty good package. (I’m sure there’s a rude joke to be made there! 😉 )

If you’re interested in grabbing one, head over to THIS PAGE for links to the pre-orders. They’ll be happening for the next couple of weeks, at a reduced price than we’ll eventually be selling this at. There’s also a combination bundle which has this new version plus the original album so you can compare the two, or if you’re a completist, you can add both to your collection at the same time for cheap.

Like I mention in the retrospective in the booklet, it’s a really odd feeling listening back to this stuff now. It’s a mixture of nostalgia and excitement that these songs finally sound the way they were always meant to sound, if only I’d had the means. The decade or so living with this stuff definitely helped me understand them better than I did when they were fresh out of my spare bedroom too.

Anyway, this is a long post to basically say we’re really happy how it’s all come up, and I hope you guys really enjoy it too.

We’re full-on into writing for the next new LORD album as you read this. As great as it has been having a look back at The Dungeon Era and the origins of LORD, the thing I’m most excited about is the future. Lots of great things in the works and the new material is already blowing my mind.

Stick around, it’s gonna be fun! 🙂