So here we are again, another year done, and – as you might have noticed – no blogs from anyone since last year’s end of year blog.
The conspiracy theorists out there might jump to the conclusion that things are winding down here in the LORD camp and we’re getting set to quietly fade away into Heavy Metal History, but those of you in our inner circle know that when stuff is quiet like this, it’s more likely that we’re brewing something pretty cool, and usually pretty big behind the scenes, and we’re too busy to talk.
You can take off the Tin Foil Hat (hey, there’s s song title in that!), we have indeed been very busy this year! But more on that in a bit.
But let’s rewind to January 1, 2022.
The very first thing we did this year is release a cover of the incredible and underrated Judas Priest song, “Blood Red Skies”
Yeah, yeah – we know! But the Maiden one was a spur of the moment thing and the Priest one… well, that was me surprising the guys. We’d talked about covering this for years but getting it just right was always a little bit too much work at the time, so it was continually shelved. We did the Maiden song and we said “that’s it! No more covers!” and then BRS comes on in a mixed playlist I was watching on YouTube and… yeah, crappy willpower but we got an absolute banger of a song out of it, which we decided to drop right at the very start of 2022 with no fanfare at all, just because we thought it was cool and hoped you guys would like it too.
Well… as it happens, it rocketed right to the #1 spot on the Australian Independent Label charts!
For something we didn’t expect to get into the charts at all, let alone top it and even stay there for a while… we were utterly blown away!
COVID was still causing all kinds of havoc with tours across the country and the world, so we erred on the side of caution and once again chose not to go out on the road. This is the longest we’ve ever not toured, as I’m sure a few of you have noticed, but rather than potentially playing half-assed limited shows that might get cancelled at the last minute and lose us a bunch of money, we put our energy elsewhere: songwriting.
I don’t think I can remember a time where I’ve been such a prolific writer.
When I first started writing songs as a teenager in my little bedroom in the outback, I’d written about 300 sets of lyrics and probably a good 30 or so songs music-wise in the first couple of years. And most of them, honestly, were hot garbage. This was definitely a first step into a lifelong career as a songwriter, though – if you’ve heard any of my songs, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a part of me in there, to various degrees.
I was signed as a writer to BMG Music Publishing in the 90s, which was pretty amazing being on a multi-national label. Further on down the track, I co-wrote a heap of J-Pop songs for a label in Japan that pitched them towards quite a lot of pretty well known artists at the time. I think that experience especially honed my songwriter skills the most because we’d get a song order come in that had a brief of what kind of song they wanted, and a deadline (which was usually just a matter of days) and we’d have to pull something that competed with a stable of other writers out of our ass really quickly. Some nuggets of gold, some nuggets of shit. That’s how it goes.
This year, I was determined to get a lot of the ideas that had been swimming around in my head for the last few years down while we had the chance. I’m constantly writing songs in my head and usually have two or three on the go at once, which is why I get irritated by people humming or whistling around me – it’s likely interrupting a song that’s taking form. This time, rather than two or three, there were the spectres of more than a dozen sitting in there, like dusty books in a darkened library.
I sat down and approached it like those J-Pop songs. What did I want to write? What brief would I give myself for that song if I was a label asking a team for contributions? If I reached into the library, would I find the book with that story? Would I have to write the story fresh on the spot?
Turns out the answer was “the stories were there when I wanted them, no matter where they came from,” and even just from my own ideas alone I wrote a considerable amount of material, even aside from the great collaborations with the other guys.
One thing that definitely helped was my DAW, Cakewalk by Bandlab.
My mantra this time was: Get the ideas down while they’re fresh, clean them up later, start shaping the song as a whole.
Rather than worrying about song structure or the minutiae of having the drums exactly sync with the rhythm tracks in places or writing exactly the right drum roll into a section, I blasted through each idea as its own independent part. Then in Cakewalk, I could mark out each riff or groove as its own section and then use the Arranger to build the prototype of a song, sometimes experimenting with several alternative flows until I was happy enough to commit the arrangement and then start refining, and turning those collection of riffs into a coherent full piece of music.
What was great that time was I think my writing streak really inspired the other guys too. The songs Mark sent over to me to check out were amazing, and sometimes well outside of his comfort zone, but definitely for the better. I think you guys will be surprised at what ones were written by him before looking at the credits! Andy’s biggest strength is definitely his PR and marketing skills but he also brought the goods this time musically. I think the songs he contributed to are actually some of the best songs we’ve written in years!
Probably the thing I think defines this collection of music is that it was done entirely Without Fear. The only people we had to answer to was ourselves, so we just wrote what we liked, no matter what it was. Doing the Undercovers record was extremely liberating for us, being able to dabble in even more genres than we otherwise would have done in the past, and I think that was a big inspiration this time to just throw the rule book out the window and write the best damn music we could.
I’m not going to say how many we’ve got all up, or any titles yet, but I will say that we have something pretty cool planned for it all, and hopefully it’ll all be done in time for a 2023 release. For now, let me give you a teaser that will give you a chuckle – the working titles for a few of the songs before the lyrics were finished:
Triplet Groovy Thing
Maiden a Few Days
I can guarantee the songs are nowhere near as dumb as those titles would suggest! HAHA! But I can definitely say this is not only the most diverse set of songs we’ve ever done (and you guys know what we’re like – we had “Counting Down the Hours” (a ballad) next to “The Edge of the World” (extreme metal) on the last album, and this is even more nuts), and I’d venture to say that this is some of the best stuff we’ve written in the last three decades. You guys will ultimately be the judge, but even in their unfinished forms at the moment, I’m willing to stand by that.
The final thing I want to say about this upcoming release is in a way we’re approaching each release like it’ll be our last. Now, that sounds a lot more ominous than it is, but let me explain!
We’re all getting older. We have lives outside of the band, families, other interests. I know for myself, my hands aren’t what they used to be. Aside from really not enjoying making albums in general (I love writing the songs, I love the final product, but everything else in the middle can go die in a fire) decades of playing silly fast music has caused me no end of issues with my joints. You guys might remember I had to even take half a year off of playing and we got Matt from the amazing Troldhaugen to fill in for guitar for me live that year. It hasn’t gotten any better, and while I can still rip it up, it’s getting more painful each album.
We’re planning to keep making albums until we decide we have nothing else to say or we’re just sick of it, and as you’ll hear by the sheer amount of material, and (I believe) the quality of it this time, we’re certainly nowhere near empty! But it’s always in the back of our minds that if this next release turned out to be our last one, we don’t want to go out with a wimper, we want it to be simply the best music we can make, full stop, so we leave on a high note. How many last high notes will there be? Dunno! We’ll keep doing “last albums” until both KISS and John Farnham tell us to cut it out. Stick around until we’re done, yeah? ?
Aside from LORD, and various session work jobs I’ve been offered here and there, I’ve been busy either recording, mixing or doing video clips for other artists.
You guys might remember My Whisper, who I talked about last year. They started off basically as two friends just writing music together for the pure joy of it all, doing a folk/country inspired acoustic duo kind of thing (with other stuff fleshed out by me on the album). Well, they’re still at it and we recorded their second album this year and I can say it’s even better than the first! They’re definitely expanding and dipping their toes into more diverse influences, and it was amazing being a part of this process with them.
Check out the latest clip we did for “Truth Always Hurts” – really classy acoustic pop:
Ahh, so good!
They have a new song and a clip I directed coming out in the middle of January, which you’ll be able to WATCH HERE when it’s released.
Speaking of clips I directed, another highlight of the year for me was the one we did for Raising Ravens, filmed in a very old and (apparently) haunted jail for their song “Vexed” from their upcoming album, which I also had my greasy mastering fingers all over. This clip was a hell of a lot of work to fit into a day but we were stoked with how it turned out in the end!
Well, there’s not a lot else to tell you guys other than that we’ve been super busy and we’re still right in the thick of it and I’m glancing over at my other monitor which has a spreadsheet with all of the different song elements which are slowly changing from red “to do” to green “done” – I’m dreading both my solos and my lead vocals, which are both sadly still coloured red, but hopefully they turn out as good as the songs deserve by the end of it.
The world is still insane out there (both natural disasters and crazy people wise), so it’s been good to be busy and keep my head down rather than buying into a lot of the bullshit going around (with the exception of Twitter – man, what a dumpster fire that turned into. Just letting you guys know that my @thatguyfromlord account is being deactivated by the end of the year and I won’t personally be on there anymore because it’s just too toxic to look at now. If you see anyone saying they’re me, it’s really not. I’m only on Facebook and Instagram now. Andy mostly runs the band account there, so it’ll be his call what happens with that).
You guys have a happy and safe holiday period, OK? Wish us luck with the next release – hopefully we have something for you all to hear soon!
Righto, back to work for me! Swishhhhhh!