On-line collaborations – David’s blog.

Working on collaborative music sites – David’s perspective

I’d played in bands while growing up; it was relatively easy as you knew who played what, whether they were any good and the type of music they liked.  You also had a fighting chance of knowing if you were likely to get on with them.

Having moved away from my home area and had a spell of not writing songs, I wanted to return to collaborative working, the question was how?  I didn’t know people locally and I didn’t think I had the time to commit to regular rehearsals.  I was looking for people who could help me finish off tracks, with a view to them being shared more widely.

The good news is that the internet has enabled those in this situation to share ideas across boundaries.  After a bit of research, I joined a site called Kompoz.  It was free and relatively easy to work through the basics on, with well-priced options to upgrade your package if you wanted to.  The forums were quite lively with some useful groups of interest that you could join.  You quickly learn that some of the message boards can be somewhat addictive, with regular contributors on just about every subject.

You need to invest time in your bio, I think.  People using the site will check you out, what you say you like and how you view your strengths.  It’s perhaps not so necessary once you’ve got a portfolio of music on there, but as a newcomer, it’s vital.

It was a strange sensation uploading the first mix of my first track and then posting it.  A sense of excitement followed with a due sense of trepidation; what would other musicians make of it?  Would anyone offer to help out?  If they did, would I like their contributions?  Whereas with a more traditional band introducting new ideas and tracks is relatively safe, you have no idea about the reaction when you post to anyone with access to the internet.

As it was there was some feedback, postings welcoming me, but no contributions.  What you quickly learn is that there is a shortage of vocalists out there and those that are about heavily in demand.  Given that this was what I was wanting, it was a bit of a disappointment.  But then, perhaps I had been naïve to think that there would be this pool of vocal talent just waiting for me to make my entrance.

I think my experience would be that on-line sites offer a great opportunity to dip in and out of working with other people and there is scope to adapt your involvement to how much time you have.  It is fantastic for trying new styles of music and developing contacts; somewhere between a musical dating site and an advert in Melody Maker (showing my age here).  If you are lucky, you get constructive feedback, if you are not, the comments are more bruising, and gauging how you interact with others is something of an art form.  There are often suggestions about the ‘rules of engagement’ from regular users and these are well worth reading.

Some of my tracks have been more successful, in terms of getting completed, than others but how else would I have been able to collaborate with other musicians across practically every continent?

Not In Control Artwork

Not In Control Artwork

Before I became involved with FTM, I was working on an industrial punk themed project of my own, while also producing some satirical cartoons for my own website. David and I have known each other for a few years, and I had shared with him some of the art work I was producing. He asked if I would be interested in producing some art work to accompany an EP that he, and FTM, where producing.

We were aware that we had a similar taste in music, and when he described the style of music FTM were producing, I was was keen to get involved, thinking that my current art style would lend it self well to their music.

Having listened to the songs, being briefed on the title of the EP, ‘Not In Control’, and the band name ‘Fighting This Monster’, I was soon sketching out ideas. I asked David what this monster was that he and the band were fighting, he simply explained that ‘we all have our own monsters…’

I soon had this idea of some deranged monster taking control of this man, not by possessing him, but quite literally with strings like a puppet. The concept worked well with both the EP title and the band name, so I thrashed out a few sketches in pencil. Trying to do something different to what I typically was producing at the time felt disjointed, so I resorted to the “Da Vinci Punk” theme I had been working with before. It worked together quite well. The physical link provided by the strings allowed the man to fight back, making a stand against this seemingly powerful influential force.

The sketches were received well by all in FTM, (I’m sure this was because I was working for free!) and I moved on to developing the artwork with another familiar medium to me,  marker pens. I was using Letraset Tria pens at the time, and Edding fine liners.

The monster and the man on the strings, (an image that always made me wonder if the man was a puppet, or the monster was some kind of elaborate kite) was soon worked up in ink, but for the background I had an idea that was inspired by a computer game. To achieve this effect I realised I needed to go digital, and then super impose the monster and man puppet image.

The great advantage of working digitally is being able to tweak the colours, and once this was complete, the image was presented to the band and met with a positive, encouraging and inspiring response.

And yet the oddest and most incredible thing still remained, that despite the integrity, the passion, and the amount of excellent work to come out of FTM, neither of us had, and have still not, actually met more than one other member of band.

Beginnings. David’s blog.

A synth band working across the internet. Read how we started:

It’s a big step, making the leap into on-line collaboration after a period away from creating music. Having found a site and subscribed, you quickly realise how much talent is out there. You also get a sense of working relationships being formed, at a distance.

I’d uploaded a few tracks and contributed to others, with varying degrees of success. However, perhaps harking back to my days of playing in a ‘real’ band, I craved the opportunity to work with a small group of likeminded people, developing some kind of relationship that might mean moving me beyond each song being a one-off project.

As it was, at the end of January 2015, I was ‘invited’ to contribute to a track, which became ‘The beast in me’ by two lads calling themselves ‘Broken Losers’. You have to remember that, at this point, I knew nothing about them, other than what was in their biog and through listening to what else they had worked on (which was not a lot). Still, the omens are always good when you are invited to participate, because it means that there is something about what you do that they rate. I then found that others had been invited, Aaron from USA (known as ZeroFill) and Cris (AudioAgenda, as was).

Curiosity means that you quickly check the work of your fellow collaborators; Aaron had put tracks of his own together and was very much the vocalist. Cris’s strengths were on the production side. Whether by luck or judgement, it all came together and felt reasonably cohesive. The track got completed relatively quickly and there appeared to be sufficient common ground to have another go. A lot has changed since then, both in terms of core membership, roles and our use of technology, but at the time of writing we’ve produced around 20 tracks, with more in the pipeline.