May 30, 2015

Progress Report: Five Is Better than Four

Well, I suppose that many of you may believe by now that I really have been abducted by aliens trying to unlock the mysteries of metal from my fertile mind.  A long spate of no newsworthy events has led to almost no posts whatsoever for the year thusfar.  Not exactly how I intended things but as I mentioned before, spring's thaw has brought both bands out of their respective caves.  Right now things seem to be moving along in an inspiring way. Hopefully that will result in some vicious riffage ( not quite as menacing as vicious ruffage, but something that warrants attention nonetheless ) and both Confessor and Loincloth will capitalize on some forward momentum.  It's difficult enough to predict how long it might take four or five adults to create something when everyone involved is completely engaged, but it's much more difficult to try and predict how long something might take when schedules keep people away from the process.  All of these setbacks are part of the band experience. You see, not everything is sex and drugs, drugs and sex.  The people who live that life probably don't have much free time time to blog about things.

Loincloth have begun working on the last batch of songs for our second album. There were several things that kept us from getting together during the winter, but life has finally calmed down, making it possible for me to get up to Richmond every other weekend.  Tannon and I roast in a tiny, closet sized room with no air conditioning for hours on end while we create what you, the people have demanded... more bizarre, ass kickin' metal!  I know what all of you are thinking, that it's about damned time.  We here at The Poundry agree.  If you want something done right you have to do it yourself  and no one else has stepped up to the plate to extract the riffs from our brains, record them and put them out in the universe!  Our metal laboratory has begun to buzz with electricity, probably just a grounding issue but it does make us feel as though we are accomplishing something great.  Soon Dr. Riffenstein will be heard yelling over the high winds and thunder... "It's alive!  It's ALIVE!".  Hopefully we can avoid the messy scene where the angry mob armed with torches and pitchforks burns us out of our metal castle.  

One of the things that Loincloth wanted to try was to write a song around drums.  Tannon wanted to see what kinds of riffs he could come up with by trying to customize them around preexisting beats.  Since Loincloth don't really use 'beats' in the sense that we repeat things enough to establish much of a vibe through the conventional use of time signature, I decided instead to explore some of the drum exercise patterns I have had tucked away in my "one of these days" folder.  What I chose was a polyrhythm using threes and fives.  I have used exercises to help broaden my creative horizons from day one.  It is a matter of fact that I did not then, nor do I now have any idea what the hell I'm doing behind a drum set, so exercises have been key in building my drum sensibilities.  Tannon puts it well when he says that most drummers develop their vision after they learn their chops, but I had my vision first and then began learning how to play to achieve that vision.  Right or wrong ( wrong according to music theory wonks ) it's a fair description of the way my 'style' has developed.  For whatever it's worth, I think that playing toward a concept has as much to do with why I stand out than anything else.  My twenty year old exercise patterns is turning into at least three songs right now, and I can see how it might be the foundation of as many as two more if I speed it up.  Exploring the ins and outs of this pattern has been the thing that has kept me excited during the metal drought that has kept the bands away from the practice space and me away from The Poundry.

I used the basic version of the pattern in the lead section of a song Fly Machine recorded, called "Drowning".  We cannibalized that same section for part of Confessor's "Hibernation" but I didn't play the same drum pattern.  I always liked the original beat and have played it while sitting around the living room or while pretending to pay attention to people for years. I always felt there were many things I could chisel out of it were I to spend a little time exploring.  Boy, was I right about that!  The gist of it is simple enough.  It's a five note pattern with the snare on the 'one' every time and the ride on every third note while bass drums fill out the remaining four notes.  In that regard it's the same concept that I used for the intro to 'Condemned'.  This pattern is more consistent than the intro that has become iconic for Confessor fans:  Snare 2 3 4 5 snare 2 3 4 5 snare 2 3 4 5.  Where it begins to get a little tricky is when I begin to put the hi hat/ride in every third note.  Three times five is fifteen, so it takes fifteen notes to complete the pattern and the hi hat moves around the entire time because it hits the one and the four of the first five notes, the two and the five of the next five notes, then the three of the last five notes before it's time for it to fall on the one again along with the snare to begin a second pass of the pattern.  I guess that means it's a 5/3 time signature.  I know, sounds impossible, right?  Don't try to figure it out with your fancy i-Abacus, it'll get jammed up and will become worthless to you.  Just trust me when I say that it's at least a first grade level of fancy drumming.

Every now and then I find a riff or a song that I keep digging into and finding more and more things to tweak, loving the riff more and more every time I do so.  My cute little polyrhythm has definitely been one of those things!  Being a five note beat gives it a basic structure that feels very different from a traditional four note beat, and placing the hi hat or ride on every third note makes it that much more confusing.  It's a hard thing to head bang to, but it's hypnotic once you do catch the ride pattern.  I'll keep toying with it, and I do plan to film the progression of the idea one of these days.  Imagine if having ideas were all that it took to make them come to fruition!  We'd all feel more accomplished!  Hey, I just created peace on Earth and cured cancer all before lunch!  

Well, I really just wanted to give some of you tech nerds ( truly, my people! ) something to chew on for a bit.  I am actually about to walk out the door and drive up to Richmond right now so that Tannon and I may work on my polyrhythmic riff monster right now.  The long promised videos are almost ready for public consumption.  I expect that the world will change drastically once they have been uploaded.  We might be witnessing the birth of The Golden Age of Sheltonian Music.  You should probably make sure you're on my good side, and soon.  I know that once the world has been exposed to my methods everyone will try and get a piece of me, but I have already accepted that as part of the game I have to play to realize my dream of Total World Domination.  I promise to be the most transparent World Dominator, evah!  I just need all of you to turn around for a minute while I destroy some inconvenient evidence before this transparency thing begins.  I need a diversion. Hey! What's that behind you?  Poof...


  1. I'm gonna go ahead and presume that the real Steve Shelton is long gone and I am now speaking to alien imposters pretending to be Steve Shelton. But for now, I will play along.
    Although now that I think about it, you never seemed quite human...hmmmmmmm?
    Anyway, great to hear from you "Steve"
    Glad to hear things are moving forward, even if it is not as fast as you would like. These things take time. If it was easy, everyone would be releasing crazy, odd instruMENTAL metal music that challenges the listener on every conceivable level, with no regard for their own safety or the safety of others, wouldn't they?
    I eventually got around to ordering a few pairs of the Vic Firth "Metal" drumsticks, so looking forward to trying them out. I presume once I get them, I will be able to play the entire 'Iron balls..." album flawlessly from start to finish...correct? Otherwise it was a complete waste of money

    1. Hey Keith, ol' buddy, ol' pal! I was beginning to get a little worried about you since I hadn't heard from you after my daring escape from the alien probers of my nether regions. Of course, maybe I should be a little suspicious instead. Are you the mastermind of Operation Sticky Fingers? Now I have even more questions than before. Is that why you usually wear a bandana? Are you hiding the fact that you are a "Grey"? If you start crapping super complicated polyrhythms in your sleep once your metal sticks come I will begin to question the authenticity of your externally human appearance. If you are a "Grey" maybe we should join forces before my Total World Domination Tour kicks off. Great to hear from you, Keith! Please tell Laura and Molly we say 'Hello'.