Atlantis is a 7 song concept album that weaves the tale of the fabled lost city of Atlantis. Thick grooves, rolling bass and soaring guitars bring listeners on a wild journey, and I hope you enjoy it!
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Track 1: People of the Stars – believe it or not this one had a working title of “Quiet Yngwie” because when I came up with the main chord progression I was using a Marshall-inspired guitar sound that, to my ears, seemed similar to what Yngwie Malmsteen uses. The middle section was one of those I came up with one day and forgot about. Because the record took so long to do, there are a few pieces I recorded before putting the song “on hold.” Thankfully I got it down because I think it worked well. I probably wrote 5 bridges that I threw away for every one I kept… often it’s the first one that’s the keeper, as in this case.
Track 2: Oceana – the main verse chord progression had been with me for a long time, and came about from me playing with a rotary/vibe pedal that gave it a watery feel. The intro came out of practicing parallel harmony, and as soon as I played around with it I knew “this is the intro to Oceana.” I’m also happy with the way the main guitar solo came out – it was a rare instance where my first take is the keeper. Originally the song was going to fade out, but when soloing over it I wrote the repetitive ending melodic part and liked the way it built. Doing the bass track I felt I could take it to a climax instead of fade, and ended up going that direction.
Track 3: Interlude #1: Whispers – I always pictured having a few short interludes on the album, and this was the last piece to be recorded. I had couple of fingerpicked chord progressions in D minor I had in my “riffs” library for a while, and realized they might go well together. I combined them to make the full piece. Given the Atlantean theme I knew one song needed rain and thunder in the background, and it seemed to fit here.
Track 4: The Fall – this started with the two chord vamp, but turned out to be one of the more complex songs. The atmospheric bridge is a part I threw down at some point but completely forgot I did. It was just a guitar improv I did when I got an Eleven Rack. I honestly don’t remember recording it, but when I went back the song (years later) I really liked what it added, so I put bass behind it and there we go. This was my “War” song, and wanted to evoke a battle and downfall of the city.
Track 5: Afterwards – this is song actually started as “After the Fight,” the main chord progression came from me jamming after an argument with my wife. I really loved how the chords moved and the mood it evoked. Over time, and with the addition of the fusion-y B section it turned into “Afterwards” and took on a life beyond the original intent.
Track 6: Interlude #2: Ghosts – started by me buying the EHX Mel9 pedal and playing around. I was improvising with the Clarinet setting, putting it through some delay and came upon a nice thematic piece. I added the tribal drums and subtle rhythm guitar part afterwards to give it a bit more structure and drive and rerecorded the guitars to match. I’m quite happy with how this turned out as the second interlude.
Track 7: Leaving Atlantis – the first song recorded ended up being the last one on the record. This is also the one I used a lot of mic’d amps for, which presented mixing challenges. The “A” section is a bit of a nod to Santana, who is a huge influence. I also particularly like the ending solos, though, it’s one of the few times I do tapping parts.
Gear and process… well, this is tricky. The album was created over such a long period it’s hard to remember what guitars and amps were used on what tracks. I will go into track-by-track detail at some point but for now I can call out the highlights.
Guitars: My #1 now and featured on most of the tracks is my Suhr Archtop Standard. It was used on solos for The Fall, Oceana and all of Interlude #2: Ghosts. A Tom Anderson Classic (shown in my profile pic) was used on quite a few tracks as well, though I no longer own it. Similarly, I used to have a very nice Gibson Les Paul Traditional that was used on a bunch of solos, including People of the Stars and Leaving Atlantis. Ask me about any particular part of a track and I can let you know what it was.
Amps: This album was all about he Schuffham S-Gear 2 plugin, to be honest. I’ve always been an analog guy. Few pedals, just straight to a nice tube amp. Since so much of this was recorded in the mornings and evenings (when my son was asleep) I started using S-Gear and really like it. It’s the most natural sounding plugin I’ve tried, and I’ve tried a few. A couple parts of a couple tracks feature my Dr. Z MAZ 38 Studio Deluxe that I’ve had for over 15 years.
Effects: Not too many, but the tone on Interlude #2: Ghosts was the Suhr into an Electro-Harmonix Mel9 into a Fulltone Fulldrive 2 into my Dr. Z. The Mel9 is a really cool pedal, and for this track I used the Clarinet setting, my personal favorite.
Drums: Okay, here’s a dirty little secret: I used Toontrack’s EZ Drummer for everything. I actually started taking drum lessons last year and it’s been fantastic, but too little too late for this album. Anyways, I spent a lot of time tweaking the drums to help them sound as natural as possible. I hope you agree! My music comes with a 100% guarantee of never replacing the snare with a hand clap sample. You’re welcome.
This album was a wholly unique writing experience for me. Having spent many years playing in and writing for blues/rock/Americana bands, my focus had previously been on verse/chorus arrangements and crafting lyrics. In 2003 I won second place for lyric writing in Nashville’s Tunesmith contest. I could spend hours finding just the right last line to the second verse. My forte on guitar has always been bluesy improvisation, with the Allman Brothers Band being my biggest influence. Doing an instrumental rock record forced me to think about writing music in a different way, and it raised my personal bar.
After my son was born I found myself with precious few three-hour blocks of time to write. I had wanted to do an instrumental record for a long time, and I realized this was something I could work on early in the morning when the family was sleeping. It also led to interesting choices, like this life-long tube amp aficionado relying heavily on amp sim plugins for guitars.
“Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.” – Charles Caleb Colton
Year-in and year-out, I spent short bits of time writing, refining and recording. I would often wake up at 5am so I could get a longer, uninterrupted stretch of time to focus.
Part way through the process I read Mark Adams’ “Meet Me In Atlantis,” a book about the people who have devoted their life to searching for Plato’s mysterious lost city. I found it a fascinating story of humanity, and started crafting the songs to work together to tell a story of the city’s rise and fall. I tried to capture the spirit of mystery that people have been fascinated with for millennia.
Over the course of 7-8 years I finally completed the project, including mixing and mastering. I’m pleased with how the album turned out, and I hope you enjoy it!