80's synthpop is in my blood, but I mostly listen to EDM these days. My songs draw from both, fleshed out with piano accompaniment. Anyone who took music lessons as a kid calls themselves "classically trained," but I stuck with it, earning a Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance. Immediately after graduation, I left Beethoven and Brahms behind to pursue my first musical inspiration, Depeche Mode. More…
“Rent” is my all-time favorite Pet Shop Boys song, so when Matt Mancid asked me about covering an 80′s song in a current style together, it was the first thing that popped into my head. Turns out it’s one of Matt’s favorites too, so we were off to the races! One full year later (it’s hard to believe, but I dug up our old email thread), our collaboration is ready for release. On my birthday, because nothing makes you feel young quite like realizing your favorite songs are a quarter-century old!
Not content with just one version, Matt produced five different mixes based on three different interpretations of the song. I figured the Club Mix would be the same as the Original Mix with a different beat. The Acoustic version would just be my vocal over piano, right? Nope. All new arrangements!
As for the division of labor, all I did was sing. But the track demanded more than just my voice, so I recruited Heather Alden of Faded Paper Figures to sing along with me, and the result is stunning. It’s not the first time I’ve been upstaged by Faded Paper Figures!
We were both nominated for Best Electronic in the Orange County Music Awards a couple of years ago, and they scored a well-deserved win. I shook their hands to congratulate them (it was a fancy televised awards ceremony, so we were all there in person) and I’ve followed their work ever since.
Through the end of the weekend you can download the Radio Edit for free, and buy the album for $4 (or more – thank you for your support!). I have to pay Messrs. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe for every download, which is why I can’t keep it free forever.
There’s also an option to send the album to someone as a gift. ‘Tis the season!
1. Rent (Radio Edit)
2. Rent (Club Mix)
3. Rent (Acoustic)
4. Rent (Original Mix)
5. Rent (Club Edit)
Here’s a little sampler I put together of the different versions spliced together:
Matt made a promo video as well, assembling footage from his hometown (if you’re careful not to blink, you can spot him at 1:53):
You can download the radio edit and buy the album here.
Thanks and Happy Holidays! -Brian.
Here are the first five teasers one after the other:
Keep your eyes and ears open for the last two teasers on Monday and Tuesday. The big reveal is on Wednesday, which also happens to be my birthday!
If you don’t want to miss anything, add yourself to my fan list!
Thanks for listening! -Brian.
I was invited by my good friend David Ortega of Boston Soundlabs to record three songs for Ubisoft’s newest dance game, Just Dance Kids 2014 (for Wii, Wii U, and Xbox 360), and master the entire set. I’d previously mastered the original Just Dance Kids and The Smurfs Dance Party, but this was my first run as a composer.
My first contribution was an original song called “Interstellar Simon”. Ubisoft provided a rough outline of the concept (astronaut meets alien who teaches him to dance – y’know, the usual) and a Yo Gabba Gabba song as a reference. I came up with the idea of connecting dance steps to the children’s game Simon Says. After running it by their legal department, Ubisoft gave it the thumbs up!
You’ll probably recognize my heavily processed vocals on lead. My son, daughter, and wife handled the remaining vocal duties. Here’s just the music over gameplay, minus the UI and sound effects (it takes a few seconds for the music to kick in).
Next up was a cover of Owl City “Fireflies”. Of course, there are no samples. Most of the synth patches were created from scratch. I must have spent 10 hours just on the opening sound!
The Ubisoft team had a hard time telling my version apart from the original, which was the goal! Apparently YouTube can’t tell the difference either:
My biggest challenge was emulating Dr. Luke’s amazing production on Becky G’s “Problem (The Monster Remix)”. The original is featured in the end credits of the movie Hotel Transylvania, with a guest rap by Will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas. The obvious choice to fill in for Will.i.am was… me, right? Somehow my overly white sounding “rap” passed inspection. It didn’t hurt that it was pared down to a couple lines and a few yo’s. Lead vocals were much more ably handled by the talented Gigi Abraham.
All in all, I invested roughly 150 hours into the project, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It’s humbling to think how many man-hours must have went into producing the gameplay, sound effects, choreography, and video – all on top of something that came out of my studio! In total, 35 vocalists, instrumentalists, and composers contributed to the project. From the reviews I’ve read so far, the result is a great game.
Here’s a taste of some actual gameplay on “Fireflies”:
I’ve still got one more surprise in store for 2013, so stay tuned!
Progress on the new EP has been slow and inconsistent, as I explained earlier. It’s been at the top of my list for months, after my mastering work and family. In mathematical parlance, kids + summer ≠ progress.
As of today, I’m about halfway done. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
The Best Revenge
This one is finished except for female backing vocals in the chorus, doubling my part up an octave.
I hear a few things I’m sure I’ll change, and the mix needs a couple touch-ups, but it’s basically done.
Earlier this year I was hired to produce a cover version of a very popular electronic song. I can’t elaborate further until it’s released in October.
I thought it would be fun to take my mix of that song and compose a new song around it. From a copyright perspective, I think I’m safe. It’s an entirely different chord progression, melody, and lyric. If I played it for you on the piano, it wouldn’t ring any bells, but if you heard the recording, you’d know instantly what song it was based on. Yet nothing was sampled. All sounds were created from scratch.
My question to you is: how much should I make it my own?
I could purposely shift things around just for the sake of being different, or I could make a deliberate homage by keeping the sounds exactly as they are. I only worry I’ll come off as “cheap.”
I took your advice to heart, and decided to complete the track first as a homage, without tweaking the sounds. Afterwards I’ll figure out whether to use it-as is, make subtle tweaks, or put an entirely new spin on it. If I end up with two significantly different versions, maybe I’ll release the homage version as a single before the EP.
Oh yeah, and I also finished the lyrics, tentatively. Your comments made me realize it was coming off as bleaker than I intended, so I gradually shifted the tone towards acceptance. What do you think?
There was a time in history
Your next meal was a mystery
If you were lucky you might catch a fish
But we have Amazon now
No need for brains or brawn now
Your wish list to your door in just one click
I sit behind a screen
My fingers span the inches
In a blaze of inactivity
For hours every day
I dare to call it work
To thrive in this knowledge economy
My digital creations
Have no physical manifestation
I deal in intellectual property
We type and type
But never sweat
Our bellies stuffed
We die too soon
But live like kings
For now let’s just enjoy it
No reason to avoid it
Who needs an extra gear to coast downhill?
Succumb, my couch potato
Adopt my humble credo
And watch the world revolve while we sit still
I sit behind a screen
My fingers span the inches
In a blaze of inactivity
I exercise my mind
And laugh to call it work.
Thanks again for your help, and your patience!