First off, I never wanted to release EPICK on the worldwide download retailers (iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, et al). The reason is most listeners don’t download songs anymore they stream them. And every time a fan streams a song an artist loses his wings. Or his money. We artists get a whopping .001 cent from every stream. That means I would have to have 39,000,000 streams just to break even for privilege uploading my album to these services. Actual downloads we get 1 cent from every 99 cents you pay. Plus, I wanted to retain the integrity of the song order and throw in some cover tunes (“Love Lies Bleeding” and “Voodoo Child”) for good measure. In order to do the cover tunes I would have to limit the marketing of this release to the United States only. Or pay massive licensing fees for world wide release. I wanted to release the album solely on kinglizzard.com, but, if I don’t release on the “reputable” market I can’t qualify for Grammy nomination or retain some of my licensing privileges. So, my strategy is to release on the world wide download market, yet still retain enough rights that I can sell EPICK online in its full form, including some bonus tracks and cover tunes. I may release the cover tunes later to the United States markets. Selling EPICK on kinglizzard.com allows me to control more rights, more artistic integrity and get a shitload more money. I’ve also got the wild hair up my ass that I will release 500 double vinyl LPs, all autographed, on Amazon.com…but I need to come up with $15K for that.
So, anyway, into the production of EPICK. I acquired the new and world instruments as I needed them for the songs. One of the things that I’ve heard is “Oh joy, two hours of listening to King Lizzard caterwauling, what torture.” And I can also hear the reviews: “King Lizzard EPICK Fail!” I even had a musician (ex) friend of mine tell me “Brother, nobody’s gonna listen to that shit” which may be true, but as I told him, I’m doing this album for me. It’s my cathartic way of shitting out my creativity and toxins, come what may.
My initial idea was to get other vocalists to sing to lessen the agony of these tracks. Hell, I even offered up good money. But, in the long run, NO ONE could get the phrasing, the tempo and the feel of what I was going for. Money down the crapper. The only guest vocalist that made it to the final cut was Baby G on “Dawn of the New Age” with his mini rap section. The rap section was originally much longer, but this is what I could get. Strangely enough, I am the best person to sing my songs. And that was the same when I was doing live shows. Now, my vocal chords can’t handle several hours of singing, so I would always get a lead vocalist for live shows, but on the recorded versions it was always me. In fact, most people would say at the time “any similarity between the recorded and the live version is purely a coincidence.” My voice falls into the unique zones of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash and David Bowie…all of whom are not very good singers but in the context of their songs are the best voice for their songs. So, I actually have been taking both vocal and guitar lessons to get my chops more up tp speed. I even shelled out cash for Antares plugins (including the world infamous Auto Tune) but didn’t use them as much as I anticipated.
In EPICK 99.98 percent of what you hear is me actually playing. The drums are a combo of drum loops, clips, MIDI “Session Drummer” and me playing electronic drums.
Let me get into what was supposed to be the cornerstone of the project, a track called “Dawn of a New Age: The Last Song.” The song, in its entirety, is 15 minutes long. It includes a scripted “radio show” scene of Mr. MUGI dying in the hospital. A nurse brings him a radio and he relives his past efforts: good and bad. Before he passes on he creates one last Magnum Opus. It talks about life never being long enough, or getting what you want. It moves into a modern rap sequence about the birth of music. It includes public domain clips of Vocali Consort from Vergine Bella, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, some boogie woogie, “Mississippi” John Hurt’s Avalon Blues, on through a rock guitar solo as showing the history and evolution of music. At the end of the song, in its climax, Mr. MUGI flat lines (the erratic beeping and flat lining of a heart monitor). MUGI becomes pure energy as he blasts into the universe to create purely electronic music (“Digitalis”).
It took 47 individual tracks broken into 3 files to create. The main file is 8 GB. I used an Oberheim OB-X synthesizer from the 80s (the same synth used in Van Halen’s “Jump,” Styx’s “Mr. Roboto,” Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” The Eurhythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and various tracks by Queen and Prince–this a great sounding machine), some soft synths (Dimension Pro, sFz, Z3TA and Rapture Pro), an Epiphone Casino, Gibson Dove, and ‘59 Gibson Les Paul guitars going through various VOX amps recorded with a mike, and a 74 Fender Jazz Bass direct in.
The vocals and the background vocals were done by me. The rap part by L.A. Rapper George Lawson known as Baby G. The electronic female voice at the end was my iPhone’s SIRI voice and the part of the nurse was played by my wife, Lana, the Queen Lizzard.
The tracks were assembled on Roland’s Sonar X3 Producer and mastered on Sound Forge with Ozone’s Izotope 5 software. For the iTunes release I had to forsake the hospital radio show intro and break off “Digitalis” into a separate song. It took 118 man hours over 2 years to create, mix and master.