Regrouped And Renewed 2023 – 2024
Looking Toward The Future
Were We Happy Then?
Paper Pilots Pushing
Scram The Reactor
Adjust The Vertical Hold
Stranger In The Light Of Day
How To Leave Connecticut
If You Can Find The Way
Spent All Her Time
An Echo Of Apology
Head Hits The Table Hard
The Agitated Brain EP
I Don’t Wanna Anymore
Pat Robertson, Meet The Devil
20 February 2024
The last three months have been a blur. Mixing continued through December. Kris and Joe delivered their parts for Hey Bobby! and Stranger In The Light Of Day. Hey Bobby! was an easy matter. Kris had been asked to add a harmony and anything else she heard. The harmony had tobe used sparingly otherwise it turned the song into a duet. Stranger took a bit more work. I had done a mix with my bass part and then another without the bass. I thought I might be able to just drop in Joe’s new part. One I got set up, I realized I needed to do a fresh mix. With those done there was only one left. Again, we were waiting on a promised guitar overdub.
In January I flew out to Portland to see Rain Parade and to see if Matt was till going to be able to lend a hand. At that point he still thought he could fit in in his schedule. IO also met up with Scott McCaughey. He was happy to hear Joe Adragna was working out so well. He also offered to contribute in the future.
Back in Bozeman, I turned my attention to a planned digital EP release. There was one of Scott’s songs written for Sandbox which we didn’t use at the time. I knew I’d find a home for it eventually. One of Joe’s contributions matched the mood of Scott’s song. That meant I had to come up with a song to fill out the EP. I wrote something back in November, but parked it while mixing. Joe had done a drum part, but never sent it. When I asked, he said he wanted another try. The second pass was played straighter. I liked the feel of the original too, asked Joe to send that along too. Sadly he hadn’t kept the first one. Being a good sport, he did a third pass. I mixed the song twice, one with each drum part. I then edited the two mixes together With that done, I made the call to Pete Weiss about mastering the three songs. The Ep was released a week later, on February 2nd.
There was still one more album song to finish. Despite his assurances, it became apparent Matt Piucci wasn’t going to be able to add guitar to An Echo Of Apology. I decided to have a go at it myself. I figured if Matt somehow got time, I could add his guitar. Having to do it myself was not a challenge, and in the end added more to the song than expected. I worked up a part, then learned it back to front. After I recorded the part I reversed the audio so it would play backwards. I built up an effects chain to process that part. On a whim I ran the vocals through the same. Magic. That’s what you hear on the final mix.
22 November 2023
The album mixing is now moving along at a brisk pace. Scram The Reactor was probably around while we were working on Faith In Failure. I’m glad I held that one back. It fit better on the new album. The genius of Ric Parnell is apparent on this one. In all, Ric plays on eight of the songs. There are still more in the can for future use. Joe seamlessly covers the drums on six songs. Our positive mood was rocked on October 29th, when we learned that our friend and long time mastering engineer Gary Hobish had died suddenly. The quality of work Gary did cannot be underestimated.
I asked Joe Adranga if he had any songs for us. He handed over fuor ideas. The Drumshanbo is a nice noisy one, perfect for the record. I got the idea to add another verse as a guitar solo section. That opened up some space in the song and gave me a chance to trade some guitar licks with Joe. I also added a string arrangement. All came together quickly. Next up was Mirror Pieces. This one has been around for ages, in many different forms. I wrote the first set of lyrics on June 13th 2017. That would mean it was an early one on the Sandbox list. I quickly decided the arrangement was too busy and shelved it. When I did return to it, I wrote new words and edited about two minutes out of the song. It still didn’t feel right. I did some more changes and wrote yet a third set of lyrics, Mirror Pieces. Again I felt the melody was not happening. I asked Tony Miller if he wanted a go at it. Initially he suggested some editing. When he did get to it, he was ok with the arrangement. New words and melody were very good. He kept the title Mirror Pieces and wrote around that line. When I set up to mix, I found a couple of things that needed to be fixed. There was also the problem that Tony was singing over a different song. Joe had added some guitar to the new song. I also did more mellotron. Mixing was put on hold while I went on vacation for a week.
The first step was to fix some tuning problems with the bass. For reasons unknown a synth part sounded way out of tune, so that was dumped. I also removed one of the acoustic guitars and a piano track. The main guitar track got pulled back in the mix. Now there was some space in the song. It didn’t scream at you anymore. I had added a mellotron brass part, inspired by Brian Jones work with the Stones
26 October 2023
The last week has seen the beginning of the mix phase of the new album.
Up first was Stinging. This is built on the drums from a failed song recorded for Sandbox Shadows. In March of this year I returned to the piece and rearranged it. The half time section moved to the cutting room floor. I wrote the words while eating dinner on March 7th. When I reviewed the 15 songs I could hear the need for a solo over the bridge and a fresh vocal. I redid the vocals first. This was also a chance to start working out the mix. I planned to do a final mix when I was done with the overdubs. The bridge section cycles through a string of chords, which made the idea a little daunting. The song is a dreamy rush with a lot of textures. The solo would have to stand out. Time for the Les Paul and Marshall. I went for a straight rock guitar sound. The challenge was to work up something over all those chords. Three hours later I’d accomplished that goal. It was physically and mentally exhausting. I put up two mics on the amp. One close, and one about four feet away to get some of the room sound. I then treated each track with different effects. By this point, the mix was very close to completion. I returned to this on Monday the 23rd. It only took two hours to get a final in the can. Joe and Scott both approved. Time to move on.
Next on the agenda was Paper Pilots Pushing. This has been another problematic song. The body of the song worked. The intro sections didn’t. That flaw meant this song was dropped from the Faith In Failure track list. I was determined to solve this problem. The busy string section was dumped and a drone guitar replaced that. I thought this one would be something Deniz could help on. I asked him for a solo all the way through the song. It took him a few weeks to make time to have a look. What he did was more than I could have expected. There was a ripping solo. He also added a very solid acoustic guitar and some slide.
I knew that the acoustic part was going to radically change the approach to the mix. First thing I did was drop one of my guitar parts. The power chords now seemed out of place. I’d also done a 12-string part and another track with some picking on the Tele with wahwah. I put everything up and worked out the stereo balance for the three guitar parts. As planned, the acoustic was strong enough to carry a lot of the weight. I found where the 12 string worked best, and muted the rest. I then went through and got the many string parts in place. It just needed texture, not the driving sound I had originally envisioned. I did a mix and shared it with the band. Joe suggested that the drums should come up in the mix. I decided it was the snare that was lacking and worked on finding a new sound for that. It worked. The song now had some real drive. Den’s solo now needed to come up a little so it sat on top of the mix. When that came up, the true power of the solo was revealed. While working on a new mix, I could here some stray sounds that didn’t seem to be helping. It turned out to be a part of the 12 string track that needed to be ducked down.
Deniz’s idea for the slide was to use it as a spacey drone in the background. That wasn’t going to work, there was no space for it to shine through. I sat with the mix and listened for any slide part that stood out. There were two nice bits. It took a few more passes to finesse the mix. It was declared done on Tuesday afternoon. Two songs mixed in two days. That is a good sign. These two songs might be the most complicated to the bunch and two very important songs on the album.
While doing this work, I took time to review the proposed running order for the album. I’ve split the fifteen songs into three five song suites. Each needs a beginning and end. I also need to spread out the songs based on the lead singer. The groups of five have stayed the same. The second and third movements have been shuffled. I’ll wait until the songs are all mixed before a final decision is made.
16 October 2023
The past two months have been the busiest in Brain history. Scott Sutherland has been on a very productive writing streak. In quick succession he’s given us Stay Strong, Unreal, Another Vancouver, And Now I’m Looking, and Matter Of Fact. Strong and Unreal moved onto the new album list straight away. Considerable work was done on Another Vancouver. I liked the song, but had an idea for a slightly different approach. Scott was on board with that. It’s currently parked in the next album folder.
I asked Joe to submit some songs for consideration. I picked Sunset Heart and The Drumshambo to work on first. I had these on the new album list after just one listen. The rough mix of Sunset Heart suggested some ideas to me. When I finally got to the song and opened up the tracks, I found that one of the guitar ideas I was hearing was already there. It was just not up front. I set up a new mix and decided the main lick needed a pick up note. I added that, and an organ part. Joe decided he wanted another go at the vocals, which he completed quickly. Scott thought he might have something to add. Otherwise, the song is ready to mix. The Drumshambo is a nice noisy tune, slated to be the album closer. I thought that it needed a solo verse. I copied the first verse and chorus and dropped them in. Having the chorus repeated added to the song. The solo verse, was well covered by Joe. His existing guitar parts worked as a solo. There was a hole, which I filled with a few notes to contrast to his furious riffing. I’d already added layers of stings. They add another color to the proceedings. This one is now ready to mix.
Joe also gladly took on the task of replacing my vocals on Spends All Her Time. He did a fantastic job and might have completed the final mix. This gives Joe three lead vocals on the album. He drums on five or six tracks. Scott has five vocals and I will also have five vocals. Tony Miller and Scott McCaughey each have one. A diverse mix.
I’ve now sent Hey Bobby! off to Kris to add some harmony vocals. That will put this song into the ‘needs a mix’ folder. I’m preparing Stranger In The Light Of Day for Kris and Joe. This is another that Kris’s voice would work. I’ve asked Joe to replace the temporary bass part I did.
Deniz Tek came though with some guitars for Paper Pilots Pushing. Once I’d rebuilt the song, it was clear that some guitar was needed. Den gave me the solo, and added to that a slide part for atmosphere and a very strong acoustic part. These additions will give me a lot to work with when I build a mix. This problem song will now come together. It’s ready for a mix.
It feels like we are on track to have the album ready to master early next year. At the moment there is no title for the album, and I’m searching for some images for the cover. The fifteen songs are shaping up to be a very strong effort and a new direction for the Brain.
19 August 2023
Two months ago Tony Miller took on the job of rescuing the failed song, Mirror Pieces. I’d written a song called Harvest Zoo Fireplace. When I got done, recording it, it just didn’t hang right. After some thought I did some heaving editing and rewrote the words as UFO. I still wasn’t happy. I wrote yet another set of words, Mirror Pieces. This was better, but I never felt like I’d found the melody. Tony came up with a fresh set of lyrics and sang it with completely different approach. Bingo. I’ve added some synth and mellotron. I’d read a piece about Brian Jones and his mellotron work for the Stones. The article detailed the tron settings he’d used. I decided to give it a try for one small section of the song. It might work. Now there is the matter of a guitar solo, or rather two. I can hear an idea. I just have to make that happen.
Seems that the band including myslef are in vacation mode. I’ve also got the Bobby Sutliff release to deal with. It’ll be a week before we return to wrok on the new songs on the list. The new album has gone under a major revision. I think it’s gotten better. Some may questio having five lead vocalists. Deal with it.
3 August 2023
A lot has happened in the Brain camp over the last couple of months. Joe Adragna is now fully integrated into the band. Scott McCaughey asked Joe to play drums on a new song we wrote together. I followed up and asked Joe if he’d be interested in working with us. Turns out he was a big fan of Scott Sutherland’s work with Model Rockets. I sent him over another song to see if he could get along with what we do. The results pleased both of us. An invitation to submit songs was met with several songs offered up. Scott and Joe worked together on another song. It was apparent we found a compatible collaborator. As a result the new album has been revised to make room for three new songs, one of Scott’s and two of Joe’s.
There is no way we could replace Ric and Bobby in the band. This is a new and very different version of Donovan’s Brain.
The current plan is to release a digital EP early next year. Three songs have been earmarked for that. This is meant to be an introduction to the new line up. Work on the next album will continue. In the background, we will be writing and recording new material for the one after that. Joe is doing the finish work on a new album as The Junior League. A fantastic, mostly one man band project. Scott is always busy with the various bands hands he plays with in Seattle including The Zack Static Sect.
I’m currently mixing Ghosts. Once that one is done, I’ll move on to Scram The Reactor, one of Scott’s songs. Joe did overdubs on both. Deniz Tek has agreed to play on Paper Pilots. Once he’s added guitar, that one is complete. I’ll be assessing the state of the songs and reach other to Kris and Joe as well as others in our extended family.
8 June 2023
Tony Miller has offered to lend a hand. He thought he could contribute vocals and melodies. I sent him over a song that has troubled me since the start.Currently titled Mirror Pieces. This is the third attempt I’d done.The track is solid. It’s been rebuilt a couple of times. During our discussion Tony also suggested we try a drummer he’s been working with. I’ve talked to Scott Sutherland, he’s up for trying. We have three new songs we can send over for a test drive.
In the meantime, I’ve returned to Paper Pilots Pushing. This one was intended to be the opening track on Faith In Failure. As the album was nearing completion, it became apparent that the song needed a rethink. The over ambitious intro section was just not working for me. With that in mind, I started from scratch. My new idea wasn’t working, so I just started playing to see what came up. It didn’t take long for a new arrangement to appear. Some computer gremlins nearly sunk the whole song. I was able to export all the audio tracks into a fresh project file and get back on track. I checked the vocals, fearing the worst. In the end just a few small repairs were needed. A guitar solo is next up. Always nice when a song does improve with some thought.
The video for Disappearing Firelight took much longer than expected. I had the concept well before the record was released. Executing it was a different matter. It finally came together this last week. I suspect a second video is in the plans for the near future
25 May 2023
Promotion work on Faith In Failure is ramping up. We’ve got some radio play and a review at Terrascope On Line.
Meanwhile, the studio has been active again. Wendy Yee and I had an extended discussion about the unfinished songs Bobby Sutliff left behind. She had been doing a thorough search of his computers for stray tracks. One question I had was about the song Nothing Last Forever. Bobby had offered this up in 2011. He sent over a fairly complete instrumental version of the song. I asked him to send the individual tracks so we could work on it. For reasons unknown, he didn’t have these. He did send a second, earlier recording which he was able to send the music and drums separately. Ric added drums to this track, but Bobby showed no interest in rebuilding the song. End of story. Wendy wasn’t able to find the original project files, just the mixes I had. I decided to see if I could learn the song and rebuild it so I could add vocals and do a proper mix. It turns out it wasn’t very complicated. I got a good framework started. While doing this, I realized I could still used the end section, a lovely guitar solo. This one is has been added to the long list of potential songs for the next albums.
After this effort, I decided to look through the folder of demos and fragments Bobby had sent over the years. I’d bundled up all these pieces and sent them back to Bobby to make sure he could review them for his own album. I recognized most of the pieces. There was one piece that showed up twice. I’ve not checked to see if he actually finished this one. I learned it and charted out the two sections. I got an idea for a bridge section which I thought might be a good way to start the song. That night I wrote some lyrics. This was good.
The next day I tried singing the words over the track I’d recorded. I quickly realized that the bridge section I’d written worked better as the verse. This discovery sent me off on a search for a new arrangement. I decided that part of Bobby’s verse structure would become the chorus. I completely ditched his second section. I wrote a new short bridge section and assembled the parts. It came together quickly.
The new song is called Stranger In The Light Of Day. Three guitar tracks have been recorded.Some work remains to be done. It’s developed into a very strong contender for the next album. The drum dilemma still needs to be resolved.
25 April 2023
The last two days have been very exciting. Scott McCaughey checked in and said he would work on the collaboration idea he’d proposed. Two hour later a simple track arrived. Piano and vocals, singing my lyrics. We discussed how to proceed. Scott said he had a drummer who could add to the track. I knew Scott Sutherland would want to participate and suggested he take on the bass responsibilities. I would add guitar and maybe strings. Everyone was on board with that plan. Scott made one small change in the lyric which made the song that much better. He also added a couple of words to make a line scan better. It was stunning to hear my words transformed into a song. I’d not given Scott any direction. He’s someone you can trust.
Today, Scott Sutherland sent over yet another new song. That makes a total of six on the list. While talking to Scott and Kris I realized there was an old idea that would be perfect to revive. Sad Eyes is a song I learned from Terry Dolan. David Hayes had written the song back in the late 70s. The Pirates played it a few times. When I checked today, I saw it was one of the first songs Ric played drums on. I’d never been happy with my work on that, so it’s just been on the B list since 2010. A few weeks ago Peter Holsapple offered to play on anything I might have for him. I think this is the one. I mentioned this to Kris. I’m hearing her voice on this song. The wheels have been put in motion.
23 April 2023
The last month has been a time for travel. After Hawaii we spent the weekend in Billings. That included a visit with Bob Brown. He had some good stories about the tour he’d just done with Deniz.
Then it was of to Washington DC. In the couple of weeks back at home before DC, I got the song Stinging (aka What They Want) up to speed. It’s still a work in progress. They layers of synths and guitars are sounding interesting. On the return flight from DC to Chicago I managed to write a complete set of lyrics. I also had a musical idea to go with those. After a couple of days work, its come together very well. This will be an all electronic song. No real drums. Its another one which will build over time.
Before I continued, I once again needed to inventory all the song currently in the work folder. Some have been rebuilt with new lyrics. I needed to connect the original titles with the new working title. At some point in the near future, I’ll start thinking about the next album track list. A narrow focus is the only way I can move forward in an efficient manner.
22 March 2023
Problems with the printer has meant our new CD has been pushed back. Furnace had to contract a new printer, which means the process is starting all over. The likely release now appears to be around May 1st. This disrupts some plans, but not much we can do. My contact has said she would try to get us moved up the que.
Meanwhile it’s back to song writing. Layered Skies has been sent over to Scott Sutherland for further work. He’s written the bridge and has been assigned the second verse. Scott sent back a new one of his titled In Time. This is a very good one and is a strong contender. The next album will feature several of Scott’s songs.
The song formerly known as What They Want has gone through a major rebuild. The original song got moved to the reject file early on. It was one of the many songs recorded for Sandbox Shadows. When I reviewed it recently, I was sure I could salvage some of it. There were six distinct parts, which never jelled. The verse section had promise as did part of the chorus. I did some serous editing to create a new verse/chorus. I wrote some words to see if it worked. One more bit of editing was needed to sort out the verse. The bridge got a total rebuild too. The track is slowing building up. I’ll complete the lyrics before I make some decision about the guitar part.
While visiting Deniz Tek last week, I found an idea while playing his broken down, out of tune piano. I recorded a quick sketch when we returned to Bozeman. That is parked for now.
A lyric idea came to me while listening to the No Ones new album. There seemed to be a theme through Scott McCaughey’s lyrics. I sent him a note about his record and shared part of my idea. He suggested he could finish it for me and said he’d want to sing it. We shall see. I won’t let him forget the offer.
11 February 2023
The last couple of weeks have been the business of releasing a new album.
I’ve been working on a few song idea. Words have been written and the basic structure recorded. It’s now been a matter of finding the feel. I wrote the song on piano and then transposed it to guitar. At this point I can see where it should go. I’ve talked to Scott about taking on the second verse. He would have a free hand to work with in the basic chord structure. I’ve not been able to dedicate much time to this due to a couple of unexpected events related to the band.
In 2004 Donovan’s Brain did a short tour with Roy Loney and Penny Ikinger. Pen flew out from Melbourne for this. The Brain would play the opening set, then back Penny for her set. We learned all ten songs from her new album Electra plus one more new one, Sycamore Tree. I recorded two days of the rehearsals to see if we could capture anything. I’d had good luck when Richard Treece joined us and and also with Deniz Tek. Three masters for Defeat Of Echoes were taken from our session with Deniz. The obvious stand out was Penny’s new song. The arrangement was created by the band. I sent her a rough mix of the track the next year. When it came time to record it for Penelope she decided on a new arrangement. When I was assembling the Convolutions box set I asked her if I could use this recording. She wasn’t sure so I dropped the idea.
Two weeks ago Penny contacted me and asked if I could do a final mix of Sycamore Tree for a compilation she was working on. Easy enough. It took some work to get it up to speed, but the results were more than acceptable. While I had the files up on the computer I decided to do rough mixes of all ten Electra songs. A few were played twice, so I had to compare the versions and note the best ones. Sycamore was one of those recorded twice. Upon review, it was clear that the second take was far superior. This is the one we’d been listening to for years. When Penny heard the alternative album, she asked if I could mix some others. I was happy to. I’d already decided I’d mix all the songs for my own enjoyment. Two more songs have now been mixed and I’ll do one more for now. She can use those as she pleases.
The second bit of good news was that Bobby Sutliff’s wife Wendy wanted to release Bob’s final solo album. He’d completed the record shortly before he died. When I asked him what his plans were, he said he didn’t have any desire to release it. Fair enough. Wendy has other ideas. After discussing the pressing options I suggested I’d be happy to put it out on Career. That would assure distribution and promotion. Wendy was more than happy to do just that.We’ve agreed to get it out at the end of summer. I didn’t feel like we could do a proper job if we tried to get it out any sooner.
Bobby’s album is eleven new recordings, nine originals and two covers. Two of the originals began life as Brain songs and have Ric and Tom on them. The CD will add two demos to the track list. A vinyl release will also happen, but we don’t expect to see copies until early next year. We both felt that this album needed to be heard and presented with respect.
At the moment the delivery date for Faith In Failure is still to be determined. Once they art is approved for printing it shoul dbe about three weeks until it ships. I’lm looking at March 15th target date.