How Music Infused My Soul For Life With 0% Talent, 111% Persistence, Stubbornness and Passion!
PAUL “BOOTS” SAGANSKI
The 70’s – And on The 8th Day…
On October 14, 1977 Kiss Alive 2 was released and I was 10. Why this is significant is because on Christmas 1977, my aunt bought me Kiss Alive 2 and from the first song to the last song on the studio side I was hooked. I had no idea why and who Kiss was but I was going to find out. My favorite thing to do was mimic guitar playing or drums to this album. This album was a huge seed to my growing love of Rock and Roll.
When I lived in Montreal from 67 to 78, there was a a time where I went to my mom’s friend house and they had kids who had a drum kit. A big one and it was white. It was so cool and when the kid played it I was blown away. I wanted to do that. That was the birth of wanting and playing a drum set and never let up until I was 40 and got myself an electronic drum kit.
It was either 1975 or 1976 when I was at some bar with my aunt and my parents seems someone play music. From what I recall it was country music but it was pretty good. I also remember how loud and also how tight had been was.
1978, I moved to Brampton and that was the start of my rock and roll journey.
In the summer of 78, Jonathan was the first person who I met in Brampton on my street. He’s the one that got me introduced to Rush, Triumph, Iron Maiden and so on. He’s the reason I decided to become a musician. We lived and breathed music. Indirectly, he motivated me to learn music and play it.
I believe it was in 79 that I went up to a cottage and met up some guys who were into music. They showed me their collection which included Led Zeppelin but also, they had an acoustic guitar that they could play songs. That weekend I decided I wanted to ask for a guitar and learn to play. That took a few years to happen but that’s for the 80’s section.
In that decade I do remember when Elvis died. I saw it in the Montreal Star and it didn’t register for me but I knew it was a big deal.
I was though imitating the all the guitar greats and KISS. Again, KISS alive 2 and 1 was the biggest influence. It wasn’t just the look but the sound. That drum and guitar sound was amazing. At that point I was getting to know Rush too and that’s where Spirit of Radio was the first song that came into the picture.
The desire was there but the actual doing wasn’t yet. Not yet.
In that decade many of the bands that I became inspired by were just beginning. Bands like Maiden, Priest, Motorhead and so on were starting to establish their presence in the rock world. I had no idea what was coming!!
The 80’s – Music saved my life- The Journey Begins…
In October 1982 the album CREATURES OF THE NIGHT from Kiss got back to their rock roots. They lost me with Dynasty until Creatures. Dynasty was not a good album either. I’m going to get trashed by die hard KISS fans for this! Some good songs were done on Dynasty by Gene and Ace though. Creatures had Vinny Vincent write and play live with them. It showed too along with the other people who recorded on that album. Michael James Jackson did an amazing job producing it and Gene and Paul made sure that the message was there about being back in rock. I love it loud and War Machine were the big one’s for me. Eric Carr was a solid drummer and he showed if off on this album. Eric made things sound simple on his drumming. The sound of the bass drum was classic. Very zepplinish. They achieved that large sound on the Creatures Album. Rock and Roll hell is classic too.
So, in January 1983, I started taking guitar lessons. It was Mark Young who taught me how to play guitar. He could play by ear but he couldn’t tell me how to do it. He did show me bar chords, scales and how to read a bit of music. He showed me about tempo and timing but it was me in 1983 later that year who took my own musical education and decided to learn more. I grabbed every book in the library to figure it out. Imagine if there was the internet at that time! I would have sped up my learning curve for sure. I also got a book called the Heavy Metal Bible Book. It was about guitar playing with tabs but it had a lot about the blues especially the 12 bar blues. I bought some BB king records and tried to figure that out and I did. It all clicked there about structure, bars, timing etc.
For anybody who plays music guitar bass whatever usually read music. And with reading music you need to know music theory and you can go quite far with that but if it’s not transcribed musically then you don’t know how to play if you can’t play by ear. It was in 1983 one Sunday August afternoon when I was listening to kiss alive one where I discovered by accident that I could play by ear. Why is this significant and very historic? That single event on that Sunday afternoon allowed me to realize I could play by ear and learn just about every song that I wanted to play.
So, what did I do? I went to the library and got every book I could get my hands on about guitar playing music theory and so on. That allowed me to learn any song I wanted and learn about songwriting because I figured after learning over 500 songs, maybe I could write my own songs. Plus, knowing how to play a song without looking at music sheets or Guitar magazines was a huge bonus to people who played in bands and wanted you to teach them how to play songs.
Every guitar, drummer and bass player make the same classic mistake when learning songs. Yes, they learn the riffs and lines well from either reading the sheet music or by ear but they have no clue how to piece it together. That means when you listen to any song no matter what style of music it is there is an intro and then there’s an ending and there’s all the stuff in between. There is versus bridges course soul sections and so on. In all my time playing with others, they don’t seem to get that and I have no idea why. What I did was just listen to the song first and write the structure down such as verses intros and endings.
From the best of my memory I think I learned all the songs on Kiss Alive 1 next. I used a Rush song book to learn their songs but as I got better I started learning by ear the easier songs from the first few Rush Albums. As I got better learning by ear I started learning Judas Priest, Metallica AC/DC, ZZ Top Ted Nugent, Motorhead. All these bands had a huge impact on my playing, songwriting and just with life itself.
One funny story about learning songs is that when learning Sabbath, Kiss and Motorhead, they recorded a 1/2 step down. That means if you tune your guitar to a middle c note on the piano that would be considered standard tuning. You play a c chord on the piano and you would play a c bar chord or full chord on guitar. Some bands would record a 1/2 step down which meant if the piano played a c chord, the guitar player would play B flat to match the tuning. Ahh I’m getting technical but this is what forced me to learn music theory because I had no idea what to play in scales of E flat or A flat!
My music theory allowed me to learn songs quicker too because as soon as you know the key, you can figure out the rest.
In 1984 the biggest discovery musically in theory terms that I had learned how t the drums in rock ‘n’ roll in terms of beats and measures with the snare drum.
I was in grade 10 I took music class and I kind a new a lot of the stuff already so I was kind a bit ahead with all the students in the class. I was playing bass too. Skill wise I was still trying to catch up both with rhythm and tempo and just learning how to play well. My music theory really helped me in learning to read music. I had switch schools in grade 11 and went to Brampton Centennial. It was there where I met the music teacher who I can’t remember his name right now which really sucks.
I had asked him about the drums and how it works with measures of music. In about five minutes he explains to me how the second be in the fourth be was the key to everything and songwriting for rock music and others forms music. He said go back and listen to the songs that you’re listening to and listen to the snare drum on beats 2 and 4. You will then know that one measure music is done. That is the basis of writing music. So, I went away and listened to Dr. Love from Kiss and I heard the snare drum do exactly that. Love Gun and others were the same. Sounds basic but for a teenager who had coordination issues and no extensive music training, this was big.
This was from huge for me in both song writing, guitar playing and drumming which is what I always wanted to learn.
My parents always said no about getting a drum kit because it makes too much noise. My love for drummers started with Peter Chris from Kiss and went to Neil Peart, Gil Moore Frank Beard and many others. To me the drummers were the whole thing. Without them you don’t have anything solid.
So, from 1982 to 1986 there were some really good albums that came out. Some were:
- Kiss Lick It Up
- Motorhead Orgasmatron
- ZZ TOP Eliminator
- Rush Signals, Power Windows etc
- Iron Maiden Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, Somewhere in Time
- Triumph Thunder 7
In the summer of 1984 I saw my first concert and that BB King. BB King live was incredible both in terms of showmanship and just has playing. He could play notes and just let them ring for a while and just sounds so good. It was at Ontario Place in the round when it was still called the forum.
I was learning about the blues at that time it was really good to hear that kind of blues. Blues is a very easy structure to learn for chords and scales.
Using the blues knowledge and learning the style of Randy Rhoads, I was getting better at lead playing. That wasn’t easy for me. Many times, I wanted to throw that guitar away. Literally!
Up to 1986, I was learning a lot of songs and playing with others learning how to play songs by ear. In 1986, I started to learn more about Metallica and Megadeth. The power metal really attracted me because of the intense music and chord changes and best of all, THE VOLUME!!
Iron maiden along with Judas Priest was a huge example of great guitar playing amazing bass lines and solid drums. Metal was a big thing and the music was heavy and not easy to play. It was intricate and lots of different scales.
As for concerts I would say it was 1986 when I first saw my first rock concert which was AC/DC. It was at exhibition Stadium at the concert bowl. And being the first concert, it was also the first riot I was at too! Not kidding. Some dufus thought it would fun to throw rocks at the Go Trains and break windows. Not all fans are created equal and some just don’t come for the music. Another thing too was that teenagers in that time weren’t reliable with tickets or meeting at the right time. Well, actually they still aren’t since I have a 16-year-old daughter. I was different. I wanted to be on time and know I had good tickets and not be an idiot and get kicked out of the venue. AC DC has some crazy fans. The concert itself was awesome. Loud and the set list was good. Lot of old songs too.
For Those About to Rock and Flick of Switch were some of my favorites of AC DC including the older ones with Bonn Scott. Flick of Switch was raw and every song had an edge to it. Bedlam in Belgium is a classic. Sounds good loud too!
So that was its AC/DC started the whole concert thing. I was hooked. Seeing a band live was different. Loudness from Japan opened up too. They were ok.
From that point on I saw:
- Iron maiden
- Judas Priest
- Ted Nugent
After being such a huge fan of KISS since 1970 I finally got to see Kiss live. It was at Maple leaf Gardens for the crazy nights tour. The album wasn’t too bad but not great. Ted Nugent opened up that night. And you know what happened? Kiss sucked. They were horrible live. Ted Nugent played for about 15 minutes and he was incredible. He had great guitar playing and volume. And then Kiss came on and what disaster. The sound was horrible and they were all over the place. You could tell that they were not having a good time and something was up. They didn’t seem happy. Bruce Kullick and Eric Carr were good. The older songs didn’t seem right either. Huge disappointment
For any kiss fan that know their history that was tour that Eric car played. I was probably only good thing that night. Car with his drums solo was really really good. As for the other guys and I was really disappointed.
Set was short too. 60 minutes! I figured that it wasn’t worth seeing them after but in 1992 they redeemed themselves. But I will get to that later.
Iron Maiden as a live band was amazing. Seventh son of the seventh son tour was incredible and there was a band called GNR that opened up for them that year. That was an 87. No one knew that this band was going to be huge. You could hear something different about these guys but you had no idea. About four months after guns and roses became a huge band.
I also saw
- Triumph – sport of king’s tour at maple leaf gardens…very loud and incredible
- Kim Mitchell – Canadian Legend
- Judas Priest
In the summer of 1986 I worked all summer at a wood stove company making skids for the shipping portion. That money led me to buying a 4 track TASCAM recorder. This was the start of writing and recording my own songs. I had a drum machine too and it was a used Rolland Drum machine. I created the patterns on the drum machine as complete songs and then record them to the 4 tracks. Bass and guitars on other track and a song came alive. Not great songs but it was a start.
Patience of Steel and Let Er Rip and Black Car was from 1986. At that time, I had the name Grizzly as the band moniker too. That lasted until 1994. Lot of crappy songs written at that time but those songs were the highlights and rerecorded in 2017 and 2018! Still loud and heavy!!
1986 is when I turned 19 and that meant I could go see bar bands! Tribute bands at Hot Rocks in Brampton! Loud and lots of fun too!
In 1987, I had the chance to see Iron Maiden and Judas priest in the same summer.
Dio was a big factor for me in the 80’s. Didn’t see him live until the 90’s but his songs were classic all the way and huge influence on songwriting and guitar and bass and drums. The whole deal!
And musicians…what can I say? Pain in the arse and the most unreliable group of people I have ever encountered. Part of the miss for me was that I couldn’t find anyone who was responsible, accountable and smart enough to make a band go. That’s why when you see bands like KISS, RUSH and ZZ TOP, you admire the fact that they had the work ethic to make things happen. I wasn’t so lucky in that realm and plus, the drugs and drinking weren’t my thing. I was a geek and nerd. I was obsessed in learning how to play well and get my music theory completely under my belt. Leaving the 80’s one significant thing happened in late 89. I met Peter in college who introduced me to Rob who was a drummer who I am lucky enough to know still to this day. Rob had a big impact on my development as a player going into the 90’s with one song that stood out from the rest. Keep reading and you’ll find out what song that was.
The 90’s – Searching for That Sound …
For me, the 90’s was the best decade for music and as a musician in terms of playing and songwriting. Not too man songs in the 90’s that stood out but here are the ones that still stand out today.
Give me Rock or Give Me death – Remember Rob? Yep, he’s responsible for the title and the chorus. I revised it in 2015 and it rocks to this day.
Tales from The Journey – Instrumental and the one I played at my wedding in 96 to Stefanie.
I wrote a lot of songs but they were all crap. Still learning to write that decent song. It was a decade of finishing college and doing college all over again and getting married so it was a big decade for that.
Figuring out what to do as a career to make money was challenging. Should have listened to my gut about animation too. It worked and it didn’t. Never got a real decent job out of that career and especially when you are not at the top of the list in terms of talent.
I did have a hint of sales in 1990 working at a computer store. I was actually good at it and that should have been a huge clue for me. I had a desire to have my own business but I didn’t have the right support and guidance for that until much later on. Working for someone else really limits you to what you can and can’t do. As a musician, that’s when I realized I wasn’t going to be in the music business. Hard to accept and again couldn’t find the right people to be with to make that happen.
I had to make peace with that and I eventually did but when the desire is there and you just can’t make it happen, that’s where the frustration comes in.
BUT, musically…what a decade of music and huge highlights.
Saw megadeath and Judas priest at maple leaf gardens for the pain killers tour. Amazing tour and album and a complete classic that will melt your ears.
I also saw ZZ Top for the first time in Hamilton for the Recycler tour and they blew my mind away. Tight band and amazing sound. Not one bad moment. Funny enough, Extreme opened up for them too and they were excellent.
Here are some of the albums that really shaped the 90’s for me:
Jackyl – great albums in this decade and tour. Saw them a few times.
Judas priest – pain killers Iron Maiden – No prayer for the dying and Fear of the dark KISS – Revenge – The tour and album that redeemed Kiss as a rock band and solid live act. Of course, they did the reunion tour which was amazing the first time but after that, I think it was a stretch and not necessary with Psycho circus. Horrible album and tour.
RUSH – counterparts and test for echo. Good tours and good to see the guys back to their roots again. The tragedy for Neil was devastating and made total sense that the band took a break. I have no idea how those guys got through that time and glad to see that they found a way later.
Metallica – Black Album. The only good one from the 90’s. The tour was amazing and good to see them playing lots of old stuff. After that they lost me and a lot of fans. Crap songs and crap tours.
One of the biggest highlights musically in the 90s was seeing Motorhead live for the first time.
It was at the world in Mississauga which is actually 15 min away from me now!
It was the Bastards tour and that album in particular was an instant classic. Bought that album in Toronto at record shop that sold imports. It was an import! Can you believe that! I was with Rob and it was a cassette tape too I think I burned out a couple of cassette players too. It was one of the albums that had songs that were strong and heavy. But the live tour was the magic. It was dark in the world and there was LEMMY with his bass claiming “We are Motorhead and we are going to kick your ass!” And kick our ass they did. What a freaking set that was. Not one bad song.
Phil and Wurzel were amazing and Mickey Dee was solid. My first Motorhead show opening for Black Sabbath for their cross purposes tour. Later in Years i found out that the singer for sabbath was sick so he did really good with the conditions he was Motorhead again at Lulu’s in Kitchener in 94. Lulus was the biggest bar around in Kitchener and saw Styx, Motorhead, and Max Webster live. Max Webster’s reunion was so much fun. I grew up on Kim’s and Max Webster’s music. So different but amazing songs especially Battlescar. Motorhead put out some good albums in the 90’s. Overnight Sensation and Snakebite Love all good songs. The live one in 1998 was excellent with the newer songs. That’s one thing that I never got with Motorhead and the fans. Some just stuck to the old stuff and some with the new stuff. As a KISS fan and Motorhead because I was a musician, I seemed to like all different time frames of these bands. Some time frames were a mystery to me such as Rush and Triumph but later on the songs grew on me after seeing Jackyl live a few times in the 90’s gave me a great insight to how rock and roll should be played again and how it can really fun. Helix in the 90s was good. Saw them a couple of times and as good Canadian Rockers they never disappointing. Once in Mississauga they had ace of spades play before they started to play and then they rocked it well. Brian Volmer is a legend and excellent songwriter too. That goes with Lemmy too. But that’s a story in the 2000s. Stay tune The industry and the way music was being distributed was changing too. Being in college the second time, the internet was coming and as an idiot and stubborn in my own ways, I didn’t see the possibilities until the 2000’sGrunge took over too but in my mind, I don’t think it really kept rock and roll away. It was still there and the best part of the grunge scene was that I got to see bands i liked up closer in smaller venues. That was good. Songwriting wise, I wrote songs but never got to see the light of day and most of them were crap anyways. So many other things going on.1999 was quite but after New Year’s Eve, I started to have some good ideas again for songwriting and playing with people doing covers helped get that feeling of writing my owns stuff going again.
The 2000’s – Time To Feed Hell’s Jukebox…
So now it’s the new decade of the 2000. Rough year as a whole with my mother in law dying and stef being pregnant. Yep we were going to be parents. Started getting organized by getting cake walk pro 8 as recording software and it’s been used up to 2018 on a windows 98 laptop! Many good songs came out of that software package.
From 2000 to 2009 I wrote the following songs
- Hells juke box
- Out of me
- Guardian angel
Those were the good songs. Hells Jukebox was a song that didn’t take long to write. I had the concept quickly with the sound and structure in place. Didn’t take long to record either and it came out perfect. That was written and recorded around 2003. Out of me was a bit of a challenge in terms of lyrics, music and structure. I had a structure in mind but the bridge and song overall kept improving and changing. In 2004 I recorded it and I think I did like 5 re writes before recording it. My gut said it was the right version once recorded and I re recorded it in 2018 with the audacity program. Guardian Angel was a complete rewrite in 2018 and the original was weak in some parts. After re recording, it was the version I always wanted to hear. I always believed that I had a Guardian Angel.
I moved to a town house in 2007 and Boiler Room Studios was born and had been used ever since. That’s where all the magic started to begin with the songs.
Lots of good concerts too like Rush and Maiden and Dio and Motörhead! Finally got to see overkill and big sugar too. Saw ZZ Top again too.
But it was in 2000 when I met the great Lemmy of Motorhead! Something I will never forget and here’s the story how that happened.
So Motorhead was going to play at the Warehouse in Toronto by the waterfront. I had read a few days before on the internet that if you want to meet Lemmy buy him booze! And Lemmy loves Canadian Club when he is Canada. It has been stated by Lemmy that he loved Canada and Toronto especially. With that said, that saturday afternoon I told the guys who came with me to the show that we should get some booze for Lemmy. There was a liquor store near by and that’s what we did. I bought the Canadian Club. We got back from the store and talked to the bus driver who was on the driver’s side with the window open. We handed the booze to him and said make sure Lemmy gets this.
We went in and we see the bus driver again and he says to meet at the merchandise booth at the end so he can get us in. Lemmy said it was cool. We thought maybe this guy is full crap and just didn’t really believe it.
Nashville Pussy was opening for Motorhead on that tour and they were amazing. They were a cross of AC DC and Motorhead. Excellent sound and good energy. Lemmy was watching them at the side of the stage with Mickey and Phil.
So Motorhead started their set and it was a good set. We were close to the stage and Lemmy was energized that night. Sound was good too. I have to say with Mickey and Phil, they were tight and one of the best versions of Motorhead. Before the final song we all met the bus driver at the merchandise booth. He told us to follow him and we went back stage. As we did that I saw Lips from Anvil waiting around too. Anvil has toured with Motorhead and made sense he was there.
The driver opens this door and there is Lemmy sitting on the couch. It was surreal. Mickey and Phil were really good guys and we talked about the albums that stood out which was Bastards and Overnight Sensation. Talking to Lemmy was cool . We talked about bass playing and songwriting. He was taken aback about the songwriting part too. I told him that he was the most underrated songwriter and that no one ever gives the time of day about his songwriting skills. Lemmy seemed happy with the comment and shook my hand.
Yes , Lemmy did write many great songs and truly understood the power of volume and bass playing.
In this decade we all went through the 911 tragedy to some really good things that happened. For me in 2001, in May my daughter Dora was born and was the best thing that could happen to me in my life. My dad getting dementia wasn’t fun and the song The Other Side was based on that whole scenario.
For recording one my favorite songs that I had recorded was Guardian Angel, Hells Jukebox and Out of me in this decade. All strong songs and still stands tall to this day. I lost all the original files but i was able to find a couple of back ups in my cd back up library. Hard lesson to learn and something I keep telling everyone. Back up your stuff or you will be sorry. I went through 2 portable hard drives. Dead gone. They do die on you!
In 2007 I turned 40 which is a huge milestone apparently but i feel young then and now. Didn’t affect me all that much except that I was in another career i hated and company that was useless but with all that I had music still. Didn’t quit yet! I got an electronic drum set that allowed me to learn how to play drums for real. Since i was a kid i wanted to learn to play and now i was finally going to do it. For songwriting purposes, it was the best move on my part. For 3 years i learned everything you could know about drum playing and how crucial it is in the style of songwriting and music i played.
My top drummers are of course
- Neil Peart (surprise surprise but Hey you can’t blame me)
- Gill Moore
- Frank Beard
- Nicko McBrain
- Mickey Dee
- Eric Carr
- Eric Singer
Peter Criss (good drummer in the early days and very creative in the rolls and patterns in the early Kiss songs but destroyed himself with drugs and alcohol…what a shame. plus, he was an asshole when he came to Toronto for a kiss convention. No class at all and didn’t give a crap about the fans either.)
- Phil Rudd
- Lars Ulrich
- Nick Menza
- Scott Travis
- Ingo Schwichtenberg
- Anton Fig
- Paul Kersey from Max Webster
- Charlie Bente
and so many more ….
Meeting Mickey Dee from Motorhead was great. He really liked the Bastards album too. They all did. It was their favorite. Mine too. The drumming is beyond amazing too. Tight and right to the point.
The 2010 to Present – Lost and Found Again…
So here are the songs that have been written and recorded with some vocals to be complete as I write this.
- back in hell
- Patience of steel
- battle axe
- O Canada
- summer heat
- Cage of Love
- One shot
- Under the Stars
- Heavens Roar
- I am
- Next Life
- Little buddha
- Crank it
- Planet Cool
- Code 69
- and many more now !!! ha ha
These songs were mostly written in 2017 and 2018. From 2010 to 2016 there wasn’t much playing or recording because life just happens. Also, the ideas weren’t coming to me either.
In that time frame of 2010 to 2016, I’ve seen Dio’s last tour, Rush’s last tour and losing Lemmy from Motorhead which means I saw Motorhead for the last time in that time frame. Music changed too. The older bands weren’t putting out new material because the industry changed in how bands got paid. It’s all about touring now. That’s where the money is. Also, bands aren’t getting developed like they use to.
In the that time frame though bands like Wolfmother, Danko Jones and Jackyl were still putting out new material. Wolfmother was brand new too and had a great sound that I could relate to. For KISS, they did 2 albums in that time frame. Sonic Boom and Monster and based on the band’s perspective, there will never be another album from them and that’s ok with me. Both Sonic and Monster were amazing and truly showed that these old geezers could actually still write a song and understand what rock music is all about. It re inspired me to look at writing again and that there can be fresh material again out there. Thanks Gene and Paul for the motivation again. So many great songs on both albums and Down Below on Monster is truly a classic song from KISS. If that’s it recording wise, then KISS finished off with a huge BANG!
Rush recorded snakes and arrows and that for me was the final album that closed off their career. The next album was ok but as a longtime fan, not good enough for me. It was weak and self-indulgent and the tour was horrible. Awful set list and just plain weak. R40 though was the final tour and the set was perfect. Actually, everything about that night was perfect and hard at the same time. It was the end of Rush. The documentary, Time Stand Still was a great way to say goodbye to the fans. For Alex and Geddy and Neil, how can you say goodbye to the fans. How can you make the fans understand that it was over. It was a hard movie to watch because as Rush fans WE all knew it was over without banging it out on your head.
Nothing last forever and who knows about the other bands who are in the same boat now. Iron Maiden, KISS and Judas Priest. I’m 50 and the music is slowly dying off. Time for new fresh music but is there anyone out there playing that or anyone really want that? We’ll see. who knows
I myself was lost with music and had no idea what was next. I was on another path with business ventures and making a living as a project manager.
One day it hit me that if I was going to call it quits I wanted to take those songs from the last 30 years and finish them off and post them online. That’s why the older songs got recorded again like Guardian Angel and Give Me Rock. They needed to get out there and doing that process it had realized I wasn’t done. I needed to get new material out there. So, in 2018 in January I started recording the 15 songs that came out eventually.
Drums were the only planned part and the rest was on the fly. Press record and play whatever came to me. Cage of Love and One Shot were like that and it just flowed. Heavens Roar was had to record but, in the end, it came out awesome. I love the songs that got recorded. I was back again.
With a system and new recording program called Audacity, I managed to get it done and it was excellent. I transitioned from an old program called Cakewalk Pro 8 to Audacity and that was tricky but definitely worth it. Each song has a meaning and being the worst year personally in 2018, these songs have meaning and special place in my heart. Without that, it was impossible to know what I was going to do with the pressure and stress that I am still and went through. Timing is everything and that recording period was what I needed. So, what about now? Going to record the vocals in August and do a fall release on YouTube and Soundcloud for the new material and market it out to the world. Who knows what the response will be but I am bloody proud of the songs and where my music direction is going. From August to December 28th 2018 I recorded vocals at the Rehearsal Factory in Etobicoke using their smallest room and mic’s. Best decision I made. Learned a lot about breathing, vocals, melodies and getting lyrics done in 2 min for a song! At that same time, I got my KISS tickets and IRON MAIDEN tickets for 2019!! Can’t wait for KISS in March of 2019. Should be good and the set list isn’t too bad except for 2 songs but who cares.
On December 30th, I finished mixing and posting all the new songs on the YOUTUBE channel and it was a wrap. 2018 was a horrible year overall but the songs kept me going and I am super proud of all those songs. Some didn’t work out but that’s ok. The classics were rerecorded and now they are in the vaults and forever online. The one song that was a huge challenge but worth the time was Little Buddha. Also, re doing Guardian Angel and Hell’s Jukebox was fun too. Those songs are all have a meaning and having PLANET COOL! as the brand for all my music was perfect. I became a better songwriter, singer and player in 2018. PLUS, I let my gut instincts and intuition write the songs along the way.
3 days later and I was going into the 2019 sessions. Actually, it was 1-day rest and Jan 1 I started the drums for the 16 new songs in 2019. By end of January I finished those drums ready to be recorded. The big change was the drums themselves. I sampled and recorded fills at Boiler Room Studios and it came out really good. The sound was excellent. It even sounded like live drums in a studio, well actually the reason it does was because I did it in a studio! Duh! Must be tired eh.
The key to 2019 was that the drums and all drum parts were going to sound the same. Same tom, same snare etc. That makes a difference compared to 2018. Big difference too is that I didn’t have to relearn a whole new program or switch to different laptops without losing data and songs.
So, its March 2019 now and lyrics and music is complete for 16 new songs. This year’s process was a lot smoother and better than I have ever done. Drums were stronger and the bass work was top notch. Along with that the guitars are heavy and rocking more than ever. Every song is becoming a sandwich and a story. That’s the whole thing too, the story behind the song, the story how it got recorded and the story of how others reacted to the song is what PLANET COOL! is all about. Over the last 4 months I have been able to do figure out what Planet Cool is all about.
It’s now October 2019 and the 2019 sessions have been online since June. The response has been so so and getting some attention on sound cloud. That’s ok though because the main thing for me is that one, I did it , two , the songs sound really good, and three, I had a blast doing it and have the desire to keep going for years to come. One last thing about the sessions from this year and last year is that I learned a lot about vocals and the techniques along with songwriting and hearing songs from different people and bands to get inspired.
I never really knew how much was involved in writing and recording. In September it was suggested by my wife Stefanie to do a couple of covers. So I decided to pick the most obscure songs that you wouldn’t think I would pick. One was Gordon Lightfoot a Canadian Legend in songwriting and Jim Croce who’s also a legend for songwriting. Why? Their songs being in a folk style had the possibility of being good hard rock songs with strong bass, drums and guitars. Did it work? YES…and I am still working on it as we write but holy cow my intuition was right. It worked better than I expected and it will be only posted on the youtube channel
It also gave me a chance to keep my skills up in all areas of recording including the vocals since I was able to keep learning and practicing everyday. I will do some other covers and I have some in mind but it will be only after the 2020 sessions are over.
My idea about covers is this. Why do songs to band that I love and the song is already classic and perfect. What could I do differently? Nothing, exactly but if I hear something from a totally different genre and hear something that could be enhanced or interpreted differently then I would do it. ZZ top did that few times. I Thank You and Dust My Broom. Those songs are completely different from the original but zz top made it different and better in my opinion. There are lots of blues songs that are really good to cover and folk songs too. It’s using my sound and my interpretation which is the key to the whole thing.
As November comes I will be focusing on the verses to all the 2020 songs for the melodies. Basically hum or do nanana or dadada sound to a click track. From there I will pick out chord changes that fit in that key. I did a test last month and it worked brilliantly. I never wrote like this before but I am convinced and my gut too that this will make a huge difference in the songs of 2020 and on.
So now it’s December 2019 and the 2020 sessions have begun. The instrumental is complete and mixed for next year. All the melodies of songs are coming together really nice and happy with the results so far. Next year I decided to record and write songs differently and I did a series of videos the other week on how we do
it at Planet COOL! It will be different and much better too. Looking forward to the results.
It’s December 17th and that means I think its time to reflect on the year of 2019. First, the music for the 2019 sessions came out great and very proud of it. From Cage Of Love to WWW this was really good this year for learning and doing better vocals. Vocally its been a looooong process and learning curve. I decided to focus on the belcanto method so that I wouldn’t lose my voice in the process. I concentrated near the end of the year on how a melody was written in the songs that I love. One thing that helped was listening to the bands I love on youtube and listening to the vocals only tracks. Metallica and Iron Maiden were the one’s that really helped. From diction to breathing to the words used I learned how the melody worked with the words. Here’s the thing. If you have a melody you can’t write any kind of words or patterns to the melody. Try it. Do twinkle little star and put words to it. It works. Elton John would start off like that.
As for concerts this year was a blockbuster of a year. KISS in march, MAIDEN in august, DEMONS AND WIZARDS in august, DANKO JONES in December and LIFE OF AGONY in December!!! All shows were stellar. Life of Agony is tonight so I will write how that went. Maiden was tight and Bruce sang better than he ever did. It says something for the old farts at 60s and 70s. Can’t wait to see what I do at that age. Not sure who I will see next year but looks like PRIMAL FEAR might be one of them!! Danko Jones was a lot of fun and really good. Never saw them before and this was the first time. Going to see them again when they are back in Toronto. It’s funny, their from Toronto but always tour in Europe cause that’s where the money is made. Canada isn’t that place for them or others like Planet Cool.
One cool thing this year that happened is I got to meet some die hard Triumph fans the night before FanFest in Mississauga. Awesome people and it’s good to see that a band like Triumph is still being remembered after all these years. For me Triumph was my musical education in playing and writing songs. Rik was instrumental on my songwriting process.
The 2020 sessions had begun shortly after that working on melodies and tempo’s for each of the 19 songs being recorded. The 20th was the instrumental which became the first to be recorded. After about 4 re writes I got it right with just acoustic guitars. It came out good and very telling how the rest of the sessions were going to go in terms of mood. I decided to call it finally “Trigger” and it’s 1 min and 19 sec!
Working with the click track really helped me get the melodies to a place I was really happy with. Audacity is a great program that really allows you to do the things you need done both in editing wave files and effects. In the end, humming the melody or using the guitar as the main instrument to play the melody was the way to go. Sometimes the written chorus wasn’t the right fit in terms of creating melodies. It’s all about phrasing and timing of the words that need to feel right.
In December it was all about getting melodies finalized and the guitar recorded with the right effects and chord changes. By the end of Dec 31st I had about 12 songs completed. At that point it made sense to stop there and work the first 12 and release them in May of 2020 and then work on the rest of the 8 songs. With time being an issue, this was the logical choice. Also, with the new process of writing and recording the songs, the system was becoming solidified so that no snags or re writes would happen in the new year.
At last the year was done and nothing but moving on was on my mind after a challenging year.
2020 And Beyond…Time Feed Hell’s Jukebox Again!
It’s 2020 and Jan 1st and not one thing was done that day!! I started recording again on the 2nd of January and continued to finalize the 12 songs being recorded. It seemed that the gut instincts were happy with what was being done. I was a little surprise how the chord changes were working with the melodies. It seems to be working better on that front. I have to trust the process so that when all the elements are in and mixed, it will sound great. Actually, The Elders part 2 in 2019 was sort of written that way. I did guitars first with bass with a click track. It was the 4th rewrite and got really frustrated to how this was going to go. Intuition said just do a test and record some guitars and then add drums and bass. Bang, worked like a charm and that’s how that song got done. Should have done melody first but doesn’t matter, doing that now. Each song has it’s challenges even when you have a good melody. It’s founding those right chord or guitar riffs that work with them. Also, the key of the song is crucial in you can do a lot with those notes in that key including chords. On the weekend of Jan 4th and 5th , the drums began and it was painful at first but once I got the momentum going, it was sounding really good and surprising. My experiment worked and the drums were a driving force to the songs. Didn’t take long either with each section to complete.
One song that was standing out was Fire in My Soul and Citizens. Both very tight and heavy. Life happens while this is going on. Going back to a 9 to 5 job and working on a business that’s being built again makes the time challenging. Being able to work in 20 to 40 min increments does work but you have to be clever and have a system that is reliable every time when doing new songs.
The week of the 6th was a good week of getting drums completed for about 4 songs. That’s pretty good and no rewrites. I am not opposed to re writes and if the gut says so, then I do it but after really working out the melodies and guitars , the drums are not that difficult to fit in.
I try to do video updates this time but sometimes it’s tricky because of time. Both need to be done and are important so you do what you can and have a system in place. Either phone or laptop for doing video updates.
And as you go along, life stuff tends to be thrown at you whether it’s family stuff or just life in general from planes to blowing up or losing a legend in the rock world.
On January 10th at 6 pm at the local Kelsey’s restaurant, I learned that one of my key influences in both drumming and lyric writing passed away. About a year and a half ago, I saw a post on social media about Neil Peart dying. I showed my wife and was freaking out but after checking official sources, it was a hoax and boy the management of Rush jumped on that one quickly. All was good at that time. This time not so much.
After reading an article about some Canadian Astronauts I scrolled down and saw the headline saying “Neil Peart Dead at 67”. Of Course my first thought was, ahh man, here we go again. Why do they keep putting these bogus news items out? Then I thought I should scroll up to see which wacked out website I was on and see how credible this was. Well, hate to say it but CBC is in general credible and yes it was for real. Talk about someone’s face turning ghost white. In that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks and realized not only Neil was dead but Rush was dead too. After that thought, the next thing I thought about was Alex and Geddy. They just lost their bandmate but friend too. 44 years or so. You don’t recover or be the same after that. Unfortunately, I never met Neil and maybe that was a good thing. He was private but a real great guy to talk to according to those who worked and met him. For me , it was just the music and live shows. I was there at R40 at scotia bank arena and it was incredible. A great way to say farewell. You know, it’s funny how you start to put it together with this news. The guys always seem to be cagey about it and I get it. Neil needed it to be private as everyone else around them too. It would be a circus if that got out and in a way it did with that bogus post a year or so ago. Watching Geddy being interviewed with Eddie Trunk is telling. He seemed sad and now we know why. He was losing Neil. No one knew and he died on Jan 7th and they waited until the 10th at 4 pm to let the fans know.
So what do you say about Rush and Neil? For me, I learned what music was through them. It was my soundtrack and it still feels painful to think about this. It’s Jan 13th and its still fresh. As with life and everything else, you carry on with the things that make you who you are and Planet Cool Music is what my identity is. The sessions go on and Neil’s influence along with Rush’s music is a great memory and reminder of how it should be done. Those guys are classy and there is no question that they did everything right. As a fan, they have nothing to prove.
Onward we move on of course and recording was the big task of the day for the 2020 Anger Management Sessions. At some point I decided to
actually record the song ANGER MANAGEMENT and it came out pretty good actually. It’s March 23 and 12 songs are complete and vocals have begun.
And the fun continues…
Throughout April I was recording vocals for each song and man what 1 year does to make a difference in the vocals. After the last year of doing vocal warm ups, exercises and learning more about the bel canto method, doing vocals for each song was a lot smoother and better. Sometimes I surprised myself going where the hell did that come from. Renegade and Salty Dogs was huge highlight along with the Pre Chorus for Throne of Lies. Citizens was spot on and really good with the chorus. Sometimes I feel like I am listening to songs that I don’t realize I had written and recorded. The intuition is a huge gage when having to change lyric lines or melodies. Using the gut and up against the wall get it done mentally I was able to get some really good stuff out on the recording. Fire In The Soul was really good and loud! I sang really loud on that one and it made all the difference.
So in May the mixing began and that was a challenge as always. It’s the final step that can make or break a song. The best trick that I learnt about mixing was mixing with a low volume. The vocals is what you want to hear as the main portion. Then drums with the snare and then the rest. What I found by doing that is that when you do crank it up, it sounds really good. So basically do this, listen to the tracks a low volume (maybe 4 or 5…make it barely audible) and then bring out volume wise the vocals. Make sure you take all the tracks and go to zero and start with the vocal track at that low volume. I will make a video for this but for right now, trust me , it works.
When mixing, you find out you need to go back to fix choruses or verses because YOUR GUT says too. Listen to that or you will be mad you didn’t.
Mixing this year was fun and quick. I do a car test which means I play the songs in the car to see how it sounds. It all passed except for one and it was a quick easy fix. Audacity has been incredible for that. Once you work with it , its amazing at what you can do. Not many pitch changes to the vocals too which I was really proud of!
June was the target date for the release and it happened on the 10th. I did the video for the dedication to Rush of course and released it on the same day. Just being clever !! The songs were launched on soundcloud youtube and made tweets to let everyone know. Annnd of course being the way I am, I decided to screw the break and just go into phase 2 . 8 songs and now it might be 9 based on current events in the world. Oh yea, by the way we have a plandemic happening right now! Didn’t notice being in the studio…Guitars first with the melodies and then drums all in June. The melodies were really strong this time with the guitars done that followed the click track. That click track is the heart beat of the song. That made it super easy to drum to. The drums were a blast. As an experiment I decided to play the drums in Boiler room studios. I had the microphones all set up and started recording. Made a huge difference doing it that way. The sound was huge and loud. Exactly what I wanted and they sounded really good. Still need to work on the drumming but for recording purposes , this worked awesome. Really proud of that too. The sound is consistent too because of the mics set up in a certain way and the tracks being recorded with the click. Both click and guitars are key to the drum tracks.
So now I am at the bass section of the recordings which is becoming my favorite since I will be playing live as a bass player. Should be interesting to see how it turns out. Recording the bass was quick and painless which is surprising since I will be a bass player live so it can’t be too hard to sing with. A lot of arranging corrections and making sure everything flowed well. That’s the interesting part of songwriting in all aspects. From guitar rifts, drums and so on, it has to make sense when it’s all put together from start to finish. Sometimes you have to redo the drum fill or sometimes make a different arrangement with a complete stop and then go into the next part. That happened in POH. From the verse to the 1st chorus it didn’t fit well and then I heard a rap song with starts and stops. Thought that was cool, so I did the same thing and it was brilliant. All the new songs are tight and different. From lyrics to vocals to solo’s it’s really different and really good! Heavy but melodic at the same time. It’s August and it’s mixing time. I am ahead of schedule as usual. I’m like that you know. When you love it, time means nothing and you just do it. Remember that.
September I had all the songs done and posted on all the platforms. Mixing the songs really gave me a good idea of what not to do next time and what I did right too. I was happy with the overall sound and feel of the songs. Phase 2 was so much better because I did the drums off the floor with microphones. It became apparent that drums being played live and editing does have a difference. Take Back, Prisoner of Hell, Fountain of Youth, Fear of Truth were huge highlights for me in the aspect of drums vocals and bass playing.
Mixing is an artform and a pain in the butt sometimes. Mixing at a low volume with vocals being the main thing does help and the results can be really good as a final result. I have posted all of 2020 songs on YouTube, SoundCloud, and now BandCamp. I made sure that the format was the same with the lyrics and now thumbnails that are designed better to be noticed. In October and November, we were working on the planetcoolmusic website so that the info and other things that are part of Planet Cool was concise and easy to get too. I wanted to make it easy to navigate and include all information about me and the music. Planet COOL! world wide is another section that has session updates, videos about life, and soon to design a course for people at any age to learn music. There might be a podcast/video of a series about songwriting. I believe no matter what music genre you like or like to play. Songwriting is the heart of music. Without the song, thee is no bands, music etc. Songwriting is an art in itself. Stay tune on the website for more info about it.
The website was launched on November 23rd 2020. Got some good feedback already and its a work in progress. In October, I decided to start writing and getting guitar tracks recorded for the 2021 sessions. It’s the 35th anniversary of me writing and recording music. In 1986, I started recording music with a Tascam 4 track recorder that I bought in August. From there with a drum machine, I started the journey. Lots of bad songs in the last 35 years. Some good one’s too! The guitars on the new songs were overall really good. Lots of redo’s and rough moments with recording to the click track and making sure the sound and the timing was right to the melody. With the click and the melody I came up with I was able to write chord changes and riffs to those melodies. Not always easy but a huge learning curve on songwriting.