RPM 2009: ZEN MASTERS

If there was a book written about the RPM Challenge, some could call it “Zen and the Art of Recording an Album in a Month.” One of the most important and difficult things for musicians to overcome is your internal critic, the voice that says “you suck” and “what’s the point of working so hard for this anyway?” Well, screw that voice. If people didn’t try because they were afraid of failing, nothing good would happen ever. When you’re recording an album, spontaneous jams and random noodlings can go a long way. Loosen up a little, would ya?

By Elling Lien

“This RPM thing has just reinforced my opinion that I probably write better songs when I don’t think about it too much,” says the anonymous force behind the “grunge/metal/punk” outfit Ultramammoth. He says it gave him an excuse to use the phrase “that’ll do” more than usual, which he enjoyed.

“In terms of recording, I’m really into music that sounds like it’s being made in real time,” says Alison Corbett (aka Black Molly) “I think it’s important to experience music as a risk and to keep in mind that it’s not rocket science. If you make a mistake, it can be terrible or it can be the best thing that ever happened. The most important thing is to remember that no one’s life is on the line.”

Bobby and melodic trio The Troubletones, were without their drummer for the month of February, but they still managed to have a good time putting together a great album. The song “I Think You’re Dreaming” was the result of a spontaneous jam that seemed to come out of nowhere. “We ended up using everything we could get our hands on to get a heavy, stomping percussion track,” says Andrew Wickens. “Matt was banging on a case of beer (some full, some empty), Andy was playing tambourine and stomping on the ground, and Steve was playing a 50 pound bag of dog food.”

The first day Craig Soper started recording his reggae-tinged album, his computer crashed, leaving him days behind and a little disheartened. When he got stuck for a song for a few days, he “started to go into panic mode.”

“Then I started to mess around with a simple riff for a bit…” And the riff grew into one of his favourite songs on the album, “Matters to Me.” He was back on track.

Ryan Green describes his project Patch as a fairly accessible techno/indie outfit. The RPM’s tight deadline kept him from obsessing over the technical side of recording and forced him to focus on writing and production. “It’s funny how most people won’t even notice the small details that can consume a project,” he says. “It was just enough stress.”

Bryan Oliver agrees. His project, Worker, was “a bit of electro weirdness”, and he had most of his fun recording his songs live—always tricky with electronic music—but occasionally liberating.

Matthew Beverly’s solo project was Sluts on Sluts. Once he realized the songs he was working on would need some vocals, he panicked. But the panic subsided a few social lubricants later and he was shouting across the hall into a microphone at the top of his lungs. He just had to let go a little. “It was good to focus my musical ‘noodlings’ and spend a month trying to create an actual cohesive album,” he says. “I’m not sure if that happened… but I had a good time trying.”

Finally, not much is known about the three-piece band Les Enfants Terribles except they recorded their entire album in the last 12 hours of February. The spontaneous jam is their modus operandi, and the result consists of songs with titles like “Winter Townie Nausea”, “Mansbridge vs. Suzuki” and “The Bottle Man Always Rings Twice.”

“28 days? We could have made 28 albums!” says band member Jon Montes.

zen