NEWS - 4/24/2018 - from Steve Shelton

Squeezing Five Into Three: The Riff that Keeps on Giving

A few years ago I was asked to compose a song entirely on drums without any input from a guitarist or bass player. It was an experiment to see what the drums might inspire in someone writing guitar as Loincloth were trying to wrap things up for what would be our final album, 'Psalms of the Morbid Whore'. I could appreciate the experimental idea behind it but I felt like our writing process, which was even more nuanced and micro-analyzed then Confessor's, would render most of what I might come up with completely unrecognizable. Plus, I was well aware that my composing style was in such stark contrast to the composing style of the person asking that it would slow things down at a time when there was mounting pressure to get things ready to go into the studio. What I offered instead was a chance to explore some basic polyrhythmic exercises that I had wanted to dive into for years. They say patience is a virtue, and in this particular case waiting for the right time to try to process these exercises into riffs worked out wonderfully. Three years later I am still chipping away at the tip of this riff iceberg.

The original polyrhythm I had wanted to explore for years was in a riff I wrote for a Fly Machine song called "Drowning". It was the riff we used for the chorus and the lead in that song. A few years later Confessor used the riff again in the song "Hibernation" on our album, 'Unraveled'. It was a very simple guitar part made up of five repeating notes. In the Fly Machine song I hit the ride every three notes during the lead. It was all I could do at that time to play it right long enough to record. If any of you remember going over fractions in school you know that the lowest common denominator of three and five is fifteen. That means that you have to play the five note riff three times in order for your ride pattern, which falls on every third note, to line up with it again. Voila! You too could be the proud parent of a bouncing baby polyrhythm. It sounds more complicated than it is but you do have to ignore a lot of natural 4/4 timing instincts in order to explore polyrhythms. You continually want to play what "feels natural" but that will throw you off of your pattern and then... chaos! Chaos may sound cool on the surface, and it works wonderfully in dystopian and post apocalyptic movies, but it is an ugly, ugly thing to see unfold on stage. It ain't too pretty in real life either, by the way.

At last count this polyrhythmic exercise has provided the framework for one Loincloth song, is in the process of becoming one of my favorite Confessor songs, has given me enough riffs for an equally creative sister song, and has left me with another dozen or more riffs, all of which I find really interesting for one reason or another. Some of those riffs are quintessential Confessor/Loincloth riffs. It takes awhile to learn the "feel" of a pattern like this one, and even longer to get a guitarist accustomed to its flow since polyrhythms are a drummer's thing and not at all a guitarist's area of expertise. The ride pattern being every third note makes it a waltz, but the riff doesn't follow the flow of a waltz. Therein lies the difficulty in learning how the riff "feels" as you try to learn it and play it right.

The Confessor song that has materialized out of this journey down The Polyrhythm Path is turning into one of the more unique songs we have ever written. It has a very natural flow that falls at very unnatural points of the waltz. Marcus and I decided to wait until were able to play our ideas fairly well before presenting them to the other guys. If we were floundering around while presenting these ideas they would not have gone very far. I totally get off on playing these patterns. Drumming creates a more physical relationship with what you are playing and I feel the dance within the numbers and the different rhythms. There is a great deal of satisfaction in being able to ignore instincts long enough to learn how to play something so different, and it just so happens that this is simple enough to be able to use it effectively in what we do as a band.

As a drummer, I could listen to very simple guitar approaches to these patterns and be endlessly entertained by the musical mathiness of it all, but guitarists almost always want some sense of melody so I have to balance what I love about these exercises with what I think the band will accept. It's the timeless "Overton Window for Radical Polyrhythms" conundrum that all great societies have to overcome. You guys know what I'm talking about. Your metal uprising could go from birthing a Renaissance to ending up like the French Revolution with one false move. It's dicey to say the least. My goal is to create a new language within music, but the next radical polyrhythmist might use my work to punish those he or she deems "visionless". History is full of these stories.

I have never heard anyone play around with polyrhythmic patterns in a heavy, primitive way. Prog bands used to come up with mile and a half long, noodling riffs that allowed for the drums to play a pattern removed from the guitar part until they finally match up, but I always lost interest somewhere near the half mile marker. I enjoy the challenge of learning those riffs, but I find them impractical for what I'd like to do in a band. Noodling is a no-no. Rule number 213 in my book, Lessons for the New Sheltopian Existence: "No one in the history of mankind ever had their ass kicked by a noodle." I much prefer the immediacy shorter riffs with smaller numbers and the intrinsic punch that my simple approach exposes in overlapping polyrhythms. It's a tough concept to sell to someone held captive by six strings and the limitations of music theory. My own musical horizons are far broader. That's because I don't know what the hell I'm doing! Ignorance can be emancipating. I have never understood why a Book of Rules would ever prevent someone from exploring something new in a musical setting. Unlike other situations in which setting aside The Rules for the purpose of seeking new experiences will get you arrested, the musical landscape should be ever changing with no territories off limits.

Currently, Confessor are working on another song that is an expansion of my "Five Over Three" exercise. I always wanted to write a beat that used three numbers to create polyrhythmic tension. In this case the hi hat is on the threes, the bass drum follows the fives and the snare is on every seventh note. The snare and bass drum line up after every thirty five notes but because the hi hat is on the threes you have to play the pattern three times for it to finally line up. Back to math class for a second; the lowest common denominator of three and thirty five is one hundred five. If any three note pattern doesn't line up with another pattern the first time time it will line up every third time by definition. Believe it or not, a one hundred five note idea proved way too long and complicated to make a quick point. I feel like I have illustrated that perfectly with the length and lack of clarity in this post. That's how multi-leveled my genius is. I can bore you with long riffs, and then bore you even further by writing endless blog posts about those long riffs. That's why I decided to slow the exercise down for the Confessor song and focus on the spaces created by overlapping the five note and seven note patterns. You lose the poly-feel by playing it slow but gain a great riff Metallica fans would be proud of. It's still a way of exploring the unique "wave signature" that dividing space into fifths and sevenths creates. I was able to shorten the riff to make it more palatable but sadly, I can't give you the last four minutes of your life back. You never know where the inspiration train will take you, but it is a ride I'll go on again and again until I can't anymore, or until I get arrested seeking new experiences.




Editor's Note:

The Loincloth song that my pattern turned into was called "Sigil of Five Horns". We called it the "five note song" while we were working on it and the final title is a nod to part of the polyrhythm. We added some small things here and there to dress it up, but it does play around with my original pattern throughout the track. For the ending we based the counter rhythm on a four note hi hat pattern instead of a three note pattern. Doing that made it an easier riff to bang to for the listener. Once the headbang inside the riff was established and the beat kicked in I decided to play the hi hat traditionally to keep the momentum up. I could come up with super heavy, polyrhyhmic patterns all day long but I don't think I'd be very popular with my bandmates anymore. Hell, I may not be now but screw it, right? As we say around the house "FTA!" You can use your head to figure that one out.

NEWS - 4/9/2018 - from Steve Shelton

No Children or Animals Will Be Harmed During the Recording of this Album... Probably

With our new recording in hand I have an opportunity to dig into what few brain cells I have left and try to find the most creative, but simple ways to enhance our songs so that the lifelong fans of our music, as well as the newer audience metal's popularity has cultivated, will be compelled to hit rewind over and over again to figure out what on earth they just heard. It may seem like an odd goal, but confusing people with positively bewildering music has always been what we as a band, and in a sometimes more obvious way myself as a drummer, have striven for from day one. It is exactly the opposite approach to writing catchy little earworms.

In the past I have waited until much later in the writing process to make sure that all of my 't's' were crossed and my 'i's' dotted. I tend to add things constantly as new ideas come to me, so my drums continue to evolve as we play our music. Once Confessor became Fly Machine we stopped writing songs in quite the same way and mapping my parts out was less crucial. There were considerably less opportunities for me to write polyrhythms and we began to approach things from more of a rock angle. When our music became less complicated I had no reason to map out parts so I tried to add bells and whistles anywhere I could as a way to stay creatively engaged. When Confessor decided to write 'Unraveled' we were still in that mode. We made a concerted effort with one or two songs to keep our music confusing, but it never flowed naturally with the lineup we had at the time. Now that we are writing with our original style more in mind I am back to mapping out my parts and figuring out polyrhythms. It has been a blast for me. You know what it's like to have a meal you used to enjoy all the time but for whatever reason you haven't had in quite some time? When you take your first bite you think to yourself "Damn! This is soooo good! Why has it been so long since I've had this?" Monica and I refer to that wonderfully delicious, and almost nostalgic experience as being akin to "eating an old friend". That's what having a chance to write drums like this again is for me. I just poured myself a giant bowl of Captain Crunch Berries for the first time in years and I can't wait to dive in!

Ever since Marcus and I came out of the studio I have been riding a creative wave. I have a small stack of papers beside me right now, a sheet for each song, that already have notes and ideas scribbled on them for me to try at practice. I have drum ideas, bass ideas, harmony ideas and choreography notes for our dancers. This mindset is where the magic happens for me! I have truly missed being in this space. Even though Loincloth required note taking it wasn't the same. Loincloth rarely offered me the kind of space to create patterns because we specifically avoided repeating things. We extended a few endings in the studio with the intention of fading them out but we kept every single one of them in full because they created such a different listening experience. They provided a counterpoint to everything else on our records. When an album is so full of stops and starts, those minute and a half outros where one riff goes on its own journey really stand out. They were the only spots on our albums where the listener could relax, and though that was the opposite of what we set out to do, the contrast was nice.

The kinds of patterns I love writing require repetition to begin to get lost in them. They have a hypnotizing effect that needs time to settle in and Loincloth were devoted to the short attention span people out there. We were for the Tinder app users, whereas this new Confessor album will be more of a tantric exploration of musical ideas. Where you go with that is up to you. Confessor will not be held responsible for the ways in which you use our music. We will however take full credit for any enjoyment derived from listening to our albums. And since we are trying to tap into the adult film soundtrack market any videos of "freestyle expressions of love" with Confessor playing in the background submitted by enthusiastic fans will be appreciated. Please avoid harming small children and animals. We may view the videos with the sound turned down though unless of course our individual names or the name of the band are repeated often by the actors. And now that I have had time to think about it, please avoid hurting people and animals throughout life. It's generally a good idea to limit suffering wherever you can. Whew! I feel like that was a good talk, don't you?

If you accept the notion that drums are the most important part of a normal day ( duh!!! ) then rest assured that I take great pride in attempting to expand drumming's horizons for us all. The recording that Marcus and I made two weeks ago is allowing me an opportunity to make sure that I am hitting all of the right things to pack the biggest wallop in our music. I am currently running through all of our accents to determine whether they need to be played on my Thunder Toms or on Beelzebass drum with a cymbal choke. I am listening for those spots where I hit a "naked" hi hat or a "naked" cymbal to boost a chord to see if it lessens the impact of the otherwise empty space or if it really does enhance the chord in a way that warrants filling that empty space. That may be a little deep in the weeds for you guys but it's these details that help make everything we do purposeful and ferocious. The sooner I have all these things ironed out the sooner they will be committed to muscle memory and then when we record the album I will have considerably less to worry about. Naturally, the less time I need in the studio to play my parts the more time there will be for hookers and blow. One can never get enough of those things. You know, candy canes and blowing kisses of congratulations to the other guys in the band, 'cuz blowing kisses to the dudes in your underground metal band is soooooo metal. Wait, did you think I meant prostitutes and drugs? Is that what do you guys think being a rock star is all about?

While the rest of you chew on this post I think I'm going to look into the role sex and drugs have played in the history of music. If I find out that any of Rock's heroes have ever indulged in carnal delights I will be shocked. Shocked, I say! How could anyone even suggest there is a link between tortured, depressed rock stars with self defeating behavioral tendencies and substance abuse?

NEWS - 3/31/2018 - from Steve Shelton

Rough Sketches

There are many things about writing music and being in a band that I love. I have always had some sort of creative outlet ever since I was a kid and my head is constantly buzzing with ideas. I am not sure what I would do without an outlet for those ideas and I hope that I never have to find out. As a member of a once active, now semi-active band, there are many ways to get feedback from fans. That feedback is the awesome sauce that makes you feel like you are doing something special.

While shows are a blast during and after each performance, they are only temporary things. Even if playing out becomes a lifestyle for you, all those shows will eventually fade away to memories. They make for great stories and the interaction that you have with fans is wonderful to think back upon, but none of that is something you can touch or something you can sit back and enjoy. It's the studio that gives you an opportunity to lay down your ideas for posterity. It may not have the instant gratification that interacting with people in a live setting provides, but your recorded music is what can be shared with people later in life. It is what will endure once the band is no longer taking you from one city to the next. It's your legacy.

Marcus and I went into Pershing Hill Sound last weekend on a mission. We wanted to get a good recording of everything we have been working on as a band, including new ideas, so that all of us could have something to play along with as we work out our ideas for each of our instruments. We have all been around the block and it was apparent that something tangible would help everyone feel as though we had something to show for our hard work. This is the longest we have ever gone without playing a show and I think there was an inspirational spark that was lacking in some of us. Now everyone has something to focus on, something they can rock out with on their way to and from work and something they can play while they are at their computers. We will all be working from the same recording now instead of going through folder after folder of riff ideas with silly names. It's easy to lose focus when there are so many versions of practice recordings. It takes a special kind of obsessive compulsive disorder to stay on top of twenty recordings of half songs and to be able to hone your ideas while you sort through them all. I am pretty positive I am the only person in the band nerdy enough to make that system work.

For those interested we recorded five completed songs and three "rough sketches" which are riffs that have one or more complimentary riffs to go with them. I also wanted the guys to see how close we are to being done so that they could see how far we really have come. We have been doing the same thing for so long that some of us were beginning to show signs of "going through the motions", and that can be a band killer. It's a slow motion band killer though, especially if everyone enjoys each other's company as we do. Practices have a way of becoming their own social event. Hell, Fly Machine got to a point where we spent at least as much time playing foosball on the table just outside our room as we did playing music. We needed this to keep our focus and to re-energize the band.

As a drummer I have to have recordings every now and then to be able to critically analyze what I am doing in each track. There are good ways to do things and better ways to do things and I can't always tell which is most effective until I hear it played back. It has always been the case with Confessor that we play our music much, much better after we record. Whether that's because of focusing on something so long to get it done, being able to hear it back or a combination of the two, it's true. We sound like we have been playing our songs twice as long as a band as soon as we walk out of the studio. I am already making notes about things to change in my playing to make this album be as solid and formidable of a drum beast as possible. Since I don't know any awesome drummers to play it for me I'll have to do it myself. Sucks for you, the fans, but that's the hand we have been dealt. I would see if Keith McCoy could do it since he did such a smash up job with the Condemned intro on YouTube but as my Minister of Death, his schedule is pretty tight.

The idea to record was strategic for many reasons. Greg has moved Pershing Hill Sound to a new location and I wanted a chance to set up my monster kit in his new room so that if we do the album there we will both have a good idea of how to set things up. Also, Marcus and I had never recorded together and I wanted to have a leisurely experience for our first studio outing so that when we do the album we will be seasoned pros. There can be a lot of stress when you are finally recording your album, even if you are one hundred percent ready. Now that Marcus and I have had our first date as it were, I'll bet that when we finish the remaining songs we'll do another of these rough sketch recordings first. If everyone uses the recording from last weekend in the way we envisioned it will be an invaluable tool for sharpening our edge before we record The Real Deal. With this kind of experience under our belts we hope to make this album as close to a "Happy Ending" listening experience for everyone. Who doesn't like happiness? That's right people, only A-holes won't like our new album when it comes out. So what is the lesson in all of this? Don't be an A-Hole! Buy Confessor and Confessor related merchandise.



Editor's Note:

Monica and I have had quite a lot going on here at the house and with our families. Lots of minor and not so minor health issues with loved ones, a near death for our beloved German Shepherd, Ripp that terrified us both and the loss of my last grandparent kept us mired in what seemed like a 24/7 battering ram of uncomfortable truths that all began to fall upon us as soon as Loincloth shuddered its windows. There were many reasons I wasn't "feeling it" at all after Loincloth split up. I couldn't feign enthusiasm enough to write anything here at The Poundry. I was one hundred percent ready to make the adjustment to being in one band again but not everyone can change gears at the same time. Confessor were locked into "maintenance mode" for a very long time and I needed things to move. Just because you might be ready for something doesn't mean the people around you are, or even that they feel the same need to accomplish something that you feel. When it gets to be too much you have to make a decision: Bail because others don't share your timeline and make everyones' hard work for nothing, or stick with it because you believe what you are doing will be rewarding for the rest of your lives. That has not been anything I have had to consider with regard to Confessor in its current iteration, but I do know what it's like to have that floating around both as the person making the consideration and as someone waiting for another member to make that decision. In either situation it can stifle growth until the decision is made, and in either situation there is a lot to mull over.

Marcus and I have become a writing force in the last few months and that has culminated in last weekend's recording which I am listening to as I write this. I can hear things now that I couldn't hear in the room and several new ideas for drums and rhythm section are coming to me even now. It is truly a wonderful thing that even out of such a long period of varying levels of negativity an inspiring ray of light can touch you and lead you into a space of such creative energy. Some of that comes from being able to shed some of the negativity. There isn't such a thick layer of funk for inspiration to pierce. I am feeling more and more confident about our musical direction and our upcoming album. It will still be a while before we are done but we are rounding the last corner before our home stretch. That feels like a reward within itself, honestly.

For the Collectors of Band Facts out there, the sketch at the top of this post is an earlier draft of Confessor's logo. Even before I began illustrating as my creative outlet I had a thing for calligraphy. You can see that the serifs have a similar flow and that the 'f' is basically a lower case version of the 'F' in the logo we have always used. Plus, the fade from light to dark within each letter was the same in the final Confessor logo. I thought some of you might find it interesting as a way of seeing that how things start and how they turn out are often traceable paths.

NEWS - 3/21/2018 - from Steve Shelton

Marching Ahead

Well hello there, citizens of Earth! No, your greatest fears have not come true. I am still alive and Confessor are indeed moving pieces down the path of Total World Dominance as promised in previous posts. World dominance takes time and careful consideration. There are refugee camps that have to be put in place and mass transportation systems for the billions of displaced people which must be ready for what will be the greatest exodus in human history. While our vision of a world brought together by the universal themes found within Confessor's music may seem like a pipe dream to many, we have one thing in our possession that will ensure our success: incriminating photos of every single one of you. Resistance will be futile... practice standing at attention and all of the acceptable salutes illustrated in the pamphlet entitled "The Importance of Expressing Fealty to Your New Overlords" which should be in your mailboxes soon.

In order to show our dedication to the betterment of your lives and the world we live in, Marcus and I are going into the studio this weekend to record rough versions of the songs Confessor have written thus far for our upcoming album. These top secret versions will not be released to the public but will instead be used by the band as a tool for figuring out vocals, guitar harmonies and bass parts. Playing live in a room together is not the best way to separate yourself from the music you are trying to write. You cannot always "hear" your ideas while you are focused on playing everything correctly. I have to be able to get out of the "creation mindset" and escape into the "listener mindset" before I can truly experience what our music has to offer people. It is nearly impossible for me to become completely detached from our music, but I can step far enough back to get a good sense of which ideas are working and which are not. Believe me, it is never quite what I expect.

This process of detaching yourself from the creation process is how I keep myself in check. Often I find that the small details I have spent days, weeks or even months working on get lost in the mix and that a simpler approach will better serve our purposes. That's a painful reality for a drummer who loves those tiny details, but it is critical in refining our music and making sure that I, or we, do not go too far down a path that will be difficult for people to follow. When your music takes such a long time to write it is good to review what you are doing from time to time. The Big Picture is more important to us now than it was before and having rough versions of our completed songs will help us determine what we need to focus on for the completion of our album. While this album will definitely be more aggressive than our last, we need to make sure that all of the things we do that separate us from other bands are well represented. We want this album to be a collection of songs that are "unmistakably Confessor" so that people who are unfamiliar with our music stop what they are doing and ask "What did I just hear?!?!" and people who are familiar with us can hold their heads high and proudly proclaim that they have been on the Confessor bandwagon for years, while asking "Where were you?"

Confessor are on a bit of a roll right now in the writing process and once we have recorded the rough versions of our completed songs this weekend we will be able to focus on buttoning up the rest of the album. I will get into the nerdier details later but for now I want you all to know that we are very excited about how things are going and we hope that you, our truly loyal fans, will be as excited about this album as we are. We would like to thank every one of you for your support over the years and for your patience. Please practice all of the salutes in the pamphlet when it comes. Proper form will be an important factor in determining who the true believers are when the very pleasant, but completely unnecessary task of culling the undesirables from the herd begins. You will absolutely want to know the proper hand signals and stances throughout our grueling inquisition process. One wrong gesture could mean the difference between being a contributing member of our New Awakening and becoming a messy stain on a concrete wall full of holes.


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