Archive for the ‘Blog from Sam’ Category

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Apr 24

Busy weekend of working on Blacktape

This weekend it’s all Black tape for a blue girl over here!

I’ve been designing the digipak + booklet for These fleeting moments. I’m working with the photos I shot this week of Mercy in the bass, the band photos, and the lyrics. It is a process of realizing the ideas that have been drifting around in my thoughts for the last couple of months. Trying design ideas out, keeping them, or rejecting them. Improving, improving…

It’s looking good.

While I work at my computer, I’m listening to the most recent (and almost) final master of the album. It sounds great! Mastering is the final process of bringing the album together sonically. Howard takes my mixes, and adds compression, eq, and other stuff that tightens everything up and pulls the tracks together. The songs are diverse, with different instrumentation, and different vocalists. Now it’s sounding like one session, one band.

I dropped by Stereotypes and listened on very expensive speakers, plus on the three sets of speakers here in my house. We’re almost finished with the mastering!

In this process, I’ve learned about what I like to hear in my music, as far as what colors are important to me. This is a good lesson for working on the next album. Because yes, I’m already thinking about starting the next Blacktape album!

I had to reject the booklet on Remnants of a deeper purity (30th anniversary edition) because the printing was off (seems like not enough black, but the rep at the plant says it was too much yellow and cyan). Either way, argghhhh! They have to throw those 1000 in the trash and reprint; at least they’re paying for it, as they are the ones who messed up. Why don’t they proof things, before they go through the whole process of cutting, stapling, shipping? Oh, for the days of tight quality control. I don’t know if I mentioned I had to throw away the first run of stickers, because they were badly printed (by a different plant). Ugh! The booklet reprint is delaying the album a bit.

But it’s got to be done right! Especially since my patrons at Patreon are helping me pay for it!

I’ve received the vinyl on the BIKE SHOP ep, at long last! If you’re one of the Kickstarter backers, or if you’re curious, check this post. If you want to pre-order a copy, order here at the Projekt website. Do keep in mind that when I launch the Kickstarter for These fleeting moments, BIKE SHOP will be included in the vinyl tier.

As I sit here at the computer for hours, I’m spinning around ideas about what could be in that Kickstarter. If there’s anything Blacktape that you think would be an interesting reward, please suggest it on the Patreon page.

Have a great rest of your weekend, Sam

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Apr 07

Black Tape For A Blue Girl Two test bass shots (NSFW)

Image below might be Not Safe For Work, depending on where you work…

This morning, I tried a few more tests of Mercy in the bass (for the cover of These fleeting moments). I’ve been doing tests along the way (as I modify the bass) because I want to be really ready for the shoot. I work without a crew and I find I often miss things on set. I do a good job technically (focus, lighting, angles), but find that leads me to under-focus on the form of the body: arranging the shot. That’s why we’re practicing now, so I will be less worried about the bass, and more aware of the overall.

Even though Mercy (quite proudly) fits inside, This weekend I plan to cut the bass at the bottom to give her a few more inches of room.

I’ve never worked with an object on a cover (I did, years ago in college, on videos). So this has been a pretty fun experience.

Also, Harley wanted in on the act. Naturally. Cats! : )

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Apr 03

Black Tape For A Blue Girl, April (with photos)

Today’s post to you is brought to you by circular saw

On Tuesday, I sent the mixes of These fleeting moments to Howard, my mastering guy. That followed a weekend of driving myself a bit batty, finding small changes that seemed urgently necessary (“Is the first half of that word a db too loud? Could the drums go up .3 db in the instrumental section?”) It’s the sort of obsessive stuff that loops in my brain right at the end of the mix. But you know what? The album sounds amazing! So much good stuff, I cannot wait for the world to hear it.

The album has a May 5 deadline to meet the release date for the distributor. That means in the next few weeks I will shoot the cover photo and design the packaging. Next week, I will shoot a photo of Grace for the booklet. In 10 days I will shoot the cover photos (I am still searching for a location). Right after that, I fly to NYC to photograph Brian for the booklet. And I have to do the graphic design as well.

I just came in from the yard, and dusted myself off after making the first “modification” to the bass. I cut it open; next I will check if Mercy fits inside as is. I think I will need to do some work to make it wider, but maybe she’s petite enough?

As I was setting up the scraps for the third photo, I got a great idea for the top premium on the Kickstarter for the Deluxe CD. I’ll make a few Joseph Cornell Box-like boxes using pieces of the bass, outtake photographs, and other bits that fit the mood. That will be a fun thing to make for a few lucky backers!

Two weeks ago, I drove 600 miles into California to record with Mark Seelig. As mentioned to my Patreon patrons recently, Mark plays bansuri flutes on the Fleeting track “Meditations on the Skeleton.” R. Scot Johns commented, “I really like Mark’s flute, but would much prefer the track with no vocal…” Your wish is my command! The backstory on this track is a bit long, you can read the full blog at Patreon. The short version is that I am going to create a bonus album, an extended version of this track as an ambient/electronic journey. I will go into the studio to work with the tracks I recorded with Mark. Process, edit, texturize. My next studio project… Soon.

You might remember the Bike Shop vinyl EP that I Kickstarted back in September. Guess what! It’s almost finished. The plant says the vinyl will be pressed mid-April. OMG, vinyl takes forever! Sorry about this, but it’s been in slow-motion at the plant for a while. I’m ready to ship them, as soon as I have them in hand.

After I get These fleeting moments designed, I am going to launch the Kickstarter for the deluxe CD edition. I have interesting design ideas for the release, ideas are still spinning & forming in my head. Stay tuned for details. I hope you will support this release. It’s the first Black tape for a blue girl album in seven years, and it’s a great one! I am thrilled with Oscar Herrera’s return to the band. He says this is the best Blacktape album yet! I love hearing his voice in the music again; it was great creating these songs for him to sing! The album met my intention of sounding like it was born from the same place as the classic 90s Blacktape albums.

There’s a blog here from January, with links to videos of the band in the studio.

It’s going to be a busy two months, there is a lot for a Black Tape For A Blue Girl fan to look forward to! Thank you so much for your interest in my work, and your support.

-Sam

I thought I’d share some of the visuals I’ve been looking at lately…

1 At the very top is a close up of Mark Seelig’s flutes. Starting below that on the left and then working clockwise…

2 The Bike Shop Vinyl test pressings. The 2nd set of test pressings. I’ve sent copies out to three of the Time Trial level supporters.

3 I dropped by Cascade and picked up some samples of the 12″ cover and insert for Bike Shop. Ooooooh, they look nice. Amber Shine on the cover is just about life size. You can’t do that on a CD! Read a short blog about it (with larger photo) on the Kickstarter Update page. Michael Plaster has signed copies of the cover, and mailed them to me for my signature (these are for the backers, but there will be some leftovers for sale on the Projekt site, after all the backer packages have been mailed.)

4 Paulo in Portugal purchased a copy of the Remnants of a deeper purity vinyl release. I prepared it, signed it, and shipped it off to him. There are still around 50 copies left. If you would like a signed copy for yourself, be sure to tell Joe when you order, and also message me.

5 I designed a 4″ Projekt beer coaster. It’s at the printer.

6 I sent in the 20th anniversary CD edition of Remnants. Yes, really. It’s 20 years this summer! Wow. It will be a 6-panel digipak with 2-CDs (digi design shown here), with a deluxe 16-page booklet, and also a 1-color sticker (see that image on Facebook). This package is super deluxe thanks to the backing I receive at Patreon.

Thanks for your interest, and taking the time to read this.

Stay tune for the Fleeting deluxe CD Kickstarter, launching in May.

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Feb 24

Mercury’s Antennae: Beneath the Serene

Mercury’s Antennae: Beneath the Serene

Projekt’s first new release in a while on the darkwave side of the label is Beneath the Serene from Mercury’s Antennae. This is a perfect release for all fans of Projekt’s classic ethereal, shoegaze, dreampop sound. The duo of Erick and Dru are joined by bassist Cindy for a beautifully dynamic set of songs.

I’ll be talking about the album more in the coming weeks. Today, check out the printer’s proof of the ecoWallet. We expect to have the CD in hand early next week, then Joe will start shipping from Philly. You can stake your claim on one of the 300 copies with a pre-order at the introductory price of $12.

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Feb 11

Two new Steve Roach & a new Erik Wollo

New Releases for February

Steve Roach: Emotions Revealed CD or download A delayed transmission from the early 80s. These lost tracks created just prior to the Structures from Silence era represent two then-emerging sides of Steve’s artistic muse. Erik Wøllo: Visions CD or download This remastered $7 budget-priced collection brings together 8 standout tracks from the 12 Projekt releases by this renowned Norwegian electronic artist. Visionsinvites you into an hour of the impressive and kinetic music of Erik Wollo. Steve Roach: Live In Tucson – Pinnacle Moments CD or download Limited edition of 300. Recorded February 14th, 2015 at Tucson’s Solar Culture Galactic Center. The flow of energy this music holds offers an empowering way to ride an emotional soundwave into the present moment.
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Jan 26

Black Tape For A Blue Girl recording (with video)

I was in the studio this weekend recording vocals with Oscar & Dani Herrera for the upcoming Black Tape For A Blue Girl album, These fleeting moments. As you might know, Oscar was the band’s original vocalist from 1986-1999, performing on the first 7 of our 10 studio albums. Oscar sings eight songs on These fleeting moments. Dani – his daughter – sings three; Dani was not even a year old when vocals were laid down for our The Rope debut 30 years ago.

This was our second weekend of recording, after a session back in August. I’m excited! The vocals are all done, and they sound amazing. In fact, the entire recording for the album might be finished! I have to do some more rough mixes, and listen through and see if there’s anything else I’d like to add. But yeah, I think it might be done. Wow! The album will have a Kickstarter campaign and then a release in mid-2016.

This time I shot some video in the studio of Oscar and Dani. I made one minute clips for you:

I’m limitless

Read more about this track on my Patreon post

One promised love

She’s gone

The vastness of life

The recording of this album is supported by the patrons at patreon.com/Blacktapeforabluegirl

Do you know that there’s a lot of people who didn’t realize that Black Tape For A Blue Girl is still making music. I often get Facebook friend requests with a message like, “Wow! It was so cool to find you here. I used to listen to your music in college, nice to see you’re still active.” If you could help spread the word, that would be great!

Thanks. Sam

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Oscar Herrera returns to Black Tape For A Blue Girl

Sixteen years after he last sang with the band, original Blacktape vocalist Oscar Herrera is back in the studio with Sam Rosenthal recording These Fleeting Moments. This is more than just a nostalgic one-song appearance — Oscar sings eight songs on the new album. Complementing Oscar is his daughter Dani who sings three songs; she was not even a year old when vocals were laid down for the band’s The Rope debut 30 years ago. Here is a video with an excerpt from one of the new tracks, “The vastness of life,” followed by the duo on Sam’s couch performing the 1989 Blacktape song “Through sky blue rooms.” Recorded in August of 2015, it’s all the more poignant because of the Bowie magazine cover playfully propped up to watch over them. Oscar and Dani return to Portland in late January to record the remaining vocals on These Fleeting Moments. Sam’s lyrics emotionally confront an awareness of time’s passage, questioning where we are in life and love. The album of all new material will be Kickstarted and then released in the spring.

BlackTapeTimeline

Jan 16

Sam Rosenthal, album by album

Like all of my friends, I have been reading endless articles on Bowie. Suffice to say, Bowie’s artistic integrity has been an important part of my life as a fan of music, and as a creator of art.

An email from the local Clinton Street Movie Theatre, included a few sentences that really sums it up, “I read from friend after friend how life-changing and life-affirming this man was to each of them. His brilliance pierced the divisions of nationality and race and age, and united us in an understanding that it is okay to be whoever we are. Bowie was also a marvelous example that we don’t need to be only one thing — we can be whoever we want to be today, and we can reinvent ourselves tomorrow — as long as our core is true and kind and loving and non-judgemental.”

Reading this BBC article, the infographic of Bowie’s discography caught my eye. I love timelines, graphs, & data. I was curious what my recorded career would look like in a similar format.

You can comment on my facebook page.

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Jan 12

Oscar Herrera returns to Black Tape For A Blue Girl

Oscar Herrera returns to Black Tape For A Blue Girl

Sixteen years after he last sang with the band, original Blacktape vocalist Oscar Herrera is back in the studio with Sam Rosenthal recording These Fleeting Moments. This is more than just a nostalgic one-song appearance — Oscar sings eight songs on the new album. Complementing Oscar is his daughter Dani who sings three songs; she was not even a year old when vocals were laid down for the band’s The Rope debut 30 years ago. Here is a video with an excerpt from one of the new tracks, “The vastness of life,” followed by the duo on Sam’s couch performing the 1989 Blacktape song “Through sky blue rooms.” Recorded in August of 2015, it’s all the more poignant because of the Bowie magazine cover playfully propped up to watch over them. Oscar and Dani return to Portland in late January to record the remaining vocals on These Fleeting Moments. Sam’s lyrics emotionally confront an awareness of time’s passage, questioning where we are in life and love. The album of all new material will be Kickstarted and then released in the spring.

Stay tuned for updates from the studio.

Video at YouTube https://youtu.be/jK2GxWPLmXE

* Oscar was the band’s vocalist from 1986-1999, performing on the first 7 of their 10 studio albums.

drifting half a billion miles from the sun it’s cold and empty, everything I should have done the vastness of life, so little of it touched time, always time, rushing by death waits, we’re not immortal death waits, we’re not immortal

Click here for a blog with links to all the videos shot in the studio.

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Dec 01

Mastering the Bike Shop (Black tape for a blue girl)

Have I ever mention to you that artists are a crazy lot? We can get obsessed over a trivial detail which – quite frankly – nobody in the world will ever even notice. And if they did hear it, they wouldn’t call it a “problem.”

Two weeks ago, Josh mastered the four tracks for the “Bike Shop” vinyl ep. They sound great; very “live” and present. However, the first verse of “The Cabin” seemed too loud to me, and not compressed well. This wasn’t Josh’s fault, it happened in my mix, and then was accentuated by the EQ and compression in the mastering. Gotta fix it!

I sent Josh a new mix of the track, to compensate. Guess what!?! On the version 2 mastering the vocals in the first verse sound very consistent (as far as the volume from word to word), but they all sounds a bit too soft.

Yeah, right! Probably half a Db too soft. Anyone going to notice?

No.

Now I am going to try Josh’s patience by suggesting an EQ fix to the problem.

In “She’s Gone” I wrote, “Love’s a lot like insanity anyway.” Well, hey. Being a musician is a lot like insanity, too. : )

I found a model that I think would look great on the cover. I’ve sent her a message, but no answer yet. I made a mock-up of the cover, but I have to hear back from her before I can share it.

Things are moving along…

Sam

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Nov 05

538: Maybe Spotify Isn’t Killing The Music Industry After All

An article from one of my favorite websites, Five Thirty Eight. “Streaming now amounts to more than a quarter of all earnings for the music industry.”

Yes, streaming is growing, while physical & download sales are shrinking. Projekt has seen this pattern, like most other labels. I would love to see a chart that shows TOTAL dollars year over year for the last decade, then breaks that pie out out between physical, digital download, and streams. I am quite curious what that would look like. If you have such a chart, send me a link.

From my perspective (as the guy running Projekt), I sense there are many people who have switched to streaming as their primary source of music (with perhaps a couple purchases a year of limited edition titles from their favorite artists). While many artists reflect nostalgically about the way it was in the 90s, I am a realist; I have to think about what is happening NOW, because (alas) we cannot go back to the way it was. As a business person, I’m always looking ahead and following along with the formats that the audience is interested in. If people aren’t buying CDs (or downloads) anymore, then Projekt as a label (on behalf of my artists) has to pick up the pennies wherever I can.

I don’t think the streaming model can sustain smaller artists, the pay rate is too low. However, it’s a case of SOMETHING vs. nothing at all. Yes, I know; it sounds like I’m “endorsing” streaming. Not exactly; but at this point what’s the other option? You can’t force customers to buy something when so many have given up on buying. Loyal fans (like those of you who buy CDs from us here at the Projekt site, our Bandcamp page or iTunes), can be relied on to buy objects. But it’s tough for that to support a small act’s $14 standard retail release CD.

I tell anyone who wants to listen that things aren’t over for us artists. It’s about (a) using all the distribution/funding tools available, and (b) having a conversation with fans that financial support is really important to help us pay the costs involved in creating art.

In the end, streaming is the way a lot of the listeners are headed. Nearly all labels I speak with report substantial streaming growth in the last two years; it’s now part of how we stay in business. You can’t leave the pennies on the floor. You gotta pick them up.

I still love when people buy from Projekt, and at the same time I realize that isn’t the way everyone wants to get their music. I do what seems best for the artists I work with.

Thanks for your support.

Sam