Drums: We’re going digital

Thank you for the suggestions, volunteers, and “I’ve got a friend” messages after our call for a drummer. We’ve decided to move forward with MIDI drums, which will give us the greatest control. Half the songs are completely done in demo form and just need to have their drum sounds upgraded. If anybody likes programming MIDI drums and feels like helping with that, shout — we’ll give you credit.

That said, not only are half the tracks completely tracked, but we’ve now got at least something recorded for all but one song, which we saved for last on purpose. The next few weeks are going to be light on gaming and heavy on working in whatever spare time we have outside of our busy jobs and abnormal normal lives. We are still dedicated to a late spring/early summer release window, and if we finish stuff now, we can give video partners time to do their thing for that same time frame.

Help us find a drummer

We had hoped to have the whole album recorded by the end of 2016. The second half of the year turned into a crazy time for both of us. Jude had a major scientific breakthrough at work this fall (which then created more work for him, because that’s science) plus he’s raising two small children. Over the summer, Dan traveled to Germany, France, and various US cities for work, then produced a live concert in San Francisco in October, which was exhausting. Basically, the last six months were a black hole for Palette-Swap Ninja efforts. But in reviewing what we’ve recorded and seeking the advice of some pro audio friends, one thing became very clear: We need a drummer.

In fact, we have tried, unsuccessfully, to find a drummer for this project since its earliest days. When we started, we reached out to a fan who’d contacted us two years prior, saying “If you ever need a drummer, call me.” So we did, and he said “Cool, sounds fun!” A year later, he informed us that he wasn’t really into playing, you know, other people’s music, which made his original offer weird. Jude and I approached two drummers we’d worked with in our previous live bands, and while both were supportive, neither wanted to commit. We’ve contacted multiple friends of friends who say they want to do it but then go silent. We’ve talked to professional drummers for hire who gave us realistic estimates of $2000, which is not feasible for a project that will give away for free. And so we’ve chipped away and soldiered on, repeating to ourselves that in order to do this project justice, we really, really need a drummer.

And completely seriously, maybe that drummer is you.

We live in a crowdsourced world; if you want something done right, ask a few hundred people to help you do it. So this is an official call for people who like our music enough to want to be our session drummer for the project.

We are looking for either of the following:

  • a drummer with an acoustic or electric kit who can record uncompressed audio files for us to drop into Logic Pro X
  • a MIDI drum programmer/arranger who can create and sculpt our digital placeholders into something that sounds dynamic and organic

This is a full-length album, probably 45 to 50 minutes total. We are planning to release this album for free; if we wind up making any money on it, we will share that with our drummer. But we are currently hoping that we might simply find a serious hobbyist who shares our motivations to make fun stuff for free — or at least someone who might have a more affordable fee that we can discuss. Nobody pays their rent with “exposure” so we understand what we’re asking here, but we also never know who’s out there and what motivates them. Maybe there’s a drummer out there who is just as interested in doing goofy music as we are, and might really be inspired by the concept once we let them in on the big idea. Or maybe there’s someone out there who will work for cheap. Let’s figure it out.

We have chosen a release window, and this project is coming out one way or another, but we really want it to come out right. So if you are a drummer/drum programmer or you know a drummer you think might be willing to go under FrieNDA to learn more, please have them send a mail to dan@paletteswapninja.com with links to samples of self-recorded work. It’s a shot in the dark — so please, help us take aim.

Progress report, June 2016

We’re about halfway through the year, and I’m happy to say we have six of the 12 or 13 songs for the album recorded. I have done my “final” mixes on them, and they sound good — I’m not ashamed of them, we’ve nitpicked a few things and corrected them — but I am starting to wonder what they would sound like if someone with more experience mixing on modern equipment gave it a shot. Keep in mind that my audio degree is now about 20 years old, and I got it on the last gasp of all-analog signal paths; digital recording was coming in as I was going out. I also never pursued a career in audio recording and engineering as I’d intended, so I’m more than a bit dusty and rusty. Getting a professional, modern set of ears may cost money, so we’ll see how that works out. (We still plan to release this for free.)

That said, both Jude and I really like what we’ve got recorded. It’s kind of weird to listen to our current MP3 mixes and have them inspire us to keep going, but that’s exactly what’s happening — “Wow, that sounds good, we can’t screw up these other tracks, they all have to be aces!” Now that we have a half-dozen songs in, at the very least, advanced demo stage, we are going to approach more partners who might be able to amplify what we’re doing. I really think that’s worth it, and I’m willing to delay the release if it means getting a good partnership from, say, someone who could make quality videos for some of the songs. That will ultimately determine the final release date.

The second half of the year looks very busy so we’ll be recording as we can, but the results are speaking for themselves.


Apology, 2015 Edition

Well, it’s the end of another December, so it’s time for the annual sheepish apology post.

This time last year, we really did think you’d be listening to the project right now. What happened? Not enough and too much, to be honest. We got three songs fully recorded and had a good head of steam in late spring, and we were still looking at a November 2015 release. Then we both hit real-life delays — I bought a house, Jude had another child, and we were both swamped with our real-world jobs. (As a reminder, Jude is a research scientist who often has to travel to do science, and I work at a videogame company on a title that puts out new DLC every single week.) So “I’m going to work on some music this weekend” is a great thing to say but not easy to actually do. And this is taking priority for what little time is available; for instance, Dan’s podcast with his wife is on hiatus until this project is finished.

We realize that while we are musicians and we really only care about making the songs sound good, that’s not how people consume comedy online. If you don’t have a video for your song that people can pass around, you don’t get exposure — weirdly, if you don’t give people video, they don’t listen to your audio. So we realize that video of some sort simply has to be part of the process; we need these songs to debut as videos. One of the things we did this year was reach out to friends who know more than we do, and they helped us reach out to potential partners to help us create those videos. We do have some interest, but it’s all still vague because we haven’t finished the music. Justifiably, when you’re asking someone to put their time, money, and resources into your idea, it’s riskier for them to commit if your idea is not complete and tangible. So, it still comes back to what we already knew: We need to get the music done first, even if that means not releasing it immediately, while our partners build on it and make it something far more attractive. We want the total package.

We know we’ve been inactive for too long. We love hearing from people who say the songs we’ve done still bring them joy and they sing our lyrics when the originals come on the radio. We know all seven of our fans are out there, and we really are grateful for your patience. But doing this right is far more important to us than doing this fast. Just yesterday we talked on the phone and agreed to push the schedule back as long as it needs to be pushed, and realistically, that might mean it doesn’t even come out in 2016. Our musical deadlines are all still next year, and we’re trying to find both the right partner and the right opportunity to release what we really think is going to be the best thing we’ve ever done.

It shouldn’t take this long…but it is. This project is ambitious, scary, and time-consumning — but it’s not impossible, and we really do think it’s going to be worth the wait.

Happy new year?

— Dan

The Project is Real

Has it really been more than a year since we posted anything here? It can’t be true. And yet there it is — nothing since “Major Rip-Off.” Oh man.

Well, here’s the good news: In the interim, we have been writing and recording, even taking some classes and upgrading a little gear here and there, and things are starting to take shape on The Big Project. We have the lyrics complete, at last, and reviewing them, we think they really work. Jude has been tracking drums and key parts along with other miscellaneous instruments (real and simulated) involved in this one. Dan’s starting to add in temp vocals and some final guitar/bass parts. It feels good to be this far — it actually has reached the point where we’re tired of dreaming about it and need to see it actually exist!

Unfortunately, we’re still a ways off, and we’ve got to keep it all under wraps until it’s done. We will explain why when it’s finally unveiled, but we do think this will be something you will finally get to download in 2015.

Let’s meet back here.

Our demented dream actually came true

Jude and I do this because it’s fun. But I won’t lie — the recognition we’ve gotten from fans is huge to us, and we have shared a secret dream since we started. We never planned to be rich or famous (and to date, we’re operating according to plan), but we did want one thing. And on June 29, 2013, we got it.

We were featured on the Dr. Demento Show.

A few weeks ago, I sent in four of our tracks — “Arcade Gaming Shrine,” “Rage Quitter,” “Halo ((All I Play-Oh))” and “Learn to Spell” — for consideration. You submit songs the old-fashioned way: You burn a CD and mail it to them, and they ask that you just send a few songs. The good Doctor and his team listen to everything personally and screen every song, so I didn’t have any expectations of hearing things soon. But the encouraging words from our fans made me feel it was the worth the effort and we could let ourselves dream just a little bit.

And there it is, “Arcade Gaming Shrine,” right between Rick Moranis and Jimmy Fallon — real, honest-to-goodness professional funny people.

I mean, seriously? It’s all we’ve ever wanted. If you are a band that wants to “make it,” maybe you dream of touring or having a video or doing groupies — but if you are a couple of dorky guys who copy Weird Al’s formula and replace all the relevant pop-culture parts with highly specialized references to videogames, then there is no better form of “making it” than being on Dr. Demento.

This gives us a great morale boost as we move forward. And yes, we are moving forward.  You have not heard the last of Palette-Swap Ninja — we promise.

And again, thank you for the support, fans. You are both great people.