Over the years I had written a bunch of pieces which didn't feel like they needed lyrics, so in the summer of 2016 I decide to record them and make them into an instrumental album. The title, "Detrimentals", was inspired by a comment Justin Bieber made during a police interrogation in 2014 that made me laugh (he said he was detrimental to his own career when he clearly meant 'instrumental' - see the video here).
As with nearly all my previous recordings, all the instruments were played by myself and my producer Joe - I played the keyboard parts and he played the guitar parts. We tried to make the pieces sound as different as possible, and if you listen to the album you'll hear influences from music as diverse as electronica, film scores, progressive rock and Japanese music.
1. Insert Title
With the exception of the electronic sound effects, this piece was entirely performed on my keyboard at home. It wasn't recorded to a click-track, so the timing took a while to get right. The voice clips are just me saying random phrases, an idea which was inspired by Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' (one of my favourite albums of all time). I'm not going to reveal exactly what I'm saying because I think not knowing adds to the mystique of the track.
I wanted this piece to sound like something that might play over the opening credits of an 80s sci-fi/horror film, and I decided to call it 'Insert Title' because with VHS tapes that's literally what you'd do when you wanted to watch one - insert the video (or 'title') into the player! I think the end result is pretty cool - an epic spacey opener to an unusual album.
2. Moonlit Glades
This melancholy track was influenced by Japanese composers such as Nobou Uematsu (the Final Fantasy video games) and Joe Haisaishi (many Studio Ghibli soundtracks). It started off as a simple piano tune, and we didn't want to have an overcomplicated arrangement so we just added some Japanese instruments and a little bit of electric guitar, which I think sound wonderful together.
3. Magic Hour
Despite it sounding like it was played on an acoustic guitar, this track was entirely performed on my keyboard - we actually did hire a session guitarist to play it, but parts of it proved almost impossible to be performed for real. This deceptively simple piece was very tricky to get right because of all the layers of tracks involved, and because the balance of the volume between the pad and the guitars had to be adjusted for almost every chord change.
I actually wrote this piece over ten years ago as part of my Music GCSE Composition project, but back then it didn't even have a name, and it had only a very basic piano-and-strings arrangement. The oboe melody in the second verse was something I came up with while we were arranging the piece for an orchestra, and even though it's a new addition it feels like it's always been part of the song. It was inspired by classical music, although there's also a hint of film composer Danny Elfman when the choir comes in.
5. Take The Bet
In this track I've repurposed three music cues from 'Take' (a feature film I wrote and directed in 2008) and 'I Bet You' (a feature film I co-wrote and co-directed in 2009). The picture on the cover that represents this track shows a woodland path, because both those films take place either in or near some woods.
The first and last sections of this track sound completely different to the original pieces they were based on, but apart from adding two electric guitar riffs and adjusting some of the timing, the middle section has hardly been changed at all. I love how the three parts of this song sound completely different but flow into each other really effectively. I also love how the last section starts off sounding like Pink Floyd (with Joe's epic guitar) and when the beat kicks in it suddenly becomes a gothic club track!
6. Before The Storm
As the title suggests, this track was meant to paint the picture of the calm before a storm, followed by the storm itself (with the help of thunder sound effects). This track (especially the second half) is a great showcase for my producer Joe's awesome guitar skills, and it was his idea to bring the guitar melody from the beginning back at the end, which in hindsight is such an obvious idea.
Fun fact: the missing beat before it goes quiet was a mistake from the original demo that we purposefully recreated because I had become so used to it.
This piece was inspired by the music of Shane Thomas, an incredibly talented young classical composer - I highly recommend checking out his music on iTunes. It's a sweet melody that I could imagine being used as the main theme of a family film. This track is similar to 'Keyhole' in terms of its orchestral arrangement and its rise-and-fall structure, although this piece could be considered the bright alternative to 'Keyhole's dark atmosphere.
This track is represented on the album's cover by a picture of a penguin, not because it has anything to do with penguins but because that photo was taken by my girlfriend Lydia, and the song's title is a combination of our first names (and not, confusingly, because the piece has no lyrics!)
At over twelve minutes long, this track is more than twice as long as any other I've recorded before. Essentially it's a dozen mini-pieces that I decided to string together (hence the track's original name - "Stream Of Consciousness"), and because of the many instruments and tempo changes we treated it like twelve different songs when we were recording it (with names like 'Funky', 'Military', Happy Dream', 'Blusey' etc.)
Needless to say, this track was by far the most complicated and time-consuming to record on the whole album, but it was also the most fun. I think some of the sections have strong enough melodies that they could be expanded into stand-alone songs, so one day I might try to write lyrics for them and make them into a EP (maybe I'll call it "Extremes" - get it? Ex-Stream's!)
9. Mountain Light
This very simple tune was inspired by a couple of famous film soundtracks - Ennio Morricone's main theme from 'Cinema Paradiso', and John Williams main theme from 'Jurassic Park'. It's mostly piano, but when the strings, horns and timpani come in near the end it builds to a glorious crescendo that I think ends the album on a very satisfying note.