Studio Campfire Stories: “Ablyss…” …(just over) Ten-Year Anniversary Of My First Album

When I look back on 2001, the first thing that comes to mind is, “DAMN! That was eleven years ago?!” But when I really dig into it and all that occurred that year, I can summarize it by simply stating that it was a year of transition and adjustment. I had just graduated in December of 2000 with a degree in Studio Art (Graphic Design) from Western Kentucky University and was on the hunt for a job in my field – a job hunt that actually continued THROUGH 2001. So I decided to enroll back in school at WKU to start working on an MBA Degree… BUT since I was a Graphic Design major and had little to no business-related courses at all, I had to spend 2001 taking “pre-requisite” courses to even be put on the correct path for an MBA… How fun. Once again looking back on things, hindsight tells me that a course called “Life after college” should probably be required DURING college, because clearly I had NO clue in regards to what the hell I was doing at the time once I got outta there. Baseball, the sport that paid fully for my college education and the sport that I had been playing since age nine ended for me in the summer of 2000 and I was still adjusting to a life without it. After moving to my first off-campus apartment during that same time, I was able to spread out a bit – there was a huge difference from the good ole 10X10 dorm rooms folks lived in while on-campus. This was important because it meant that I was able to find sufficient room for my keyboard and amp. Back then, I was armed with only a Yamaha EX5 (which I still have in the studio) and used its sequencer to program joints I did at the time. I later installed a version of Cubase onto my Mac and used it to record and edit everything via this Tascam mixer I picked up… It’s crazy typing this out and realizing that these pieces of equipment represent my first bit of a studio and start as a serious musician. The thing is, even then I wasn’t aware how serious it was or may become – SO much has changed since then. If you were to ask me back then what I was doing musically, I would have told you that I was “making beats” rather than “writing compositions.” I was content with just a 2, 4, or 8-bar loop…. Alright, that’s another beat, *press save*… and let’s move on to the next one. By doing this, I was able to fly through music, show it off to friends who would come through the apartment, see their reactions and be motivated to make more of it. Have you ever heard of the kats who brag about making 10-20+ beats in a day? I wanted to be that guy… Make a ton of music that sounded good because I knew I had the work ethic to keep it going (I have since learned that quantity has NOTHING on the quality of your music). In 2001, most of my friends didn’t even know that I played an instrument, much less knew that I understood how to put any type of music together… So hearing tracks from ME? Lorenzo the baseball player? … It was rather odd to some of them. I can remember a group of friends coming through one night, and while they were there I went to load some joints up. At that point, I had about 15-20 beats or so completed and saved to a 3.5″ floppy disk………. and the disk decided it was going to go BAD. I kept attempting to load these joints up but to no avail… and to say the absolute least… I. Was. PISSED. All of that work = Gone forever… There were three things that I learned that night: 1. Back everything up, 2. BACK. EVERY. DAMN. THING. YOU. DO. UP. and 3. It is extremely difficult to capture the original feeling of your music by recreating it on the spot. I ignored the shit ouf of my guests the rest of that night and sat down at the keyboard mad as hell to make the music all over again, from memory. I didn’t want to talk with anyone, I wasn’t in the mood to crack any jokes… I was in “recovery mode”. As crazy as it sounds… THIS episode was actually the beginning of my very first album, Ablyss. I honestly do not remember how many of those 15-20+ tracks I ended up redoing that night from memory, but I do remember that being the incident that jumpstarted my mausicmaking. Pretty hilarious how things work out…

There are TWO cassette tapes of beats that exist prior to the Ablyss recording. I still have copies of them both and there are a couple more that I sent off to friends that may be floating around somewhere… But that’s IT. I have another cassette tape with a ton of remakes I did in high school between 1992 and 1996 and there is ONE copy of that. But the work I started doing for Ablyss was a bit different, it even felt different as I was creating it. I was motivated to create something to burn to a CD for the first time and have it serve as an “introduction” to my transition from baseball player to music maker – A difficult task? Absolutely. Impossible? Nah, I didn’t think so. Ok, now… Once I have enough joints to fill up an 80 minute CDr, how in the hell do I transfer this music from my sequencer to a disc?! I didn’t even know how to do that at the time. After asking around at a local music spot, it was suggested that I pick this up… a Tascam US-428 mixer that would control an early version of Cubase (recording software) already installed on my year old Mac desktop computer. When I opened the box to the brand new mixer and connected it to my computer, I just remembered thinking, “…The hell am I supposed to do NOW?” I would mess with the software, get frustrated and go back to it later to try again. This happened a couple of times before I finally got it to work for me. I was able to connect my keyboard directly into the mixer, record into Cubase, convert the music into a .wav file and burn it onto a CD by using iTunes. Talk about being excited to make some music… Of course, the recording and editing process was much different for me then too – Everything was trial and error. I recorded into Cubase as a two-track (a left and right stereo recording), which means that all of the ‘drops’ I inserted into the music were done in one take and manually by muting that particular track on the keyboard’s sequencer as the song played. I know, I know… I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know what I was doing. BUT, I started to see an album begin to come together and that’s what mattered to me the most. At the end of this process, the album contained beats that I assigned numbers to rather than names (“Beat #23” for example), a couple of remakes including Prince’s “My Love Is Forever” from his For You album, and two “bonus tracks” that  I did in Atlanta with a good friend of mine and fellow WKU alum, DJ/Producer Jon Doe from the group Prophetix.

Once the final song was recorded and I had burned the very first CD full of my own material… I took it to my truck (then equipped with 2 12″ subwoofers in the trunk) popped it in the CD player and rode around Bowling Green, KY for more than two hours BLASTING the finished product all the way through TWICE starting at 3am. I have tried before to come up with a few words to fully explain how good it felt to hear my own music in the car that first time, but I simply cannot. Let’s just say I was floating on cloud nine for a couple of hours. After riding around past 5am and burning up some good ole $1.45/gallon gas, I wound up at the Wal-Mart across the street from my apartment… Why? Well, I was so excited about this new creation that I wanted to SHARE it with folks ASAP. So I bought a couple of packs of padded envelopes, went back home to do some quick cover art, printed it on regular paper and then started burning more CDs. I gathered up addresses of the people I was close to and started writing… There ended up being a total of 20 packages sent out the following day. I’m not sure if anyone still HAS an original copy of the album I sent out, but that would be real dope…

Ablyss is the only album that I still have available for purchase now that was created and completed in my college apartment. As an artist, you are always emotionally attached to your works but that first one is special. I mean, I can remember exactly what I was doing and what was going on around me while creating most of the joints on this album. For example, “Beat #20” was done while I was on the phone… and I can still remember who I was talking with. I just feel extremely blessed because the fact that I’m even sharing a story about my first album years later means that I have made it further than even I had initially envisioned. What an excellent feeling. …And I still can’t believe this all officially began 11 years ago.

Purchase Ablyss and all other Zo! releases here

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