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To Write A Soundtrack

…post written by soundtrack artist Dominique Fraissard.
 

In the opening track, Current Situation, on the Reveal The Path soundtrack album, I sing…

like anybody I find I’m drawn to things that sometimes seem all wrong
I’m sure that anyone setting out on the Tour Divide or a long dreamed of adventure or renovations, can identify with that sentiment. So it was that I plugged in at home for the recording of the RtP soundtrack – a task I am seasoned to… when someone else is twiddling the knobs.

Have you ever been bedding down for the night and some task for tomorrow, or some deadline item crosses your mind and you have a sudden pang of dread, replete with all the requisite rushing chemicals and the associated anxiety? Of course you have. Well that was me, at intervals, throughout the months of November 2011 to about March ’12. And you know. I’m glad for it. For one thing, it was a malaise that made me rise to the challenges and be determined to take control of those dire emotions. And I learned a lot about myself. For instance, I am truly not interested in the leading edge of the technological thrust. I am enamored of technology, but I now know what parts truly fit me. As far as recording goes, I’m happy to dole out dollars to sit in a nice room and have someone bring me cups of tea and tell me when to punch in on a take, while they twiddle the knobs. I’ve made 5 great albums that way. But the RtP soundtrack was a very different baby. It wasn’t my baby alone. So yeah, kinda nerve wracking when you commit to someones project in the context of your own baptism of fire as a recording engineer. There’s a helpful guy out there in a Steinberg forum (makers of the Cubase recording program), goes by the name of ‘Split’ and I probably owe him my life. He and I will probably never meet, so that debt goes to my sonic soul brother, Syd Green, co-producer of the RtP Soundtrack.

A BIKE HARP, A BOWED MANDOLIN AND A 30-06

The brief for this soundtrack was rolling around in my head for a year prior to the creative crescendo of late ‘11 to early ’12. I had many ideas, scribbles on paper and whiteboard, as well as loads of bits hummed, sung and generally onomatopoeia’d into my ipod. The way that I was approaching the brief, was to create songs for each location, or country, the film visited. Then a few tidbits for atmospherics. Probably the first idea from left field came from Mike Dion.

Mike and I were working on the Kickstarter campaign and we figured on having signed guitars as a reward. Then one day he sends me a youtube link of these strung bikes – bicycle harps. I knew I could make one and so a song was born. Harp Cycle Raga is one of my faves on the soundtrack.We have been diligently seeking out a suitable means of amplification, so that I can create a looped piece on the bike harp to play live on this tour.

When you think of Alaska, you tend not to think of beaches and reggae music. I had 3 key ideas when I was considering the track for Alaska. One, I had a refrain, ‘you’re on your way home’, sung in a round, by children, as Mike was thinking of a kid choir way back in planning. Two, I wanted to create beats, by recording my 30-06 rifle being locked and loaded. Three, well, I kinda expected Mike to get emotional at some stage during the journey. And I figured it would be in Alaska. So I was working on a minor key theme. But when I called him and asked about the vibe in different locations, he said he’d been stoked in Alaska and that he was thinking upbeat and Reggae. I was open to it, but thrown and said, “Reggae?? Alaska isn’t tropical”. To which he replied,“Yeah, but we were on the beach!”

 

I mentioned this to Syd and he immediately turned me on to his own recent obsession, Black Dub. So, we kept the kids and the gun, injected some slinky dub and the song Alaska Rasta was born. It’s a spacious number, very much designed for a soundtrack, but with a catchy refrain and choice hooky moments. At one point I had been noodling with a lead riff on guitar. I sent my takes for the day to Syd (we worked over yousendit.com by sending WAV files to one another and loading them in to our own recording software) and he returned them mixed the next day, get this, with an almost identical lead guitar riff in the same spot that I had been working one in at home. He’d never even heard mine and we’d not discussed it. He’s in Australia and I’m in Canada. Kinda makes me less skeptical about people being able to fall in love over the internet. Syd remarks on our ‘through the headphones’ connection on the RtD DVD extras segment about the making of the soundtrack.

By far my personal favorite on the soundtrack is Trans Continental. Sometimes a piece comes to you unbidden and has a life of its own. It comes to you, or through you and it is important in its role in your life and in the lives of other people. This is one of those songs. I wrote it intending it for Nepal. It is mandolin driven, with strong sitar presence and the use of other traditional instrumentation, including throat singing that I performed myself and some audio we have of the Nepali guide, Hari, who appears in the film. Syd worked magic on this song, as he did on all of them, and did his classic Syd thing of pushing me out of my comfort zone and into areas of vocalization and open space that I would never have thought of. I was determined to take this piece on the road, though I am touring solo. It evolved for the stage so that I am looping the mandolin and also bowing it as if it were a violin. I’m still finding my feet with it, but have loved doing it live in Minneapolis and Madison.

So that is truly what happens when you follow the path. Rarely are you actually following one when you rise to a challenge. It tends to be more as Emerson said – you tend to ‘go where there is no path and leave a trail’. I mean, what the hell am I doing in Denver CO or Minneapolis MN or Madison WI? Same thing I hope to be doing for you in the weeks ahead. Bringing our play of sound and light, to mingle our hopes and be mutually inspired.

Dominique Fraissard.

Soundtrack available on: iTunes & RtP Store