Life in self isolation in the time of the Corona Virus continues in Berlin. I have adopted a hybrid French Ninja look when outside the home since it complies with the mask requirements. As you know by now I have been involved with a home performance YouTube project created by my dear friend and fellow musician Matthew Presidente . Don and I usually can’t watch the premieres of the “World is Watching” Youtube because, it launches Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. Pacific which, for us, is Tuesday at 5:00 a.m. in Berlin. We are NOT morning people and 5:00 am is when we like to go to be and not wake up! Those who know us can attest to our vampire hours. The nine hour time difference makes creating & collaborating with Matthew (who is located on the West Coast of Canada) easy because I am literally always ahead. But again I digress. So long story short Don and I will watch each new “World is Watching” episode on Tuesday at noon with a coffee in hand.
On Tuesday April 28th as Don and I were watching episode 6 and the Youtube live chat during the show. It’s always fun to watch the comments people make on the live chat as they are watching the show. Most of the people watching & participating on the live chat are our friends in Vancouver (we miss them a lot). During the live chat close to the end of the show we see a request for some “Synth Pop”. The conversation went a little like this:
“Glauber Baldo: Try some Synthpop, like Depeche Mode, VNV Nation or my favorite New Order
Matthew Presidente: Depeche Mode is a great idea – – – @Tara?
Vereor11: Yes! this is my depeche mode request!”
If you don’t already know, I am a HUGE Depeche Mode fan. I have been a fan since 1988 and to date I have seen the band 14 times live. I have seen Dave Gahan solo “Paper Monsters” tour (2003) and I attended Alan Wilder’s Recoil Selected tour in Seattle. I have also met past band members: Alan Wilder & Vince Clark and I have met current members: Martin Gore, Andrew Fletcher. The only member of DM I have not yet met is the elusive Dave Gahan.
In the past I have toyed with the idea of forming a Depeche Mode tribute project or covering Depeche Mode songs, getting the rights and releasing them. This request made me wrestle with these eternal questions: What Depeche Mode song should I cover? Should I cover a song that I love but, people would not know or should I do what I would call a “Depeche Mode Standard”? In the end I went with covering the standard that almost everyone would know “Enjoy the Silence”. In my humble opinion “Violator” is the BEST Depeche Mode album and “Enjoy the Silence” is the BEST Depeche Mode single (I love it so much I even have the Violator Rose surrounded by a mustard yellow tattooed on my back. I know that many fans may or will disagree with me but, I stand by my statement.
Covering a favorite band always makes me nervous. First off I want to make sure I can do the song vocally and “Enjoy the Silence” is one of the few Depeche Mode songs sung by Dave Gahan I can actually sing. You see Dave Gahan is a Baritone (two octaves lower than middle C) and I am a Mezzo-Soprano (A3 just below middle C-A5 two octaves higher than Middle C) so, for most of the Depeche Mode songs that are sung by him are usually too low for me to match up in a mid to Soprano range. For some reason “Enjoy the Silence” is one of those few songs sung by a man who has a thick baritone voice that fits my vocal range.
The next thing that makes me nervous is arranging the song. In my opinion I want the song to sound close to the original but also not be a carbon copy of the original. I also want to choose sounds that emulate the song that don’t sound cheezie (I’d love to be able to find the original sounds/samples used on the song but, I don’t have the time for that). I started arranging the song by choosing the beat first, the sounds for the bass melody line second, and the synth instruments that give the sound a rich feeling after that. That took about two days to complete. My next step was to record a scratch vocal track with the beats that I could send to Matthew so, he could lay down his piano track, backing vocal and film his best take to send back as a package to Don and myself. This is the process for all our songs we have been producing for the show.
The next stage was for me to record my lead vocal & film the performance. For my costume I decided to emulate the late 80’s/early 90’s fashion meaning: I dressed in black, wore one of my Depeche Mode concert shirts (it’s from the Global Spirit tour), got out a Leather Blazer style jacket, loaded up with all of my Depeche Mode Pins and last but not least I got my “Martin Gore’esque” black bowler hat out not only to have that “look” but also to hide my Corona Virus Quarantine hair (oh my god do I need a haircut.).
As I got my look together Don transformed our apartment’s living room into our Corona Virus Quarantine recording/filming studio. Because this was a day shoot we wanted the look of the studio to focus on the synthesizers and midi controllers because of the songs Syth primary sound.
After we had finished setting the stage and I was in costume and ready to go. Filming my lead vocal and syth performance took 7 takes in total to perfect. After recording and filming Don and I will sit down and choose the best performance to use for the final mix. This time it was take number 7 (lucky 7!). For this and all the other songs in the project we use a single “off the floor” take. What that means is we record the vocal and instrument as well as the video in a single take. We do multiple takes and pick the best one to use for the final video. No editing, overdubs or mixing between takes. This adds to the authenticity of the performance of a “live” show. Now Don will do a final mix of all the audio, midi and vocal tracks including Matthews and then sync the tracks to the video. Syncing and editing video is time consuming and takes a lot of patience. Don uses Final Cut Pro for editing video and this time Don was having fun playing around with all of the visual filters the software has to offer. After has completed all of the video editing we send the finished video to Matthew so he can add it into the show. In the end I really hope the audience likes my version of “Enjoy the Silence”. I plan on releasing the version in the coming weeks.
Other songs I participated in included “Homo for the Holidays” and “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. Both songs had been requested. Hey jude was requested by a fan but, “Homo for the Holidays” was requested by someone close to Matthew…his Father.
Matthew’s Father is currently in a managed care facility in the Lower Mainland. Because of the Coronavirus lockdown Matthew had not been able to see his father but, there are staff members of the facility that have access to iPads & wifi so, the staff would bring and iPad to Matthew’s father’s room and screen “World is Watching”. After watching an episode Matthew’s father requested a Christmas song so, we decided we should do a “tongue-in-cheek” queer Christmas song we wrote years ago called “Homo for the Holidays”. We got our Santa hats out and “ham & cheesed” the whole performance up. It was a hoot to record and film (I even got the triangle out).
‘World is Watching” episode 07 premiered on Monday, May 4th (May the 4th Be With You!).
So, for all of you out there that decided to take a moment to read this blog I hope you all stay safe and stay healthy!
It’s time for a glass of wine and decide if I should get Don to cut my hair!