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Saved by a hair appointment, no more COVID-19 roots!
I decided to write this blog entry after “World is Watching” episode 08 (Season Finale) premiered because I am gearing this post to be more like a postmortem/reflection of the whole house concert and collaboration process. Here we go!
The songs I chose to perform for the “World is Watching” episode 8 (aka The Season Finale) were “Love Will Tear Us Apart” a Joy Division cover and “Leather & Love – Berlin Darkroom Dance Mix Featuring Matthew Presidente. The reason why these songs were chosen is because both songs have a long and vast history with myself, Matthew Presidente and Don. Don has had a concept for shooting “Love Will Tear Us Apart” for a long time and this was the perfect time for Don’s visual concept to come to life.
My love for Joy Division & New Order…a brief history.
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” is a song by the Manchester Post Punk band Joy Division. I think I first heard the song in 1988 on a mixed tape that was given to me by a friend and coincidentally the tape also had a New Order song called “Blue Monday” on it. At this time in my life I was getting these great mixtapes with bands like Depeche Mode, Erasure, Yaz (Yazoo if you’re outside of Canada), The Smiths, The Cure and S-Express and I was falling in love with alternative/electronic music. When I had heard both “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Blue Monday” I fell in love with them immediately not knowing that the two bands were related to each other.
I discovered the history of both these bands in 1990 and It drew me ever closer to what all the members would do. I have been a fan of all members in and out of the two bands. Peter Hook would do projects like “Revenge”, “Monaco” and later on “Peter Hook & the Light” & also also recently collaborated with Gorrillaz. Bernard Sumner would be a part of the projects “Electronic”, Bad Lieutenant, and he would also do guest vocals for electronic bands 808 State & the Chemical Brothers. Stephen Morris & Gillian Gilbert would also do a separate project called “The Other Two”.
As a side note…Peter Hook has not been a part of New Order for years. I have met him on a few occasions at his Peter Hook & the Light shows and at a book tour stop in San Francisco for “Substance: Inside New Order”. I have seen New Order with and without Peter Hook as a member. I have not met the other members of New Order (I would like to…some day.).
In 2008 Photographer, Video and Film Director Anton Corbjon released a film about Joy Division called “Control”. In my opinion the film is an absolute masterpiece and after I watched the film I knew I had to cover “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.
In regards to covering a much beloved and sacred song like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (also like “Enjoy the Silence”) I felt I had to dive deep into what was in my own heart. Would the song be like the original which is a song you can dance to at 120 bpm or would it be a melancholy slow ballad to reflect my feelings about a brilliant lyricist taken from us too soon. In the end I would go with a reflective melancholy ballad. I proposed this idea to Matthew and he was totally onboard to play piano/synth and backing vocals on the cover. When I brainstormed my idea for the cover with Don he immediately had a concept. For you see, Don is a guy with an eye for design. 🙂
Don’s had a design concept for the video. I would be dressed in black and lit to appear in void. Matthew would be lit in a similar manner and added to the video like a ghost. Since we currently don’t have ability to rent spaces due to COVID-19 we would have to settle with our at home DIY film studio!
Don moved our living room furniture for space, rigged the space with a series of lighting stands and truss poles and hung black curtains as a backdrop. We set the mic stand in the center, riggaed a spotlight on me. I was dressed in a two piece outfit to look like a solid back gown, long back gloves and a small hat with a mesh “black widow” face cover attached.
We filmed multiple takes of my live performance. Once again we selected the best single take and sent it to Matthew to record his parts. Don spoke to Matthew and described the lighting and “stage” setup required so he could match his living room film set to ours.
When Matthew sent his footage to Don we immediately looked at the video and as usual Matthew did not disappoint. The feel from my footage and his matched perfectly and then it was time for Don to Utilize Final Cut Pro to edit it all together.
The end result was brilliant and haunting.
The second song I had to film for episode 8 was “Leather & Love”. So, Matthew Presidente and I wrote “Leather & Love” and he released it on his 2017 album titled “Every Single Sin”. The song is about Matthew’s first adventure he encountered (with Don & I) at the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco.
The sound of the original song on the album has a Roland 303 GrooveBox, piano, synth supported with a little electric guitar (from me). The vocal is a he/she duet. We managed to record the track in our home studio and it sat on the shelf for a while. In 2017 Matthew released the original version of Leather and Love as part of his album “Every Single Sin”… Seem appropriate.
In 2019 Matthew released the album “Matthew Presidente with The Boys”. The album is a compilation of Matthew’s favorite songs he has written over the years. The songs were re-recorded with the band and “Leather & Love” was rerecorded and added to the album. The album has a “rock” sound which is a little of a departure from his previous work.
That album “Matthew Presidente with The Boys” got me thinking about rerecording “Leather & Love” with a twist. My plan was to rewrite some of the lyrics to reflect our times together in Berlin and rerecord the song as a dance mix. I approached Matthew with the idea and once again he loved the idea and he was totally onboard! After reworking the song it was ready to be rerecorded & filmed for Episode 8 and as a plus, the finger I sliced up a few weeks ago was 95% healed so, I could play guitar again.
Once again Don staged the apartment accordingly and I dressed up like I would for a night at the KitKat Club in Berlin. We recorded and filmed our part, sent the files to Matthew via Dropbox.
Matthew sent back his recording and video footage so, Don could work his Final Cut Pro magic. Matthew also wanted to do his version of Leather & Love with the Band so, it was agreed that episode 8 would open with Leather and Love (with the band) and my version of “Leather and Love – Berlin Darkroom Mix (featuring Matthew Presidente)” would be the closing song for the episode.
“World is Watching” episode 08 (Season Finale) premiered on Youtube Monday, May 11th at 8:00 p.m. (pacfic) and due to the 9 hour time difference the episode premiered in Berlin on Tuesday, May 12th at 5:00a.m. (CET).
Don and I made the decision to stay awake and watch the premier with everyone on Canada’s West Coast to watch the show and participate in the Youtube live chat. This decision might have messed up our sleep for the week but, it was totally worth it. It was really wonderful being a part of the live Youtube chat with all of our friends in Vancouver who were also watching the premier.
Coming to the end of the show after “Leather & Love” played there was an unexpected encore by Matthew. Matthew’s father had passed away a few days before episode 8’s premier and Matthew is a person that will push forward because his mantra is “the show must go on.” On the piano solo Matthew played Simon & Garfunkel’s song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and dedicated it to his dearly departed father Captain Peter Tobias Presidente. Don and I knew Matthew’s father and we really liked him so, at 6:30 am (Berlin time) Matthew’s performance brought us to tears.
To close a moment of time in this blog…
I have to say I really enjoyed participating in Matthew President’s the “World is Watching” house concert Series. It’s been a lot of fun recording, filming and collaborating. Don has really enjoyed filming, producing and editing. I have been so productive in the past 8 weeks and I could not ask for anything better to do during a pandemic. You can see the full series here on YouTube.
Now that season one has come to a close I am looking at starting my own at home Youtube variety show. I am currently contemplating a few formats that are on the table. I will keep all of you posted. 🙂
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 gin martini… Cheers!
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!
I have uploaded two individual videos that were part of Matthew Presidente’s World is Watching home concert YouTube series. Here are two from the series with more to come over the next few weeks. Enjoy