Filtering by Tag: Drop Kick Jesus

My band Yellow #1's album "Thanks for the Nostalgia" turns 3

Waaaaay back in 1995, I started my first band, Yellow #1. We released one album in 1996 called Bottle of Rain. We played about three years worth of live shows all over New England; we even opened for Godsmack and had a song from the album ("Broken Eyes") played on Boston radio station WAAF. Oh, and a few music magazines reviewed the album. I approached the songwriting as a Mr. Bungle meets Nine Inch Nails. Then, in 1998, we played our last live show and broke up. I went on to front the bands Drop Kick Jesus, The Grave Machine, and Transpose … never ever thinking Yellow #1 would ever see the light of day again.

Then, in 2014, while we were living in Japan (and Transpose had just come off its last tour), I decided it might be time to resurrect the band and see if we had another album of tunes in us after 19 years. Work on the second album began in 2014 with producer and hip-hop artist Darius Malloy (RedStryke). The difference from Bottle of Rain that I was most adamant about this album, was I did not want a single real instrument on the album. The first album, along with all the programming, synthesizers, and drum machines, still had live drums, acoustic guitar, piano, electric guitar, harmonica, and tambourine. I knew I wanted this album to completely exist inside computer programs.

Darius worked with me on four songs, supplying beats and bass lines. I got to work on the other songs and filled in the gaps of what he left for me on his songs. In 2015, I had twelve songs completely written for the new album. All I had left was to write the lyrics.

Bottle of Rain had been built lyrically from the strife and angst of Nine Inch Nails, Korn, and Quicksand. I was 20 years older and didn't quite carry the same frustrations with life or my inner demons anymore. BUT, I knew in order to assign the Yellow #1 moniker to the album, it still needed to FEEL like a Yellow #1 album. This was the first album of ANY of my bands' albums (this is the 7th album I have released throughout my 4 bands) where the lyrics were less introspective and more worldly. I put my own personal journal in the backseat and focused more on universal topics that still create a rise in me. I also hadn't written lyrics for an album since 2011, when Transpose had released our second album, Retribution, so there was some rust to shake off.

I entered the recording studio in Jacksonville, NC in June, 2016 and spent 6 weeks recording the 12 songs' vocals. In typical Yellow #1 style, we used a multitude of vocoders and layers of vocal effects to help make my voice sound different in every song. Just like we had done 20 years ago on Bottle of Rain. It was like wearing an old hat. All the old Yellow #1 atmosphere in the studio came back so effortlessly once I stepped into that vocal booth.

We named the album Thanks for the Nostalgia and used a beautiful picture of Japan at the base of Mt. Fuji, since the album was started there and the song "Kenritsudiagaku" is about what it was like to live in Japan as an American family. It was a very cathartic journey, making a second Yellow #1 album after two decades of silence. I can't even try to project when there might be a third Yellow #1 release, but I had so much fun making this album, I can promise it won't be another 20 years before there is new music from the Yellow #1 camp. 

My band Drop Kick Jesus' album "Splatterguts" turns 21

My second band, Drop Kick Jesus, released our debut album, Splatterguts, 21 years ago this week. I was still playing shows and writing with my first band, Yellow #1, but I knew Yellow #1 was going on hiatus around this time, since Drop Kick Jesus was taking off like a freight train that couldn't be stopped.

This album is the only album, of the 7 total albums I have released with all my bands cumulatively, where I am NOT the singer. When Drop Kick Jesus started in 1997, I was the last to join the band (partly due to my obligation to Yellow #1), and they already had a singer. I joined the band as the keyboard player, and it was definitely a different experience for me, not only writing an album where I didn't have to write any lyrics or sing any vocals, but also live. Not having a microphone for the first time and being stuck behind a stationary instrument was an adjustment. However, it proved just as fun and fulfilling.

We recorded this album with Ken Cmar, who had also recorded and produced Staind, Scissorfight, Sam Black Church, Tree, and Godsmack; a lot of the heavy hitters at that time. We got lumped into the whole "Boston Hardcore" scene, but we were a lot more metal than those guys. We were also the only hardcore band with keyboards and horror movie samples, which made a lot of people like us more but also turned away some of the purists in the local hardcore scene. But when we had released the album, we had carved our own niche, and for the next 5 years, we were pretty much unstoppable.

Being in the studio and recording an album where I had zero vocal duties was also an alien experience for me. All I had to do was track my keyboard parts and I was done. I didn't have to worry about overlays, overdubs, double tracking, effects, or the mix.

I think the album still stands the test of time, and I am very proud of it and have the same love for it (even if it is the only album in my personal discography where I am not the singer) as I do with all the other albums I wrote.

After completing the touring cycle for the album, we parted ways with the singer, and I was moved from keyboards to vocals. We started writing what would be our second album, Depress the Heart, but I had to do something I had never done before: learn all the lyrics on Splatterguts so we could play them live. I was now singing someone else's lyrics on stage, which I had also never done before. Thankfully, we started incorporating the new songs we were writing into our live shows, so the Splatterguts songs became less and less in our set list. Splatterguts has 12 songs, and I think we only continued playing about 4 of them live after we finished writing the second album. But in the beginning, when I took over on vocals, we were playing almost the entire album at every show; me singing the old singer's lyrics and singing in his vocal style. Thankfully, I was allowed to "be myself" on the second album, since I was now the band's singer and lyricist.

I don't think there will ever be another album like Splatterguts for me again -- an album where I am not the singer. But damn, it's still a great album! *The album is available for FREE from this site!

Transpose's "Retribution" turns 8 years old

My band, Transpose, released our second album, Retribution, eight years ago this month. It had been four years since our first album, and we had played enough shows within those four years where we really wore out that first album. It was time to not only have some new material to play live, but way past due to give the fans a new batch of songs.

This album was the most unique album I have ever been a part of. It is the only true concept album I have ever written. The songs can't be listened out of order; there are characters, dialogue, a plotline, a climax, and resolution. We began writing this album right around the time I was in the editing stages of my second novel, Welcome to Parkview, and there was a part of that novel (which was eventually removed and did not appear in the published version) that was about 20 pages long and told the story of a man who knew his wife was cheating on him, so he follows her and spies on her meeting some random man at a hotel. When he confronts her the next morning, she won't tell him what happened, so he burns the hotel where the affair happened to the ground, killing everyone inside, but ultimately forgiving his wife in the process.

I removed this part from the book and instead rewrote the 20 pages into lyrics, keeping some of the dialogue to be sung in the songs. We were really going for a true concept album like Pink Floyd's The Wall, Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, or The Who's Quadrophenia. An album that is really just one long song; a story put to music.

It was also the first album, of the now 7 albums I have written, where the lyrics were written first, and THEN the band put music to what was happening in the story. Up until Retribution, every other albums' songs had been finished musically first, and I would come in and write the lyrics and vocal pattern around the preexisting music. This time, as a band, we had to verbalize what was going on in the "scene" and then write the music to that action.

In the studio, we added sound effects to accent what was happening in the scene: alarm clocks, sounds of people eating, a woman moaning, footsteps on stairs, firetrucks etc. It was a lot of fun to drop those into the songs throughout. This was also the most amount of keyboards I had written/played on an album since Drop Kick Jesus' album Splatterguts, which came out in 1998, so it was also a lot of fun to get behind the keyboard and compose again.

As soon as the album was finished, it marked the birth of a totally new live show for Transpose. Gone were the random order of songs from the first album. Our shows were now Retribution from start to finish, and then our encore; which consisted of about three songs from the first album, A Delicate Impact. We moved the songs from the first album to the end of the show and performed the new album in its entirety as the meat of the live shows. We toured pretty extensively on the Retribution album for two years.

I even made a film to go along with the album; a visually journey of the story as the album plays. That film can be found here on my site under the MEDIA tab or on YouTube. We would play the film at our merch table on a TV during the tours and shows.

I have been a part of 7 albums in my musical career total, and Retribution, still to this day, is the album I am most proud of than any other album I have written. I don't know what the future will bring in regards to how I will feel about future albums, but this one will always be super special to me. It was one of those albums where I felt everything just clicked the whole way through. And not just because it was the first time one of my stories had been turned into an album that I could sing every night on stage.

Oh, and we also recorded a cover of Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance" during the recording sessions and added it as a hidden bonus track on the album. Ha!

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