Archive for the Scarehouse Category

The ScareHouse Basement Podcast Episode

Posted in Creativity, Scarehouse with tags , , , , , on December 3, 2013 by deliriumdog

One of my best excuses for not producing much musical content this year is my involvement in the creation of The ScareHouse’s new Basement attraction.

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It should be no secret to those of you who’ve read either of my blogs (here and Tumblr) the past couple years that I have developed a strong fascination with immersive theater. When Scott Simmons (Creative Director, ScareHouse) told me that they were thinking about making a more personal, immersive haunt experience this year I told him I was all-in. Opportunities to work on a project like this during the birth stages one are not common.

The ScareHouse management did not want to sap the main haunt of its talented design team, so I had the chance to jump in and participate in the creation side beyond my usual role as sound guy. After attending and analyzing many immersive shows over the past couple years, the time had come to put some of my learnings into practice. I found myself driving, flying, and phoning into Pittsburgh most weekends over the Summer and writing long, list-filled emails to the point where I’m sure Team Scarehouse would cringe every time they saw my name in their inbox. We would continuously challenge and test each other’s ideas and the result, I think, was pretty far from what any of us envisioned at the start. The Basement turned out to be a hit, but none of us knew exactly how people would respond to it until we opened the doors in late September.

Hosting this podcast episode gave me a chance to document the process that led up to opening day as well as capture some of the magical chemistry of the cast one night before the doors opened. I’m happy with how it came together with one caveat: I never had the chance to interview Scott Sudzina who managed the haunt. He played a major role in making it happen. My bad for not finding time to interview him for the show.

I’m looking forward to seeing what we come up with next year. Until then, this puts a nice capper on the first chapter of Basement history.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, you know where to find me here and on the the socialwebs.
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Follow Glenn Ricci / Delirium Dog on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Press play, pass out candy, rock out, dance scared

Posted in Music, Scarehouse, Soundscapes with tags on October 31, 2013 by deliriumdog

Roll Your Own Artist Residency

Posted in Creativity, Life Hacks, Music Making, Scarehouse, Sound Design with tags , , , , , , on July 10, 2013 by deliriumdog

I’m spending this week at The Scarehouse to focus on music, sound, video, and immersive environments. Sure, in this networked world, I could pretty much just phone it all in from my home in Baltimore, but there is a lot to be gained from being away from home and its many distractions to focus in on just one thing. Even though I’ve arranged my work week so I can be home a full three days every week, there are still many shiny things competing for my attention. Housework. Errands. PS3. Skyrim (yes, I just started playing it a couple weeks ago). Drinks with friends. I have no idea how those of you with kids in the mix get anything done at all!


Photo: My little setup this week at ScareHouse.

In all that, I may at most get a few hours a week for the sort of “deep dive” that I require to create something of quality. Also, while my wife provides a great sounding board for ideas, it’s good to get feedback from others and give her ears a break. What I desperately needed was a significant chunk of time removed from my usual orbit to immerse myself in sound and the flow of creative process.

This all may seem obvious, but how often do we really do it? Take a week off just for our art!? Can’t we squeeze it in between all the other things? Sure, but we do that because we have to, not because it’s optimal. Far from it. 

This is roughly the third time I’ve done this and it’s always resulted in something worthwhile. I may not have ended up with single complete product, but I usually end up with a lot of little ideas that I can pick up later during less inspired moments and work to the finish. When I did this in 2010, I ended up with half the ideas and a lot of video footage for the FEVER BRAIN BATTERY album. This time, I’m chopping up and remixing recordings from the 1920’s, marrying them with new beats and sounds, and seeing what happens. It loosely relates to new (and currently secret) projects happening at The Scarehouse, so some of the output will end up there. As I’m working, I occasionally take off my headphones, crank up the monitors, and see how people react. Instant feedback! I’ve also been walking around the haunt, eyeing up the new spaces and getting a sense of what might play well in there. The ScareHouse set designers are pretty brilliant, so I’m not wanting for inspiration.

Okay, so you may not have access to a large haunted attraction–and even if you did, it might not be your ideal site for an artist residency. But try this: close your eyes and picture what, for you, would be the ideal mobile creative work environment. Decide what your most essential tools are for making your art, and picture them in this space. Maybe your tools are so large that you need a special studio, in which case your options are pretty well narrowed down for you. But maybe you have a friend or relative in another state with a really cool basement or back porch. And maybe they work all day and don’t mind giving you the run of the place. Or maybe they’re around just enough to check in and give you feedback. That doesn’t sound ideal? Scrap that plan and start over. Maybe you need to put aside the time and money to go to an actual workshop/retreat with an instructor and other students to inspire you. But I believe that it’s possible to create an atmosphere from whatever is at hand and whomever you know. (If you’re a creative person who does not know any creative friends, you definitely need to find some new friends!) Once you’re done visualizing your ideal temporary work space, surrounded by the right people (or no people at all) think about where and how to make that happen.

It’s not going to happen on its own. While I’m sure they’re happy to have me at ScareHouse, I invited myself for the week. They no longer think it strange that I may want to show up, occupy a large table with my stuff and pace around listening, tweaking, taking photos, shooting video, staring out the window, and asking all sorts of random questions. Whatever it is you need to do to create–you want that to be totally normal behavior during your retreat.

It’s also important to have some goals. And it’s just as important that you are able to abandon those goals if better, more urgent ones, come along. I have a long list of goals, some of which cannot be finished in a week. As long as I’ve made progress on any of them, and maybe even achieved one of them, then I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something. Usually it’s the new, surprising opportunities that come along during the retreat that you end up being glad for.

Do not expect everything to work out beautifully during your first DIY residency. In 2010, the space I chose for my impromptu “studio” turned out be less than optimal. I also brought way too much stuff, which bogged me down and made me feel sad that I was not using it all. Even still, I was able to readjust and lots of good things came out of that week. When I came home, I had a new perspective on how to improve my home studio as well. The work I started that week definitely would not have existed if I had not thrown myself into that new environment.

Even if the work you create ends up getting scrapped, it’s not so much about the product. It’s about getting the opportunity to focus on something you love doing and fanning the creative embers. That is never a bad thing.

One last tip: be careful about reentry. Returning to the day-to-day grind after being so unfettered can be downright painful. Be nice to yourself and others, and understand that whatever you’re doing is necessary so that you can eventually return to your creative space.  

I’m curious: have any of you done this? Let me know in comments or elsewhere on the social webs (see below) how you have made time and space to make your art.

Follow Glenn Ricci / Delirium Dog on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Sleep No More Episode of The ScareHouse Podcast

Posted in Performance, Scarehouse with tags , , on July 24, 2012 by deliriumdog

Here is the companion post to the episode of The ScareHouse Podcast in which I interviewed Careena Melia and a panel of Sleep No More “experts.” Click the link to listen, then click around this post for more info.

Please heed the WARNING I make during the introduction about spoilers and the value of first seeing the show knowing NOTHING about it!

The panel members (Kathryn, Allison, and Evan) were among the first people I noticed blogging about Sleep No More last year when I first became interested in the show. After connecting with and following them online for a few months, they all struck me as just the sort of witty, intelligent types you’d want to listen to in a podcast. And I was right! I’m happy to be able to share our discussion with you all.

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Careena Melia (above) was incredibly gracious about granting the interview. It took a few volleys between the Punchdrunk media outreach arm and I, and some persistence on my end to schedule it, but I think that’s a good thing. Glad they were doing something to make sure I was serious and not just some hapless dude with a microphone. As far as I know, nobody has done an audio interview at any length with a performer in the show, so I’m very proud to be able to bring this to you.

I recorded all of this in the first week of July 2012, when I visited the show three nights in a row. My conversation with Careena happened a couple hours before the July 3rd performance. The interview with the panel was recorded two days later, which was nice because we could all listen and respond to Careena’s interview.

Your handy guide to the podcast:

See Careena Melia‘s personal site for more background and photos. She’s also on: Facebook | Twitter

Evan Matthew Cobb’s blog, “Scortched the Snake,” is a great aggregator of all things Sleep No More. For newbies and experienced viewers alike, it’s worth a daily visit. Also on: Facebook | Twitter

Allison Meier has covered Sleep No More in “Allez, Allie!” her wonderful blog about art and travel in NYC and abroad. She’s also on Twitter.

Kathryn Yu is a photographer who frequently tweets and tumblrs about Sleep No More, food, cocktails, and other things hip and novel.

Unless it directly relates to sound, I have been posting my Sleep No More experiences on my Tumblr blog of the same name.

Most Sleep No More blogs (and there are many) have gravitated to Tumblr, so a search for “Sleep No More” there will turn up many other sources, voices, and stories all singing the show’s praises.

If you’re looking for a more official introduction, here is the New York Times review that drew a lot of us in.

Studio 360 spoke to the show’s director Felix Barrett early in the show’s run. Worth a listen.

Then of course, there is the show’s official web site. And naturally: Facebook | Twitter

Music heard in this podcast: Vortex and Delirium Philharmonic by Delirium Dog.

If you see the show, drop me a line somewhere (see below) and let me know what you think!
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Follow Delirium Dog on Twitter and Facebook.

‘Tis the Season to be Creepy

Posted in Music, Music Making, Scarehouse with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by deliriumdog

Please make sure that no children are in viewing range or earshot of the video below.

This was a fun project for me because it was driven by the music, which means I was involved early in the process. The concept for this new ScareHouse trailer was that we’d have a creepy chorus (made up of ScareHouse regulars) sing a twisted version of a classic holiday tune followed by your favorite clown, Creepo, in a Santa suit. Creepo is a pretty frightening dude no matter what, but the Santa suit raises it to a new, inexplicable level.

I knew right away that keeping it simple (good advice that I often ignore) was clearly the best way to go. Anything getting in the way of the fact that they are singing “Deck The Halls” with different lyrics could only hurt the message. I also knew that the chorus would have to learn and perform the music in a very short period of time–like thirty minutes while they were being costumed. So I stuck with a simple piano arrangement and two-ish part harmonies with the basses and sopranos branching out to hit a couple notes in their specific ranges.

The lyrics, while few, did not come easy. Five of us bouncing emails around finally arrived at two rhymed couplets that told the story, fit the melody, and also rhymed.

It had to all be “musically correct,” which is to say that I needed to put it down in actual notation that a music reader would understand. Years of using the far-superior piano roll method of composition has made regular notation seem alien to me. Those little black dots now feel like a quaint and arcane way of doing things, but it all came back to me pretty quickly. Logic Pro made it easy to create and print out some nice readable sheet music for the chorus–one reason I still compose in Logic rather than Live.

During the video shoot, the chorus lip-synced to a scratch track sung by my wife and I. There were many takes from many camera angles, so the chorus had a chance to mouth the words over and over. Afterwards, we recorded them in two’s singing over the scratch tracks. The voices of my wife and I were mixed in with the eight chorus members and just a wee bit of editing in post was needed to clarify some of the diction.

I haven’t noticed yet anyone getting angry about this form of blasphemy, but “Deck The Halls” is a pretty secular tune to begin with. Maybe that will come once we mutate a more sacred song.

As @ScareHouseScott recently tweeted, “I wonder if this will still be funny when I’m in hell.”

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Follow DD on Twitter and Facebook.

Death to the Balloons

Posted in Delirium Dog, Music, Scarehouse, Video with tags , , , , , , , on April 3, 2012 by deliriumdog

I’ll explain this more in a separate post. Right now I’ll just say that I dropped $80 in neon balloons on this video, so the least you can do is watch it. If you click through to YouTube, you can choose to view it in glorious hi-rez. While you’re there, hit thumbs up and leave a pithy comment. Your support is greatly, hugely appreciated.

Summoning my Inner Tom Waits

Posted in Creativity, Delirium Dog, Music, Performance, Scarehouse, Video on January 17, 2012 by deliriumdog

In much the same manner as the DD video for Absinthe Cola, the new video (below) was a mostly unplanned, quick shoot using sets inside The ScareHouse. I’m still amazed how well their sets show up on video. They’re so beautiful that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, really, except I’m also one of the fish in this analogy.

The role of the shooter was played by Steve Friedrick, who co-produced and co-directed the video with me. He also handled all the editing and post-production, which is great because I would have gone insane looking at myself so much. I also would have made it a lot blurrier and layered a lot more effects over my face. In fact, the extent of my contribution to post-production, when Steve was showing me draft edits, was to tell him to use more effects and to dirty it up more. The original footage (shot with my Canon T2i) was painfully crisp and clear. You could count the whiskers on my chin. I don’t know how any actor can survive the scrutiny of the HD camera lens these days. I’ve been noticing more lately how on-screen talent (from newscasters to dramatic performers) use makeup and other techniques to hide the natural process of aging. Some appear to have a “no extreme close-ups” written right into their contract. Anyway, while I’m not afraid of revealing any “age lines,” I’m still a little weirded out by seeing my face so clearly. Especially when I’m performing a caricature of evil incarnate.

I knew that I could not successfully embody said evil if I just played it straight (whatever “straight evil” means). So here you get me channelling Tom Waits, which, either because I’m not being very successful or because I’m not actually Mr. Waits, ends up looking unique enough for a music video. Steve brought the goggles and they are roughly half the character. That wicked smile was quite painful to hold and my jaw hurt at the end of each take. The twitchy dance technique also burned quite a few calories and I was pretty well wiped after a couple takes. Such is the price we must pay for our art.

Alien Visitation

Posted in Delirium Dog, Music, Performance, Scarehouse, Video on December 5, 2011 by deliriumdog

I have a good deal of video footage from our work at The ScareHouse this year. Live stuff and other bits we shot specifically for music videos. I was sifting through it all and planning on cranking out a quick live video, but decided to do more to it. The live footage by itself is interesting, but does not exactly hold one’s attention for the several minutes a song lasts. So I started adding graphics and effects, learning new software all the while, and before long realized that it was going to be a longer endeavor than I initially planned.

That’s where the alien comes into play. A single, focused idea that gives you a little taste of the Delirium Dog live thing we were doing married with some semi-hot alien-dancing action. Ursula has always wanted to put on a puppet show so I brought the alien along for her to play with when she was not singing or pressing buttons. It was her idea to add the lights to his (or her?) arms, which really makes it. We’ve talked about doing our whole act as a puppet show. It could happen. Until then, you’ve got this as a teaser.

First Delirium Dog Live Set

Posted in Free Downloads, Music, Performance, Scarehouse on November 7, 2011 by deliriumdog

After several weeks in which I spent every waking moment preparing for the first live performance of Delrium Dog, I finally have to time to stand back and take stock. We recorded a good bit of it and I’m surprised how much I’m happy with it overall. I just made one set available for download (below) and the only editing I did was to snip a couple minutes out of T.O.L.S, which I played live for about 20 minutes.

Click fast! This will only be available for a few weeks (or until I run out of space on Soundcloud and need to replace it). Click the little arrow on the right to download for free.

The deal was that sometimes the groups passing through the Scarehouse would be spaced out more than five or ten minutes apart. This was not often, but during those times I would go into a holding pattern until the next group showed up. This made for a recording that was, to my ears, irritatingly repetitive at times. So now if you find the edited recording to be irritatingly repetitive, I have not excuse other than it seemed to make sense at the time.

The first three tracks (“Summoned,” “Stay” and “T.O.L.S.”) are extended versions of the ones found on Delirium Dog’s first two albums. The last tune, “Shragger’s Blues,” came from my new fascination with Abelton Live. While all the music was performed using Live, all the little bits were reassembled from Logic Pro. “Shragger’s” is the first tune that I composed completely within the program. The hot drum beats come from a solo I recorded from drummer Rich Shragger back in 1999, when we were in a band together. When the horn section kicks in, it’s from a 1929 recording of “Blue Is The Night” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TGBGyafhc4). And other sounds from I don’t know where.

On the tail end of “Stay” is a dubstep style riff that also did not exist before I was preparing for the live show. When I was saving the pieces in Logic Pro, I found myself creating new permutations as well as saving bits that never made the final mix. In some cases, they sound like a whole new song.

Enjoy!

Random Thoughts from the First Weekend Playing at The ScareHouse

Posted in Creativity, Delirium Dog, Performance, Scarehouse, Uncategorized on October 3, 2011 by deliriumdog

First thought: Wow, what a blast!

Actually, that’s my first thought now that it’s over. My first thought when we started playing on the first night was “What the hell am I doing!?!?” I’ve had that thought at several moments over the past few weeks preparing for this gig. It especially hit home while putting on my custom-made costume, which is pretty fab but includes a neon green fishnet top which, let me just say, has never been a part of my wardrobe prior to Friday night.

I’ve managed to be free of Impostor Syndrome for  quite a while. Years, maybe. Then came my battle with Who The Hell Cares About What I’m Doing Syndrome. (“There are a million people out there on the internet making music and starving kids all over the world–what makes you feel like you’re so special, Delirium Boy?” That sort of thing.) The supportive atmosphere I found at The ScareHouse, as well as online and other friendly corners of my life, helped me greatly with this. But then the What The Hell Am I Doing Syndrome sneaks up on me and it feels like a proxy for all the previous syndromes combined. My wife reminded me that this is what happens quite often to every artist, and I think “oh yeah, I guess so” and try not to think about it any further.

Then the performance starts. If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know what an odd type of “show” this is. It took a while for the first visitors to wind their way through the first haunt (“Foresaken”) and into Delirium, so starting early as we did was not necessary and the first 20 minutes was basically a holding pattern. No problem, I was still getting my bearings.

The “pulsing” of the groups that evening was strange. We started to see groups coming through, then there would be 5 or 10 minutes with nobody. I tried to time it so that we were not singing our hearts out to an empty room (more than half the songs contain some singing) and got better at extending or shortening sections of the songs as needed. I would use the spaces between groups to switch songs. Ableton Live cannot have two projects open at once, so I would cross-fade to a sound bed on my ipod for the 30 seconds or so it takes for me to open a new song.

What was difficult as a performer was getting any sense of reaction from the highly transient and distracted audience. This was easier Saturday night when there was a sold-out crowd and a more continuous stream of people. Great energy. It often felt like a real party at which new people were constantly were arriving and joining in. I never got tired of seeing people stumble in, a tad disoriented, take in the wacky surroundings and start to dance. One group appeared to be professional club-hoppers because they were dressed the part and could really dance. I was glad to see that the music worked for them.

With all the distractions, few people could actually see me, but some (and not just my brother) waved and acknowledged that they knew who I was. At 8ish, we were told that four Ghost Hunters would soon be passing through. I had a good groove going and didn’t want to risk stopping it just as they entered but ended up keeping the same tune going for over 20 minutes. I felt less guilty about that when closing time rolled around nearly seven hours after we started. That was a lot of time to fill, and somehow I did it without repeating any piece more than twice. Maybe it was a time warp. Perhaps we were abducted by aliens. Maybe the rest of the cast of Delirium are aliens. Who’s to say? The fact they didn’t want to kill me after many hours of sonic assault definitely raises my suspicions.

During the final hour, delirium was more than just a concept–it was our true state of mind. I was working a new high-energy piece that strings together dozens of variations of the Amen Break with sound effects, rhythmic bird chirps, deep bass hooks, and other bits of randomness. (You may not realize it, but the Amen Break is etched into your sonic memory in a way that forces you to want to dance.) Thinking that closing time must be just a few minutes away, I must have kept that going for 45 minutes–adding different effects to extend the sounds and slowly boosting the beats per minute to keep people from falling asleep. I searched my hard drive for more sounds to throw in, but I’ve kept the performance computer lean. Too lean, apparently. Next weekend, I’ll be better prepared.

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