It’s been over 30 years since I last heard of my Opus. “Epic”, and WOW, my jewel has been found.
For decades, the great memories I had of M.W.S.U. (“C” back in my day) always had mixed in with them, was my “masterpiece” called “Epic“. This album was the culmination of a years worth of work (1989 – 1990) within the four soundproof walls of the computer music room.
One day, just out of the blue, I decided to look up Bob Lock, a friend of mine and a fellow music major (percussion), who was instrumental in the album’s creation – he recorded/mixed the vocals. I got a hold of him via Facebook, and he had a copy of the entire album. He was gracious enough to transfer the cassette to MP3 files and do it without charge.
I can’t tell you how happy this made me. Listening to this massive body of word from a very young aspiring musician/composer, brought tears to my eyes, as the memory of all the work and story behind the song, flooded back. To be sure, this isn’t great. The mixing on my part was not the best. It (the album) had a very 80s sound, and the cues were pretty terrible…
…but it was the best example of creativity that I had to date, and, for me, this is what makes this album my crowning jewel, and I treasure it.
The playlist below has all the tracks for you to listen (and cringe). Below the playlist, I get into the story, how the album was put together, and other odds and ends.
The equipment & the frustration
I used MOTUs (Mark of the Unicorn) “Performer” (I believe that’s what it was called back in the 80s) for my sequencer on a Mac II. As you could probably tell, I used sound canvases, which are as follows:
- E-MU Proteus 1, 2, and 3
- Alesis D-4 Drum Machine
- Kurtzweil 250 keyboard
I know that there were a couple more, but 30 years does damage to the details of memory.
When laying down the vocals, Bob used a Shure SM58 mic, which recorded the vocals to an Alesis Adat 8 track recorder. I couldn’t tell you the mixer he used before the vocals and background music were transferred. The final mixdown was done to a DAT (Digital Audio Tape) and a high-end TDK cassette tape, to which gave us this final recording you’re listening to.
To everyone who has worked with digital sequencers, let me tell you that this album took a year to do, BECAUSE I STEP-SEQUENCED THE WHOLE THING! To the rest of you – to “step sequence” means that I created each note one-by-one, assigning the value (duration – whole, half, quarter, etc.), and pressed the note on the keyboard. I couldn’t play any instruments, and I was too poor to buy talent, so this was my only option at the time.
CDs were not available to the public at an affordable price. The long duration of some of these tracks is due to the part that I wanted to drop a new track number in the middle of the song, without the gap. At the time of creation, CD burners cost thousands of dollars!
Computer crashes were a day-to-day thing. I had about 10 3.5 inch floppy disks, to which I kept my MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) files stored. Several crashes knocked out huge segments of work, which meant having to redo all the step-sequencing, which meant hours upon hours of my time. All in all, I probably spent about 1500 hours on this work.
The album art is exactly how I wanted it. I don’t have any names to any songs, simply because I name them after I write them – a thing I still do today – and I forgot what they were.
The story behind the album
“Epic” has a lot of Christian overtones, but is not Christian in nature. At the time of recording, I was headed down a pretty dark path, and the stories of the Bible were getting mixed in with a lot of “worldly ideas”.
“The savior” was a “wondering messiah” that went from planet to planet, saving the people through continuous scourging, crucifixion, death and resurrection. At the end, this savior went to a planet called “Evilspeak”. He was worn out from the eternity of work that he was tasked to do by his father (god). During that time on Evilspeak, he fell in love with a woman, but could not have her because of who he was and what he had to do.
The list of musical influences is quite extensive in this opus. The list includes, but not limited to:
- Andrew Lloyd Webber (Jesus Christ Superstar)
- Beethoven‘s “An die ferne Geliebte” (for the connective tissue between songs)
- Yngwie Malmsteen (the “guitar” parts, or imitations thereof)
- Luciano Pavarotti
The recording was bad, even for the time, I never would have been rich or famous, but the pure act of creating something unique was what kept me going through computer crashes, data loss, hundreds of hours in a sound-proof room and missing classes. All the time during college, I was creative and studied music. I truly long for that time, as I have to do my fair amount of adulting, which keeps me away from that creative life.
Perhaps it’s time to get creative again.