An Introduction to ‘Arcadia City Blues’

In The Studio

Yes, I am in my pyjamas. My PJs welcome you to my life in the studio. They are also the perfect disguise with which to discuss the release of my debut album, obviously. 

If you’re an artist, you might know the feeling of regret that comes at the end of a difficult year. So many wonderful ideas and so little that (comparatively) comes out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I did quite a few amazing things in 2013, but compared to the three years that preceded it, I definitely feel this was the worst in terms of productivity.

So this New Years Eve, I’d been quietly celebrating with two of my dearest friends. Nothing loud or raucous; I really needed a quiet one in this year. And of course, there is discussion of New Year’s resolutions.

Now, I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions. Why only try to address important things in your life one day out of 365.25? But it did get me thinking (a quiet contemplation, if you will) of how I would have liked to do things in 2013 and what my goals were for the next year ahead.

For the past year I’ve progressively got more and more dissatisfied with the lack of recording that I’ve been doing. Sure, I made a game and worked really hard at my artwork, but I have quite a few fans for my music who I don’t want to disappoint, and least of all I didn’t want to disappoint myself. Not recording in 2013 was giving me itchy fingers.

And then I resolved that this year I’d focus more on creating music and art, with much greater emphasis on the getting my music out there. So I decided to do the hard thing: to give Dr. Carmilla a bit of a rest and to focus on my other music which was going unheard, unwritten and unloved. My upcoming game release , ‘Arcadia City Blues’, seemed like the perfect opportunity to get lots of music recording done. And, like that, I started recording with the first track roughly sketched out on New Year’s Eve. The next day I sketched out another one and took a few days rest to focus on my work for the upcoming exhibition.

But before I knew it I was recording like a person possessed. Ah yes, the old recording routine: roll out of bed, peppermint tea, a bit to eat and straight back to recording. I’ve pretty much been working on the album 14 hours per day, 7 days a week since then. I tend to get into quite the frenzy when recording. I get really excited about it all!

So here’s a few details about the album:


-What’s the album/game going to be about?

I’m afraid I can’t give too much away as we’re still working on the game and don’t want to give away any spoilers, but what I can tell you is that it’s set on Mars. Oh, and there will be Robots. Definitely robots.

– How many tracks will the album have?

 At first, I had no clue how big the project would be. The game I’m writing it for will take a while, but I don’t anticipate it being too long a game. I still feel quite new to being a games developer and I hate getting bogged down in projects by being overly-ambitious.

Having said that, this album is going to be quite ambitious. Originally I’d intended it to be somewhere in the region of 7 – 11 tracks in length, but already I’ve surpassed the 7 track minimum and I feel like there’s a lot of music left to do for this album especially. Any ambitiousness that this album has is not due to over-estimating the workload, but through how much I’ve already completed. I love projects that naturally take on their own life like that!

I don’t know the exact number of tracks the game will need yet, but I estimate that it will end up being between 18 and 30.

– 30? Exhumed & {Un}plugged only had 7

Yes, 30. Exhumed & {Un}plugged was created to a rather strict deadline and involved a lot of tricky miking in an imperfect acoustic environment. The album for Arcadia City Blues has a lot of direct recording, synthesisers and close-miking which speeds things up tremendously. Also, the amount of completed tracks for the new album, as well as the overall runtime, already surpasses anything I’ve done on any of my previous records.

– So… Will it be a rush job, then?

 No, no, no, no. No. Actually, I’ve decided to break up the album into a number of smaller EPs to release over the course of the year in order to keep the releases coming out, but still giving me plenty of time to work on the rest of the tracks and take some breaks to absorb the work I’m doing. Also, given that it’s music for a game the more tracks the better. Games can take a while to play and too few tracks would really take a lot out of the experience.

 – What are the core design considerations to writing an album for the game?

To start with, I’m not one hundred percent sure what technologies we’ll choose to integrate into the game in terms of audio. It could be a really simple system, or it could be much more complex. Any which way, the music for the album and the game won’t be identical. Certain parts will need to be more subtle in-game and I don’t think anyone wants to listen to an album of thirty second quiet loops (haha). Well, okay, maybe some folk, but that’s pretty niche. There’ll also be multiple variations of a number of the tracks in the game and they don’t all need to be placed on the album. My feeling is very much that the album should be enjoyable to listen to on it’s own.

However, there are some strong considerations when writing the album. Most of the tracks for the album are designed to be loop-able, for a start. Secondly, the game is going to have a lot of writing and will be largely gently paced; ie. more story and less action focussed. Also, because a number of the arrangements may well be stripped-down for shorter parts of the game, there’s not so much room for my usual extensive chord arrangements. It’s an interesting shift for me from the usual Dr. Carmilla repertoire as the song-writing needs to be simple. There’s less focus on the whole song and more focus on elements like the riffs, a small number of melodies and the overall texture, ambience and emotions that the tracks need to convey. Which is not to say that the whole album will be like that, but it’s definitely in an interesting direction for me.

And lastly, there’s a strict adherence to keeping it relevant to the game, of course!

I’m really enjoying the new challenges I’m facing with the album, and I hope you’ll be as happy with the results as I am!

-Will there be a CD release?

Possibly! My plan currently is to release all of the parts (EPs) one by one in digital format and see how things go. If there’s enough demand for it, by the time I come to release the final instalment, I’ll definitely do a CD release containing every track from all parts. Given that the runtime of the first EP is just shy of twenty five minutes, It’ll have to be a double CD release at very least! I think the overall album will likely last somewhere between 1 and a half to 2 and a half hours. It’d certainly be a very special CD release, that’s for sure!

-Have you got a release date in mind for the first instalment of the album?

Yes, but it’s still to be finalised. I’ve all but finished the tracks for part one, but there’s still the artwork, mastering and promotional photo shoot to get ready before it gets released! I think it’ll be probably be late march, but with the upcoming exhibition at the end of february I need to think carefully about how much time I spend on part one before that!