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Thread: Charlie Clouser AMA

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    Charlie Clouser AMA

    Nobody posting about this? Anyways, I got us an answer about Where is Everybody? being rehearsed for the Fragility tour.

    Yes, we worked that one up to use on the Fragility tour cycle when we were in pre-production rehearsals at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas. That was one of those moments where I got myself into trouble, here is the story:

    I am not a great singer. I have a very narrow range and I don't like the tone of my voice when recorded. So I sang some backing vocals on tour but mostly on "gang vox" sections like Head Like A Hole and Down In It and Suck, songs like those. And sometimes the crew would replace my on-stage mic with a fucking carrot just to mess with me (not kidding). But when we were running through Where Is Everybody the first few times, there's a backing vocal that TR did on the record that's just an "ohhh-ooohh-ohh-ahh-ohh-woah-ohh-ohh-ohh" type melody, but TR couldn't sing it live cause it overlapped with some other part he needed to sing.

    So we were going to maybe sample it, or I'd play it as a synth riff instead, or something, hadn't figured it out yet. As we ran through the song, with that part missing, I had a mic that was actually not a carrot for once. Partly as a joke, I free-balled that part, and I freaking nailed it! I have no idea how, it's right at the top of my range and it fucking hurts to sing it more than four times a day. But that one time, I hit it!

    The guys about dropped their guitars. They all looked over at me and were like, "Fuck, dude, you hit it. Guess what? That's your part now. Good fucking luck dude."

    Fuck. In the end there's no way I could have hit it like that every night, especially after screaming my guts out on the first half of the set, so I was secretly glad when TR dropped that song from the set list and I'm not sure if we ever played it live or what. Maybe once or twice just to see how it would go over? Maybe not. It's a cool song but it feels a little sluggish unless it's in the right part of the set, and it just didn't seem to fit anywhere.

    But, yeah, we did work it up for live use and I almost got saddled with singing a part that I know I would have shit the bed on most nights, so... good thing it got cut.
    Anyone else get anything answered?

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    I wanted to hear about some of his other projects. I've got the Resident Evil score and really enjoy the soundscapes on it. So big or small, I wanted to know what his favorite/rewarding project was:

    As to my favorite / most rewarding project, I'm torn between well-loved projects that I did relatively little on, like The Fragile, and less well-known / loved projects where I did everything myself, like some of my remixes or scores. So.... number one I guess would have to be The Fragile because of all the love it gets and how great it came out, and number two would be my score to the first SAW film because it was my first "solo score" and I accidentally wrote a horror theme that got lots of love, and right behind those would be my scores for Dead Silence and the remix I did of Starfuckers, which I did entirely on a bronze-keyboard PowerBook laptop in Logic, which at that time seemed impossible. But it came out absolutely mental and I still listen back to it and go, "How the fuck did I do that on this P.O.S. laptop?"
    Also, because of AATCHB, no one was more of a badass with the theremin. Didn't think he'd actually respond to it. But I really loved his insight to the process of using it for his live rig.

    Hah, thanks! The secret to being a bad ass on the Theremin is to run it through Auto-Tune before it hits the distortion and delay and all the other effects. Live I used the Antares ATR-1 rack unit (and later the TC Electronics version) set to only allow three or four notes within an octave, with the "grab time" or "glide time" set so that if you did a reasonably rapid pitch sweep, the grab time was too slow to cause "stair stepping" through the pitches, but once you landed on a note the ATR-1 would gently "pull" you into the correct pitch. A grab time of like half a second to one second or so. Works like a charm!

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    Actually that Where Is Everybody rehearsal story is almost word-to-word exact retelling of one of his gearslutz posts from 10-ish years ago. Theremin/autotune part too. I think by this point he already told just about everything he could about NIN several times.
    If you can dig into his profile on reddit, there was an AMA a few years ago, very similar to this one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fillow View Post
    Actually that Where Is Everybody rehearsal story is almost word-to-word exact retelling of one of his gearslutz posts from 10-ish years ago. Theremin/autotune part too. I think by this point he already told just about everything he could about NIN several times.
    If you can dig into his profile on reddit, there was an AMA a few years ago, very similar to this one.
    Yeah, I remember reading the same thing years ago too re: Where Is Everybody?.

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    Enjoyed this answer about the Outside/Dissonance shows with Bowie's band and who was the most fun backstage:

    Bowie was an absolute treat. As you can imagine, he's the most worldly, well-read, gracious, and erudite person in the room, with a deep knowledge of outsider art and an innate sense of the directions of culture and how to get there. There's a video kicking around from the mid 1990s I think where he basically predicts a lot of stuff about the internet that has all come true. So he was the most intriguing and interesting person by far.

    BUT. Carlos Freaking Alomar. That guy. Besides being a ridiculously innovative guitarist and sound sculptor, and a participant in more than a few turning points in musical styles, he'll hit the stage in full DGAF mode, wearing a puffy shirt, MC Hammer pants in snakeskin pattern, and be short-strappin' it with a pink guitar - and somehow look bas-ass doing it. Before a show one time we were all taking our customary pre-show shots of Cuervo 1800, and he wanders in carrying a bottle of Herradura and says, "Whaddaya drinking that crap for? That's for little kids! Hit this, this shit's got that FIIIYYYAAAHHH."

    Holy crap that stuff burns. After that show he showed up with the rest of the bottle and was just hitting it like it was no problem and the rest of us are struggling to handle it.

    Legend.


    And follow-up when someone thanks him for bringing up Carlos' name:
    Yes, Alomar is legendary. One of the top guitar innovators, ever.

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    Charlie Clouser AMA

    Haven’t posted about it yet because I’m literally still reading it. What a treat!

    Here’s what he answered from my end:

    “It’s fascinating to think of the wired, connected studio back in 1998-1999. Can you describe a little bit about how the network and shared drives were configured?”

    In the mid-to-late 1990s, things like file sharing and having a dedicated server to share song ideas seemed really cutting-edge and futuristic to us. I mean, only a few years earlier we were saving song files to floppy discs! The Nothing Studios file server setup was implemented by Steve Duda (the inventor of the BFD drum sampler plugin and the widely-loved synth plugin Serum). Steve was a tech support guy at Digidesign (which became Avid), the creators of ProTools. I had known some of the guys from Digidesign for years, and was calling them regularly with issues we were having on the rigs, so they put me in touch with Steve who could solve all my high-end problems like using the SMTPE Slave Driver to lock ProTools to the TimeLine MicroLynx tape machine synchronizer, etc. Me and Steve hit it off (and of course he solved all of our problems because he KNOWS how this shit works), and eventually I asked him if he'd like to move to New Orleans to be our in-house genius.

    When he arrived he saw our workflow, where each band member had their own small studio and we were trying to share ideas between rooms, he designed and implemented a file-sharing setup. This involved using a dedicated Mac with a few FireWire400 drives as a server, and Steve climbing through the attic to string Ethernet cabling and shove it down through the walls. It all worked and we were in heaven! Steve is a freaking genius, a good friend, and one of my favorite people ever. The success he's had with Serum is well-deserved (and Serum sounds amazing).
    “Two of my favorite records are Prong’s Rude Awakening (especially “Caprice”) and White Zombie’s Astro-Creep: 2000. Can you tell us a little about that time period working on those two records?”

    I fucking LOVE Prong - and Tommy Victor, Ted Parsons, and the late Paul Raven, which was the lineup at that time.

    I first came into contact with Prong because my old college roommate, musical collaborator, and best bud from our college years from 1981-85, John Bechdel aka JB, was playing keyboards live with Prong for a minute I think. By that point I had already been in a signed band in NYC, made some records and remixes, done some tours, worked as a programmer for a tv composer, and finally bailed on NYC to move to LA. So I was already "up and running". Prong wanted some remixes for the "Cleansing" album, and I jumped on it and did remixes for "Whose Fist Is This Anyway" and "Broken Peace" (still love those remixes).

    Then, when they were preparing for their next album, "Rude Awakening", Tommy enlisted me to do my thang on the whole album. This involved me taking the raw tracks they'd recorded, and adding programmed beats and synths underneath. So the songs were already written, arranged, and recorded - but not mixed. I would take each song as they'd finish basic tracking and precisely map out the beats, using just a MIDI sequencer on the Mac and samplers, and create MIDI tracks that exactly matched the live drums that Ted had recorded. This is long before we had any of the modern conveniences that everyone takes for granted, like Sound Replacer, Beat Detective, Drumagog, etc. It was fully-manual and strictly by ear - aka "the hard way".

    Once I had these MIDI performances fully tweaked, I could use them to trigger my own samples, which were kicks, snares, and hi-hats snipped out of hip-hop loops, rare grooves, drum drops, etc. - but HEAVILY processed. Compressed until the waveforms were just square bricks and/or run through TurboSynth wave shapers, guitar pedals, my Korg and Arp hardware synths, etc. I'd tweak and twist those samples to create programmed drum tracks that had the sound of the snipped-up loops, but playing the exact same patterns as Ted's live drums.

    It. Took. Forever.

    Then I'd pass these files on to the amazing producer Terry Date, and he would get them onto the multitrack analog tapes to live next to Ted's drum tracks, and when mixing he could bring them up almost like they were an effect return channel - each fader would have a different turbo-blasting drum performance on it, and he could bring them in and out to build an arrangement and use them as an exotic and insane form of drum reinforcement. I'd do anywhere from four to eight of these per song, each one playing the whole song from beginning to end, and let Terry and the guys decide which ones to use in each section of the song. Sometimes I'd add synth parts here and there - it wasn't just drums - so the whole thing together didn't sound like a wall of synths behind Prong, it was more like a weird turbo-charged backdrop to the band. If you mute all the channels with my stuff on it you'd go, "Oh, right... that sounds like three guys banging it out" but with all my stuff in it becomes some weird, bigger-than-life hybrid but without a ton of added rhythms and new riffs. Some, but not too many. Like an extra kick drum hit here and there to give that feel of a single 808 kick in the middle of a live beat or whatever, but not too too too much.

    So, when Terry Date was gearing up to produce White Zombie's "Astro Creep" album, and Rob clearly wanted to create some unholy cyber-metal organism, Terry called me up, I met Rob, Sean, J, and John Tempesta, and we were off to the races. My process on that album was very similar to what I'd done with Prong, but with way more synths, weird ambience effects, processing of the raw guitar tracks, and samples from old movies that Rob had found. So, similar, but just MORE.

    I went on to do a bunch of remixes for Prong and an absolute shitload of remixes for White Zombie, most of which appeared on their "SuperSexy Swingin' Sounds" remix album. So much fun, and I still love listening to that stuff.

    Tech notes for tech nerds: All of that stuff was done on a Macintosh II with the first ProTools "4x4" card and interface which gave me four (!!!) channels of hard-disc audio recording, Studio Vision audio+MIDI sequencing software (the very first "DAW"), and three Digidesign SampleCell v1 cards, which were like a simplified version of an Akai S-1000 sampler with only 8mb (!!!) of RAM per card and I think 8 voices each. At one point I upgraded to SampleCell II cards which had 32mb of RAM and 32 voices each, but I'm not exactly sure when that happened. This is all many years before the concept of "plugins" and "virtual instruments" would hit the streets. All of the remixes I did in that era were sequenced in StudioVision and played "live" on that four tracks of audio, the three SampleCell cards, and three or four analog hardware synths that I had at the time. The whole thing would run live through a Mackie 8-bus console, with no outboard compressors of any kind, with only an Ensoniq DP/4, an Alesis QuadraVerb+, a Korg SDD-1000 delay, and a pair of Boss RPS-10 pitch shifter/delay units. That's it. The track would play and I'd mix it live and print it to a DAT machine. Done.
    “And what is your folder-ization and backup routine?”

    A folder for a project will have a name like "Helmet - Size Matters album" and inside that will be folders like "SM - Guide Tracks - Logic" and "SM - Raw Tracking - ProTools" and "SM - Vocal Overdubs - ProTools" etc. Project files will have dates appended so you can tell which version is newest, etc., resulting in names like "SM-Enemies-Vox Odubs-2003-04-12" or whatever.

    For backups, it's one live copy on SSDs that I work from, three backup copies on HDD in the room, three more backup copies on HDD in a safety deposit box at the bank (swapped with the in room backups monthly), and two copies on HDD in the attic at my sister's house on the other side of the country (swapped twice a year or so). I also keep a full set of backups of all my boot drives from all machines. A full set at the moment is 10x HDDs, some 10tb and some 14tb. Not too bad.

    A full set of HDDs will fit into a pelican case, so I have eight full sets that rotate around, using only UltraStar Enterprise helium drives, with drives rotated out of service every 4-5 years even though they only get spun up for a few hours a couple of times a month. Old drives get erased and then I physically drive a spike through them before sending them to e-waste recyclers.

    Plus one full set in the cloud on BackBlaze. That's a hassle though, even though I'm on 150 fiber internet. Takes days.

    I don't use Time Machine or backup applications beyond ChronoSync and Synchronize ProX to compare volumes and update them. I keep it pretty simple.
    “Btw is that Depeche remix coming out anytime ever?”

    Man, I started working up a full-length version from the 45-second piece I had built for the movie, but it started to sound like I was stretched thin, like butter spread across too much bread. So I put it on pause and checked with the label if they wanted it, would use it on some compilation or greatest hits DM album or whatever, and they were like, "Meh."

    And the movie had only licensed the right to use it IN the movie, and not on any releases beyond that, so to build it out into a mega-mix and then let it sit on the shelf was like, Dang what am I doing here. So I parked it. I still have all the elements and the Logic file and all that, so if anybody from DM or Sony calls and goes, "What ever happened with that?" I can dust it off, but I can't just unleash it out into the wild without the express written consent of the NFL or whatever. So there it sits, waiting...
    Last edited by tricil; 05-16-2020 at 11:45 AM.

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    Great read! I'm glad he's on good terms with Trontz too, and that he was invited to the RRHOF ceremony (whenever that happens).

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    Again we hear that, apart from what Maynard's camp already plundered, the Tapeworm shit is a nothing-burger (haha):

    You know, there really wasn't all that much that was even shaped into anything that sounded like a track or a song. Just grooves, fragments, shards... In retrospect it's not surprising at all that the project never came together - we were all torn between trying to contribute to the in-progress NIN album and trying to make song-starters for the other thing. And we had some fucked up ideas and a wish-list of potential collaborators that would have resulted in an unholy mess of a thing. I mean, our list of people we wanted to work with on it, but who we'd never really spoken to about it but just figured we could probably at least get in touch with, was just mental and included everyone from Bowie to Everlast to Maynard. So that would probably have been.... a mess to pull together, and a musical culture-clashing-collision of epic proportions. Kind of glad it lost steam before it became a beautiful disaster actually.

    At one point we did get Maynard down to New Orleans to work on that one track that Danny had started, which I think A Perfect Circle eventually worked up many years later, and we did some super-rough writing sketches with Anselmo, Tommy Victor, Page Hamilton, etc. - but it was just too much, too spread out, and there was too much other shit going on. So it passes into legend and memory.
    And Chaz was invited to the RRHOF induction ceremony, so let's hope he gets up on stage! That would be fun.
    Last edited by botley; 05-16-2020 at 03:42 PM.

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    Danny in 2003: "We have an entire album of stuff ready-to-mix.."

    Alan in 2003: "I've tracked at least an album's worth of stuff with the guys.."

    Trent in 2004: "These dudes are impossible to work with, so I'm just going to get Dave and bang out a new Nails record.."

    Charlie on May 14, 2020: "Gonna do an AMA on NIN Reddit, guys!"

    Trent's lawyer to Charlie on May 14, 2020, 5 minutes after the announcement: "Say whatever you want about Tapeworm, but so much as admit that album sitting in the vault could even remotely possibly exist, and that gear we tossed in the trash compactor that time will look like hitting the lottery.."

    Charlie at the AMA: "Yea, sorry guys, but not much left from those sessions, haha, Maynard took it all, selfish prick, so I guess that's that.."

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    WHIIIIINE. Haha, don't crywank too hard, your dick might freeze there.
    Last edited by botley; 05-16-2020 at 07:13 PM.

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    I was going to rub it in your face, too, but I already posted both Maynard's Dick *and* Cuntry Boner today.

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    Maynard's Dick > Cuntry Boner

    Also, all that extra Tapeworm stuff is what's on Deviations. Doesn't take a genius to figure it out. Or jokes about my dick. Charlie is just protecting his business interests with stuff like that, as he should. I mean, how many of us are going to get to jam with Trent in our lifetime, lol..

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    I think if they had never made the tapeworm.net website and dick-teased everyone with it, the Tapeworm thing wouldn't have been such a big, ongoing deal to the fans for so many years. It would have prolly just been mentioned in a couple of interviews here and there, and a much smaller segment of the fanbase would care. The website made it seem like a much more tangible thing than it apparently was in reality.

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    ^ Same with Bleedthrough (it's just With Teeth).

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    Quote Originally Posted by botley View Post
    ^ Same with Bleedthrough (it's just With Teeth).
    Was it? Wasn’t Bleedthrough some concept thing based on an Ursula K. Le Guin novel?

    And then he ditched that and made it about rehab?

    “Beside You In Time” (and maybe a few others) appear to be from the old project, but the rest clearly point to the revised theme (“the rehab album”). Okay, yeah, I guess you’re right in that he just recycled the music and changed the lyrics to focus on rehab and not Dreams That Alter Reality.

    And same thing in that nobody would ever know about Bleedthrough had there not been the web page shit. But nobody cares about that as much as people are obsessed with this Tapeworm stuff? It’s like the Ark of the Covenant or something.
    Last edited by allegro; 05-17-2020 at 08:31 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    Was it? Wasn’t Bleedthrough some concept thing based on an Ursula K. Le Guin novel?

    And then he ditched that and made it about rehab?
    Not directly. The 'concept' was, as far as we can tell, how getting sober felt like slipping into another plane of existence, with hints of mystical/messianic stuff from dreams. But reading between the lines, it seems like that never got beyond the planning stage because when actual finished songs came out, they were just like the ones on With Teeth, no need for the 'set dressing'. The sci-fi elements were all re-jigged for Year Zero. They made the elaborate website and artwork, it seems, more for inspiration than an actual preview of what was to come.

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    32 minutes in and Phil talks about Tapeworm. Recorded 2 or 3 songs with Danny...They definitely do not sound like "rough sketches" like Charlie boy claimed. In another interview Phil even had the names for the completed songs.......

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    Charlie mentions this when answering how he joined NIN (see: https://www.reddit.com/r/nin/comment...yed/fqt7rrh/):

    We had one secret gig at a small club in the flats in Cleveland, and then my first real gig was in front of like 20,000 people in Detroit.
    Is there anything known about this secret gig? Was it with or without crowd?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beta View Post
    Charlie mentions this when answering how he joined NIN (see: https://www.reddit.com/r/nin/comment...yed/fqt7rrh/):
    Is there anything known about this secret gig? Was it with or without crowd?
    Yes, just smaller venue than the rest of this (arena) tour.
    There's no bootleg so we don't know much else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fillow View Post
    Yes, just smaller venue than the rest of this (arena) tour.
    There's no bootleg so we don't know much else.
    Thanks! But just to clarify: It was a proper gig with a set date and crowd and all?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beta View Post
    Thanks! But just to clarify: It was a proper gig with a set date and crowd and all?
    Yes, at the Cleveland Odeon, Dec. 28th 1994. Initially scheduled as a private warmup (invitation-only) but word got out, and the place was jammed to its capacity of 1000 or so.
    Last edited by botley; 05-20-2020 at 04:11 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by botley View Post
    Yes, at the Cleveland Odeon, Dec. 28th 1994. Initially scheduled as a private warmup (invitation-only) but word got out, and the place was jammed to its capacity of 1000 or so.
    Here's an article about it:

    https://groups.google.com/d/msg/alt....M/CC8ksfp5RmUJ

    It was about 600 tickets sold (the remainder of capacity was probably reserved for band guests). The show was announced on the radio at 7 PM the night of the concert, sold out in 20 min, and proceeds went to charity. According to the article, private rehearsals at the Odeon were the day before and day of the concert.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helpmeiaminhell View Post


    32 minutes in and Phil talks about Tapeworm. Recorded 2 or 3 songs with Danny...They definitely do not sound like "rough sketches" like Charlie boy claimed. In another interview Phil even had the names for the completed songs.......
    He doesn't say anything that would suggest the songs were done, only that he went there, recorded some vocals, and then left.

    Dude is baked as fuck in that interview. He can barely keep his eyes open.

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    Quote Originally Posted by katara View Post
    He doesn't say anything that would suggest the songs were done, only that he went there, recorded some vocals, and then left.

    Dude is baked as fuck in that interview. He can barely keep his eyes open.
    That’s typical for Phil tho.

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    Quote Originally Posted by katara View Post
    He doesn't say anything that would suggest the songs were done, only that he went there, recorded some vocals, and then left.

    Dude is baked as fuck in that interview. He can barely keep his eyes open.

    Phil in 2013.......The songs have titles....These songs are completed and ready to go

    Out of all the projects you've done over the years, the most mysterious was Tapeworm, which supposedly included Trent Reznor and Maynard James Keenan, but was shelved.

    Actually, it was really me and Danny Lohner, who was in Nine Inch Nails at the time we did Tapeworm. Danny Lohner and I are still very tight, and we always talk about doing different projects together. I think he's gearing up to lay a bunch of material on me in the near future. But with the Tapeworm, it was really just two songs. Danny had preprogrammed and did all of his magic that he does – which is really outstanding work – beforehand, and said, "Hey man, here's the music. Write what you want." And these songs never saw the light of day. It was one of those things where schedules never met and it wasn't a true possibility. We were both tied to different record labels at the time. It was just a logistics nightmare.


    Either way, it was and is very interesting music. I think there was one aggressive-type song, called "Ignorant." I'm not sure if I want people to hear it today or tomorrow, but in the next ten years or so, I don't mind if it's heard. There was another song called "Be Kind to Them," and that song was more atmospheric, more of a blues-type track. It would be Nine Inch Nails' take on blues. It's the type of thing where Danny – who is also a great producer – he'll ask you to sing something 20 different ways, 20 different times. Then he'll take it and run with it, and build what he wants out of it. Take certain textures and add them to vocals, and then the really beautiful orchestrations in the background.
    Last edited by Helpmeiaminhell; 05-20-2020 at 04:16 PM.

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    Sounds like they recorded demo versions of said songs. Danny would have to sort through the vocal takes, adjust the arrangements and get them properly mixed und even mastered before they'd be in a somewhat "finished" state or fit for release. That he got to all of that while working on TF is doubtful imo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by r_z View Post
    Sounds like they recorded demo versions of said songs. Danny would have to sort through the vocal takes, adjust the arrangements and get them properly mixed und even mastered before they'd be in a somewhat "finished" state or fit for release. That he got to all of that while working on TF is doubtful imo.
    This was post Fragile...I remember Phil said in some other interview a long time ago that this was around 2001

  28. #28
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    You wanna hear Danny and Charlie's shit with other singers, that's great! Plenty of it out there. There's more of us who are here for TR and Atticus, and they didn't think it was worth their time, alas.

    (Yes, Atticus was around for the end of Tapeworm)

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    Quote Originally Posted by botley View Post
    You wanna hear Danny and Charlie's shit with other singers, that's great! Plenty of it out there. There's more of us who are here for TR and Atticus, and they didn't think it was worth their time, alas.

    (Yes, Atticus was around for the end of Tapeworm)

    LMAO oh please if the Tapeworm stuff leaked tomorrow, you would be lapping it up like 99.99999% of everyone on this board and praising what brilliant art it is....Pretend you don't care all you want. We know its a ruse.....And tbh I only care about any Tapeworm songs Phil or Trent sing on. I could care less about the other songs. I really dont give a shit about MJK crooning over electronic driven songs. I get enough of that in APC and Puscifer....

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    Personally, the only stuff I would be curious about would be if there had been anything with Toni Halliday, Dave Gahan, or Bowie on vocals. Otherwise, I'm like, "meh." Too many possible cooks in the kitchen for my interest.

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