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(skip past this explanation and go right to the good stuff!)

One of the cool things about making View was the process of creating the demo CD, which I tracked at home from September through December of 2002. I played all the instruments—using various forms of tweaked bass as a guitar substitute—and programmed the drums my own damned self. A lot of the ideas that ended up on View actually originated from this demo, which I took great care (for a demo) in mixing and mastering, albeit in a charmingly demo-type way.

Another cool thing that happened was the recording of some of the candid moments and jams from the tracking of the album itself, from April-June of 2003. I've got five CD's full of such moments, some of which I'm not too embarrassed to share with the public. In fact, regular readers of this site will know that I've toyed with the idea of making a special, available-through-the-website-only CD called Rear View Mirror to encapsulate all of this good stuff.

Well, I thought about it, and after careful deliberation, I solemnly said to myself, "What a freakin' hassle. Screw that - let's just post all the good stuff on the web for free, little by little." And that's what we're doing here. Only at bryanbellerdotcom do you get this kind of deliberative business acumen on display for all the world to see.

So, in bite-sized installments, Onion Boy Records presents... Rear View Mirror.

INSTALLMENT #4 - August 8, 2004

View (demo)
written by Bryan Beller
© 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI
File size: 5.3MB

Some things just work better in sequence. This was the last of the demos I constructed back in the end of 2002, and when it was done, I knew the album's writing phase was done as well. I tried, really, really hard to emulate the kind of guitar playing I wanted Griff Peters to ultimately do on this song. I'm happy to say he understood completely without me ever having to say a word about it, and made it his own signature tune of the album.

View (tracking)
written by Bryan Beller
© 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI
File size: 3MB

This is me tracking the Rhodes on the album version of "View," literally the last actual tracking that went down before we started mixing. We brought a Rhodes in from S.I.R. (a professional backline company, not cheap at all) and it had all sorts of technical problems, from stuck keys to bad sustain pedals, and I was working around several weirdnesses while trying to be oh-so-sensitive. By this time in the process, I was enjoying playing keyboards more than bass. I don't know why that was, but I sure felt like those classical piano lessons were finally paying off.


Get Things Done (demo)
written by Bryan Beller
© 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI
File size: 6.92MB

There's a whole lot of bass-playing-wishing-it-were-guitar-playing on this demo. I admit to getting off in a geeky way with the drum machine programming on this one. Not being one of those guys who did home recording as a kid, I hadn't really had the "wow, you can make a drum machine do ANYTHING YOU WANT!" moment until I did this. So what did I do? I programmed a drum solo with licks that were full-on tributes to Joe Travers. He even liked the last lick so much he played it on the album. Anyway, the origins of the bass solo that ended up on the record are right here on the demo, as well as plenty of other signpost material.


Bite (tracking)

written by Wes Wehmiller & Colin Keenan
© 1995 Maximum Music
File size: 2.66MB

Just four guys and an engineer throwing down some rock basic tracks, that's all. Voices during breaks include myself, Nick D'Virgilio ("you're all in the same neighborhood"), Wes Wehmiller (he's the quiet low voice) and a snip of Griff Peters. Near the end we cut to us listening back to the drum track, which Joe seems perfectly happy with (indeed, we kept it).


Eighteen Weeks (demo)

written by Bryan Beller
© 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI
File size: 7.05MB

For those familiar with the long and involved album track, you may be amazed to hear how closely this demo was followed when we set out to the real thing. That was not an accident. Other songs came together in demo form in a matter of days, or perhaps one week if it was tough. This one took two full months from start to finish. I really sweated over little details, knowing that the more I figured out at home, the less time it would take in the studio. While I'm busy patting myself on the back, let me take the opportunity to tell you how satisfied I was with the final mix of the demo. It was all done on eight tracks with no bouncing, plus two extra tracks for the built-in drum machine. Make your own prog-rock, right at home. Amazing.


Eighteen Weeks (tracking)

written by Bryan Beller
© 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI
File size: 2.38MB

Lotsa lotsa keyboard for yours truly on this bit. I'm working on getting the string patterns in the Inevitably Long Progressive Rock Bridge Section just right for everyone's listening pleasure. (Keneally aficionados will note the big-time "Lightning Roy" homage contained most obviously in this part of the tune.) Then it's a quick cut to Rick Musallam laying down some excellent acoustic guitar arpeggios in the same bridge section. It's a real shame I don't have more candid audio from the tracking of this tune, because Tricia Steel (vibes) and Rick worked long and hard on getting everything right, and there were some priceless moments. But this is really all I have to show for it. This, and the album track, of course.


Seven Percent Grade (demo)

written by Bryan Beller
© 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI
File size: 4.98MB

I figured it would be appropriate to end the Rear View Mirror project with the file that started the whole concept—the demo of "Seven Percent Grade." This was first made available on January 1, 2003, as a way-in-advance preview of what View was going to sound like, and was literally the first note of original Bryan Beller material that anyone really heard. The response was extremely generous and propelled me forward into the recording phase with a good deal of confidence. I still look back on this demo in particular as a little piece of magic; how I did some of the "guitar" parts is still a mystery to me. I actually took it down when View came out, because I thought it was a special little thing that only hardcores should have. But that's not very nice, now, is it? I'm getting soft in my old age, I guess.


INSTALLMENT #3 - June 1, 2004
 
Wildflower (demo)
written by Bryan Beller
© 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI
File size: 4.33MB

This installment of Rear View Mirror deals with the "emo" section of the record - "Wildflower" and "Projectile," both of which contain (shudder) my own vocals. In the case of "Wildflower," the song was conceptualized and captured in great detail on the demo, so much so that differences with the actual track may seem slight. But they're there: the synth part is different, the "wah guitar" is me on a bass playing through the SWR Mo' Bass, and the vocal treatment is completely different - as well as mixed way too loud. Still, an interesting artifact, and unlike any other song on the record, demo or no demo.

Projectile (guitar tracking)
written by Bryan Beller
© 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music
File size: 2.72MB

Once again, courtesy of Gruno's room mike facing the studio monitors, we have a tracking session in progress. This time it's the venerable Yogi breaking out a variety of deadly crunch tones for the multi-layered guitar part in "Projectile," my ode to several of my least favorite experiences with women (hat tip to Trent Reznor). I can't remember how many guitar tracks we eventually did for this tune. I'm thinking 6 or 7.

written by Bryan Beller
© 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music
File size: 1.44MB

No, the lyrics for "Projectile" aren't in the CD booklet, but if you listen closely to this file, you'll know what they are. This was recorded while the vocal track from the demo - which we ended up keeping - was dumped into Pro Tools. It served as nice background music while we shared bites of Rick Musallam's beef salad from Quizno's. Other voices heard in the background are Nick D'Virgilio, Mr. Gruno, and the Webmistress Katy.

 
INSTALLMENT #2 - May 6, 2004

 See You Next Tuesday (demo)
written by Bryan Beller
© 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI
File size: 3.78MB


This installment of Rear View Mirror deals with one of the most difficult tunes on the album, the aptly named "See You Next Tuesday". The demo version contained here was constructed in painfully slow fashion; programming fast swing drums and simulating lightning-quick heavy-metal-bebop licks (on what would eventually be a baritone guitar played by Mike Keneally) took hours upon hours, and some really humiliating edits to get the melody sounding right. But when it was done, I stood back from it and thought to myself, "This is the kind of song I'd like to hear the old Mike Keneally and Beer For Dolphins trio play." Most fun was playing a guitar solo where melody wasn't as important as pure aggression. And nearly as fun was programming the drums during the song's penultimate moment. After I was done with it, it took me another hour just to figure out how to count in 4/4 through it. Yes, the point was for this song to be hard.

See You Next Tuesday (studio jam/alternate take)

written by Bryan Beller
(c) 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music
File size: 3.96MB

This was recorded on a room mike facing the studio monitors, as we warmed up for what we knew would be a tough tune to track. I can still see the look on Keneally's face and he pounded away on Griff Peters' custom-made Carruthers baritone guitar, playing that repeating lick in the chorus until his face turned red. It wasn't until after this take that we decided to add the Small Stone phaser effect. As a result, the guitar has a little more raw power in this run-through, which was never actually meant to be anything but a rehearsal.
 

INSTALLMENT #1 - April 4, 2004 

Supermarket People (demo)
written by Bryan Beller
(c) 2003 Panorama Ataraxia Music BMI
File size: 6.33MB

Those familiar with the album version of this tune will notice plenty of differences with the original concept as laid down on this demo. The groove was supposed to be much more jazz-lounge, but when Toss got a hold of it he turned it into a Bernhard Purdie funk shuffle, and the tune started cutting a groove so deep I dared not interfere. Tracking the piano underneath the extended middle solo section was an unexpected joy. Programming the drums for the displaced-triplet lick at the end of each chorus was... interesting. 

Seven Percent Grade (studio jam)
written by Bryan Beller(c) 2003
Panorama Ataraxia Music
File size: 1.29MB

Sometimes when you're setting up in the studio and you're getting ready to track a tough tune as a band, the energy in the room is almost overwhelming. "Seven Percent Grade" was a song that required a good deal of rehearsal, so by the time we were minutes away from doing it, we were like horses waiting for the starting gun of a race. Near the end of this clip, Rick Musallam and I break the tune down into a bass-and-guitar-only jam.