songwriting

Pantemonium! in progress: Older Woman

This track has a heavy Michael Jackson influence. Thought I would tip my shiny hat to the one-gloved master. I hope he's far from pressure and Post-It notes now.

I wanted to try to write something with a little more soul while simultaneously paying tribute to some of our hardest-core fans. Make no mistake - I love the older women. Look at Farrah Fawcett. Smokin' until the end. There are too many to name.

Still on track to have the new album finished before summer's over. Dante's going to paint up a nice cover.

Tell us what you think.

Older Woman (mix 09) MP3

The Best Song I've Ever Written

Image from Panoramix.com via GooglePantemonium! is coming. Work is proceeding slowly, but it is proceeding. Drummer Dante is headed back in for more hand surgery today (we're all wishing him luck) and T What!? is still in China touring with acrobats or whatever his solo project entails.

Me? I've been in the studio mixing.

I'd like to present what I believe is The Best Song I've Ever Written. It's called Summer's Promise. This is the current rough mix. I wrote this song back in 2005. It's based on a true story, as are many of my songs.

The lyrics may be a little corny, but I love the feeling. The melody, the keyboard line, the guitar parts - I don't know how it turned out so good, but I'll take it.

Let me know what you think. Snare drum is too loud or something. But it's very close to done.

It was June and July, it was her and me
It was meant to be
When the heat of the day became the heat of the night
We held each other tight
And we danced
All summer long
And we sang
All summer long

But vacations end and it was time to go
Returning home
On my own
All that year I carried the mark of Summer's promise
On my heart
I would wait for Summer to come
Counting days
Until they all were gone

But Summer's promise never meant to last
She gave her heart and then she took it back
People change and the world spins so fast
Summer's promise never meant to last

Next June arrived
And so did I
With a flower and a smile for her
But the look on her face told me everything had changed
We never talked about it
But there was no doubt

And to this day, I have a scar
Where her promise broke
and cut my heart
and I cried
All summer long

Summer's promise never meant to last
She gave her heart and then she took it back
Feelings change and shatter like glass
Summer's promise never meant to last


(C) 2005 Erich Zahn Music

On Instruments

Music software crank and blogger Chris Randall wrote a typically thoughtful post on what makes something a good instrument. He should know - his company makes really good effects plug-ins, many of which I own and use.

My take? "Pro" isn't what you use. It's how you use it.

The notion of "inspiration" is too subjective for me to consider, though. For me, it's easy to be briefly inspired on any new instrument, from the sheer novelty of the sound or interface. I've come up with many a part or song by noodling around on someone else's gear.

And what inspires you today may be what you're sick of tomorrow.

Good instruments make it easy to get at sufficient depth to encourage creativity without either losing you in details, menus, and parameters or restricting your choices.

Sadly, I no longer have any of the gear dating back to the Pants' early days in the suburban garages of our youth. However, I do have a few pieces of gear I've been using since the late 80s and many I've been using for nearly 10 years.

The good stuff is limited just enough, and frequently references old, tried, tested designs - the Nord Lead 2 we use live is basically a digital Prophet-5 with more voices (sadly, it doesn't do much better than the original for a display).

Back in ye olde dayes (a.k.a. the 80s) the Pants threw down big cash (at the time) for a Yamaha DX-7. It was considered one of the "Seven Deadly Synths" one had to have for a complete studio/record/band/whatever. It remains one of the best-selling synths of all time. New Order used it for their famous bass line on "Bizarre Love Triangle". I think Howard Jones used one for "What Is Love?" And its electric piano sounds were inescapable for the whole of the 80s.
I hated it.

We only ended up using it on a few tracks on "Life, Style". It was hard to program, combining a brand-new synthesis methodology (frequency modulation, a.k.a. FM) with one of the worst user interfaces ever to grace a popular keyboard. At the time, we (like almost everyone else) were unable to move much beyond the presets.

Parenthetically, it also schooled me on the dangers of beverages in the studio - I spilled a bottle of diet Pepsi Free into the key portion a week before a major gig. Ended up costing several hundred dollars to fix and I had to borrow a Korg Poly-800 to cover for it. Ouch.

A few years ago I traded a hot pink Ibanez Steve Vai Jem 777 for a DX-7IIFD, largely because I was interested in exploring alternate tunings, which the IIFD did (and was one of the only keyboards to do so). By then, I had learned enough to understand FM - but the interface still got in the way.

And no matter what, the DX series always felt like work. I never once sat down and said "ooh, this makes me want to write a song!"

The first synth I ever had was a Casio CZ-101 which my parents bought me for Christmas. I loved that thing and could program it 9 ways to Sunday. My brother sold it a few years ago after I asked him to take care of it for me (I guess I should have been more specific about what I meant by "take care of it for me!").
I still have horrible ancient recordings of that thing - seems like I couldn't touch it without starting to write something. Ironically, it was only slightly easier to program than the DX, and far more limited. And definitely not considered "pro".

But given a choice between the two today, I'd grab that CZ-101.