I’ve been wanting to do a write-up regarding this album for a few months now, but haven’t found a place or time I considered appropriate to sit down and summarize the several years behind the album I recorded last fall. Considering that right now (March 20, 2015 11:26 PM) is exactly one month (and 46 minutes) away from the day the album will be released, I guess tonight could be considered significant enough to try and tackle this all. My memory is poor so this may get spotty at times, but I’ll do my best to be thorough.
King Sleep has to be the most fitting place for me to start as it was the first song I wrote for the record. I remember playing this song at several live shows during my final high school year in Columbus, Indiana and specifically remember playing it at my “Tour” Send-Off show in 2012 at Loran B’s house. I had wanted to write a song that felt as though it was programmed by a computer, something devoid of any inherent emotion.
(The show in question. 3/16/2012 at Loran B’s House)
Honeypot, Retcon, and Ampersand were all written in about a month span of time after arriving to my first semester of college. I think the desperation, anxiety, and frustration really shine through and reflect what I was feeling that eventually led to me leaving school. Retcon is very close and special to me and the song I would encourage people to listen to if I wanted to summarize the ideology of Mylets in one song. I titled the album Retcon because it retconned those three EPs I had recorded and I titled the song Retcon because it retconned that entire album and showed a departure from the mindset of the songs featured on it (a mindset of juvenile angst and misplaced, uneducated frustration).
I left college after one semester after being signed by the Sargent House label. The next year in February of 2013, I packed up all of my music gear and drove out to live alongside the label in Los Angeles. My approach to writing drastically changed as soon as I learned I had been signed. I suddenly was putting an unhealthy amount of misguided pressure on myself because of the environment I was in. This would ultimately prove heavily counterproductive to not only my creative output, but also took a pretty drastic toll on my mental well-being. In February of 2014, I recorded a few the Indiana songs along 6 or 7 other songs I had written in Los Angeles. I went into the studio in a terrible mindset, underprepared, and feeling uncomfortably intimidated by the world. This album along with those songs were all scrapped shortly after that and I stepped away from music for a few months to reanalyze my approach and get back on track.
Homes was written all on my laptop (on the program TuxGuitar) the day I arrived back to Los Angeles from my first North American Tour (2013 with ASIWYFA + TTNG).
Oh wow, hold on I completely forgot. Shark is actually the oldest song on this record, though in a very strange way. The main progression throughout that whole song was actually something I had written on Frooty Loops for a Huckleberry Finn video project for my High School English class when I was a Junior in 2011. I still have the video somewhere and during the closing credits you can hear a very basic piano version of Shark while watching Zane W and I struggle to get off of the row boat we borrowed to shoot the video. I loved that melody, but forgot about it until about a month before I went into the studio in August.
The second half of Seven Seals is also a melody from the high school days. Mackenzie A actually has a cassette recording from a show which has an almost audible version of the song featuring the part I would later adapt to this song.
That leaves the only two songs that were fully written in 2014: Arizona and Trembling Hands. The main section of Arizona was a little finger exercise that I was constantly playing on my friend Matt P’s incredible 1980′s Les Paul out at the Farm. I had the melody in my head for months and everyone who heard it seemed to be humming it for several hours after hearing it as well. I’m really proud of that song. Trembling Hands (in the vein of many album singles) was a last minute addition. I have a video on my phone from the last day of studio and I’m playing an absurdly chopped version of what I would later change into the main progression. We booked a day a few weeks later to make sure we got the song right and I think we did.
So now that there are extremely rough origin stories for each of the nine songs that made it on to the record, it’s time to go into the studio. On 8/9/2014, I buzzed the gate at Kingsize Soundlabs in Eaglerock, CA and met Sonny Diperri in Studio C.
Over the next ten days Sonny and I worked 9 to midnight as I tracked all of the guitar, bass, vocals, and programmed drums for the record. It was a learning experience like no other! I have journal entries from each day that really reflect how much fun I was having. Hour breaks were taken for lunch and chess matches.
Even with the amount of work I was putting in during the day, I hardly slept at night. I was full of a kind of excitement and naivety I hadn’t felt since I was in elementary school. I was getting my ass kicked and surrounded by as many interesting new problems as I cared to solved and I found myself caring about every single one of them.
Sonny is not only an expert engineer and producer, but also a true friend. I look forward to working with him for many years to come. I attribute a lot of the confidence prevalent throughout the performances on the record to his guidance and persistence.
Rejected album titles (thankfully):
Talking is a Free Action
On Creaking Floors
The Mighty Jack IV
I decided to call the album Arizona on September 10, 2014.
- Henry Kohen
I very regrettably did not take many photos from inside the studio, but we did have studio assistants take logs of many of the gear settings throughout the record. Unfortunately, all of the assistants used various formats and levels of thoroughness so it isn’t a complete list, but here are the essential pieces of gear that really shaped the record:
For clean or slightly driven guitars, we primarily used a 1970′s Fender Twin Reverb. Vintage Fenders are classics for a reason, there’s nothing really like them.
On some of the more driven bits, we used an Orange Rockerverb 50 Combo which had a real aggressive bite that was nice to accentuate leads.
The studio also had a Roland JC120 handy, which we used sparingly for an almost direct-input signal sound.
On bass, we ran straight into the board through whatever effects we were using.
I really wanted the guitars on the record to be notable for clarity. That meant cutting back on delay and reverb and focusing on placement. Here are a few of effects that were crucial to the sound of the record:
DOD 410 reissue
DOD 250 reissue
1960′s Roger Mayer Octavia
When delays were used, we used a computer generated BPM-based delay, but I was also very fortunate enough to use my friend Matt’s 1980′s EHX Memory Man and Sonny’s vintage 1960′s Maestro EP-3 Tape Delay along with his 1970′s Roland RE-201 Space Echo.
Almost all of the guitar duties were split between two very different models. For any part that required a significant amount of intricacy and clarity, I used a 1990 MIM Fender Stratocaster with Seymour Duncan Hot Rails (usually on the mid/bridge pick-up).
For the parts where we wanted to take up as much space as possible or assist low-end, we used an early 1980′s Gibson Sonex 180 Deluxe that was sitting at the studio. A naturally dark model, someone had left super heavy flatwounds on it that really allowed it to thicken up choruses.
Alesis SR-16 (1990) Console
Alesis HR-16 (1987) Samples
Linn LM-1 (1980) Samples
Roland CR-78 (1978) Samples
Yamaha RX-5 (1986) Samples
I’ve got a whole journal of notes from before, during, and after the recording process. A lot of it is uninteresting and some of it is too personal, but here are two entries I thought worth sharing.
Movies that impacted this album:
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)
Il Pugni in Tasca (1965)
The Trial (1962)
Vanilla Sky (2001)
What I hope to accomplish with this record:
Be proud of it for at least six months