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The Troll King

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Report [11 Oct 2004|04:49pm]
[ mood | hungry ]

So I'm lying on the floor of my dirty apartment, listening to this crappy midi version of this musical idea that's been chasing me around for about a year now. It's cycling over and over again. I'm trying to figure out what to be singing to it. I'm just staring at the ceiling and yelling atonally over it because I can't for the life of me find a tune.

It's very complex. The piano line is, I mean. Most songs, I get an idea for a piano riff, and I just improvise a vocal line over it. But this won't let me; I've been trying that for months and nothing comes because my brain is engrossed in having my fingers fly over the keys in just that exactly right way. So I whipped up a dinky midi of the main piano line, to free my brain from having to play it.

If I ever play live again this will NOT be a staple, let me tell you. I'll sing you Snow Falls, Flower of the City, Undone, Darkest Star, Fixate, and Zero Hour twenty million times before I'll sing . . . whatever it is this will become. I'll even do you Skeleton Key (wait, only bogdi knows that one) before this . . . . thing.

I've got more important things to be doing. I feel weak from hunger but I can't feed myself until i do the dishes that I've let pile up in the sink (nothing to eat from). I could run across the road to the Tim Horton's and spend $5.95 on their delicious chicken and roasted red pepper sandwich, but I've only got $80 in my bank account and I need that $80. I've got school work to prepare for Wednesday (it is a long weekend in Canada), and a Rhodes Scholarship application to finish preparing.

But instead I am lying on my back in the middle of all this disarray and listening to a little dinky midi cycle over and over again, trying to let my mind slip into whatever song is in there.

God damnit.

In the mean time, my soundclick site is http://www.soundclick.com/bencollins. Get a free membership (they don't spam) and download Flower of the City, Zero Hour, Dusk Fell Over You, something. Hopefully soon I'll have a home-recorded EP to distribute somehow. Maybe I'll give it away. I've become a lot less pretentious about my music. All I care about is people hearing it, and now that I've been making attempts to gain control over the process of recording, there's no need for me to charge admission, beyond the price of manufacturing the actual physical CD, which is cheap to do.

Maybe I'll give it away with an optional donation.

Back to the floor. Some musicians take drugs; I just work myself into a stupor the good ol' fashioned way.

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Live from my Living Room [21 Mar 2004|12:02am]
A lovely musical evening, this. I didn't know until I sat at the piano but I had so much in me that needed spilling out. I played for more than an hour and I played with passion. My singing voice was strong and tuneful, my piano playing vicious. I really wish I could invite everyone into my living room these evenings when I'm 'on.' Someday I will give proper concerts, I swear it.

Anyway, here's what I played

1. Winter Baby - a surprisingly ANGRY version, very fast, pounding/howling the choruses. Surprised myself; never thought of it as a song to 'frenzy' to.

2. Long instrumental improv, very acerbic and bitter.

3. Do What I Can - one of the songs that will be on the new album; happy and insane with a very sad undertone because who inspired it is dead now.

4. Cold Room - One of my best lyrics. I tried to record it for Fixate but the vocal take was so crpapy I couldn't in good conscious release it ('Silent' was called off my old demo disc as a replacement). Don't know when if ever anyone other than myself and my family will hear this one.

5. Motherland - A pretty, melancholy Natalie Merchant cover I always play for my mother.

6. Monster - After the brief interlude of 'Motherland' I went right back to the heavy demon music; this song is very new (only a few weeks old) but already it is one of my favourites.

7. Sugar - A Tori Amos cover; I growl the lyrics.

8. Father Lucifer - The Tori love continues.

9. Pianowire - An instrumental my brother wrote that is all funk and bravado.

10. Snow Falls - I swear to you all, one day you will hear a PROPER version of this song. Both ones I've put out there have been highly flawed.

11. Battlefield - another new one. actually the song has been kicking around since 2001 and was almost on 'Fixate' but it's constantly evolving, growing longer, more complex, more frightening. With the latest bridge added there is no way it will be kicked off the upcoming release.

Speaking of upcoming releases, my dad reminded me today that in only a mere month's time I will have my little home recording situation set up. Very excited. I don't want to overhype this, because who knows how quickly I'll learn to work the devices/programs well? However, I can't help it. My session tonight reminded me just how much these songs rock. I feel I have 'arrived' as a songwriter.

I also used to think that my singing voice was less good when I was playing piano - after all, I could only spare half my brain for each task while playing and singing at once. However, lately when just singing my voice has been crap. When singing AND playing, it has been powerful, controlled, and spot on the money, tone-wise. What a strange and fortuitous turn of events.

I feel I should make you aware of Embryonic Collins, where you can download pre-2001 home recordings of my earliest songs. Thus far a proto-Undone and a proto-Zero Hour are there. This is actually Zero Hour's official public debut but it's such a crappy recording, don't judge it. Just take it as a sing - a way of looking back and saying "look how far we've come"

Do you ever get strange things in your mail? Do tell. *devious smile*
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[31 Jan 2004|12:43am]
[ mood | pleased ]

I'm happy to announce that the tracklist for my second album has been finalized, as has the title:

Skin and Bone

It didn't begin as a concept, but I realized, when put in the correct order, that the album told the story of two different entites with completely opposite natures, and what happens when they collide. There are 14 tracks in total. Key Tracks Include: The Fourth Wall, London Rain, Ghost Dance, Circle, Black Coffee, and the song I will be trying to push to any form of radio that will play it (i.e. 'the single'), Sky Song.

I'm going to set a release date for August of 2004, but that will all depend on how recording progresses (it might be sooner, but will probably be later, if it gets changed at all.) I really hope to get it out in 2004, as, hey, the songs are all ready to go.

Fixate News

Despite a very laissez-faire attitude toward promotion, a very exciting thing happened a few days ago with regards to my debut album 'Fixate' : the first run of it sold out.

That's right, the 35 copies I had made 11 months ago have all been sold.

Although I still contend that some Fixate songs needed retakes, some arrangements are sparse and anemic, and some lyrics are very obviously written when I was 16, I've become a little proud of the album recently. There's a lot of good stuff about it.

So thank you to everyone who supported me by buying a copy. I hope you enjoyed what you heard. I also hope you stay tuned for the next release, because, from a writer's point of view, the new songs blow the old ones out of the water, and, from a studio point of view, they'll be much richer and intricate in sound (as well as 'better' - no sour notes permissable as I can do dozens of retakes and vocal layerings!)

So, here's to Fixate. Cheers, buddy.

I'm just curious: what's everyone's favourite song from the album? I assume most reading this own it . . . after almost a year of listening, I think that 'Winter Baby' is the best track on there. Share your thoughts!
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Gearing up [11 Nov 2003|01:42am]
[ mood | excited ]

Very exciting times, these.

I'm going to give the 'Acid' sound recording program a try, mainly because a friend has provided me with it for free. So that means a couple of decent mics might be all I want for x-mas (well, maybe a few cds . . . 'n some gingerbread cookies . . .) I'll give the program a whirl, and see if it suits me. The biggest obstacle is how a Luddite like myself can become adept with what might be a complex program. What if I can't equalize things correctly? What the heck is 'equalizing' anyway?

I will be trolling the internet and posting questions on forums (or fora!) to supplement my own method of 'learning by experience.'

In any case, I should be happy as a clam soon, creating subtle and densely layered sonic masterpieces, honed to perfection by relentless take after take. OK, that sounds agonizing, but trust me, it will bring me joy almost too immense to comprehend. If I keep at things, I pick them up quickly enough, and I've never wanted to keep at something so much before.

I have been spending a lot of time with my friend Maaike and her boyfriend (rapidly becoming my friend as well) Helme. This is wonderful as Helme is a music geek like myself, and we quite frequently geek out on the topic of music. (By 'geek out', I just mean a spirited conversation on, say, the merits and flaws of 6/8 time, for example.)

He's a multi-instrumentalist with a background in classical theory - ideal. He asked if I could maybe take a look at some stuff this evening, and in return I asked if he might play some guitar for me, some time. I'm absolutely psyched at the chance to work with another music person - all a-flutter. Most of my friends are literary types, so I've never known the joy of this before. My brother (the bass guy) usually just plays what I tab out for him, and my other musical friends are fellow keyboardists, so a musical evening with them rarely involves any form of collaboration. I guess that's why I'm so excited at this opportunity to exchange musical ideas!

In a week or two (when I am positive that home recording is an imminent reality) I am going to start posting details about an upcoming album. By that I mean the following two things:

Announcing: The 'Skeleton Key' EP. CD-R. Contains rarieties, alternate versions of old songs, and completely new songs. You can get a free copy! (how? I'm not saying yet.) Check back for details. The release will happen when the next album nears completion.

Internet Music. You will be able to download exclusive content - completely new songs, unavailable anywhere else, covers, and more. Each file is a step on a path - one you'll have to follow to reach the next song. This trail of exclusive music will open up just before the upcoming album is released.

I have a surge of confidence - but it is a calm and steady feeling, one of reliable power. In the past I have bounced violently between rejoicing in my music or being ashamed of it. I think, now, I am finally ready to accept it just as it is, no glorification, no apology. My skin has thickened, my skills have grown . . . . there is no reason I cannot do this.

If all goes well, before summer 2004 you won't believe what's happened. An album, a sibling EP, exclusive internet tracks . . . a feast is being prepared, and I have the excitement and energy of an enthusiastic cook.
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[25 Oct 2003|03:23am]
My friend Amanda got me to give a 'Storyteller' introduction to one of my songs tonight, and it got me to thinking. If I were asked to play a collection of my songs and tell the story of how they came to be before playing them, what would I say?

The following are the stories of eight songs. Four are from 'Fixate' and four are from my second album, which has yet to start the recording process, but is almost completely written. I think the new songs are far superior to the old, but you can't just disown yourself from your past, and none of the songs here are ones I would call bad.


DARKEST STAR - Sometimes, meaning is evolved, rather than intended.

A lot of my songs aren't about me, or people I know, or even real things. They're just a reflection of my thoughts at the time. Because I don't really think in words or images, I have a lot of trouble explaining the meanings of many of my songs to people.

Darkest Star was originally one of these songs. It had meaning that I understood, but was impossible to communicate to others. If especially pressed as to the song's meaning, I'd mutter "angst and alienation, something along those lines." There's no cohesive narrative because I hadn't developed that far as a songwriter - I was only 17.

I think I can articulate it better, now. The speaker is a person who is so cynical that he assumes knowledge of the future, and of the true nature of reality, and that that knowledge is bleak and despairing. He first rages against it - the loud part, where he denounces the cheery assumptions and willful ignorance of those around him - but then he accepts it, which is represented in the gentle, yet melancholy coda.


SNOW FALLS - I was standing in a parking lot in Mount Pearl Newfoundland, April 2001 - I was 18, and had just been picked up by my mom, following a music lesson. My school was on easter holiday.
We had stopped at a gas station to use the bathrooms, and thanks to the convenience of the urinals, I was finished way before mom. So I stood in the parking lot, by our locked car, waiting for mom to come open the car so we could start the 90 minute drive back to my home, in the bay.
The snow started to softly fall - snow in April - and I started to hear this pretty piano part in my head. All of the 90 minutes drive home were spent thinking about this, and jotting little lyrical ideas in my Harmony notebook. When I got back to Placentia, I was lucky enough to have the house to myself for a few hours after supper. I sat at the piano, and by the time my family returned - a matter of an hour, at the msot - this song had come to me, exactly as you are about to hear it.

I have yet to achieve a satisfactory recording of this song.


WINTER BABY - Despite loving confessional singer-songwriters, I never was one. There were parts of myself I felt compelled to hide, as a teenager, which bred in me a certain desire for secrecy. Up to a point, I am extremely open about my life - but if you attempt to pass that point, the door is firmly closed unless you are a very special person.

I was young, I was in University, I fancied I was in love, and because of that I fancied that I had been jilted. What was breaking apart was affecting my entire personality - when you build your life around someone who you've only known for a few months, you deserve a kick in the face, I suppose. My friendships were troubled, and in my despair I was messing with stuff - too much to drink, casual sex - that wasn't good for me - not good for my body or my heart.

So I was sitting on the bus contemplating how everything had soured all at once, so quickly. I wrote this song then, there on the bus, hunched over my little notebook. It was my first confessional song.


UNDONE - As a child my greatest fear (along with aliens) was the end of the world. It just so happens that I was a teenager during the millenial angst - still young enough for the fanciful fears and notions of the time to affect me. I didn't think the world would end at the stroke of midnight on new year's eve, but I was just a little afraid all the same.

Out of that fear this song came bounding like a strange sort of welcome nightmare.

I was visiting my friend Amanda a few days later. She's a musician too, and we were playing around on the piano, in turns. The final turn before I left, I started to play the main piano riff. I went home, sat down, and out came this song, wild as a tribe of post-apocalyptic tribesmen dancing around their fires.


THE FOURTH WALL - This song was written just days before I did the final recordings for 'Fixate.' I wanted to include it - I wanted it to open the album. In a way, it's lucky that a lack of studio time made that impossible. I had only written the song literally three or four days prior - so it wasn't properly 'cooled.' I couldn't play it well, it hadn't settled, it might have needed re-writes - and if I had recorded it, it would have been a hurried, piano+one vocal track thing.
So I'm glad I held it back. It matured slowly, but it was worth it for its destiny - that of a finer end product kicking off a much superior CD.

I wrote it because I was getting into Kate Bush - you can probably guess 'Wow' was an influence here - and I said 'Michael, you have to improve your lyrics. You have to try and write songs as good as these.'


BLOOD ON THE PAVEMENT - I always wanted to invent piano-punk music. I'm forever angered at people who view the piano as some weak, prissy, faery ballerina princess of an instrument. That does a huge dis-service to the instrument. A piano has got more balls than a guitar ever could - because a guitar is all bravado. The emmasculation of the piano is a crime that I always wanted to reverse.

So while driving home on the highway I saw a huge bloodstain on the pavement. It was probably a moose accident - my uncle was killed in a moose accident so my family is very aware of how deadly these things can be. Anyway, the image of blood on the pavement stayed with me all the way home, and when I arrived, I went straight to the piano and penned this. It's my 'murder song' - everybody needs a murder song.


SKY SONG - My friends all know that I want to defy gravity. I want to levitate, to fly without effort or fear - to move through air as if it were water, and I a fish. Blasts of wind to my face excite me - as in, a physical, gut-reaction. One of the purest pleasures I know is sailing through the air on a swing-set.

I guess this is a song about my desire to fly. You know how I've already explained that sometimes songs are hard to describe because they go straight from my stream of thought to the sonics? This song is about a feeling more than it is about anything your intellect can understand. It's freedom, joy . . . flying through air,


DO WHAT I CAN - During my time at University, my aunt, who lived in the same city - she was always very good to me - asked me to dogsit for them over a weekend. I was more than happy to oblige - a big, clean house with food, a puppy dog, a baby grand piano and high-speed internet connection? How could I not!

So this dog is neurotic. Bless her. She's my favourite dog that I've ever met. Sweet, cute - and completely devoted to her family, especially my uncle. So, of course, with Uncle Frank gone, she whines and cries almost constantly. If I was paying direct attention to her, she'd calm down a little - usually. Sometimes she'd be shaking and crying so bad I was almost afraid something was physically wrong with her.

So I sat at the computer and wrote her a silly little poem - then, since the piano was there, I set it to a happy little waltz ditty. It's one of my favourite things to play - just so happy and bright, yet quirky.

The dog was old and quite deaf at this point so I guess she never really heard her song. It doesn't matter I guess - this song is for Magic.
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In Europe and America, there's a growing feeling of hysteria [10 Sep 2003|05:00pm]
[ mood | reflective ]

Born in a snow storm (or was that an especially dry winter?), 1983, I came squalling into this world with a cap of black hair and pointy ears (they're inherited and are called "buckey" ears in Bonavista bay, where my mother is from.) I guess a few hundred years ago, I might have been thought a changling child - for I wasn't particularly attractive even at the tender age of None. However, my family loved me very much and enrolled me in piano lessons as soon as the matronly old piano lady (every small town has one) would have me.

Despite this somewhat less-than-formal training, I took to the instrument like it was made for me, devouring dozens of conservatory pieces a week, for a while. Eventually, classical training got hard. I moved from the nice small town piano lady to music teachers in the City, who had fancy University degrees on their walls.

I cannot play piano for more than 90 minutes straight; my back starts to hurt and I get hungry. So, I suffered Bach and his ilk long enough to get my Grade 9 certificate in Canada's fabled Royal Conservatory of Music. You have permission to gasp (gasp!) at my impertinence towards Herr Bach. I'm continually bowled over by the complexity and genius of the compositions bleah bleah bleah - but they are HARD and showed me that a career in classical music was not something I wanted. A huge incentive is needed to put in the work required to master 'The Well Tempered Klavier', and I just didn't have it. I still loved music, though - what could I do?

I was going to joke 'play piano in hotel lobbies' and 'play for weddings' but I actually have done both of these things. I stray from my point.

An adolescent admiration for Tori Amos had inspired me to try singing while playing piano. When people didn't tell me to stop, I started writing some of my own songs. These teenaged efforts can be heard on my album 'Fixate.' I bet I won't be half so chagrined by them as Ms. Amos is of 'Baltimore', but I do know her pain, for already, in my early 20s, I feel like distancing myself from songs I wrote at age 16. Musically they are very sound, bur as songs, well, some of them just aren't very good.

So, it almost feels like I had an abortive debut onto the independent piano-based singer-songwriter internet scene. The works of contemporaries like Pepper McGowan, Terami Hirsch, Gabriela Kulka, etc. all outstrip my one contribution to this body of work.

Hopefully, this will change. I am planning to buy some recording equipment, as opposed to paying out the nose for a recording studio that doesn't even have a real piano (albeit their keyboard was very very good.) The songs I am writing now convey emotions better, I think, and are a hell of a lot smarter. As long as my voice and piano skills do not degrade too far from the days of classical training, I should have something worthy of your full attention rather soon.

I have plans for a free promo CD-R, once I start recording these. A few of the better 'Fixate' songs (like Darkest Star, Winter Baby, maybe a new Snow Falls, Dusk Fell Over You, Tower), a few new songs (like London Rain, Blood on the Pavement, The 4th Wall, etc.), and possible a few covers, depending on the legalities of it all (not exactly songs you would expect a sensitive dude on a piano to sing.)

After all, I feel sort of wrong, having charged people for 'Fixate.' Fixate was a step in the learning process - interesting, and at times worthwhile, but still, somewhat unsatisfying.

So, this CD-R project will not only be great for promotion (who wouldn't want a free cd in the mail?), but it will reward the people who are actually going to read this within a few weeks of my posting it - the 10-20 people who were courteous enough to see within me the spark of talent and skill (I know it is in there somewhere), and who are kind enough to stick around and watch it develop.

I set no deadlines, because I don't know when I will have the money to get this fabled equipment - indeed, I am not even sure what I should get, just yet. Stay tuned, though - I really don't expect it will take more than a year.

Things to make me feel good recently -

1. The director of the production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' I was in this summer (I was Lysander) overheard some people. One of them said "Michael Collins is the best piano player in the area", and the other people in the group agreed. Yaa.

2. A random dude identified me as a singer and asked me to come to open mic nights. Strange but cool.

3. Pepper McGowan said I was adorable. Golly.

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State of the Union [12 Aug 2003|08:30pm]
Hello, all. It sure has been a long time since I've posted here.

I just felt like letting everyone know that there's something brewing. It might take a long time before it's done and you can have a tasty steaming cup of it, but it's percolating away.

I don't think I will say much more about it until it's ready. Just know that I think it wil be amazing. I really think it will blow off a lot of peoples' socks, and that it will do a lot of amazing things when it's out there.

You see, although 'Fixate' was a fundamentally good album (especially in the actual music,) it was plauged with growing pains and a myriad of troubles springing from budget concerns. The arrangements were sometimes anemic, less than ideal takes were used in the final cut, most songs were written when I was 17 or 18 and it shows in the lyrics, and so forth.

So, for the new thing I'm working on, I'm looking at home recording. I can add layer upon layer of instrumentation and sonic architecture to the songs. I can do take after take until I am absolutely pleased with the result. I feel almost as if this will be my first real album as an adult, now that I have the growing process of 'Fixate' out of the way.

I'm a much better writer as well. Maybe when I'm 25, I'll look back on this batch of songs and think they're weak, but I really do believe in them wholeheartedly.

I won't be mentioning this much here. The making of 'Fixate' was so public. People could see the tracklist slowly morph over the two years it took to make the album. Lyrics to songs were posted as they were made. Mp3 of songs like 'Darkest Star' were available almost a year in advance of the actual album release. This time around, I want to keep the public knowledge of it limited. The album will be like a sudden, unexpected kick to the head - but in a good way. I will say this - the working title is 'Stand and Deliver.'

So watch out. It may take a year or more, but it's coming, and I'm almost certain that it will be damned good when it does.
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[28 Jun 2003|05:25pm]

I'm back with a new confidence and excitement.

More later - life is very hectic now, what with me being in a play and preparing for a summer semester across the pond!

Speaking of 'across the pond,' an irish radio station will be playing a song of mine TODAY (June 28) after 5:00 EST (6:30 in my native newfoundland.) Anyone can listen at http://www.tipperarymidwestradio.com. I'm so excited!
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[16 May 2003|11:07pm]
Bleah. I have been suffering from intense self-doubt regarding my music, the past month or so. Hence, the cessation of the 'song of the week' feature, the complete lack of support for 'Fixate,' and the general avoidance of all things musical. I thought for a while there that I'd just made a piece of crap, and that I should just leave music to my living room when I'm alone.

I still think that to a certain extent. Not so strongly, but I have to forcefully move myself away from that mental space, or I fall into the doldrums again.

I know two things and fear a third.

1. I can play piano like a motherf***er. Some of my classical chops may have rusted, but I am an inventive, emotive player with decent technical skills.

2. I can compose decently. I have created some good melodic ideas in my time.

3. I can't sing worth a shit, and was stupid to ever think otherwise. (This one is the fear.)

So, anyway, I am slowly getting over it, I think. I may as well return to my support of my little indie album, because, hey, you start something, you finish it. If it really proves as crappy as I have come to fear, then I can always adopt a pseudonym and start over. Or just quit.

Anyway, here is the song of the week.

Echo Storm

I wrote this last summer. The lyrics came first, and underwent several rewrites. I actually think that they're some of my finest. The music was a result of a rude comment someone made regarding 'Darkest Star.' They basically said I couldn't write a catchy song if I tried. So I tried. Echo Storm is my catchy pop-style song. I really hate my voice in it, but the rest of the song is great. I love the lyrics, and the instrumental break, with the duelling piano-organ-bass, really gets my motor running.

This song sounds really, really, REALLY different on solo piano.

What is it about? Hmm. It's about letting your past cloud your judgement of the present - to quote Jhonen Vasquez's "I Fell Sick," it's like looking through a shit-filter. I was sort of emotionally/romantically numb last summer because of some prior trauma, the echoes of which were impeding me at the time. hence, echo storm.

Also, Echo Storm is code word for a person who I think is Definently Not Nice.

I really wish I had a better vocal take on this song. . . I really do, because it had the potential to be one of the best on the album, but instead, I normally advise people to skip it if they're unfamiliar with my work. *le sigh*
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[19 Apr 2003|04:12pm]
I have been waffling over what to do regarding Fixate for a little while now. It's had some very positive reaction, but sometimes, when I listen to it, I get very depressed, because I know that, if only had I more studio time and resources, the album could be so much better. As well, I'm a better songwriter now. When people listen to, say, Darkest Star I just think "God, I can make better lyrics now."

All the same, I think I will proceed with my plan to start promoting 'Fixate.' I've done zero promotion so far beyond 'word of mouth,' posting in my live journal, and having a link to my webpage in my www.atforumz.com signature. I think it's time I started to be proactive.

This has been sparked by observing local media. Not to mention any names, but I've recently been witness to some less-than-stellar performances on local TV, and it seems anyone can get an article and CD Review in local print. Not that I think I'm the Second Coming or anything - I'm not that spectacular myself - but I know I'm at least as good as a lot of those people who go around getting all sorts of attention.

So, once my final exams are over, I'm gonna send Promo CD-Rs and press kits to all local media. I'm gonna try to get a couple of live dates lined up. It's time for a promotional blitz. The thing is, as an Independent artist, I have to be my own publicists. I'm not comfortable hyping myself, but it has to be done.

So . . . . I tried to write a press release for local media. If everyone could read it over and make suggestions on improving it, I'd be very appreciative.

Michael Collins Releases Debut Album - 'Fixate'

Newfoundland singer-songwriter Michael Collins has independently released his first album 'Fixate.'

Fixate has enjoyed two months of internet-only release, and in that time gone from New York to New Mexico, and as far afield as Great Britain and Australia.

Now, twenty-year-old Michael, a student at Memorial University, is ready to unleash his heady piano-based alternative music on the local scene.

Hailed by GodsOfMusic.com as "BLURB (note: gonna grab a quote from one of their reviews,)" most of 'Fixate' was written when Michael was still in high school in rural Newfoundland.

"I've grown a lot since I wrote songs like (the album's lead track) Darkest Star," Michael says. "But I'm very proud of the album. Teens in rural areas have hard lessons to learn, and that can spur a lot of creativity. In some ways, 'Fixate' is my coming of age."

Garnering comparisons to (art rock legend) Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen, and Tori Amos, Michael's songs are intense and passionate - yet, they retain a simplicity as well.

"A whisper is often more effective than a shout," Michael says with confidence. "I really believe that."

A classically trained musician, often Michael's only accompaniment is his own masterful piano. Melodic and artful bass was provided by Peter, Michael's brother. Drums are featured on only four tracks.

Recorded on a shoestring budget at Kevin Collins' Sawyer Hill recording studio in Point Verde, Newfoundland, Michael's music is raw, impassioned and unique.

An artist with a strong internet fanbase, Michael's website, http://troll.writtendark.org, is definently his base of operations.
"There's extra web-based goodies for people who buy the CD," Michael smiles. "Non-album tracks and such. Read the liner notes carefully!"

As well, Michael moderates the Singer-Songwriter forum on http://www.atforumz.com, an internet messageboard system that has a membership numbering in the thousands.

At the young age of 20, Michael Collins is a singer-songwriter with a long future ahead of him.

I've never written a press release before, so help is greatly appreciated.
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State Address [17 Apr 2003|12:16am]
[ mood | contemplative ]

I've been listening to mid-90's David Bowie songs lately. I honestly can't see why people say 90's Bowie sucks. I'm enjoying the music immensely. Songs like Little Wonder and so forth are brilliant. The fact that he was running with Trent Reznor for a while really comes through in some of the music, too.

I'd love to be the next David Bowie. That's actually been a goal and a dream of mine for some time. I sincerely doubt it would happen, certainly not the way it did 30-something years ago. I actually think that if David Bowie was in my position (a struggling 20 year old independent musician) in the modern era, his career would have been fairly improbable. He'd probably be doing things similar to myself and legions of other talented, gutsy, creative entities are doing today.

The way the climate of the music industry is, legitimate artist-types don't have much luck. If they are lucky enough to be picked up, they *might* get one chance, and good luck maintaining complete creative control for that first album.

I won't pretend that I'd reject some big record label if they were to offer me a sweetheart deal (multi-record w/ excellent terms and guaranteed creative control - like Kate Bush had when she started.) Barring that unlikely event, I'll probably stay independent.

Which is where most of the good new music is, anyway. People like Terami Hirsh, Pepper McGowan, etc . . . who are both extremely amazing. They deserve to be on the covers of magazines. It's such a shame that fame and talent have become so estranged.

In other news, I'm getting a scanner soon. So, the time of great pic-i-tude is at hand. Not that I see the attraction that others find in my face. Frankly it's rather freakish. I look only half human, with the other bits a mix of elf and space alien. I guess some people find the combination alluring, somehow.

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While I give thanks today for all the things I stole and all the things I gave away [10 Apr 2003|12:58am]
[ mood | busy ]

Tomorrow, there's a short variety show deal at my workplace. it's just a small thing - an end of work party, really, but as I said there's a little talent show.

I'm going to sing 'Snow Falls.' I've changed the key yet again. The 2001 demo (which some of you have heard) was in 'F,' which is too low for comfort. The version on Fixate is in Ab, which was only possibly because the electronic piano I played it on transposed automatically.

Since then, I've moved it into 'G.' I really hope I don't have to move the song around any more keys until I find one suitable to my voice.

Wish me luck. I've had poor times trying to play 'Snow Falls' in public, but gall darnit I'm gonna try my best to rock out in that peaceful pretty way tomorrow. I'll even have a cup of tea before (tea helps my voice immensely.)

Aside from that, my life is really really hectic right now. University is winding down, and that means paper duedates left, right, and center, and months of neglected studying being crammed into a few weeks in preparation for finals.

I can't wait to go home. I have so much new music bouncing in my skull it's almost ridiculous. I'll try to get some preliminary mp3 to you people before I head to Britain this summer.

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[10 Apr 2003|12:34am]
Well, for once, the 'Song of the Week' was only around for a week. I'm moving on to Winter Baby ASAP because I've lately been really digging the song, and summerstormaria's recent review of Fixate lists the song as one of the album's best moments. So, we move on!

Song of the Week : Winter Baby April 10, 2003

Winter Baby was written during a real low point in my life. It was a slow birth, first being conceived as a double birth with 'Cold Room' (a song originally meant to be on 'Fixate,' but kicked off in favor of 'Silent.') I was living in a very unhappy situation, had just gone through my first real breakup, hasd just had some unhappy experiences with sexual promiscuity brought about by emotional hurt. At the same time, several close friendships were in the process of being destroyed.

To be blunt, I was a sad sad boy whose world was slowly crumbling. I felt like a failure in all things, and I wrote 'Winter Baby' about that. I am a winter baby, born two days from Valentine's (February 16.)

Many of my songs are partially ficitonal - for example, I wrote 'Dusk Fell Over You' and 'Darkest Star' long before I had anything to be that upset over. They were both hypothetical songs at the time they were written. 'Winter Baby' and 'Cold Room' were the first songs I ever wrote that were *true.* They were based exactly on experiences I had lived, emotions I had felt, thoughts I had, and so forth.

So, I call Winter Baby 'my first real breakup song.' I felt unloved, unwanted, and despairing when I wrote it.

I really don't know what else to say about it beyond that. So, I'll provide some random facts about Winter Baby.

- The book-end introduction/conclusion was originally a different song which never was completed. I didn't want to throw the little piano bit away, so I incorporated it into Winter Baby. People continually tell me it's stolen from other songs, but everyone cites a different source for my supposed plagiarism. I know that I didn't steal it from anything. If there are similarities with any other song they're coincidental. I just think the melody is very familiar sounding.

- The bookends might be original, but the chord progressions of the verses are the same as Pachabel's Canon in D, except transposed down to C. This fact has always been known to me, but hey, Pachabel has long been public domain, and it's considered tasteful to 'quote' classical music in art rock.

- 'Winter Baby' is my brother the bass player's favourite song on 'Fixate.' I agree. The bass really makes the song twice as good.

- I was very unhappy with the title 'Winter Baby,' and tried for a very long time to get a better name for the song. For a little while it had been retitled 'February,' but I kept calling it Winter Baby, so I realized after a bit that that was the song's name, and I just had to accept it.

- That's me doing the falsetto background vocals on the second chorus. They were a last minute addition in the studio - I had been pipping about at the ceiling of my (3 1/2 octave) range while the studio guy was doing something, and he out of the blue suggested I try doing the chorus an octave up. I did, and liked the childlike quality, so I kept it.
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[03 Apr 2003|09:30pm]
It's a bit belated, but that's how it goes. Maybe I should change it to "Song of the Period"?

Song of the Week : Crystal, April 3

I wrote Crystal for a friend. It was December of 2000, and my friend (Crystal) had a favor to ask of me. She had these lyrics, and she knew I wrote original music, so she asked me to set the lyrics to music.

I did this in a haste. I had planned to include the sheet music (Crystal is a pianist too) with her X-Mas present, and I left thigns very late - I believe it was December 19 or 20 before I sat at the piano to whip up something for the words she had provided.

"But Michael," you may say, "Cyrstal is an instrumental piece." Ah, you see, the version of the song on 'Fixate' is incomplete. All you hear there is an extended version of the introduction to the song. How does the rest go? Frankly, I've forgotten.

it's not that I've had a falling out with Crystal - when I see her, I still chat with her, and so forth. However, we've drifted big time. I might speak with her three or four times a year, tops. I always thought the introduction to the song I wrote for her was the best part, so I salvaged it and threw it onto 'Fixate' to use as a transitional piece, despite the fact that it was written as a gift for someone else.

How was I inspired? Beyond the last minute panic, I cannot say, but I can tell you that at the time I wrote it I was thinking about Parasite Eve.

I sometimes think Crystal is joined with Snow Falls at the hip. They just seem to blend together well.
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[29 Mar 2003|05:08pm]
[ mood | contemplative ]

Today, I went to a Songwriter's Workshop.

It was nice, but I'm not sure why I keep going to these things (I went last year too.) I'm too shy to really network. When I get a song critiqued, I know exactly what I'll be told ("not really marketable" and "needs a better/more defined chorus" are pretty common themes.) The first time, it was absolutely great to get an explanation of how the music business (record labels and publishing companies and the like) operate, but hearing it for a second time wasn't that useful.

My favourite parts were actually hearing the music other people had put in. About half was twangy country, which isn't my cup of tea, but there were some really really excellent songs that I really enjoyed hearing as well.

I did get some ideas while listening to the speakers or the other delegates talk, though. Some of them are contrary to what was said, and others build on it. Here are my New Guiding Principles for my music, which also apply somewhat to my life.

Dare to have BIG IDEAS

Don't settle for ORDINARY

Try to be YOURSELF

Never write for OTHERS

I did give a couple of CDs away, one to a nice guy who struck up a conversation with me during the lunch break, and the other to one of the organizing people who commented later on that I reminded her of Leonard Cohen. I hope they like what they hear.

I don't know where I'm going with this music things, now. My goal for 'Fixate' was to sell 20 copies so I could repay the loan I took out to make it. ('Fixate' was not that expensive; most of the songs were done in one take. In some ways it's almost a live album.) I've almost met that goal, and I'm confident I will exceed it within a month's time.

But beyond that, I really don't know what to do.

Songs keep coming. Just today, I started work on one called 'Black Coffee.' It's a return to Freaky Michael. Most of the post-'Fixate' songs are pretty straightforward and 'normal.' Today helped me realize that my strength is not in normal. My strength is in being bizarre and wild and startling and out of the ordinary.

"Black coffee. . . . will save me
Black coffee . . . . could maybe
turn the rain to cloudcover
in my coffee."

Maybe I'll be a Male Diamanda Galas before this is all over. *shrug* I'd settle for a Male Kate Bush. I think Kate Bush is amazing, but lots of people hate her voice.

That's today's musings.

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[28 Mar 2003|12:10pm]
I want to learn how to play 'Possibly Maybe' by Bjork.

That will be my project the next time I go home to my piano.
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Open [27 Mar 2003|05:18pm]
[ mood | bouncy ]


Just a little question - how many people read this? Leave a comment, please. I need to make more posts if people are really interested. I make so few because they normally get almost no reaction, but I know at least some people read it.

So many new songs have been coming over the past two months. I almost have my entire second album almost written. I won't start work on it until late 2003, though. Why? Because I think 'Fixate' deserves my attention until then.

The problem is, I don't know what to do with it. I've got an album that I'm proud of, and that, so far, has received only very positive reviews. My entire marketing plan was "let word of mouth take its course." I'm thinking that I should maybe be more proactive than that.

I'm planning on sending out promo CDs and press releases to local media next week. I'm going to go scouting to see if there are any places to play live around the city. Self promotion makes me nervous (I think it's easy to go overboard and seem tacky/silly/tasteless,) but I want lots of people to hear my music. I think it's worth hearing, especially this day and age, when music is less and less about, well, music. I'm a musician's musician, but I'd like to expand the listening base at least a little.

So, where do you, my loyal internet fan-base (of like 15 people . . . whom most I know *waves*), come into this? Well, as I have always thought, word of mouth is very important to an underground indie artist like myself meeting any success.

So, I have favors to ask. If you have Fixate and enjoy it, please don't keep it to yourself. Play it for others - anyone you think might be interested. Put Michael Collins songs on mix tapes and cds. Don't be overbearing (people tend to hate things that are shoved down their throat) but if opportunities present themselves, please take them, for me.

Even though I'm taking a somewhat more proactive approach to this album, I'm still relying heavily on word of mouth, and, well, you guys are word of mouth.

:) I really appreciate how supportive you've all been so far. Just a bit further is all that we need to do - I can feel the goal drawing near.

Thanks everyone, in advance. :)

In case you're wondering, here are songs that are in consideration for Album 2.

Sky Song (really catchy and great)
The 4th Wall
Chinese Smile
Story of a Day
Do What I Can
Skeleton Key
My Line
Battlefield (old)
Same Road (old)

I'm thinking I may take a home recording approach next time. So, there will be a slight dip in recording quality over 'Fixate,' but the songs will have many more layers, and I'll be able to do retakes until I am satisfied with the results (many of the songs on 'Fixate' are done in one-take, in the interests of studio time. It was made on a nearly non-existant budget.)

Everyone who has the CD - have you checked out the page with the extra content? Read your liner notes carefully. There should be more stuff going up there soon. I'm thinking about also including some sort of Connection area, or Community. It may seem ssort of self-important, but the key to surviving as a small singer-songwriter is to maintain a fanbase. I have to treat you guys right and give you reasons to come back (hence the idea for the Skeleton Key - Live Cd-R project over the summer.)
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[26 Mar 2003|06:17pm]
After Undone's extended reign at the top, it's time to usher in a new champion . . .

Song of the Week - March 26, 2003

Snow Falls

'Snow Falls' means a lot to me. If I was pressed to make a list of 'the best songs I've ever written,' Snow Falls would certainly be at or near the top. I love the simplicity of the lyrics, the lilting melody, and the music-box piano arrangement.

Unfortunately, to fully experience this song, you need to catch me in my parent's living room, when I think I am alone with the old upright. No recording or live performance of this song has yet to please me - the version on 'Fixate' is merely the best of a bad lot, in my opinion. The song shines when brought to life in intimate settings.

I wrote it in the spring of 2001, halfway through my spring holiday from my last year of high school. I was waiting in a gas station parking lot for my mom to come out of the gas station and unlock the car. Snow was swirling about, and this inspired an idea for a piano part - the little music box sections. On the drive home (a full 90 minutes,) lyrical ideas floated through my head.

As soon as I got in the door, I sat at the piano for about two hours, and when I was done, so was Snow Falls.

There's comfort, there, but also disappointment. I've been asked before what the song is about, and I honestly can't say. It's not that I don't know - I do know. I can feel what it's about. I can't describe it in words, though. Can you? What does Snow Falls mean to you?
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Song of the Week [16 Mar 2003|03:20pm]
I'm continuing with the 'Song of the Week' series, after putting it on hiatus for a week. People shoudl start receiving their albums in the mail now, so I wanna have something fresh for them to look at when they come here.

Undone - Song of the Week, March 16, 2003

Undone is one of my favourites. If I'm sitting alone at the piano, and I want to play one of my own songs, this is always one of the first to come out and say 'play me.'

Most of those versions are very stripped down from the one on 'Fixate.' Like all of my songs, 'Undone' originated from a solo piano + vocals arrangement, but on the album it is easily the most beefed up and unrecognizable. I love the manic drums, the jumping bass, and so forth, though I really would like to re-record the vocals, or add some more vocal tracks to them.

So what is it about? Where did 'Undone' come from? The short answer to these questions is 'Undone is my apocalyptic vision.' When playing it, I imagine myself as one of a post-apocalytpic tribe of semi-humans (reverted to neolithic form,) dancing about a fire, which burns in an old oil drum. We beat our drums and sing the story of the last man on earth - sort of a destruction myth for a society that is already 98% of the way there.

In January of 2001, I was visiting a friend in St. John's. We were taking turns fiddling around on her piano, and the main piano hook - the one that starts the song, and reoccurs throughout - popped into my head. I made sure to scratch it down. When I got home, the song slowly took form over a couple of days.

The quiet, slow, soft middle section was added later. I thought the song was too short, and needed some variety. I wrote this bridge a few months after the rest of the song, and made it a dying vision. As the speaker joins the rest of his race (who are all long dead,) a lovely heavenly vision is seen.

So, if I had to make a quick plot summary. . . . let us see. "Here is the last man on earth walking through the ruins of civilization. He marvels at the destruction, how unexpected the end was, and how profoundly alone he is. All he can see is desert and destruction, and he is filled with a questioning feeling - why did we, the human race, do this to ourselves? What possible use was there in bringing about our own end? In despair, he lies down amongst the rubble and breathes his last, dreaming of comfort and safety. The End."

Hope you guys enjoy 'Undone.'
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[12 Mar 2003|07:02pm]
"Tell me the story of your day
was it dark and was it long; was it grey?"

It seems there is a lot of sadness floating around in my group of friends and acquaintances right now. I send a big hug out to everyone I know. Keep yourself as safe and as happy as you can in these dangerous times of sickness, sadness, and mourning.

In other news, people who purchase the album, be sure to read your liner notes carefully for a second URL. There's extra content on the site for you guys, including unreleased songs.
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