The Making of “Music by Cavelight” Part two

A few weeks back, I wrote about making my first solo album “Music By Cavelight”. In case you mised it, peep it HERE. There was too much to cover in one post so here’s the second part of that rundown.
Instead of doing a long winded intro, I figured I’d jump right in where I left off…

Road Rage Breakdown

When I first made this beat, I had no idea what to do with it. The mood was strange and the drums just didn’t seem like something anyone would wanna rap over. I mean, had I known some double timing southern rappers at the time, that might have been different but I didn’t.
I mentioned in the first part that of this that I was making this album with the idea of “What an instrumental rap album should sound like” but basing it off almost nothing. This song is a great example cause I took this beat and made it fall apart and turn into something completely different. From the 2:19 mark on is my brain actively going “Okay, this is what instrumental producers do…” which is funny cause, at this point, I don’t think they really do or ever did. If they do, I sure haven’t heard it.

Triptych Part 1

This beat was LITERALLY the first beat I ever saved to floppy disk. I made it around 96/97. Prior to that, I was just recording all my track on to my four track cause I didn’t know how to save things on to disk. I can even vaguely remember making it. My sampler didn’t ahve a stand yet so it was just on the ground. I’d sit indian style and just make beats while chilling on the rig of my bedroom in my parents house.
So, this beat was by far the oldest track I was working with on this album. The idea to make a three part series kinda popped out at me when I was putting together the album. I had these three slow , melancholy piano driven beats that wouldn’t work together as one track but played nicely off each other. In a way, they seemed to tell a story of a relationship falling apart. Kinda like the movie “Blue Valentine”. The first part was the euphoric feeling of being in love, the second was the middling part where you get comfortable and bored and the third part was the inevitable implosion. At least that’s how I saw it.
This one is also an example of my wet behind the ears sampling as the idea of sampling Dinah Washington is pretty fucking nuts, in the sense that it’s insanely well known. “There is no greater love” was a song I absolutely loved at the time and I really just wanted a way to incorporate it into my album. I found the key it fit in but it wouldn’t work if I played it one way. So, I arranged it so it was like three different voices. When the album dropped, I heard lots of complaints about chipmunking the voices cause, at the time, Kanye had already done that but, honestly, I had made this beats 5 years earlier. So, I figured, fuck it.

Triptych part 2

This is kinda my favorite of the series. It’s unassuming but it’s got a mood to it that just struck a chord with me. while the piano and bass may seem like the reason, I contend the drum brush sample is what makes this song.
When I initially made this beat (probably around 97) I was dating this girl and she wanted to sing on it. We even went as far to record the song but my engineering skills were simply not good enough to make it sound even remotely listenable. So, that song got scrapped and when it came time to make the album, I knew this would be a go to song for me.

Triptych part 3

Originally, this beat was sans bass line. I wanted to use it but it felt naked. Just some bare drums,pianos and a few sounds here and there. This is where I bought in my boy Damien Paris to save the day. I’ve written extensively about that recording session on this very blog so I’ll skip it here (just put his name in the search function if you’re curious about it). Regardless, that bass line completely made this song what it was.
This track was composed of samples 100% found in my moms cd collection. It’s all weird show tune/torch song type shit that I think I would never have even considered using had it not been right in front of me. I’d like to say where the piano is from but I’d get the life sued out of me. I did chop it up a ton though…so good luck figuring it out.

Jet Son

There was a time when Vast Air had claimed this beat to rap on but that never came to be. This was a track I liked a lot but didn’t feel like it fit into the album. It was the most aggressive song I made. The sample in the beginning saying “yo tone, play me some old pimp shit” is from Big Daddy Kane’s second album. Being that my name is Tony, I figured it would be a fun little thing to throw in. It’s as if Big Daddy Kane was in the studio with me. Just kidding. That woulda given this song a much better story though.


So, a lot of this album was made around 9/11. The mood may not sound like it but it was. At the time, I had tons of crazy middle eastern samples I was using and this song was an example. When I was working on this song I knew it had a particular feel to it. It sounded like some shit I’d hear at 24 hour falafel spot at 3 am. With that in mind, the fact 9/11 had happened 20 blocks from my house this song kinda took form, in my head, as some strange terrorist spy movie soundtrack. Like I could envision dudes hustling through caves by candlelight, in search of any sunlight peaking through the cracks. It’s funny cause, contrary to the album being called “Music by Cavelight” this song had nothing to do with that. That was more a play on my work process. I worked in my bedroom, which was (at least for half of the process of making this album) below ground and always dark. This song however, was literally just made to the idea of Bin Laden running though caves like a maniac. I swear, I had no agenda with it…it’s just what I saw when I listened to it.

Breath and start

Q-tip had his song “breath and Stop”, so the title was a play on that. I called it that cause this song was made up of two separate beats that kinda have a pause in them. They were both spacious tracks. This was also an example of my interest in southern bounce drums. I was listening to lots of southern shit in the late 90’s early 2000’s and that definitely rubbed off on me. As far as I know, not a lot of NYC producer were doing that back then.
This song also features live violins played by Baby Dayliner. He had gone to a performing arts high school (La Guardia) for Violin so i thought it would be cool to have some of that on this album. I think it was the first time he had dusted off his Violin in like a decade. It took a little time to knock the rust off but he definitely laid down a nice accompaniment to the track.

Insomniac Olympics

Chances are this is your favorite song on the album. I mean, it’s a guess but judging from peoples response, this is THE ONE. Funny thing is, this song almost didn’t make the the album. It was the last song I made. I had a finished album but Ninja Tune wanted one more song (cause we had taken off “Bullfight in Ireland” and “A new day” from the euro release). I had just made this beat and I knew i was sitting on something special. This is one of those rare beats I can distinctly remember making. Just how all the parts kinda melded together was amazing. Typically, when making a track, there would be tons of trial and error. I’d be looking for matching pieces and it could take forever to find the suitable sound. With this song, it was like everything I touched just synched up perfectly. Probably the most asked question i get is “What is the voice on this song saying?”. well…I have no idea. It was from some random country record, I sped it up and put a guitar amp effect on it. I did that because , whatever that voice was saying, didn’t make sense. So, instead, I opted to use it as an instrument. It certainly strikes that chord.
People often ask me if this is about my insomniac and I don’t really have an answer. It’s hard to personalize these vocal-less songs made up of samples. While I’ve certainly had my issues sleeping over the years, this song was named “Insomniac olympics” cause it just flowed in a way that reminded me of what it’s not like to sleep does. The olympics part is a play on the opening horns. Often mistaken for olympic horns or the classical song “Fanfare for the common man”

It’s not from either of those things.
At first I tried to get Aesop to use it but he wasn’t into it. I think he was between albums anyway so he wasn’t making many new songs. When Ninja asked me for one more track, I knew this would be the one.
I also think this song is the main reason I’ve gotten compared to DJ Shadow my entire career. I can see why. It wasn’t intentional but the drums and piano did have a shadow-esque quality to them.
Anyway, I sent this one in to Ninja Tune and they loved it. It became the single and the lead off track on the euro release. I believe it was the last track on the US release and that’s as I had intended it. In my eyes, it was a closing track.

Oh, one last thing…

If you actually own a copy of this album, this picture may look familiar to you. It’s on the CD. This is a picture I drew when I was 3 or 4 years old. It was my version of Don Giovani, from the opera. At the time, I had a baby sitter who was an opera singer and she would play this opera for me all the time. I loved it. So, I went to school and drew this. Upon seeing it, my teachers freaked out and had me go see a shrink. After all, what 4 year old kid draws a fiery devil casting some poor dude into hell? I do. Now, this was a long time ago and I have no recollection of it but I’m pretty sure I was just a fan of the opera. I don’t have any memory of that opera now but I’ll just assume there was some sort of bad guy who did some bad things in it and I was just portraying that.
Whatever the case, I fucking love this picture and wanted to incorporate it into this album in some fashion.

The making of The Party Fun Action Committee Part 1

A while back I wrote a piece about the making of “Labor Days“. Pretty much the most known album I’ve ever been a part of. Continuing with that idea, let’s take a look at the least known project I’ve ever been a part of. Of course, I’m speaking of the album “Let’s get serious” By The Party Fun Action Committee. For those who don’t know, that is a comedy/parody album that Definitive Jux records released in late 2003.
Because this album is long out of print , I have no problems hitting you with a link to download it for free:
Besides, assuming most of you have no clue what I’m talking about (in reference to this album), this will be a great help.

This album was the making of Jeremy Gibson AKA Jer AKA Sir Jarlsberg and myself. It was basically a collection of songs making fun of people and/or genre’s that were popular in that era. It may seem dated now, but it was pretty on point when we initially made it. So, let’s get serious and look into the making of “Let’s get serious”.

The group name

Before making humorous music together, Jer and I we part of an ensemble cast on a public access show on MNN (manhattan neighborhood networks). The shows was basically all my friends fucking around, making skits and doing voice overs of other tv shows. It was childish and offensive but it also was awesome. It’s a shame/gift that the internet wasn’t around back then like it is now, cause there are no clips of any of that shit online.
Anyway, In one of the skits, we played a break dancing team. At the time, one of the characters was wearing a Phat Farm shirt that read “PFAC”. Not 100% sure what that actually stood for (Probably some shit like “Phat Farm activity clothing”) but we came up with “Party Fun Action COmmittee” as our break dancing crews name in this movie based on those letters. About 5 years later, we were stuck trying to figure out what to name our group and that name jumped out at us. It made perfect sense.

The early years

Initially, Jer and I just made these funny songs for our own enjoyment. In fact, the majority of that album was recorded long before it was ever released. The song “Back n Da Dayz” was originally recorded around 95. That was the first song we made. Around that time, we made another song called “The dunz” featuring Aesop. It never came out cause , by the time we were releasing the album, the “dun” era of rap had already been over for like 5 years. However, recently, someone got it and posted it up on youtube. So ,here’s that:

That shit is maaaaaaad dated so forgive us but, at the time, we thought it was pretty funny. Pardon the quality as it was recorded on cassette 4-track in my moms house.
Anyway, those were our first two songs and we eventually started throwing some more together. Most of those earlier songs were not featured on the album cause they were too offensive or didn’t fit the concept. I’ll get to those later.

How we got signed to Def Jux

We never made these songs thinking anyone but our friends would hear them. It was just some shit we did for fun. Around 2002, we had about 6 or 7 completed songs. By that time, Aesop was blowing up and I was pretty familiar with the Jux dudes. I believe one day , El-P was at my crib and I played him a few of the songs just for fun. I’m not 100% if he said it there on the spot but he was like “Yo, I’ll put this shit out.”
We were pretty shocked at that offer and jumped all over it. Granted not a single penny was made from this album (by us or Jux) but it was totally worth it just to get this released at all. In a strange way, I’ve always felt partially responsible for the eventual Def Jux Backlash. PFAC was the first album they put out that, not only got panned by fans and critics alike, but that strayed from the Jux aesthetic that had made them so popular. Soon after our album dropped, I noticed more angry Jux fans. Especially people wondering why the fuck they put out a comedy record. but you know what? fuck those people.

Making the album

After we knew someone was gonna put it out, Jer and I focused and started making the rest of the album. Instead of just making random songs about whatever, we started targeting things. R-Kelly’s pissing scandal had just happened , as well as our basic take on the rap of the era. We wanted to spread the hate as widely as possible. Not just dissing the mainstream but the underground as well. Once we had all the songs recorded (I’ll get to a rundown of those in a future post) we had to tie it all together. So, we came up with the idea of being two dipshits from a record label that were going through demo tapes. These two characters were pretty much created on the spot and every word of us talking on the record was improvised. Granted, we certainly edited a lot out but all the skits were off the dome.
We basically went with the “a mountain climber who plays an electric guitar” model that Gza spoke about. From there, it was a free for all.

The beats

A common misconception about this record is that I made all the beats. I did do some of them but mostly the short skit beats. Any long song (aside from “beer” and “back in the dayz”) was done by Jer. He was a master at mimicking genre’s. In fact, he nailed the “Rap-rock” one so hard it’s pretty much impossible to listen too. That shit is Amazing/awful…but that was entirely the point.
In my eyes, Jer’s production on that album was the secret star.

Recording/mixing the album

The album was recorded on a digital 8 track. Some were done at my crib and few at Jer’s dads crib. The songs were recorded over such a long period of time, I honestly don’t remember what happened where, for the most part.
The album was mixed by our boy Baby Dayliner, in his kitchen. This may have been the longest process of mixing I’ve ever been through. Not cause anyone was lagging but because we really went into great detail on these songs. I can easily say I’ve never worked more intensely on anything musical than I did this album. An instrumental album is a walk in the park by comparison.

Jer: The slowest man alive
Speaking of lagging…
Jer is one of my oldest friends and , as long as I’ve known him, he’s always been one of those “Always late” guys. As I am an “always early” guy, this proved to be pretty fucking infuriating when trying to mix this album (and otherwise). He would show up HOURS late some days while Baby Dayliner and I were just waiting there like assholes. It got to the point where we’d tell him we’d be starting at 1 pm, but actually plan to meet at 2. in some 6th sense asshole way, he still managed to be late every time, strolling in casually eating a bagel like he did nothing wrong.

Not everything can go on the album…

When the album was done, we handed it in to the label. There were three songs that were going to be an issue. The first was the song “gertrude”. We understood this one being cut as it was the most offensive song ever made. The second, however, bummed us out. It was “Cream dreams”. Sure, this song was us being over the top gay and rapping about gay stuff gayly but it was clearly tongue in cheek and , in our eyes, not a hateful song. A few heads at the label (and on the publicity side) disagreed so we cut it off the album at the last second. They were expecting picket lines and anger…when, in reality, no one ever really heard the album enough to get offended by it. Obviously, I understand their reservations. It was their label and , especially at that time, something like that could have caused problems. It’s too bad cause we had already shot the album cover by the time it was removed and my “fat freddie Mercury” guy in the lower left corner pretty much went to waste.

The last song that got cut was a parody of the Jurassic 5 called “The mesozoic 7”. Basically, there were worries that they wouldn’t be down with the joke and people down with the label were cool with them so, it seemed unnecessary to put it on. I understood that and kept it moving.

The art work and photo shoot

Both Jer and I were pretty clueless as to how records got made and the stages involved. We had to make cover art and we had come up with the idea of a brady bunch like set up where different characters from the album would appear in the boxes. This meant we got to dress up and become these people. We had a costume girl, a make up girl and photographer. This was, in our eyes, some big time shit. We shot the pics in some Williamsburg hovel.
Both Jer and I had a major crush on the costume girl, who turned out to be David Cross’s girlfriend at the time. She was even featured at the passed out girl between the two frat brothers in one of the pics from the inside cover. She was a hot ginger and really funny.
This whole process was actually lots of fun. It was, perhaps, the last time I had fun doing anything remotely close to that cause press photo’s are typically the fucking worst.
Another bright side to all this was that Jer boned the Make up girl a bunch of times. Score one for the team.

Fancy mastering

After the album was complete, we were treated to get it mastered at the world famous Hit factory. Prior to this, I didn’t even really understand what mastering meant. I assumed it involved wires for some reason. Like it was the final wiring of the albums fibers or something.
We went into this huge studio with a billion gold records hanging on the walls and mastered an album that was subsequently a 50 minute long gay joke. It was pretty insane. The elevator was like a huge boat. Everything was wooden.
The dude who did the mastering a weirdo named “tippy”. Tippy was a nice enough dude but he was really angry and prone to tangents. on more than one occasion, we’d be sitting there trying to listen to a song to master it and he’d stop and rant about something or another. I particularly recall him going off on how to make vinyl and why so and so presses shitty vinyl. Jer, baby Dayliner and myself could not have cared less, did nothing to continue this conversation but he kept at it. I dunno what was up with that. Perhaps he was molested by a crate of records as a child or something. Regardless of all that, I gotta wonder what he must have been thinking when he mastered that record.
I do have a fond memory of him playing us the freshly mastered S.A. Smash record before it had dropped. We listened to that shit almost more than out own record that night.

This went on way too long so I’mma split it up into two parts.
The next installment will be the stories behind the actual songs. Hopefully I’ll get Jer to add something to this all.