Song Development Process

Questions & Answers with the one and only Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, Weird Al's drummer since 1980!

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QuantumError
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Song Development Process

Post by QuantumError »

Hi Jon!
There are a couple things I've always wondered about.

My first question has to do with how the songs you guys record are developed. I've always wondered how the creative juices get flowing in the design of an original composition. When the idea for an original song is first conceived, how does Al present the demo to you and the band? I've always kind of just assumed that he records the best assembly of what he expects the band to play. I know Al is incredibly talented, but I'm under the impression that he knows mostly instruments with a keyed format like accordion, piano, etc...What do these demos usually come out like? (If you're allowed to say, of course...) Do you all, as a band, sit with Al and discuss how he would like you all to interpret the pieces he puts together?

And second, in your experience the last 30+ years, how do the recording sessions usually proceed? More specifically, do you guys usually have an idea of how long it is going to take to record each band member's parts? With that in mind, after hearing what he is expecting, do you guys then record your own "demo" parts to show him before going in the studio, or do you guys usually just know what you plan to do and lay it all down when together at the studio?

Thanks for your time answering these, I've always hoped Ask Bermuda would be opened back up ever since I first visited the forum many years ago. It's real cool of you to take your time out like this for us.

bermuda
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Re: Song Development Process

Post by bermuda »

As you said, Al presents his home demo of the original songs, and sometimes they are extremely complete and detailed, other times more sparse, which either means he didn't find it necessary to record a very intricate part, or he deliberately left that part open to interpretation by the player in question. Every song is a little different in terms of what he needs from us, and that's reflected somewhat in his demo.

Based on what we're given, we typically record a demo as well. I say typically, because there's a song on the new album that went straight from Al's demo to the studio, bypassing the band demo stage.* The band demo usually includes some changes and a few personal iinflections, and starts sounding like the final verion is intended.

Once on the studio, there's no definite schedule. There's a plan, but a song either comes together right away, or it takes a while, or somewhere in-between. Occasionally things go very quickly - Genius in France was slated to take all day, but we knocked out the basic track in 3 hours!

So although there are fairly consistent procedures, and there are goals and schedules, and we're as efficient as possible, things will vary. Every song, every album, is a little different in the way they come together.

Bermuda

* When you hear the new album and look at the credits, you'll probably know which one that is. :)

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QuantumError
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Re: Song Development Process

Post by QuantumError »

Here's another thought...Any chance you'd consider sharing a demo you've done of a song from a past album if you still happen to have any saved? I'd love to hear one!

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Re: Song Development Process

Post by minnick27 »

Al also gives you suggested listening for style parodies, right?
Talking about music is like fishing about architecture- FZ

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Re: Song Development Process

Post by bermuda »

quantumerror wrote:Here's another thought...Any chance you'd consider sharing a demo you've done of a song from a past album if you still happen to have any saved? I'd love to hear one!
I have everything, but I wouldn't be able to share without Al's permission. Perhaps someday he'll release some of the better ones? Actually, they're all pretty good!

But performance wise, especially over the last 20 years, they're very close to the final versions. It would be more interesting to hear Al's demos, than the band demos. Again, that's for Al to release, not me.

Bermuda

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Re: Song Development Process

Post by bermuda »

minnick27 wrote:Al also gives you suggested listening for style parodies, right?
Yes, although many of the sample songs have nothing to with the intended vibe. We might be given 10 songs to check out, and only 4 or 5 are actually pertinent.

Bermuda

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