… Three Steps Ahead

I really do already have the next three albums charted out.

Yeah, I haven’t even finished SMOAR, a gargantuan 20-track effort, yet and I already have concrete concepts for the next three releases. But that’s what zykos do.

I have no compulsion towards keeping them secret either. My preference in terms of artistic secrecy is that I don’t like to share the music itself before it’s finished. Teasers, demos, previews, snips… those things are not for me. However, I have zero problem with sharing the conceptualization and drafting of my albums (as clearly evidenced by just how much of SMOAR I’ve shared already). Soooo without further ado:

The first project after SMOAR will be my second fully instrumental original album titled “Deep Structures”.

When I wrote and recorded Metamorph back in 2006, it was a forced endeavor. I had very tragically lost my only electric guitar at the time (an epic custom relic of an instrument), had very little experience or skill in crafting entirely tracked music. None of it was done very well.

Fast-forward a decade and I’m obviously at a different stage of my musical life cycle and have been eagerly looking forward to an opportunity to utilize a skill set I’d long tapped into for my videogame remixing work in operating in an entirely instrumental environment, freed by the “shackles” of lyrical vocals as a centerpiece.

The concept behind this album is presently simple. Heavily inspired by modern minimalist composers like Philip Glass and New Age artists like Vangelis, Kitaro and Deuter, I aim to tell an origin story of a fictitious as-yet-uninhabited planet somewhere deep in an alternate timeline. And of course, as per the zykO usual, it will also double as a metaphor for the “deep structures” within ourselves as lifeforms on any given planet.

Also. this might end up being a collaboration with a certain someone that is much better at musicing than I am and, if so, you should be excited. Either way, though, it should be fun.

I’m also going to release a covers album titled “zykO Plays His Favorites”

Which is a boring title but will have to do for now.

I’ve been planning this one for a while; it first crept into my head a couple years ago when I released my cover of Dredg’s Stamp Of Origin: Take a Look Around and then shortly followed it up with Frank Sinatra’s take on It was a Very Good Year. I had hoped to include them both on there although I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do with this cover album stylistically so they may or may not need to be refashioned accordingly.

The songs I grew up loving didn’t only shape my music but really did lay the foundations for a lot of the ways I perceive the world and others (for better or for worse). I had something of a confusing childhood feeling torn between two distinctly different cultures and since I wanted very badly to fit into both, I turned to the only avenue that made any sense to me: music. As a result, I listened to a random (not necessarily eclectic, just random lol) combination of musics that I would really like to explore myself. I already have a lengthy list of semi-finalists ready to go.

So don’t be too alarmed when you find Tool, Frank, Abdel Halim Hafez, The Doors and Pac all on the same compilation; because it’s all going to be there.

There’ll eventually be a zykO Blues album

One of my wildest secrets is my clandestine life as a bluesman.

I very rarely delve into the blues with any of my released music although elements of it crop up all the time, scattered throughout my work and recognizable to the discerning ear. But I’ve never outright gone and done a blues project and I couldn’t even tell you why. Of all the genres that I dabble and babble in, the one that arguably comes the most naturally to me is in fact the blues. Granted, as a form, it is one of the simplest, most straightforward genres out there so its predictability for an experienced musician shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone and, on its own, shouldn’t act as qualifying proof that one is adept at the genre.

Rather, there is something else that separates the bluesman from a dude who plays the blues; it is the voice of the blues artist that makes it the blues. And you almost always know it when you hear it. By voice, I don’t mean the singing voice, of course. I mean the inner voice, one that emits from a hardened center where the blueness actually resides. It’s that body high you get when you walk into a dank, dimly lit bar and there’s some grimy swamp shit playing and you cozy up to a pool table with a brew and tick hours off the clock. That’s the very kind of blues that has always worked for me and in those few instances when others have witnessed me playing it, begged the question: “How come you don’t play more blues??”

Well, that’s coming.

 

All in all, I’m excited for my future musical endeavors if only because I’m a bit burnt out on the style and tone of SMOAR. I’m shamelessly in love with the album, don’t get me wrong lol but I am starting to get tired of only strumming away on my acoustic guitar and would like to return to exploring the entire breadth of tones and textures I am familiar with and proficient in.

But yeah; I’m three steps ahead of ya.

DIG IT.

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i know not where i’ve come from but here i am
i know not where i’m going but here i go

Fog and Rain (On Apple Hill)

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SMOAR Tracklist UPDATE

More Tracklist changes…
Disc 1

  1. Day
  2. Truthsayer…
  3. … And the Art of Coming Clean
  4. Sad Man on a Rock Pt 1
  5. The Girl with the Om Tattoo
  6. Brave
  7. Man Without an Ocean
  8. Old Hangtown
  9. Locks Drive
  10. Alone Beneath the Light

Disc 2

  1. Night
  2. Forever Gone
  3. The Imperfect Man
  4. Bent out of Shape
  5. Knee Deep
  6. Our Roots Run Deep into the Earth
  7. New Helvetia…
  8. … And the Moment the Decision was Made
  9. Fog and Rain (on Apple Hill)
  10. Sad Man on a Rock Pt 2

Singles

  1. America!
  2. Breakfast with Buddha

That’s right, there’ll be two singles for the album and neither of them are going to actually be from the album.

  • America! was simply too aggressive tonally considering the rest of the album is very subdued. Even a tune such as Bent out of Shape or Knee Deep that has a noticeable edge isn’t nearly this drastically an outlier. America! is heavy on the sociopolitical hotbutton mashing and as the album has begun to take shape in recent months, the track fell further and further out of context. It is, however, one of my favorite tunes of the bunch so I’ll release it separately.
  • Breakfast with Buddha is interesting in that it was the very first piece written for SMOAR … but as such, is nearly seven years old. It was canned from the project very early on but, ironically enough, with the gradual shift in the album’s core narrative moving back towards where it began, it became relevant again! So it’ll also be released separately.

Both tracks will be released digitally prior to the album’s launch but will then only be available as bonus tracks for what I hope will be the physical presses of the album.

Some other notes:

  • New Helvetia was pushing 11 minutes run-time while having two distinctly different movements so it made sense to split them up (and also keep the album nicely balanced between the two “sides” at ten tracks a piece).
  • Brave has been slotted higher up the order at 6 where it fits better within the narrative and with its preceding track, The Girl with the Om Tattoo. The move also allows for Old Hangtown and Locks Drive to be paired together which is also a very good thing
  • Our Roots Run Deep into the Earth works much better as a transition from Knee Deep into New Helvetia both compositionally as well as contextually.

There it is; I’m pretty sure that this is the final tracklist.
(…no really, I think it is.)

SMOAR is moving along again, finally. And this time, I think it’ll continue to do so until it is finished.
DIG IT.

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SMOAR VOX Sessions

So I skipped around a bit; what of it?

When I recently went one part deaf (and three parts raging against the world and everyone in it), I couldn’t exactly work on any music even more aurally hindered than I already am to begin with. So I turned to writing lyrics for the album which was my perfect way to kill multiple birds in a single clever stroke: get some work done on the album, stay positively creative and categorically deal with some of the bullshit in my personal life all at the same time. And this, fortunately for us all, yielded some lyricwork that I’m not only satisfied with but that I think is really bringing the album together the way I anticipated it would. The story is starting to make more sense, is starting to move, cutting through the terrain like a mindful river full of intent.

Now although being only half way through the album lyrically, an opportunity where I was going to be staying with my mother for a week while my sister is out of town allowed me to be able to start recording vocal tracks for the album in the small cottage that used to be my father’s art studio.

It’s a bit of a neglected, rodent-assaulted, abandoned little run-down nook secluded amidst almond trees. A perfect place for a wild zykO to hide. A good ways away from the main house on our family orchard, this quaint ol’ cottage served as a place for my father to set up shop and paint in peace. It absorbed his passion for painting and his creative energy into every dilapidated floorboard, every beam of stud wall. Even after he passed away, his life force remained here within its walls much like the final resting place of a great Jedi Master or something.

I had been cleaning it and fixing it up as much as I could for a few months, though not wanting to change a thing about the place. It’s a self-sufficient place, really with a kitchen and a bathroom although neither are functional anymore and require some major work. Most of my effort was to reclaim the building from its crittery squatters so they wouldn’t chew up all his artwork and gear/tools/materials and then to prepare this front room for my own purposes. The main house is only a nice stroll through almond trees away so there’s no pressing need to get either the kitchen nor the bathroom fixed.

The acoustics are not particularly great and far from “ideal” but the place has hard floors and lots of dampening objects of various texture and material. Above all else, however, it carries a seemingly endless well of soul and character and it feels like home. Because it is.

After all, my father created much art in this room in his later years. It didn’t quite get the run that the studio at the house I grew up in had and thus didn’t produce the output but the input was the same. That’s all I was really after anyway; I wanted to tap into what he put into the space. I’d be honored if my music could be its output.

So I set up shop; my trusty Rode NT1 running through a humble Presonus USB Audiobox 2×2 interface hooked up to the laptop. My long-time Beyerdynamic DT770’s have been having jack issues so I was forced to monitor through a consumer grade set of cans making referencing my biggest challenge this past weekend (I assure you the dreaded car mix test was a resounding struggle to keep from weeping uncontrollably).


But I am very, very satisfied with 90% of my takes. As in, these are for the most part final takes and I’m perfectly ok with them being so. I don’t really have to fret over the mixing or engineering of the vocals as long as I produce decently clean dry stems as I’ll be having the whole album mixed and engineered by far more trusted, tried and true hands. Suffice to say, my objective had always been simply to get the deliveries right and tight. Let me tell you, it’s nothing short of empowering in tracking vocals so far from the bustle of civilization and in a place that houses and channels your father’s spirit. The “voice” comes out.

A Hawatky still very much “resides” in here.

Anyway…

I still have a handful of tracks to write lyrics for before I can head back out there and track vocals for them. I’ll do retakes on the stuff that needs them from this session and we should be well on our way by then. In short, I think this past weekend was a resounding success as far as I’m concerned and I couldn’t be happier with the direction the album is taking.

(I’ll get back to the bass soon enough, I promise; just not very confident in my bass game at the moment. Early forays into it yielded some unsightly results. Will revisit soon.)

Dig it.

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the dream in which i am soaring higher
storming the heavens to steal their fire; she showed me how
i would have sailed for another thousand lives
searching the heavens for a real smile; that smile.

The Girl with the Om Tattoo

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a sweeping epic of fatherless children,
their fathers marooned at sea
a fleeting moment for martyr-less pilgrims,
in a forest of leafless trees

Our Roots Run Deep into the Earth

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That Which Sneaks Under The Skin

I found a note my dad had left me sometime in 2008, about a year before he passed away.


Hi Waleed:

I am very pleased to let you know that your music is much more than excellent; I’ve already downloaded 5 songs. {patience in Love} is actually the best piece of music I heard for a long time and I think this should be on your new professional album. I noticed your voice has ripened to handle the heavy singing. The no 2 song for me is {some kind of Luck}, no 3 {Lady in Dreams}, no 4 {Dreaming of time travel} and no 5 {this way comes}. They’re all very good but some how {patience in Love} is the one that from the first moment I heard it, it sneaked under the skin and lived there. The violin is so gooood. You make me very happy to day, I will put your music now on my favorite list and on my Ipod. Good Luck, my best wishes and a great Future, habiby.


Thanks baba – could really use one of your adorable notes right about now

🙁

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Here Lies Everything

The transformation is nearly complete.

Late in 2016 (and invariably, early 2017), I tried one last time to salvage my facade as a normalized member of society and as a member of the self-aware counterculture “geek” community. I had spent most of my life craving inclusion into what I perceived as shared conscience and felt that, by wading into its river, I’d never have to feel alone again. I strove to be amiable, approachable, less anxious, more forgiving, less esoteric, more predictable. I tried hard to maintain a level of compassion for loved one and stranger alike even despite consistently finding myself overwhelmed with the stimulation. I even took up doctor prescribed medication to mitigate my humors rather than my self-regulatory efforts of years past. I thought I was going to fit in.

And then in a boisterous, chilling culmination to the eerie dissonant crescendo that had plagued the past few years of my life, I realized what had resulted: I had become jaded, apathetic and, ultimately, alone. I hadn’t written music in months, pushed away my closest friends, burned bridges, and let my health deteriorate to a point where I could hardly even recognize myself any longer. I have no compunction in admitting that I’ve become a frustratingly hurtful, offensive, destructive force in the lives of those I professed to love most. I have only an immense sadness that it has become so since my intentions were always purely out of love.

Love. Ha! The single most overrated corporeal invention of humankind beyond its invention of a proactive God. But I digress.

There had been a sneaking suspicion over the past several years that the world I was trying to fit into as an artist and as a man was one I had fundamental incongruence with. It had, sadly, led me to believe that the disconnect was within me, that somehow I was an irredeemable lost cause and wasted opportunity when in reality none of that was truly ever so. Like all matter, I exist most comfortably in a state of rest and it is the contrast of that pristine rest state with my environment that I had to analyze, not my yearning for a life I never was meant to have, one I was forcing myself to.

Love be damned. Family be damned. Community be damned. Here lies everything I ever wanted at my feet, broken and bleeding out.


I’m finally getting back into working on SMOAR after several months of avoidance of and incompatibility with the project.

I’ve been battling a frustrating ear malfunction of sorts, very likely just another manifestation of the limitless fractitious stress I’ve been living in, and as a result have been partially deaf in my right ear for nearing a month now. Yes, I should have gone to a doctor but like so many other things, that was something I simply didn’t do. Thus working in the studio has been nearly impossible and my disconnect with myself above all else made even aimlessly doodling on a guitar unrewarding. My projects and collaborations are still on hold as they actually require my hearing which I assume will come back soon (I am taking some homeopathic measures for it; not entirely ignoring the issue) but at least I’ve found a new way to contribute to SMOAR by skipping ahead in the process and forging its lyrics in my frustratingly buzzy, pitchy catatonia. I clearly have much to say right now so I took the opportunity to make some progress.

Like I’ve intended and stated in years past without fail, 2017 will be a year of great change. Hopefully it will also be the year I finally finish SMOAR, a project that has become a parody sketch of itself, a stark contrast to every original compilation I had produced to date. Whereas I rushed through past offerings and delivered new music nearly yearly, this has become a deliberate process of growth and enlightenment and has gone now onto its seventh year. But it will be worth it. I truly believe that. I’ve learned so much about myself during its synthesis and I hope that it doesn’t only help others learn more about me but far more importantly, learn something about themselves because that is ultimately what its goal is; to inspire the clarity it has brought me in others.


See, that’s just it. I understand who I am, now.

I understand that I’m not capable of connecting with people in any traditional social capacity. I cannot sympathize with others no matter how close or far without watching my cup overflow with boiling human bean juice. I am not capable of that level of interaction. My path to enlightenment isn’t through a crowd. It is alone into a dank cave in the mountains where I can safely and quietly commune with an infallible, nonjudgmental muse. If I’m able to help bring love and happiness into the lives of others by revealing myself, revealing my worst fears, weaknesses and mistakes, then I can finally accept my rest state free of the imbalance that has plagued my villainous existence thus far.

Simply put, SMOAR isn’t just for me. It’s for you, too.


The nightmare is very real and I’m not escaping it, anymore. I’m embracing it, letting it consume me, letting it define me, letting it become me without any fear of my humanity, of my “madness.”

And I feel fine.

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Ok, so a 2017 release it is then…

Hey, I’m back!

Yeah, the site was down, thus so was the blog and that’s alright because I wasn’t working on any music to begin with.

It happens, you know; my muse and I disagree on the time I devote to her and so she’ll pout and storm off while I spend my evenings watching sports and playing Civilization VI. I’m sure on the outside it looks like I’m being neglectful or dismissive of my obligations (after all, I do have about half a dozen unfinished tracks for project directors waiting on me) but if there’s anything I’ve learned through this whole process, it is to not force things.

In fact, there has been quite a lot going on around here in the time between the last flurry of activity in the studio and now and most of it has to do with my coming to terms with several personal conflicts and challenges. Like my ongoing battle with anxiety. Granted, I don’t have as much anxiety as others who suffer from routine panic attacks but I’ve come to understand my limitations in particular environments and situations and this enlightenment has manifested itself in letting go of the wheel more often and letting things take their course. After years of white knuckling all the way down the rabbit hole, I think I’m on to something!

More importantly, it released some of the tension of worrying about when I was going to release Sad Man On A Rock. Honestly, I don’t even particularly think anybody outside of four or five people are even aware of the album’s existence. And while I’ve been intending for the slew of videogame arrangements that are slowly trickling out to boost my exposure ahead of the album, I can’t say that I’ve boosted anything beyond my workload and in doing so riddled the process with distractions I could honestly do without.

So with that, I regret to inform all four of you that Sad Man On A Rock will be released sometime in 2017.
(I promise to start working on it full time as soon as football season is over.)

Dig it.

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SMOAR Tracklist UPDATE

Roster cuts!
Here’s the new tracklist:
Disc 1

  1. Day
  2. Truthsayer…
  3. … And the Art of Coming Clean
  4. Sad Man On a Rock Pt 1
  5. The Girl With the Om Tattoo
  6. Man Without an Ocean
  7. Old Hangtown
  8. Brave
  9. Locks Drive
  10. Alone Beneath The Light

Disc 2

  1. Night
  2. Forever Gone
  3. The Imperfect Man
  4. Our Roots Run Deep Into the Earth
  5. Bent Out of Shape
  6. Knee Deep
  7. America!
  8. New Helvetia
  9. Fog and Rain (on Apple Hill)
  10. Sad Man on a Rock Pt 2

 

Front and Center and Panhandler have both been cut from the album. Knee Deep has been bumped to the sixth position on the second disc in a resulting move.

These moves serve a couple purposes, chiefly maintaining the overall tone of the album. As both cut songs were written nearly a decade ago, they were compositionally out of place. I had intended for them to be a part of a trilogy of tunes starting with America! where I would spend a few songs discussing the current charged political climate but while I had in fact arranged them in the present style, neither song’s tone fit within the overarching theme of self-discovery through one’s mental health… even where America!, dealing with social injustice, still was able to do so.

In the case of Front and Center, the new version juxtaposed the original heavily distorted metal/hard rock track with a more deliberate, slower-tempo’d acoustic treatment. The original version led off with a particularly moving quote from President Obama in 2008 in regards to race tensions in America while the new version featured insightful commentary from the venerable Dr. Cornel West. The hooks in both tunes remained unaltered but the verses have evolved to demonstrate the changing times. In the end, however, I wasn’t able to arrange the tune in a way (satisfactory to me) that streamlines into SMOAR. That said, I am particularly happy with how the song itself is coming along lol and considering the fervor surrounding the BLM movement and our presidential election right around the corner, I still intend on releasing the track; possibly soon here before the election or shortly after.

Panhandler is an interesting case as well. Another song that was written and recorded nearly a decade ago, Panhandler first developed as a psychedelic groove tune commenting on our nationwide yearning for social change (in one direction or another) presented through the perspective of a homeless person disenfranchised from the American Dream. This notion is most clearly illustrated through the lyric “Tell me, Stranger, can you spare some change? Or will we simply save it for another day?” The original tune, like Front and Center, was written a long time ago between albums and really never fit on any of the releases since.

But that’s just it; I felt as though these songs were being shoehorned into the album, forcing the issue and while America! is going to miss its angsty politically-charged tracklist buddies, I think the album will benefit from having a more homogeneous tone. Knee Deep gets separated from its grimy swamp buddy Locks Drive but its aggressive tone still fits in nicely behind that of Bent Out of Shape. After all, the two songs were penned during the same writing session and thus share the same characteristic energy.

(i totally realize that, since nobody but me has heard any of this shit yet, you have no idea what i’m talking about haha in due time, my pretties. in due time)

These tracklist moves also allow me to trim a bit off the album since I was already biting off quite a bit with a whopping 22 track, two and a half hour acoustic riverside opera.

That’s it for now… but more updates coming soon!
DIG IT.

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