Studio Update - June 2017
A look behind the scenes of the upcoming album “Ending Life Slowly” from solo metal band Autumns Eyes.

Category Archives: OpEd

Movies That Inspire Creativity

There is a lot of focus on horror movies which inspire what I do with Autumns Eyes, but there are plenty of films from other genres which can have just as strong an impact on my creativity. With song writing, I always tend to look in the opposite direction when it comes to sparking an idea. The same formula applies to visual inspiration, and often times a movie you’d never expect to influence a heavy metal band, will do so in a way horror movies could never come close to. These are just a few movies I can always reference for inspiration during a strong case of writers block.

The Virgin Suicides

I remember watching this with a friend, and after the film ended they asked what the purpose of this movie was. The question threw me off guard at the time, but my answer should have been that not all films have such a straight and narrow purpose behind them. Granted its a horribly depressing story, but the way everything here is crafted from the set design to the music is nothing short of brilliant. When everything falls perfectly into place like that, it provides a seamless transition for the viewer to feel like they are part of the story.

No Country For Old Men

The one aspect I took away from this movie was silence. Its a perfect example of how taking something away can add so much more in the overall scheme of things. Plenty of films feature a sadistic killer who’s hellbent on revenge, but the killer in this movie is much more unique and believable. His oddly shaped haircut, his denim wardrobe, and his disgustingly effective weapon are three unforgettable traits that stick with you long after the movie is over. Not a slew of one-liners or an abundance of quick cut action scenes. The use of silence in the dialogue is also matched in the vast baron landscapes which surround the characters. Yet another detail which makes this film stand on its own, and even sets itself apart from having a specific genre tagged to it.

Sin City

It took a lot of guts to make a film like this, especially in a time when comic book movies were straying so far from the original source material. Movies like X-Men were afraid to have their characters dress exactly how they were in the comics in fear of them looking horribly silly. Sin City went the opposite direction, and embraced the look which made the series so notable in the first place. Not only did they create similar characters with the actors they cast, but also in the set direction and shooting the picture in black and white. Bold decisions like that will always garner respect, and always serve as inspiration to those who choose to take the fearless route when it comes to creativity.

Inception

Hollywood is notorious for churning out repetitive nonsense every year with an abundance of remakes and ideas we have all seen before. Inception was a game changer not only with its unique story, but even the trailer which started the awful trend of other movie previews using the loud “BRAAAAAAMMMM” sound. Whats even more inspiring here is director Christopher Nolan’s decision to use practical effects for the majority of such a visually striking movie. Many filmmakers and studios would opt for using computers since they are cheaper and faster, but digital effects will never compare to the real thing. Which is why the hallway fight scene remains one of the best visual effects we’ve ever seen.

The NeverEnding Story

This is one of the first movies I remember watching as a kid, and while it surely scared the living shit out of me in some parts, I believe its easy to say this movie was the reason I opted to show interest towards the darker side of life. There were a lot of fantasy based movies during the eighties, but NeverEnding Story was the one film I often wished would come true. So many nights were spent hidden under a blanket with a flashlight reading fictional stories till my eyes could barely stay open. To see that same scenario unfold on screen, and have those stories come to life, was simply awe inspiring.

Batman

There are a few memories in our childhood that stick out as life changing moments, and Tim Burtons Batman was without question the most notable in my youth. I had always been a fan of the character in comic books, but never imagined he would be visualized with such brutal honesty until I saw the first trailer for this movie. Soon after, there would be multiple trips to the theater so I could study this fascinating person. He was psychotic enough to embrace darkness and run towards it, rather than fear it and run away as most of us would. Thats the main inspiration I found in the movie, not just the cool visuals, but the fact that someone opened up my brain and told me its okay to embrace what scares you.

Songs That Extract Emotion

Nobody else is around, the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and the only way to cleanse yourself of this overwhelming emotion is to play a song which you have a personal connection to. A song that only you can understand because it penetrates deep into your bones, and targets every fiber of your being to the point where you feel it was recorded just for you at this very moment in time. These are the songs that extract emotion out of us at our most vulnerable moments. Im sharing a few of my own selections, but Im more interested in what everyone else has to share. So make sure to hit up the comment section below, or stop by Facebook and Twitter to join in the conversation.

Pink Floyd

Coming Back to Life

While the original track comes off Pink Floyd’s Division Bell album, the version I fell in love with was witnessing Floyd guitar player David Gilmour perform the song at a Fender anniversary concert. The lyric “Where were you when I was burned and broken?” cracks through a sorrow soaked guitar intro, and launches into one of the most lyrically poignant songs Ive ever heard.

Dream Theater

The Spirit Carries On

From the legendary concept album Metropolis II: Scenes From a Memory, this track is originally slated to fit inside a much bigger story. However, you can’t help but find a relatable message within the lyrics and apply them to your own life. What happens after we pass will always be a huge mystery for everyone with a beating heart, but songs like this help some of us ease that curiosity towards the unknown.

Anathema

Lost Control

Sometimes its important to embrace an overwhelming sadness so we can not only prevent it from infecting us at a deeper level, but also to teach us how to release such intense pain. Anathema has always been good at helping me extract some of the things I tend to hold on to, which I should be letting go of.

My Dying Bride

For My Fallen Angel

Not many metal bands have ever had such a somber impact on my own soul, and while there may not be any distorted guitars or skull crushing drums, the message of this song is translated perfectly with a tasteful string arrangement that’s sure to drown you in sadness.

Hans Zimmer

Rise

Batman has always been an iconic part of my memory ever since I was a kid, and while Im not obsessed to the point where I have my own bat cave, I will always be intrigued by the overall story. As a child it showed me how to be courageous and embrace fear, as opposed to running from it. Like many moments from our childhood, those feelings tend to get lost as time goes by. I never expected those emotions to return in full force during the final act of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which was brilliantly scored by the always imaginative Hans Zimmer.

My Favorite Heavy Metal Guitar Tunings

If you’re a guitar player, by now you’ve probably tried your hand at a few different tunings. When you purchase a standard guitar, it’s strung with basic strings that are sized for standard E tuning. However, the lower you go, the thicker the string you will need to retain enough tension to pluck the string. This is where things get interesting, and we are about to go over a few of the most popular tuning methods for heavy metal guitar playing.

Tried and True E

E-A-D-G-B-E

Believe it or not there are plenty of metal bands out there sticking to their tuning guns by trusting good old standard E tuning. Bands like Opeth and Dream Theater are most notable for writing in E, despite the fact that John Petrucci has indulged in many lower tunings with his seven string.

Drop-D

D-A-D-G-B-E

It’s the best way to communicate a really harsh rock sound with a heavy metal edge, much like that of Anthrax or Melvins. Drop-D tuning has been a go-to standard in heavy music ever since Eddie Van Halen brought it into the limelight.

Standard B

B-E-A-D-G-B-E (7 String)
B-E-A-D-F#-B (6 String)

Say what you will about the band Korn, but if not for their exploration into the realms of seven string guitar playing, metal would not have progressed as a genre. As with any tuning, there is no idea who did it first, but there were those who brought it to our attention like Korn and even solo players like Steve Vai.

Drop-A

A-E-A-D-G-B-E (7 String)
A-E-A-D-F#-B (6 String)

Now it’s beginning to get a little ugly in here, and fans of standard E tuning should be weary of what’s to come. Drop-A tuning is basically the seven string equivalent of Drop-D, but much lower of course. One of my favorite bands who use this tuning effectively is Fear Factory. It’s not an easy task to keep such a low tuning sounding tight with a kick drum, but Dino Cazares manages to achieve a tight sound with fierce accuracy all while maintaining such a low growl.

Meshuggah

F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine one day we would see eight string guitars in heavy metal. The first time I heard Meshuggah, I was convinced they were using bass strings on their guitars. While that part was true, I had no idea what was to come. Ibanez introduced the eight string not too long ago, and it has since become a hugely popular trend in heavy music today. Unfortunately the majority of people trying to perfect this sound under such intense distortion fall flat of anything sonically recognizable. That’s why Meshuggah are absolute masters of their craft, and pioneers of guitar tuning. They continue to push the limits, and prove that sound can only be limited by your own creative walls.

Tara Vanflower Talks Lycia, Type O Negative, & Much More

She is the ambient angel who’s voice has seduced us all with her darkwave days as a member of Lycia, her hypnotizing solo material, and even lending her voice to the drab four themselves, Type O Negative.

Her name is well known throughout the landscapes of dark music, and yet it seems that we have never gotten a good look into the mind of this captivating siren. In the hopes of delving deeper into the darkness, I sat down with Tara on the shores of her majestic castle overlooking the Baltic Sea.

Okay, so it was actually just a couple emails back and forth, but I prefer the castle motif. Without further adieu, so begins our spotlight on one of the most talented creative minds this world has to offer.

Biography

In October of 1994 Tara Vanflower began her journey with the darkwave outfit Lycia, where soon after she would marry fellow band member Mike VanPortfleet. Along with her work for Lycia, Tara also explored a more personal creative outlet by releasing her first solo album in 1999 titled This Womb Like Liquid Honey, followed by the 2005 release My Little Fire-Filled Heart.

taravanflower-4

Her talents proceeded to blossom throughout numerous side-projects and collaborations such as Black Happy Day with Timothy Renner, Secondary Nerve with Daniele Serra, Oneiroid Psychosis, Numina, The Unquiet Void, Falling You, and Methadrone. Given her extensive resume working with other artists, one of Tara’s most notable contributions happened in 2007 when she sang on the track Halloween In Heaven by Type O Negative.

Vanflower has an immense passion for all things creative, and never has that shown more recently than in her time spent writing. With several books under her belt, she has released Lives of Ilya, Violent Violet Part One & Two, and will continue the Violet Series with several installments in the future, along with numerous other series which have yet to be completed.

Lycia

Grand Rapids

Lycia

Baltica

Tara Vanflower

Beneath the Moon

Tara Vanflower

Milk

13 Questions With Tara Vanflower

What was it that attracted you to the darker side of creativity, as opposed to say a career in pop or country music?

There’s no way I could pull off a career in either of those genres for one thing. LOL The other is I’m not interested in either. I do like country music, but not the slick modern version. I prefer the old stuff and bluegrass. I have a side project called Black Happy Day with Timothy Renner that touches on that a little. I don’t know why I’m drawn to darker, moodier forms of expression. I really don’t.

For lack of a better term, how has “goth” music changed since you started out?

“Goth” as I knew it is dead, or should be anyway. I think what people equate as goth is so varied it’s a disservice to all involved. I love moody music. I don’t really like campy clichéd crap. Unless it’s intentionally being that way for the sake of humor. And then it’s just mildly amusing.

Aside from music, do you partake in any other forms of artistic expression?

My primary form of expression these days is actually writing. I have a few books out. Generally speaking, my focus is mostly on writing these days.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Dream Land, the sideways realm, alternate dimensions… whatever you want to call it. The atmosphere. Love. Those people who come to me in dreams at night. Surroundings I’ve never seen before.

If there was a movie made about you, who would be best suited to portray you?

OMG, um wow. No fucking clue. I’d like to say someone awesome, but then that would be an inaccurate portrayal. Hmm, can Hodor play me?

What moments in your life would this movie focus on?

Probably my incredible baton twirling career from the mid 70s to early 80s.

Would this movie be released in theaters everywhere, straight to DVD, or only art-house hipster theaters that serve odd selections of coffee?

Probably on youtube and filmed/posted by David Slaya Smith. (shout out to DSS)

Are there any projects you have in the back of your head, or the front of your head for that matter, which you have been anxious to start working on?

YES! The new Lycia, which is the very early stages. This album will have David Galas, Mike, and myself. And a myriad of books that are in varying stages of completion. I need a doppelganger to work my day job so I can pull off all these projects!

You worked with a small group of up and coming musicians out of Brooklyn named Type 1 Positive, or something to that effect. How did this collaboration come about, and what was the experience like?

Quick answer: Josh asked me. LOL We were friends and he asked me to do some vocals on a track that never was released. So when they were recording the TON album he asked if I wanted to do vocals on Halloween In Heaven and of course I said yes. I recorded vocals in our studio and sent him the tracks via AIM. And that was that. I love those guys so it was awesome. I also got to sing the song live once with them and that was pretty incredible.

taravanflower-3

Is there anyone out there who you would love to collaborate with aside from Martian Manhunter?

Superman, definitely Superman. I don’t know. It’s so hard to get anything done creatively these days. I’m just looking forward to the next Lycia.

Do you see the future as a time of winding down for you, or an endless field of opportunity that has yet to be explored?

I don’t think I will ever be able to give up thinking I should be creating something. My life would be less tortured if I could.

Since everyone asks about the future of Lycia, I will ask something completely different. If we were in a time portal and drifted years ahead, what would Lycia be doing at that given moment in time?

Sitting on the couch watching The Justice League with Dirk VanPortfleet.

Everyone has their own unique path in life, but given the chance would you go back and alter that path in any way?

Yes. There were some decisions I made in life that were fucking awful.

Tara’s Top 5 Goth Tracks

This is gonna be hard!!!!!!!!!!! Keep in mind, I actually don’t think of any of the bands I will list as “goth”, and limiting myself to 5 is insane, but here goes.

Lycia

Granada

Swans

Blood and Honey

The Cure

Disintegration

Black Mare

Blind One

Joy Division

Love Will Tear Us Apart

In closing, its important to remember what makes us all individuals in this world. If everyone followed the flock so to speak, we would be saturated with such bland lives that could never prosper beyond our own mediocrity. Its people like Tara Vanflower who show us the definition of the word creativity. She is fearless in her stance against normality, and continues to prove that when you express your true passion in life, your legacy will live on beyond your years. In Tara’s case her songs and her words will forever inspire people like myself and continue to do so long after we are gone.

Lycia Official Website
Lycia Official Facebook Page

A Reminder of Why I Love Making Music

I received a pretty amazing email last night from a fan who’s wife gave him a unique gift for fathers day to celebrate their first son together. The gift is a framed photo of their son which is made up entirely out of lyrics to the Autumns Eyes song Ichabod, which I wrote as an open letter to my son before he is born. As a musician it makes this all worthwhile when you make a connection like that with your listeners. Regarding the email, I asked the fan if I could share it online to which he approved. Here is what he wrote, and the picture he attached.

“I wanted to share with you this gift that my wife gave me for my first fathers day. It is difficult to see in the photo but this picture is my son when he was just a few hours old, it is made entirely from the lyrics of your song Ichabod. Now that I have a son of my own, I have a new appreciation for the meaning. Just in case you were wondering, yes that is batman in the bottom right corner.”

ichabod-frame

While I often receive letters from fans all over the world, its always nice to know these songs have the ability to go deeper than just what you hear on the surface. Its a constant reminder of why I love making music, and how grateful I am to have such amazing fans.

A Thank You Letter to Pensado’s Place

Music is a language everyone speaks, and creating music in a time where opportunity is at your front door with hordes of knowledge only a search away, it can be overwhelming at times to find good advice. You can search the web and find plenty of sites or forums with thousands of opinions clashing so much they often tend to lose focus on the subject at hand. YouTube is another great resource to find musical guidance, but again there are so many videos to choose from, one never knows who they can trust or who has valuable insight.

A while back there was a little show that premiered on a YouTube network called “This Week In” which focused on a plethora of topics ranging from music to horror movies. The show was called Pensado’s Place, and featured two charismatic guys named Herb and Dave who seemed to have a special chemistry that only years of friendship could develop. Each episode would cover a wide variety of musical topics dedicated to those out there who live and breathe the creative medium. Not only was this information extremely valuable, but it came from two guys that we could trust.

Herb and Dave slowly began reaching a wider audience through more episodes, and by interacting with their fan base via social media. Their charm and charisma was intoxicating, and soon spread to the musical masses like wildfire. The show was gaining momentum, garnering support from the biggest names in the industry, and sparking creativity throughout musicians all across the globe. Unbeknownst to many of us, we were witnessing a major shift in the musical world, one that would prove to be exceedingly bigger than the sum of its parts.

The YouTube channel “This Week In” would soon prove too small for the behemoth that was Pensado’s Place, and the show has since moved on marking it’s own territory on the web. It’s no question that it has become the go-to place for everything and anything a musician could ask for. Even through such a massive shift into the public eye, the show remains grounded in its roots, always humble and relatable to even the most inexperienced musician just getting started in this business.

Herb and Dave, their producer Will, and the entire team at Pensado’s Place has become a force to be reckoned with in the music business. Not only did they rise through such an incredibly difficult market to shine in, but they ignited a spark in the industry that seemed to be missing for some time. They inspired a new breed of creativity, and in doing so are changing lives one show at a time. They aren’t just making something technically savvy that we can access like a musical dictionary, they are influencing the people who touch us emotionally.

As stated in the beginning of this article, music is a language everyone speaks. This crazy arrangement of notes and melodies are what guide our emotions when we’re happy or sad. Music provides a soundtrack to our lives, and it’s things like Pensado’s Place that keep our musical hearts beating. One of the great things about the artistic world is that these creations will outlive all of us, and the same can easily be said about this amazing show. What Dave and Herb have created will forever be cemented in the hearts of musicians long into the future. I’m just one tiny musician in a world of many, but I strongly believe that I can speak for the majority in thanking this show and the people behind it for inspiring us all, and for reigniting a flame that was in danger of burning out.

So cheers to Dave, Herb, Will, and the entire team at Pensado’s Place for making music history. I wish you all the success you so rightfully deserve, and most importantly…thank you!

Empty Crowds and Malfunctioning Fog Machines

At some point in a bands career, it’s almost a rite of passage to experience a sorted array of live show nightmares. The subject has even been immortalized to perfection in the cult classic movie “The Is Spinal Tap”, which offers an extremely accurate look into these familiar blunders. Needless to say, its part of the evolving process as a musician, and reminds us that there’s always a chance for something to go horribly wrong.

Ive been in several bands long ago, many of which have played live all around New England, but few ran into as many incidents as my time with an industrial metal band over a decade ago. Our gimmick was painting our faces in glow paint, and lighting the stage with black lights to give us a radioactive glowing effect. That piece of information alone should give you enough of an idea towards how hilarious it looked when things went wrong. These are just a couple specific incidents which humbled us as a band, and also made us look like absolute jackasses.

A Sea of Nobody

We were booked a show at a local town green, where apparently several bands were booked as some what of a local outdoor metal festival. The people involved with the show continued to promise a spectacular turnout, and kept reminding us of how “great” the show was going to be. As a group of ego driven musicians who barely knew anything about the business, we were eager to perform for what we believed would be a miniature Woodstock.

Upon arriving at an empty field, we noticed all the bands starting to load equipment on to a stage no bigger than a small bedroom. There was a merchandise table being setup, and the band members girlfriends were making the rounds greeting each other. At this point it was only a matter of time until the massive audience would swarm in like a metal hungry mob. After about an hour of waiting, the only noise you could hear was from kids playing frisbee in the same field, and maybe an elderly man walking his dog.

What we didn’t realize at the time, was that our audience was there the whole time. The band members girlfriends and staggered road crew were all we got, and every ounce of adrenaline pumping through our veins in hopes of playing for a sea of people was immediately extinguished. From that moment on, every show we played with the people involved in that mess continued with their “this show is gonna be great” attitude, only to experience yet another dead audience.

old-band-photo

More Fog = More Falls

Every time we started a show, the crowd would be notified of our presence by the sound of Edward Scissorhands music blasting through the speakers. It’s a technique many bands use to get their audience pumped up before they start playing. Unfortunately our band decided it would be a good idea to bathe the stage in fog during our entrance, and at one occasion it proved to be quite a disaster.

The fog machine was controlled by an extension switch located backstage, and as we awaited our entrance we kept insisting “More fog! More fog!”. What we completely took for granted was our ability to actually see how much fog was being dispersed at that given moment. We finally got the cue to walk on stage, and upon our first few steps we noticed the front row was coughing uncontrollably. This was not a good sign for what was about to happen.

There were six of us all trying to rush towards our instruments at the same time on a tiny stage in a cramped night club. There was so much fog on stage you would have thought the entire place was on fire, but everyone knew it was fog because of that putrid yet sweet smell. I can only imagine being in the audience and seeing this group of buffoons with glowing faces falling over each other in an attempt to withhold any shred of dignity, and maintain a heavy metal “tough guy” image. Hopefully we made up for it with our performance, but that was only possible after the first few songs when our audience could actually see us.

If you’re just starting out in a band right now, I surely don’t envy what you’re about to go through. Just remember that every band goes through something similar, and there are going to be times when eyebrows will raise in confusion, and laughs will fall at your expense. This is why it’s extremely important to stay humble, and never take yourself too seriously.

My Time In Boston and Its Captivating Influence

With the recent tragedy in Boston, aside from the immense sadness, I’m reminded of why the city itself is so beloved by people all over the world. Everyone has their own interpretation of what makes Boston so amazing, and I wanted to share a couple great memories from living there which actually launched my career in Autumns Eyes.

The year was 2001, and I was sharing a small basement apartment with a good friend of mine who also happened to be an extremely talented musician attending the Berklee College of Music. Years prior to that, the same friend was extremely helpful in lending me equipment to record my first couple songs on a crude four track recorder. After moving to the city, he carried on with his signature kindness by introducing me to digital recording software. This opened the flood gates and allowed me to expand my creativity beyond the walls of my previous analogue setup.

This was the first time living outside my parents house after graduating High School one year prior. I had always loved visiting Boston, and it was the only place aside from the woods which left me with an indescribable feeling of bliss. Living there had always been a dream of mine, and to finally call it my home was a gift I will never forget. The city was full of such amazing people, and there was this overall feeling that everyone knew each other even though we were strangers.

The people of Boston held a vibrant enthusiasm which completely saturated the environment with inspiration at every corner. Whether it was going to a small club to see some great bands play live, or even witnessing an art exhibit where hordes of students could showcase their creativity. This infectious atmosphere was easy to draw motivation from, and prevented me from ever falling into a creative rut.

Months went by, and I had built a collection of songs which would later be released as my first full length album under the name Autumns Eyes. The album was titled “Remember the Victim“, and would act as a catalyst for inspiring more albums down the road. Its sound was very rough and unstructured due to my limited knowledge of recording, but word spread throughout my friends in the city, and the more they liked what they heard, the more I was inspired to continue making more music.

After 9/11 hit and hearing the planes came from Boston, I can remember walking home to my apartment across town from a friends house, and having this eerie feeling as the city seemed empty and lifeless. There was nobody on the streets, and it was the first time I could hear myself breathe without distraction from traffic. It seemed as though the people of Boston were not only extremely saddened by the events in New York, but also thinking their city would never be the same as well.

An amazing thing happened to our country after that, where everyone set aside their differences and united as one. This was the same behavior I loved about Boston to begin with, and to see it on a national level was one of the best displays of humanity ever witnessed. The overall spirit of resilience was embraced by everyone, and still to this day reminds me of why its important to keep moving forward, no matter what stands in your way.

Its been years since my time there, and every time I reach a point in life where something seems to drag me down into the depths of unbearable negativity, I am quickly reminded of the enduring fortitude Boston left in my heart. If not for such an amazing city, I wouldn’t have my career with Autumns Eyes as it stands today. The amazing influence it left behind is one that will never fade.

While it still grieves us all to see such a horrific event occur at the Boston Marathon, it’s also a time to remember the indomitable strength Boston possesses. Just as its done time and time again, the city will heal itself through the remarkable courage of its people. Granted there will always be tragedy in the world, but there will always be cities like Boston as well. Places that continue to remind us when someone tries to tear us apart, it will only bring us closer together.