Published April 30th, 2012 at 10:00 am EST/EDT

At the end of the small set I and my friends performed as part of my Capstone project, I took questions from the audience. One of those questions, posed by my friend Brat, was “Would you be willing to make a theme song for my game?” She was referring to her own Capstone project.

My response to her question was a very confident and reassuring, “I will try!

She contacted me about it again in January. I was both pleased and nervous. I was pleased because it was my first song commission and I really wanted to take the project. But I was nervous because creativity has its own whims and I wasn’t sure I would be able to bend those whims to my will. But I took the project and Brat sent me some details for it.

These details mostly consisted of background on the game she was working on. I needed this information, of course, so that I had something to write about. And even so, it was really interesting writing this song. Usually when I write songs I have a much greater understanding of their background, whether it’s something I’m basing off my own life or off a book, TV show, et cetera. With this game, all I had were Brat’s notes and that was it. I felt a little bit like I was flying blind. Therefore, I resolved to fling some words at a sheet of paper and then see what she thought of them.

The Muses were merciful in this instance and I was able to get the first verse and a tune at the same time. And quickly, to boot. But I found after writing the first verse that I wasn’t able to think of anything else to write and that I needed more background. So I sent what I had to Brat for approval, which I got, and I also sent her a list of questions to try and suss out some other details so that I could finish the song.

And then Brat got sick.

As I’m sure everyone knows, being sick sucks. So It’s no wonder I didn’t hear back from her for a little while.

A month later she sent me the info I needed. I sat down and hammered out a second verse and managed a chorus. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure about the tune, but I sent the entirety of the lyrics off to Brat. She responded with enthusiasm, so I figured the next step was to take the song to my musical partners in crime to get it chorded and arranged. They knocked it out in the space of about an hour and a half, and they helped me figure out the last kink in the tune. When I say my bandmates constantly amaze me, this is the sort of thing I’m talking about.

So by this point it was the second week of March. Brat needed the song fully recorded, mixed, and mastered no later than April 6th. …yeah. Commence Operation Get This Bugger Recorded.

Sean and I spent the next week and a half running through the song at least once a night most nights (with the exception of the night of our concert as part of S(cubed)apalooza). Then it was time to start recording. I was very excited to get back into the studio (and am also very excited about my next opportunity).

This was Sean’s first time in the studio to record guitar. I’d shoved a microphone in front of his face before for “The Stallion and the Rose: The Debt” and “The Singing of Dragons”, but even so, I think he was still a bit nervous. It didn’t help that we haven’t really done any practicing with a metronome, but I always record with one. (And we’ll be making an effort to practice with one more often from now on.) But even so, he did an excellent job.

The main vocal was a cinch. It’s not perfect, but I try to recognize the fact that it’s not possible for anything to ever be perfect. Otherwise, I will drive myself insane trying to achieve the unattainable.

In the interim while I was waiting for my scheduled time with the other musicians I worked with, I laid down the tambourine and djembe parts. For the tambourine, I had recently acquired this nifty rig that bolts to a mic stand (or other similar apparatus) and holds the tambourine steady. I then hit the tambourine with timpani mallets (which are padded). It was a much better way of doing things. I had quite a bit more control over the instrument with this set-up. When I played tambourine for “Stepping Stones”, I was just shaking it, and it didn’t work nearly as well.

The djembe recording was pretty straightforward. I hope to someday have a kick mic to pick up those low frequencies better.

The next instrument I recorded was a real treat. I’d never recorded bass guitar before, let alone a purely electric bass. Ally helped me conscript our friend Stephen Luckett (whom I call “Anime”—long story, don’t ask), with whom she’d been in a band a few years ago. He was enthusiastic and very fun to work with. He was even barely hampered by the fact that my set-up currently doesn’t allow for echo during recording. So he couldn’t hear his part at all while he was playing.

He left the studio saying that when Ally had showed him the scratch recording, he wasn’t sure what his playing a bass part could add to it. But after listening to the current mix with his part added in, he understood why we thought bass was a good idea.

Lastly, I needed vocal harmonies. Ally was on board for those. She arranged them herself (in addition to Anime’s bass part) and knocked tracks for both parts out quite quickly. This was the first time I had recorded vocals for her, and as always, she’s fun to work with.

This is easily one of my most favorite songs I’ve written if only because it’s so much fun to perform. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoy performing it.

Buy it here

Surviving Through the Game
Lyrics by Katt McConnell, music by Katt McConnell with thanks to Wax Chaotic
Commissioned by Brat Conway for the game “The Chronicles of the Lost Dimensions”

It was always easier to hide,
To never turn to face the shadows
Or the monster inside…

My secrets should never be revealed,
For they’re dangerous to all those I
But now they can’t be concealed,
For the nightmare is real,
And the truth will at last be my shield!

       Some choose adventure
       Some are chosen by fate
       If I know what’s good for me I’ll choose
       To escape

       To some, it’s all about winning
       To some, it’s all wealth and fame
       Here, right now, it’s only about
       Surviving through the game.

You are not the only one that finds
They have a destiny that tangles and
With chains of many kinds…

If it kills me, by gods, I’ll follow through—
I’m not a hero, I just do what needs
But this I promise you:
Your fetters I’ll undo!
(And maybe I’ll save myself, too.)

Lyrics by Katt McConnell, music by Katt McConnell with thanks to Wax Chaotic
Performed by Wax Chaotic, feat. Stephen Luckett
Katt McConnell—Main vocal, percussion, engineering, mixing, mastering
Sean McConnell—Guitar
Allyson Clarkson—Vocal harmony arrangements and performance, bass guitar arrangement
Stephen Luckett—Bass

2 Responses to “Production Notes – “Surviving Through the Game””

  1. Momma AJ says:

    I loved hearing this song this weekend live. It was (as is ever other song you’ve done) beautiful. I am so proud of you.

    Love you!

    Momma AJ

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