Rough Seas

Home studio productions over the years, ordered newest on top. All compositions, lyrics, instruments and vocals by Panu Matilainen. Select material also available on Bandcamp. Assorted cover songs can be found on a separate page.

Unless otherwise noted, all songs mixed and recorded on a Soundcraft FX16 II console and Fostex D2424LV mk2 multitrack recorder, and drums + other backing tracks sequenced with Squarp Pyramid sequencer + various hardware instruments.

Although the D2424LV does support digital-era features such as copy-paste edits, as a matter of principle I only do what would be possible with analog tape machines. Similarly, I try to only sequence things that I could physically play. Exceptions will be noted if they ever come up.

"Played live" in this context means non-edited overdubbed audio recording, as opposed to MIDI sequencing. While many sequenced parts are programmed literally one note at a time, many are initially recorded from an actual keyboard performance, and typically edited a bit and/or quantized before recording to audio.

The material here should be considered demos made for personal fun, commercial recordings are produced to different standards.

2020

Here Be Dragons

The edge of the world where dragons live is a mental image that has fascinated me ever since hearing the story about old maps having "here be dragons" text at the uncharted areas. At some point I realized this would make for a cool song theme.

The way it ultimately came out is nothing like my initial ideas, both in terms of story and musical style. It was supposed to be a nod to classic heavy metal a'la Black Sabbath, Dio and friends but the initial version was boring to tears. I had to tear it all apart and rethink from scratch halfway through recording the backing tracks and I no longer know what genre it belongs to, but this is how it was meant to be, really.

The lyrics alone took several months of research and editing rounds. And when you work so hard on one thing, it raises the bar on everything as otherwise the effort seems thrown away. The song itself was composed, arranged and recorded over the course of nine months or thereabouts, the vocals alone were re-recorded something like five times total. I think it was well worth it. Some people call this practising... There's also a trace of pitch correction device on the vocals here. It's a peculiar and subtle thing - it does not fix bad singing. What it does instead is make mistakes easier to spot while singing: when you hear it kick in, you know you need a retake. For the rest, it does give a certain extra polish by smoothing out minor pitch deviations you wouldn't strictly need correcting. Whatever bad singing remains, as you can hear.

The only synths and thus sequenced parts here are the drums, and the choirs on the outro. Everything else is overdubbed with real instruments. The story is loosely based on a historical setting and sprinkled with silly little details.

Never have I worked so hard on any song. Nothing else comes even close.

2019

Ballad of Sgt. D. Umber

This song was a long time in the making. The beginning and the ending are from an unfinished piece from around 1990, and the middle part I came up with in early 2018 but didn't know where it was coming from or where it was going to. Finally this summer an idea for a story struck me and then it all suddenly clicked together. Of course it still didn't come out quite the way planned and because of that, I'll let you invent your own story around the song.

All distorted electric guitars and basses and some of the acoustic guitars recorded with real instruments, everything else sequenced with Pyramid using JV-1080, XV-3080 and Gaia SH-01 synths.

Alien Encounter

And then something very different. I got the idea back in 2017 while playing around with Yoshimi software synth, thinking it would be done in an afternoon but in the end it took no less than two whole years to hatch, reprogrammed entirely on the Pyramid + Roland JV-1080, U-220 and Gaia synths. I had trouble finding the bass sound I wanted until I realized the otherwise little-used U-220 might have just perfectly gruffy sounds for the job. It did, once I doubled the bass track between a fingered and slap-bass sound. This is my first-ever all-synthesizer song. Oh and there's a hidden message [*] in the song.

Planet of Fools (2019)

This is a 30 year anniversary remake of my first-ever song and recording. Once I realized it's almost to the date 30 years since the original, I just felt kinda compelled to do a remake with current equipment. I thought about updating the lyrics for todays world but it didn't feel right so for the better or worse, I ended up leaving the teenage naivete alone. The overall song structure was simplified and shortened though, for the better I'd say.

Listening to the original 4-track version first is recommended, if only for perspective. There are fourteen tracks worth of stuff in the new version, it would've almost seemed incomprehensible back then. For some reason I had a really hard time coming up with a guitar solo for this one, and eventually had to settle for planning most of it ahead instead of improvising as usual. Also strangely hard was coming up with a bass line for the verse, nothing seemed to work and still doesn't.

Vocals, the electric guitars and the left channel acoustic guitar recorded live, everything else sequenced with Pyramid + Roland JV-1080.

Fat Back Tires

A rhythm and blues song about drag racing, inspired by Burnout Party 2018. Features my first song lyrics and recorded vocals in over 25 years, so if it's a bit rusty...

In addition to vocals, the electric guitars at center and right channel are played live, everything else sequenced by Pyramid + Roland JV-1080 synths. Also my first original song recorded and mixed in the "full blown" studio I've been building since early 2018 with a proper mixer, separate multitrack recorder, effect rack + patchbays to connect it all.

2018

Until That Day

A slow instrumental song. Originally came up with the chorus melody while fooling around with some wild software effect presets of Guitarix in 2017. The sounds in the final version are far more straightforward and no computers involved. I always imagined the song would have lyrics, but eventually realized I didn't quite know what the song is supposed to be about. No wonder coming up with those lyrics felt next to impossible.

Recorded and mixed on Zoom R16. Electric guitars played live, solo improvised on the spot, everything else is sequenced by Pyramid + Roland JV-1080 and Roland Gaia synths.

2021 update: I never knew what this song is about because I hadn't lived this day yet. Dedicated to the memory of our dearly loved dog Loitsu (Spell in English) who left us far, far too early 😭

Not Alice

An experiment to create some thrash-metal, just so my friends wont get all bored up by them slow lullabies that I keep coming up with. The name is a joke is about the genre name which I still keep misspelling.

Recorded and mixed on Zoom R16. Drums sequenced with Zoom RT-234, everything else played live, although in relatively small pieces. As in, lets come up with a bass line for the chorus and record those parts before I forget the line. Repeat for all parts and two to three guitars, and that sort of explains why one guitar harmony is missing - I simply accidentally fast-forwarded the section while recording. And afterwards, I couldn't remember how to play a single one of those riffs or lines.

2017

Sometimes on the Phone

A slow, kinda elevator-jazzy instrumental song. I created the background as an excuse to play guitar solos, but before I ever got the guitar hooked up, the sax somehow stole the show. It's my first-ever keyboard solo of any kind, accidentally improvised on the spot.

Recorded and mixed on Zoom R16. Drums sequenced with Zoom RT-234, everything else played live. The soft pad is Roland Gaia synth, piano and sax are from Yamaha YPG-225 keyboard and the electric guitar is the real thing.

2016

Tuonen Tahto (Death's Will Be Done)

A moody instrumental, tailor-made for the trailer of my wife's first novel by the same name. My first original composition and recording in roughly 23 years.

Recorded and mixed with an open-source DAW software on Linux. This was my first-ever original song project that I completed with a computer setup, and if I can help it, it'll also be the last. Ptui! Managing the level and panning changes would've been a bit of a challenge with an analog mixer, but nothing compared to all the pain caused by latency issues, software glitches, crashes, version incompatibilities and mouse-hand cramps. However I didn't have an analog mixer at the time, and this kind of mix is simply not possible at all on the R16 so I didn't actually have a choice. The DAW is intentionally left unnamed because I think it would be unfair to call it out here, this is simply the name of the game with DAWs.

1989-1992

The four-track era has a page of its own.

Spoilers

  1. There's an obfuscated morse code repeating "HAL lives" at seemingly random intervals in Alien Encounter
  2. Here Be Dragons spoilers

By Panu Matilainen