I spent the following six weeks traveling around Peru and Brazil, with an iPhone loaded with guitar and piano voice memos, and a paper notepad eventually brimming with doodles and verses. Although I felt at that time that my Ayahuasca experience had had little effect on me creatively, it later became apparent that something had gotten into me whilst in the jungle.
Upon returning to my home in Chiang Mai, a small town in northern Thailand, I set about preparing for the new album. I didn’t really have a clear plan for the album as yet – I presumed I would head back to Los Angeles and record with a band again. But after recording a couple demos, and preferring to not to travel so far, I decided I would record the album entirely by myself, at home.
I spent several months learning how to use new recording software and practicing various arrangements and mixing techniques. I also spent a lot of time during that year discovering and binge-listening to contemporary Electronica artists such as Broken Bells, William Orbit, Flaming Lips, Plaid, Younger Brother, Jon Hopkins, Animal Collective, to name just a few.
I was already pretty familiar with pre-90’s Electronica, so listening to all this new (to me) music was an unexpected inspiration, and emboldened me to be experimental and produce something unique with what would otherwise be a collection of relatively straightforward, traditional, power-pop songs.
I decided early on that it was important to keep the acoustic guitar and vocal arrangements up-front in the mix. I wanted the natural organic sound to try to tame the glossy rigidness of the digital synths and quantized arpeggios. The production became an “instrument” in itself – reverbs, delays, phasers, and filters became an integral part of every song.
Most of the songs became overloaded with ideas – a particular instrument or riff might only occur once, never to be heard again, and every new verse or chorus would sound entirely different than the previous. I wanted to create arrangements that compliment the melody of a song rather than disguise it, but otherwise I gave myself no rules – in fact the more absurd the idea, the better.
With a 100+ tracks per song to mix, this process resulted in a lot of happy accidents, but plenty of deliberate accidents were still necessary to try to keep things from sounding too perfect and mechanical – I would intentionally tune notes a few cents off pitch, or create echoes which fell just slightly behind the beat, for example.
With this album I also wanted to get several vocalists involved in order to explore more sonic textures. I reached out to a few of my favorite power-pop people around the world, and before long I got back some stellar performances. Sometimes I would give the vocalist just a guitar backing-track, or sometimes I would wait and build an arrangement around their vocal, or sometimes I’d just send him the full arrangement and let him sing around it – I approached each song and artist differently.
The track order of the album fell into place very early on, then it dawned on me that Sleeper had become a concept album of sorts. This is a collection of songs discussing how music, nature and spirituality intertwine in various ways. I also want to take the listener on a specific journey – dashing far through the cosmos, diving the depths of the oceans, delving deep inside one’s own psyche, even dipping into that trans-dimensional space some people describe as being inhabited by DMT elves.
The lyrics and arrangements are perhaps Ayahuasca’s primary influence on the album. I hope you will find that this album, as a whole, can invoke a similar trance-like state – YOU are the Sleeper.
Special thanks to everyone who participated in the creation of this project, and thank you for your support by purchasing this album.
Chiang Mai, Thailand