The Survival code story:
This post marks the beginning of a project that has been 7 years in the making. At times it was more likely to never see the light of day , but through much growing both chosen and forced, learning, many mistakes and living…THE SURVIVAL CODE is born.
Because there is so much of a back-story to this project we thought that it would be nice to put it all together to help to explain where the music is coming from and why it is so important to me and Shane, Pete and Tom.
2000: The beginning.
As a drummer in a band in school I slipped into the role and secretly longed to be the front man in a setup. I had started guitar a year previously and took the drums up in 2000 with the hope that having a kit to offer would make it easier to find a good drummer and I could go back to guitar. I knew shortly after starting playing though that the drums and my personality clicked, almost like meeting a new friend, there became no doubt in my mind that it was for me. I was obsessed with slayer and slipknot at the time, and being 15 awaking from my nirvana inspired interest in playing music that had been growing in significance since I was 11.
The band was called set in stone and it was a three piece with 2 of my best mates. We had a private music room to jam everyday…did we know we were that lucky at the time? Probably not!!…but we took advantage of the opportunity and have since realised very few things in life will ever be as easy again. We were a rock band and I fancied myself as Joey Jordison which often lead us to situations where there would be wholly inappropriate drum parts at times for the style of music we played 🙂 …but it was so much fun and definitely is the foundation of where The Survival Code is today. The weekends and evenings spent playing along to Chaos AD, Seasons in the Abyss, Take off your pants and jacket, System of a Down and Alkaline Trio were some of the best of my life.
leaflet and cd for Set in Stone release “Do it Myself” in 2002
We all had written contribution in the music. The feel was upbeat, distorted, foo fightery, with a nirvana-ey view of the world as you might expect from a group of young lads in 2001. By the end though, we really were quite a unit and the sad reality is the best songs from those days never got recorded. We released one album of 12 tracks, which was the result of 4 days in a studio. The cd was called “Do it myself”. Again not the most successful of releases, but it was an accomplishment for any group of 17-year-old lads to get a bunch of songs written, gigged and released. I do at times have an unjustifiably harsh opinion of it in hindsight for it was the earliest of the recordings…but in truth the experience helped lay the foundation to everything.
PIc of Shane and myself back in 2002 playing a gig with Set in Stone
Leaving school brought new opportunities in terms of music. It was always going to be harder to maintain the band from school and a culmination of hectic college schedules, experiencing life for the first time lead to us unravelling. Despite a brief attempt to revive it for three months at the beginning of 2005 we were never to play together again.
In school i was lucky to have won two Scholarships for classical guitar and it was my 8-track digital recording unit funded from the proceeds that was another contributing factor to my current destination.
The first thing I tried to record all instruments for was my bible at the time “Good Mourning” by Alkaline Trio. I was incredibly big fan of theirs from about 16 onwards and they helped my transition from metal to rock and punk. The lighter influences enabled me to try and record all instruments for songs, from basic at first to progressively more complicated… I recorded the whole album playing everything! it was great, I learned so much about recording through trial and error, my lack of patience lead to half the stuff being reasonable rather than perfect. At this very early stage though perfection was the least of my considerations. I had one other song I had written in the Xmas of my last year in school in 2003. The song was a recognition of the moving on in life, the sadness and irony of the journey rather than silver linings.
copy of signed albums from Alkaline Trio from when I met them – incredible influence
Having completed the alkaline trio cd and realised that I made one fatal mistake in my recording endeavour. Yes I did a pretty good job at replicating some songs pretty well, the production was not great but I still Felt proud enough of it as an achievement for I played Bass, guitar, drums and sang on it…I put all the songs on one track.. I didn’t know how to break them up. I still have it in its fuzzy early glory.
The first instalment; I
Songs written to stop thinking about girls cd cover
Title: Songs written to stop thinking about girls
Listened to/Inspired by: Silverchair, ALkaline trio, The stereophonics, the Cure, Taking back Sunday, Slayer, QOTSA, Papa Roach
Notable tracks: Coffin for Two, Had to let you know, Sugar coated existence, Songs written to stop thinking about girls
Feel: Acoustic upbeat rock with poppy progression with dark lyrical content, at times unrealistic
Quality: Rough, this was the first proper set of recordings I made where I was not following a guided recording as I had the luxury with the alkaline trio cd. It still demonstrates very clearly that I am playing all instruments and the stories of the songs carry and make up for any questions in audio quality. I had not really started paying attention to vocal perfection at this stage so in truth that is the most obvious improvement I could still make to these tracks. It was nice to get some experience working in more detail on bass and piano.
Contribution to where music is today: The music style I play has changed quite a bit since 2004 but this was an important cd to get the ball rolling in terms of learning how to record and song writing.
The main catalyst for this need to write was about a girl that I met that helped to decide my fate and propel me on a song-writing journey. The songs were experimental, acoustic, dark and poppy. The whole cd wasn’t about that girl but she helped set the mood for the winter months and a perspective that was driven, low, regrettable yet confident.
The production and attention to vocals did lack consideration at times but it was an amazing package and helped to take a snap shot of my life up to May 2005. There was just so much going on and so many changes all at once it became my thing I would Do. It suited my need to be productive and I literally worked on recording all the time aside from studying in college. I’d be lying if I insinuated that I wasn’t out a lot and having a lot of fun too, just that it took years for the seriousness to fade and for the early years I wasn’t very much fun. My friends would know me as the first one to leave clubs when we went out, I quickly lost interest in such experiences, always feeling restricted by the context and setting…I think life is too short for them to be honest and have always preferred venues where you can chat even if that makes me an old fool.
The rather strange thing about the process is that I recorded 12 songs on that cd and most of them I have never really played again. they were a work in progress I’d come up with a riff, get a good idea of how I wanted it to go and then launch myself into laying down some drums. I hadn’t yet mastered clicks or digital recording so the cd varies frequently in tempo and levels. Once the drums were down it was restricting for they were the bed rock, from there I would add the guitars, bass, vocals and the anything else I could think of. I came up with an idea for a cover and decided I would give it to friends. I am really proud of this cd, without question one of the odder ones I have made.
The main benefit of song writing for me was the improvement to everyday for I was getting my thoughts off my chest and finding newer ways to express myself. The main problem at this stage was the waste factor, but I had no real idea how to make it more than that at that stage whilst equally recognizing how far I was from the finished product having never spent any time improving my performance as a front man let alone replicating the cd by myself…8arms.com haha. The fact that I couldn’t share that which I felt so important with the masses hurt and really frustrated me, it felt so illogical at times. However, the frustration feeling has been a prevailing motivation throughout the years. The CD covers were another way for me to express or synopsise the feeling I had at that time and I liked the colour combination.
Boys and girls can’t just be friends cd cover
Title: Boys and girls can’t just be friends
Listened to/inspired by: Tool, Alkaline trio, Johnny cash, Linkin park, Blink 182, Billy corgan, The Beatles
Notable tracks: Boys and girls can’t just be friends, the liffey, the better you get to know girls
Feel: rocky, upbeat tempos, dark at times, progressive, diverse very drum driven music
Quality: dramatic improvement from previous offering
Contribution to where music is today: The introduction of electric guitars and more mainstream tunes is evident in how I play today. The songs meandered more than they do now, but I do see similarities with what we have today and what the cd has to offer.
Boys and girls can’t just be friends sounded better, was tighter, with improved timing, featuring songs of much higher quality than “songs written”. The cd was written and recorded from May to June 2005,it too had a dark feel and had 14 tracks. Unlike the first one my sound was far more Consistent and my quirky coffin for two, alkaline trio laden first attempt into something far more in line with where I wanted to be.
Having finished that cd I went to the US where I frequently fantasised about having a band and writing tighter material. I wrote it all down what it was that I imagined would be a good imagery and presentation for band at the time I had settled on a white suit, top hat, tie, guitar and shoes and someone douses me in red paint…thought it would be a nice look haha…not sure it’s where I’m at these days but would defo like to do it someday.
I spent the those 13 weeks in the US absorbed in what I had produced along with an equally indulgent enjoyment for ‘Alkaline Trio – Crimson’ which had been released at the beginning of the summer. The darkness that alkaline trio had captured with their imagery and pop punk riffs laden with talk of death and depression. I have never been on the opinion that music exists to cheer us up as many people I have known down the years insist. I believe that music is great when it reflects your emotions. If I’m down I may want to feel it now and then rather than just trying to forget about it or convince myself out of it. Life’s too short to be down and negative I agree but there is room to be yourself and want to put a bit of radiohead on when you’re sad, Lamb of God when frustrated, and blink 182 to drive around in the sun.
Whilst travelling I was trying to come up with a cd cover like the first…or at least one that represented the cd and given that I went the red on black theme originally with white text, I decided to stick with that. This time then imagery I came up with was two outlines of Coffins side by side with a break in each big enough for a hand in one a girl in the manner of a toilet indicator and the same for a guy.
Back of boys and girls cd
I had to lie album cover
Title: I Had To lie
Listened to/inspired by: Alkaline trio, Kings of Leon, The Cure, Smashing pumpkins, System of a Down
Notable tracks: I had to lie, deathlife, Lake Madison, 19 not 22
Feel: Faster and more complicated guitar riffs, along with more discerning drums, helped to make this feel like a rockier production. Distorted guitar featured heavily on this cd and it too was consistent capturing a point in time.
Quality: The quality of this offering was not much improved from the last considering I was not recording for nearly 4 months and had been recording up to the day that I left so In some ways “Boys and girls” was better for I had more time with it, whereas when I landed from the US I had all the material written, I just had to get it down asap before it faded in familiarity.
Contribution to where music is today: Much like “Boys and girls” this cd helped to shape where the sound is today. This was an important step in a song writing and development sense. Death life is a track that has been modified into one The survival code are considering for upcoming gigs, now called “Can’t say No”. My instrumentation was quite strong by now and I was getting more creative with creating backing vocals
This was written and inspired by my trip to the states based on the premise that the whole experience would not have been half as rich if we weren’t fictional and 21 whilst truly bring 19…and whilst my i.d. said i was 22.The extent of the lie meant that all summer as our friends grew, managing the lie and ensuring drunk chats to impress girls never veered toward the topic. It was strange especially as we had some quite close relationships and maintaining the lie was quite an odd experience. The cd is highly Americanized and culminates with 19 not 22 a song celebrating at proclaiming the basis of the experience. Again there was another girl at the centre of the attentions, but only as muse rather than someone substantial.
The songs had a packaged feel by now with a set sound, generally represented by four chord verses and again the cd reflects that it was written in a four month period immediately after the previous two CDs, all together I had recorded 3 albums in a year so the growing and learning was at times replaced by playing with the same idea in numerous ways for the formula was so close…but never quite perfect. The tone of the album can be highlighted by the opening track “Nobody loves you” which had a free drum solo/intro and the catchy chord progression evident in many of the best alkaline trio songs to which I had become a loyal fan. The album was more aggressive and less contemplating than the previous two, indulgences of thought were well spent and all that was left was a narrative on now and at the time anger was how I expressed myself.
To one of the best and one of the most fortuitous experiences I have had the pleasure of being a apart of. Also to the lads that were there, tip of the cap gentlemen!
Back of I had to lie cd
Ode to a guiltless conscience and a well rested nostalgic soul cd cover
TITLE: Ode to a guiltless conscience and a well-rested nostalgic soul
Listened to/inspired by: Alkaline trio, Oasis, Brendan Connelly, Muse, Johnny cash, Placebo
Notable tracks: Ode to a, throw the picture, not for now, new place to call home
Feel: lighter offering with more piano and acoustic guitar and featuring some song ideas developed when I was 14/15 in 1999/00 that didn’t quite fit in until this stage
Quality: As this cd featured a lighter and softer production it was easier to record and sounds very clear relatively. The vocals are still not being considered enough, but the package is still comprehensive enough for it not to ruin the experience.
Contribution to where music is today: This cd was great to vent the emotions and feelings that didn’t quite fit in with my normal taste. I was heavily influenced by poetry at this time and my newly found liberation is best seen in the title track ode to a guiltless conscience and a well rested nostalgic soul which I re-recorded in 2009 for Running so fast away from myself.
Many of the sadder songs on this cd were inspired from the early months that followed leaving school. This cd became a foster home for all vagabond songs that had no place to go in my collection.
Because I have to cd cover
Title:Because I have
Listened to/inspired by: Alkaline trio, kings of leon, Placebo
Notable tracks: because I have to, sometimes, dinner for one, hell came along for the ride
Feel: lighter with more piano and acoustic guitar again
Quality: the quality is consistent with the last offering
Contribution to where music is today: This cd was a further experiment in style. I tried to blend the softness achieved in “ode to a”, with the upbeat rockier feels from I had to lie and boys and girls. The music now does sound similar in places, but this cd is undoubtedly most significant for the journey and how it enabled me to develop song writing in a similar but slightly different context to before
The recording for “because I have to” did not get underway until 2006 and did not gain momentum until March and lasted up until the June of that year. I felt this cd featured many great ideas again driven from the back with a passion for needing to do this with my life, not by choice and not necessarily with a smile on my face, but from a burning I didn’t quite understand.
By this stage I did feel as if this were a vocation. I had no real direction or plan what to do with the music even at this stage, but I kept on making these cds and handing them out to 10 people and then moving on to the next. As much a frustration as the lack of direction was, there was often little time to argue with it for even in itself it was worth so much to me.
The imagery in this cd used the same colour scheme as the initial 3 CDs again with a twist much like “odd to a”, I felt it was appropriate to have a red covered album with me proposing to a guitar representing that as my life
The City cd cover
Title: The city
Listened to/inspired by: incubus, soulfly, QOTSA, silverchair, System of a down, Greenday
Notable tracks: The city, loosing ourselves, letting go, wasted thoughts, you don’t care
Feel: rock, lead guitar, dark, drum central
Quality: The quality was improved in some ways from previous offerings, especially vocally. The inclusion of more effects on my voice in songs such as “loosing ourselves” and the lead in the same song probably forms the most tangible connection between the back catalogue and where we are with The survival Code today
Contribution to where music is today: the mixture of rock and darkness was almost perfect for me on this cd and the sound is reflected in what is produced in me myself and I
The city was the height of my college experience, visions of grandeur slowly being replaced by tangible realities. Insignificance was the obvious alternative and I felt this throughout recording. I also felt the bleakness of winter got to me when I was recording this cd and at times my tone and negative inclination makes a lot of sense. It was late 07-2008 by the time this was recorded and helped with my deviation back to metal music as a drummer in a band called AS SINNERS FALL from this point up until 2009. www.myspace.com/assinnersfall to check out some music!!
Running so fast away from myself cd cover
Title: Running so fast away from myself
Listened to/inspired by: scars on broadway, alkaline trio, billy joel, Elton john, lamb of god, placebo, deftones, bloc Party, Kings of Leon
Notable tracks: The truth, moving different ways
Feel: fresh, new, interested, inquisitive, rocky, dramatic, indulgent,
Quality: Far superior quality featuring a range of diverse offerings with improved singing and increased attention to every detail relative to previous cds. I spent months working on this trying to improve my skills on new recording software along with creating better quality finished products that do not undermine my efforts by cutting corners. Having said the music was poppy, heavy and technically difficult drums helped give the music identity and having spent greater time writing the tracks it was an exponential improvement,
Contribution to where music is today: This was the most professional step I had taken before recording the 4-track demo you can hear at www.facebook.com/survival code. I explored very different feels from songs without drums featuring 8-10 tracks of layered percussion to whole songs written on piano for example. The significance of the cd cannot be undermined and is often only highlighted to me when I show someone it for the first time. In truth however, it is very poppy, far more poppy than where I am today. I hope I can find a place or use for these songs in the future, some of them are truly special. Moving different ways was born on this cd
I had reached a new level, I traded the 8-track in for a digital setup though a pc and the improve along with my approach was solidified and far more like what it is now although far more pianos it has to be said J.
There were so many catchy hooks on this cd with many of the topics being sad with poppy upbeat backing, continuing my fascination with that contrast. The title of the cd along with the feeling I captured were a perfect snapshot of life at that time. On paper everything was perfect in my life, I even had the time to indulge in thought and self improvement but this year helped clarify that my immediate future did not lie in Ireland….but I couldn’t help but feel I was leaving for other reasons too, I just wasn’t sure and recognised that a small part of me probably thought leaving and starting again could be an easier way to have things the way I imagined versus trying to fix what I didn’t understand.
The music is always honest and is in fact the truest reflection of myself. This cd helps make the story clearer which improves the all round experience for that is how I describe the cd, as an experience.
The metal band and this project were a perfect balance for each other for during this same period the band were working on our second offering “Betrayal hatred clarity” which was the follow up to 2008’s “Wrong side of the Grave”
Wrong side of the grave cd cover
Metal had crept back into my life from 2006 when I was in Thailand and picked up a bootleg of Ashes Of the Wake and from that moment my life had changed. I spent much of my free time over the next two years working on my bass pedalling to be in a position to start a band like Lamb Of God. I had never experienced anything as compelling in them, at least not since the kind of impact Slipknot had on me as a young kid. Lamb Of God seemed like 21st century metal and I believed every word he said. The album itself was my companion in improvement. It was the measure of how much progress I was making and a reminder of how much work had left to be done. It was one of the best days of my life when I finally managed to play along to the entire album. The drums make so much sense and in metal music I don’t think I would ever like to be doing anything else, for in many ways it’s all I hear in the songs. Having prevalent drums I believe to be central to music and the inclusion of such drums that add value can turn a band like Blink 182 from relative ambiguity t one of the biggest bands in the world with the inclusion of Travis Barker.
My set-up in As Sinners Fall. This is the kit in the studio from Betrayal H C 2009
I knew that after Aug 2009 that the metal band would come to an end and I had hoped in some way to try and market myself using this cd. In truth though I was still left with the same problems as before even in terms of how to market myself, let alone the replicating the material live.
Album artwork for Betrayal, Hatred, Clarity
Playing live with As Sinners Fall
It was in the two months after recording Betrayal, hatred, clarity that I had to pack to move to the UK. IN that time I went to Amsterdam to shoot the music video to moving different ways where Matt Chapman helped me set up the video with all me’s playing, trying to show the USP of the music. You can check the video out at the link below:
Picture of me during recording video:moving different ways
Title: Me myself and I
Listened to/inspired by: Silverchair, Dimmu Borgir, Deftones, Alkaline trio, As sinners fall, Incubus, soufly, muse, foo fighters, Block Party
Notable tracks: Moving Different ways, Me Myself and I, Love is a burning, decisions I have made
Feel: dark, strong with the right balance of everything
Quality: 100% radio quality
Contribution to where music is today: Honesty, rocky, distorted, up tempo mixed with poppy chords and dark lyrics. This was the vision. From early 2010 I was playing gigs acoustically around London but the main issue was that my vision of what had to be produced was still so far from what I was offering live. I do like the songs acoustically actually, I think the up beat nature of the music helps with the live performance and the strumming and intensity help with the sincerity of what I have to say. There was a lot of planning going on at this stage. I knew that I had always said If I had the chance to record songs in a proper studio with engineers that knew what they were doing, using quality vocal mics then I would then have something excuseless! I was creating my plan of early in 2011 I reached agreement with a studio to record my four track demo. I had originally wanted to do an album, I had whittled the 7 cds down to 20 tracks that I was now playing intensely. I began vocal lessons and noticed a dramatic improvement with some very useful direction. I see the need for further investment in training, but not for another few weeks, perhaps after xmas when we are closer to having live dates.
I contacted over 100 management companies and began meeting bands as a drummer as well but nothing felt right. The letters I sent were more of a “here I am, no where near the finished product, here’s my vision. Keep an eye on me” kinda thing.
I knew that recording this cd was the biggest step I would take musically for it would confirm a departure to my newly found means of playing live. It would also force me to look at my setup as never before. I was going to need to find a “sound” electrically, become interested in guitar sounds again and begin to think about singing in way I hadn’t considered before. It was a little nerve wrecking playing alone on a stage with an acoustic guitar versus behind the comfort and dependability of my performance behind drums. However just before going on stage it was very clear to me why I was there and every heart beat in anticipation was exactly what I truly wanted to feel, more than anything else. With this in mind it became very easy to play everything in a way that I felt would be entertaining and engaging.
Every musician has their worldview, yeah it changes over time and depending at what stage one is in life it can alter. But the point is each new song or cd is a perspective in expression of a particular point of view and if everyone likes how it is expressed, can relate or agree with what that offers, then you have a winner. My belief is that music needs to be engaging, upbeat tempos, drum central, enthusiastic, ever changing, slightly dark and catchy. This is my worldview and through all the growing in writing all the cds, I felt that I was hiding behind excuses and now I needed an offering ie a CD with 4 of my best tracks, recorded in a fantastic way where I have invested months perfecting each instrument to sound exactly as I want. It was necessary to break the music apart into it’s barest components. Strip away the love and try and re-build from the bottom each part so it moved as I imagined. I felt once I had this, I would then use this as a marketing tool for me to find band members. From there I would organise dates for gigs, a release date for the cd and then contact everyone who will listen to me and then see how to the reaction is. I just need to know!! I need to have my point of view out there and more than anything else of course I would love it to be agreeable with lots of people..but ultimately it is the honesty of people I am looking for too, and if it’s not for here and now I can accept that, but it’s exactly where I am here and now.
Recording the cd
I had five days to lay down all of the tracks. I knew we would start on day 1 with drums and realistically we would need to get all takes for all tracks done in the first evening. I was comfortable with this for I was very used to recording drums with As Sinners Fall where nobody could begin their parts until I had my parts done for all songs perfectly. It’s a strange one for it is quite stressful for you are under time pressure to get things right as quick as possible to free up some more time for mixing at the end…but we were not going to compromise quality.
I enjoyed my working relationship with the engineer and with the exception of my flu which nearly made the vocals impossible and the strangeness I felt recording guitars and vocals in such an environment it all went perfectly to plan. It was tiring everyday for usually after my two days of drums in the past, I could then relax for the rest if the week whilst the other lads did their parts. In this instance I was working all day doing all parts so things were a little blurry at the end of each day and a welcome break was always needed at the end to clear your mind to get up the next day to start again
Ultimately these CDs helped to lay the basis of my memories since they began and no matter how harsh hindsight can be I can openly and honestly acknowledge that when I listen to any one of those songs that I got exactly how I felt at that point in time…even if I spend hours on a regular basis mulling over my current location and how I arrived here I know when I listen that I am back there and any questions of consciousness are misplaced. This need to share my consciousness is one of the central reasons I have found a place to articulate and express these feelings born again through talented and similar minded individuals with an aim to creating the sound that I laid down in March 2011.
The search for members began in earnest in June 2010 and it took over five months to find the full line-up. I advertised using the tracks a means of show casing what I was about to prospective members. The great satisfaction I got from this process was the level of great feedback I got trying to find the right members. I was inundated with applications for members, many of them not right, but it gave me confidence in the project. I had also written these parts to be interesting. I wanted the members of the band to be showcasing talent rather than just playing nice tunes. For this reason it is arguable that the music has too much motion and movement but I believe this to be central to the dynamic of the offering. It seemed my opinion on this at least was correct and the music was appealing for people to play. I was looking for members in the initial sense that were happy to work from the songs I had already written. The members I found are all on the same page as I and Tom on Drums, Pete on Bass and Shane who was the lead singer of my first band Set In Stone and is now my number two I feel we can do the music justice.
We are currently rehearsing with a view to releasing the four tracks in 2012 and we have lots of exciting plans with the release and everything going forward.
I will write specifically about each of the songs soon…This is far too much for any one post but I hope it helps put some flesh on the bones of what is this beautiful experience. Welcome to the Survival code!phew…
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