Monday 27 August 2012

Backdrops, painting and autumn tours

We are currently actively seeking shows in the UK and Europe for late fall this year.  In preparation for such events, Isabelle has taken it upon herself to paint our new backdrop for stage.

Based on her original photo taken in the Glasgow central train station last summer, we then used it as the cover art for our Glasgow single.  Now it is being transferred onto a large canvas backdrop so we can pack it up with our gear and fly across the Atlantic.

I filmed her in action painting in our backyard yesterday afternoon.  She's doing a great job of it!

that is of course our song Glasgow playing in the background of the video: the player below has the entire track if you'd care for a listen!

Saturday 18 August 2012

New Video - Paros

We've been having a stunning summer here in Vancouver and Isabelle and I managed to capture a bit of that sunshine on our latest video.  Paros is a love story that starts in Greece, so we tried to capture the blazing light with this clip.  That, and we were having just too much fun playing around in the heat to notice it was perhaps a tad overexposed!

Please enjoy our latest video offering.  We both feel it expresses our love of the Greek isles and our personal desire to get back there soon!

download single from

Boutique Empire presents "Paros" by Combine the Victorious
video produced by Boutique Empire

song produced and performed by Combine the Victorious
recorded and mixed by MRH
mastered by Clayton Worbeck
(Henning, Dunlop, WIld)

Drums: Simon Hunt
Guitars: Marc Wild
Vocals: Isabelle Dunlop
Vocals, keyboards, bass: Mark Roland Henning

JP and Farrah
were two young lovers
who came together
one night on Paros

he was waiting tables
she waited for him
they spent their summer
just lying in the sun

when you fall in love
it doesn't matter where you are
'cause it might be enough
if the distance doesn't get too far

end of the summer
Farrah went to London
JP, he found his way up north
to Berlin

They made a promise
to see each other
but then reality and
home life set in.

when you fall in love
it doesn't matter where you are
'cause it might be enough
if the distance doesn't get too far

when you fall in love
it doesn't matter where you've been
'cause it might be enough
to help you live this life you're in

fourteen years later
he uploaded some photos
and tagged a couple
they were both in
he got a message
from a familiar stranger
she'd really love to
see him again

when you fall in love

(chorus reprise)

Wednesday 15 August 2012

New Single: Paros (released July 27-12)

We released this song to coincide with our fantastic show at Electric Owl last month.  Written with the warm water memories of the Greek island Paros in mind, this is a summer love song from beginning to end.

Thanks once again to the brilliant Robert Edmonds for his simple but effective artwork to accompany our song.  I think it's exactly the mood we were trying for!

Combine the Victorious - PAROS
Henning, Dunlop, Wild

Produced and performed by Combine the Victorious
Recorded and mixed by MRH at Imagined Aire Studio
Mastered by Clayton Worbeck

Artwork by Robert Edmonds
original photography by Janis Nicolay

Vocals, keyboards, bass: Mark Roland Henning
Vocals: Isabelle Dunlop
Drums: Simon Hunt
Guitars: Marc Wild


JP and Farrah
were two young lovers
who came together
one night on Paros

he was waiting tables
she waited for him
they spent their summer
just lying in the sun

when you fall in love
it doesn't matter where you are
'cause it might be enough
if the distance doesn't get too far

end of the summer
Farrah went to London
JP, he found his way up north
to Berlin

They made a promise
to see each other
but then reality and
home life set in.

when you fall in love
it doesn't matter where you are
'cause it might be enough
if the distance doesn't get too far

when you fall in love
it doesn't matter where you've been
'cause it might be enough
to help you live this life you're in

fourteen years later
he uploaded some photos
and tagged a couple
they were both in
he got a message
from a familiar stranger
she'd really love to
see him again

when you fall in love

(chorus reprise)

p.s. We are currently putting the final touches on our video for this song too.  It's been a busy summer but we're getting things done!  

Live footage from the B-EX

Isabelle and I were both happy to be performing this night, at the British Ex Serviceman's Association on Kingsway.  Despite the reeling news of our close friend  Todd Simko's death we ended up having a rewarding show and really pushed our set into new territory.  This clip is of us improvising an electronic, extended version of our song "All Together" at the B-EX.


Thanks to the fine folks who video'd this for us!  Cheers!

New Song! "Glasgow"

9 Apr 2012

We've completed a new song, the first of many!  This one was started by Isabelle while she was in Scotland last summer.  Combine has been performing it live for the past few shows and we're both feeling really proud of both the song and this clip.

We shot the footage in our own studio and thru a few creative turns it seems to have really become something unique and evokative.

Please have a look, all reports back have been very positive!

Video produced by Boutique Empire
Music produced and performed by Combine the Victorious
Recorded and Mixed by MRH at Imagined Aire Studio

Vocals: Isabelle Dunlop
Backing vocals, keyboards and programming: Mark Roland Henning
Drums: Simon Hunt
Guitar: Marc Wild

download the song from here

Lyric Video: FKBC

20 Feb 2012

Even though it's a few years after the initial release, here is a new lyrics video for our track FKBC.  Pretty straight forward, but it seemed fun to do.

New Song: California

New song: California (featuring Ingrid Schroeder)

We have a new song: California, which features the lovely vocals of our good friend Ingrid Schroeder. This is an early mix, we are still working on a few things, but I was too excited to keep it under my hat for any longer. This will most likely be the first single off our upcoming third album (which we are still writing). Rather than hold off and wait, we thought we'd share the new sounds and get some feedback.

Writing "California"

After more than a year away from Combine the Victorious Isabelle and I have picked up the keyboards and started writing new songs again. Last year I was pretty much dedicated to Guilty About Girls and getting that band going, but suddenly I found there was a rather large collection of songs in my head that weren't going to fit that project. Instead they seem to have arrived specifically for CV.

In that light we are pleased to offer the first track we've finished which should be the harbinger of a new album: California. This song features our very good friend Ingrid Schroeder on guest vocals. Earlier this year Isabelle had to return to Scotland for personal reasons and while she was away I became inspired to write and demo as many songs as possible. Several will probably appear on the next Combine the Victorious album, but one in particular was the basis California. It came very rapidly, almost everything within an afternoon, and then over the course of a few more evenings I put together the bedtracks that have now become our song.

One slightly different idea on this one was the blatant use of autotune. I've always been adverse to the processing, though of course have used it to correct the pitch of certain lines and words over the years. This time though, there was something intriguing about the robotic quality it imparted to the chorus line, something that seemed to make it more important with the effect on! Perhaps it was just the way it suggested Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg to my ear, but it seemed to fit perfectly. A statement on the synthetic nature of our N American culture - or just a cool sounding vocal.

When Isabelle returned from Scotland I played her the new idea and she immediately liked it. In fact everyone I played the demo to seemed incredibly excited by it, so I knew we had something interesting. However I couldn't quite find what the rest of the song might be about, so suggested we send it over to our friend Ingrid Schroeder in London. Ingrid is a glorious singer with a sultry smooth voice and lovely delivery. Over the years I've worked with Ingrid on her own recordings and know just how wonderful her singing is. So we sent it over and waited to hear what she might write for our song.

A few weeks later we received a demo back from her that had a gorgeous story lyric about traveling through the state of California by car, almost a Kerouac-like narrative given in a style similar to Suzanna Vega! Of course Isabelle and I loved it and set to work on completing the track. The collaboration is now the first single we have finished leading towards our third album. I can't say whether we'll do another co-write with Ingrid for this album (though I'm always open to such an idea) but this first song is exciting and promising, so perhaps we shall.

We've asked several producers for remixes of the track and will be releasing an extended single in late October. A video is in the works and a new live show is being figured out. A full length is tentatively scheduled for March 2012, and this time I think we shall bypass the CD release and do only Vinyl and digital albums. Feeling very inspired these days, so more songs shall be appearing in rapid succession. Please stay tuned!

Thanks for reading,


New demo If Not Love

24 March 2011

New Demo - "if not love."

This is a new song I've started writing for my brother. Still in the very early stages but I think it's coming together nicely. Isabelle was filming it, you can hear her singing from behind the camera in the second refrain. We're hoping to put together a new release and have it ready for release by sept.

Video: Charmer

Jellyfish vs. iTunes


 We are offering a free download of this song at our bandcamp page.   Please click here to jump.  Jellyfish footage courtesy of   Lightshow courtesy Apple. 

Video: Back In Style

New Video - Way Stations in Space

We've just made a new video for our song Back In StyleThanks to our friends Mark Hjorthoy (of Good Natured Threat) we have discovered the joys of digital archives.  There is a great massive storage of video footage from all walks of life.   In a random scurry through the virtual vaults we discovered this film Way Stations in Space and Isabelle became very excited about the idea of placing our song to these images.   The most remarkable thing is that there are several moments where the two seemingly disparate narratives overlap to create an new story.   Kinda like that famous Wizard of Oz mashed with Dark Side of the Moon thing.   Only ours involves Space!  

If you haven't already yet, please check out our new bandcamp page.  I honestly think this  is the best music service on the net>>>

"Candy Candy" video

We just spent this past weekend shooting a video for the new Guilty About Girls song, Candy Candy.   It's turned out quite well.   Been learning Final Cut Pro; how to edit video.  It's very fun. 

Here's the final cut, Jordy and I are both excited about it and I like how great Isabelle looks in this video!
Things are getting busy these days.  Between playing shows with Guilty About Girls and Combine the Victorious it's hard to find time to work on new music.  Looking forward to the Seattle show.   Plus CtV is playing our first out of town gig ever on May 22nd in Brandon with The Invisible Men  (home town heartthrobs I'm informed).  Seems as though there are many things on the fire these days.  Exciting times again.

I think we may have informally begun our third album.  Strangely compelling titles emerged the other night.  It's probably going to take a while to write, and hopefully we'll be playing the songs on stage before we record them.  at least that sounds good right now. 

 thanks for staying tuned.


p.s. - yes that is Isabelle singing the backing vocal parts in the video.  All our band's seem to be sharing one member in particular these days!  

Boutique Empire - Rec:10

The First Boutique Empire compilation:

I've been putting together a compilation for Boutique Empire.  We now are the proud partners in Boutique Empire: Rec'10.  

It features 10 different bands, with new singles form Guilty About Girls "Candy Candy", Combine the Victorious and a remastered version of New City Anthem from Sex With Strangers.  Also in the mix is Ingrid Schroeder (London), Gilles Zolty (Saskatoon) and Marc Wild (Vancouver) as well as a new single from Ten Suns (Vancouver) who Isabelle and I saw for the first time last night and they were brilliant.  Additionally there are songs from our new friends Chiwawa (Montreal) and Piper Davis (Calgary) and a remix from Lurch of the CtV song The Hours.

Things are busy.  I'm playing a show with Jordy Birch this Friday in Victoria as Guilty About Girls and Isabelle just got back from Sex With Strangers' first appearance at SXSW.  We're also still trying to book a spring tour across the Prairies, so if you think you might have a show for us, please let us know.  We'd like to tour right across the country this summer, but will settle for Winnipeg at least!  (I confess to having a soft spot for that city as I grew up there)

Be well, thanks for reading. 


p.s. The new video shall be online soon.  Quite happy with it.  We recorded the audio live as we were performing for the camera.  It's interesting how that changes things. 

Review: Disagreements

A review for "Disagreements"

Just found this one online.  It was published last month, but Isabelle came across it in her travels the other night.  Thought it was rather favourable.

Combine the Victorious are having "a very fun life" in Vancouver

"A love for music starts off quite innocent. It begins when you’re young and you hear something catchy on the radio. That’s when you decide “yeah I like this.” From that point on the gateway is open and it doesn’t take long to flood. Soon you’re an addict and there’s no turning back. Music has become the cornerstone of your existence. Mark Henning and Isabelle Dunlop are two people very familiar with the compelling addiction that is music, and Combine the Victorious is their electronic fix.

Henning, former keyboardist for alternative rockers, Pure, back in the 90’s, is a renaissance musician. He’s one of those people who can walk into a jam session and show everyone a thing or two about their instruments. To form Combine the Victorious he’s teamed up with a local fashion designer by the name of Isabelle Dunlop, who just happens to have a very enviable voice. With help from a few friends in the industry, they’ve recorded two albums since their merger in 2005.

Their sound is a mashing and melding of electronic and indie-pop with both parties offering an even balance of vocals. Their voices fit together nicely and make for a charming little vibe. Their music is new and almost futuristic in a way. It can be dark and serious at times and very upbeat and fun at others. Henning’s experience as a musician and a studio producer permit the duo to create just about anything their collective minds can come up with.

If you’re in the mood to kick off the Olympics in style this Friday night, be sure to catch Combine the Victorious at Las Brasis Pub on Main Street. The show starts around 9pm and is sure to be loads of fun. Don’t worry; it’s far enough from downtown that you should be safe from all the road closures and never-ending lineups."

Remix: The Hours

REMIX: The Hours (Spoonfed in Delhi Hippy Curry MIx)

Just wanted to give word of our new remix, done by none other than Lurch (who's also done a few excellent tracks with Sex With Strangers).  He chose The Hours and has given us a really trippy reworking on that track.  We proudly present:

The Hours (Spoonfed in Delhi Hippy Curry Mix) - Combine the Victorious vs. Lurch

Thanks Adam (let's do another)

Please have a listen, it's very cool, kinda early 90's (which is where The Hours stemmed from ) and there are sitars!



We Have A Very Fun Life

A Very Fun Life


Well we've completed our first new song in over a year.  "A Very Fun Life"  I've just uploaded it on the page today, so it should be available for a listen as I type this.

This song came about from a conversation we'd had with my Mom a couple years back.  She'd suggested that I try to write a "fun" song.  The strangest thing about that statement is that I honestly didn't know how to!  I remember DJ'ing at a Christmas party in the Hyatt a couple years ago and the host asked me to play a "fun" song and my mind went blank!  Fun - what does that sound like?  Do you know? 

I guess I'm a musical snob or something but the vast majority of music I enjoy is probably what most would consider "serious music."  I mean Sigur Ros became one of my favorite bands in the past decade and Mew ranks up there as well.  Neither of those acts could be considered fun.  In the past I've enjoyed the usual Rock and Roll fare: from the past masters of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Queen, etc.  I guess they've composed some fun songs, especially Queen who always had a decent sense of humour about their music, but really not many would consider them fun bands.  The 80's was an interesting decade of crazy fashion and dodgy hairdoo's but most of the acts that I'd been a fan of weren't really fun bands either. Funny to look at perhaps, but they took themselves quite seriously.  I mean Duran Duran might have been popstars, but they worked very hard at it and I'm sure never really considered their tunes to be light hearted.  Echo and Bunnymen, U2, Ultravox, these were some "please take us seriously" bands.  The 90's weren't much different, though at least I can think of a few goofy acts like Right Said Fred that might be called Fun, but I wouldn't suggest I was a fan. 

Which brings me back to my dilemma.  What does fun sound like?  I know what is fun to me, but how does one write a song that reflects that emotion? 

So saying all that, we have our new song, "A Very Fun Life".   And I think it may even be a fun song.  The lyrics came first, in fact almost a year before we put them to music.  I had the lines:

I have a very fun life
I have a very fine life
'cause I don't need to cheat
and I don't need to fight.
Simple enough, but actually incredibly truthful.  We do have a very fun life.  We get to write and perform music, and occasionally get paid enough to actually pay the rent from it!  Isabelle and I don't live a very flashy existence, but we have enough, and we have fantastic friends and family.  Ever week or so we get complimented on how we're looking youthful, or healthy or whatever.  I'd love to say it's entirely due to Music, but somehow I think it's really about not being obese and living where we do in the world.  Vancouver's a gorgeous place, the air is clean and the water is pretty good.  Music plays it's part to be sure, but there are several factors at work, not the least of which is good genes!

Anyway, the lyrics for the song are quite straight forward:

I have a very fun life, I have a very fine life
'cause I don't need to cheat and I don't need to lie

We have a very fun life, we have a very fine life
'cause I don't need to cheat and we don't need to fight

I have a very fun life, I have a very fine life
'cause I do what I want and it still turns out alright

We have a very fun life, we have a very fine life
though we're living without heat, makes me sleep better at night

of all life's little mysteries
there's one thing's become clear to me
if all the best in life is free
I can only just afford it!

We have a very fun life, we have a very fine life
'cause I don't need to cheat and we don't need to fight
We have a very fun life
We have a very fun life
We have a very fun life
We have a very fun life
The bridge came about after a critique from Vince (Monkey 68) who wanted the song to express a bit more depth.  (thanks again V).   
And that's it!  Pretty much every word is true and reflects how we're doing it.  Hope you enjoy it, please let us know what you think!

Be well,

Mark and Isabelle

New Drumkit! (repost)

Bought a new drum kit

I bought a drum kit last week.  It was used, but it looked okay.  In fact, it turns out to be a little more than okay.  Nothing fancy, a white Pearl kit, with more toms than I'll ever hit, and a couple dodgy cymbals: but for what I paid, that's fine too.  I had a few more cymbals in the house that sounded better anyway.

This move was in attempt to add a little more spark to our new album.  I thought I'd try writing from a more rhythmic perspective this time.  Of course there's the challenge of learning how to drum first, but I've been messing with the instrument for years now so it shouldn't be impossible.  Perhaps if I get a decent handle on it we'll start adding live drums to the show (again).  It's fun. 


p.s. we've been added to a New Year's Eve gig at the Anza Club this year too.  I think it should be a very cool way to spend the night.  Once again we're on first - which is to my liking as then we get to relax and enjoy the evening with our friends!  oh, and I wil be filling in with Rat Silo once again on that night as well.  So a full NYE of music.  Just that way I like it.  

Sex With Strangers - Video- New City Anthem

New Video

Yes I know I'm trying to steal a bit of their thunder, but I'm blown away with the new Sex With Stranger's video.  And really, Isabelle sings in both bands so it's not entirely unrelated to what CtV does. 

Have a look, it's really fantastic!

Produced by BKS Crew Productions, featuring Carol Yuen as the "Unreal."  Make up for the "Unreal" by Carey Williams, Edited by Stephen Green, Directed by Brett Harvey.  Shot on a Canon 5D MkII.

Music production by Sex With Strangers and your truly! 

you can see cameos from members of several Vancouver bands, including: Adjective, Accost, Girlfriends and Boyfriends, Danny Echo, Spotlight Carnival, and The February March.  A big THANK YOU has to go out to everyone involved in this video, from Brett and Stephen, Carey and Carol, Luna, Kokanee Beer and everyone who showed up for the party back in September.  I think it turned out amazingly and looks world class.  

Not Tired of Music

Not tired of music

Last night Isabelle and I went to see our friend's band Young Galaxy play at the Biltmore.  It was a nice night, and the thing that made me smile the most was how everyone's parents had come out for the show.  There they were, in their 40's, 50's, what ever, and standing with a glass in hand watching their children perform music.

Seemed to make perfect sense.  My mom is still coming out to our shows, she's in her 70's!  Mind you she's also very cool so it's to be expected.  :D

Last week was the Joel Battle cd release, and once again I was surrounded by family out supporting their own.  It's good to see the community surround it's artists.

Even after all the glitter of the rock and roll era, music is still an intimate thing. 

It's nice.

>> oh, Bend Sinister opened the show last night and I thought they were great.  Check 'em out.  

CtV in Slovakia! (repost)

CtV in Slovakia!

Just got word from a new friend in Slovakia that he'd been on the national radio and spoke of our Boutique Empire label and played a Combine the Victorious song on air.  Apparently it even generated some favorable comments from listeners and there is a chance it will be added to the playlist next month!  All this from a CD exchange we did earlier this year in the summer.  Amazing things can happen on the internet.  This one was thanks to  Also looks as though we shall have a song appearing on a compilation CD as well: appropriately enough it will be titled "Long Distance Compilation" on the AZYL/Bizarre Republic label.   (Interesting the "bizarre" connection as we've also got another song to come out on a "Some Bizarre" compilation next year too. hmmm...)

Here's to being bizarre.


Is Optimism Foolish?

Is optimism foolish?

It's strange how the common reaction to a bit of optimism (at least that I've encountered) is usually met with extreme contempt or that sad knowing little nod of the head as to indicate, "how naive you are, if only you knew what I knew you'd never believe any of what you just said."

If you've read the books, heard the music, seen the movies and experienced the real thing, and you're still optimistic, does that make you simple?  Or does it mean you've seen a different whole from what most are claiming to be the truth. 

Truth is so subjective.

What is really gained from pessimism?  The ability to always guaranty the outcome; for everything will fail right?  How can we progress if we are self-fulfilling our prophesies of doom.  

The icebergs are pretty easy to see, even from a distance, do we really need to crash into them to prove their existence?

Somehow, thinking we can make it seems far more interesting.  

Our First Electronic Show

First Electronic Show

Isabelle and I have been working on reinventing our set as an electronic duo.  It's been very fun and a lot of work but I think we've come up with an interesting sound.  Isabelle's even learned to play the keyboards a bit!  Things are sounding good, hope it all works tomorrow night.  Fingers crossed. 

Speaking of which, if you're in Vancouver on Saturday  August 8th please come down to the Railway club for our label Boutique Empire's first anniversary party. It's a full evening of entertainment.  On first is our friends from Accost, with the electronic stylings.  Combine the Victorious will be on at 10:15, then the comedy troupe The Skinny shall change the mood with their exceptionally funny sketch comedy, Sex With Strangers shall storm the tiny stage and get everyone sweaty and our friends from Seattle The Keeper will be bringing their feel good brand of swords and dragon music to Vancouver for the first time. 

Hope you can join us - we've even lined up a guest violinist to join us for a few songs. 

Until then...


Not bad for the first time...

Our show on Saturday was a success.  We managed to complete it without crashing the computer, well no more than once, and only had one keyboard die in the middle of the performance.  The drum pad fell off the stand and the monitors were kinda low, but other than those slight glitches everything went smoothly!  you know...  ; )

It was good.  We had fun.  We both heard it sounded good and were pleased that the vocals finally were heard and went over very well.  Happy about that. 

It looks as though we're going to continue this format for the foreseeable  future.  Everything fits comfortably into the trunk for the car, and I'm certain I can streamline the set up a bit more with additional thought and planning.   Touring is finally an option. 

Isabelle played her first show on keyboards and did great.  Her singing was of course better than ever and I even managed to stay on course for the night.  As mentioned a few little glitches happened, but it was just that kind of night.  Gremlins everywhere, but the vibe in the Railway was great, if not a bit haphazard. 

Accost played a very solid set, their sound is getting tighter and tighter and Chantelle is stepping up as a front person.  Our set was smooth and cool which set up the comedy of The Skinny quite well I thought.  They had to fight through some feedback and really project to get over the audience, but there were a lot of laughs emitting from the front of the club!  Sex With Strangers had a pounding set, everyone was shaking it, and they pulled off a unique switch over with The Keeper by not stopping playing between the bands.  Each player just played on his respective instrument until the next band member was ready to take over.  Very cool.  if a bit strange switching between the dance rock of SWS into the heavy groove metal of The Keeper!

Great night, and a huge thanks to all of you that attended.  Hey, a huge thanks to all of you reading this note too.  Great party.  I wonder where we'll do it next year?

Cheers, have a good week.

Mark (and Isabelle)

"Selling Out" (op ed)

"Selling Out"


I was just perusing various pages on and reading some of the comments under certain songs.  One of the things that I found common was the sentiment that bands sell out when they become successful.  Or more directly, if they license their music to an advertisement.  Now we've had a modest amount of money come in from licensing our songs to television shows so far and personally I would appreciate the opportunity to have a song used in a cool ad (provided it was for a product we actually might use, or at least didn't despise).  I can assure you we haven't sold out, sold in, or sold through anything. 

In the 2000's it's quite challenging to make a living from composing and performing music.  The old paradyms have changed, the old business model really doesn't exist anymore.  Gone are the days where a band might be discovered, signed to a deal with a major label, given the opportunity to record an album's worth of material in a high end studio and then spend a year touring it.  Corporate radio is all but a closed door to the indie bands, unless they can provide some revenue to the station by purchasing an ad, or perhaps they have a mysterious benefactor (exception being made here to a few local stations who are playing very cool music from our scene here in Vancouver.  I hope the same can be said elsewhere).  So what recourse is left for the underground artist to be discovered?  Record stores are all but gone (though I have nothing but respect for the ones that are still here - they are a great resource and usually filled with knowledgable staff who actually love music), radio had lost it's importance to most younger listeners, magazines tend to need some cash to get things in print, and music television is so marginalized that it only serves the top 10 videos which all seem to pander to a teenage viewership (one exception is The Wedge on Much Music, possibly the most enjoyable hour of television nearly every week - thank you to the programmers!).  

So where are bands to earn their living?  I've harped on this issue before, but let's reiterate.  We are in a strange time where a couple generations of music listeners have grown accustomed to getting all their music for free.  The mp3 is the ultimate cassette tape.  Where in the 80's, vinyl albums used to come with stickers inside them stating "home taping is killing music";  I'm sure ALL the labels from that era would give anything to just have to contend with cassettes once again.  At least someone had to buy an album for the tape to be made!  Now, with digital technology if a band like Coldplay were to have a leak and their album made available online by an unethical engineer, hundreds of thousands of copies could be freely taken in only a matter of a weekend.  I know a few of you might think who cares about Coldplay, but replace them with a band you love and then consider the impact it will make on their lives, the lives of their families, the people who work for them, etc... 

The accepted adage of our era is that musicians will have to make their living from the live shows.  Yes that's true, if you're in the Coldplay status.  You can make a phenominal living. But what of the vast majority of us who aren't?  Ask a friend who plays in a local band how much she or he made at their last performance.  I'll bet most will simply grin sheepishly and tell you "nothing."  When you're starting out you play for free. Or very close to that.  You are investing your day job's money into your art.  You buy an instrument and then spend years learning to play it.  You pay for rehearsal spaces (in Vancouver it seems the going rate is about $60 for a three hour block - how much do you think gets done in three hours?)  Your guitars cost anywhere from $100 for some used piece o' crap to several thousands for a high quality one.  Drum kits can cost the price of a small car, plus there is constant upkeep.  The expenditures are massive, the income is small.  If, after a year of playing, you end up with a decent following you may end up getting a couple hundred bucks for a show.  That's nice, but in reality if that band has an album out they've probably paid anywhere from $5000 to $20000 to record and press their indie release.  It's going to take a helluva lot more than three hundred bucks to offset those costs. 

Bands do sell CD's and vinyl at their shows, and I've been seeing an increase in download cards appearing at the merch booths (which personally I'm into as they reduce the waste of a CD, and fit nicely in your wallet!) but perhaps you've noticed they rarely sell out.

Where are we to make our living from then?  Is it now to be that all musicians have to hold two or three jobs and try to fit their art into the spare time?  Can anyone become excellent in a situation like that?  Obviously a band will have to be good to succeed: that will never change.  But now even good bands are struggling to make a living.  Bands that were once on major labels who have been dropped due to financial worries at said label.  The belts have been tightened all over the world, but for the musicians that started in 1999 not 2008, th emp3 and Napster changed everything. Unfortunately most of us didn't see that.  And then we can see the result of a profit driven society, it hasn't been too friendly to the arts. 

So, is it really surprising that The Dandy Warhols licensed one of their best songs to a Citreon ad?  Or Moby licensed almost every song off his Play album back in the day?  These artists were looking for exposure.   And while the internet is a fantastic resource for the indie muso and the music fan, its vastness and choice are also what make it so difficult for us to find what we want.  Strangely, commercial television has become the harbinger for new music.  Shows like Grey's Anatomy, The OC,  I don't know... they have broken several acts wide open to the North American audience.  TV commercials have made overnight stars of obscure electronic artists who were unheard of only weeks before.  And these people are all probably very happy to be paid. 

I guess I will alway marvel at the misconception some people have about the riches of the music industry: millionaire rock stars, private jets, and flashy sports cars.  The truth is almost everyone who creates, performs, and records music for a living makes a very modest income from it.  Very modest.  Please don't begrudge them getting a few thousand bucks for a television ad, it might be their sole income that year!

Alright, all done, the soap box shall be put away for the weekend.  Thanks for reading and understanding.  Have a great summer, and if you're in the mood, please buy some music or go to a show: or go to a show and buy some music: hope you enjoy it too!


p.s.  oh yes, and we'd like to offer our respects to Michael Jackson, r.i.p.

More Songs Licensed (repost)

More songs Licensed

Another good week for Combine.  In addition to the Some Bizarre compliation we've placed All Together on, we've also licensed Fat Kids Big Cars and Decay (so far at least, we're hoping they use all seven songs off the Disagreements EP) to an MTV series called "The Peak".   It's such a pleasure to see those e-mails come in, makes the days and months of writing and recording seem worthwhile. 

Vancouver has been gloriously beautiful this week and both of us are taking as much time as we can in the sun.  Hard to get your head back into writing mode, but Isabelle assures me she's been keeping extensive notes and ideas, so perhaps we'll be turning over a few new songs rather quickly.  Hey, if they can get exposure on TV, I'm down with that.

Oh and we just signed up on the Jango music service, so if you're a user, please check us out online.  It's a streaming radio service like, just a different site.  A few friends have been raving about it for the past while, I'm just starting to listen there to see what it's like (Jordy tells me he's loving it).

Hope you have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.



"Music is Free"

"Music is Free":

In 1809 the only way you could "own" music was to purchase the sheet music.  Of course, you'd have to be capable of "playing" the music laid out before you which in all likelihood entailed years of lessons at an instrument, otherwise that paper was only dots on a page.  If you could read it but played poorly your music sounded bad.  If you were a capable player perhaps your music sounded enjoyable.  But to hear that music performed by a virtuouso, that could change your life.

The 20th Century gave us recordings.  Recordings of brilliantly talently musicians performing works of genius by inspired composers.  Now,  for the first time, you could hear a performance of Django Reinhart, Dizzy Gillespi, The Beatles, The Sex Pistols, at any time, without having to leave your home!

This is a very important distinction: way before the mp3, CD, cassette, 8-track, vinyl album and rotary disc, the only way to hear the music of a composer was to attend a live performance.  Which in the 1800's and earlier, the average citizen was excluded from such events.  Pretty much the privaledge of royalty and their entourage.

I confess, personally, I adore music.  Since the age of three I've been capitvated by sound.  Especially sounds being combined in beautiful ways.  I attended my first concert - a Boston Pops concert - at three and a half years of age.  I was euphoric (my mother put me into piano lessons  immediately after, I could read music before English!)  As a kid I'd listen to both sides of whatever album was on, just to hear everything.  I never understood how my friends could bore of it so easily.  My brother first introduced me to rock and roll with a Beach Boys Greatest Hits album.  I would sit through that in its entirety as well.  In the age of the vynil album it was a thing of pride to display your collection.  And it was all paid for.

This entire dialog is spurred by a conversation I had a few weeks back with a bartender ,he made the absurd comment that musicians should simply stop expecting to be paid for their music.  He furthered this with the all too typical refrain of "musicians will make it up at their live performance."  Imagine my glee at this comment.

What everyone seems to conveniently forget when they adopt this line of reasoning is all the thousands of people other than the artists that are involved in the recording process.  People who own studios, engineers, producers, manufacturers of recording gear, distributors, label people, publicists, managers, etc.  These people are also seriously in jeopardy of losing their livelihoods if everyone simply stops paying for music.  File "sharing" is a great way to promote music, but in the end it amounts to stealing. 

But music is free right?


Ask yourself: can you write a song?  Congratulations to those of you who can, it's a wonderful thing, well done.  The rest of you?  Ever wonder how it happens?  Ever feel a tinge of envy?  Now ask yourself: what is it worth?


Nothing at all? 

Honestly?  By a reverse comparison, if I walked into your bar and sat down to drink a beer, wouldn't you expect me to pay for it?  But I don't think it has any value.  I mean, you could make it up in advertising right?  Or if my car needs repairing, I'll just come and get it once it's fixed, because that's free too right?  Or my legal matters, you'll just settle them for free too right?  No of course not, you'd expect to be paid for your services. 

I cannot possibly know how important music is to any of you reading this.  I live in a bubble - as most artists do - for me it is only superceded by sunlight, oxygen, food and shelter.  To have something so precious to me dismissed as valueless is infuriating.

It's not because I'm a money grubbing sleezeball, I've never really cared greatly about money.  It's nice, but it's never been the end goal.  Turns out the act of creation and performance is my most fulfilling moment.  To hear someone discredit the efforts of all the millions of artists and that have come before me, to simply dismiss thier efforts, their art, and insist it has no monetary value seems wildly absurd.  And I'll defend everyone with that statement: your Nicklebacks, Celine Dions, Mariah Careys, U2s... whoever is an easy target.  These megastars are like corporations, they employ armies of talented producers, engineers, assistants, musicians, truck drivers, roadies, grips, agents, managers, merch people... use your imagination.  Their art creates jobs for thousands of people.  And all those people expect to get paid.

But not if music is free.

This is a discussion that won't be resolved in the next few weeks.  I will be bold however and state, "Music is Not Free."  At least it can't be as long as we're paying for bread, gasoline, legal fees, haircuts, sports jackets, lawn cutting, bowling, plumbing, dentistry, wine and cheese, or every other thing you need or desire.  I think a great many artists would offer their creations for free if society sponsered electricity and some food, but until that utopian moment arrives I think it is hypocritical to assert the Music is Free. 

There is no shame in paying for art: there is only reward.  The shame comes from stealing art.  If you don't pay, you will never value it.  And that is a truth about human nature.

Please support the artists that inspire you: it always helps and it always will.


Province Review of "Disagreements"

Just had a heads up from a few friends that we received a review in the Vancouver Province paper today.   Not a bad one I think.  Always happy to see what Tom Harrison makes of our music.  

Disagreements EP release

"Disagreements: tomorrow (hopefully)

Happy Monday to you!

Well if all is going according to plan, we should have our second release up on iTunes tomorrow, November 25th 08.  The Disagreements ep took quite a bit of work, and seemed as though it might never be finished: but we did put a stamp on the package and sent it in to our distributor last month in the hopes of it actually being processed in time for our release date. 

We decided to release the ep entirely online, no cd's, just downloads.  So far we've sold almost five times as many copies of The World Over from iTunes than on cd (I'll admit that this might possibly be due to not utilizing a physical distribution system other than our myspace and .com page - but I've had nothing but grief from such services in the past) so it makes sense to us.  Additionally neither Isabelle nor I have actually purchased a cd in more than 15 months - we're truly converted to the convenience of the online world.  In Vancouver I've seen several music shops go under in the past few years, and CD's take up a smaller section of all the major chains each time I go into them, so why bother fighting a trend? 

The Disagreements ep is a departure from our first album, we made it entirely in our home studio this time and purposely restricted our production ideas to allow the songs to sound closer to how we perform them live.  The themes of these songs center around betrayal and disappointment (both in regards to personal events that have transpired and what we can see of the world as a whole)  but also resolve with hope for the future.  The song Decay could be considered autobiographical but has become a bit more universal over the past year.  Fat Kids Big Cars is a jab at the corporate transformation of North American culture, where citizens are reduced to mearly consumers and our value is measured by the girth of our wallets.  Back In Style might be considered more of a fable than a true story, at least that's what we like to tell people!  Where Are You is a little tone poem written after a night when I thought I'd honestly lost Isabelle (long story, but it did involve a mickey of Fireball).  There are two instrumentals this time, the first is Charmer, an introduction to the entire piece and the second is aptly titled Segue- Please, as it segues between Where Are You and the final song Please.  Please is our favorite song right now.  We roped in our friends Ingrid Schroeder and Barry Flynn to write parts for the second half of the song and I think their contributions raise the bar exceedingly high.  Our first true collaboration and quite a successful one too! 

We proud of these songs and excited to perform them on stage again soon.  I've started scripting videos for a few of them and a couple directors here in Vancouver have offerred their services in the creation of at least one more.  Perhaps a re-release will have to be scheduled with all the clips added to the package to give a fully rounded album.

Thanks for reading and please check out the songs on iTunes, Amazon, or Napster or whichever sourse you prefer.  Have a great week~

Mark & Isabelle

Disagreements Available TODAY!!

Current mood:cheerful


We're very pleased to announce that our new Disagreements ep is up on the iTunes music store as of today!  Please follow the link there, or if you prefer Amazon, Napster, whichever, it's also be available on those sites as well.

In related news, there is the first of a four part interview I did with a radio station from Florida available on their site as well.  If you're curious about some of the back story, our process, or a bit of our history, please have a listen on the HT Media page.  Thanks again to Don for such a comfortable and fun interview!

Disagreements has a flow to it rather like The World Over, so if you can, please have a listen from beginning to end.  I think it tells an interesting little story. 

Alright, we're both really happy right now,  hope you enjoy the new songs - Cheers!!!

Mark & Isabelle

Music Story: Please (repost)

New Song: Please

Current mood:inspired
After many months of writing, recording, erasing, re-recording, re-arranging, waiting for objectivity to return, abandoning, peaking at it and sharing it with friends overseas we've finally posted our best song to date: Please.  Well best song is rather subjective so I'll let you decide which is best, but it's certainly the best one in my opinion.

Please was written in it's first draft back in January this year.  We posted it for a while in that version but it started to grate on me a bit so we took it down thinking it just needed a better recording to make it work.  I had Kevin over to track the drums at a slightly faster tempo than the demo, and then I figured it would just be a case of overdubbing the parts onto the bedtracks and we'd have our song.  However it was anything but that simple. 

Rather like our song Decay, Please took months of reworking to get it into the arrangement we now have.  While we were over in England back in the spring I played it for our friends Barry and Ingrid (both of whom are brilliant artists) and got their feedback.  Something wasn't right but I reckoned it was just a few tweaks to knock it on course.  Baz and I had a last minute late night talk through on the final evening we were over there and he made a few suggestions and criticisms which a duly noted.

Upon returning to Canada I was more concerned with fixing Decay than Please so I set about retracking that song first.  That was a long and hard road too, so I was out of ideas and energy to get Please finished.  Which turned out to be a very fortunate thing, as the final version bares almost no resemblance to our first drafts.

I think it was at the beginning of summer that I came up with the idea to track the song in sections.  I'd been listening to 'Good Vibrations' by the Beach Boys, which is a certified masterpiece, and I noticed the glaring edits in the recording. If you listen closely (actually you don't have to listen that closely at all) you can hear the splices in the original recording between the verses, bridge and breakdown.  It's quite shocking how dramatic they are!  That spurred on the idea to break the song down into extremely different sections, where each vocal part would have a unique background to really separate it from the others.

Where in the demo we had drums playing from the first verse all the way to the end, this time (at Barry's advice) we dropped out the drums until the accellerando into the first instrumental passage.  Giving so much room to the vocals and piano seemed perfect and set up the next section wonderfully.   The instrumental speed up has always seemed incredibly heroic to my ears.  Perhaps it came from too much Tchaikovsky as a kid. 

The next section, the fast little piano and the rapid vocal, just appeared from nowhere.  I knew we needed to change that section because a few of our friends and family hadn't seemed to impressed with my first version.  I heard comments such as 'haven't you done that before' or 'I heard you do that on the first album didn't I?'  Sheesh, you only get one chance at trying something I guess.  Anyway, I'm glad that I got pushed out of my comfort zone because what we have now is far better - if a bit hilarious. 

From there is was a return of the instrumental part, which is the underlying theme and progression to the entire piece.  Needed to make it heroic so of course there must be plenty of crash cymbals smashing through out!

The break down was the hardest part to conceive.  I knew there needed to be something cool there, more interesting than just a dynamic shift, but it wasn't obvious what was needed.  So I started walking one day, at first just to the grocery store to get some food.  Part of the idea formed but I still didn't really hear it.  So off to the post office to mail something.  Nope still couldn't quite feel what was needed.  Then, on the third walk of the afternoon it occurred to me to try something really simple.  As the song was all over the map in terms of tempo, why not change the time signature too?  Go from 4/4 to 3/4 time, and then actually slow it down to 3/2 time to really make it an extreme variation.

Armed with these ideas I returned home to finish the second draft.  I played the entire song beginning to end without a click track in order to get the natural feel onto the computer first.  Next I painstakingly tempo mapped the piano to Logic's grid in order to allow a drummer to play to it.  (It got smoothed out a bit in the process, but it was wildly all over the place on that first pass).  The piano part that's on this final version is the same one that was played as a guide for the whole song, but it was 'fixed' up a bit along the way.  I tried to leave as many of the wrong notes in there as I could stand because I felt they lent the song more authenticity - and besides there was no way I'd ever play the part perfectly, ever!  It's just not my style, never has been: I don't practice enough! hah.

From that point I called Kevin Jones over once more and we set up the mics, tuned the kit and had him pound the crap out of the old Ludwig drums until I thought we got all the parts.  It was surprisingly fast to do.  I think the sketched drum part I'd programmed was clear enough for Kev to understand my intent and he then just owned it.   I set up my bass to play along with him as he was performing his part just to ensure he got more than enough excitement in his headphones.   By far the best drums on the ep (though I will say his playing on Back In Style is very good too).

We had our song instrumentally all figured out now.  Isabelle came into the studio and recorded her verse really quickly.  I added my bits but we had nothing solid for the break down or the outro.  As the weeks rolled by we focused on the other songs and just kept  Please sitting quietly in the background hoping for another inspiration to hit us.  Pretty soon everything else was finished and we still hadn't found the magic dust for the other sections.  So, instead of forging ahead I obsessed on the opening verse instead (that makes sense right?).  I pushed Isabelle quite hard to really nail her part down.  We did it quite a few times, but when I came back to listen the next day  I realized she's actually performed it wonderfully on the first three takes: a natural.   We had done several more than that, but it was all there in the first three.  I re-tracked my harmony to her vocal parts and that section was done.  The guitar part was a pain in the ass as usual - anyone have a pill that helps one play guitar better?  However I did manage to struggle long and hard enough to get something that sounded musical on hard drive. 

And then we waited. 

Until one night we were listening to all the songs we were considering for the Disagreements ep and we finished with the semi-complete rough mix of Please.  I looked over at Isabelle and said, 'Wouldn't it be great if we could get Ingrid to sing on this?'  Her eyes lit up and she started doing her little excited dance and just kept saying yes yes yes!  I mailed Baz and Ings the rough mix that night and pleaded our case with them.  'Can you hear something for the breakdown, and maybe the outro?'  A few weeks went by, as they were busy, but we got a rough mix back from them that was pretty amazing.  (Okay, I'll confess at first I didn't know what to make of it, but Isabelle LOVED it on first listen).  Not only had Ingrid (Schroeder - look her up: incredible vocalist)  put this delicate and superb vocal part in the breakdown, but Barry (Flynn - he has a long history of UK pop hits but they're all under crazy names I can't remember right now) had put down a vocal part too!  So now when you listen to the song, you can hear Ingrid's vocals first ('waiting for a wave to break...') and then Barry's vocals as we hit the build up in the outro ('it's okay, we made it through today...').   It's quite something having four different voices on one song, makes it so enjoyable as you never tire of any one singer.

They sent us the vocal files and I started to put a mix together.  It might have taken a while as now I had two other sets of  ears to bounce things off of, but we got it together rather quickly.  Of course I had to mess with the mix endlessly until I thought it was correct, and even had Todd Simko remaster it three times!  (And then went so far as to cut between sections of two of the masters until everything felt right - but sometimes that's just what it takes!)

Lyrically it's an interesting tale.  I think the words mean something completely different to Isabelle than they do to me. And Barry and Ingrid's lyrics are another mystery.  So now there are four voices and four slightly different perspectives to each section of the song.  This is something I'd like to explore again in the future; the possibilities are quite intriguing.  However the song is meant to be about hope and not giving in to the depressing and cynical mantra of the consumerist age we live in.  There really is a great deal more to life than just buying things or owning big houses.   Perhaps you'll agree?


waking up, still tired
feeling down, uninspired
draining out, the hard work washed away

giving up, so heartbroken
all the dreams left unspoken
see them smile as we become the same

Don't be scared of what you're seeing
just realize there's more to being
than what you buy or steal or break
it's how you live and what you make.
I think it's time to disagree
with what we've learned for centuries
'cause never in our history
have we been more in debt to GREED.

waiting on a wave to break
riding on the chance you take
to a better place, someday
might not be that far away

It's okay, we made it through today
we'll beg we'll steal we'll borrow
to make it through tomorrow
Hope's not gone, it's still on
You may be out of favour
but you could be your savior
It's okay, we made it through today
we'll beg or steal or borrow
to make it through tomorrow

©2008 Combine the Victorious (p)2008 Boutique Empire
Henning, Dunlop, Schroeder, Flynn

Thanks for reading this long blog,  I wanted to share the whole thing a bit.  Hope you enjoy the song, and if you do please tell everyone you think might enjoy or need to hear it.  We want to get going for real next year, so your help is immeasurably important to us!  Thank you and stay well.

Mark & Isabelle

New song: Charmer

New Song "Charmer"

Afternoon everyone,

Isabelle's in Alberta on the SWS western Canadian mini-tour, and I was left with too much time on my hands, therefore wanted to post another of the new tracks for the upcoming ep. 

Charmer is the first track on Disagreements, an instrumental and meant to be the welcome mat for the collection.   It's kind of the darker side of our song Decay, well, it's meant to be at least.  After listening to all the songs in a row we thought the album might be a bit too dark, too moody, so the instrumental is an attempt to balance the entire listen, make it a bit lighter. 

Anyway, hope you like it.  Looks as though my deliberations have put us back a bit on our release date, but I really want to make sure everything is as good as it can be before we set these songs forth into the world.  Hopefully I'll submit the songs to our distributor on Monday and then we can shoot for a late November release.  (or really early December... but I think we can get it done before then)

Thanks for reading, have a good Saturday.  Cheers!!


Disagreements EP credits

Disagreements - Credits

Hello, happy tuesday.

The songs for the ep are all mixed now, the mastering has been done but we haven't heard it yet, hopefully tonight.  In anticipation of the release I wanted to post the credits for the songs as a way of saying thank you to everyone involved.  It wasn't as extensive this time as the first album as we made it here at Imagined Aire Studio rather than going to Mushroom (sorry, Hipposonic West).  However I think we've managed to get a few very nice guest performances from our friends, and the songs all sound better for their contributions.

1) Charmer
(henning) - instrumental

2) Decay
(henning, dunlop, simko)
vocals: isabelle
backing vocals, bass, drums and other instruments: mark
guitar: todd simko
party vocals and percussion: rachel watson, arielle olivier, jordy birch, cory price, mark richards, mike gentile.

3) Fat Kids Big Cars
(henning, dunlop)
vocals: mark & isabelle
guitars: jordy birch
other instruments: mark

4) Back In Style
(henning, dunlop, simko)
vocals: mark & isabelle
guitars: todd simko
drums: kevin jones
bass, keyboards: mark

5) Where Are You
vocals and piano: mark

6) Segue - Please
(henning) - Instrumental

7) Please
(henning, dunlop, schroeder, flynn)
guest starring ingrid schroeder and barry flynn
vocals: isabelle, mark, ingrid, barry
drums: kevin jones
other instruments: mark

Mastering by Todd Simko at Hearing Protection Required
Artwork and design: Robert Edmonds.

Influences and Respect

Influences and Respect

I think I end up writing a lot about our songs, and our process and don't often give credit to the influences that have lead me/us to this point.  I guess I have a bit of a split personality because I've often purchased music in the past based entirely on its production value or the producer himself rather than entirely based on the artist's music.  Today I'd just like to give thanks to the great people that have preceded me, and show respect for all the things I've learned from them.  The following is more to do with the men behind the glass rather than in front of the microphones.  These gentlemen have truly shaped the way I make records and what I want to hear from a great recording.

Even though the Beach Boys Greatest Hits was my first ever album, given to me by my older brother when I was about 4 or 5, I think The Beatles were the first band that I ever loved.  Hey Jude was my favorite song until I was almost ten, which was subsequently replaced by Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.   It was on A Night at the Opera that as a small boy I really could discern the studio at work on a recording.  It was fascinating trying to imagine a choir of mad English rock stars singing 'Scalaboosh! Scalaboosh! Do You do the Fandango?'  I mean who was doing that right?  So I must give credit to Mr. Roy Thomas Baker for his astounding production work on that album and the ones that followed.  He kept it up through out the 70's too: The Cars first two albums were brilliant pieces of phonographic history.  Once again his studio wizardry was on display in all it's glory.

Next on my personal list is the one and only Mr. Bob Clearmountain.  It was Clearmountain that really defined what a great album should sound like for me.  He'd mixed a few albums in the early 80's: Roxy Music Avalon, Bryan Ferry's Boys and Girls and then INXS's Kick album which were sonic masterpieces.  His sense of space, dynamics,  ambience, tone and overall balances were perfection to my young ears.  I still reference his work from time to time to get an overall impression of how I'm doing.  Of course the songs you work on determine a great deal about how they should be mixed, but his work is exemplary.

Probably the third most influential person on my production side was Tom Lord Alge.  Tom mixed the first Pure album back at Little Mountain Studio in 1992.  I sat in the corner for a week and watched this guy turn knobs and create some of the coolest sounds I'd ever heard come out of a pair of NS-10s  (NS-10's are the little bookshelf speakers that Bob Clearmountain made famous by bringing them into the studio to reference mixes on rather than the very large and expensive wall mounted studio monitors that had been generally used by everyone else before him).  Through out that week I'd ask Tom how he'd done a certain cool effect, or created a really incredible drum sound, and with surprising ease he'd take a bit of time and explain it.  I learned so much from that guy it still affects the way I mix records today.  Of course it didn't hurt that he went on to become a top five mix engineer in the rock and roll world either. His credits include several top hitmakers: Sum 41, Hole, Wallflowers, Live, Goo Goo Dolls, U2, Oasis even the Rolling Stones.  The guy knows how to mix a hit record.

Of course there were a few more producers that made their impressions along the way as well.  Trevor Horn who became famous for his work on Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Welcome to the Pleasuredome was absolutely state of the art.  He was a pioneer of sampling technology back when samplers cost the price of a decent house!   He also has worked with Yes on their 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' record and had his own project called Art of Noise.  Later he produced Seal which was another fantastic sonic masterpiece.  But his influence is mostly limited to approach rather than results.

Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois's work with U2 has always been a center piece in shaping my tastes as well.  They seem to work well together creating wonderfully deep sonic fields to lay out U2's songs upon.  The Joshua Tree, while it may not be the band's greatest album, does contain my favorite song by that band, With Or Without You.  That song still has the power to bring me to tears if the mood is right.  As an album Achtung Baby was pretty eclectic, but I loved how the band reinvented itself for the 90's and that too benefited from the deft work of Lanois and Eno.  (Oh and Eno's work with the Coldplay on their latest is deftly sublime as well).

Butch Vig and Andy Wallace teamed up to deliver the biggest album of the 90's: Nirvana's Nevermind.   I'd heard what Butch Vig had done with the Smashing Pumpkins back then, and while they were cool at the time, it was the Nevermind album that convinced me these guys were outstanding at their jobs.  A classic album that, though overexposed to most of us, will still sound good in thirty year's time.

And of course it would be remiss to leave of this list Mutt Lange.  His albums with AC/DC - Highway to Hell and Back In Black are both landmark albums in the history of rock and roll.  Of course the monster albums he created with Def Leppard certainly confirm his status as a hitmaker, but it was his execution and style that impressed me.  His vocal layering techniques (which to my ear sounded as though he was trying to emulate what Roy Thomas Baker was doing)  and his specific demands on performing parts exactly the way he wanted - what someone once coined as 'The Producer is God' complex - definitely make his artists all sound quite alike, yet they have an undeniable appeal.  I mean he made Shania Twain sound like Bryan Adams who was made to sound like Def Leppard whose sound was built on what he'd established with AC/DC.  Some argue it's a failure that all his record sound the same, but the other side of the argument is that they were also all smash hits, so who's right?  Anyway, I do give respects to the man.

Oh and I guess I should also add in Alan Moulder, whose work with Curve was one of my biggest influences back in the early 90's.  He's also made a solid career working with Trent Reznor in Nine Inch Nails as well.  Very talented individual. 

This might all seem a bit boring to anyone who's not really involved in the creation of music, as most of us only really care about the people who are performing the music, but I've always felt a debt of gratitude to these great studio masters who've taught me so much about the art  of recording music.  Which, as we pass into this age of online music, and downloadable albums we're dangerously close to losing this information.  These people work extremely hard at their craft and it would be a disgrace not to acknowledge their contributions to our culture and history. 

But then it's all just my opinion.  Thanks for reading, cheers!


p.s.  We're almost done everything for the 'Disagreements' ep.  We have two new little instrumental pieces: one is the introduction to the collection, an instrumental called 'Charmer' and the other is a segue that will go between 'Where Are You' and 'Please.'   Everything is starting to take a nice shape and I look forward to erasing the early mixes off this page and posting the mastered final mixes.  Maybe start posting them next week if we can get the mixing finalized and the mastering completed.  We're both pretty excited, and look forward to learning them for live now too! 

Alright, hope all the glitches of myspace haven't put you off: but if so, please look for us on  I'm way more into that site these days anyway, lots of new music to heard there.  Okay, See ya!

Updates - August 27-2008

Updates - August 27-2008

Hi - just writing to say that we're trying to finish up the songs for the EP but have had a very exciting idea to get one of our friends to help us complete the last song.  We've asked Ingrid Schroeder to see if she could add her amazing voice to our song: Please.  There is a wonderful breakdown in the song that we both feel she could enhance with her sultry vocals and we're waiting to see if she's into a collaboration.  Fingers crossed because I just know it would sound incredible. 

Please is over the top right now.  Probably going to be the best song on the ep.  It's very changed from our initial demo that we posted back in January.  More dramatic and orchestral sounding.  Now I'm thinking that's the way we want to go for the next record!

Back in Style is almost done, we're re-singing our lead parts and I've changed the mix quite a bit as well.  A bit harder sounding and the vocals are going to be less fragile, more objective sounding - except for the chorus which is sounding sweeter and sweeter.   Hope to post it soon.

Boutique Empire is  hopping.  The mastermind behind all our graphic arts, Robert Edmonds, has just released a new book "Plastered in the Street."  It's beautiful collection of his poster art that not only serves to document all the fantastic art he's created for so many acts, but also as a record of the many brilliant musicians that have performed in Vancouver over the past few years.  Check out for more info.  It's cool.

Guilty About Girls is performing at the Railway Club tomorrow night (Thurs Aug. 28th) as part of the Internation Pop Overthrow festival with six other local pop acts.  It'll be another fun night I'm sure.  I'm also learning Final Cut Pro and trying to cut together a video for our new song VRGN.  It's looking pretty good and I must give a big Thank You to Jason Schnieder for the introductory lesson he gave me on FCP last Monday.  It's helped dramatically!!

Hatch and the gang have booked their first Western Canadian tour for Sex With Strangers.  Isabelle's getting excited as this will be her first proper touring experience. 

A lot of stuff going on and it's looking to get busier.  The ep is going to get done but it's certainly being challenged for our attention!

Thanks for reading, hope you all had a great summer and maybe we'll get a chance to meet a few of you who are out of Vancouver this fall!

All the best,

p.s.  Isabelle's fall line is looking great as well, she's really excited about her new ideas and the new stores she's getting her clothes into.  Wow, lot's going on.  

Music Story: Back In Style (repost)

NEW SONG: Back In Style


Wow, finally we have another new song. This one was another epic journey of recrafting and fine tuning, and though not nearly as arduous as Decay, it still it took quite a bit of fiddling to get it into this shape. I suppose it was really more about the mood and performance this time rather than the actual song itself.

We'd written Back In Style back in September last year and it stood as an acoustic demo for months and months. Back in March I started to play it with the band and we kinda worked out an arrangement that seemed right. The other parts have all been abandoned but Kevin's drumming stood the test of time and is on record now. I will admit it's a lot easier to have someone else do the drumming! Thank you to Kevin Jones: very nice work.

The lyrics are pretty stark on this one and it took both of us a while to come to grips with how it should/could be sung. As somber as they are, they were written last year and neither of us really feels the same way about the song as we did back then. A few mental adjustments later and we found this approach. We recorded all the vocals last night after dinner but it wasn't until this evening that I discovered the vocal melody for the chorus. (I'd been messing around with a strangely modal harmony part but it wasn't fitting in too well. I'm so much happier with the new line, Jordy said it reminded him of Elliot Smith but I reckon it's more like Simon and Garfunkle!)

Once again we've been blessed with the guitar work of Todd Simko on this track. He came over last month and spent and evening learning the song and coming up with the part you hear on record. It's been a cool process trying to get all the new songs to sound big with only one guitar part, and no doubling or other studio tricks. It ensures we can reproduce the songs live of course, but it's also just an interesting production discipline. On the first album, because I'd played all the parts, I was blurring some of my deficiencies with multiple overdubs. This time I wanted a more stripped down approach, and we both seem to prefer it: at least for right now.

Please have a listen: we'd love to hear what you think of it. Have a good night/day, afternoon, whenever. Thanks for reading.



"Back In Style"

Evening, how's it tonight?

Just posted the new mix of Back In Style on the page tonight. It's a bit different from the first versions in that I've tried to soften the overall approach a bit. Not as vocal heavy as it may have seemed previously. A friend of mine was insistent that it should be swimming in reverb, however this depth seemed comfortable. Never really loved the ocean sized vocal effects: Spiritualized could do it, but not me. I guess that's from all the years working with Todd and Jordy, they both leaned towards fewer effects, especially Jordy who still hates much more than a double on any of his recordings. So I learned to mix drier, or at least tried to - heh.

Back In Style is almost a year old now. We started it back in August last year, late summer and it was right when the weather started to get cold. That's why the lyrics refer to "your wooden floors all seem so cold." Ours were! It's easy to imagine when you're doing it at the same time. I'd demo'd the song with midi drums and a quick acoustic guitar outlining the changes. I think there may have been a piano part but it wasn't too essential and really only filled in space until there could be a real guitar part. The cool thing about this song is that I wrote it initially on acoustic guitar. I've never really done that since elementary school! It changes things which instrument you form your ideas around. So Isabelle and I would sit in the living room working out our parts over the winter months. It was quite a unique experience for us, because up until that point we'd always have to turn the computer on the work on the songs: there'd be so many parts to play it never really made sense until we could hear them all. It's a good thing to simplify your songs down to the point where you can perform them in the most basic environment. Makes them very portable.

So over the winter we changed a few of the words around, and messed with the structure a tiny bit. There had been a long break down then a crescendoing middle eight, but that seemed superfluous once we had the other parts figured out. In March we began trying to play it with the band and it really took on it's final shape when I heard it with live drums and electric guitars. Instead of piano being a central instrument it became the guitar, but not the acoustic anymore.

The first chorus of the song isn't really one of those big payoff choruses, I thought it'd be more interesting to have it blossom instead of crash open. Give the words "You seemed so much to me, did I seem much to you?" a bit of a softer interpretation. Plus it then leads to the big instrumental section, which I must thank Todd for, as it was Mr. Simko's idea to simply push it on E minor and C minor. Seemed kind of Souixie and the Banshees suddenly, took it right out of the vibe of the first verse and chorus.

The second verse is basically supposed to be the daytime version of verse one: the realizations one makes in their working hours. The harmony we came up with for the line "'cause honesty's coming back in style" is really fun. I love when I ask Isabelle to sing these kinds of parts because she always looks at me like I'm crazy, and then she prompty learns to sing them and always alters them just a bit. There's usually some strange little bluesy turn she puts on the melodies that I'd never heard or expected before. It always make the part her own. Quite cool.

The second chorus is bigger of course and then it goes to the big finale, and man did Todd ever come up with a great guitar part. I love that epic simple part, it's so Snow Patrol or something but it's still got his playing which is always a bit different. He can't possibly play something three times the same way, it will always have to have a tiny tweak to it, or a quirky note to make your head turn a bit. That's what Todd does: it's so fun to record with him again.

Cutting the vocals was my usual hellish chore but Isabelle really stepped up. We spent a bunch of time recording one night, using different mics, pre-amps, rooms to record in, but it turned out her first three takes formed the entire part, including her doubles! Very cool. Then it was just adding in those little single notes on the piano in the choruses and we were done. Except for the mix.

Which actually wasn't that hard, it just took a while to get the right mood. I think it works now, but would be very happy to hear what any of you may think. Always room for improvements right?

Thanks for reading, hope you have a listen. It's downloadable right now, in case you really like it. Feel free to spread the word if you do. That'd be great.