Sunday 13 December 2015

busy season

Wow, it's been ages since we've posted anything.  So much has gone on, it's funny to realize how little time we've spent online!

The store has been very busy these days, so we've been a bit slack with our music.  However, we do have a couple things coming up that'll be fun.  On Thursday, Dec 17th,  we are hosting the Boutique Empire Xmas Party at Isabelle's store: Isabelle Dunlop Clothing.   On display will be the debut series from Jean Vercoe, the recluse.   Also we are proud to offer a stage to our friends The Population Drops for a mini showcase set (8:45 sharp).   I'm going to be DJing songs to set the festive vibe and a few of our friends shall be providing a complimentary seasonal beverage for us all to enjoy.

A photo posted by Isabelle Dunlop (@isabelledunlopclothing) on
However even amid that we have booked a live show.  We are now sharing the night with Sunset Kids at the Roxy on Tuesday December 22nd - 9PM.   We shall be performing as a duo with a full electronic set.

Also in the background of this week I was shooting four episodes of Records in my Life with Charles Brownstein of .   We interviewed Picture Planes, Health, Saul Williams and Deragonette.   Each one was pretty great, from the esoteric selections of Health, thru the original cast recordings with Saul Williams, or a love of Nick Lowe with Dragonette.  All were fun and entertaining.  I'm really having fun directing this series, it was an honour to chat with Mark Gardener from RIDE as well.

Which is why I've been so remiss with my posts these days.  Lots of things happening simultaneously, each as interesting as the next!

(Oh and I built this today for Isabelle's shop.  A little work bench to hold garments in the manufacturing stage.)  

* * * * *

So, if you are in the Vancouver area on Thursday night, please come down to the Isabelle Dunlop Clothing Store, 4158 Main St., and say hi.   We'll be having our party from 7-10.   Wine, beer and eggnog!

The Pop Drops play at 8:45.

Happy Xmas and Cheers!

p.s.  We'll also be on CITR radio 101.9 Tuesday 12:30PM.  Gonna do two acoustic songs!

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Behind the Music: Happy Girl

When we were writing Autonomous there were several different directions and ideas that were tried over the past year and a half.   Even though some of the songs were re-workings of older songs (It's Still On is a remixed, re-recorded version of our song Please from the Disagreements ep - 2008) a few of the songs happened all at the last minute.  Happy Girl was one of them.

Happy Girl was born of a drum track.  My old friend Leigh Grant did us a big favour and came into the city to track drums on a couple songs, and a few ideas we had.  Back in the Spring of 2014 we had him come in to record at Valt Studio, Jordy's downtown production space.  It was hardly a massive room, and the equipment was simple and effective, but we ended up with a lot of great stuff!  It was during this session we recorded the drum tracks to Hardly Spoken, Happy Girl, and two others that didn't make the album but may still be used one day!

Originally I had Leigh track drums for another song entirely: one which I later decided really didn't need to be changed.   So with a great drum performance, and a decent sound I was left feeling as though it would be a complete waste if those tracks were never used.   A new song was born, and it morphed into Happy Girl.

As soon as I liberated the drum tracks for a new song I bounced them down to a stereo stem and put them into Ableton Live.  From there the song stepped up a couple bpm;  from 113 to 116.  A new bassline was improvised, the one you hear in the song in fact, a kind of new wave synth bass part that led to the rest of the song.  A simple synth part filled out where the verses should be and then a quick vocal line was recorded, which was later abandoned, and it sat incomplete for months.  It wasn't until we put it up for review with Don Harrison that the song really took it's final shape.

It might be the most deceptively simple lyric on the album.   I mean, "happy girl make a happy world."  isn't too earth shattering.   However I like their simplicity and enjoy the unspoken suggestion of a deeper meaning blended into them.   Isabelle's chorus hook was also a delight to find.  As I had been trying out a few ideas she started quietly singing "if I want to I'll let you know," which when combined with her melody took on a nice shape.  Each lyric was without a lot of pretence and fit in with the idea that we were trying out.   A world where the women are happy is in fact a safer and calmer world.  A woman's right to choose whether or not she'll have anything to do with you is indicative of a similar point.  Not too complicated, but still with a point to it.

One of the most fun elements to the song for me is the bongos I played.  Not being a percussionist I generally approach those instruments on a need to hear it basis.  If I can imagine the part in my head I will keep messing around trying different things until I find it.  The bongos were one of those happy studio discoveries.  Never played them before but thankfully you just need to hit them in time and they do their thing!  Little finger rolls and syncopated patterns started magically happening and suddenly I had a track.  We ended up extending one of the breaks on the song when we went in to mix, so you can really hear the percussion being banged around!

Once we got to the Armoury Studio to mix I had a chance to really appreciate how well played the drums were.  Leigh was always a good drummer, back in the 80's with After All, then in  the 90's with Pure, but I will offer that he is even better today.  His playing has more feel and style to it, and his skills at tuning and working the kit have just improved with time.  Very grateful for his excellence on this track.   Of course having Don Harrison add his guitar always makes a song better, so cheers to him as well!

Have a listen and please let us know what you think!

Happy Girl
words and music by Henning, Dunlop, Grant, Harrison
Recorded at Boutique Empire Studio and The Valt Studio
Mixed at The Armoury Studios, Vancouver
Produced and engineered by Henning
Mastered by Craig Waddell at Gotham City Studio
Artwork by Robert Edmonds

Vocals: Mark Henning, Isabelle Dunlop
Drums: Leigh Grant
Guitars: Don Harrison
Synths: Henning

Happy Girl makes a happy world
Happy Girl

If I want to I'll let you know
If you want to just say so
Happy Girl

Happy Girls make for happy boys
Happy Girl

If I want to I'll let you know
If you want to just say so
Happy Girl
Happy Boy
Happy World

Why is the truth never enough (why is the truth never enough)
Why is the proof never enough (why is the proof never enough)
Why is the money never enough (why is money never enough)

Happy Girl

If I want to I'll let you know
If you want to just say so
Happy Girl
Happy Boy
Happy World

©2015 Combine the Victorious

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Rock and Roll Marathon 2015-Vancouver

We are pleased to announce we'll be performers at this year's Rock'n'Roll Marathon in Vancouver.  We were a part of this race last year as well and had a surprisingly good time doing it.  There is something very rewarding to having 10 000 runners pass by your stage and give you the thumbs up and cheers as they run past!

This year in addition to the Sunday half marathon they have asked us to perform on the Saturday Seawall run as well.  So if you're a part of the R'n'R Marathon we'll be seeing you on both days.

The concept behind this Marathon is rather appealing.  The race course is lined with live acts that will provided music for the runners as they traverse the course.

The first 10K run is on Saturday Oct 24th and the half marathon is Sunday Oct. 25th.  Maybe we'll see you there.

For more details of the marathon please click thru the following link:  Rock'n'Marathons: Vancouver

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Behind the Music: Recharge

We had a lot of fun recording this song.  It began very close to the end of the recording sessions.  Most of the album had been figured out, recorded, arragned, even pretty close to mixed.  In listening we both thought there could be another moment, something a bit more ambient, so I started messing around with ideas.

Recharge was born of a cheeky inspired thought: what if I recycled a drum track from our debut album "The World Over."   We cut the drums for that album at Mushroom studio, with both Jonas Fairly and Jesse Smith covering the drumming duties.  For Recharge it was Jesse's drum track from our song "For the Glory" that I used as the basis for the track.  However, unlike The World Over, where we'd been making a huge bombastic, large room, lots of tracks kind of record, on Autonomous we wanted to make a dance record so that fantastic live room had to be tamed.  (Kudo's to Shawn Penner for his excellent engineering once again, those tracks still sound amazing!)

I did a quick stem mix of just the drum tracks, with the chambers muted, and the room mics lowered way down, just being keyed from the snare track subtly.  Then, as a stereo bounce I imported them into Ableton where I cut them up into four measure loops just to see where we could take things.

From there we messed around with a bunch of synths, real and virtual, until settling on a Crumar string machine to build the opening sounds.   All the gothic choir singing came about well under the influence very late one night.  We had a different bassline to begin with, something a bit more like Gorillaz might do, but that ended up on the editing room floor.

Stefan Sigerson was up from Los Angeles this past winter and on one of his visits to our studio we played him the first few ideas for the song and he was inspired.  With that encouragement we started to flesh the song out a little more but it wasn't until Don Harrison dropped in to add his guitar that we felt the song was coming to life.  He stopped by fairly late one evening, post Sons of Freedom rehearsal, and we played him the track.  Without even a proper arrangement I just started playing scenes in Abelton Live and he jammed along with it.  All the funky disco guitar parts were recorded that night.  Then, after some editing and proper thought about arrangement we played that for Stefan once again and he recorded the bassline for the song (though not without some annoying struggles with latency in Ableton - anyone have a good fix for those problems in Live?).

The song was taking shape, we'd kept things pretty simple with the lyrics, this wasn't meant to be a statement song but an ambient dance track; something to help you get into the mood for a good album.  We had the singing finished and the song was almost done however I felt it could go further still.  Don to the rescue once again.

After another rehearsal and this time with a full house full of friends and party atmostphere Don came in, we plugged his guitar into a couple distortion pedals (the Big Muff seems to come to mind) and he just soloed over the whole song, beginning to end!  Obviously from hearing the final version you can tell we didn't take advantage of all those musical moments, but the final movement of the song completely bursts with energy as he rips into his crazy solo.  It reminds me of Adrien Belew somewhat and is one of my personal favourite moments on the entire song.

Please have a listen and let us know what you think.  It's just one of twelve songs we've included on our new album Autonomous, we're both really proud of it!

Cheers and thanks for reading.

Tuesday 15 September 2015


We are excited to announce the release of our second full length album, Autonomous.  Twelve songs that combine the style and sound of modern electronic dance music with more experimental and traditional song writing.  

Have a listen, download it, share it, comment on it.  We'd love to hear what you think!!

with love from Mark and Isabelle

thanks to:
Robert Edmonds for the artwork 
Don Harrison for the guitar
Leigh Grant for the drums
Stefan Sigerson for the bass and brilliance
Ingrid Schroeder and Barry Flynn for the song writing
Jordy Birch for the additional production
Paul Schroeder and Adam Percy for their brilliant mixes


Matt Kennedy, Hugh Ellenwood, Elaine Henderson, Jesse Smith, Kevin Jones, Misty Reid, Jane Dunlop, Vince Tuckwood, Patrick Gilmore, Helen Mitteregger, Hajnalka Mandula, Richard Bafaro, our families, The Population Drops, Jim Newton, Sex With Strangers, Paul Dwyer, Benn McGuire,  Marc "Bandcouver" Bignell, Oswaldo Perez, , EatART, VNBphoto, and everyone who's about to listen to this album..  

Wednesday 2 September 2015

The UMAs - Feature article

We are very pleased to share the featured article from the Unsigned Music Awards site this week!  They contacted us this past summer and we conducted a fairly extended interview with them.  Please check it out!  

"Record producer Mark Henning and fashion designer Isabelle Dunlop are not your average husband and wife. The independently successful Vancouver couple decided to form Combine the Victorious after an evening of cocktails in 2007, and they haven’t looked back since...

    read more by clicking the above passage.

Marina LeClair photography

Thursday 27 August 2015

Autonomous Arrives Sept 14th 2015

We are pleased to announce the official release date for our new full length album AUTONOMOUS is set at September 14th 2015.   Below is a playlist of about half of the songs we've uploaded onto Soundcloud, have a listen and please feel free to share!

Monday 17 August 2015

Encryption - new electronic instrumental

We present our late addition to the album "Encryption".   Just finished this one over the weekend and created the cubist video from some cool live footage our friend, the great and creative Stefan Sigerson, shot last March at a live show.

This one fills in the gaps between the more pop songs on Autonomous, such as Stop Givin Up On Love and the deeper dance tracks like Stand In Front of Tanks.  Kind of a spy music track.

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Song Writing - Stop Givin Up On Love

Here's another new song from our forth-coming Autonomous album.  This one is sequenced as the album's closing track, a sweet way to say goodbye (before starting the whole thing over again!).

We started writing Stop Givin Up On Love over four years ago.  It was titled If Not Love and was much slower, with a completely different chorus.  However the story behind the lyrics has remained pretty much  the same.  It's a song I wrote initially about my brother, who was going through a very rough patch, and in it's initial iteration was very slow and a little depressing sounding.  We put it away and hardly gave it a thought for years.  It was written in the same weekend as our song California, which also started out much slower than it's ended up.

At around xmas last year I was going though all the various songs that we'd sketched, recorded, or finished, trying to get a feel for what was going to make up our album.   Because I've started writing and recording  in Ableton Live it was really easy to play with the tempo of the song and by bringing it up 10 bpm it started to happily bounce along.  That gave me the confidence to continue playing around with it.  My first thought was to ditch the dreary sounding chorus and write something better.  The words came from a conversation Isabelle and I were having that afternoon, and suddenly we had a new hook!  Well the world's not spinning faster, a hundred years for us to master, stop givin up on love.  It was simple, and fairly obvious in its meaning, and I adored the harmony and top line Isabelle sings.  It sounds so caribbean and happy!

The keyboard parts were really fun.  The whole rethink began with the sparse synth bass.  Then the bouncy Nick Rhodes kinda part immediately appeared and I decided to really pay some homage to ol' Duran Duran.

As we developed the song we had a really fun night recording with Don Harrison (Sons of Freedom) who added the guitar parts and then played that result to Stefan Sigerson who immediately got excited and pushed for more synths in the chorus.  He added in a cool echoey guitar part and a piano line to give it even more depth.  Everything was coming together but the programmed drums seemed to lack the drive I felt was necessary.   To rectify that I called up old friend (and former drummer of my 90's band Pure) Leigh Grant to come in for a recording session.  Leigh just sat down at the kit and immediately played the perfect beat!  I wish I had all my mics ready for his very first listen pass because we could have used it!   In fact I believe it was on his second run through that we got everything down on the hard drives.  A great drummer.

All the parts were on tape and the song had a great deal more energy, which exposed the old vocals, and definitely made them seem out of context.  I'd built such a bigger song around the vocals that they seemed lost and out of place.   Isabelle's vocals by contrast were keepers from the very first session.  Once we'd figured out her harmony line and the outro vocal parts it was just a matter of setting up the mic and pressing record.  My vocals on the other hand took  almost a month to figure out.  A problem with self-production of course, but I needed to explore many different approaches to the lead vocal until I discovered the way it is on record now.  I guess because we had come from such a mellow start it was challenging for me to ramp up the energy.  In the end it took a little bit of enhancement from a few too many drinks to allow me to sing the song.  Quite pleased with it now, so I guess the hours and hours of singing were worth it!

Have a listen and please let us know what you think, and if you like it please share.  We are super excited about these songs, so we both really want them to find their audience!

Thanks for reading and listening,

Stop Givin Up On Love

I see you questioning, just why am I still here?
it's not as if it's been much fun for a while now.
And even the sunshine is failing to appear
to lift that gloom across your shoulders.
And if I feel the weight of all of what you must endure
I somehow know it makes me stronger
and that tiny spark that lives so deep inside your heart
well we all should make it bolder.

Well the world's not spinning faster
a hundred years for us to master
stop givin up on love
yeah the world's not spinning faster
a thousand years for us to master
stop givin up on love.

It's been a year or two since the last time we saw you
and now computer screens seem to be the best we can do.
I hear you telling me about your broken history
and you know I wish I could be closer to you.
'Cause you're looking back at all that coulda/shoulda been
and feeling tired from misadventures.
and that tiny spark that lives so deep inside your heart
is calling out for a new answer.

Well the world's not spinning faster
a hundred years for us to master
stop givin up on love
yeah the world's not spinning faster
a thousand years for us to master
stop givin up on love.
Well the world's not spinning faster
a million years for us to master
stop givin up on love
yeah the world's not spinning faster
a billion years before we pass her,
stop givin up on love.

You don't have to fall apart chasing all your dreams
You don't have to fall apart, you're closer than it seems

©2015 Combine the Victorious

Thursday 16 July 2015

Isabelle's Story: Caught Up To You

 “Caught Up to You”

                            How’s She know what’s going on in my head
                            What did she mean by those words?    
                            Was it the fight that made it alright or is it in all of us?
                            You play with my emotions like it’s a joke that I care 
                            But me without my senses, there’s nobody there.

                            Caught up, caught up, caught up to you
                            Caught up, caught up, caught up to you

                             What if I don’t want to run in your race
                             I’ve got my eye on the bigger picture
                             Are you ready for that pace? 
                             To copy’s the way, does that make it okay?
                              Here’s hoping original wins the day ,
                              Here’s hoping original wins the day 
                              Here’s hoping.
                              Caught up, caught up, caught up to you
                              Caught up, caught up, caught up to you                               
                              It’s just the way we are
                              It’s just the way we are
                            ©Dunlop/Henning/Harrison 2015

Hello,  Isabelle here, the other half of Combine the Victorious.  I’ve been busy with our store on Main St. in Vancouver for the past year and a half so I’ve not been on-line as much, but I have been out and about in the real world singing and having some brilliant conversations.

We've just posted another new song and here is the story behind “Caught Up to You”

During our writing time for Autonomous I’d started experimenting with coming into the store and voice recording any idea or sounds that were floating around in my head.  I’ve always found that songs help me process what’s going on around me and in my own head, so it’s starting to make sense that one can hear glimpses of songs in the flutter of a butterfly over your head or the hum of an engine beside you idling at a traffic light.

That particular day the inspiration came from a phone call.  Mark (Combine the Victorious) was working with his production partner and they were working with a few new female voices  and the challenge was thrown down for me to try and write a rap. Ha!!  Fully loaded up on a bit of jealousy, competitiveness and morning coffee I started to write out some words.  What did he even mean... write a rap???   This is what was brewing around my head that day: headlines, songs, and personal emotions, perfect for  a new idea!

I’d heard Lily Allen’s song “Sheesus” and it was on was on my mind.  What did she mean by those words?  She's the female Jesus, or is she just better than all the current gals on the charts? In the heat of the competition is it alright to imply such grand notions or maybe there’s a bit of jesus/good is in all of us; we are all molecules and energy after all right?

I’ve learned that when it comes to competition I just have to do my best and have the patience to let things unfold naturally.  Make the best design, hit the right note, let your work represent you, and any competition push you to actually do your best.  Jealousy is usually a wave that passes and lets you know how you genuinely feel about someone; use sparingly!

Back in 2012 Combine the Victorious played in Stockholm, Sweden as part of a little European tour at a place called Bonden Bar. The gig was great: perfect venue (walkable with our gear from the hotel), responsive audience and lots of dancing!  Afterwards there was an amazing sound and energy in the streets as we were walking back to the hotel with friends.  That chaotic energy resonated with us both and as soon as we got home from Europe Mark recorded a demo: “Damascus Cab.”

It was all only an instrumental for ages until “Caught Up to You” came along.  My poem/ rap idea found its music.  It didn’t matter that they weren’t written at the same time, what mattered was if the lyrics and timing fitted the groove and intent of the instrumental track.  I’m not sure if this method of song writing always works but it’s like Mark wove all the separate elements and bonded them together, as though it happened spontaneously to make something much bigger !

Basically “Caught Up to You” is for me:

1. Emotionally about growing up.. shedding those annoying patterns that I fall back on when I need to grow... worth the effort. 
2. Right place right time...  right lyric, right music
3. BRILLIANT to dance to... just try it loud

Songs are amazing that way, they seem to help process the thoughts and ideas that are around us all the time; an unknown therapist to your life.  It was a cover of I Can See Clearly Now by Hothouse Flowers  that was my best friend as I made the journey from Scotland to Canada  at 21.  

The line “you play with my emotions like it’s a joke that I care" references those annoying paranoid thoughts when someone’s happily winding you up and doesn’t care if you crack.  It’s all part of growing up, figuring out who is genuinely helping you out or those that manipulate you for their own end.  If I can rise above the situation for a moment I can usually realize how I actually feel and deal with the situation a bit more rationally rather than ridiculously emotionally.

"To copy's the way, does that make it ok?"  In Fashion copying ideas is all part of the process: as soon as a  designer has a fashion show their designs are being sketched and replicated in a factory perhaps only hours later.  Usually by that  point the designer has already moved onto their next collection, ready to let go after months deliberating over every decision about each separate garment and accessory.  So perhaps it’s all just part of the natural cycle?  However "here's hoping original wins the day" is still my personal feeling on that issue.  

It’s honestly amazing getting your thoughts out on paper and into a song or making a piece of clothing from a flat bit of fabric.  Creativity really re-energizes me and I hope you get a chance to listen to our song,  it’s worth it.

Until next time, must go sew a dress.


p.s.  also just want to give a big thanks to Don Harrison for his excellent and funky guitar playing on this song.  It was the final piece of the puzzle that pulled everything together and gave it the sound of our new album Autonomous!  

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Sunday July 12 Railway Club 9PM

We are excited to be performing all the songs from our new album Autonomous live this Sunday night at the Railway Club opening for Spectacular Spectacular from Los Angeles.  

Doors 8
Combine the Victorious 9PM
Spectacular Spectacular 10:15

The Railway Club
579 Dunsmuir

BIG thanks to Robert Edmonds for the poster!!

Thursday 2 July 2015

New Music! Real Life Turns Me On

We are excited to share the first track from the new album "Autonomous" - Real Life Turns Me On.   Started back in 2013, it's a song that has evolved thru several different versions until it arrived at this master.

Our good friend Stefan Sigerson was instrumental in bringing this track to life, he was there right at the beginning and played both the bassline, and the disco guitar as well as adding the piano breakdown all on the first night.  It then kind of sat on the hard drives for a while before we revisited it.  At the time we were exploring a different direction but over the course of the year we kept coming back to Real Life and adding things, subtracking others, and finally hit on the robotic vocal effect that runs through out when we figured we had something cool.

Sometime in 2013/14 we ran the track past Juice while he was still in Vancouver and playing with us, and he laid down the lead guitar you can hear on the song.   I think it adds a nice counterbalance to the disco guitars and the pads.

It's a big one!  Check it out.

Real Life Turns Me On by Combine the Victorious
Produced, engineered and mixed by Henning (with additional production by Stefan Sigerson)
Written by Dunlop, Henning, Sigerson

Recorded by Boutique Empire Studio
Mixed at Armoury Studio, Vancouver
Mastered by Craig Waddell (Gotham City Studio)

Artwork by Robert Edmonds (Evoke)
Vocals: Isabelle, Mark
Bass, Disco Guitar, Piano: Stefan Sigerson
Lead Guitar: Justin "Juice" Kadis
Programmed drums, Synths: Henning

Friday 26 June 2015

Single: It's Still On

It's Still On (Paul Schroeder mix)

This is a very substantial update of our song "Please" (off the Disagreements ep) retitled It's Still On for 2015.  Good friend and excellent music producer Paul Schroeder has given us a gorgeous mix and we felt the need to put it up!

Isabelle created the background visuals for this clip, gathered from just about everywhere.  Hope you enjoy it.

It's Still On
written by Mark Henning, Isabelle Dunlop, Ingrid Schroeder, Barry Flynn
Produced and engineered by: Henning (Boutique Empire Studio)
Mixed by: Paul Schroeder
Mastered by: Craig Waddell (Gotham City Studio)

Vocals: Isabelle, Mark
Backing Vocals: Ingrid, Barry
extra production elements: Paul Schroeder
Drums: Kevin Jones
all instruments: Henning


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

GIving up, so heart broken
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
for a better place, someday
might not be that far away

It's ok, we made it through today
we'll beg or steal or 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 savour

It's ok, we made it through today
we'll beg or steal or 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 savour

©2008 Combine the Victorious
(p) 2015 Boutique Empire

Friday 12 June 2015

Recording: Autonomous mixed!

We had a fantastic session at the Armoury Studios at the end of May, and after living with the mixes for a week we've submitted them off to Craig Waddell for mastering.  This is our best work yet, with our most complete vision for an album and definitely the most dance floor worthy collection of song yet.  Isabelle and I haven't figured out the final running order yet, and we've been playing with several different orders to see which flows best, but we're looking for a nice long playing album.  Something that you can put on at the start of a party to get things going, and then hopefully put at again at the end of the party to set your night activities in the right direction!

Everything sounded quite stunning through the overhead monitors.  It is my favourite room to mix in Vancouver, so good!   We even had the opportunity to record a quick piano part to start our first day.  The middle eight of the song Caught Up To You has a quirky samba kind of break and there is now a lovely Yamaha grand piano playing the part.

Big thanks to Paul Silvera and our assistant Spencer Bleasdave for such a smooth and rewarding session.  We managed to actually run all ten songs thru the SSL during our session and are now listening carefully to Craig Waddell's mastering.  It's easily our best work yet, puts everything else into its shadow.  We shall next look to Robert Edmonds to create something inspiring for the album art.

It's all coming together!

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Vancouver Creatives Two - June 4th

We are pleased to be a part of the opening of Vancouver Creatives Two which will be held at Make Gallery, starting June 4th until July 3rd 2015.

A few months back Bastien and Virginie of VNB took a glorious portrait of Isabelle in her store, using an antique box camera.  We had a wonderful time meeting them and the shoot itself was quite illuminating.  As you can see from the poster above they have photographed several really interesting and inspiring people from around Vancouver, and it's quite an honour to be included in the exhibition.

An added bonus to our meeting VNB is they have asked us to perform at the opening party! 
Combine the Victorious will be playing two sets on June 4th amid all the stunning photos: 7:30 and 9:00.   Admission is free and the doors open from 6-10PM.

Vancouver Creatives Two
MAKE Gallery
257 E. 7th Ave Vancouver BC
Live music at 7:30 and 9:00
Free admission, open to the public.  

photography by VNB

Thursday 7 May 2015

Mixing at Armoury Studios

We are really excited to have just booked time at the amazing sounding Armoury Studio to do our final mixdown.  After the months (years in some cases) we've been working on these songs, it feels thrilling to set a date for completion.  

The monitoring in that room is astounding.  John Vrtacic designed the over head sound system and it has possibly the best bottom end I've ever experienced.  Really looking forward to the session.

Have to say thanks again to Don Harrison and Stefan Sigerson for their contributions to the songs.  Everything is sounding fantastic!

Getting closer to completion.  yes.


Thursday 23 April 2015

Recording Progress: Recharge

We've been busy with so many projects as well as putting our live show together for the 29th, but I found some time to get back to a new song we are recording.  This one features Jesse Smith on drums, Stefan Sigerson on bass and Don Harrison on guitar and I must say it's turning out DANCEY!  Wow what a great combination of players.  This is just me starting to create the mix, but it's already pretty astounding.  Check it out.

A video posted by Mark Henning (@boutiqueempire) on

Monday 6 April 2015

Autonomous: Recording Editing Drums

Had a great day recording last weekend when Leigh Grant (original drummer from Pure) came in to play on three more songs.  It's been really fun to see how adding live drums to the tracks makes everything come to life.  He's now playing on over half the album.

Leigh killed it once again. We tracked drums on Best Tonight, California '15, and Stop Givin Up On Love.    I started with Best Tonight so we could enter it into CBC Searchlight, and I've just finished the edits on the last of the three,  They as sounding super solid.  Very proud of Boutique Empire studio, it's turning out some big sounding songs!

Last year Jordy Birch and I had Leigh come into The Valt studio, (Jordy's studio downtown), and he played on four other songs, one of which we later dumped the original song entirely and built a new one on top of his drumming: Happy Girl.   I know we were all hard on each other in our old band back in the day, but man, Leigh can really drum.  It's been great having him add his musicianship to our songs. The combination of his drumming with Don Harrison's guitar work is making every song they've played on just leap to life!

The new album will be titled Autonomous.  It's really shaping up; the tracks are almost done, the mixing is in process and we're getting love on the first song we've shared Best Tonight.

Thanks for reading, there is so much new stuff just about ready to surface!


A video posted by Mark Henning (@boutiqueempire) on

Monday 30 March 2015

Help! CBCSearchlight

We've entered out new song, Best Tonight into the CBC Searchlight contest.  We have high hopes for it but need your help.  It's one of those vote a lot kind of things, but in this case, because it involves the CBC I think attracting attention its way is kinda good too!  Plus we'll hopefully have our song debuted on the radio before we even release it!

So if you'd be so kind to click thru the following link; have a listen Best Tonight, and if it pleases you, give us a vote, that would be greatly appreciated.  You can vote for up to ten bands per day so listen to more and press that button with liberty!

Mark and Isabelle

CBC Searchlight 

Saturday 28 March 2015

New music: Best Tonight

We've just finished this track, Best Tonight, and are going to enter it into the CBC Searchlight contest, so please help us out with some voting this April!

Combine the Victorious - Best Tonight

Produced and performed by Combine  the Victorious
Recorded and mixed at Boutique Empire Recording by M Henning

Music: Henning, Dunlop, Harrison, Grant
Lyrics: Henning, Dunlop, Birch

Vocals: Mark, Isabelle
Guitars: Don Harrison
Drums: Leigh Grant
Synthesizers etc: Mark

Best Tonight

The odds are long but we'll still make it
Set a records and then we'll break it

We booked a flight and then we'll take it
Australian nights and getting naked

Short on money, long on soul
what we found funny was all that we could not control

So we'll travel the world and visit our friends
We're putting our dreams together again
"Cause nothing makes me happier than music
We'll make the best tonight

So we'll travel the world and visit our friends
We're putting our dreams together again
"Cause nothing makes me happier than music
We'll make the best tonight

Don't be so hard, you've already made it
It's not that far, you've already made it

Feel so fine and it's alright we're gonna make the best , the best tonight.  

©2015 Combine the Victorious

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Recording: Recharge

We are getting closer and closer to finally finishing our new album.  Back on my birthday we had a listen through to nine out of the ten songs that'll be on the collection.  This little instagram clip is a tiny section from one of the last songs we'll be finishing, Recharge.  You can hear the guitar playing of our friend Don Harrison over the repurposed drumming of Jesse Smith (I grabbed song of his drumming from a song off our debut album The World Over and built a new groove over top).   It's quite an ambient and funky thing we've created and should fit in nicely between the more traditional dance rock tracks and the electro-disco vibe of the others.  Check out it.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Progress Report: new album "Autonomous"

Well, we've been working for months now and the album is finally taking shape!  So far we've decided on at least seven songs that will be for the vinyl version.  They are in no particular order:

Stand in Front of Tanks
It's Still On
Hardly Spoken
Caught Up to You
Best Tonight
Real Life Turns Me On

Some of these songs we've written on our own but several have been collaborations with old friends and new.  We can list Ingrid Schroeder, Barry Flynn, Stefan Sigerson, Jordy Birch, Justin "Juice" Kadis, Misty Reid, Leigh Grant, Don Harrison amongst our writing partnerson this album.  It's been really interesting comparing the results of each collaboration, as the songs are all playing together quite nicely.

I think we still have a couple really long and hard vocal sessions for the rest of the material we're considering, and there are still so many ideas that we've started in the past that have only reached an very primitive demo stage.  It is proving to be our most mature work easily, and the production is far more intense than any of our earlier works as well.  Perhaps it's due to writing in Ableton Live for this album but the new songs are the most accomplished and ready for the dancefloor that we've ever done!

We'll be recording with Don Harrison again next week and that should possibly wrap up the song writing portion of our adventure.  It's getting so close now we just want to start pushing the songs out there, but I think everything will make better sense when you get to experience them all together!

Thanks for reading, stay well and stay tuned!


Sunday 22 February 2015

Influences: Mick MacNeil / Simple Minds

Working on another new song today, one we started in January titled either Humanity or Illuminaut.  Not sure yet.  Anyway, we've had the pleasure of Don Harrison do a very effective guitar part on this song so it's starting to sound really good.  I was attempting to build a more dynamic lift for the chorus and just spent a few hours messing around with a few different synths before finding a good part.

This afternoon I dialled in a really nice wide lead synth sound on my novation and suddenly this very Simple Minds - Sons and Fascination era part came thru my hands.  It occurred to me that over the decades I've probably referenced the album and more specifically Mick MacNeil's keyboard playing hundred of times.  What a great player; some of his parts were so simple to play but they would expand a chorus or bridge way more than the guitar could.  I have always enjoyed the way he could layer sounds or add effects, usually a quick sixteenth note delay or something similar to his parts, and they would almost always be the most interesting music event happening in the song.

There are loads of influential musicians in our lives, Mick is just one of thousands, but it's nice to recognize how important he was to me.   I'm certain anyone my age will know Simple Minds but if you did miss them first time around do yourself a favour and check 'em out.  Lot's of great songs to discover!


The album is progressing along, we are now at 9 songs on the keeper pile!  We'll share something pretty soon.  Want everything to be great first!


Wednesday 11 February 2015

Song Writing: Stop Givin' up on Love-sample

Just a quick note today to mark more progress on the album.  We recently rediscovered a song that we'd started in 2011 and have now brought it up to date:  the sample above is a work in progress and just the chorus hook to our new song Stop Givin Up on Love.

This song was originally titled If Not Love and was almost a dirge on its first iteration.  However after several years, a lot of development, many DJ gigs and the rest of the album taking a more progressive shape it has morphed into the cheery hook that you can hear above.  Isabelle's voice sounds great on the harmony part and now I need to get  the verse vocals down so I can pass it over to Don Harrison to add some inspiring guitars!  Certainly it runs a counterpoint to the electronic muscle of Stand in Front of Tanks.

It's taking us a long long time to complete our new album but everything is sounding better than we've done before so I suspect the process has required the time and we've needed the perspective to really pick up our game.  Autonomous will be a very sexy dance album when we're done, I promise!

Thanks for staying along for the ride.  More to come soon!


Tuesday 3 February 2015

New Video: Stand in Front of Tanks

Stand in Front of Tanks

New instrumental track from the upcoming full length "Autonomous" arriving 2015

Music written and performed by Combine the Victorious
Recorded at Boutique Empire Recording, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Video features footage from Tianamen Square 1989.

Produced by Boutique Empire
Edited by Mark R Henning

Sunday 1 February 2015

Editing a new Video

We are currently just about finished putting a final cut together for our new video: Stand in Front of Tanks.   Depending on computer issues and rendering time we should have it posted tomorrow.  Fingers crossed!


a couple screen grabs from the edit.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Seeking Representation

As we approach finishing our new album the thoughts of touring are arising.  We are currently looking for someone to help us book a west coast tour, as well as assistance with radio tracking and press.

If you are interested in working with us, please contact me here:

Thanks!  A couple more new tunes almost finished, getting close.


Saturday 3 January 2015

Happy New Year 2015!

We had an amazing start to the new year with our performance at eatART: Ascension 2015.   A Sold Out party at their splendidly decorated warehouse in East Van; we played a 55 minute set right at midnight to 500 eager dancers! We even opened with Auld Lang Syne sung thru the vocoder.  A blinding time!  Big Cheers and thanks to everyone who organized the event, and bigger love to the well attired party people!


Recording tonight: cotup2u.    

things are all bleedin' comin' together! *