Here are the stories behind the songs on SPARTA plus some information on the recording process.


This project has taken me a while to complete. It is a familiar story -- work schedules and family requirements made finishing the album particularly difficult.  However, it has taken just over a year to complete and it has been a completely individual project: I wrote the songs, played every instrument, produced it, mixed it, and mastered it.  Note:  Using Hart Dynamics pads, I actually played drums on this album!  No, I am not a great drummer.
Like several of my other projects, this album was based on a short story I started writing during the 2013.  I wrote about 15 songs based on this story, but whittled it down to 11.  Again, if the song didn't move the story along, I ditched it.  The songs are important and had a huge impact on each other.  As with my other projects, I wanted to ensure that I could actually play these songs live with a band – a good band – and record some in a live setting.  As usual, when you have a “good idea explosion” there are always consequences. The big challenge with this is that, as an individual project, adding songs and complexity seems like it adds time required for completion exponentially.


Like "...the end", this collection was written as a vinyl LP.  There are 11 songs with the first five being side one and the final six being side two.  I doubt this will ever be on vinyl, but I do feel melancholy for the days of sitting down and listening to music with friends.  I thought that this project would be a good candidate for that because the story flows from the beginning to the end.
The songs were recorded on a recent iMac using ProTools 10.3.  The interface was a Focusrite Sapphire Pro 26 using the iMac's Thunderbolt port.  I used a Lacie Thunderbolt drive to capture the audio.  This was not recorded in a studio unless the pile of gear in the basement/underground lair counts as a studio. There were no megabuck plug-ins in use, and the real standout was the ik Multimedia Ampeg SVX bass amp plugin.  As usual, we used an old ’73 Marshall JMP 50-watt head, an early 90’s JCM-900 SLX 50-watt, our Traynor Guitar Mate Reverb combo, and a variety of speaker cabinets with Celestion speakers. I also used an 2x12 Avatar cabinet with a Greenback and Vintage 30, and it really came through.  There is POD 2.0 (Red Bean) and ADA MP-1 on this recording as well.  Finally, we used our workhorse SM-57s, SM-58s, and a number of Samson and MXL condenser mics.  Our Presonus preamps have been a pleasant surprise and they are recommended.

Guitars? I used my two alder-bodied Williams GSs with AttackBuckers (one hard-tail, one trem) for the bulk of the recording.  I also used my Yngwie Signature Strat a great deal, and it is a particularly good sounding guitar.  As always, we also used a number of Les Pauls, our old-time 1975 Ibanez Flying V (Rocket Roll Sr.), the Jeff Beck Les Paul, and our Fender HM Strat.


The bass choice was easy – our much beloved Made in Japan Fender P-Bass from 1987. Strings are always Ernie Ball Pink Slinkys (for guitars and bass), and this time we used their new flatwounds in several places.  Very cool. 


Cables? The George L’s are really, really good; the skinny ones are the favorites around here. We even have some George L’s speaker cables. Yep…we thought it was all hype, too.  

As always, I tried to avoid a lot of creative editing with the software and what you hear is, in most cases a complete take played straight through from start to finish.  This time I used a lot of the "draft" guitar solos in the final mix.  Somehow they just seemed better!   Edit less, play more.

What is up with the title?

The title Sparta covers a number of themes.  Ancient Sparta; a more recent embattled idea; a town you may be familiar with.  Sparta is what we are defending; it is that thing that others may want to destroy without really understanding.


This is the story of a young man living in the basement who is constantly online, fantasizing about his band, and not really getting anywhere. He is a constant loop, and each day becomes more like the last. 
Here are the songs in the order in which they appear on the album.  If you want the entire story, be sure to check back and download the "short story" and read it to get a feel for where the songs came from.  It may be available soon.

1.  Lost in Space
Facebook.  Instagram.  Reddit. Twitter. Nonstop texting.  Who remembers MySpace?  You name it.  It becomes difficult to tell where it begins and ends.  It is easy to get lost.  Seems like everyone is marching toward something without really knowing what is going on....zombies.

Gear Notes: The guitar solos were played on our Williams GS hardtail with AttackBuckers.  The guitar sound is the POD, a 50-watt Marshall JMP with a DOD 250 Overdrive, and a guitar plug-in blended…but mostly the Marshall.

2. What's In It For You
While the video games are cool, there must be something more.  Those failures and disappointments must be the result of a cosmic lottery, not the choices we make...or refuse to make.

Gear Notes: I used an old Les Paul Standard for most of the verse to get some low-end crunch.  The solo is a Williams GS Hardtail into the Marshall JCM 900.  I mic'd the Greenback with a 57 and used a little room mic to get some ambience.


3.  Hard Way

Why does everything have to be so hard?  Why don't our dreams just come true?  Disappointment can be a real soul-crusher...or a great motivator.

Gear Notes: I used some ADA MP-1 for some guitar sound on this song.  It is a really old one, and I ran it through a TubeWorks MOSFET power amp into an old TubeWorks 2x12 cab with V30s.  For some reason, that rig sounded really killer that day!  Note:  I think it has a lot to do with the voltage coming out of the wall. 


4.  Something Stronger
Sometimes we just need something stronger to help us through the hard times.  It is hard to avoid when it is calling.  It doesn't solve anything -- it just puts it off for a little while.

Gear Notes: I used an old analog MXR flanger on the section leading into the solo...the old-school kind.  There is also an MXR Carbon Copy delay on the solo.  I also tried about four different cowbells before I found the right one.  A rock album has to have at least one appearance of the mighty cowbell.

5.  Be The Enemy
Time to fight "The Man"...figuratively, of course.  There is no violence except that in Call of Duty.  Time to get motivated and try to move forward...in the real world, whatever that is.

Gear Notes: Sometimes you just need a shaker.  I used my FM Goldtop and a Dunlop Joe Perry slide for the slide parts.  There is some genuine Echoplex EP-3 mixed in here for ambience on the slide solo.  Yes, it is noisy.

The end of the first side -- sorry...vinyl is too expensive to give away.


6.  Sparta
The Man came to the basement and tried to give some "tough love".  He doesn't understand the complexities of video gaming/playing in a band and tried to give some guidance...which was ignored.

Gear Notes: A Rocktron Voice Box in the solo....kind of like the "Charlie Brown" adult voice.

7.  Can't Go Back
One of the darker songs on the album.  Not being able to go back and change things is a consistent theme in Western literature, and even makes an appearance in "Napoleon Dynamite."  Feeling sorry for yourself is not valid course of action when things are going badly.

Gear Notes: The clean guitar sound is the Spare Parts Les Paul through the Traynor.  You can hear the goodness of the AttackBucker in the neck position during the solo.


8.  Crossed the Line
Time to get the band going again, Elwood.  Feeling trapped, getting out and playing a gig is going to make a difference.

Gear Notes: The first appearance of the venerable Fender HM Strat.  It is still a great guitar (bone stock) and really cuts through.  The wah solo is the hardtail GS played through an ancient Thomas Organ "Cry Baby" into the JMP Marshall.

9.  Big Star
I think most people live like their lives are a dress rehearsal rather than realizing that time is really slipping away, every day.  Like I've said before -- I was initially more interested in being a rock star than a proficient musician....a big, common mistake. This is what "American Idol" feeds in to.  By the way -- if you are making "big bucks" in music today, you are part of the ultra 1%.  We've all become used to music being free unless we pay $75 to sit in the last row at an arena show.

Gear Notes: The guitar solo was played on my 1999 Yngwie Signature Strat (even though I talk about a Les Paul in the song).  It was played straight though and I think the tone really fits the song.  It is a great-sounding guitar even though it is not an Yngwie-like solo.

10.  What We Get
When we sit back and do nothing, we'll wind up living in a Government apartment, riding a Government bus past the Government green space to our Government-approved job, shop in the Government store, and wait for the Government to tell us what to do.  Don't wait for it to just happen.

Gear Notes: The guitar sound is layered with the Marshalls and the POD.  The AttackBuckers sound particularly good through the POD.

11.  Big Guns
Stay away from drugs...particularly the Big Guns.  It always leads to bad things.  Just watch an episode of "Behind the Music" or "Intervention".

Gear Notes: GS Guitars though the Marshalls.  The initial solo is on the trem-equipped model.  It took me a long time to get the drums completed!


Album complete...and it starts over...just like a day in his life.

Why so many guitar solos?  Like my other albums, the answer is simple: I am primarily a guitar player, it is a rock album, and I wanted to do some guitar solos.  I believe guitar solos are cool, and some of the great 70s and 80s soloists influenced my guitar style. I really like playing guitar. I am a guitar hoarder. I really didn’t want to do yet another guitar instrumental album, so the song structures are vessels for the guitar solo.
Do you wanna be a rock star?  No -- I want to find somebody to play with.  I really don't want to be a singer -- I would rather stand on stage right and play guitar and do some backup vocals.

Any secrets? As usual, a couple of things – use good quality strings and change them often. Note:  All you hear on this album are Ernie Ball strings.  Have your guitar set-up by somebody who knows what they are doing.  Use short patch cords between your guitar and amp or preamp. The first take of the solo is usually the one you like best. Finally, if you start getting frustrated while recording, take a break and come back to it.

Yet another word of warning. I don't care for Bro-country music.  I do listen to "Liquid Metal" on XM.  As previously stated, I like Blue Öyster Cult and Ted Nugent.  I do listen to vinyl.


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