After the success that was “Assembly Line,” I ended up going through a noise-making phase where I tried to create new sounds that I had never worked with before. As a result, the instrumental for “Live In Fear” is the result of me messing around with Ableton Live’s analog instrument in between classes. The sound that I eventually came up with was the noisy sine wave thing that plays at the very beginning of the song. Once that was made, I began to imagine a song that consisted mostly of that noisy sine wave thing and some heavy-hitting drums with vocals on top of it. So after layering a bunch of drum tracks and adding a ton of reverb and compression to some of them, I had what is essentially the first verse. Afterwards, I messed around with some more loops and layering of various synth sounds, added another tangent for the end of the song (I had been exploring musical tangents a lot since Out of the Blue), and eventually came up with an early draft “Live In Fear.”
The idea for the lyrics came from the instrumental. Once I organized all of the loops and heard the chorus section, the phrase “you want me to live in fear” came to me out of nowhere. Right then, I knew that I was going to write about fear mongering. Courtesy of the 2016 election, the first verse was the easiest thing in the world to write and the second verse wasn’t too hard either since people using your fear of the unknown to make you content with the status quo is an area I have a lot of experience with. The third verse, on the other hand, was pretty hard since 1) it had to refute everything that was said in the first two verses and 2) it had to do so with a smaller amount of bars. That verse (and especially the last line of it) is definitely the most important part of the song. Everything eventually came together though and I went ahead and recorded it.
After it was recorded, I showed a draft to Emily and she suggested two things: 1) making the third chorus stand out more and 2) adding more variety to the instrumental in the second verse since, at the time, it was identical to the first verse. At first, I couldn’t think of anything else to add since it was a pretty busy instrumental. I was listening to a lot of Kamasi Washington at the time though and after listening to the choir section during Thunder Cat’s solo on “Askim,” I figured that a choir would sound good at the end of the song despite the instrumental’s crowdedness. So, I bought a choir sample pack and incorporated it into the second verse and all of the choruses. Once that was finished, the song seemed to be almost done. Pretty simple, right?
Wrong. This song was an absolute nightmare to mix. And by nightmare, I mean that I still dream about mixing it and wake up screaming in the middle of the night in a cold sweat (ok I’m exaggerating but still). Originally, the primary source of bass in this song was from the kick drum since I had intended this to be a percussion heavy track. After I had posted it to Soundcloud though, I heard it in another pair of headphones and realized that the kick drum was overpowering everything in the mix. So, I immediately replaced the kick drum just to realize that the new kick drum left a gaping hole at the lower end of the mix. I ended up filling this with a whole new double-bass/ sub bass line that clashed with the synths. After fixing that problem and like 20 other problems that emerged from fixes to other problems, I had essentially pulled an all-nighter on a night when I should’ve been working on my thesis. The song sounded much better though so I re-uploaded it to Souncloud and let it sit there for over a year while I finished the rest of the album.
Now fast forward about year and half. I’m no longer in grad school, am employed (thank God), living in Boston, and am about to give my album to Nick Dragoni to master. Before I send the whole thing to him, however, I send him a few tracks so he can tell me if I’ve committed any deadly mixing sins. Turns out that I have and that deadly sin is that there’s a limiter on some of the master tracks, one of which is (*drum roll*) “Live In Fear.” So I go back into the Ableton file, remove the limiter from the master track, and completely screw up the entire mix in the process. Since I’m working (and climbing) full-time at this point in my life now, I can no longer afford to pull an all-nighter for the sake of remixing a song. So instead, I pull a few really late nights where I only sleep around 4 hours and, eventually, finish the song (even though I could’ve kept working on it even longer).
Now fast forward a few more months. My album is out, I’m thinking about the next one, and I’ve decided to hire a mixing engineer in the future since trying to get a professional sounding mix on nothing but iPhone earbuds, a pair of AudioTechnica ATH-M50x’s, and some Toyota RAV4 speakers is too f*cking much of a f*cking mind f*ck.