Death is Their Shepherd: Sketches and Relics

by Physick



Included in this digital album are some of the original musical sketches Phil Hodges composed for Death is Their Shepherd. Some of these sketches ended up on DITS relatively unchanged. Some were dramatically transformed. Others were not used at all. All of them offer a behind the scenes listen into Physick's collaborative composition process.

For Physick's first album, Songs for Friends, Phil and Michael generally met in person to audition new musical ideas, record tracks, and write lyrics. But during the Death is Their Shepherd writing process, Phil and Michael were very rarely able to get together because of their various logistical constraints (they do have twelve children between the two of them, after all). Because of this, they were forced to collaborate virtually by sharing digital files. We have included many of these digital "working files" in this collection of sketches and relics.

You may notice some missing pieces. Some of the tracks on Death is Their Shepherd are not represented here. There are various reasons for this:

1. Some of the tracks didn't change dramatically enough to be interesting.

For example, Michael wrote and recorded his compositions ("Memento Mori" and "Death is Their Shepherd") in the studio, and both of these recordings were left largely unaltered. In other words, the original demos for those tracks sound nearly identical to their final album versions.

2. Some of the tracks on Death is Their Shepherd were written and recorded the old school way: in person. Phil would visit the studio, audition new compositions on his guitar or piano, and Michael would sit beside him and write lyrics on paper. So no MIDI demo was necessary. That's the case for tracks like "Hi-Fruktose Noize Sserp" and "Precious in the Sight."

For those tracks written through digital collaboration, this is how a typical collaborative cycle played out. (We'll use Waltzing with Woland as an example.)

First, Phil composed the music on guitar and piano. Then he recorded a MIDI demo of his composition using real and virtual instruments. He then sent it to Michael for feedback before beginning to write the melody. The track "Reflections and Waltzing with Woland (MIDI Concept Demo)" is the very same concept file Phil first sent to Michael for feedback.

After receiving Michael's feedback and composing the melody, Phil recorded "dummy vocals" to the pertinent part of his MIDI demo. (Dummy vocals are merely vowel sounds that function as melodic and syllabic placeholders.) Phil sent the dummy vocal version of "Waltzing with Woland" to Michael. The very same track he sent to Michael is "Waltzing with Woland (Demo with Dummy Vocals)."

Then Michael wrote lyrics that matched the exact syllabic layout established in the dummy vocals. You can listen to the final version of "Waltzing with Woland" to hear how closely Michael stuck to Phil's original melody. After sending the lyrics back to Phil for feedback, the song was ready to record.

Physick began writing almost all of its new material in this manner about halfway through the Death is Their Shepherd compositional process. We're happy to share some of these files with you now to give you an idea of how Death is Their Shepherd came to fruition.


released October 30, 2015

music and MIDI sequencing: Phil Hodges
drums and electric guitar on “The Wrong Man (Concept Demo)”: Michael Minkoff



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Physick Sugar Hill, Georgia

Physick consists of composer and multi-instrumentalist Phil Hodges and lyricist producer Michael Minkoff.
Difficult to label, Physick's music richly rewards those who are willing to hear it on its own terms.

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