The Difference Engine was recorded between 1996 and 2006. I don't think I ever realized it would take me this long to make this album, but every time I got going, life kind of got in the way. I had a couple of goals for the album as a whole - I wanted to make an instrumental rock album where every song sounds different, but they all work together to create an album that takes the listener on a journey. I wanted to make something that both a regular rock fan can and a die-hard guitar fanatic can listen to and enjoy. Ultimately, I wanted to make the kind of album that I want to hear. Below I've got some random track notes, anecdotes, and comments on the songs that make up this album. This project really is a labor of love - I hope you can feel some of the passion in it when you hear the music. Thanks for listening. Track 1 - Deny Tyson - Guitar, Bass Scott - Drum Programming Recorded and Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings This song shows both my metal and surf-guitar influences. I wanted to use a gong when the bridge comes in, but fortunately Scott talked me out of that. I really like the intensity of this track - it just keeps driving. Even the bridge, where the drums drop out, still maintains this - I'm pretty happy about how it came out (and glad that we didn't use a gong). This is one of those weird songs for me (like Deny and Wraygun - see below) where there is no solo. It just didn't fit the song to launch into a solo, so I don't. Still, it is kind of unusual to ditch the solo on the first track of an instrumental rock guitar album. Track 2 - Traffic Jam Tyson - Guitars Scott - Bass, Drums Recorded at Enharmonik Studios (now The Hanger) Edited at The Rumble Bucket Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings One of my favorite tracks - I love the funky vibe of this. The first chord you hear is a G13(#9). Not the most common chord to hear in rock, but it was one of the first chords I learned to play, because it's used in Yes's song 'Owner of Lonely Heart' - one of the first songs I learned to play as a fledgling guitarist. Scott and I recorded this many years ago, and we were pretty happy with the performances. When we went to mix it we found that the mic on the top of the snare drum had died shortly into the song - so the snare sounded horrible when we tried to mix it. I ended up copying the the sound of a single hit from the top mic and recreating the snare track by hand on my computer (matching it to the points where the bottom snare hits). This worked really well - the snare sounds nice and tight, and doing this saved the performance so that we didn't have to re-record this one. Track 3 - Doorway Tyson - Guitars, Bass, Percussion, banging on door frame Scott - Drum Programming Recorded and Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings This song was inspired about going through a change in life - going through a doorway. But I had a lot of trouble coming up with a name for the track - it seemed a little tacky to just name it after the girl who inspired it but I couldn't think of anything else. One day, as Scott and I were listening to an early mix of it, I was leaning in the doorway of the control room and banging on the doorframe in time to the drums. Since all the nails in that part of the doorframe were coming loose, it made a bunch of noise. Scott and I looked at each other and had the same thought at the same time - he grabbed a mic, and we recorded me banging on the doorway - giving me an additional percussion track and a song title. Recording this song was all about reduction - there was a two and a half minute intro that was axed, and there were a bunch of guitars going on behind the solo that got dropped. I love how out starts out with a bang now instead of building up to it, and I love how the solo sounds over a really simple bass line and drum part. Sometimes, less really is more. Track 4 - Resignation Tyson - Guitars, Bass Scott - Drum Programming Recorded and Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings See the comments below for 'Acceptance'. Track 5 - Acceptance Tyson - Guitars Scott - Bass, Drum Programming Recorded and Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings It's always a little weird to describe where an instrumental comes from - since there are no lyrics it can mean different things to different people. I had even considered dropping all the song titles and just calling them 'track 1', 'track 2', etc. These two songs convinced me to not do that - because the titles are a part of the creative work. 'Resignation' and 'Acceptance' really go together - as different as they sound, these two songs were written together. (Actually, 'Resignation' was originally the intro for 'Acceptance', but they worked better as separate songs.) The first one is about realizing that a particular woman I loved will never be mine - the second one is about realizing that this is okay, maybe even for the best. Track 6 - California Tyson - Guitar, Percussion Scott - Percussion Recorded at Enharmonik Studios Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings I love percussion - there would probably be ten more tracks of me banging on things if Scott hadn't stopped me. (Part of his job as producer, which he is very good at, is stopping me from doing every crazy thing that comes into my head when I'm in the studio. This works out pretty well, because I can be as creative as I want, and know that Scott will pull me back from the edge if necessary.) I have always said that if I couldn't be a guitarist I would be a percussionist. I don't generally write 'happy' sounding music, but this song always seems to me to have a fairly upbeat feel to it. Track 7 - Tribute Tyson - Guitars, Bass Scott - Drums Recorded at Enharmonik Studios Mixed at Ralph Stover Productions Originally this was going to be called 'Tribute to my Younger Days' but it seemed silly to have a song title that's longer than the track. In my youth, I was very much the speed-metallist. I still listen to a lot of metal (and occasionally still play it) so this song was just my one nod on this disc to a genre that was so influential on me when I was a fledgling guitarist. I also like the idea of including one 'angry' track, but showing that anger can be short lived and kind of funny. Track 8 - 'Let's Just Be Friends' Tyson - Guitars Scott - Bass, Drums Recorded at Enharmonik Studios Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings This is the first track that I recorded for this album. I had one main goal in mind in making an instrumental album: I didn't want the songs to be self-indulgent - I wanted them to be accessible even to people who aren't guitar fanatics. I always felt like this song was a good start for this project for two reasons: it was waaaay shorter than most rock guitar instrumentals, and the very first solo recorded for this album was Scott playing the bass solo on this track. (Us instrumental rock guitarists gotta fight our egos all the time, so this was a good way to do it.) As far as the title goes: I think that anyone who's heard these words will understand why this is a melancholy-sounding song. Track 9 - No. 1 in G# Major Tyson - Guitars, Vocals Scott - Bass, Drums Recorded at Enharmonik Studios (Vocals recorded at ZanityBlue Recordings) Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings This song originally had a bunch of lead guitar parts planned for it, but leaving those out and just going for the punk rock vibe worked really well. I love punk, and wanted to do something to capture a tiny bit of that on this album. Even the clean part on the bridge is played slightly sloppy to capture a punk vibe - too intense to play precisely. The screaming came about when we were mixing it - I joked with Scott that, since I'd dropped all the lead tracks from the tune while I was still writing it, it just needs some screaming. He pointed at the vocal booth and said something like, 'Let's hear you scream'. Makes for a fun song, I think. The name comes from the fact that, as a guitarist, I think of this key more like G major up one step than as A major down one step. So, it may be eight sharps, but it works for me. (Note for non-musicians - this key would normally be considered A flat major - music is almost never written out in G# major.) Music geek humor, I guess. Track 10 - The Difference Engine Tyson - Guitars, Bass Scott - Drum Programming Recorded and Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings I quit a job that I loved because of this song. Seriously. The solo on this song is a written part, not just a jam, and it's the fastest thing on the album - it's really the only place on this disc where I really shred. So, I was traveling a lot for this job - at one point I was out of town six weeks out of seven. Right after that I went into the studio to record this song, and I couldn't play the solo anymore - being away so much, my playing was just rusty enough that I couldn't quite play the track cleanly at full speed. This freaked me out and really depressed me - had I lost all my ability to play guitar? I left that job and moved into work where I didn't have to travel so much. A couple months later, when I went back to try to record this track again, I ended up recording the solo three times, and it was tight enough that we kept all three tracks. So, when the solo comes in (at about 1:25 in the track) you're actually hearing all three takes - that's why it sounds so huge. (Whew - I really could still play guitar!) Because of this story, because of the way the song sounds, because of what inspired the song (ain't telling), this is probably my favorite track on the album. The name comes from the first idea for a machine to do computation - a mechanical computer. Charles Babbage came up with idea in the 1820's, and it would have worked, but for a variety of reasons Babbage never actually got one built during his lifetime. Track 11 - Without Her Tyson - Guitars Scott - Bass, Drums Recorded at Enharmonik Studios Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings It seems like I have been listening to '70's classic rock for my whole life - in junior high, when everybody else was listening to early '80's pop and hip-hop, I was listening to Boston or Led Zeppelin. (Well, okay, I listened to the early '80's pop and hip-hop, too - I've always been eclectic in my tastes.) This song seems like the most obviously classic-rock influenced thing I've done. If you listen for it, there are little nods to Boston, Zeppelin, Dire Straits, and others in this track - hopefully this is not too obvious and not too cheesy. It's supposed to just be me paying my respects to the past masters. Track 12 - Twelve Tyson - Guitars, Bass, Percussion Scott - Drums, Percussion Kristin Welch - Percussion William Welch - Percussion Recorded at Enharmonik Studios (Addition guitars recorded at ZanityBlue Recordings) Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings It was a blast having my sister and brother-in-law play percussion on this track - they both do orchestral percussion, so it was really cool having them flex their skills on this song. The song starts on C Double Harmonic, and ends in E Double Harmonic. I love the double harmonic scale - it's like a major scale with a flat second and flat sixth. It feels exotic, like you're going to some faraway land. Track 13 - Jazz Collapse Tyson - Guitar Scott - Bass, Drums Recorded at Enharmonik Studios Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings I'll admit that all these songs have some kind of mistake on them - that's part of rock'n'roll. But this isn't a rock song! And it has the worst breakdown of the whole project! And I kept this take because of that screw-up - it just worked for me in a goofy kind of way. The very idea of doing a straight-up traditional jazz sounding tune in the middle of all this rock'n'roll seemed so goofy to begin with that we just had fun on this song. And, aside from the complete rhythmic collapse near the end, I think it makes for some pretty decent jazz. Track 14 - May Cooler Heads Prevail Tyson - Guitars, Bass Scott - Drums Recorded at Enharmonik Studios Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings So, here's the setup: it's about midnight. Scott and I have been in the studio for about ten hours working on various things. I want to record this solo, but Scott reasonably suggests putting it off until the next session. I convince him to let me do one take. This isn't a written part - it's just a studio jam. So, I do one take and it's horrible, and I want to quit and work on this at the next session. Scott says 'No, let's take a five minute break, then do one more take.' He steps out of the control room, and I lean over and hit Record and do another take. When I finish the take, it feels really wrong. As I'm reaching over to rewind and do another take Scott bursts into the control room and says, 'That was awesome!' He was standing out in the main room next to my amp listening to the whole thing. We have a five minute argument about whether to erase the take and record over it, and Scott wins - he insists that I listen to the solo again after I get some sleep. I am so happy that he won that argument - I think that this solo is one of the best things I've ever done. Usually, I have a general idea for how the solo will go, even for the ones that are just jams. This one is 100% off-the-cuff because it is completely different that what I had planned - it just all came together right there. So, thanks to Scott for not letting me erase this take and try again! People often ask me if the song title means anything, and if so, what? Here's my answer: yes, it means something. No, I aint' telling what. Track 15 - Wraygun Tyson - Guitars Scott - Bass, Drums Recorded at Enharmonik Studios Mixed at Ralph Stover Productions This is my tribute to Link Wray, one of the greatest rock guitar instrumentalists ever. I was trying to write a song that captured a little bit of the magic he put into his songs. I tend to think that this makes good highway music - the steady groove just makes me want to get behind the wheel and go somewhere. Track 16 - Good Question Tyson - Guitars, Percussion Scott - Bass, Drums, Percussion Maynard Wright - mandolin, cornet Recorded at Enharmonik Studios (Additional Guitars recorded at ZanityBlue Recordings) Mixed at ZanityBlue Recordings Even as I was writing this song, I always heard it as the closing track for an album - it just feels like an ending to me. What a great privilege to have my Dad come in and play on this tune - he just nails it with both the mandolin and cornet parts. Those aren't written or even rehearsed parts - he came into the studio, we played the song for him, and he just went for it. My Mom came in with him that day, and asked what the song was called - I hadn't been able to think of a name for it yet, and said 'Good question'. Scott looked up and said, 'hey, there's your song title'.