The Normalizer2 Project

October 24, 2011
 Marco Minnemann and Mike Keneally.
“It started in 2001, when I had the idea to write music to one
of my drum solos,” says drummer extraordinaire Marco Minnemann (Eddie Jobson’s UKZ, David Torn, Paul Gilbert, the Aristocrats, Mike Keneally). “That became Normalizer, and a few years later I recorded another 52-minute drum solo that I called Normalizer2. Alex Machacek decided to compose music to it, followed by Trey Gunn, Mike Keneally, and others. My drum solo became the pizza dough for everyone’s personal toppings.” Minnemann also recorded his own version, on which he played multiple instruments, including guitar. His gear included a ’70 Telecaster, a ’80 Stratocaster, a ’78 Hamer Sunburst, and a ’90s Danelectro Baritone. He played through a modified Marshall JCM800, a Mesa/Boogie V-Twin, and various software models. Eight Normalizer2 albums have been recorded thus far, all of them quite different. Here, we spotlight the six that were recorded by guitarists.


Mike Keneally Evidence of Humanity

Gear: ’88 Fender Clapton Strato - caster. 2005 custom koa Charvel. Various Taylor electrics and acoustics.
Process: “I was working on Scambot 1 simultaneously with Evidence of Humanity, and I wanted to approach them completely differently. John Czajkowski lives a half-hour from me and he made his studio, his engineering abilities, and all his amps and other gear available. Whenever I had time, I’d go there and have at it. I had no music prepared in advance. We’d listen to small portions of the drum track and I’d quickly compose or improvise something along with it, then orchestrate that portion of music—continue until complete! Marco’s stream-of-consciousness solo was very comfortable territory for me, and his endless flow of amazing ideas prompted all kinds of styles and techniques to emerge.”


Trey Gunn Modulator

Gear: Warr 10-string and 8-string guitars. 11-string Godin Glissentar. Kramer Turbulence R-36.
Process: Modulator is the most challenging recording I have ever made. Sometimes the drum parts were insane, like 8 over 9. The object was to make it appear that Marco had played to me, not vice versa. As a guitar player, I had to fit tightly with the drum parts, but also retain a loose feel. A combination of fully composed lines and open improvisation fulfilled that. I recorded in Apple Logic Pro, and each completed section would be put into the big timeline in WaveBurner. The hardest part was re-writing adjacent sections that didn’t transition well. I had to re-compose the endings and beginnings of ten different sections to make them sound convincing, which often meant using a similar guitar approach over the end of one section and into the next. Sometimes I would edit my playing as if the audio were a giant score, but then replay everything once I had found the right parts.”


Alex Machacek 24 Tales

Gear: Bill DeLap custom. Godin Freeway SA. Steinberger GM4T. Yamaha Acoustic. Fractal Audio Axe-Fx Ultra. Line 6 DL4 (for looping). Apple Logic Pro plugins. Ebow. Slide.
Process: “My main goal was to create the illusion that the drum part was played to the music and not the other way around. When I started working on 24 Tales, I had no intention to ever reproduce any of the material in a live setting, so I didn’t limit myself in terms of layers and overdubs— and that actually enabled me to approach the task more from a composer than a guitar player perspective. The beauty of ‘recomposing’ is that you can put the musical magnifying glass on details of the existing material that otherwise might be overlooked or lost—and trust me, there are lots of ‘details’ in Marco’s solo!


Jason Sadites Behind the Laughter

Gear: Michael Tuttle Custom Bent Top.
Process: “I worked within Cubase 5 and used the Time Warp tool to create a tempo map and to assign time signatures to the different ‘sections.’ After that, I looked for drum sections that seemed to stand out as individual ‘songs,’ and then began composing. To avoid the need to replay guitar parts at a later date, I recorded all my parts monitoring through Native Instruments Guitar Rig 4, while simultaneously recording a clean direct signal. That way I could re-amp later through a Dr. Z Monza with a Wampler Hot Wired pedal using a Radial X-Amp. Composing took about eight hours for every one-totwo minutes of music, and was completed over an approximately six-week period.”


Phi Yaan-Zek Dance with the Anima

Gear: Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster Ash and Line 6 Variax (for electric sitar) into a Fender Princeton for clean tones. Ibanez Custom RG550 into a Mesa/Boogie Nomad 100 for distorted tones. Fylde Falstaff steel-string. K Yairi classical.
Process: “I composed the bulk of the music pretty quickly, just jamming to the drums with an acoustic to sketch out the main chord progressions, melodies, and riffs. The idea was to trust my initial inspirations to capture the essence of my compositional style. Then, I spent a lot of time arranging and orchestrating the parts to give the music depth and atmosphere so that it sounded like the drums had been added to my music. Nailing some of the guitar performances, especially rhythmically, proved to be incredibly challenging!”


John Czajkowski West ZooOpolis

Gear: Ernie Ball Steve Morse. Ernie Ball pedal-steel. Gretsch 6120. Suhr Classic T. Fender Custom Shop B-bender. Danelectro Baritone. Goodall Concert classical. Egnater preamps/amp. Port City 4x12 OS cab with Scumback and Jensen speakers. Eventide Eclipse. Fractal Audio Axe-Fx.
Process: “After recording a few extemporaneous ideas across the drum performance, I studied and beat-mapped the whole thing to get as much of the intellectual work and transcribing behind me as possible. Although painstaking, that freed me up to compose more intuitively—placing me smack dab in my fun guitaristic happy place. As the album is dedicated to my Navy SEAL brothers, I sought a funky Cold War, high-desert, spy vibe with playful animal-themed tunes.”

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