Hunter H. Keegan
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"Appalachian Ghost Hunt Debrief (On the Porch With My Grandfather)" (click to listen) is my first real foray into ambient music. It features a series of recordings that were captured over the course of about 3 years. They include ambient nature sounds from a very small town in rural West Virginia where my Grandfather lived, recordings of trains that routinely passed through the the town, and a short interview with my Grandfather about a so-called "Haunted Town" that surrounds Lake Shawnee that we visited together one dreary Autumn day.
My grandfather died in March of 2018 after a sharp decline in his health (cancer sucks). He was always a man of few words. Born and raised in rural West Virginia -- where he eventually moved back to after retiring from a long career that had caused him to relocate several times. A bit of an enigma, he enjoyed playing poker and betting on sports. He also enjoyed cheap domestic beer and was an avid golfer.
The fusion of spoken word / ambient sounds combined with simple instrumental sections is so special to me. It's as if they permanently capture a moment in time that no longer exists, and add depth the moment through use of melody and nuanced production. The music of Ernest Hood (particularly his 1975 work, "Neighborhoods"), Yuichiro Fujimoto and others showed me that not all ambient music had to be super heady, intricate experimental endeavors a la Brian Eno ... letting the natural sounds speak for themselves and adding additional tasteful, minimalist instrumental sections could be engaging and immersive as well.
I set the sounds of springtime songbirds fluttering around the porch of my Grandfather's cabin with the low roar of the New River shoals (which bordered his backyard) in the background. I used excerpts of an interview I recorded with him about the infamous "haunted" Lake Shawnee Burial Grounds that we had visited together in the autumn months and added some simple chord progressions using my Fender Stratocaster, and a Caroline Meteore lo-fi reverb pedal (among other things), to add a kind of dreamy, mellow backdrop for the sonic experience. The second half of the recording features audio of a train passing by (a railroad track bordered the other side of his property ... this is rural West Virginia after all) as well as a gentle, delay-heavy guitar lead that was captured in one take.
This track was a great exercise in exploring atmosphere and good use of ambience and inclusion of field recordings in my music. It is certainly experimental, but experimental music is one of my favorite genres!
Mostly I think this is a cool way to honor the memory of my late Grandfather. The brief audio excerpts that he is featured in capture his deadpan demeanor and indifference to the unknown. The cover art is based off of a photo I took of him walking away from his cabin. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered over the rumbling shoals that you can faintly hear in the background of the first couple minutes of the track.
I hope you enjoy it, maybe as something calming to listen to at the end of a long day or at least to clear your head in some capacity.
Click to listen: "Appalachian Ghost Hunt Debrief (On the Porch With My Grandfather)"
I mentally plotted out the song and what the themes would be and scrambled to write them down so my sieve-like mind wouldn’t forget them.
When I got back to my little apartment a couple hours later I experimented with using guitar pedals to distort my vocal recordings and create atmospheric, enigmatic background sounds. At that time (about 3 months into working on the album) I had grown tired of using drum machine software to create beats and general percussion, so I used unconventional instruments to provide the percussive backbone for “Drought.” I tapped on tin cans, and shook metal containers filled with ice cubes, manipulating their sonic qualities by incorporating lo-fi reverb and analog delay effects to give things a loose, organic feel.
“Drought” does not contain any digital instruments, everything is recorded with real bass, guitar, analog synth, and authentic percussion. This is one of the reasons I enjoy this particular track so much. Another reason I enjoy it is because it is primarily a bass and vocal driven song, whereas much as my other work focuses primarily on guitar and synths. I think there are a total of maybe 15 guitar notes on the entire track… the rest is all driven by my Fender Jazz Bass coupled with a Way Huge Supa Puss delay pedal and Boss DS-1 (both pedals were also used to distort some of the background vocals).
When I began showing people demos of this song the reaction was generally “Why is this so dark?” My answer was essentially:
1) I enjoy listening to and writing dark music.
2) Around the time the track was written I was listening to a lot of early Sonic Youth and Black Sabbath albums and was really fascinated by the use of abrasive noise to create atmosphere and depth as well as the loose but heavy instrumentation.
Click Here to listen: Hunter Keegan -- "Drought"
So sit back and enjoy this bleak little concept song about a settler battling the horrors of surviving the old Frontier. It is a textured, layered song that combines some of my favorite elements of noise rock, heavy metal, and experimental rock. It’s not often that I sit down and write a full song within a couple of hours, and this time I think it paid off!
-- Hunter Keegan
Right now you can listen to it on my bandcamp page . It should also be on spotify, apple music, etc. in the next couple of days. Stream it for free! If you like it, tell your friends about it! Thanks for listening.
Work on the upcoming album has been ongoing and progress is definitely being made. This album is really proving itself to be an eclectic mix of different styles. I have been experimenting with different production techniques and recording methods and a couple of remastered / re-written tracks from the now "decommissioned" Disordered E.P. will probably be featured as well as plenty of brand new material.
I would say that the main influences for this album so far are Sonic Youth, Black Sabbath, Nine Inch Nails, Frusciante-era Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Lou Reed -- at least those are the artists that immediately come to mind.
Right now I have about 25 minutes of material that I think is worth putting on the album. A big challenge with being a "bedroom band" is that I have to do a lot of self-editing which sometimes results in overthinking things and discarding lots of material that probably could've simply benefitted from some constructive feedback and an objective perspective.
Speaking of being a bedroom band, about half of my bedroom in my apartment is now dominated by mixers, synths, guitars, cables, effects pedals, etc.. Which was always a dream of mine. Almost everything for this album is being recorded with a DI setup, as much as I would love to record with actual amplifiers, it's simply too difficult to do so with a one-man operation that lacks a proper studio space. I would like to eventually own a home where I can convert a basement or full bedroom into a semi-professional recording space...
You can hear a little preview from the upcoming (still untitled album) here on SoundCloud.
In other news I will be releasing future projects under the moniker "Hunter Keegan," apparently "H. H. Keegan" was too much of a pain in the ass for people to pull up on Spotify / iTunes etc. while on mobile.
I've been listening to a lot of unique music lately that I want to write more about, so keep an eye out for a future post about that sort of thing.
Thanks for reading/listening.
Despite that I haven't made any official releases in the past few months, I have been busy writing and recording new music. My friends on facebook / twitter have been subjected to various demo recordings of what is to come.
And what exactly is coming? When is it coming? Why is it coming?
My latest project (which officially began toward the beginning of October) is a (work in progress) full length LP that I hope to release sometime in early 2019. Whereas with my EPs, "Disordered" and "Strange Americana," the recording process was somewhat "bare bones" and "off the cuff," I am taking a more methodical, focused approach to the production on this untitled album with an emphasis on strong mixing / sound quality and fully-fleshed out songs .
I am hoping for this album to have somewhere between 8-10 tracks and clock in at around 35-40 minutes. This is a huge undertaking because I do all writing, recording, production on my own and have to balance this pursuit with my full-time day job and other life bullshit.
I have 1 track fully in the bag, 1 track that I haven't decided whether or not will make the final cut, and 8 more tracks to record in my spare time over the next few weeks.
My releases tend to have overarching themes, and I've been trying to determine what the "theme" of this album is -- all I know for sure is that it will be a dark, raw (but the well-produced kind of "raw"), album with a 1990s alternative rock aesthetic mixed with a modern sensibility.
There are also some really cool new additions to my studio that I will talk more about in a future post.
Keep it real.
"Strange Americana" is my latest E.P. , it's raw, and to-the-point... not really any frills save for some production "polish" here and there. The most effect heavy track, "Mountains and Vistas" was recorded in one take.
I know I'm not alone when I say that there's something unique and special that raw music has that refined, hi-fi music does not (not that it's inherently "better," just different). Neil Young is pretty much the undisputed master of the ruthlessly raw DIY approach, but other musicians like Kurt Cobain, John Frusciante, and many, many others share(d) similar sensibilities as well. These are the type of musicians who I drew influence from when I was composing the instrumental elements of "Strange Americana."
But my mission with this E.P. was not just to create a raw, organic sounding album, but to replicate the sights, sounds, and feelings of the Northwestern United States in the dead of winter.
After an ill-advised road trip I took a few years back I have been respectfully disturbed -- if you will -- by the intense barrenness of the wintertime Pacific Northwest. The snow, the ice, the shady people (not to generalize but there are some of them out there and I seemed to meet every one).
The lyrics to the core three songs of this E.P., "Wyoming," "Montana," and "South Dakota, 3:00AM" were all written in single sittings with minimal editing after the fact. I wanted to capture the bleakness, but also the intense beauty and solitude of the mountains, plains, and valleys.
For good measure, I close out "Strange Americana" with a 6 minute long dark electronica piece, "Heartless", where I explore the haunting nature of a cold, uncaring world.
Cold or not, there will always be inspiration to be found in the beautiful, intense, scary, exciting natural world around us. If you're like me and live in an urban area sometimes it's easy to forget just how breathtaking the world around us can be. So ... Travel! See the world beyond your hometown and maybe you will find something worth writing about.
(c.) 2020 Hunter H. Keegan