Okay, this is hilarious, and obviously, all song-writers have their own methods of crafting their special offerings. Some turn out better than others, but isn’t that all a bit subjective? It always pleases me when I find writers like this fellow, known simply as stonerocker, trying to give an objective road map to writing the perfect song. It’s a stoner rock song dude, can you not see the immense irony in this. He probably wrote this essay of sorts, then immediately forgot everything in it. All kidding aside, he does have some interesting points on what bands to start listening to. But, if you aren’t into the bands he lists here, maybe stoner rock isn’t your forte anyway. Whatever, here is some stoner trying to give his objective, sure-fire map to a great stoner rock song. – FATS
How to write a killer stoner rock song? I am sure if you clicked this link that you are thinking about the same thing and even trying to write your own song. For us to better understand how to write this type of songs I better define exactly what stoner rock music is.
So what is stoner rock and how is it different from regular rock music?
Well what I usually do when trying to find out what things are – I look on Wikipedia. Here is what I found:
“Stoner rock (or stoner metal) is a sub-genre of rock and heavy metal music combining elements of psychedelic rock, blues-rock, traditional heavy metal and doom metal. Stoner rock is typically slow-to-mid tempo and features low-tuned guitars, a bass-heavy sound, melodic vocals, and ‘retro’ production”
So the elements I picked up here are:
a bass heavy sound
Here is what I found on Allmusic.com:
“Though plenty of heavy metal bands have been regarded through the years as especially compatible with the effects of marijuana, stoner metal was a distinctly ’90s phenomenon. Stoner metal bands updated the long, mind-bending jams and ultra-heavy riffs of bands like Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Blue Oyster Cult, and Hawkwind by filtering their psychedelia-tinged metal and acid rock through the buzzing sound of early Sub Pop-style grunge. Stoner metal could be campy and self-aware, messily evocative, or unabashedly retro; in any case, bands like Monster Magnet and Kyuss were perfect fits for the eclectic tastes of the early-’90s alternative metal movement. Even after grunge had faded away, and the influence of industrial and hip-hop began to dominate alternative metal, stoner metal maintained a devoted cult following into the new millennium.”
So this should give us a good indication of what is being generally considered Stoner rock. For me I find it hard to operate with definitions in general, I just hear if it’s a stoner or not – but that is beside the point. Let’s continue with the mechanical process of writing a song.
Listening to the masters
Now I know how I would like it to sound. I’ve been listening (like a mad man) to Kyuss, Unida, Fu Manchu, QOTSA, Hermano, Truckfighters, Spiritual beggars, Atomic Bitchwax, Alabama Thunderpussy, and occational Muse (it’s only me). What I do is to put one album on just before I go to sleep every night a listen to it, usually in bed with my iPod. This way I get great ideas and I often hear new angles to songs I’ve heard million times before. This is the best time to be creative – the moment just before you fall asleep – you sort of hang there between wake and sleep and absorb this fantastic music.
I also keep a pen and paper next to me so if something miraculous comes to mind I try and write it down (or sing it into my iPhone). Anyway – this is a big part of my songwriting technique – listening just before falling asleep.
Finding the riff
Now here we are trying to be ultra original. Is that possible? Well, if you do the math you can probably figure out that statistically everything has already been done. I mean songs and melodies have been written for hundreds of years by thousands of composers – so you can just try and cough up a” never been done before” line or cord progression. It’s not possible.
So let’s not think about it like that. The way I like to see things goes back to the list here above, describing what stoner rock really is. If you study this definition from Wikipedia you notice that it is a lot about the sound… more like it’s about the attitude. Combining that with the bit from Allmusic.com you get a heavy riff banging activity with melody. I like to think that perhaps nobody has done it like that before instead of trying to find something that has not been done before.
Having that I go looking for a riff. I sit down with the instrument I use – either a guitar or what I prefer my bass – and play around for a while. Sometimes all the listening leaves some traces of riffs that I can not quite remember or I remember them wrong or do them wrong when trying to play them. Sometimes that’s it. I just come up with something new by trying to replicate what I heard somewhere before. If not, I try another method.
I take other riffs – sometimes 3 – 5 riffs and mix them together in various ways until I have something new or different from what I heard originally. I don not consider this stealing – I think it is heavily influenced by – but not directly stealing because you are not copying what other people have done. You are simply using it to create something new.
If that doesn’t work I try and get a little drunk with my mates and play around in our rehearsal studio. Some of our best material comes from this – unfortunately most of it get lost in the process but sometimes we actually remember some of it 😉
Things to remember
I try and keep the spirit of stoner rock music in mind while writing the riffs. For me being a bass player the rhythm is the most important part in the riff and then the melody of it.
I try and keep my riffs sustainable – they should sound great on their own, on any instrument.
I do the melody later and the lyrics usually come last – this is what works for me.
An interesting take on the process.