The word “unprecedented” has been thrown around a lot over the past couple of years, but it’s a word that truly suits this day in Web3 history. Today, Ricky Lake drops his newest album Altered as an Async Music Blueprint, and the first generative album ever to exist on the Ethereum blockchain, or any blockchain for that matter.
In addition to Lake’s trademark sharp, emotive lyricism, and Patrick Brown aka Studio Dad’s guidance on composition, engineering and production, the album steps into the ring with a bevy of impressive stats:
- 11 tracks
- 6,650 maximum editions with unique artwork by wables
- 80+ stems
- 8 legendary editions featuring 3D rendered artwork by XD.rar
- 30+ collaborators
This past week, the Async Art team had the pleasure of meeting virtually, and also breaking literal bread IRL, with Ricky Lake, Patrick Brown, and Tiffany Wilson, Text Me Records’ Label & Publishing Manager, to discuss Altered - the album and a rite of passage, really, for all involved.
Separation (Departing the Familiar)
Ricky Lake is one of the many talented artists of Text Me Records based out of Different Fur Studios in San Francisco’s beautiful Mission District. In Lake’s time there, he has joined a veritable pantheon of musicians whose work has been shaped within its four walls, artists like Herbie Hancock, Vince Guaraldi, Too $hort, Toro y Moi and many more.
His newest album, Altered, actually didn’t begin as a generative album at all.
In fact, earlier this year, it existed as a concrete, static album - one whose track list had changed three times and seemed destined to trod the traditional path of dropped singles (“Rift,” “Timba,” and “The Answer”) and eventual full release.
But even though the project was, by all accounts, ready to go, there was some hesitation and, in Lake’s mind, a question about whether it was truly ready in their minds and hearts.
Ultimately, in the midst of the uncertainty, it was the Web3 community that introduced a fork in the road, a new pathway forward for Altered with Async Art’s Music Blueprints.
While Brown had been following Async for a while and, as a WarpSound holder, was familiar with Terra Naomi and Jeff Nicholas, it was Lake’s HIFI Labs affiliation as one of the artists on the company’s roster, Artist Lab, that put Async on the map for him. The timely confluence of Lake and Brown’s artistry with Async’s creation platform turned Altered into something completely beyond what was originally imagined.
Transition (A Season of Challenges and Growth)
The About Section of the Altered project page mentions the “possibility for different producers, features, bass lines, drum patterns, genres, remixes, audio effects, and more.”
In early September, Lake’s interview with Week In Pop contained his thoughts on genre: “In terms of genre, I keep it pretty simple. Either I’m going for a pop song, a rap song, a rock song, or a fusion. The fusion tracks are where it gets tricky cause usually that ends up sounding corny. But with the team of producers I’m blessed to know, we almost always come up with something lit.”
With Async Music Blueprints’ ability to generate thousands of editions out of the dozens of stems from Lake and his collaborators, I asked Lake if there was any fear that there would be editions that inadvertently “[sounded] corny” or became something unrecognizable as his own. Lake admitted that there was definitely some initial fear, but that about halfway through, after listening to about a hundred sample pre-renders, he knew that the generative album would be solid. Yes, some editions seemed weird, but to that he simply responded, “I’m weird. I love weird. Some things are not things [I] would have made, but that works in the context of this [generative album].”
Lake’s willingness to embrace the fluid nature of a generative album also ended up opening the door to, as Wilson put it, “[taking] off all the restraints [...and] allowing the team to include anyone [they found] interesting and [letting] them go anywhere.” And the timing could not have been more perfect as Lake was at a point where he was able to tap into the rich pool of local Bay Area talent he met through Brown and fellow musician Taifa Nia. While a traditional album release would not usually lend itself to having over thirty collaborators, the generative album became a veritable playground - the more the merrier. Lake noted in this past Tuesday’s Twitter Spaces hosted by HIFI Labs’ Jade G. that they “got some amazing features [...] like Yuri Beats from FWB on piano. A bunch of amazing vocalists, producers, songwriters, instrumentalists. They really reached far and wide to bring this kind of idea together.”
As the project took shape, Brown observed the reactions of other people filtering through Different Fur Studio. The team wouldn’t necessarily lead with the fact that they were working on NFTs but, rather, just show people the possibilities and the quality. Many individuals who were not at all involved in Web3 “were really amazed by the idea.” The process and project became a hands-on way to initiate and onboard people into the space in a truly captivating, organic way.
And now, on the eve of the drop, Brown is “excited for people to mint the whole album. There are surprises for people who mint in general and for people who ended up collecting the whole album.” It’s clear that Lake and Brown have utility in mind and we can’t wait to see how this next phase unfolds for fans and collectors.
Return (Incorporation and Reintegration)
When discussing his single, “The Answer,” Lake said, “[it] represents a pivotal shift in my art - a point in which my true musical interests and my abilities are meeting in the middle.” When it comes to the Altered generative album as a whole, it also seems to be the point where Lake’s interests and abilities have met the raw potential of Web3.
Lake’s advice for those wishing to drop their own generative album boiled down to three simple words, “Get the team.” He acknowledged that “it’s a large project to take on by oneself, especially if there’s correlating artwork. Don’t be afraid to reach out to as many people as you can.”
After working with the core team for 45 days straight, Brown highlighted the importance of organization at the very beginning - “You’re going to need spreadsheets. There were days at the beginning where we just figured out how to organize everything. Once that was figured out, it started rolling from there.” He also honestly distilled down the three parameters they shared with collaborators on the regular editions: “same key, same timing, same length of time.”
To Lake’s earlier point, please consider us at Async as part of your team. We’re always looking for ways to be better partners with creators and the door is always open to questions and feedback.
As the weather here in the San Francisco Bay Area cools, I asked the team what their advice would be for how to spend Winter 2022. Their response?
Stay warm. Listen to Ricky Lake music.
We couldn’t agree more.
Experience Altered by Ricky Lake here.
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