Inside the Song: “Ouch” / by Sam Abelow

Justine, Lizzie, Myself and Jed being super touristy at the Wynwood Walls, Miami. The psychedelic colors resonated my retro rock vibes and summery sound.

Justine, Lizzie, Myself and Jed being super touristy at the Wynwood Walls, Miami. The psychedelic colors resonated my retro rock vibes and summery sound.

Deep in the tundra of late Winter 2015, I was in the process of determining the structure and vision of the Rosko Green EP. It became clear that this would be a “retro-rock” exhibit and the upcoming full-length album would lean a bit more “retro-pop”. I had amassed a range of material, from over the past few years and thought it best to sort them out into cohesive projects; the EP and and LP respectively.

“Ouch” was originally written in the emotional heat of Summer 2012. Since then, I’ve been repeatedly encouraged to play it live and re-record it with a more powerful rhythm section. My live band spent many months rehearsing the song and I, countless more hours on the guitar arrangement and improvised solo. The EP needed one more song, so it was an obvious choice to make “Ouch” the final cut. This single exemplifies the “retro rock” palette of the Rosko Green EP.

Recording Process

Beginning on April 9th, I laid down the basic tracks of guitar and bass quickly, emulating the arrangement I had going with the live band. That same spring day, I recorded a couple takes of what I thought would be “scratch vocals”, which is what you hear on the final version.

The next day, James Southworth, my session drummer, came through and smacked the kit for an hour or two. The editing and mixing of the drums wasn’t a difficult task, as it usually is. Soon after that Forrest Savage came in and completed the rhythm section with some driving bass.

On the beautiful morning of April 11th, I added all my rhythm guitar parts and the retro organ. I knew had to kill the guitar solo at the finale of the tracks, but the vibe was alluding me. I had a temporary solo in place which Gene Pino, my mentor and guitar teacher, agreed was solid. However, he suggested I take a more, “in your face energy” with it. When I got back to my home studio I turned up my Dr. Z Amp to 10 and wailed on my Stratocaster until my fingers bled. The energy of that creation put me into an altered state of consciousness, which I remember needing to cool off after. 

The final touches included some smacking bursts of trombone in the chorus. I must say, Marshall Rauh impressed me with his skills. As I sang out what notes I heard in my head, he got them down on the first take. At that point, I decided to keep the “scratch vocals” and continued to tweak the mixing.

I had purposefully recorded the track faster, in order to slow it down on my Fostex E-2 tape machine. This was a calculated decision based on wanting to change the timbre of the vocal, making it sound like I was drowning in the depths of the Ocean. I had already used this technique with “Thick Skin”, so this made the transition more consistent. Slowing down the track on my tape machine takes the tuning out of the standard 440 Hz to a frequency which intuitively resonates with my body, heart and mind. People who may be familiar with the trend of alternative tuning, will dig that my music isn’t tuned to the computer!

The performance tracking, production, mixing and mastering of Ouch” was the fastest of any track on the Rosko Green EP and also the upcoming album. The efficiency is credited to a healthy period of preparation and a manifestation with strong intentions of artistic style. When you listen to “Ouch” close your eyes, imagine that it’s 1968, you’re sitting on a shaggy rug and just you threw on a vinyl record.

Music Video

I hadn’t travelled in a while, so during my visit to Miami, my sister’s home for the past four years, I felt a renewed sense of energy to document inspired clips of my experiences. The warm weather, beaches, botanical gardens, all day sunshine, climbing on Banyan trees, felt exciting and revitalizing. We got a lot of the featured footage during an afternoon in Wynwood, Miami’s upcoming art district. I felt most inspired while viewing a series of city-approved, amazingly brilliant murals, called the “Wynwood Walls”. But stumbled upon some brilliantly colored street art, with a spiritually awakening theme.

The end result of all the documentary style footage is much different then my previous music videos. Combining footage from the trip down to Miami, with various recent shows and practice sessions, there’s a theme of everyday life, which is colorful, happy and free.

Catch all of this in my debut music video as Rosko Green: