Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Combine the Victorious - Thunder

Title: Thunder

Artist: Combine the Victorious

Release date December 15 2021

Boutique Empire

Music produced by Combine the Victorious

Recorded at Hipposonic Studio and Boutique Empire Recording

Mixed and Boutique Empire by Henning

Lyrics and music Dunlop, Henning

Vocals: Isabelle Dunlop

Piano, bass, synths and drum programming: Mark R Henning

Violin: Johanna Sö

Electric Guitar: DanBlake

Live Drums: Dan Walker

Video produced by Boutique Empire

Camera operators:M Henning, I Dunlop Duane Keogh

Editor: Henning



Thursday, July 29, 2021

La Faena - a short film

I'm really excited to present the finished short film by the flamenco dance troupe Calle Verde.

Back at the beginning of June we went to the top of Queen Elizabeth part and filmed Calle Verde dancing the story of La Faena. The story involves a bull who is transported from his fields to the bullring. Here the bull encounters a bull fighter and a struggle ensues. However both parties have a change of heart.

Calle Verde is a well known flamenco dance group in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The three, Maria Avila, Michelle Harding, and Peter Mole have become a fixture of the local scene. This short film is their entrance into the 2021 Flamenco de la Isla Society of Victoria BC. It debuted on June 22nd. 

Helping me with this project was Isabelle Dunlop who assisted and shot second camera. Together we filmed at 7AM in the QE Park, surrounded by a large early morning Tai Chi class and the comings and going of the Vancouver parks board. I'm very proud of this film as it presented me with many challenges and the results look great! 

If you enjoyed this please check out Calle Verde as they are currently performing Friday evenings at the Havana Theatre on Commercial Drive here in Vancouver. 

Produced by Boutique Empire

Directed and Edited by Mark R Henning

Camera Operators Isabelle Dunlop and M R Henning

Original music by Peter Mole except "El Toro" by Maria Avila

Chreographed and performed by Maria Avila and Michelle Harding.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

JOSö debut album

 I'm really excited to write about this project. Back in January when I first took over Ryan Dahle's old studio in the Song City music studio complex I began working with Johanna Sö. Johanna is a virtuoso violinists, classically trained, graduate of Carnegie Mellon, touring violinist with the West Coast Celtic band The Town Pants and now a singer songwriter.

Back in December of 2020 during the dark winter months of Covid 19 lockdowns and social isolation Johanna approached me about recording some of her music. Initially I thought it would be a violin album with one or two vocal songs. When January rolled around however she showed up at the studio with 6 complete songs and a backpocket full of other ideas. We set out with an intention to record the songs with a central focus on the violin as that was her primary instrument. However those first intentions were not even remotely as encompassing as the final record has proven to be. 

Co-producing this album with me is Duane Keogh. Duane is one half of the core members to The Town Pants. I have worked with Dave and Duane on almost every The Town Pants album they've made since 1997 so Duane and I have a long history and friendship between us. With his help we approached the task of capturing Johanna's ideas. 

I'm extremely proud of the work we've all done on this record. The final scope of the music is so immense and beautiful that it still makes me smile a bit when I listen to certain sections. We took 8 songs and crafted them into 8 unique journeys, all held together around the violin and Johanna's voice but each branching out with their own melodic intentions. From the more direct approach to songs like These Scares or You're Lovable, to the quirky jazzlike Purple Piano and ending with the epic 7 minute Breathe we covered a lot of ground sonically. Throughout, the playing is superb: with shout outs to the brilliant drumming of Terence F Clark and the outstanding basswork from Hugh McMillan, the vibrant cello of Cara Fox all complimenting Johanna's violin work. It would be an understatement to say the musical results are some of the best music I've ever recorded. 

In the following weeks I would like to go into some detail surrounding this music, digging into the multitrack to expose some of the lush layers we created with vocals and violin stacks. There are countless exceptional auditory segments that still surprise me when I solo them up in a mix. The writing and playing on this album are great and deserve to be written about in detail! 

More to come!

Thanks for reading. 


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

New Calle Verde Flamenco project in the works!

 It was with pleasure that we began making our second video with the Vancouver Flamenco troupe Calle Verde last week. Isabelle Dunlop and I recorded the dancers (and guitarist) up at Queen Elizabeth park and I have just begun the editing process. However, after having a quick look and trying an edit out I must say I'm really excited about what we captured on Friday. Here's a first cut of Michelle and Maria performing the first dance of the short film. 

Thanks for checking it out.

Mark Henning 

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Love Ballad

 At the beginning of 2021 I took over Ryan Dahle's studio in the Song City building here in Vancouver. As one of the tasks I set for myself Isabelle and I recorded the following song, "The Love Ballad". We had collaborated and written this song for another person to sing back in 2018 but that fell through so the song just kinda sat on a hard drive for the past years. Then, while we were in Hipposonic Studio this past summer (thanks again for the great session Rob Darch!) Isabelle suggested we try tracking drums and other instruments on the demo. In the fast paced session we blasted through 6 songs (including the ballad) and then took everything home to discover what we'd captured. 

After much reflection I decided the version we'd recorded was not the version I wanted to present to the world. Nothing wrong with any of the parts we'd tracks individually but the song didn't sound like our own yet. So over the xmas season Isabelle and I rehearsed it with just a piano to get the lyric into our heads and arrange the  song more to our liking. Then in January we started to create a new version from scratch, abandoning all the recording we'd done up to that point. 

I had the idea that we needed to minimize the arrangement so I started us with just a very simple pad sound that outlined the chord changes and we started tracking Isabelle's vocals on top of that. Then a few subtle beats started to appear and we sat back to ensure we enjoyed where we were headed. That basic core still holds the song together, as it is the opening sound and runs through out the mix. 

 However once I had digested the song for where it was at I could hear new ideas and parts and began adding, carefully, additional instruments. One of the first things we did was to add in a simple but distant sounding beat. There is a 2 track reel to reel in the studio so I printed a version through that machine to give it a more unique timbre. That done we started adding bass, but with each layer there was a moment when we'd consider if it was truly necessary and added to the whole production. 

I am a decent bassist and solid keyboard player but guitar has always been a challenge for me. However, having a studio to play with I knew I had to try something so set about adding an Andy Summers like part to the second verse and bridge and suddenly the whole song sounded fresh again. It was a personal achievement to find the part and sound of the guitar for the ballad. 

From there I could hear the build up in the mix wasn't happening with enough impact so I went back to the summer demo and reviewed the drum part that Jonas Fairly had done for us. Even though we'd tracked that version at 68 bpm and our new version was 69 I figured we could make it line up with some simple time compression: and it did! Layering in Jonas's drums over the looped pattern I had already placed into the song gave everything the punch and dynamics I was looking for. 

 As the mix was getting closer I could hear where we needed to sweeten up the vocals a bit so we tracked some double and triple vocals to the choruses to really widen and warm up the mix. Isabelle did a brilliant job nailing her parts and I spent more than a day going over my harmonies until I lined myself up with her and made the chorus parts stand out. It took several shots at it to get it right but we are both super pleased with how it's all turned out. 

Please have a listen to the ballad. We are very proud of it and would love to have the whole world hear it one day!