10 Years and 22 Albums Later

Ten years ago I recorded my first concept album. At the time, I had no idea I would go on to record a whole lot more of them. But here I am 10 years and 22 albums later. I’ve been trying to figure out how to celebrate my ten year anniversary and thought I could start by celebrating the albums themselves. Much of my older material isn’t online but I thought it would be interesting to take a look back and see how things have progressed over the last ten years. Let us return to where it all began.

Delicate Country Ballads (2001)

The year was 2001. My band Los Reyes Atomicos had broken up and I shifted my musical focus to a improvisational hardcore group called 19 Inches from the Curb. It was one big inside joke. I was also working at Willie Nelson’s studio and spending a lot of time around country musicians. I had a 4 track that I had bought in high school for the purposes of recording demos and had never thought to explore its multitracking function until that year. I recorded a county album with a mix of covers and originals. It was also one big inside joke.

SP303 (2001)

I was working at a live music venue and needed something that I could put on the sound system to annoy people so much they would leave the club at closing time. In high school, I had really gotten into hip hop and even started rapping under the name MC Gre-Z Italian. I rented a SP303 sampler and went to town creating what I thought was really annoying sample based music in my friend’s living room. When I put it on at the end of the night, people actually really enjoyed it. Maybe I was on to something.

The Singing Solar System  (2002)

I had moved back in with my parents who let me stay in a room with a bathroom attached to it. In honor of the bathroom(which I did a lot of recording in) I called the studio Commode Abode. My first album in this studio would involve a keyboard called the Casio SK1 that would appear on every subsequent album. I made about 5 copies of the album of it and gave to friends.

Instrumental Friends Part One (2002)

I thought it was so cool that my friends were listening to my music so I decided to pay tribute by writing instrumental songs for them. I had also bought my first drum machine, the SR16.

Poetic Injustice  (2002)

This was around the time I had gotten into going to the library. I always had a hard time writing lyrics so I decided to jack the words of the greats such as Maya Angelou, Steven Crane, and Edgar Allen Poe. I didn’t make a whole lot of copies of this one and loaned to it out too many times. Sadly it is forever lost and no copies exist.

Instrumental Friends Part Two: Acquaintances  (2002)

I had so much fun recording Instrumental Friends that I decided to do it again and this time focus my attention on writing songs about acquaintances. I wrote songs about people such as: a girl I had the hots for in middle school, a friend of mine’s dad, a guy who my friend was dating for a short time, and I even wrote a song and forgot who I wrote it for. I don’t think any of these people have any idea they have songs written for them.

Double Feature (2002)

Two concept albums in one.  The first was songs written for girls. The second didn’t really have much of a strong theme except for the fact that I had recorded all of them with my buddy Alex Farrell on his computer. I started to explore the use of vocal harmony and this was the first time I had recorded music on a computer.

Strange Things  (2002)

The concept was simple: record six new original compositions and then cover them as hardcore punk songs. This album I started to get more into experimenting with recording techniques. There were quite a few tracks recorded in unusual locations. I also did some backwards tracking. The hardcore tracks were all recorded through my first guitar practice amp that had seen better days. It gave it the perfect effect.

Mastereverbation  (2003)

This album marked a turning point. It not only was a real full length album containing about 18 songs, I put a lot of work into each song. People outside of my immediate circle of friends started to make copies of it and pass it around. Alex had let me borrow his keyboard and I rented a really nice condenser microphone. It was experimental in that each song had it’s own character and instrumentation. The only common thread that each song had more reverb than necessary.

3060  (2003)

I had begun to write music for advertisements. Not all of the music I recorded was used but I still thought some of it would stand well on it’s own. So I decided to fill an album full of 30 songs that were either 30 seconds or 60 seconds long.

4 1/2 Days  (2003)

Alex had been kind enough to lend me his computer since he was leaving to live in Japan so that I could continue to bounce down my music to CDs from the 4 Track. Quite a nice favor. He eventually decided that he would need the computer to be shipped to Japan and gave me a week’s notice. I decided to use that as inspiration and spent the next 4 1/2 days writing and recording an album. It was the first album to feature a bunch of guests. Without the computer, I thought this might be the end of my concept albums.

Wardrobe  (2004)

I had figured out a new way to bounce tracks from my four track onto a different computer. This was also around the time I began to post my tracks to archive.org with Creative Commons licenses. However, I was about to move across the country and sell everything that wouldn’t fit in my car to embark on a career in advertising. I thought for sure that this would be my last album so I invited everyone I knew to come play and sing on it. It was the first album where I took on the role of a producer and wrote songs that featured other vocalists.

In a Barn  (2005)

I had sold all of my music gear. I thought for sure I wouldn’t be doing music anymore. Then I met Chad Bloom who would remain a huge influence and key collaborator to this day. He encouraged me to get involved in music again so I went and bought a new 4 Track since I had sold my other one. It was also nice that he had a computer I could use to bounce down songs from my 4 Track. The album had mostly acoustic guitar as I had sold my electric guitars. I was housesitting for a family that had a garage full of instruments and gave me permission to use them. I don’t think they expected me to write and record a whole album in their garage but that is what I did. A collection of country songs about animals.

Victory Dance  (2005)

I decided for my next album, I wanted to make dance music. My next investment was a Korg ESX-1.  This was the first album to feature multilayered rhythm tracks. I also started working with a whole new group of musicians who would appear in every subsequent album. A song on the album that had taken about 15 minutes to write and record called “Take your Vitamin” became a minor internet hit.

Past Concept Albums 2002-2006  (2006)

While there was no new material on this album, it did mark a major turning point. Myspace had taken the internet by storm and archive.org now allowed album art. I realized that I had to create an online identity. I decided I would be known as the ‘Galactic Defender of the Concept Album.’ This was also the point that the music started to be noticed by organizations such as Creative Commons who featured ‘Take your Vitamin’ on their website.

New American Songbook  (2006)

Once again, I was housesitting at the place with the instruments in the garage. I doubt the people that live there know there were two albums recorded there. This was the first album to have both a strong concept and strong songwriting. This is partly due to the fact that I recorded demos for many of the songs before recording what you hear on the album. Another unique aspect is that it had been recorded all over the world thanks to the internet and had featured a collaboration on almost every song. It currently sits at over 20,000 downloads on archive.org and was for a long time the most successful album I had recorded.

Live on KXLU  (2006)

‘Take your Vitamin’ had been getting played on KXLU and they invited me on the air to do a live set. With my buddies Nick and Casey in tow, we performed one song off almost every concept album up until New American Songbook. Most of the songs featured new arrangements. I bought a Epiphone Casino hollow body guitar for the performance which I still use to record with to this day.

Taking Requests  (2007)

With this album, I entered the 21st century kicking and screaming; I bought a computer and Pro Tools. This dramatically improved the production quality of the albums and for the first time I could go back and make things sound perfect. While the concept of the album was strong, a lot of the song requests were so irreverent that it didn’t resonate with those listeners expecting to hear more of the ‘serious’ music heard on New American Songbook.

Calendar  (2008)

I had been working in South Central at a community center for a year when I decided to make this album. Not only did working with members of the community have a major impact on my life, the music I was hearing and the musicians around me also deeply influenced the music I would write. I had found a new appreciation for Soul and R&B music that I had never had before. This was also the first album I recorded using Reason. It was around this time I started to dive deeper into understanding music theory. This was also the first album I would use a system of demo critiques as preproduction planning.

Love Story  (2008)

The album cover says a lot about the direction I’ve been heading in. The records would no longer focused on me, but instead would focus on the concept and the collective of musicans. I had hoped that this would be a full experience involving visual art and music but I had a falling out with the artist.  It still turned out to be a strong album with what would become my most successful songs to date; Seeking has received about 500,000 plays on Pandora alone. I had learned a lot of music production techniques from Chris Warrior. He also mastered the album which had not been done for previous albums.

Coordinates  (2010)

This album intentionally uses the red and back design from the Love Story cover. It is meant to serve as a companion to Love Story which concludes the ‘love story’ itself. It is the first album that my voice isn’t heard on any of the tracks. I had formed a new circle of musician friends through Shin Kawasaki and his jam session. Many appear on the album. There is also a strong influence of classical music from my music theory studies. The album received very positive reviews but I knew I wanted the next album to have more cohesion.

Emergency Songs  (2011)

I knew this album was different from all the rest, but I never would have thought it would be so incredibly successful. If you want to know what people have said, check out my last blog post. This was the first album I wrote with one collaborator throughout. Not only did Alanna’s voice capture people’s hearts, but her words created a whole new depth to the music. This album featured almost exclusively live instrumentation and very little use of Reason. While there is some Soul and R&B influence, the record is much more stylistically ambiguous with a leaning towards country, jazz, and folk. In the recent months, we’ve put together a band to perform the songs and continue to see a lot of interest in how the album can go beyond the musical realm.

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About Monk Turner
"This prolific/eclectic artist/producer uses a spectrum of styles, generating entire concept albums. Turner is both daring and melodically gifted..." -Music Connection Magazine "You've got to love Monk Turner for creativity and witty lyrics. He combines various music genres and creates tracks suited for any type of music listener." -FrostClick Over the past decade, Monk Turner has produced more than 20 concept albums, using a freeform collective of musicians who share his passion for creating unique, genre-defying music. His songs have been featured in movies, television programs and advertisements, and his reach continues to widen. “Seeking” from the 2008 release, Love Story currently has had more than 500,000 plays on the online radio station, Pandora. Music from Emergency Songs was featured in an international video that was created in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake in Japan. But, his most ambitious project to date has been the production of his 2012 album, Kaleidoscope, where he collaborated with more than 40 national and international artists to create an album of music and poetry based on the concept of color. Turner offers free download capabilities via the unconventional distribution platform offered by Creative Commons licenses so that the public is able to enjoy and share his music.

6 Responses to 10 Years and 22 Albums Later

  1. Robert Nagle says:

    Wow, this is great and really helpful! By the way, you should add release dates here if you can.

  2. Pat says:

    Creative…in every sense of the word

  3. Pingback: Monk Turner: LA Song Writer and Concept Album Creator | Idiotprogrammer

  4. Pingback: Interview with Monk Turner (Creative Commons Musician) | Idiotprogrammer

  5. Andy Siti says:

    Wow, happy anniversary Monk! I’m sure you are excited to produce the 2012 album. What’s the concept this time? So proud of u Monk! You do it for the love of music, not for the money. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  6. Crissy says:

    Walking in the prsenece of giants here. Cool thinking all around!

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