Battle of Hoth is comprised of two parts, with the first half representing the prelude to the opening battle on the ice planet Hoth in the beginning of my all-time favorite childhood movie, The Empire Strikes Back. For those unfamiliar with the story, the movie begins with arch-villain Darth Vader dispatching a 'probe droid' to check out a lead on the whereabouts of the new Rebel base. Upon landing and discovering a Rebel shield generator, the probe begins emitting strange, alien-sounding gibberish in a repeating loop, which the Rebel forces pick-up and determine is a coded message revealing their hidden location to the enemy forces. For some reason I’ve always found the sound of that droid transmission intriguing, like some sort of strange robot dance song, and it’s been rolling ‘round the back of my head for some 35 years now. Therefore, when it was becoming apparent that song material for my debut album was paying homage to many my lifetime influences, it only seemed fitting that I pay my respects to the Star Wars saga by forging a composition around the quirky robot melody my ears latched onto way back at the age of 11 years.
Heavy guitar riffs portray Darth Vader's advancing army by using note intervals borrowed from the sinister-sounding Locrian scale, a musical scale once outlawed by 14th-century priests for fear it's evil-sounding qualities would summon the devil!
Transposing the sound of the droid transmission to actual music notes didn’t yield nearly as interesting a guitar melody as I’d hoped, so I tweaked the notes and rhythms around a bit to come up with something a little more fun to play. The abrasive, nasally sound of my "droid guitar" is the result of multiple guitar pedals engaged simultaneously in combination with a wah-wah pedal. On the recording, the opening echoes bounce from speaker to speaker as if taunting the listener in a game of audio hide-and-seek! When the rest of the ensemble kicks in, the heavy guitar riffs portray Darth Vader's advancing army by using note intervals borrowed from the sinister-sounding Locrian scale, a musical scale once outlawed by 14th-century priests for fear it's evil-sounding qualities would summon the devil!
The second movement in Battle of Hoth focuses on the Rebel response to invading Imperial forces, although I must admit that it really gave me an excuse to experiment with home theater sub-bass. Here, the kick drum sub bass represents mammoth Imperial Walkers (four-legged transports) over the horizon, just out-of-sight, but getting close enough for the enormous weight of their mechanical legs to shake the ground beneath soldiers' feet. A similar effect is achieved in the famous T-Rex scene in the movie Jurassic Park where the characters observe ripples in a water glass created from the approaching dinosaur giant. At this point, I'd like to reiterate a word of warning initially issued in the app description: sub bass frequencies (frequencies extending below 60hz) create extremely large sound waves which are often felt as much as they are audible. Even at moderate volume, they are not only capable of damaging speakers unequipped to handle such frequencies, but easily travel through walls and floors. Please be considerate of your neighbors and even then, avoid cranking this part of the track up unless you're sure your subwoofer is capable of handling these low frequencies!
The sci-fi basis of Battle of Hoth gave me the perfect opportunity to exploit all the wacky, crazy-sounding guitar effects I've run across but never had a practical reason to use. From the spastic "alien attack" at 1:30 to the "mad speeders" at 3:23, all were custom effects created exclusively on guitar as opposed to computerized sounds generated from keyboard synthesizers. The one exception, of course, would be the wind and snow effects heard at the head and tail of the track which I generated on computer by manipulating white noise with automated EQ filters.
The cover art for Battle of Hoth depicts a first-person view of a soldier looking through a futuristic scope across a barren snowscape. The frozen landscape is actually a photo I took of an icy Lake Champlain during a winter ferry crossing from New York to Vermont.
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