I quit my job during COVID and this was something that I did to pass the time, but I do wonder if I would have made Woe.Begone anyway. It just feels like the drive to make it was very organic. And it was from being in the communities that I was in. Participation in seeing what other people were doing and wanting to be in that sphere.– Dylan Griggs, showrunner for Woe.Begone audio drama
An immersive listening experience. Headphones recommended. Join Woe.Begone audio drama creator Dylan Griggs in a gritty descent into the mind of sociopathic main character Mike Walters. Every episode of Woe.Begone features an all-original score. In this episode of How I Make Music, we discover the musicality behind a troubled mind.
The piece of music we’re listening to in the background is called Painted Glass. It’s a narrative intermission song, which I wrote for a time-travel mystery story Woe.Begone today. We’ll break it down and get into why and how it was made. You’re listening to How I Make Music, where audio drama composers get to tell their own stories. In this show, we break apart the music of a fictional podcast and take a trip into how it was made. My name is Dylan Griggs. I’m a showrunner, actor, writer and musician from Kentucky. And this is How I Make Music. Welcome back to How I Make Music, Painted Glass from the audio drama Woe.Begone by me, Dylan Griggs. Thanks for listening in.
Yeah. So my name is Dylan Griggs. I am the, I guess showrunner is the appropriate word because I’m the actor, writer, soundtrack, artist, editor, all of that stuff for a show called Woe.Begone. Woe.Begone is the story of this guy named Mike Walters who discovers a mysterious and violent online game called Woe.Begone. Mike is a danger to himself and others to put it lightly, who is in love with someone and is very concerned about that and what that can mean for their relationship. Horror sci-fi mystery with some comedy, roughly in that order. The show isn’t for everyone, there are some violent moments. There are some moments that might cause discomfort in some people.
I record the whole soundtrack for that episode, from front to back in response to the things that happened in the episode. I’ve been doing indie music since I was like 13, 14. I just have this workhorse mentality as far as getting songs done. I really like breaking format. I wrote a whole bunch of electronic music as a teenager. And then I put it away for a long time and became a de facto rock musician. Bere’s a rock track from my band Sadloaf.
I started playing around with Ableton as a way to write the show. I feel like it sets me apart a little bit to have so much music and so much focus on music. It’s a very fast paced…there’s a lot of ‘go with your gut’ story writing and songwriting. Honestly, everything is written in a week. It also became a way to trick people into listening to my music because in order to listen to the episode of Woe.Begone, you have to listen to my music.
There is an immediate comparison to be drawn between Painted Glass and The District Sleeps Alone Tonight by The Postal Service. They are the same tempo and in the same key. That was totally on accident. I like the sort of organ-y sounds that The Postal Service song has. We’re going home at the end of every bar, essentially. Yeah, going home. It’s like a full release of tension. It’s what you imagine as the last note of a song where everything is completely resolved and there isn’t any tension to glean from it. You’re completely at rest. There’s a pedal tone of like the F the whole time. We’re very grounded.
When I grew up, I didn’t have anything but a computer for the first couple of years that I was making music and I got really into Telephone Tel Aviv, where they’re doing these sort of, I guess, simple melodies, but they’ve got these drums that are sort of IDM. And they’re not afraid to be abrasive with the drums. Like the drums are the key instrument in the song. It’s almost like a breakcore. And so I love that whole album Fahrenheit Fair Enough.
So, yeah, I don’t know how to say the name of this track on the Bon Iver album. 29 hashtag Strafford Apartments? But it greatly influenced Painted Glass. A lot of the album is auto-tuned and the second half of Painted Glass auto-tuned with acoustic guitar, much like Strafford Apartments. It feels alien almost, but also very vulnerable. And the combination is really good for describing a character who feels alienated. Like a vulnerable character who feels alienated. And there’s a part near the end of Strafford Apartments where everything gets blown out like an AM radio, and it’s really affecting. And so I tried that in Painted Glass as well with the last chorus.
When I was coming up with the premise that Mike was going to go out there and do these challenges, I was really inspired by an ARG, an alternate reality game called Marble Hornets. An alternate reality game is any game where…it’s any piece of media where for instance, there are YouTube videos and then people reply to the YouTube videos with like, they treat it like it’s real. For instance, people who are applying in the comments are like, this is really happening to these people. And they’re like, you should do this. Or I think you should talk to this person. They were having real people go out and do embarrassing things or self-destructive things. And so having a game runner have Mike Walters do that sort of based on that.
So the song was written sort of linearly. The first thing that you hear that, that synth noise. It’s a doubled synth. This is going to be a song that’s going to explore this very sentimental side of something that’s happening in season three of the show, which is one character who is falling in love with another. The beginning of the song has these scattery symbols and things. They’re nice. And they’re sparkly. There’s a bell synth that goes on behind it. I have the same thing playing, but it’s running through an Ableton VST called beat repeat, which will take parts of it and make it repeat with a certain chance of happening. And so it makes it a little chaotic. Every time I export it, it’s different. But I really like that little bit that it’s just a little bit different. It’s almost like aleatoric music. I have no control over what it is. I’ve set up the instrument to play and it will do whatever it will do in those parameters, but I’m not controlling the parameters. Often it feels like the program that I’m using has better taste than me.
The bitcrushed vocals in the background of the first verse are there because there are long pauses in the vocals. And so I just put those very quietly in the background so that there’s that going on. And I really like how bitcrushed vocals sound. I don’t know if it’s because I was born in 1990. That’s what things that came on computer cartridges sounded like back then. The vocals, especially this, the first verse is super breathy. Like just, “I was hoping you would…” Hoping that he can overcome his red flags and make himself available and vulnerable and put everyone in a safe place. Like the whole song is just all about being worried about those sorts of things. It goes much more cryptic in the second verse when the auto-tune comes in, like he’s saying things in a much more metaphorical way. I am full of age. I am coming for you. Which has a much more cryptic, alienated feeling.
And then you hit the chorus. I wrote rock drums in a VST called EZDrummer so that they were originally rock drums, like sampled drums that would be played in a rock and roll song. And I switched them over to this drum set that we’re listening to. It has that sort of hybrid feel. The chorus is sort of like a pop rock song. It’s the loudest part of the song, the vocals soar a little bit. And you’ve got like an actual bass synth in there. And then you can pull all that away again. And you’ve got two acoustic guitars that aren’t quantized in any way. They’re a little bit loose, but they are looped. So that every time you go back to the beginning of the loop, you’re back on the beat. And it’s just guitar and vocals for a lot of it. The final chorus is sort of like an AM radio. Like you’re hearing like little chops. Like, you’re not hearing the whole thing. And so I do this very obviously on the word glance, which I feel has this very powerful moment by distorting it in that way.
And then there’s an outro. The outro is built around some orchestral samples from a VST called LABS, which is free and very convenient for writing anything that needs orchestra, anything. And it gives a moment to breathe because you’ve just gone through all of this stuff. And now you can sit here with this basically pretty orchestral song. It’s like giving you time to think it’s like, oh, that all that happened. That’s how Mike feels.
I quit my job during COVID and this was something that I did to pass the time, but I do wonder if I would have made Woe.Begone anyway. It just feels like the drive to make it was very organic. And it was from being in the communities that I was in. Participation in seeing what other people were doing and wanting to be in that sphere. I was going to write 12 episodes, but people liked it very much and I liked making it and it keeps going in interesting directions. As long as I’m like, “I wonder what would happen if this happened to Mike”, then I’m going to keep writing episodes.
That’s about it for this episode. We’ll listen to the full piece in just a moment. But before we do that, thank you for listening to How I Make Music, catch new episodes on HowIMakeMusic.com or wherever we’ve been listening to music featured in the audio drama, Woe.Begone to hear the full story or to check out my other work, follow the links in the show notes. We video recorded this episode, check it out and support the musicians of audio drama by becoming a patron at patreon.com/HowIMakeMusic. Top tier patrons. get a mention right in the credits of every episode. How I Make Music is created by John Bartmann. And now here’s Painted Glass, the narrative intermission episode of Woe.Begone in its entirety. Just a heads up. The piece you’re about to hear is about 10 minutes long. So I hope you enjoy the musical journey ahead. My name is Dylan Griggs, and thanks for listening to How I Make Music. Catch your next time.
Music: The District Sleeps Alone Tonight by The Postal Service
Music: John Thomas On The Inside Is Nothing But Foam by Telefon Tel Aviv
Music: 29 #Strafford APTS by Bon Iver
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How I Make Music is where audio drama composers get to tell their own stories. In a dramatically edited sound experience, we challenge composers to break apart a song, soundtrack or composition and get into why and how it was made.
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