The making of

"Wreck of the Zanzibar"

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Hi! I'm Alex, but you may also have known me as Denshi or DenshiSong. All the way back in April 2020, I began making songs under that name on Bandcamp; I made instrumental synth pieces in LMMS (A very minimal music workstation) and this formula helped me release 10 original albums since that date.

My last album under the Denshi name was "Terminal", which was the most successful by far. This album's success coincided with my success on YouTube, since its tracks were used in one of my most popular YouTube videos. It was also first time anybody ever supported my music financially. (Thank you Elle.)

It was at this point that I simply stopped posting music under the Denshi name. I was planning on releasing another instrumental Denshi album at some point, but that plan radically changed when I began learning Ardour.

Production

The EP was completed and (mostly) produced while I was staying in a hotel. While some songs were originally written and demoe'd in my old house, all the final instrumentals and vocals were recorded within the four walls of a tiny hotel room (except for the piano piece at the end of Twinleaf Town, which was recorded with the same piano in Italy that i used in Terminal).

This was my setup when producing the EP. I used Ardour 6.9.0, the same Fifine microphone I used for YouTube and an audio interface + microphone that my brother let me borrow. Thank you Marco!

I used this acoustic guitar to record and write songs for this EP.

This is me playing the exact same guitar in 2014, when I was 9. It's my childhood guitar, and the only one I've ever truly owned. It was the most valuable birthday gift I ever got.

This is the piano that I wrote "Twinleaf Town" on, and the same piano you can hear at the very end of that song. It's my mom's childhood piano, the same one she used to practice on as a kid. If I ever get the time, I might record some of her practice tapes.

This EP and this entire band wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the endless support I got from any and all of my friends and family. Thank you.

Writing

Wreck of the Zanzibar is not a concept album or anything of the sort, although originally I intended it to be. There are remnants of this in the lyrics and some of the melodies, but overall this is just a random collection of songs I liked making.

August

I came up with the melody to August after listening to casio dad's EP, "he's not with us anymore". The fast-paced chiptunes and expressive lyrics must've got to me because before I knew it I was writing a new song. The idea popped into my head while I was showering, so I memorized the melody and wrote a simple piano piece to develop.

I worked on the lyrics more and added some synth pieces, and before I knew it I had something resembling a full song. One of my favorite aspects of August is the instrumental part after the third verse. In this second demo, this can be heard at 0:50.

Twinleaf Town

I wrote this song on the same piano I used in "Terminal". With this piece I actually wanted to structure a full song, with verses, bridges and choruses; something with a narrative, a beginning, middle and end. The song itself began as a simple piano piece with the chorus ripped straight from one of my old songs, Downstars and done.

The lyrics to Twinleaf Town were heavily inspired by Jason Gastrow or videogamedunkey and the story he tells in his final Mario 64 videos. Jason explains that he met a pretty woman online, and stopped caring for his health in the process ("yes I'm getting fat") and even travelled to Texas to visit her ("Austin Texas there, it'll have to be") which resulted in him realizing that neither of them wanted anything to do with each other.

The second act of the song is about Jason's new appartment,the birds he saw out of the window, ("Birds and high-rise flats") and the frustration that came with paying the very expensive rent there ("Money's tight I'm done, days of work means none")

The story has a happy ending though, because Dunkey leaps back up from his sadness after meeting his future wife, which is what the chorus is about ("then I saw you, glittering wonder"). I was originally planning to make the song much more abstract and less literal, but in the end I wanted something with a feel-good ending and I'm very happy with the very outspoken final lyrics.

How to Build a Nuclear Reactor

The nuclear boy scout, also known as David Hahn, was a story I always wanted to tell in song form. It's a modern tragedy about a boy who builds a nuclear reactor and gets arrested by the police, only to spend the rest of his life trying to re-constuct it. The FBI found him again in 2007, stealing smoke detectors and trying to build another nuclear reactor in a freezer.

The song began as a basic synth piece, and I had little to no idea what to do with it. I showed it to my friend welt, and thanks to his help I transformed the song into a basic piano piece.

A special thanks to welt for also sending back a copy of the song where he added some lyrics himself, this really helped me finish off the song's lyrics, which was something I was seriously struggling with. After all, David Hahn's story is difficult to compress into a 2-minute song.

Charlotte's Web

In all honesty, I really just wanted to name something "Charlotte's Web". It too good of a name to go to waste, both because it's already recognizable but can have a really abstract meaning.

I don't recall exactly how I wrote the music to Charlotte's Web, but the lyrics were written in an afternoon, and were meant to tell the story of the collapse of the internet as Creative Commons, decentralization and other democratic features were pushed aside in favor of the interest of private companies.

Window

This was just a simple piano piece I wrote in a day. The idea came about after I woke up staring out the window of my hotel room, looking down on all the people and cars zooming around. It sort of felt like looking down on hell from heaven, a weird feeling of comfort but also isolation.

Anthem of Moscow

The first original song I wrote for "Wreck of the Zanzibar" was Anthem of Moscow. The idea for it came from when I was Running After Dark, which was just a remake of a simple guitar piece I had already written. While recording I came up with a basic melody I could use to introduce something.

I actually wrote the full song after coming home from school from a very tiring day. I finished most of the music and the lyrics that same day; I was so focused that I actually missed an online meeting I had scheduled in the afternoon!

The song was written from the perspective of a Russian woman, but I also added some lyrical elements from some Russian friends I used to have.

Cover Art and Name

The cover art came about when I saw a watercolor painting my sister had made for a school assignment, all about the book The Wreck of the Zanzibar. When I saw it I was awestruck.

I didn't originally intend on using it as the centerpiece of the album. I was going to name the album something completely different and pursue a far more colorful, bright color scheme as opposed to the darker tones seen on the final cover.

After a long night of working in GIMP to make it look just perfect, I had the final cover completed, and my little sister to thank, both for the beautiful art and the name of the EP.