For those who have heard Zeta Reticuli and wondered how its songs were conceived, here’s the first of a series of posts that will hopefully shed some light on the subject. Many people have asked me this question, so sharing this with the world seems quite right – our debut album would not exist without these crucial first steps. Enjoy!

For today, I’ll elaborate on 8 of the 9 songs – A Million Lies being the exception because it was a collaboration between Alex and I and was written using a TOTALLY different approach. We’ll share that particular process with you in the near future 😉

8 of the 9 the songs on Zeta Reticuli were initially written on an acoustic guitar while sitting in a quiet area with a pen, paper and a handheld recorder while strumming full chords and humming simple melodies.

To the left: my old handheld tape recorder – used this one for years…finding a specific idea on this gem can be a daunting task. On the right: the recorder I started using in 2008: DIGITAL BABY! lol In my opinion, these (and/or some particular mobile apps that do the same job) are essential for serious songwriters 😉

It’s hard for me to believe that they all began as compositions that one could compare to Simon and Garfunkel/Jack Johnson, but for me, writing a vocal melody comes easier when I can hear all the notes of the chords being played. No power chords, no riffs…just full on chord strumming. The individual notes that make up the chords were like cues that lead me into my harmonic ideas. When coming up with chord patterns, I just went with my gut – I stuck with what made me feel good. Knowing a large amount of chords (using a book that had over 2000 chord formations) and not yet having learned ANY cover songs made me less prone to subconsciously incorporating a chord pattern/vocal melody I had previously learned. I’m in no way saying that learning cover songs can taint your originality, (alternatively, it could and more than likely will inspire you), but that just seemed to be the best approach for me, personally. To this day, I only know the acoustic version of 3 songs enough to play them from beginning to end: Closer To The Heart by Rush as well as Plush and Interstate Love Song by Stone Temple Pilots…that’s it lol. But I have to admit, some songs did end up having vocal melodies/chord patterns inspired by other songs, such as Highway and Aurora & Halo (as described in our Member Area‘s “lyrics and song facts”)

My biggest source of songwriting inspirations for Zeta Reticuli came when I moved to Toronto in the Fall of 2008. I was living alone in a small bachelor apartment; for a good amount of time, all I had was a mattress, plastic dishes, my small journalist type recorder, clothing and a wine colored Takamine acoustic guitar. Being on my own in such a colossal city, free to explore to my heart’s content all while discovering so many new and different things was the catalyst for a song writing explosion I did NOT expect! Of the many songs that came to light during this creative time, Zeta Reticuli and Super Virtual were among the ones conceived in that little apartment on Ontario street. And again, I used the same “acoustic guitar, recorder and note pad” approach. I would sit on my fifth story balcony at night (it was surprisingly quiet at night in that particular area of downtown Toronto) while staring out at the massive buildings and I would just let the ideas flow. As ideas came to mind, I would press record and capture absolutely everything that gave me that unmistakable feeling – the feeling that I had stumbled on to something great!!

Check out PART 2, where I go into how I ended up creating rough demos to distribute to select Toronto musicians, eventually leading me to the man responsible for Zeta Reticuli’s more powerful, complex and aggressive qualities: Mr. Alex Katchkan 🙂

– Mario


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