16 Stories
(Tuneful Tunes)


In my liner notes for 16 Stories—the 2011 CD release from CT-based singer-songwriter Bob Semanchik, I compared some of Bob’s latest work to pop-rock giants like Sting and Paul McCartney. Also noticeable on Bob's new CD is a Peter Frampton influence, although 16 Stories is by no means a Brit-pop type album. Instead, Semanchik creates intimate sounding pop vignettes that transcend time and musical fads. In this setting, Semanchik’s songs are truly timeless—the mark of a great song being one that could have been created 40 or 60 years ago. Bob turned heads around with his solo debut from 2009, Standard Interpretations—an album that featured several vocals mixed in with the jazzy guitar based instrumental style that Semanchik is renowned for. Among the instrumentals covered on that ‘09 album are Semanchik covers of Jobim, Brubeck and McCartney, yet on 16 Stories, Semanchik exposes a side of him that not too many music fans have yet heard—that of a first rate pop-rock singer-songwriter with a unique vocal approach. Anyone fearing that Bob’s emphasis is now solely on singing his songs need not worry—Bob's electric and acoustic guitar playing is right there on most tracks with several featuring stinging guitar solos that would even impress fans of Beatles’ McCartney and Harrison. In contrast to several of the tracks here that veer into light hearted ballads, most of the tracks here really sizzle and there’s also plenty of songs that one might consider singles material, including the McCartney-esque “It’s In The Way,” the rock conscious guitar textured “Goodbye” and what might be the most powerful and immediate song here called “The Power Of Love.” Other songs on 16 Stories—a good example being the CD closing “Hope”—start off slow, yet are built up with a combination of orchestral, melodic cadences and tastefully layered electric guitars. With Semanchik handling most of the instruments, he receives solid support from drummer Mike Marble and a pair of bass players in album co-producer Paul Opalach and Chris Reba. Melodic rock, pop, jazz and more are all sounds and styles in play on Bob Semanchik’s 16 Stories. presents an interview

mwe3: It seems like on 16 Stories you went for a more pop-conscious recording approach. How would you compare the sound and scope of 16 Stories with your Standard Interpretations solo album from 2009?

Bob Semanchik: For 16 Stories I was definitely thinking pop, but what you hear is just what comes to me naturally. I think there is a lot of similarity between this CD and the sounds on Standard Interpretations in the guitar texture department but the difference being 16 Stories is an original vocal project. With this project I feel much more of what I am as a person and musician comes across not just as a guitar player but lyrically as well.

My original plan for Standard Interpretations was to keep the recordings somewhat sparse with limited overdubs as most of the initial tracks were recorded as one performance like a jazz album would be done. When I brought everything back to my home studio I felt that it would be more interesting to the listener if the tracks had different textures. So I ended up using a pop approach to the tracks with overdubs. I had so much fun doing this that I couldn’t wait to do this with my own material. Sonically, the addition of Paul Opalach’s help in the early tracking stages and Mike Marble’s drumming would be the biggest difference, also the fact that my songs are all vocally orientated led me down a different sonic path.

mwe3: Where and when was 16 Stories recorded and who produced and recorded with you on the new album? Are there some cuts where you play everything and what is performing every instrument like for a recording artist?

BS: The drums were played by Mike Marble and recorded in Shelton, Ct. at Long Hill Recording. This is where some hand percussion and a couple vocal parts were recorded as well. Paul Opalach who runs the studio, also added bass parts to four tracks there. I recorded everything else at my home studio.

I started writing songs in the fall of ’08 and started recording in August ’09. We began mixing in the late spring of 2010. I was still writing and tracking new songs while we were mixing. Typically I would give Mike a click- tracked demo of guitar or piano, vocal and bass to play drums over and then bring that home and finish it off. Both Paul and I use Digital Performer so I was able to do this with little trouble. Once complete, I would then bring the tracks back to either Paul or Chris Reba for mixing. Chris is an associate of mine at the University of New Haven. Chris teaches recording classes and has a real good ear for mixing. Both guys would give me their input and based on their suggestions, I would add or make changes. It was very valuable to have two more creative people involved, as it’s easy to get too wrapped up into details and miss the big picture. My wife Carol was very helpful as well in weeding out compromised vocals or solos. I would also play tracks for my students to confirm I was on the right track. I was the producer of this project but Paul was so helpful especially in the early stages that set the feel of the tracks that I thought he deserved a co-producer credit.

As far as playing most of the instruments, I quite enjoy it. As I layer each instrument down a sonic picture starts to form, almost like a painting. I like the option of playing a part, listening to it in the studio or car for a week and deciding to keep or try again. I change my mind a lot and it doesn’t cost me anything but my time. I really like playing bass as I have a Hofner ’63 reissue Beatle bass that got a good workout. It’s not until you put the bass down that it feels like a song! Harmony vocals are also fun. I do much experimentation with that as well.

mwe3: What electric and acoustic guitars do you feature on the 16 Stories album and how would you compare your guitar sound on the new album with your earlier release?

BS: Just like on Standard Interpretations my Lowden acoustic guitars were very important. I have an S32J nylon and a S32C steel that I absolutely love. My mid 70’s Martin D28 also got much play time. For electrics I have a Jay Black custom shop Stratocaster that saw much use. Right at the end of tracking I added a nice LE PRS semi hollow 22 with a whammy bar and the ’59 pickups. That guitar worked out great for solos. You can hear it in “It All Comes Back”, “It’s In The Way” and “Goodbye”.

Others used were a ES 335, ES 175, ‘59 LP reissue, G&L ASAT, LP Junior, and the real star of the show a ’60 ES 330 that I call my Beatle guitar. It has the best P90’s I have ever heard. It’s featured in “Believe In” and “Heroes” One of my students let me borrow his Regal round-neck resonator guitar for “The Sun Will Shine Tomorrow”. For bass I used a Hofner ’63 reissue and a Fender Jazz bass recorded direct through the LA610. Paul used a Modulus Jazz bass and I believe Chris used a jazz bass as well on “Goodbye”. I have three amps, a ’61 Princeton, Dr. Z Maz Jr. and a Fender Pro Reverb. For microphones, I used a Royer 121 and a SM57 through a UA LA610. As far as comparing sounds, I used the same amps, guitars and signal chain on both CDs. Paul and Chris’s mixing styles and the song context could change the sound perception a bit.

mwe3: How does using different amps and effects help alter the sound and scope of a track?

BS: For me the sound influences everything. I’m going to play a different solo on a Strat than I would on a Les Paul or a PRS. It’s the same with keyboards but not so much with bass. Before I record I’m usually chasing a sound I hear in my head. That sound will influence which guitar and amp I choose and then the overall sound of that will influence what I play. For example when I was writing “Too Much Information” I started on acoustic piano and was stuck. As soon as I switched to a patch on the Yamaha Motiff the whole thing came together right away. Even though there are a couple guitars in that track, the keys drive it.

mwe3: Was there a lot of tweaking and overdubbing on the 16 Stories album? Can you say something about the overall recording process?

BS: Yes!! There was much tweaking and overdubbing. It took me 2 1/2 years to write and record this. All the while I maintained a full teaching and performing schedule. I had a sound in my head I wanted to achieve for each track and wouldn’t quit till I got it. I know I drove Paul and Chris nuts with details in the mixing. When I overdub parts I think of the tonal frequency and panning placement of each part. So I already have a good idea where I want something to be and how it should sound. For that reason I’m very involved in the mixing process. I sat in with Paul for each mixing session and songs got mixed multiple times. Chris Reba did most of his mixing without me there and would remix until we got it where we wanted it. Two songs that were particularly troublesome were “The Power Of Love” and “Heroes”. Those two drove us crazy. I almost gave up on “The Power of Love” but it came to life after redoing the lead guitars with the PRS and a borrowed ‘59 LP reissue.

mwe3: Several of the 16 Stories tracks are more low-key while others in the rock style really soar. How would you compare your fondness for rock with your jazzy, easy pop style, which seems to be equally balanced on the 16 Stories album?

BS: I’m a big Beatle guy. If you listen to the white album, the song styles go from acoustic folk to screaming rock. I don’t like it when I buy a CD and all the songs sound the same. I know that’s exactly what a big label wants so that it’s an easy sell but I get bored easy. I also read that McCartney recorded “Yesterday” and “I’m Down” in the same day. Talk about diversity. That said I’m not really purposely thinking about being diverse. I write songs on piano, keys, nylon string, steel string and electric guitar. Each one of those instruments brings out a different side of my personality. Also my band and teaching experiences have forced me to be real versatile in order to make a living so I’m capable and like playing many different styles.
mwe3: Who do think will most enjoy your new album and what are you hoping listeners will derive from listening to 16 Stories?

BS: I think the folks that will like this CD will be the people that may have given up hope that this type of music doesn’t exist anymore. If you don’t like what you’ve been hearing on the radio for the last 20 years, you may like this. If you want to hear good old school rock guitar playing with thoughtful lyrics you can relate to, this may be what you’re looking for. And last but not least, if you tired of hearing angry, negative, screaming music, this may be your cup of tea. My goal in making music is that it should make you feel good during and after you hear it. I think with this CD I’ve accomplished this goal.

mwe3: What are you plans, musical and otherwise for the rest of 2011 and beyond?

BS: My full teaching and performing schedule will continue to keep me busy. I also have new material to record so another CD may be in my future plans. For now I’m going to do my best to promote this project and see where it goes.

Thanks to Bob Semanchik @


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