After 1989

30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a real-life tale of imprisonment and liberty: how a grandfather escaped hell during WWII while the grandson retraced his steps.

The story

Three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, After 1989 is the tale of how a young man escaped a concentration camp in 1945, while his grandson made the other way round, looking for answers that he could only find in 2017.

Release

On Bandcamp, the album features:

  • online streaming,
  • download in high-resolution audio,
  • a PDF booklet containing synopsis and lyrics (in English and Italian),
  • the beautiful limited edition CD.

Complete video playlist

Streaming on digital platforms

After 1989 can also be found on:

Production notes

Mid 2017: after I completed the demos using Propellerhead’s Reason, my friend and music partner Paolo left the project. I decided to take some time and focus on graduating as a master engineer at Berklee. I then spent most of 2018 working as a mix engineer and producer for clients in the UK and the US, including performing in a dozen of live concerts around the south of England.

At the end of the year, as the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was approaching, I found myself alone with a project I’ve been working on for a long time. Surprisingly, this gave me a decisive push towards revising the whole concept. Even before Paolo left, I’d been unhappy about the creative direction for a while, so at the start of 2019 I drafted a new synopsis with a simpler set of songs and started putting together a new group of collaborators.

The renewed project touched the same story but changed the perspective. No third-person narration, no theatrical persona. Since the inspiration was my grandfather and his traumatic experience in a concentration camp in Germany, I became the narrator. After a steady research through war archives, official letters, family tales and a quest to find out where he spent those four years, I connected my young years spent during the Cold War to his not-so-distant wartime.

New band

To efficiently convey the new storyline, my first decision was to abandon the idea of an instrumental album. I wanted songs, as in music and lyrics, therefore finding a lead singer was paramount. Since Rachel Goodman couldn’t be available for a full album, I met Dan Ecclestone in Cambridge and agreed on working together on our respective albums. I then involved Gerald Duchene to help with guitars and saxophone, Andy Bonnor on drums and Callum Gardner on acoustic guitar and backing vocals.

Even though I initially considered scraping Paolo’s contributions, I ended up keeping his amazing work on half of the songs, including several of his arrangements, a few guitar solos and his beautiful viola.

Tracklist

The songs followed this new idea of a liaison between my grandfather’s escape from Berlin and me going back to the same place decades later, to see his prison. I thought about representing the narration as a train trip to the concentration camp where each station, as announced by the tannoy system, was a different point in history.

The album shrinked from 16 pieces to 10 songs. By axing redundant intros and all the instrumentals that I didn’t write or didn’t fit into my vision of the story, I managed to reduce the running time from 49 minutes to 32. I also penned the closing track Sachsenhausen.

<em>After 1989</em>: New synopsis and tracklist
After 1989: New synopsis and tracklist

Workflow

In between the two stages of After 1989, I went back to Logic Pro. Exported all the tracks with and without Reason’s native processing, imported into Logic projects, rearranged sections, edited MIDI parts and wrote the lyrics. I then sung all the test vocals, played piano, rewrote previous ideas and morphed them into new songs. The peculiar and complicated story of the leading single, Skinny Kid, is emblematic of this stage.

All in all I had come up with a complete new demo in a relatively short time.

Collaboration

While Dan and I were both in Cambridge and Callum lived in nearby London, working with other collaborators wasn’t difficult either. These days it’s easy to master a DAW and use a shared cloud disk space. Gerald is a Logic Pro user so working with him was substantially straightforward. Everyone else had to render their stems using the correct formats and hand them over. I basically applied the same process when I had to import my own audio and MIDI tracks from the Reason demos.

Overall, After 1989 was recorded in Ravenna and Milan (Italy), London and Cambridge (UK), Aiken and New York (United States), Mikkeli (Finland), Berlin (Germany).

Mix and master

The next phase was edit, polish and mix. I employed a technique borrowed from Andrew Scheps: work on three songs at the same time. This way I could focus on the big picture, exchanging methods between different pieces as I moved along.

I also eagerly dived more deeply into Michael Brauer’s multi-bus compression technique, which I already experimented with in previous productions. More powerful and even better refined, today it’s still a staple in my templates.

My current multi-bus tracks in REAPER
My current multi-bus tracks in REAPER

In a nutshell: instead of applying a single mix bus compressor, the multi-bus methodology requires sending different instruments, grouped by function and frequency range, to four different set of compressors. I route piano and other synths to bus A, drums and bass to bus B, guitars, certain strings and synths to bus C, sound effects plus reverbs and delays to bus D. This way, the compressors act on specific settings without squashing material that they’re not suited for. A thorough calibration is required before starting to apply any routing.

Once the mix was complete, I engaged with renowned master engineer Ian Shepherd (co-author of the famous Loudness penalty website and organizer of Dynamic Range Day), who perfected it all.

Software used

As a long-term project, it’s hard to write down an exaustive list of all the software used by myself and my collaborators.

DAWs Reason, Logic Pro X, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Cubase.
Editors iZotope RX, Wavelab, DSP Quattro, Triumph.
VST Waves, Soundtoys, iZotope Ozone Advanced, Klanghelm, Voxengo.
VSTi Addictive Drums, Addictive Keys, Alchemy, EastWest Hollywood Strings.

Fun fact: the very first version of the song The Logic was written in Italian in 1995, using Cubasis Pro v1.0 and a QY20 by Yamaha.

Release

Christopher Carvalho of Unlock Your Sound, manager for After 1989, massively helped with the release campaign, including on social media and music submission websites. A proper word-of-mouth was key, especially with the selling of the limited edition CD. I sold most copies by meeting with people and discussing the album.

At the time, I chose CD Baby for digital distribution. As a member of PRS and PPL in the UK, I also went to CD Baby for publishing rights.

Reviews

Minutes to Midnight’s album is magical and haunting, giving the listener a way to both experience and reconcile the horrors and joys of the past. A journey of choices and consequences, a path of emotional growth. It is at once rock opera, gothic melancholy, family legend, and historical account, all blending together to create an album unlike any other. Rosa Nadine Sanchéz Xochimilco, author

The direct and immersive narrative allows history to speak for itself without being preachy or forced. The artist gives us a unique perspective of an outsider who manages to observe a great deal of pain without being directly subjected to it. Its themes are timely and human, and effortlessly connect with a modern audience. After 1989 is an immersive and interesting experiment in storytelling that will leave listeners meditating on its heavy themes. IndieRepublik Berlin

Credits

Music and lyrics by Simone Silvestroni.

13 Days, Unter Den Linden and Berlin 91 arranged with Paolo Clementi.
Requiem arranged with Giuseppe Bianchi.
Guitar solos by Paolo Clementi, except for Skinny Kid by Gerald Duchene.
Sax solos by Gerald Duchene.
Piano solo in The Day Before by Dan Ecclestone.
Viola theme in Berlin 91 by Paolo Clementi.

Performers

Skinny Kid

Dan Ecclestone / Lead & backing vocals
Rachel Goodman / Vocals
Keven Howard Bellamy / Backing vocals
Gerald Duchene / Electric guitars
Simone Silvestroni / Bass, keyboards, drums

A Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot On A B-29

Dan Ecclestone / Vocals, ukulele, toy piano
Paolo Clementi / Viola
Callum Gardner / Acoustic guitar
Simone Silvestroni / Fretless bass, drums

The Logic

Rachel Goodman / Lead & backing vocals
Dan Ecclestone / Lead vocals
Paolo Clementi / Electric guitars
Gerald Duchene / Saxophone
Michele Frumento / Drums
Simone Silvestroni / Fretless bass, piano, additional drums

13 Days

Dan Ecclestone / Vocals
Paolo Clementi / Electric & acoustic guitars
Andy Bonnor (AndiA) / Drums
Simone Silvestroni / Bass, additional drums

Unter Den Linden

Dan Ecclestone / Lead & backing vocals
Paolo Clementi / Electric & acoustic guitars
Simone Silvestroni / Bass, piano, drums

Love Field

Dan Ecclestone / Lead & backing vocals
Paolo Clementi / Electric guitars, viola
Simone Silvestroni / Bass, keyboards, strings, drums

Requiem

Giuseppe Bianchi / Piano
Simone Silvestroni / Fretless bass, synth bass

The Day Before

Dan Ecclestone / Lead vocals, piano solo, metallophone
Callum Gardner / Acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Gerald Duchene / Saxophone
Simone Silvestroni / Fretless & fretted bass, piano, drums

Berlin 91

Dan Ecclestone / Lead & backing vocals
Callum Gardner / Backing vocals
Paolo Clementi / Electric & acoustic guitars, viola
Simone Silvestroni / Bass, keyboards, drums

Sachsenhausen

Dan Ecclestone / Lead & backing vocals, piano
Callum Gardner / Acoustic guitars
Simone Silvestroni / Fretless bass, drums

Sound effects

Original sound effects recording, editing and historical samples restoration by Simone Silvestroni. Original sounds recorded in Berlin between 2017 and 2019 and Cambridge in 2019. All historical sound effects are in the public domain.

List of sound effects
ALL SONGS Tannoy system of the S-Bahn 1 train from Central Berlin to Oranienburg (recorded in 2019).
Skinny Kid BBC radio announcement (April 1945).
'Little Boy' Harry Truman, TV speech (August 1945).
The Logic John F. Kennedy, TV speech (December 1961); East German soldier screaming.
13 Days John F. Kennedy, TV speech (October 1962); Adlai Stevenson, United Nations speech (October 1962).
Unter Den Linden John F. Kennedy speech in Berlin (June 1963).
Love Field Dallas radio live report from Love Field airport; Dallas police (November 1963).
Requiem Robert F. Kennedy eulogy for Martin Luther King, Indianapolis (April 1968).
The Day Before Children in a playground, Cambridge, UK (2019).
Berlin 91 Berlin Wall Memorial (2017).
Sachsenhausen Birds and cars passing by, Oranienburg (2019).

Production

Recorded, produced and mixed by Minutes to Midnight at the Garden Room, Cambridge, UK.
Mastered by Ian Shepherd.
Management by Christopher Carvalho, Unlock Your Sound Ltd.

Design

Sleeve design by Simone Silvestroni.
Photography and cover photo digital retouch by Silvia Maggi, Berlin, Oranienburg, 2017-2019.
Cover photo by Dan Budnik: An elderly woman, standing at the Berlin Wall, West sector, with hands raised, waiting to see her East Berlin friends and relatives (1961).
CD photo by Adam Jones: Prisoner’s Uniform with Red Triangle of Political Enemy: Majdanek Concentration Camp, Lublin, Poland.

Thanks

I wish to thank my wife, my core family and close friends, all present and past performers and professionals involved, and Julie McCrae. Always grateful for the continuous support and help.

Album released November 9, 2019.

© 2019 Music and lyrics Simone Silvestroni. All rights reserved.
℗ 2019 The copyright in this sound recording is owned by Minutes to Midnight. Minutes to Midnight is the exclusive trademark of Simone Silvestroni. All trademarks and logos are protected.
Made in the EU.

Simone Silvestroni Minutes to Midnight Minutes to Midnight
Skip to the content