I'm becoming depressed as this project drags on and on and still seems so far from completion. Every day I work at it, learning the ropes and improving my engineering skills as I go, proceding by my wits, eventually to learn a better way - or more commonly, to face my initial gut and have to start something all over and do it the hard way. Turns out I'm a really good engineer. Meanwhile, my musical skills have deteriorated to the point that I can't perform the parts I created. My fingers are clumsy and crippled, strangers to the fretboard. And my voice is an impostor, sorrily attempting to impersonate the singer I want to be.
This week - a week that was supposed to be so productive - has been spent editting drum and bass tracks on just one song. At the end of three consecutive 12 hour days, it's finally right. Now my hands are too rapped by CTS and tendonitis from mousing every fucking day to play guitar, and my voice is too frozen to sing from sitting in silence all week. Monday I go back to my day job with little to show. I'll spend the rest of this weekend assessing what's left and see if we need to alter the plan at all.
My mood isn't helped by the fact I'm reading 'Life of Pi' and I can't help feeling like that naked, dehydrated, devestated boy trapped on a tiny lifeboat with a giant Bengal tiger. I feed him not because I love him, but because "God" threw us together and I'm obligated to care for him so that he doesn't kill me. Each day I think I'm showing this CD I'm its master, not daring to show any fear or uncertainty. Each day I give it my complete attention, and every ration of positive emotion I have. And the only thing sustaining me is the dream of eventually bringing this boat to shore. Except that when I do, it has to be a REALLY KICKASS BOAT that makes girls hug their pillows and sing along when they hear it!
So much for that analogy.
There's things I can't say to you, gentle reader,.. things about music-making. Ugly things. Boring things. Heartbreaking truths.
Deja Vu II
Better git me a bucket -- or,.. how bout this kitchen sink? Yep. That'll do.
Starting a new week off -- with a whole week off! - of work, that is. Trying to get this CD moving, and just working a few hours each evening just isn't going fast enough. So I just completed a big project at work, and managed to get some time off to focus on the musik. Partied with Todd and Rahul and many friends Saturday for Hoboken's St Pat's Day (Yeah, Hoboken has their own) and it took me all Sunday to recover. Eck. So, today's been spent finishing guitar edits on 'Stars', and beginning to feel out the vocals for that. The wind is howling outside, and it's supposed to get really cold tonight. Not Wisconsin cold,... but definitely stay-inside cold. I'm hungry. And still a hair queezy.
For the first time finally I've been able to hear some of the songs complete with full instrumentation. Rahul laid down lots of tracks this past Saturday and Sunday nights, and it's helped cement my perspective on the progress of things. It's interesting that songs like 'Boro' that I thought would be so much work are coming off easily, while songs like 'Stars' and 'Automobile' that I thought would just flow naturally are proving to be quite difficult to capture and reproduce.
I took last night off to rest, so I'm back on it tonight - hopefully to complete edits on Stars's rhythm tracks and replay my guitars AGAIN. The last tracks I did were too grungy.
Amazing how hard it's been to get my guitar sounds throughout this project. Rahul's sounds came much more easily, not that he wasn't quite particular. He's got great sounds, and I even got to lend him a couple of my fuzz pedals.
Knock on da wood
Been at this nearly every night since I got the computer back up and running, except one night to take Steph out for her birthday (which was very nice indeed), and one day to install my new UAD-1e dsp card. I can't wait to start mixing so I can use all those delicious new UA plug-ins!
The computer is operating pretty much without fault (see title of entry above). My ailing left arm is giving me fits, so thank science for non-linear recording!!! as I'm playing for shit. Tonight I pieced together the bits of last night's guitar tracks. I must say, 'My Only Witness' is sounding almost exactly as it does in my head. So, that's huge! Yeah, my head is, but I meant this rare and momentous occassion of me being pleased with the sound of the recording.
Rahul's coming up this weekend to lay tracks. Poor Rahul - my abode is a disgrace. All I do is record, so my kitchen counter is a living garden of dirty dishes while my soiled laundry has taken over the living room. I caught a pair of my underwear blasting the stereo and drinking my port wine! Little bastard! I really must get to the laundy soon.
Which reminds me, I'm sitting here in my last clean pair as I type this. Better go.
I think I laid down some decent guitar tracks this week. Well, okay, I've laid down lots of decent guitar tracks, but all have been discarded for one reason or another - either the sound sucked or I needed to go back and edit other tracks rendering the guitars scrap. So yeh, it's taking forever - and I know some of you could care less if it's as perfect as I would like it to be. But I'm determined to be happy with it myself when it's done - even if I've lost the faith of every fan, friend, and family member in the process.
Every session is a learning experience, and I think I learned a big one tonight about guitar sounds. I'll spare y'all the boring details, but let's just say Larry the Producer Guy was right about something. Ya gotta record guitars way brighter than you'd ever think ya would!
Whoa! What just happened?!?
I hate technology...but not as much as it hates me
It's been two weeks since my computer took a shit on me. That's right. In the end I didn't loose any valuable data, but that's no thanks to Norton Ghost 10, a popular backup and recovery program that was supposed to save me from these situations, not cause them. I wasted the following week attempting to restore the computer using Ghost as it's intended, but it never worked properly, and it quickly became evident that it probably was THE cause of the failure.
So I finally ended up reinstalling everything from scratch. I'm actually happier for it since everything's now completely up-to-date and running smoother than ever. But I'm angry for the time lost and the labor and emotion invested. And all this after I already knew from past experience how much Norton/Symantec products suck.
The moral of this story: DON'T PUT ANYTHING NORTON OR SYMANTEC ON YOUR COMPUTER! IT'LL ATTEMPT TO RULE YOUR LIFE, AND IN THE END IT WON'T BE THERE TO SAVE YOU WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST.
So I finished reinstalling all my music software yesterday, and I'm ready to get back to the project. My will has been crushed somewhat, so we'll see if I can regain it.
and now the newz
Hi Kiddies! Uncle D here!
What? You want an update without any tech speak? Okay, well,........ um.... er....
Been editing bass tracks all weekend. Laid down a bunch of guitars Friday night but realized the bass needed some tweaks, so I spent all yesterday afternoon and so far today editing the bass on Stars and Boro. Stars sounds great! and Boro is, well, Boro - not quite the song as I intended it, but should be cool. So I'll put down fresh guitars on both of those tonight and hopefully they'll be moving forward.
My AC15 has been working much better than the AC30 pile o' crap. so that's good. Rahul was going to come up this weekend to start his parts, but we decided to wait on him. At this pace, this CD's clearly not getting delivered before late March. I've stopped even talking about it since the setbacks just keep mounting. But I've cleared my personal calendar to work on this constantly until it's done. Sucks to have a day job right now. At least I've got a supportive and enthusiastic g-friend. Her 14 year old cat just died - it's very sad but she died at home with her, so that's nice.
Gittin goin ah-gin
Now that the holidays are past, I'm finally back to recording. I've lost the last two evenings trying once again to find a decent guitar sound. And damned if I didn't finally solve the problem -- the AC30CCH head is a heap o' shit! Totally unrecordable. After hours of ruthlessly twisting knobs, exchanging tubes, alternating channels and anything else I could think of, I finally pulled out my AC15TBRX and plugged it into the 212 Vox cab miked exactly as it was with the AC30, and POOF! there like magic was MY sound. Son of a BITCH! So, I had to disable one of the speakers in the cab since the AC15 only has an 8 ohm out, but that was easily done. Miked it with the Royer R121 and an SM57, both near center out 6 inches. Sounds gorgeous. Tomorrow, I'm finally off and recording. What a relief -- or will something else turn to shit?
II, << (Pause, Rewind)
First of all, Todd is a gushing little girl (see 'Field Trip') and that's why I love him. I wouldn't be doing this without him.
So, what the hell AM I doing?! December's turned out to be the month of learning. And that's about it. After that week of recording at the end of November, we decided the bass tracks need to be even better, so we scrapped pretty much all the bass and guitars we'd done up to that point. Maury returned to the studio and put down some solid new bass tracks on six songs, and we're all thrilled that he did. Totally worth it! And that's pretty much where we stand right now. With Christmas and all its distractions impending, I haven't managed to get too involved in this since I can't give it 100%. Or that's the best excuse I can come up with.
In the mean time, I discovered that I have this awesome mic in my arsenal that I hadn't been using...a very cool 60's vintage RCA BK-5B ribbon mic. A little research comprised of way too many obsessive hours of Googling revealed that the BK-5B can be quite exceptional for recording electric guitar, among other things. They were designed for the motion picture industry in the 50's to pick up multiple actors across a sound stage, with a special blast filter built in to handle a gunshot at 5 feet! Which is why you can shove it up against a guitar amp and not damage it. So I spent an evening cleaning away 40 years of abuse and neglect, rewired it properly, but alas the ribbon element was totally shot, which is to be expected. Ribbons are very delicate and short-lived. So, I found a gentleman who is probably the last surviving engineer from RCA's long-closed mic division, and sent my poor mic to him for restoration. With some luck, I'll have it back right after Christmas and find out if it's totally awesome or not. I'm hoping it'll replace the SM57 I've got up against the speaker grill, and provide that golden touch I've been looking for. I've tried just about every other mic I have including some older Shures, a couple modern condensers, even some really old EV's and Altecs. So far though, the SM57 is the best for close up.
So,... sorry friends. I have no music for you yet. The week after Christmas the band will be reconvening to get ready for New Year's Eve at Siberia. It'll be nice to play for you all in person!!
And then January will be THE month for recording!
Maury laid down some fantastic bass tracks yesterday. More to go, but great progress. Rhythm section is tight!
We're getting ready to start recording Rahul's guitar tracks, so I helped him take his gear up to Nyack yesterday. It was a little field trip! We hung out with Dana and listened to everything. Dana's been doing an amazing job and I can hardly wait to hear Rahul's parts as they get laid down. Mostly it was just fun getting together. I'm lucky to have such good friends. Didn't get home until late and now I'm sleepy.
Assessing Status... Please Wait...
This week has been... a good start. Not so productive in terms of shear output, but it's put me on a proper course. I'm feeling not so much like an artist, but more like I'm merely collecting and analyzing the past years' worth of musical data and painstakingly logging it all into the computer. So I'm proceding with reluctant diligence and just hoping for the creative spark to catch.
Wednesday, the meticulous engineer in me did an exhaustive analysis of mic positions and finally arrived at an "optimal" setup for recording my Vox. The result produced such an improvement, I HAD to re-cut all the parts I'd done to that point. Rahul's bringing his gear up tomorrow, so we'll get to go through it all with his shit too. FUN FUN FUN!
I'm finding out just how out of practice I am, vocally and guitar playingally. However, I'm EXCELLING as an engineer!!Artistically speaking, this is a terrible time for me to be recording. Tendonitis and carpal tunnel continue to plague my playing, and I've barely sung in weeks. With all that and supremely average musical skills, I'm all too conscious that I've created parts that are far beyond my actual abilties as a performer.
So, thank Science for Pro Tools! If it all comes out good, I shall not apologize for the "artificial" means I'm employing here in my best attempt to simulate an organic-sounding performance within an entirely fake space. Afterall, the ultimate goal is to portray to the listener all the beauty and ugliness that's in my soul, and goddammit I'll use any means possible to achieve that.
Whet vs. Wet
Yes, Rahul, I know whet vs. wet. I didn't post the blog.
Tudd, it's "whet" your appetite.
"Whet your Appetite for Destruction, Slash," shrieked Axl, as he lay on his back to writhe into his deteriorated constricted leather pants.
Don't ask me why Slash was there.
Screw this - I'm going emo.
Taking a break. I was on a path to getting a great take of "Stars" but my hand started locking up. Anyway - I think I have a good sound, but I'll find out tomorrow after my ears have cleared.
I wish I was just cranking out emo or blues of something. Christ! I thought indie rock was supposed to be all about simplicity - I'm tweaking relentlessly here to make this sound right for you guys.
Okay - it's really for me - I'm never satisfied, right? Whatever. My god it's loud though! - I'm wearing earplugs under the headphones with the headphones cranked just to keep up with the loudness of the amp! I can feel the bass from the headphones shaking my skull!
For the curious and/or technically inclined - I switched my AC30CCH (Vox AC30 head) to the "HOT" bias setting and that seemed to have cleared up some of the crackling noises. I also repositioned my mics a hair to de-emphasize the fizz that seems to emanate from the dead center of the speaker cone. I used my new Menatone Red Snapper pedal as a clean boost pushing the KOT yellow channel and recorded a couple of songs, but I may go back and do them with the Full-Drive 2 instead of the Snapper. Just two different colors - hard to tell which one's right until I hear the full mix. The Snapper is warmer and more full range while the FD2 is more woody with less bass and emphasized mids. Either way, I'm using the amp's natural tube overdrive instead of relying on the pedals for grit and dirt - as it should be. The pedals are just there for color and tone shaping. I'll try to post a picture of the setup soon.
Sunday afternoon. Just got up and coffee's a wonderful thing. Spent too much of last night's session fighting my guitar sound. Funny how your gear can sound perfect to the ear and turn to shit in front of a mic. Microphones do funny things. Since my room is so full of rattling noises, I'm forced to close-mic only using my Royer R121 and an SM57, but I remember having a similar problem when we recorded at Pyramid - and they had 3 mics all placed a good distance away and off axis so I don't think that's the problem. I'm having a fizzing, crackly noise problem that seems to trace to my treasured Analog Man KOT (King of Tone) overdrive pedal - I love its red channel because it's SO touch sensitive - clean and round when I lay back and bites hard when I dig in. But it appears to generate this subtle unmusical grit and fizz that's exagerated through the amp and mics. I've ruled out bad speakers, the mics, the preamps, and all the other pedals. Part of it may just be the transparent nature of the Vox AC30CCH amp and Celestion Blue speakers - very hifi and unforgiving. I'll try a few different amp settings tonight, but I think the KOT red channel is out. Too bad - it's a huge part of my sound. I hit the wall at 4:00 AM trying to record 'Boro,' and I nearly lost it and cut off all my hair but I stopped myself, drank a Sierra Nevada and went to sleep around 5:00.
Rock and Roll is not pretty. It's fucking difficult. Not much fun at the moment, but it's still better than working.
Down in the Bass-ment!
Here. We. Go. At long last, the tracking is under way. Maury's married and back from Europe. He had a bit of trouble with his wrist so that delayed things. But he came in yeaterday and nailed down most of his bass parts - almost like a pro. Hm. So now it's al me for the next 10 days recording guitar, vocals, edits, edits, edits,... Hope to be able to post something prelim next week to wet your appetite.
Thanks for hangin in there y'all!
That was fantastic! 25 hours of straight drumming! Tracks sound great - did 13. The original 11 plus 'Now I Have To' and 'Inside'. Now I Have To is an experimental diddy and Inside is something we recorded once in rehearsal a long time ago and never re-visited until now. Not sure where those are headed but am looking forward to hearing them after the rest of the band puts their tracks down.
The feeling and quality of these bed tracks is better than I had hoped for. I knew they'd be good but didn't expect them to be this good. Great energy and the feel is just right. Am so excited and really feel like we're back on the right path again. Didn't feel pressure or angst or anything like that. I mean I had to concentrate and do it right, but it was more like 'this is great, I can do it better', rather than, 'sounds good, next...' We really went for how it should be rather than just good enough.
Many thanks to Josh who really made the session smooth and comfortable - what a pro. Totally recommend him and Seaside Lounge.
Back in the saddle
Well here we are again... Recording drums.
Dana and I are at Seaside Lounge Recording Studios in Brooklyn. Great place, laid back and easy feeling going on. Looking forward to getting the tracks down again after not being happy with them from the last go around. I feel like it's a chance to start over and do it our way. The way it should have been before.
Josh is our engineer and is a drummer himself. It's great because we spoke about drum sounds and he just 'gets it'. We've got a Frankinsteined kit going on and it sounds great. My massive kick drum, cymbals and Pork Pie snare, an old Singerland rack tom (sparkle silver) and a clear vintage Ludwig Vistalite floor tom. The vibe is good, the kit sounds kickass, and Dana just got back from dropping off the van. Gentlemen, start your engines!!