All Writing and Photography © Alex Livingstone/Owner's Closet

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Light Is On

It was a month or so before Jim and I got together again because on the 7th of September he went out of town for three weeks.  With seven drum tracks in the bag, we were both itching to get to work overdubbing the instruments that would bring these songs to life.  However, while Jim was out of town I had written a song called "On Your Own" and I wanted to track it immediately.  A drummer friend of ours we'll call "Rick" had just moved back to town so we enlisted him to give us a fantastic drum track.  For this track, Jim lowered the tone of one of his floor toms to match that of Ringo's floor tom in "A Day in the Life."  Also, we put tea towels over the drums to give them a really nice deadened vibe.  Also, we instructed Rick to not play crash or ride cymbals to provide maximum acoustic drum tone.
I envisioned a drastic edit on this song and decided the best way to achieve the desired effect would be to abut two different recordings.  The idea was inspired by Dinosaur jr's "They Always Come" with a dash of The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" over the shoulder for good luck and measure.  So on this day, "On Your Own" was recorded as two different drum tracks and will be two separate recordings until the mixing process.  The session proceeded in a similar fashion to the previous two with Rick and I fine-tuning the song's performance aspects while Jim fine-tuned the microphone placement and recording levels.  All said and done, it only took a couple of hours and the whole thing was done. I think the outcome will be really cool and the recording's concept will add a nice flavor to the overall texture of the album.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jamming with Edward

The second session for this project was on September 2 when my friend "Eddie Watkins" came to record a couple songs.  I had sent him mp3s so he was slightly primed for the session.  The two that I decided to track were "Repeat the Answers" and one I had written less than a month before called "Pining For Verona."  This session went very smoothly, with Jim setting up microphones and getting sounds while Eddie and I rehearsed the songs.  As before, I was in the "iso" room playing the Jazzmaster through the Crate and delivering a guide vocal.  All the guide vocals suck but some of the guide guitar has a nice quality to it.  
I've been thinking that "Repeat the Answers"  would be a nice lead off to the album... we'll see.  I have an idea for an intro to the song that would be a cool first thing to hear.  So by the end of this session we had seven drum tracks and we had only spent maybe a total of 10 hours recording.  Awesome. 

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Beginning

   I've tried to post something that I wrote a few years ago, just to get this thing started, but it didn't happen.  Obviously.  I wish I could write about certain things going on in my life right now but, alas! I am forever bound by the attorney/client privilege.  
   In light of this, this column will largely be the chronicle of an enormous project I have begun.  It is a recording project that is the culmination of years of songwriting, several tumultuous relationships, one wonderful relationship, and one great friendship.  Hopefully, this will be of some interest to someone.  If it isn't, I don't care.
   My friend Jim has a small recording studio in his home.  Jim has great taste in music and it was when we played together in a local band for a few months that our friendship began.  Jim and I have many things in common (name three) and this past summer we decided to join forces and record my songs at his home studio.  I have been sitting on over 20 songs and he wanted to improve his recording skills so after a few discussions, we made plans to start.  
   First of all, I didn't want to record with a set group of guys.  I'm starting to realize the band structure I know and love so well is largely a performance based concept.  I am currently in two bands with incomplete recording projects.  I would go bonkers if I waited to fit my backlog of songs into either of those groups' recording schedules.  Also, if I played every instrument myself, the project would move along a lot quicker.   So I lined up five drummers to learn different songs and come in one at a time to record them.  I would then hole up with Jim and play basses, guitars, keyboards, etc...   
   On August 27, we had our inaugural session with the first drummer.  Let's call this drummer Joe English.  Joe's really, really good and he agreed to record some drum tracks for me.  Having only one rehearsal on the 26th, he came over to Jim's studio and recorded 5 drum tracks in about 6 hours.  Badass.  Before each song, Jim experimented with microphone techniques while Joe and I fine tuned the song's structure and feel.  
   We started with a song called "Nine Years."  It seemed to be the most complex of the five songs that were slated to track so we thought we should tackle it while we were fresh.  Joe totally grasped the concept and after molding the bridge into place, we got the song in just a few takes.  
   The other songs we tracked are "Hard Head," "Drop Me A Line," "Paid The Way," and a cover of "Listen To What The Man Said."  There was an issue with "Drop" because the tune has a built in swing to it but my instinct wanted Joe to play a straight beat, allowing the guitars to give the swing.  It didn't sound right while we tracked because I was only playing a scratch guitar, leaving the arrangement sounding empty and "not working."  However, Jim and Joe insisted that if my gut and brain said Joe should play a straighter beat, then we should trust my gut.
   "Hard Head" was fun because Jim slathered compression on the drums and Joe played to the sound, creating an awesome back beat for a white boy funk exploration.  "Paid The Way" couldn't have been an easier song because I wanted the drum track to be kick and snare only, in the vein of "Black Country Woman" from Physical Graffiti.  We recorded "Listen..."  at the end of the session, after the real work was done, and nailed it in two takes.  I was obsessed with this song over the summer and had to record my own version.  It is inspired by the "Wings Over America" version and will be a two guitar, bass, and drums interpretation meaning,  it will not have piano or saxophone or that lame "the wonder of it all" section... 
   All things considered, the session was a complete success and we all felt great about the work he had done in a relative short period of time.