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

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.  

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