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

Monday, January 26, 2009

Phase One In Which Doris Gets Her Oats

On Saturday we finished tracking all of the drums for the album.  We brought in the fifth and final drummer for the project and he did an exemplary job with the two selected songs.  So that we can continue to keep things vague, let's call this drummer "Tom Kha," or Tom for short.  I had given him demos of "Burnin' Out" and "Cashin' In The Dimes" back in the fall when this project started and he must have listened to them because he came in and nailed each track within three takes.  We were done by 4:30pm and went and had celebratory drinks at Nomad.  
We tackled "Burnin' Out" first for little to no reason at all.  Compared to the demo, the beginning has a longer intro section and and the end has a more decisive resolution.  
After changing a cymbal and adding a rack tom, we set a few levels and ripped out three takes of "Cashing" with the third being the best.  The second take was great and we were gonna use it so we decided to record one more without the "stress" of it having to be "the one" and it turned out better.  Funny how that happens.
It's crazy to think that the drums are all recorded.  Jim and I set a goal of having the majority of recording done by the end of January and that is now a possibility.  Being unemployed has definitely made it possible for me to give the project so much of my attention.  That being said, I have to go back to work so I can pay for quality mastering!  

Friday, January 23, 2009

Shushy, you're cut!

This past weekend we got Rick back in the studio to record three songs.  The fates of these songs were in the hands of several of the drummers we've used yet they ended up landing in Rick's lap.  And rightly so.  "Welcome Home," "Impossible To Turn Away" and "Over Before It Started" are all a little different from most of the songs we've recorded.  One thing commonality between them is that they we all written many years ago, possibly when I lived on Haskell St. in '01 or'02.  I know that I wrote "Over Before It Started" on the piano that's on Channing's back porch.  I'm sure that I wrote "Welcome Home" alone watching "Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia" on a stormy night on Haskell St.  At some point during the movie, the storm knocked our power out and that's when I wrote it.  I finished watching the movie after the lyrics were finished.  I had always been fond of this tune and I've always wanted it to see the light of day.  
"Over" and "Impossible" are both exercises in varying song form, both in a vague GBV sorta-way.  Of the three recorded that Sunday, these two turned out the best.  In going over "Over," Rick settled into a drum beat that did not include the snare...a first for the record!  I look forward to getting some French Horn and cello on this track.  Still trying to come up with a piano part though.  I forgot the one I wrote on Chan's porch so long ago.
"Impossible" was easy to track because I had given Rick a detailed demo of the song I had recorded with Jim in 2007.  He pretty much copied what I played on the demo yet he added skill, confidence, coordination, finesse and a steady tempo.  Brilliant!
"Welcome Home" turned out to be a pain in the ass and after having tried it with GC years ago, I should have let it go.  But it was that pesky fondness that kept me coming back.  We started the session by recording toms for the verses.  It wasn't until I played the toms and showed Rick what I heard that he was on board with the part.  Then we recorded big room ride crashes.  Once those underdubs were made we set up a normal kit to get the chorus parts.  No slight on Rick because he's an amazing drummer, but I wasn't feeling it.  And then a few days later when we recorded guitar for the song, I was even more underwhelmed.  That night at home (Wednesday), I decided to axe it from the record.  Fuck it.  Aside from having an accordian player create an amazing mood on the verses, I don't care about it anymore.  Letting it go, y'all.  That night I also decided to 86 "No Big Rivalry," a song for which we've yet to record a note and for which there wasn't going to be a drum track anyway.  
After cutting those two tracks from the lineup, we're left with 14 songs.  That's classic Beatles style and it will be approximatly 38 minutes long which is a great length.  Plus, Jim says 14 is his favorite number.  My favorite number is 7 and there will be 7 songs per side if I'm ever blessed with a vinyl release.  At least it's gonna be sequenced with that in mind.    

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flagging Down Confidence

I learned a good lesson today.  Why complicate the situation?  Jim and I had planned a brief session today and shortly after trying to record some piano parts, the session was aborted.  Today was the start of serious work on "Nine Years," a song with atypical chord changes and relatively complex vocal harmonies.  The seed for this song was a two-chord riff and a series of 7th chords that imply a diminished scale.  While I wrote the whole song on guitar and I knew that I wanted at least this main guitar part in the song, I thought that there needed to be a bunch of piano.  I had written vocal harmonies that would begin during this guitar phrase and then expand during the chorus.  I've been dreading the vocal sessions because I'm not confident about my singing but today I realized that I'm much worse at playing piano than singing.  I learned was that if I wrote the song as a guitar, bass, drums and vocals song, then that's probably what it should be.  I did write a bunch of vocal parts so that a piano could get in the way.  
I wanted to give the song a different feel and not have it rely heavily on guitar and therefore thought piano would be perfect.  Jim helped me realize that the vocal arrangement will be different enough and that it didn't need to be any more complicated.  I also realized I suck at piano if I have to use more than three fingers.  I need to accept that I'm not even really a decent pianist and that I need to stick to guitar and bass.  After this deflating "piano" session I'm ready to sing some harmonies!  Monday...    

Monday, January 5, 2009

Mighta Got Caught But You Threw It Away

This past weekend we had our fourth drummer lay down some tracks at Pocketchange Studios.  This drummer shall be referred to as "Marvin."  I had gotten together and rehearsed these two songs with Marvin way back in the fall so he was already familiar with them when we got in front of the mics. 
  We spent early Saturday afternoon changing drum heads and setting up microphones.  Around 4pm, we started recording the project's shortest song, "Mighta Got Caught."  This is a little ditty I wrote sometime during the Spring of 2008.  I remember its birth sometime after the January 2008 home demos of "Drop Me A Line" and "Flash in the Pan" and "Nasty Dream."  I have always felt like it should be the last song on the album in the same sort of way that "Her Majesty" is Abbey Road's last wave goodbye through the back window of the sedan that carries away a loved one and leaves you standing on the sidewalk with only your thoughts.  We'll see if that's how it ends up.  The tracking went well and we ended with enough time in the evening to watch some football and make it home to catch Saturday Night Live.  
For the record, I am now a Beyonce fan after having seen her on SNL that night.  Someone like that should effectively send Madonna packing for the nursing home.  Out with the bad air, in with the good.
The next day we reconvened and set to recording "Let's Ready To Go."  This song is probably twice as long as "Mighta" and is at least twice as ferocious.  It is definitely influenced by Drive Like Jehu and I hope the final mix/performance will even come close to the power they conveyed.  While the first few takes were adequate, each pass saw us make slight adjustments to the drum arrangement and we ended up getting it in 7 or 8 takes.  I really look forward to laying down the guitars on this one because I want it to be fast and raw.  Fast like the fastest, longest, and funnest water slide in the world yet raw and abrasive as if that water slide was actually a mile of steep, sun-drenched, shingled rooftop.  Yep.
We took Monday off and Tuesday we commenced to recording a bass track on "Hard Head," a song we tracked with Joe way back in August but had left alone because I didn't have a bass line.  On Monday I wrote the bass line and I think it works great with the drum track and helps propel the song in just the right way.  Also on Tuesday, Jim and I finally ordered the neck for the guitar he's gonna build for me.  I can't wait to have a new electric... while it will be great to have an electric with new frets, a new instrument often provides a fresh outlook on songwriting and I'm hoping that will bring new tunes!