Location: Netherlands

Thursday, July 17, 2008

RECORDING "The Junction of the Two Rivers"

Well I havent been here for ages and I cant imagine anyone reading this either but there you go. If you are reading it by any chance, I hope you like ranting raves about recording and such because that is what you are going to get. I wanted to talk about the recording of the new album. After the tour to Australia last year the plan was to get back here and just dive into the studio and start capturing what Marc and I had been doing live for the previous 7 weeks. Just set us up in front of some nice mics and go for it - that was to be the nuts and bolts of the new album. The plan was good and we were all fired-up and ready to go but then Marc lost his place to live, his trailer on the edge of town, his view out accross the horse paddock, his everything except his bandoneon. Actually this had been going on already but shit really hit the fan when we got back. So he had to get straight into survival mode, lookin for new digs and sorting out his life. As a result, the sessions we did in that period just werent satisfying to my mind. The spark went out of our playing - it was probably me too - I dont know - one minute it was cooking and the next minute I thought it had all gone to shite. There didnt seem to be the time to get back into it either...we were just doing these rushed session in between everything else and it just wasnt working. I decided it would be better to wait until Marc had found a new home but then that started to take forever and so i said "You know what, I just gotta start this thing up again - you come back in when yoy're ready". Which is what he did eventually once he got sorted. In the meantime I started tracking with Michiel (pictured above) or by myself which meant that many of the tunes started to sound different to how I had envisaged them but the takes we were committing to were excellent. I figure you can have all these ideas about how something should sound but at the end of the day its the quality of the musical interaction bewteen people making music together that you need to catch if you want to make good records. I made sure we were getting as much live to tape as possible. Like we would record vocals, footstomp, guitar and say - velofoon or bass - just Michiel and I around some mics. Once there was a good mic set up for the song in question (something that generally took a few hours of experimenting with mic postions and pre-amp combinations) we would just go for it - save it all and come back a few days later to assess it. There was always something worth keeping and once you got that you cant go wrong. If its good at that point you are more than halfway there, in fact you are nearly alll the way because what you get down at that point defines the rest. Deciding what was good and what wasnt was a feel question. We used the same feel process with our mic and pre preferences too - sometimes it would be a combination of AEA R88 plus a Joesephson or 2, run through Daking pre-amps. The Thermionic Culture Early Bird mic-pre (in the piccy above in all its glory) generated some great tone and colour as well, especially if we wanted something really dark, sparkly, gritty and characteristic. And the Crane Song gear was always in the signal path. I cant imagine life without it (I told you this was going to be a rant!). This is all very well and all this stuff makes brilliant noise but its what you got to run through it that counts. I heard this story yesterday about a heard of gazelle in the long grass, twitching, nervous, always on the look out. Waves of energy in the form of fear runs through thier bodies continously, keeping them alert and ready to escape at any sign of danger. A wave of energy like this can go right through the entire herd, and theyll all look up at once, tails twitching, sniffing the air for the scent of a big predator. But they are grazing animals - they have to eat and to do this they have to stay put. So they are constantly going between a state of high alertness and rest, and can switch very rapidly bewteen the two states. One way they have of switching from 'fear' to "rest" is to shudder and let all the energy flow through them down to the ground. So after a wave of alert fear energy has gone right through the heard and they have decided that the danger is not worth running from, they collectivelly ''shudder", let the fear sink into the ground, so they can go back to grazing peacefully. Whats the point of this story? The analogy is, for me, that you need to be in a very specific state to record good takes. One thing I know for sure - fear dont help. Being too relaxed dont either but much the stuff we had recorded when we first got back from Australia seemed to smell of fear, frustration and dissatisfaction. Fear of what? Its so easy to get in the way of yourself is what I mean. And it took until Michiel and I had recorded the first passes of the instrumental SWEET RAIN for me to realise what was going on. It sounded SO good that the rest of what wed been doing just had to go. Or most of it. So all I wanna say now is that the new album has a lot of fearless takes on it. And Michiel did an incredible job engineering on it, co-producing it, playing on it and generally helping me pull it out of the fire. Marc got back when he was sorted too...Im very happy with these lads. SOLID and DEPENDABLE partners.