Tuesday 27th July
Uploaded yesterday’s blog whilst CT edited the last of the drums (“Very Very Good At Being Bad”). This was one of the easier tracks as the toms roll along so there wasn’t as much silence to remove.
The plan for today is to go through every song to make sure there are no guitar parts we need to deal with, as Rob is going home tomorrow. We knew of a couple of songs we’d not done, and Rob wanted another pass at the “Dumb” solo so we got busy.
Before we began though, CT educated us in the ever-so-slightly crazy world of Captain Beefheart, specifically a song called “Big Eyed Beans From Venus”. The song is 50 times more bonkers than the name would suggest. Try and find it online to see what I mean!
In no particular order, this is what we added:
“Oh No” got a little solo bit on the intro. We taped Rob when he didn’t know we were taping him and that is the solo that has made the album. Everything he tried later sounded too thought out. I tell ya, all guitarists and drummers should be lobotomised the second they have learnt their instrument; they always overplay and overthink everything. If you have a drummer or a guitarist near you, you’ll know what I mean. They’re always keen to show off and go “hey, look what I can do” and often forget they’re actually playing a song. Lucky (??!) for Gilez and Rob, I am on hand to tell them to shut up a bit more. Also added to this song was some guitar “woooos” on the refrain.
“Dumb Song”. Rob complained that he didn’t like the current solo so had constructed a new one. It didn’t work, the old one was better so that’s the one we kept.
“Sick” got intro harmonics and more harmonics after the first pre-chorus.
“Dead To Me Now” got what I call “Crue bends” on the choruses. They are punctuated notes that bend up, like those in “Take Me To The Top”. Sound wicked.
“Dragged” got some Chuck Berry-isms on the outro. Again, it was made way more complicated than it needed to be, but we got there in the end!
“Suicide Kid” was perfect as it was.
“Very Very Good At Being Bad” just had a third, centre guitar track added to the intro, to make it more intense. It sounds like a train heading toward you now. Freakin’ AWESOME!!
And that was that. At 16:51 precisely, everything that was to be recorded was recorded. In that respect, the album was done. Vikki, Gilez, Rob and I have completed all our recorded parts so we are now onto the mix. For this, it’ll just be me and CT present. However, before the mix could begin, the whole album needed to be backed up. The last thing we want at this stage is some hard-drive having a hissy fit and losing all our hard work! This took approx 90 minutes.
The ritual begins: CT cleans and dusts the mixing desk, speakers etc before every mix down. He does this for several reasons – for a start, the leads at the back are in a different configuration and, secondly, it would be the only time the desk got cleaned! And a tidy desk produces a tidy sound. Dust makes noise! I took a photo of the zillions of mad leads round the back of the desk (the main pic with this blog) – you’d just hate for someone to come along and pull them all out. Nightmare. He showed me several knick-knacks – or “vibes” as CT calls them – from around his desk. Good luck trinkets, I guess they are. One was called Gary and was made out of expanding foam whilst CT was recording the Gillan album. This “vibe” goes all around the world with him.
Nearly time to mix! This is the bit I have been most looking forward to, aside from finishing. This is when all our hard work gets to really come alive. The sounds are already brilliantly engineered (tech term for recorded and how they are recorded) but now it is time for them to be produced. This is all to do with EQ’s, compressions, effects and levels.
Before he could begin though on the first song (“Sick”), CT cleaned the vocal tracks. Like with the drums, the vocal track picks up all other external noise. As compression is used as part of the overall vocal sound (it makes the vocals stand out in the track, even at low volumes – music nerds might like to know the vocals were recorded with a Chiswick Reach Stereo Valve Compressor with dials that really DO go all the way up to 11), all other sounds are picked up. Mastication, me dancing around, my jewellery. Some sounds are wanted (breath intakes before a line, for instance), others are not. So the unwanted sounds get removed.
At last, CT was ready to begin. It took him about 30 minutes from scratch to build an incredible drum and bass sound. Every nuance of every part of the kit is examined and the EQ tweaked. The results speak for themselves: every drum sounds huge, bright, massive, deep, clear, punchy. CT monitors through an Alesis Masterline 9600 (the machine that will ultimately record the final mix). All machines add their own sound onto a mix, even in this digital era so, by monitoring through the machine that will record the final mix, there are no nasty surprises on playback.
Whilst mixing, the volume goes up (my favourite bit) and down. Listening to the mix at very quiet volumes ensures that everything is audible. Most things sound impressive loud but, if something sounds impressive when it is quiet, you know it is going to sound incredible when the volume is cranked! This is a tip that was learnt from Mutt Lange, producer of Def Leppard.
Gilez’s kit sounds amazing. The boy done good with his playing too. The guitars sound rich, wide and crunchy, but don’t hurt your ears. The bass sounds thick and punchy. Everything is audible, everything is clear, everything has space around it.
We finished at 8.45. Tomorrow, the vocals will be added to the mix and, once the sound is properly established, a final mix will take place before we move on to the next bunch of tracks. This all has to be finished by Saturday so there is a lot of work ahead. Roll on tomorrow. And the next day. And the one after that. And the one after that!!