Wednesday, November 11, 2009 

Mixing - to combine (substances, elements, things, etc.) into one mass, collection, or assemblage, generally with a thorough blending

Final mix session... we've been at it for 4 hours now. When I say "we", I mean 3/4ths of Screaming Mimes. Randy and Austin have been mixing and mixing and mixing like mad over the past several weeks trying to get everything sewn up, balanced, tweaked, equalized, compressed, maximized, edited, shredded, repaired. Jim just threw up his hands in disgust and left. Actually, he had to get a present for a certain lady friend and couldn't stay. The club downstairs is pumping out the best of the 90's dance hits, but we're upstairs trying to salvage art.

Preston is obviously thrilled by something Austin just played.

Mixing is always a tough contact sport. Lots of subjective opinions... egos at risk, feelings at stake... make my guitar louder, dammit! But it's great to hear the almost finished product come together. Austin and Randy have worked really hard and put in a ton of time to get us to the point where Jim, Preston and I can tear it all down... and they're being very good sports.

We started with "You're The Kind Of Girl", a song we started playing at the CD release for the last album back in 2008. This one was well rehearsed when we tracked it last December and for this recording we really picked up the tempo. Sounding great, just as planned.

"Open", the last song written for the album and rehearsed and recorded in just a few weeks, was next... lots of textures on this one, very different for us. Austin made some interesting decisions throughout the song.

Memories starting to blur from earlier... but we did "Got To Tell The World" and "Ohio" - no major changes there... sounding excellent.

"A Little More In Love" surprised everyone, considering it was almost tossed off the album a few months ago. The pieces really came together to give the album another texture.

Lots of discussions where had about percussion and double tracked vocals- are there too many of this type or that type between everything? This led us to taking down some vocal effects on some songs and making a few things simpler.

"World Turns Around" and "Motion" where next. We were split about "Motion" - some of us love it, some of it don't think it turned out like it could've. We'll have to let you decide I guess.

"Take Yourself For Granted" surprised me again in it's excellent, to be frank. Everytime I hear this song I fall in love with it again.

"Beating Like A Drum" went quickly, now we're chugging away on "Everybody Knows". Lots of power on this one...

I wonder how we're going to translate a few of these songs live? This album is going to be a 15 track monster.

12:01 AM, just finished "Everybody Knows". Starting an acoustic number called "A Love Song". I wrote this on February 3rd 2007 to mark a very important personal anniversary with my lovely wife. Nice to hear this one finally come to fruition... in some ways it didn't turn out at all like I thought it would. Mandolin and an odd keyboard patch add some great texture to it. Now the great debate continues... double track vocals or not?

Working on "Somebody New" now - a throwback Mimes track in the great late 90's ska tradition - or at least as close as we'll get. This song is actually related to "TV" in a lot of musical ways (ebow and key of B notwithstanding). This should be a quick mix! I hope! PRINT!

"Saddest Girl In The World" is next. We've been playing this one for a couple years, this performance is pretty solid. Vocals are too low, dagnabbit... gotta fix that. I should stop typing and pay attention now. Tamborine down, acoustic guitar up. Got rid of the Howard Dean scream, too bad so sad. PRINT!

Oh lord, final song... "It's Not Over"... 10 minutes of long, long jamming.

Randy & Austin bounced out all the files and placed them on the ftp for Yes Master in Nashville to download and begin mixing. We'll pick up the story in Nashville on Friday.

Thursday, October 15, 2009 

A Lil' Moron Love

Had what I hope to be the final dubbing session (for me) for the new album yesterday (actually it started the night before and went into the early early morning). Randy and I started off recording a new guitar track for the song "A Little More In Love"... a nice simple song that is going to serve as a break in the middle of the album... sort of marking "side one" from "side two" on the album, if CDs and mp3s hadn't ruined that concept. I got through it in one take except for one missed chord... no, I'm not that good, it's just that simple of a song. Unfortunately I've begun thinking of the chorus in my head as "A Lil' Moron Love", which completely ruins the sweet yearning sentiments of the song.

After that we added some djembe to give the song a little more textural interest (how about that for pretensious?). I still can't pronounce the word djembe. Is the d silent? The m? Help me out here people.

A little shaker and egg added to Jim's already awesome drum track, just to give it a bit more bounce. I learned that from hip hop. Randy and I listened to the rough mix and discussed adding some vocal harmonies... I'm in love with the songs on this album but I'm exhausted from working on them... a bit out of ideas at the moment, so we agreed to let it rest for now.

Next we added a guitar melody to "Open", which hopefully is the album opener, ironically enough. Something about the title. I love the way this song starts (Jim and Preston!) and the fact that this song had a super-quick (for us) turn around time from conception to album recording (a week!) makes this super special. Often time I write a song, we arrange it, rehearse it, perform it live for a while, then it gets into the next album recording session... this was broke that mold.

I love the simplicity of the arrangement (despite my best efforts to over-complicate it), the structure, the lyrics... the verse and chorus contrast each other nicely and really support what the song is about. Everyone sings on the chorus on this song, which is a first.

We added some jingle bells and tambourine to the chorus to give the percussion a little more dynamics... and to justify my purchase of jingle bells.

After "Open" we worked on "Motion" - another one of my favs that has some fun lyrics inspired by the book "Ghost Rider" (not the crappy comic). The novel by Niel Peart documents his journey back from the depression over the loss of his wife and daughter, and a long period in his life where he couldn't "be" anywhere, but he had to keep moving (across several countries on his motorcycle). It wasn't the destination that he was seeking, it was the journey that kept him alive through that period. Great inspiring novel... despite the heavy overtones, the song that it inspired is fun, hook-filled and hopefully will connect with you when you hear it in a way that works for you.

Ever since we did the initial recording for this, I'd heard this little one-note lick in the chorus in my head... it got to the point that whenever I listened to the song in my car, I had to whistle it... compulsively. Was it worth all the effort to add this tiny miniscule lick to the track? Hell no... but it was like a shadow on the wall from an old photo that was taken down... something had to go there! No one else will care but me.

Randy was thrilled to indulge me at this late hour. Especially when I wanted to dub a worthless djembe part to the very end of the song...

So Austin from Sonic Arts has been busy mixing mixing mixing. He's knocked out four mixes as of today and they sound fantastic. I think a combination of Randy's recording skill and experience and Austin's talent and fresh perspective on the material is going to give us the most sonically compelling Screaming Mimes album yet. Austin is bringing a very different feel to the songs as an objective 5th party. This is our 3.5th (?) recording project yet, and it is great to hear the continued growth. I know our chops have improved. I hope my writing skills have lived up to the growth as well.

Can you tell I'm excited about this?

Next month we plan to master the album, with an early January release date.
Details, album art, and various promotional rah-rahhing to follow.


Friday, September 25, 2009 

9/12ths through 2009

Been far too long since the last blog... apologies! What the heck have we been doing all year?!?!?

We played a few shows. Good times at the Cincinnati Zoo, Great American Ball Park, and a few others...

Mostly it's been recording recording recording. We're in the middle of 15 new songs... another session or two should have them wrapped up, then mixing galore.

Preston and Randy worked on some final vocal overdubs for a few songs and I laid down a very long mandolin dub... lordy, my fingers were burning afterwards.

Some of us went to the beach, some of us went to Colonial Williamsburg, some of us went to Carmel Indiana. It's been a strange sporadic summer for Screaming Mimes... bursts of intense rehearsals and activity followed by droughts of emailing back and forth and recording sessions.

Now we have some big decisions to make... song order? Anything get cut? Album art - for that matter, album name! Where to master... where to have a CD release... should I try and play that mandolin live?

We'll try and keep you posted on our decisions... look for a very early 2010 release.



Saturday, January 03, 2009 

New Year, new album

Day Two of recording the next album (tentatively titled "Got To Tell The World") went a million times better than Day One. Randy and Austin had worked diligently over the week to dispel all the technical gremlins that assaulted our Monday December 29th session, set us back up in the larger studio and the four of us collectively got our blah blahs (or ya-yas, or jitters or whatever) out. Looking back the morning after (There's Got To Be...) it's hard to believe we got as much done as we did.

Friday, January 2nd, 5:00 - Jim & Randy get together and change some drum heads and tweak some drum sounds. Getting the best drum sound and performance out of each song tonight is paramount. We also record the bass guitar to capture a tight rhythm section, but any bass mistakes can be "punched in" later - unlike the drums. What it is is what it is. It has to be a perfect performance, with all the mysterious energy and vibe Jim could muster. And he had to do it all night long on as many songs as we could track. Jim had supplemented his usual kit with some roto-toms and a piccolo snare (his big honking floor tom would be delegated to the cutting room floor). Jim worked to get a slight rattle that had appeared in one of his toms after changing the head.

By 6:00, Preston and I arrived and set up our guitars. Randy had gotten our pedals and stuff arranged and with the additional space in the bigger control room we were able to situate ourselves so we all had line-of-sight with Jim in the big isolation room. While we would hear a big loud mix of everyone playing together live, Jim would be in silence (except for his incredibly loud freaking drums).

My corner had my blue Surfcaster guitar, keyboard, microphone to do guide vocals, my Pod XT Live & eBow. Preston had his bass head, Fender Precision and 5 string fretless Music Man.

We listened to the previous sessions recordings for a moment. "You're The Kind Of Girl" had all the elements we were looking for, a definite keeper. Everyone got situated and we decided to record our newest rocker, and title song for the album, "Got To Tell The World". The first take had a couple flubs but right away we could tell the energy for this session was going to be good. Everything had a great "up" feeling. After a couple more takes we nailed it and moved on.

"Ohio" was next, a brand new song penned off of a riff that Preston & Jim had come up with during an early rehearsal. We ran through a couple of tricky parts in the song and discussed how we wanted it to end on the album. A few takes later, it was in the can.

We kept it going with "Somebody New" - a crazy metal/ska break up song that was original written for the band 4 years ago and then rewritten last year. By the second take we had it - Jim rocked it hard. This song has some fun heavy metal meets our song "TV" pieces to it. I get to do my "wah wah wonka" filter guitar sound and sing some goofy lyrics about guys who should know better.

"Motion" was next - we attempted to play along to a click track with it but it sounded very stiff and pensive, so we bagged the click. Our first take was good, but then Jim & Randy decided to switch to the piccolo snare (a much tighter and higher pitch snare drum, more of a "ping" sound). At this point we broke for a quick dinner from Shanghai Mama's - yummmmmmm...

We started up with "Motion" again and nailed it in two more takes. It had some great life and bounce to it. We did pick up a take in the middle so we could do a particular drum fill in the last verse. Should sound great! I started getting a bit emotional, because only a few months ago I had demoed the song in my basement, dreaming of how it would sound in the studio... and here it was. When Jim hit that fill with his piccolo snare - mmmmm, fresh tasty.

"Take Yourself For Granted", a mid-tempo keyboard song was next. We ran over a few things and took a swipe at it. It wasn't until midway through the first take that we got the groove going. A second take on it captured it the way we wanted it. This will definitely be an album show piece...

Since we were set up for keys, we moved to our newest song "Open". Driven by Preston and Jim, this one has quickly become a band favorite. Jim does a special technique on this one that only the most discerning listener will hear. We did a couple takes and felt really good about how it was sounding. It amazes me to think how fast this song has come around - I wrote it on 12/6, we rehearsed it on 12/9 and now we're recording it. Fastest. Turnaround. Ever.

Next we worked on "Everybody Knows", a song we've been playing out for about a year. It's nicely seasoned at this point. The first take was great, second one was better. This song will have a nice interplay of harmonies for Randy & I on the verses, with Preston on the chorus, and some fun acoustic guitar work if I can play it. Maybe we'll sprinkle a little percussion on the chorus.

We did a slightly newer song "World Turns Around" - this one has been in the mix for a year and a half as we've continually jammed and shaped it. This is a departure for us, with some more modern beats and big dynamic shifts in it. There's also some U2 jamming in there. We had a couple of false starts but then got into the groove. This one is a great showcase for Randy's tasty guitar licks, as he dons his "Edge" hat and lets the guitar fireworks take over.

A softer song (Preston's favorite) was next - "A Little More In Love". This song has a very nice melody and some great drum work by Jim using his "hot sticks" (not as dirty as they sound, they are bound reeds that give a thicker, but softer sound, than drum sticks).

After this we took a look at what we had recorded and what we had left - we had almost tracked (drums and bass) the entire album. With a few songs to go and energy reserves getting tapped, we decided to go through the remaining songs and see if we could actually do it. We made the right choice.

"Beating Like A Drum", an old favorite from the early days of the band, was next. This Randy-sung song was written in 2002 when the four of us originally got together. Jim left the band before we could actually play it (I wrote it for his style, lots of Police-like rhythms) and though we took a stab at recording it on our first album Live My Life with Tom Jansing drumming it was left on the cutting room floor. Jim had always wanted to tackle it since he re-joined the band, so we threw it in the recording mix. After two takes he nailed it - doing a fantastic job and really capturing the energy and spirit of the song.

At this point we only had one song we hadn't recorded yet, and two from Monday's session that we felt we could do better on. We started off with "Saddest Girl In The World" - a groovy rocker with a nicy funky/lazy beat. The first couple tries had some botched moments, but by the second take I felt we had it. Randy felt we could do a little better - we did one more take and he was proved right. The "bounce" was working on that one.

We re-did "Where Do You Go" next - this is one of the newest songs and one of the most challenging. It has an uptempo swampy groove that we haven't really done before - Jim is bouncing all over the toms and Preston is driving the whole song along with a hammering melody on the bass. We did two takes and they were much better than Monday's performance. Fantastic!

For our last song, at midnight, we let it all hang out and went nuts - a 10 minute jam on one riff, the album closer, with extended crazy guitar solos, drum fills, stops and starts... it was the ulimate garage band jam. All the tension, pressure, joy and inebriation was expressed in that performance - a one take, never to be repeated slam and bang job. You'll either love it, or hate it.

Well, that's it. One acoustic song will be done in the upcoming weeks for the album, and we'll begin adding guitars and vocals to the various songs. What a great night - 12 songs tracked in 8 hours. Almost Beatles-esque in our recording session. We wanted to capture a more "live" snapshot of the band and I think we got it. The new few months will tell how good this album is going to be. MVP of the night was Mr. Farmer, who never faltered despite the intense work of the session and the demands of all the different songs.

Below, enjoy my double shot of caffiene and alchohol... it does the body good!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 

Got To Tell The World recording begins!

... at least, that's what we're thinking of calling the new album. We've got 15 songs in the hopper - some will make it, some won't. 13 of the songs have been written since the end of Tragedy Comic. One goes back to the early days of the band but wasn't successfully recorded... One popped up in the band a few years ago but was re-written. 4 or 5 of the songs were written within the past couple months... either way, it's all pretty fresh and tasty and we're hoping you'll love it.

To begin, on Monday December 29th (crisp winter's evening) Preston and I grabbed all the gear from the rehearsal studio and took it down to Sonic Arts in downtown Cincinnati. Right across the street from the Electric Banana. Jim & Randy met us down there and we all loaded in and began setting up. A few digital gremlins and a bad preamp made for a slow start but Randy worked diligently to get everything ironed out. Within a few hours we were up and running and recording a take of "Saddest Girl In The World". Sounded pretty good so far. Deciding that wasn't the best song to warm up on, we jumped into the molten lava of "You're The Kind Of Girl" - our up-up-up tempo rocker. After a few takes we talked about which was the best of the three.

Soon we startedup one of our newer songs, "Where Do You Go", a groovy swampy song with a complicated drum pattern and bass interplay. Our first pass was way too slow, so we stepped it up a bit on the next two takes. Nice!

After that we were all collectively fried... We have a bit session scheduled for later this week (Happy New Year!) and we look at getting some more done after this "warm up" night. We'll keep you posted!

You stay classy,


Screaming Mimes

Monday, December 08, 2008 

Let it snow, darnit!

We here at Screaming Mimes Inc. have a lot to be grateful for - good friends, cold beverages, warm rehearsal rooms... this past Thanksgiving we were able to give something back to a dearly departed friend, Katie Reider. What a great show it was... we met some new friends (Amber Nash and her magic ukulele), partied with some old friends (Emily & Whitney rocked the house!), and expressed some joy and sadness on stage with a few hundred friends. We met some members of Katie's family and shared some stories and hugs. The highlight of the night for us was leading the crowd in one of Katie's show stoppers with the help from Emily Strand, Carole Walker and Whitney Barricklow. Click the link below to check it out.

Whew, what fun.

So what's next for Screaming Mimes? We have our most ambitious plans yet for 2009, and all of them involve great music music music. We've been writing & rehearsing like mad the past few months and have 14 new songs to record... some of them have some very new sounds and arrangements for us. We're playing better than ever together and want this new album to really capture the "band" sound - more live-in-the-studio recording and less overdubbing. We'll see how it goes.

For me, the most fun (so far) was last week. I was driving home on Tuesday and a verse melody burbled up from nowhere... I pulled out my cell phone and mumbled some off-the-cuff lyrics into it. A moment later, a chorus appeared... I reached for my cell phone, one hand on the wheel (don't try this at home kids) and sang that into the phone. All the next day, the verse & chorus kept circling around in my head. 7:30 PM Wednesday, I get to my studio at home and play the cell phone recording into the microphone, guitar in hand, and start working out the chords. ProTools running, I open Word and type up the lyrics - they seem to spill out from nowhere, already written, like a memory of nothing in particular but significant in ways I haven't 100% fathomed. I record a demo of it, working out rough drums and bass, some acoustic guitar & keys, and a little ornamental electric. I bounce out an mp3, email it to the rest of the band, print out lyrics and chord changes... by 10:00 I'm done. 24 hours later, near the end of band rehearsal, I play the demo again and talk about my vision for the song. Within a few minutes Jim & Preston are jamming out the verses while Randy & I split up guitar parts. Soon I'm on the keyboard, lyrics sheet in hand, and we've got the song down. A whole song, from seed to finished performance in three days. Fastest turnaround ever. Best part is, it turned out great!

It's those sorts of moments that really bring out the best of the band. Great shows with a great crowd, working up a new song that really pulls everyone together, plotting our next album... we begin recording at the end of this month, so I'll keep everyone posted along with some pics and videos. Wish us luck!

Screaming Mimes

Tuesday, November 11, 2008 

Tribute To Katie Reider

Back in May I wrote about Katie Reider fighting for her life and her influence on me. Her friends had just launched to help raise money for her medical expenses and family. Back then I believed deeply that I'd see Katie on stage again in no time once she had kicked her tumors ass. Everyone did.

A couple months later, Katie passed away. The tumor in her head she had fought against dislodged and caused serious bleeding.

Katie is survived by her partner Karen and their two children. There are still tremendous expenses and financial needs for her kids. Because of this need, Friends of Katie Reider have organized A Tribute To Katie Reider for Saturday, November 29th at The Southgate House in Newport, Ky.

This multi-band show will feature bands who loved and were influenced by Katie. You'll her some of her songs redone, and a bunch of other great music, all performed in the spirit of celebrating one of the most talented people we've ever known, along with being a great friend to everyone she met.

You can find out more about the show at . We hope to see you there.