Friday, October 19, 2007 

Yes, Master!

Friday, October 19th2:17 AM
Randy and I left for Nashville Thursday evening, arriving before a horrendous thunderstorm in Nashville (just south, actually, at my friend Richard’s house). The sky was lit up on the right I-65 with mad scientist horizontal lightning. Quite beautiful, if a tad disconcerting. We stopped at Sonic on the way down for a quick bite. Grilled cheese and strawberry smoothie. Yum.

After some Rush & Yes singalongs, I plugged in my iPod and was blessed with some wonderful randomness. Paul McCartney, Police & B-52s – kind of a retro mix, but hey, that’s what my iPod picked. How can Fred Schnieder be simultaneously annoying and so charming, like a kid misbehaving at his own birthday party?

Richard and Cindy and their 4 dogs and 3 cats (that’s 31 legs) welcomed us with open arms as we evaded the storm. The wind blew their awning apart and Richard and I exchanged memories of bygone bands. Good fun, at least for me.

Tomorrow AM we go to the mastering house, Yes Master. I’ll update shortly.

8:44 AM
Beautiful wet morning here in Murfreesboro, about 25 minutes south east of Nashville. The storm blew all night and destroyed the awning on Richard’s gazebo, but all the cats & dogs are accounted for, so that’s the important thing. I was up reading for a couple of hours and Richard and I discussed work and paintings I had done that he had. Some blasts from the past… a painted called “Sin and Death” which was deemed too vile to hang by his family, “WWW” hanging in his office, and a strange one in the bathroom of a very simple kittens nursing. Did I really paint these?

11:42 AM (10:42 Nashville time)
After a quick fast food breakfast (eesh) and a couple of wrong turns we made it to Yes Master. Cindy’s dogs were quite sad to see us go. I tried to smuggle Muffin in my computer bag, but she would have none of it.

Jim DeMain from Yes Master met us at the door at 9:55 and warmly welcomed us… we quickly got to work. Within a few minutes he had an incredible mix working of “Sleeping With The Emily”. Jim is really responding to the musical choices we made over the past year, which is really rewarding. He seems to get the sound of the band. Very nice.

Randy is standing over his shoulder asking deep technical questions… like a kid asking questions in the airplane cockpit. Cute. “Joey, you ever seen a grown man naked?”

The bass is punching through the mix better than ever. The cymbals are creamier and the vocals are sitting right where they need to be. This sounds better than I could have dreamed.

12:06 PM
Jim is working on “Twister” now. I’m sending out mass emails about the show next Friday. Randy is happy. The dynamics of “Twister” are coming into focus.

“Superdave” is really growing as well. I’m going to run out of hyperbole for how good everything sounds. Imagine a large forest squeezed together in a parking lot. Jim is putting the space back in between the trees. You can listen to the individual sounds now.

Jim has brought a lot more definition to the bass on “Only Love”. What was a very chaotic chorus (lots of big guitars & vocals) is really falling into place. Jim is really enjoying this song, singing along to the chorus.

Listening to “More Than Ever”, Jim really responded to the various bells and whistles. Commented on how “there’s a lot of smiling in our music”. I couldn’t agree more.

I heard Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” the other day on my iPod and realized how much influence it had on the structure of this song. I really wanted that chiming descending guitar sound on the choruses…

3:15 PM

Lunch at Baha Buriotos (or something like that). Really delicious. Fresh fresh fresh, particularly after two fast food meals. Veggie tacos and a beer.

Now we’re back to start on “Everything To Me”.

Quick. Now “Suddenly”. Really sounds big. Jim loves the guitar solo. ;)

“SHE” sounds great. Jim really liked the mix we brought in. Just punching up some EQ and a bit of compression.

“Happening” now. It’s all happening, as they say. Young groupies say that, I suppose. At least according to Cameron Crowe movies.

It’s nice hearing “Happening” in this context. This song was the quickest to mix so I’ve spent a lot less time analyzing it. It sounds pretty damn fresh. I don’t know if listeners respond to the song as much as we do, but I still love it. Backwards guitar solo, woo hoo!

This is where we wear (yikes) our Rush/Yes influences on our sleeves. Funny that’s how the trip started. To me those bands seem like really great teachers I had in school – very impactful influence at the time, but kind of irrelevant to me now. I still love their music and think of them with great affection, but I just don’t “live” their songs like I used to.

If you read back in the blog several months you find the post about this song where Randy and I had to write a brand new verse right before we recorded the vocals… pretty funny. Luckily it holds up really well in the context of the song.

4:40 PM
Last song. “Pretty Soon Now” Jim is rolling and got a great mix of this blended pretty quickly. I can’t believe we’re almost at the end of this audio adventure. Of course, album art needs to be finalized, ISRC codes need to be assigned, text IDs need to be written…

We’re getting close to the finale of “Pretty Soon Now”. Trumpets are building, gratuitous back vocals are vocaling, violins are tuning up… quite a thrill.

A few nights ago (Tuesday the… 16th?), after our photo session, Randy & I ran up to Sonic Arts and did a final tweak on “Pretty Soon Now”… we brought up some guitar on the chorus, remixed the guitar solo, brought down the lead vocals, and added a slight ocean sound effect at the very end, just to give it a little gentle pad. It’s significant to me… don’t know if the listener will get it though.

Didn’t I mention the photo session? Shame on me. Despite the light blogging, we’ve been quite busy with shows and rehearsing and Tuesday we all brought some various clothes and lights and took over our rehearsal building. Jason Bechtel and Jami Patton came in to shoot the proceedings.

We started in the dark vault of a beautiful empty bank. The door to the vault was about 9 feet tall – a beautiful ornate contraption of etched brass and steel. Exquisite. We put on some suits and looked alternately bad-ass or goofy at the camera. Then we moved upstairs to the same floor where we rehearse and found a rather neglected corner of the room for more of the same. Glaring, smiling, happy, sad… all in the days work of a rock star.

I’m getting off track. It’s been a long day already.

Jim is working on balancing all the elements together. Having gone through the songs one by one and created (“printed”, he calls it) individual files he is now laying them into a giant album-length timeline. From here he is bouncing around from song to song balancing out all the elements – volume, eq, etc… how do all the songs blend?

October 20 2:48 AM
Back in Ohio. A laborious drive uphill (does North seem uphill to anyone else?) after a fine dinner with some family and friends. Good company and good laughs.

Where did we leave it with Yes Master Studios? Jim made us a couple copies of the running order for us to review, with a promise of quickly addressing any changes we might have. Hopefully there will only be a few. After we thanked him profusely and said our goodbyes, Richard and I drove to a restaurant just a few minutes North of Nashville. We chatted about the past, future and present (not exactly in that order) - he is a great soul and his life is really good here. I'm jealous of everyone in this town who gets to spend time with him.

Randy and I listened to the reference disc on the way back - noticed some small things to tweak but overall it was incredibly pleasing. Richard mentioned that he'd like to take this disc back 15 years when I was very frustrated musically and show me what I would one day be a part of. I understood exactly what he meant... I think I would be very proud, and hopeful. Like I am right now.

Thursday, October 04, 2007 

I'm Multi-tasking!

Right now Randy is editing the final vocals for "Pretty Soon Now"... pretty damn exciting. It took some doing to get into the headspace for the song... it's a letter to someone and getting the right "voice" for each verse was challenging. Lot of up & down dynamics... this song has such deep undercurrents of sadness for me beneath the happy chimey melodies.

The third take was definitely the best. I managed to sing each take pretty differently. The dynamics on the first one were pretty flat. By the second one I knew what I wanted to do. The moments of funeral-esque quiet into the massive-big-huge-angels-from-on-high started to come through.

Randy is doing some neat editing tricks - double tracking some sections of the bridge, fixing the occassional bum note (yes, it's true, I'm not perfect)...

He did his backup vocal pretty quickly too, which is cool because he hadn't sung it before. Right into the fire, baby.

Uh oh, that line sucked. Whew, there was a good take.

I should probably stop typing and pay attention.