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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!

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