…boy that would’ve been a great title/concept for a Marx Brothers movie. It’s a shame they’re all dead.
Today was my company’s semi-annual trip to the ballpark. Saw a winning game. Apparently, even though this game didn’t matter much, as per the Cardinals being eliminated from the playoff-run the previous night, it at least salvaged the season, giving them an overall WINNING season. (That’s part of what we do at the company. We handle salvage. You’re welcome, Cardinals! Sorry…bad industry-joke…)
Fun time. Enjoyed being out there, even though I didn’t really pay attention to the game and the fireworks scared the hell out of me. Our bosses are really good to us and they sprung for great seats (and free food/beer!) up in the Coca-Cola deck—dead center, with a perfect view right down the middle of the diamond. Were I a fan, it would’ve probably meant more…but even not liking baseball, I’ve got to say that was a pretty cool view, as you’ll see momentarily.
Below are some pictures from my cell phone that kind of capture the spirit of the day. Enjoy!
Here’s a list of stuff that I need to buy before the end of the year. Some of it is already out. Some of it isn’t. Only some of it will be purchased this week. 🙂
Drapes. – They’re needlessly expensive…but needed in the house.
“The Necromancer” by Michael Scott. – It’s part of his “Nicolas Flamel” series of novels, which are mostly intended for kids…but they’re pretty good, and I’m this far into the series, so I want to finish it.
“Le Noise” by Neil Young – An interesting concept… Mixed/engineered by Daniel Lanois (see the pun?) it’s just solo Neil. Some of it is acoustic, some of it is electric…but it’s just him and his guitar, from what I understand…plus whatever gadgetry Lanois threw on there (for which he’s pretty legendary). Should be an interesting listen, and it’s out now.
Season 4.1 of the Venture Bros. – Out on DVD October 26. One of my favorite shows. They’re playing Season 4.2 right now on the Adult Swim network programming. Been pretty good. If nothing else, I always enjoy their commentaries, so I’m looking forward to it.
“Grand Theatre, Vol. 1” by the Old 97s. – An alt country favorite of mine is putting out their new record on Oct 12. I hear it’s more poppy than the last one. (Question is, when does “Vol 2” come out?)
Doctor Who Season 5. – Out on November 9. Really enjoyed the new series and the new Doctor. Looking forward to putting this into the collection.
“Static Impulse” by James LaBrie. – The Dream Theater front-man returns with another solo effort. Liked his previous three. Probably going to like this too. Been out a couple of weeks, but haven’t bought it yet. Be interesting to hear in the wake of Mike Portnoy’s departure from DT…
DBT merch at the Rock Show on Saturday. Looking forward to a new t-shirt or nine to add to the collection. 🙂 (Also buying my dad something at the show for his birthday, but what that will be is his choice. Odd how we keep going to cool shows for Dad’s birthday, huh? Last year, Farm Aid…this year, DBT…next year? Dunno. Maybe The Who will grace St. Louis with their presence or something!)
And probably a baseball cap or something at the game tomorrow. It’s our office’s semi-annual “day at the ballpark” tomorrow. It’s nice that they do that for us. For one day, we get paid not to work. 🙂 (Plus free food, which always makes me happy!) Only thing is…as of TONIGHT’S defeat, the Cards are out of the running for the playoffs. So we’re going to the first OFFICIAL game of a bummer-season. Kinda funny. (I know, right? For a second there I actually sounded like I KNEW SOMETHING about baseball!)
…and that’s it. Please make all donations payable to Derek Brink…and send them overnight, if you would.
Bunch of Drive-By Truckers to get ready for the show. It’s getting ridiculous. Made myself a playlist on my iPod of ONLY the songs of theirs that I really like. 87 tracks. Yikes.
As most of you who visit the blog are probably aware, I record bands sometimes. I like doing that kind of thing. I record my OWN stuff all the time, but I particularly enjoy recording someone else. It forces me to think differently and to try things I never would have done with my own music—mostly just because I’m pretty much dialed in to my “sound” and I don’t need to experiment to find it. I love the recording process.
Most of the time.
Sometimes bands can make the engineering/mastering process, which I LOVE, a real pain in the ass. The enjoyment of everyone in the project hinges on some very basic issues between the band and the engineer, and as a service to musicians (and as a hopefully fun read for anyone who wonders what a recording session looks like) I thought I’d offer a few suggestions that a band can take to make their project an easier effort for all involved. I came up with 12 off the top of my head. Thought about editing it down…and some of them are kind of similar…but whatever. This works. So here we go…
(Side-issue — For the sake of thinking of MYSELF as the engineer, I’m using male-specific gender pronouns. This is in no way a slight to the fine female engineers at work in the field. In their pretty, pretty dresses.)
12 Things Bands Should Know Before Going into the Studio:
Do your homework.
The time to decide on an arrangement and/or to write a new song is NOT when you’re paying an engineer to be there. Your material should be well rehearsed, polished, and clear in the heads of each band member. (Or, you better be REAL good at improvising and have some GREAT chops.) Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Get it to the point that you’re almost bored with the songs. You should be able to play them in your sleep by the time you’re taking up the time of others—especially those of us who work full-time jobs outside of our musical work. The quicker you can get the thing recorded, the quicker it can be mixed, mastered, and in your hands. On average, you should be budgeting 1-2 hours per song from your first take to your final take (for the whole band).
Keep in mind, though, that sometimes you’ll hear a playback and realize that what you’re doing doesn’t work. I’ve been in more than one situation where I’ve heard a take back and said, “Wow. That’s WAY too busy.” Recording reveals your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Sometimes you end up re-writing a little in the studio…but in all, you should at least know the notes and structure, even if the specifics fluctuate a little bit out of necessity.
There are things that you will NEVER hear on the record.
String pops. Breath inhales/exhales. “Oops, I burped during the guitar solo.” These little incidental things are something your engineer should be able to deal with (unless your burp measures on the Richter Scale). If the engineer feels that it will be a problem, he’ll let you know. Don’t tell him that you need to redo it because there’s something on there that he knows to delete in the first place.
“I think I can hear birds outside your window.” “Is the air conditioner going to be a problem?” “I think there’s a cricket in here.” “I hear some hiss in my headphones.” Look…the engineer knows the room and more importantly knows his GEAR. If he says you’re not going to hear the birds, crickets, and Taco Bell the bass player had for dinner—you WON’T. There are a couple of dozen tricks I know to eliminate those sounds, if they show up in the first place (which they DON’T most of the time). Trust him when he says, “You’ll never know it’s there.”
You also may not hear “that really cool note that makes the song!” Sorry. You’ve got a full band and if that one note’s that important to you, tell your engineer IN ADVANCE and he’ll probably have you play it on a single channel, so he can pop it in as needed. But you’re in a full band, and when it’s properly mixed, you’re amazing (if wanky) guitar solo might not be as loud as it was in your basement. We do our best, but sometimes the little “noises” that you think are cool just fade into the mix. Some of it can be addressed. Some of it can’t. If you’re that worried about it, then do a record of just guitar solos.
Some of the extra “layers” you’re recording won’t be noticeable. IE – Recording three tracks of the exact same part—though cool on the (pre-murderer) Phil Spector level—might not be too apparent when you hear the final mix. In fact, if the engineer’s doing his job right, it SHOULDN’T be noticeable. It’s a nice effect, but keep in mind that if you’ve got it twice, the third time might not be the charm. I’ve wasted a LOT of hours watching a guy nail it on the first take, nail it on the second take, and botch it on the third through hundredth. Maybe two was enough. And while we’re at it…sometimes you’re not going to do it the “best” you’ve ever done it…and sometimes “good enough” really IS good enough.
“No…I don’t need to mic that.”
We’re professionals (or thereabout). We know how our mics work and what placement will give us the best sound. It’s very cute that you read an article on the Disc Makers website…but that means nothing to us. You called US to record your band. We’ll get it on tape. Don’t worry about where the mic “should be.” We know what we’re doing.
Also, sometimes “going direct” really IS the best option. (For the laymen, that means the instrument is plugged into the board with no external amplification, or that the amplifier is plugged into the mixer through a wire/output jack not totally dissimilar from a headphone jack with no microphone used. Guitarists especially hate that for some reason.) Maybe your “awesome amp” is going to end up creating too much rattle in the track, and a cleaner signal is needed. Don’t fight it. Again…we know what we’re doing. (And if it sucks, your engineer should have taken the precaution of recording a “clean” signal alongside your effect rig so you won’t have to redo it, and it can just be run right through your amp—yes—with a microphone in front of it. An old trick of the trade.)
Background means background.
Vocals are the place where you will waste a TON of time, especially background vocals. It is KEY to remember that your LEAD vocal track is what most people will be noticing. The background vocal should compliment and reinforce it, but it should (and hopefully WILL) not be mixed at the same volume as the lead. It’s a BACKGROUND vocal. Don’t over-think it. There’s no need to do more than a couple of passes, as long as you’re singing it right. (And don’t worry too much about things like, “we didn’t all finish that word on the same beat!” and so on…a good engineer should be able to work with that—and sometimes it sounds cooler if you don’t anyway!)
Do everything you can to make it easy on the engineer.
Money isn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong…it’s great. It can buy you a LOT. But if you make the engineer miserable (mostly by doing the stuff you shouldn’t do that I’m writing out here), no one’s going to be happy. The engineer can be a great “extra set of ears” offering advice, encouragement, and a fun experience. Or, he can just be another body in the room who has absolutely nothing to say and just counts the hours that are passing, watching his price rise with every tick of the clock. It’s really your call. If you WANT the latter, that’s cool. We can stay out of your way. But if you want the former, you should really treat the engineer as though they’re a member of your band for the time you’re in their studio. You’ll all be happier for it.
Remember — This is the guy who has your music in his hands, and you DO NOT want to piss him off. An engineer, no matter how well paid, can only do so much with something he feels bad about putting his name on. If he doesn’t feel motivated to do a good job, or if he feels like he’s been treated with hostility, he may still do a professional job…but it won’t be as good as it would have been if he were happy and felt like, “those were nice guys—I want to do right by them.” As I’ve always said, 99% of your success comes because there were people who you didn’t piss off.
Know the scale of your release, and play to THAT. (If it’s a demo, don’t treat it like a full-length.)
There’s no simple way to say this…but if you’re going to do a full release (complete with packaging, shrink-wrap, etc, etc) that’s VERY different from doing a demo that you’re only going to hand to club owners. Is this a release you are going to want to hang on your wall five years from now, or is it just something to throw on your MySpace page to get a gig? If it’s a full release, spend more time, make greater efforts, and put your whole soul into it. If it’s a demo to get gigs…frankly, you can let a few things slide. And do it in MONO for God’s sake…
Respect your engineer’s time—especially if you’re in his home.
You are a guest in your engineer’s home, even if you are not in his home. This is a guy who, if he’s getting paid or not, has given up his time (and probably more of his MONEY than you realize) and has made the decision to do something FOR YOU instead of for himself. If he makes the trip to your band-room, be grateful and welcome him. If he invites you to his home or studio space, be a polite guest that he wouldn’t mind having back. Don’t treat him like hired help. Treat him like a friend—or at the very LEAST a colleague.
You are NOT Led Zeppelin/The Who/Justin Beiber/Whoever.
And more importantly, you’re not going to SOUND like them. Don’t hand your engineer a copy of “Houses of the Holy” and say, “We want it to sound like THIS!” Well… Maybe he’s got the ability to get CLOSE to the aesthetic/ambient sounds (and maybe NOT)…but are you really Robert Plant? No. Sound like YOU. That’s all we’re going to get on tape anyway.
If your engineer doubts a take, LISTEN TO HIM.
He’s the one that’s got to mix it. If he hears something and thinks it will stick out like a sore thumb, he might just know what he’s talking about. For the most part, the engineer will not be familiar enough with your material to know that you’ve played something wrong…but on the occasion that he does say, “Are you sure you want that? Let’s listen to it again…” shut up, listen to it, and make an informed decision. He may be hearing something that WILL bother you down the line. And as I’ve always maintained, it’s easier to re-do it in that moment that to regret it for the rest of your life.
If the engineer says, “It won’t be a problem,” then it won’t be a problem.
This thought is a pretty good summary of all the stuff I’ve said about stuff you won’t hear, mic-placement issues, etc… The engineer has a whole bag of tricks he is able to employ to “fix” a given issue. Most engineers know their skill-set really well—it comes after MUCH practice—and know if they can make an edit you think it “impossible” or if they can fix something you think you need to re-do. If the engineer can look you in the eye and say, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.” you can pretty much take that to the bank. You don’t need to say, “Are you sure?” Yes. We are.
It will never sound “as good as it did in the room.”
This is the most frustrating thing you can possibly say to an engineer who has just spent hours or DAYS mixing your project. “Well, on the day we recorded it, the bass was just so much louder!” or “The snare drum stuck out more!” or “You could REALLY hear the xylophone!” Yeah. Know why? Because it wasn’t mixed yet.
Also, you’re probably living in a little bit of a rock and roll fantasy land when it comes to your own sound. It’s not going to sound how you remembered it sounding because—sorry—it never actually sounded that way. You’re hearing nuance and depth that only exists/existed in your own mind. The proof is in the pudding—or in the file-render, as the case may be. Super-sorry, Not-Robert Plant…but what you hear is what you DID.
It’s a boring job for the engineer.
The day of your recording session should be a BLAST for you. You should be on top of the world. You’re doing something really cool and producing something you’ll get to hold on to FOREVER. You should have a great time and love every moment of it. But keep in mind that for the engineer, it’s just pressing a button and saying, “We’re rolling” about 100 times a night. So many engineers (myself often included) press “record” and their eyes glass over. We’re just staring at a computer screen. (In fact, I know a guy who doesn’t even do THAT…he sits and reads a magazine. I at least show the respect of pretending to be interested, ha ha.) We’ll have our fun during the session, too…but it’s probably not while you’re laying down the tracks. If you’re treating us right, it’s in-between takes, when we’re chatting and joking around. And we’ll have a LOT of fun mixing the thing after you’ve left. We WANT you to have a project you can be proud of. WE want to be proud of it, too. I think of every project I do as a business card…and I want it to be a good looking (or sounding, as it were) card that sticks in the memory of people who hear it… But on the day-of…I’m just pushing buttons. 🙂
And that’s it. Sorry it’s so long and maybe a little boring…but I hope that was helpful and/or informative to SOMEBODY anyway.
Lost Rewatch Update — I’m up through the second episode of disc 2 in Season 5. Almost there! 🙂
I had two experiences today that kind of made the Humanist in me happy. (The Humanist in me has been pretty pissed off lately, too…so well done, cosmos.)
The first thing was one of those things I thought was going to irritate me. I was recording some stuff with the Feldman Group (short version on that—it went well) and I heard a knock at my door. Given the recent history of my neighbors, I figured someone called the cops because I had more than one car in my driveway and someone brought in a guitarcase…but I was shocked to find an older gentleman with a clipboard instead.
He was very polite and well-spoken and asked me if I’d considered voting for Robin Carnahan in the upcoming election. I said I certainly have, and I plan to do so. He asked what my thoughts are on Robin and what my friends and family think of her. I told him, “Well, I hear less about Robin than I do Barack, to be honest with you. But those that I have discussed it with have trusted the Carnahan name all the way back to Mel, and none of us see any reason to change that now.” He laughed and we just kind of made small talk for a few minutes (some about Mel, but mostly about nothing), since that pretty much made it clear that I knew what I was talking about and wasn’t just trying to get him off my lawn. He talked about the big oak tree I have in my front yard (it’s the biggest in my circle—possibly on the block). Not a lot of people notice it, but that guy did and he was just a nice, polite, completely unassuming STRANGER. I didn’t know those were still out there. So that was good. (And honestly, he was a nice enough guy that even if we didn’t agree politically, I think we still would’ve discussed the tree.) 🙂
The other thing—and in my mind this was HUGE—happened while I was on my way to the grocery store. I was at an intersection that crosses all-together six lanes, if you count the turn lanes (and in this case, you probably should). A guy was crossing the street, and due to his speed, the light changed on him and he got stuck in the middle. The guy was missing a leg and was in a wheelchair. There was no faster he could move. I felt bad for the guy, because I saw him, but I was in the far lane and there was no way I could have helped him on my own. Then the light changed. NONE of the drivers (myself included) moved an inch. We let the dude go by and held up a buttload of traffic behind us at a for-some-reason-VERY short light. I think about two cars from each lane ended up making it through after he passed. And I feel like we accomplished something there.
And that’s it. Just wanted to say that.
A Rufus Wainwright mix, mostly from the “Release the Stars,” “Poses,” and “All Days Are Nights” records. Had some of the latter record playing last night during Mike’s set up, and he referred to it as “showtunes.” Slight misread on his part, I feel (since it’s just piano and vocal and hardly gay at all)…but he did concede that “He’s got a wonderful voice.” Yes. He does.
Got a few things to talk about…and I like lists…so…yeah…
Finally have the “Empty Checking” that should’ve gone up over the weekend online and ready to go. Sorry for the delay.
I’ve been getting repeated phone calls from the same company on my cell phone who refuse to believe that I’m not a guy named “Gary.” I get a few calls for “Gary” every year. We share a phone number, except he’s in a different area code. If someone in my area code doesn’t dial his first, they get me instead of him. I’ve explained this to the business, but they’ve still called nine times. No big deal, they don’t leave messages and I just ignore them…but it’s irritating that they think I’m a liar. I’m giving them one more week, then I’m going to call them every day trying to order a pizza and refusing to believe that they’re not Pizza Hut. (I imagine they just either are owed money or owe him work or something…I don’t really care…I’m just tired of them.)
At present I don’t think the bathtub’s leaking anymore…but all they did was caulk some stuff…and the volume of water that was in my basement over the weekend leads me to believe it isn’t just a caulking problem…so we’ll see how long it lasts.
I’m weirdly stressed about recording the Feldman Group this weekend. I don’t really know why, other than I could just use one more day to prepare. I’d much prefer to do Saturday and Sunday rather than the Friday start…but I didn’t know that when I scheduled it, ha ha. I’m sure it’ll be fine. Mike’s a pro and he works fast. I just hope it’s REALLY fast. I’m pretty tired on Fridays! 🙂
DBT show coming up on Oct 2nd in St. Louis. Been a while since I’ve seen the Boys from Alabama. Looking forward to that. Hopefully things are going to work out that both my dad and sister-in-law will be accompanying Dave and I this time. (That’ll be a first for that combo, actually!) So, upside…cool concert experience coming up… Downside…gonna blow a ton of money on DBT merch.
Going to the semi-annual office baseball game next week. I’m not a baseball—or indeed “anything that takes place outside”—fan, but it’s nice that they do that. I imagine I’ll spend a lot of the time wandering around the stadium and bumming around the store they have in there. So that’ll be fine. (Like the Cardinals are going to win anything at this point anyway…)
Slowed WAY down on reading that Neil Peart book. It’s not his fault. I go through phases where I don’t read as much…and I’ve had a buttload of comic books (and movies) distracting me from it. But I’ll pick it back up soon.
I occasionally make iPod playlists or mix-CDs based on people I know. I’m in the middle of one now. It’s a particularly weird one…but I won’t go into details, because I have no idea if that person reads my blog…and that might be weird…cause it’s not like that, it’s just a playlist, ha ha.
And that should do it. I’ve got some stuff I want to do full posts about…but I’ve got to find the energy to write at length on a topic. 🙂 We’ll see if that happens any time soon.
Comic Books Purchased (to be reviewed in the next “Empty Checking”):
1MONTH2LIVE – Issue #4 (of 5)
Justice League: Generation Lost – Issue #10 (Brightest Day Tie-In)
Just working off some late night energy by blogging…Let’s go…
Season premier of “House” tonight was pretty good…but (this only barely counts as a spoiler, because it’s not as much as spoiler as it is a plot hole)… I thought Foreman was a neurosurgeon, right? Why was there ever even a problem?
In other TV news, I’ve just started into Season 4 of my “Lost” rewatch. I think my favorite line of dialogue in all of the show is Jack’s line to Locke in the Season 4 premier… “All you have ever done is blow up every chance we had of getting off of this island!” 🙂
On my way to work today, I took my usual exit to find that they’d shut down the bridge over the highway and I couldn’t take that way to work…nor could I get back on the highway in a way that I knew would get me to work. So I called in and my boss got on Google and directed me to the office from the Internet. It was ridiculous, and I STILL don’t know why the bridge was closed—I’m assuming there was an accident, and I’m hoping it’s back open now so I can go that way tomorrow. But it was a fun little adventure to start the morning. So right on.
I need more avocado in my life. I eat this thing for lunch (at work) from Crazy Bowls & Wraps occasionally that makes really good use of avocado, and now I can’t get enough of it. I kinda want to eat that right now…but there’s not a Crazy Bowls near me. And it’s after 2:30 a.m. Maybe tomorrow.
Work’s been super-busy. I’m not sure how much I’m at liberty to say, so I’ll say very little…but I know I can say we’ve been getting some extra (and WELCOME) business lately, and we’re about to get MORE, too. So it’s good news…but it’s sure keeping us busy. Better than sitting on your hands all day though…y’know…unless you’re into that kinda thing…
Meeting with Dave tomorrow (or tonight, I guess) to run through some stuff. Hope to have some band-news for y’all soon.
Seriously…I really want some avocado. I’m thinking of going to an all-night grocery store and buying one…
I could use a good rainy day. I know we got some rain this weekend…but I mean in mid-week. Just a good rainy day with maybe some light (but not threatening) thunder. That’d be nice. (I know…I’m weird…)
I keep taking random swallows of what’s left in my bottle of Bushmills “Black Bush.” Got barely a glass-full in there, and I’ve just been taking random swigs of it since I got home. Not even enough to get a buzz or anything like that…just enough to taste it. I don’t know why. I think I either need to drink or get off the pot. (Or however that saying goes.) It’s a good whiskey…but I think next time I’m going to get some Maker’s Mark.
Bathroom worries aside, I’m getting some decent work done on the house. Got some decent plans outlined and some work has been taking place. It’s going pretty well, and I’m hoping to get a lot done on it soon.
Recording a demo for the Feldman Group this weekend. Four songs, I think. Should be fun…and hopefully quick. We’re doing Friday night and Saturday morning. Hoping Saturday goes quickly enough that I can get a little more sleep afterward, before accomplishing some more stuff that night. I told Mike that the latest I can go on Saturday is 6:00 a while ago (I hope he remembers that)…with the Friday session also happening, I’m hoping we won’t need that much time.
Well…that’s it. I’m getting sleepy, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that I should sleep when I’m sleepy, ’cause it ain’t coming later.