...in the studio

So I’m back in the studio, working on my sixth album of original songs. The first was a DIY project, way back in the day, put together by borrowing time on a TV studio’s 16 track tape machine. I didn’t really appreciate the access I had to amazing microphones (including the Sennheiser U87) and the Neve 8058 desk. Engineered it ourselves, mixed down to 2-track stereo, everything was analog. Never mastered the project, because we’d never heard of mastering, and then put it out for friends and family on cassette only. Sounded about like what you’d expect, but it was a great learning experience.

Next up we paid for studio time and spent five days out in the country, living the life of rock stars. Another self-produced project, running a drum machine and keyboard off a MAC Plus and then overdubbing our parts. Biggest problem: I blew out my voice on day 2 and never really recovered. But that happened because in those days I pitched everything too high for my vocal range. We had a great time, although the finished product would have been better had we: been able to bring in a real drummer and some other musicians; had someone (a producer?) to knock some sense into us regarding arrangements and keys. But we finished it and put it out on cassette.

I did the next three records with the guys from Redhill Road. Again, produced and recorded them ourselves and did everything to MIDI drum tracks in my home studio. Fortunately, our bass player was an ace drum programmer so the rhythm section got its act together. We also knew which keys worked for us vocally – especially important because every song had multiple harmony parts. We used a combo of MIDI and an 8-track digital recorder, until computer workstations became affordable and we switched over. Biggest problem – in my opinion – was quantizing the heck out of everything, locking ourselves into a very tight computerized tempo map. We made a lovely organic sounding band feel mechanical and a bit too stiff. Lost a lot of the emotion by concentrating too much on the technology. But we did know enough to take the projects out and get them mastered! Put out three CDs of original material.

This time out I’m buying time in a little studio, working with an experienced engineer. Wayne & Jim came in for two days and knocked off the drums and bass for 14 songs. Then it’s been mostly me playing and singing, with the odd guest spot. All my previous experiences come into play – so I’m fast and efficient. Also, not spending copious amounts of time editing and fixing little things, because the engineer is a wiz and the work moves along very quickly. Without a doubt, the most fun I’ve had doing a project like this. Now, if the mix goes as well as the tracking – yay! The best part, though, is that the whole project features real drums – which is a first for me – so the tempos and timings feel like real people playing songs together. That was my aim when I decided to do this project, to revisit some previously recorded tunes and capture a few new ones.
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