Saturday, June 14, 2008

Recording at Studio Litho

Recording was a hoot. We were at the studio for about 10 hours. Good times were had by all. It's always fun going into a studio, especially when you see/hear the history within the walls. We recorded at Studio Litho in Fremont, which has hosted the likes of Pearl Jam (it's owned by Stone Gossard, after all), Audioslave, Dave Matthews, among others. Then you get a little band like mine in there and, well, it's kind of cool and inspiring.

Anyway, we ended up doing 7 songs and it was SO GREAT to track them live. Sean had his drums in the corner. I stood in the middle of the big room. My speaker cabs were a floor beneath me and it was LOUD. I could feel 'em through the floor. Chris' amp was in the stairwell and he sang and played in an iso booth opposite from Sean.

What was also cool was that Chris wanted me to use my gear. Most times I've recorded, I've gone direct (no amp) or used the studio's equipment. I usually don't have an issue with it as I felt my gear was too noisy (i.e. hissy) to record. As it turns out, I set up as I normally do and Floyd, the engineer, miked both cabs, as well as had a direct signal from the bass itself, and the result was a completely dirty, nasty, chunky and full bass tone.

In other words, I was quite pleased with it. The sound I had in the headphones was a little misleading though. Lots of noise, lots of treble, lots of twang. I just had to trust the engineer and let his ears guide my sound.

We started with a song called Get Up. It's a punchy little tune with a lot of rhythm and syncopation in my part. The arrangement took a lot of time for me to figure out, but once I got it in practices, this song became one of my favorites of Chris' to play. We took about 4 takes and it was good to go.

Next up was either Nice Guys Finish Last or Are You Ready? I don't remember which. Anyway, Nice Guys is a fairly simple little rocker and I think it took just a few takes to get that one down. Are You Ready? was a little tougher. Chris had gotten metronome readings prior to recording and after tracking this song once, it was apparent to me and Sean that it was WAY too fast. This is a cool song that I've come up with some cool parts to, but at the turbo speed, I just wasn't able to get my parts to flow like they normally did. We took the BPM down a few notches and tried again and it sounded and felt a lot better.

It was around this time that we took a break, because next up was a song called Headhunter. This song is, without a doubt, the heaviest song we do. It's in drop-D tuning and it hauls ass. It's a big guitar showcase, though, in playing it through, it's a total drum showcase as well.

Sean and I got the clicks to start (Chris' parts were already recorded so he could chill in the control room) and it was off to the freakin' races! It felt loose and, in Chris' words, "dangerous". While I was playing, I kept expecting the wheels to fall off and for us to have to redo it. As it turns out, we made it to the break in one piece, and, in actuality, it sounded pretty damn good. But, as with most recordings, even if you nail it, you do it again just in case. Well, in the case of Headhunter, we did it 4-5 times. None of the takes, of any of the takes of the day, were perfect, but in this day and age, we're able to cut and paste and edit parts back and forth. Ideally we'd like to use one continuous take, but what'll probably end up happening is using bits and pieces from a few different takes.

The last 3 songs, Tell Me, So Glad and No Matter What, were all put towards the end because they're a little easier than the previous songs. as it turned out, for me, they were tougher because it had been such a long day already. I was able to get good versions of Tell Me and So Glad (which is a rehash of It's So You from the Loser record) after a bunch of takes each. Tell Me, in particular, worked out really well. We'd actually recorded that about 2 years ago, but Chris wasn't happy with it, so we did it again. So Glad had some unnecessary chorus parts that Chris didn't like, so we did that as well.

No Matter What, by Badfinger, is a song we do from time to time at our shows. I'm not a huge fan of playing it, but evidently the masses dig it and, if we had time (which we did), Chris wanted to throw it down. We did it about 5 times and each time, I bit it on the bridges. I don't know what my problem was, but I just wasn't feeling it. In listening back, the takes weren't terrible, but they'll definitely be splicing different performances together for the bass tracks on that song.

At the end of the day, I must say that I was very pleased with how the bass and drums turned out. I think Chris was quite happy too, which was a relief to me. He's very demanding of positive results and I think if he wasn't satisfied, we'd probably still be recording right now. The only bad thing of the night was that there were so many tracks (7 songs x 4-5 takes each) and not enough time to burn me and Sean CDs of the performances. So, I won't get to hear them again until Friday after the gig at the High Dive. It'll be tough to wait that long, but it'll be cool to get some distance from them, to "forget" what I did, and then to hear them again with fresh ears.

Next up: Friday at the High Dive with the Tripwires and the Small Change! Can't wait!