My new CD is here in my hands! For those of you who don’t know me, this is a pretty amazing thing. Because this CD is not only extremely special to me, but took a ridiculously long time to complete.
really, ridiculously, ridiculously, long time.
So I wanted a place/page to tell the story of the CD a little bit. So look out, because it’s a really, ridiculously, ridiculously,long story. 🙂
Recording wasn’t the quick and simple process I imagined it to be. After having a couple of very creative years where I was inspired to write a lot of songs, I knew it was time to record them and put out an album, as the music was very special to me. I spent a long time dreaming of how best to proceed. Do I record it myself? do I produce it myself? who is the best person to help me produce it? I really didn’t know which direction to go, but I knew in my heart I needed someone’s help. I thought at first that I might just record the songs myself, but I was still only learning about recording and my initial demo’s fell very short of my expectations for the music. At this time I started meditating a lot for an answer, and also some personal prayer that the right person/situation would arise that could bring this dream of mine to life.
It was also at this time that I took up an interning position at The Panhandle house studio in Denton TX. At the time I had just moved back to Denton, and I didn’t expect to stay long but some circumstances arose which (thankfully) meant I couldn’t leave immediately. I had been getting into recording and producing and I asked Marc and Erik (owners at the Panhandle house where I had recorded many times as a drummer) if they would let me assist on sessions in order to learn about the studio process, and in return I could have access to the studio. If you have not been to the Panhandle house, it’s a beautiful studio and really one of the best facilities in the country right now, armed with the finest boutique and vintage analog recording equipment and also very high quality rooms (which are the basis of great recordings). They also have a gigantic warehouse out the back which gets the most natural and beautiful drum sounds I have ever heard (which unfortunately we didn’t discover until after we recorded the bulk of the drums, but you can still hear the warehouse drums on two songs, ‘Eveready’ and ‘Broken’).
Interning was hard work for me. I didn’t really like working for free and considering I was also working as a drummer, I never seemed to have any time to actually use the studio for my own plans. But I kept at it, and in retrospect it was a great learning experience. Marc and Erik were patient with my mistakes and after a year had passed I asked if I could get paid and started to actually earn a little money assisting and helping out on sessions. Watching all the people coming into record and work on their albums was also having a subtle influence on my own plans to record. I realized that A) there is a process that happens if you want to make a great record and B) A lot of the people recording had much worse songs than me! Which is odd to say but it actually helped my morale a bit, as in many ways I’m plagued with the prevailing musician complex of “the doubt that lies within” (thank you Matt Wigton for this wonderful phrase!).
Also during this time, Erik and I slowly developed a working relationship. I didn’t know either Marc or Erik well before I started interning, but Erik and I started to spend a lot of time together setting up for recording projects and listening to music and working on tracks. A lot of the time Erik would be giving me instructions of what to do, but as we continued on he began to listen to my suggestions and try out things that I liked (which didn’t always work out!), and I really felt like he began to trust my ears as well. At the time the studio was recording quite a lot of jazz, and my background there really seemed to help. I also grew to have a great admiration and respect for Erik’s skills as an engineer. Engineering is probably one of the most unsung art forms out there. It’s an incredibly magical yet technical process that requires the utmost sensitivity and musicality, and also a strong knowledge of the intricacies of the equipment being used. A great engineer can make your record sound amazing, a bad engineer can make it sound like crap. Sadly, many musicians often seem to overlook the difference.
Ok I digress here. But my point is that Erik and I started having a lot of fun together. perhaps too much sometimes. 🙂 I found out we shared a similar enjoyment of extremely foolish humor, and would often spend most of the day talking in Austrian accents. Too fun.
Things get a bit fuzzy in my memory here, but I recall I played some of my music for Erik and did some demo’s for him just singing and playing piano (often when we were setting up for other recording sessions with vocals/piano) and he said he really wanted to help produce my music.
And so it began. The idea was to keep it simple, just piano and voice and drums and some guitars. We made plans to multi-track record in January 2007 and have it all done in a month or maybe two, three at very most.
Well, we got all the drum tracks done in just a matter of weeks. It was an exhilarating time, and we started to add some keyboard parts and other parts. I couldn’t believe my excitement at hearing things get pieced together. But then things got a bit hairy. The songs sounded empty, and every part took so much longer than we thought. We (Erik and I) both went into the album with the idea that “if we don’t do it right there is no point in doing it” so we didn’t just throw a musical idea together, we really wanted the parts to fit the songs. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say.
So, We would do some guitar parts, then Erik would get busy with other projects, then we would do some Keyboard parts, and then we would still think something was missing, then Erik would get involved with some other projects (sometimes for months – he is/was a busy guy producing a variety of artists). But we were both learning a lot, and our relationship evolved quite a bit simply as we were working together now on MY SONGS, and often I’m a little opinionated (stubborn), and thankfully so is he. We found though that whenever we butted heads we always seemed to come out better in the end.
So 3 months turned into One Year and in January of 2008 we looked pretty close to being done. But then there was another minor setback.
While walking with Marc and Erik to the cupboard for lunch I fell from a small height onto the concrete and landed on a straight outstretched arm, dislocating my elbow and fracturing my radial head. When I fell I sustained a TYPE II radial head fracture, yet the eager beavers at ER in Texas didn’t quite realize the extent of the fracture, so my fracture was then moved to a TYPE III after their failed attempt to relocate my dislocated elbow resulted in the bones being spread throughout my arm. Can you say OUCH? So My arm got destroyed on January 19th 2008. However, it was INCREDIBLY put back together by the most highly skilled arm surgeon in the world. Yes I’m not kidding, the world. The worlds best arm/hand surgeon resides at the Steadman Hawkins sports clinic in Colorado, and Dr Viola pieced together the remains of my left elbow (bit by bit – including a little extra bone help taken from my hip) and screwed the whole thing back together. It was pretty incredible surgery. You can see it in the picture here! Lucky you! 🙂
The year 2008 was spent with large amounts of rehabilitation (elbows tend to ‘lock-up’ when they get large amounts of scar tissue) and doctors visits and healing (and two more surgeries to remove the metalwork), but we did find some time to work during that year. I came back to Denton whenever Erik said he might have some time, And in a way it was good because every time we came back to the project we had (very) fresh ears and could make adjustments that we needed. We ended up throwing away a few songs that were just not cutting it, and redoing one song entirely (Eveready) and replacing the drum part to ‘Broken.’ Since we recorded the drums quite a long time prior, a few things had changed int the meantime and it just needed to rock a bit more. With the scraping of a couple songs it meant the album had quite a few more ballads than originally planned, but I guess that’s OK for this first album of mine as a songwriter.
Another year passed and by February of 2009 we had pretty much finished and I moved back to Canada. It was just the mixing/mastering left to be done. With Erik’s busy schedule (and some financial issues on my end) the mixing finally got completed in late 2010, and now with Mastering and Artwork here we are in June 2011!
Crazy. I really had no idea it would ever take this long. But I learned a LOT and I know it was worth it. Amazingly enough I JUST paid off my credit card this month for the mixing costs from over a year ago! (hint hint – please buy this CD it cost a small fortune!)
The Artwork to me is one of the highlights of the CD, and I’m so thankful for the help and vision of Laurence Winram for this. Those are real and (mostly) untouched photos of me standing there on a beach in Scotland in a suit holding a cool archaic looking megaphone (all of which Laurence loaned me). It’s just a great photo that he made using an improvised tilt/shift lens, which is basically a lens that he used duct tape to attach to the camera so he could freely manipulate the angle of focus. I LOVE IT!
Regarding the music on the CD.
FWIW- We didn’t use any ‘Autotune’ on the main vocals in the making of this record. It is actually me. However I’m the first to admit I am no ‘one take wonder’ and we definitely took our time with the vocals to get takes that we really were happy with. Times that we did use pitch correction software was if a guitar note or background vocal was just slightly out of tune. This was maybe 5-10 notes in total over the CD.
The drums were originally recorded using an older Pacific (DW) kit in the main room at Panhandle house. The drums were the very first thing we recorded, so some editing was done as songs got adjusted. But for the most part it’s full takes. We redid drums on ‘Eveready’ and ‘Broken’ out in the warehouse much later, using the big Bonham style Ludwig kit that Panhandle owns. ‘Eveready’ was recorded in the summer of 2008 so I mostly played the beat with my right hand, and kept the left hand on only unaccented notes. It was challenging but fun and creative! For ‘Broken’ we redid the drums (only) in 2009 so we used the Glynn Johns technique out in the warehouse and there was no editing done to this track.
So that is about it. I’m sorry if this page is a bit random, I’ll try to come back to it and update it. I just felt like I wanted to share as much about this album as I could. it’s pretty exciting for me. 🙂