Day: August 4, 2008

Really old faded truth.

So, there’s this new local arts & culture magazine called WAMM (Windsor Arts & Music Monthly) that has picked up the slack left by the sudden death of Upfront. They recently called for readers to vote for the “best Windsor albums of all time”. The results were published in the August issue, and I have to say I’m pretty surprised to see one of my albums in there. Of all things, BRAND NEW SHINY LIE made the cut, drugged-out-looking frog and all, along with a very kind little writeup from Adam Fox.

Thank you Adam, and thank you WAMM.

In other news, I think I have to retract some of the nice things I said about the trusty old digital piano in my last post. I’ve tried recording a few piano songs since then, and it just isn’t working for me. I probably didn’t do myself any favours by going the 100% organic route with the new album, but it’s really strange. What sounded good to me for more than a decade now sounds cold and two-dimensional. In the context of a somewhat dense mix it can be pretty convincing, but when the piano is the crux of the whole song and there’s nothing for it to hide behind, a digital piano is just that — digital.

So I think it’s time to get a real piano.

The original plan was to get an insanely sexy Yamaha C5 grand piano from Ouellette’s. But that thing is also insanely expensive, and it would probably sound better in a larger space. It’s also probably almost too beautiful and perfect. If I had that beast at my beck and call, I think I’d have a hard time tearing myself away from it to ever play any other instruments. You’d probably get twenty CDs of instrumental piano pieces from me and not much else. And I kind of like playing other things that don’t have keys and sometimes recording songs with lyrics.

Now I’m thinking maybe a nice upright piano is the way to go. Of course it’s never going to sound like a grand, but I don’t think it necessarily has to. In some ways I almost prefer the sound of a good upright sometimes, when I’m not busy drooling over that C5. They’ve got this earthy sound to them that no digital piano has yet come close to emulating.

I think a Yamaha U1 might be a good compromise. They’re supposed to be some of the better uprights out there, and a good deal better than a lot of baby grands. It helps that the price is a lot easier to swallow without the tongue twisting itself in odd shapes and attempting to stealthily work its way down the throat.

There’s just something about playing a real instrument. I thought some keyboards did a good enough job of imitating the sound of Wurlitzer and Rhodes electric pianos, but then when I got my hands on the real thing I realized there’s no comparison. Piano was the first thing I ever figured out how to play, and it’s probably where I’ll always be most comfortable, so I think it’s about time to get a real one over here. One benefit of a vertical piano is that it would be easier for me to record given my current setup. All I’d have to do is move the R88 stereo mic away from the drums, find the piano’s sweet spot, and away we would go.

The plan is to take a look at what’s out there this week, so I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Oh yeah — just for fun, here are a few pictures of the old recording space at the house on Kildare. These shots were taken in haste to finish up a roll of film so it could be developed, so they’re not the greatest pictures from an aesthetic standpoint. They’ll at least give you a bit of an idea of what things looked like at the time, though, and how cramped the room was. It was ten by ten feet, I think. I had much, much less equipment than I do now and knew next to nothing about using it, but I improvised and figured it out as I went along.

I think there are a few pictures of the larger space from the house on Chilver as well, but at the moment I’m not sure where they are. I’ll put them up here if/when I find them. For now, here is where the magic and madness happened back in 1999.

There’s a rented acoustic bass in there, and you can also make out the little Paul tube amp that’s experiencing a serious resurgence right now. It ain’t much compared to what I’ve got now, or even what the Chilver space was early on, but this is where the first four Papa Ghostface CDs were recorded (plus most of SHOEBOX PARADISE), along with the Starving Artists and Travelling Westburys CDs, TONSIL FLOSS, the first CD I made with Jesse, all of my solo CDs up to the LIFELINE/WOHIS two-fer (which was the first one I recorded at the house on Chilver), and several things I recorded for friends.

As small as it was, it was an inspiring space. Sometimes I kind of miss having a recording area that’s cut off from everything else. It was nice to be able to go down there and record whenever I got the urge, regardless of what time it was, free to explore in my own little world.