i like how, pretty much the moment i fix my sleep, i get back on track (at least musically speaking). my first day back to the land of the living, i recorded one of the 6:00 am classical guitar songs, from soup to nuts in the space of maybe an hour. i like that expression. soup to nuts. you start off with a liquid meal, and end with something the psychotic squirrel from the picture at the top of my last post would slap away if he happened to be a nut nazi.
why does “nut nazi” sound so wrong?
unintentionally inappropriate-sounding phrases aside, i always find it interesting how a song will evolve from writing to recording. in this case it all happened in a period of not much more than 24 hours; the song was written at 6:00 am on monday, and by 2:00 pm on tuesday i had a mix of the finished thing on cd, which sounded quite a bit different from what i started out with. i probably should have got the recording process on video, but i think if i ever really want to capture just how the process works for me, i need someone else to man (or woman) the camera. otherwise, i can’t keep the camera running the whole time (i only have about an hour of recording time available on little flip when it’s all clear), and so some of the pivotal moments, discoveries and shifts of tone end up happening when no person or lens is watching.
someday i should ask someone to come over and just be a fly on the wall and film me working on a song. of course, if i did that i would probably clam up because i’m not used to anyone being there when i’m recording. something to think about, anyway. it’s too much trouble for me to keep re-positioning the camera and making sure the framing isn’t off when my brain would rather be concentrating on making music. better to leave it to someone else. it would look better, you’d get some camera movement, and taylor swift would rise from a birthday cake to sing a song of healing goodness.
oh yeah…i was talking about a song. it started out as a guitar/voice thing, and i was content to leave it that way, but as is usually the case it ended up shifting a bit at the recording stage. first of all, i’m consistently blown away by the microphones dave pearlman makes. anyone who’s got something resembling a home studio and is thinking about spending some money on high end microphones should check him out. i think his mics are easily worth at least twice what he charges for them…you’d be hard pressed to find anything at that price point that sounds anywhere near as good.
he also really cares about what he’s doing, and almost single-handedly restored my faith in the concept of customer service. i sound like an advertisement, but it’s true. i bought a TM1 from him way back in 2006 during the big protracted “studio revamping” adventure, and while it’s been my go-to vocal mic ever since, i’ve yet to find anything it doesn’t sound good on. i’m sure i’ve said something like this before.
the point is, when i was recording this song i wrote on the cheap classical guitar, i realized that my paul tube amp is probably fried — or rather, the tubes are fried. i guess they should be by now, since it’s been a decade since its last re-tubing and i’ve been pushing it quite a bit lately. it doesn’t sound too pretty right now. just for fun, i thought i would try recording the sound of dying tubes rasping their last through the TM1, without bothering to move it from where it normally sits for me to sing into it. so the microphone is a good five or six feet away from the guitar amp, four or five feet off the ground, not even pointing in the direction of the amp. i took a pass at an electric part for the song’s “bridge” section, double-tracked it, and damned if it doesn’t sound like just what that part of the song needed.
it’s not technically a great guitar sound, given the fact that the tubes are weeping openly, but i think it works. i’ve also got this pearlman TM-LE that i’ve kind of been neglecting lately, so i thought i’d throw it on the classical guitar for fun. it made a $149 guitar sound like it’s worth at least $800. that’s pretty impressive if you ask me.
the arrangement i ended up with is not terribly layered (classical guitar, bass, drums, a bit of piano and wurlitzer, electric guitar for only one brief section), but it’s definitely more fleshed-out than just guitar/voice, and it feels off-kilter somehow. maybe it’s a combination of the “heartbeat” rhythm i played on the drums with mallets, the improvised piano/wurly tinkling being just slightly out of tune with the guitar (i did this intentionally as an experiment), and the weird electric guitar sound. the whole thing sounds kind of hollow (until the fried guitar during the bridge blows it wide open), in a way that i like. it’s hard to explain.
it’s also hard to explain why it feels so different from anything else i’ve written. it’s a simple song with nothing weird going on structurally. maybe that’s what feels so odd about it — it’s almost jarring how the words are much less vague than usual. you don’t exactly expect to hear me singing something like, “no loving god would let an innocent child go hungry, or a species cease to be.” i don’t even expect to hear myself singing something like that.
further proof, if any was needed, that songs just happen, and i just stand there with a net waiting to catch them.
i must pause from the usual randomness to thank travis for recommending uline to me. you wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to find clear cd jewel cases and clear trays that don’t have stupid bumpy shit on them somewhere. you definitely can’t find them anywhere around here. i routinely have to order them, only to be confronted with cd cases that are not actually clear. it’s a small thing, but when something that’s supposed to be completely devoid of defining marks (aside from the little “compact disc” logo that is always visible on the cd tray) has clearly visible raised circular bumps all over the place, it makes me want to smash the cd case with my fist and then write some lyrics using the resulting blood as ink. a pretty restrained reaction, i know. i should vent a little more.
but thanks to travis, i can now order insane amounts of cd cases and trays that have no ugly circles on them, and they get here quickly. and no more blood is spilled over plastic that is not-as-advertised. huzzah, i say.
i haven’t forgotten about the mackenzie hall thing that i said i would have made a decision about by now. i ran into a few snags, with trying to find a sound guy, and having just about everyone i talked to about my idea for a show telling me there was no way in hell i could/should do what i’d like to do, causing me to re-think the whole thing. i also think i would rather just play in someone’s living room for an audience of eight people, instead of playing something that feels like a big “event” type show. but i guess there are more than eight people who would show up if i played somewhere. maybe even fifteen of them.
so i’m still on the fence, but close to jumping off. and i also think i’m getting a cold or a sinus infection, which is always fun. i’ll keep you posted on which direction i head in when i fall off the fence, and whether or not i injure my left femur.