Almost three years ago, I gave a post the title Huey Lewis with a gun, when the contents had nothing at all to do with the esteemed Mr. Lewis. A year or so later, I included a picture of the man swinging a golf club in a different post that also had nothing to do with him.
These are just some of the things I do.
The other day, that title popped back into my head with no provocation (“Huey Lewis with a Gun”, that is). I thought it was about time I wrote a song around it. So I did.
It was one of those things where you write a short, sharp, bitter song about someone you wish you’d never known at all, and then you work your way around to singing about Huey Lewis. I imagine it’s happened to everyone at least a time or two.
I recorded two songs today — the aforementioned tune that mentions but isn’t really about Huey, and a death metal song with some crude free jazz trumpet in the place of vocals. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. The death metal tune was recorded more or less the way I would normally record that sort of thing, but with Huey I felt like going a little off the map.
I thought I would do a quick-and-dirty one-take recording with just one microphone picking up my singing and guitar-playing at the same time. This is hardly a new concept in the world of recording, but it’s not really something I’ve bothered with much before, mostly because I like to have more control over levels and stereo separation.
Instead of messing with mic placement to get the best possible balance, I just saturated the hell out of the mic preamp, hit the compressor pretty hard, put the microphone in omnidirectional mode, and left it a good five or six feet away from me. I played and sang the song. Then I did it again, and panned the two tracks at around nine and three o’clock. This made for a really gritty, lo-fi vibe. I liked that there was a lot of room in the sound.
I was going to leave it like that, but I ended up recording some vocal harmonies, piano, drums, and bass. Everything but the bass went into the same microphone, with the same over-saturated levels. I ditched the drums because they felt like a little too much. And there was the song.
Sonically it isn’t really like anything else I’ve done, even though it’s very simple and stripped-down. I dig it. I think the vocals and piano have an interesting sound to them when they’re recorded this way.
To that end, I’ve learned recording the drums in a similar way (distant-mic’d, smashed to hell, and then double-tracked) makes for a sound that’s present and squishy without getting too hairy. It’s something that will only work on certain songs, not just on a sonic level, but because I like to improvise behind the drums without bothering to write any parts before recording, which is the sort of thing that can make double-tracking a performance a little tricky. When it does work, though, it’s a really fun sound to play with.
It’s good to know there are still interesting and unfamiliar sounds to be found by doing things the “wrong” way.
I think the crazy death metal tune will end up on THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE, while “Huey Lewis with a Gun” will probably be held over for something else. You gotta give Huey the spotlight he deserves.
The first video progress report of the New Year should be along in a few days. It’ll probably be a day or two late for an end-of-the-month thing, but that’s nothing new. Some would call me fashionably late. Others would let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair, and deal out jacks or better on a blanket by the stairs. I’ll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past. So send me off to bed forevermore.