I don’t really fancy myself a mastering engineer of other people’s music. So it was a bit of a surprise when I got the call to master the first two Shimmer Demolition albums. Adam is one of my very best friends, and I had a lot of fun working with his songs, trying to give them the extra volume and punch he was after without going too crazy.
For his third album he decided to go it alone on the mastering front. It’s been a long time coming, but I think the album is only a few weeks away from being released now.
A little over three years ago Adam emailed me an MP3 of a song he’d just finished recording — the song that now serves as the album’s first single. As soon as its infectious wordless chorus kicked in and I started singing along, I knew I had to try to talk him into letting me sing on it.
His process is about as insular as mine is. He’s got his creative vision, and he knows how to get the sounds he’s after without anyone else’s help. I get that. But I heard a vocal harmony in my head, and I knew it would work if I got the chance to try it.
He was reluctant at first. I got him to give me a shot by promising if he didn’t like what I did he didn’t have to use it, and I wouldn’t be offended. We sat together in his basement and I sang into a microphone held together with duct tape.
I couldn’t hear myself in my headphones. You’d think that would help my pitch, but I didn’t sing all that well the first time through. The confidence wasn’t there.
I asked adam if he could mute his own vocal tracks. I gave it another shot and pretty much got what I was after. We doubled it. Then I threw in a high third-part harmony at the end. We doubled that too. I could feel Adam making a slow transition from thinking, “I’m not so sure about this,” to, “Maybe it was a good idea after all.”
He made a rough mix and we listened to it upstairs five times before ordering pizza. I did sitting arm pushups with his cat Nemo on my lap, and Nemo winked at me because he liked the song and my singing on it. At least that’s what I told myself then, and it’s the story I’m sticking with now.
The third-part harmony that came in on the last chorus made me visualize a music video that ended with us dressed up in suits and ties, Adam ahead of me, standing outside the bedroom window of the object of his affection, singing to her without words because there weren’t any right ones for the feeling being expressed and “ah” was the only one that would do, so we both opened wide and sang it out.
It was a good enough mental music video for me to put in regular rotation for a while. I realized it was a cliché — the whole “singing at your star-crossed lover’s window” thing. But the music took it somewhere sweet and heavy, almost making it new again.
Eight years ago I sang a bit of harmony on a song that ended up on an album the artist now likes to pretend never existed. That was very much a spur of the moment thing. This was different. I had an idea, and thanks to Adam I got to run with it and be a small part of what I think is one of the best songs he’s written. Of the few vocal cameos I’ve had on the albums of others so far, this is my favourite one.