Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ferraris no go vroom

Nat's freaking new Mesa that he spent all that money on is a beast. It's REALLY heavy for it's size, and has a million knobs on the front. (Ok, i'm exaggerating, but not by a lot. We counted 16 knobs on the front with 5 faders, another 12 maybe on the back, with like 18 jacks and switches...for a guy who's not really into effects or things, he has more going on than my pedal board that seats 4 for dinner. A 5 or 6 button footswitch controls the whole thing.) Yes, it sounds great, but takes a while to get it adjusted.

With all of that, it started to make some bad noises! So we sent it over to Don to work on it, got it back, and now there's a new problem with it. Making matters worse, Nat's leaving for Maine on Saturday for two weeks and won't be back until the day before we start mixing, and that's when he has to be tied up with the orchestra! So he's got a ton to do, and looks like the Marshall and the Vox will have to do for everything else he has left (His Ampeg is causing problems now too.)

I don't know how we're going to finish.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Toys in the Attic (er, basement)

We now have a museum of guitar equipment at our disposal. If you told me years ago that not only would we work in a big posh 48 track studio, but that we would also have a pile of vintage and reissued amps and guitars at our disposal, I'd think you a bigger dreamer than me. The reality that we actually own some of this stuff now is only starting to hit me, which is not something i ever thought i would have done.

Nat found a Mesa Mark IV for $1200 up in Hartford, and he's really liking it. It's been a pipe dream for him to own one since he tried one years ago, and since this is the album of pipe dreams becoming reality, why not go for it. When Greg first came over to consult with us after accepting this project, he took a listen to my Fender RocPro and was trying to say as nicely as possible "I don't really like your amp. It's very muddy, it won't track well. We should see if we can get our hands on a Vox AC30. If you're thinking of getting any new gear for the studio for this project (which I'd asked him about), that should be something you look into, it's versitile and the resell value is good." (Nat's hoping we can pay for half the record through gear speculation :)

The next morning I'd found some on Ebay, and was texting & emailing Greg "How's this one? Is this the AC30 you meant? (There are a few)." Before he even had a chance to get his messages, I'd gone over to Guitar Center, tried one, and did a "Buy It Now" on ebay for $900 including a roadcase, which is an ABSOLUTE STEAL. (Seller, I found out in my extended phone conversation with the guy, needed a new roof, and needed money fast, hence the price.) Anyway, Greg gets all these messages ending with "I bought one, will be here in a few days", and was happy that we were going to pay attention to his suggestions, and surprised that I turned around and spent that much money so fast and early on based on his suggestion. Gave him a good vibe for the project, he said.

He's done more than we have, so his experience is what we need, so I figured I couldn't really go wrong. Got me thinking that as we get away from our old sound, maybe it's time to rethink the tools. I've never thought i would spend more than a couple hundred on an amp. But, to get great results you need the right tools!

So we have those amps. We also borrowed a Marshall JCM 800 from Matt Wilson (Titles), a Tube Screamer (the proper one, not a crappy rebuild) pedal, and a Gibson Les Paul, the Custom Maynard Keenan one (which is way to heavy to hang around one's neck for too long). Add to that the Ampegs that Nat and I already had, the Fender (which we will use for something at some point) the numerous guitars and pedals we already own... We have now the exact setups for guys that we might to sound like, without planning on it that way. Nat wants a Slash-in-th-churchyard solo for Fine Man? Check. Kirk Hammet's sound? Check. Billy Corgan? Yup. Edge? Let's pull out my analog delay and the rest of his main pedals... Dropkick Murphys? Blink 182? The list just goes on. We're only missing a Rickenbacker, but we won't need it anyway.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The longest day

This is one of the few times since I started making music that I would rather be somewhere else. After accomplishing yesterday's impossible task, I just want to sleep or at least do nothing. But, there will be time for that later.

Today we moved into my studio. Poor Greg was stuck in stopped traffic on 95 with only one working window, and it was boiling out (still kinda warm). Today, instead of getting guitars started, we'revdoing guide vocals. Greg's going to set up every song and do some "stuff" to the recording (like mix enough to be listenable) and then I will do vocal takes that will not end up on the record. It sounds easy enough, but this album is the hardest collection of songs I've ever worked on, so I still have to work at it. All while getting depressed over how bad some of them are, even though they don't matter.

Oh well, its all part of the job. Lots of time to kill between takes, but I spend it working on other stuff.

I just found out my friend Christine's dad died last weekend. Sudden heart attack. Funeral's tomorrow, and I don't think I can get out of work. "yeah, I just took three days off, and I know that this should be a busy week for me, and I'm going to be in and out all the next two weeks as well, but I need the morning off." but I really want to go, she's my best friend's fiance's best friend. I know him since second grade, and it's the same thing on their end. I've gotten to know her quite a bit in the last few months, and this is the type of thing that would really seal the friendship and show my feelings, you know? More than just a friend of a friend. This is something a friend does. And I can't pull it. She is definitely daddy's little girl. She's told me a bunch about her family, but you can see how much she glows when she talks about her dad. A really gregarious man after my own heart. I got to meet him at their last family party, (memorial day?) a big red-meat eating, frie
ndly strong-armed man who makes sure you have a drink in on hand and fork in the other. One of those good people you get the immediate vibe for when you meet him. He'll be missed.

As soon as I got the email with the news, greg called me in to sing fine man, the song I wrote for my own father the day before he died. I'm a little weirded out still.

Was hoping that it would yield some brilliant vocal performance, but sadly, no. Nothing worthy of a tribute

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How are we still standing?

13 songs. 10 hours. That's exceedingly nuts.

Matt deserves a medal for getting us through today. We had absolutely no time to waste if we wanted to get this record done. The drums have to be done at Firehouse before we move to my studio - I can't get the big room sound needed. And an extra day tomorrow would be more money unless we take it from the days we would spend mixing (back at Firehouse). And Greg is loathe to lose a mixing day.

Pete came in today, which was good. we've not seen him a lot lately, and i was glad he was able to join us for this exciting time. He doesn't know a few songs still, so he was able to hang with Greg in the control room and whatnot and just soak it all in.

Anyway, we got through all the songs we needed to, with 40 minutes to spare. So we decided to pound through as much of the bonus material we were hoping to do. And got three songs done in 20 minutes. Why that didn't work like that for the rest of the day I'll never know.

Matt did his first ever drum loops today. All live drums, but double tracking drums on top of eachother. Sounds cool, has a weird butterfly effect sometimes. just pure beauty. RJ helped him out with his snare, turning it on and off, during walkway, so we could get through the song. Two people required to play one drum part.

After the session, we needed to unwind, so Nat and Matt (or Krupa, as he shall be called for the obvious confusion) and I went to Pepe's for some pie since the bar that's downstairs in the studio wasn't open.

We have some new phrases to use in conversation now. One is "Bob's your uncle", which is a weird English way of tying up an explination and saying "and all of a sudden, there you have it".

"I was looking for my keys this morning and Bob's your uncle, they were already in my pocket".

The other new phrase is "have a poop", which is to relax, take a few minutes, just chill and not work. It's not English slang, it's just Nat... We have more new phrases, but i can't seem to remember them, so I guess they're not sticking yet.

We're still looking for a Mesa Boogie Mark IV for Nat to buy or borrow for when guitar recording starts. Do you know anyone??

I'm going to bed. The two cases of Dr. Pepper are starting to wear off. Hey, Dr. Pepper, our record will be out before Chinese Democracy. Can we have a sponsorship?

Monday, July 14, 2008

You’re all clear, kid! Now let’s blow this thing and go home ...

Now I feel like we're a real band. Firehouse 12 is the kind of studio I always wanted to work in.

We met up this morning with Greg Giorgio, who will be producing and engineering our record over the next month or so. He's my friend Maya's boyfriend, so I've had a good vibe about him for a while. When he came over to my studio a few weeks ago to start talking about what we all wanted, we could already see where his mind was headed and that he was the right choice for us. He records at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, and has done bands like Interpol, Mates of State, and Tokyo Police Club. More importantly, he's recorded the National, and they're one of my favorite bands of the last 5 years. I want to try to get some of Matt Beringer's vocal sound, like on Alligator, on one of Nat's new songs, so who better to make that happen! His boss is on paternity leave for the summer, so the studio's closed making Greg available. We'll see if he doesn't hate us before this is all over.

So we got all loaded in and comfortable, and left Matt to pound away for a few hours as they got drum sounds. Studio time is a lot of waiting, so Nat and our video guy RJ and I kept tabs on the voting for the contest we're in - we open for Coldplay if we win, and we're finalists, and took turns telling everyone we know to vote, shopping for studio stuff last minute, etc.

When we did Naked a few years ago, we did all of the drums in one day - a few hours of getting sounds and then WHAM! did all the songs without expecting to. That ended up leaving us with some limitations in the end, and we always wished we'd taken the second day we said we would and space it out more. This time, we have two days to do drums, already booked. Or we did.

We have 11 songs or so to record over two days. How many did we do today? One. That's not good. Once sounds were gotten, Greg and Matt ended up re-writing the drum line for the song we started playing, so there was a bit of re-learning for Matt and that sucked up the time. Plus he was getting a bit worn out, and we had to end earlier than planned at the request of the studio. Thus, he's now a bit freaked that we have to pull a Naked all over again, if we can't book an extra day Wednesday. Can't say I blame him, I'm a bit stressed myself.

Hope springs eternal

So, after all these years of making records and what not, this is finally the moment that I've waited for. The feeling that we're going to start a new record tomorrow and things will never be the same again.

Maybe I've felt that every time, but I swear this time is different. Its like Christmas Eve as a kid - tomorrow morning's going to bring the best one yet. I guess without eternal optimism life goes nowhere fast, at least for me.

So I've decided to start this blog as a way of keeping track of what we'll be doing, what we've done. A gritty detailed account of a not-so-gritty band. We're not hiding heroin habits. We don't date supermodels. We've never tried to punch out each other. Hell, we've each been known to enjoy a quiet night at home from time to time. Anyway, if you're reading this, you should probably stop, since I tend to type as I think (or talk) and get really long winded.

Some history...

This record, which has no name other than "2008 album" as of right now, was very well not going to happen. As documented elsewhere, we ended 2007 pretty low in the water. Mike left, we had no replacement guitarist, and we had hit a creative wall in some ways. Some possible paths to go, but rather than force the issue we cancelled the last couple of shows in December (Pete broke his hand and I lost my voice) and just took a vacation for a month or so. For my part, I locked myself in the studio for a few days to jot down on tape some ideas that I'd never fleshed out, as well as to try my hand at new songs (hard time writing in the past year) and experiment with some covers. 18 songs later I called it The January Tapes and when we reconvened, we had something to start with that the guys could sift through and decide if there was anything worthwhile to take further. We also met a guy named Nat Webb at this time, and THANK HOLY HEAVEN that he came around with his guitar when he did. Amazing player, amazing person, and he liked our songs. Suddenly, taking on the juggernaut of life in a band became desireable again. We did two gigs with him - one mostly forgettable, which brought up the "oh boy here we go again, why do i put myself and others through this", and the other was one of the top 3 or 4 shows i've ever played in my life. Yes, this thing is possible and worth it!

Like a lot of things in life, suffering & pain is necessary to get to the good stuff. And that is why Matt is now sitting on my couch watching Blue Harvest at 9:30 on a Sunday night. Tomorrow morning we will be setting up at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, where we will spend a few days tracking for our new record! We just did a last ditch cramming session today for a few hours, and we leave tomorrow morning. Woohoo!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

We're a Finalist to open for Coldplay - help vote!

Talking to Walls has just been named a FINALIST in the Open for Coldplay Contest! Please help the cause by voting here: http://www.coldplayontour.com/wtic/. Our video is 4th from the bottom - the one for "Cut Out". If we can win it, we'll be running our own contest for our people to get free tickets...