It’s been a while since I’ve been in the studio. Recording is a harrowing process, and my memories from the last time are mostly lost in a haze of blisters and caffeine overdose. You play a track that you’ve performed a dozen times in front of friends, rivals, and strangers; in dirty bars, livings rooms, and empty performance halls. You know the notes, the feel, and the form, but when the mic goes hot and you’re in an unfamiliar, wood-paneled room behind soundproof glass twenty feet away from your band mates, the music just washes right out of your ears. When they play that first track back to you, you feel like smashing your instruments and your hands and the thousand dollar condenser mic staring you in the face like the prosecution’s lawyer at your trial for betraying your vocation, and then the mic goes hot once more and you play it again.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4
That was then. After my last outfit had cut a three-track LP, we played a couple more gigs, and then the drummer forgot to renew her visa and got shipped back to Istanbul. Proof, if any were needed, that bureaucracy is one of the great driving forces in the universe, along with gravity, chaos, and traffic.
4 – 3 – 2 – 1
This is now. The recording process can throw you some curveballs, but having all your lines straight on your songs makes everything smoother. The notes came when I needed them, and the support from a much closer bandmate dynamic drew the whole process together into an organic machine, perfectly tuned, in a way that you can only dare hope for. You know these songs like a Platonic Ideal, or near enough. You change what has to change, and you push onward. Some of that makes it to your live show, and some of it stays in the studio. I had to redo my original bass parts on 1100 Miles, because when we recorded it in the studio, the upright just sounded like thunder. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn’t quite what we were looking for. If I want to have a storm accompany my music, I’ll employ a collection of precisely tuned steel sheets and shake the hell out of them. Yes, you can tune Thunder. See Tank’s previous post for musings on tuning percussion instruments with materials science.
In fact, please excuse me until next time: I feel the sudden and irresistible urge to head to Cornell’s sound archive, and start transcribing a thunderstorm.