Thursday / April 02 / 2009

new track up there

 

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Put a new track up in the lil mp3 player we have embedded up above. "Strange Keys" is a version of "Motherland" off of our first album Premonition. Featuring our good friend Craig Akira Fujita toasting on the mic … this was included on our Outlaw Tracks EP we put out a few years ago in a very limited quantity (I think only 200 total) … I would love to do another dub or version of this riddim as well as most tracks off Premonition, but sadly all of those sessions have been lost. Ironically it happened while trying to back up the data … plugged one hard drive into another, the computer froze and next thing ya know, the hard drive with every song off Premonition was wiped … in a way, it’s a good thing; forces you to go out and create new music … thinking about that first album brought to mind that I wrote a lengthy description about the recording process to a fan who was taking a studio engineering course and was curious to how we did it … for all the music recording nerds, here’s part of that letter …

So Premonition … was the first "real" recording I ever did, done in a small coach house I was renting by myself  … the basic equipment I used was a Soundcraft Spirit (24 track) console, a Mackie MDR digital recorder, and at that time I believe I was mixing on some kind of Alesis powered studio monitors (crappy speakers, despite being toted as "flat" they boosted the bass significantly, I can only assume to make people’s wack mixes sound at least "thumpin") …

As I said, this was the first real album I ever tried to put together, previous to this I had made about 3 albums of instrumental hiphop/downtempo jams (mostly recording my self and looping, not samples) and an album of instrumental ska/rocksteady/reggae with me playing all the instruments on it (done on a portable 8-track Fostex) … My mic collection at the time of Premonition was not as robust as I have now with a handful of 57s, 1 decent Rode condenser (I still use), 1 SM-33 ribbon mic, and probably a couple more "pro-sumer" grade mics (like those shitty Alesis made Groove Tubes mics, of which one I still own) … I had no auxillary preamps (or if I did it was only a stereo Joe Meek) so everything was done off the board, which doesn’t have the hottest pre’s in the world … that’s 80% of why the record has that dirty edge …

My own ignorance on how to record also played a factor, in that, I had been reading Tape-Op for about a year, and as I said, been recording my horn for loops (I literally had one Beta 58 I used to record everything from flute to upright bass with), but despite this presedence, I realized over time that you don’t really learn how to engineer a session until you just go in and do it … I made a lot of unorthodox choices … for example, mic’ed the hihat with a SM59 (strange mic, look it up), the drum room mic was mono (severly "shortening" the sound), recorded some guitar parts though a leslie (Fistful of Dub), etc … so in a way that record has a lot of character because of the bizarre way it was recorded, but it definitely is not "hi-fidelity" … oh, the Mackie also records at 16 or 24 bit, and for Premonition I recorded everything at 16bit … why? … I have no idea, as the difference from 16 to 24 is insanely noticable even with one listening … smoother, tighter, more full, etc …

At the time I had one great rack stereo compressor, and matching stereo eq (both WBS), a DBX 160a and probably a few more eqs (for some reason, I stocked up on eqs at the beginning of building my studio), which let me do crazy stuff to the drums and chordal instruments … working with the vocalists on this record was pretty easy, especially compared to the "Chicago Massive" sessions (I just mean sheer volume, no one was difficult to work with) … the only guy I brought in the studio was Prince, and that was a bit trying as he had no idea how to record in a studio setting, and even worse brought his 2 year old baby daughter to the session who sat on his lap the entire time, batting the mic around … the one track he’s on, I finally convinced him to leave his girl in the control room, but the actual recording of his voice ended up super low as he decided to move the mic around (without me realizing it) and thusly had it facing the ground while he spoke … seriously, nothing worse then a half-assed vocalist who insists he knows how to do your job better then you in the studio … oh wait, there was also that Vandell Harris guy on 10k … he was cool and easy to work with and even ended up doing one live show with us …

Like with most Drastics recordings (of that era) it was done in layers… first drums and bass, then guitars and keyboards, then horns, then auxillary stuffs … the dubbing is done live by me standing at the board, punching tracks in and out and sending them to the fx, etc … which is the only way to get that sound, but is such a bitch cause if you do one thing wrong you gotta rewind to the top and do the whole thing again, theres no way to fix a wrong dub except to start over … the piano was recorded at the keyboardists house on the same Fostex portable recorder I mentioned earlier … so basically everyone would come by the studio over a week or two, lay down parts, and then I would take the tracks and fuck em up, add sound fx, dub em, give em to the guys and get feedback … the only track w/o a preconcieved song structure, arrangment, etc is "Psychic War", and for that reason sounds the freshest (still) to my ears … that tune was done by the keys (Gary Palmer), bass (Chris Merrill) and drummer (Ben Wagely) who were playing regularly as a jazz trio … so they just sat down and played some a lil jam we had only midly worked on before … you can even hear Ben at the beginning of the track saying to the other two  … "what ? something ? just something ? aight, we’re ready Anthony" … the guest horns were all cats from Westbound Train (I think, that¹s all I remember anyway), and they did their parts while stayin at our cribs for a couple days … the only bad thing about the whole record was that after completion, and dubbings and a small handful of versions (that really have never even put out) while attempting to back up the harddrive containing all the tracks, something happened resulting in a loss of all data … I took it to a harddisk repair/restore spot but they couldn¹t do anything for me … thusly those recordings are gone and lost forever … in a way good as it makes you just move on and not dwell on the past … I’ve since moved up considerably … mixing on a Soundcraft Ghost 24, using Mackie 824 powered monitors, and have a mic closet that¹s pretty damn solid for recording even larger bands in one shot …