Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ben Franklin - tracking for Optimist

Ben Franklin went into Hudson County Pigeon Club last Saturday to record with Daniel Schlett. We managed to do all the tracking for 12 songs (sans vocals) live in just under 8 hours of recording. We spent about 3 hours setting up drum mics, amp sounds, fucking with pedals and weird old gear. We went home with an hour to spare; Eddie and I were holding onto the poles on the PATH train for support, our dawgs were dropping dead.

I tried out a ton of amps in the studio, and a nineteen-seventy-something Telecaster Deluxe, yellow, and used it to record the first track, "Drink to Forget," before I put the thing down and didn't use it again for the rest of the session. It's a great instrument, The Boss guitar, but it just didn't sound as good as my black beauty, even with all its flaws.

My custom tele with its floating bridge and three humbuckers is one of those problem models. I had it adjusted the other day and my guitar guy gave me the scoop. But you know what? It plays really well and it sounds really god damn good, so fuck it. It's just too easy to work with when it's in tip-top shape and it's just been set up by a tech who knows what he's doing. It ended up sounding great. Always best to work with gear you know. It's not like we were in a position to record one instrument track 14 different times until we found the right sound and then do it again for a 15th time.

Enough gear nonsense. We were all in the room together, singing into scratch mics, we had headphones on. Sarah was set up in front of me and Eddie, our pedals were at our feet, axes to the ready, and our amps were in two isolation rooms nearby, so we had to hear ourselves through our headphones.

On the one hand, this meant no sticking your bass in front of the speaker for insta-screech. And you had to really focus on what you were doing and what you sounded like, listening probably more closely than you would with everyone turned up in one room like a practice space.

And that's AWESOME for recording! You actually nail it. Well, it seemed to help. Rehearsal room sessions are always an epic mess and this went down pretty clutch. Also, having everybody doing it together, it's like kicking it live, because you are. You have to nail it together, and you get excited together, you vibe off each other. Sure, you can punch in a blooper thanks to the iso rooms, but there's no click track, and we swore on no over-dubs, no double guitar solos, etc. That meant we had to be pretty creative with how we worked out the rock n roll improv, which for people like us usually involve no small amount of Awesome and Neat noises. I guess the finished product will tell.

It's a balancing act, we traded in a lot of flexibility, but gained what we wanted in the process -- real improvisation, real live passion. I think it worked out. We looked like kids at Christmas when it was all done. Okay, we also looked dead tired, but we were really happy with how everything came out that day.

The song that we all thought would be the hardest to lay down ended up being the one and only first-take song. That felt good. I don't think anything went beyond five takes. None of them struck me as particularly fail-inducing, so I guess the rehearsals paid off. We had maybe a total of five rehearsals for this session, not including the time we'd spent together before on about half the material, and my sessions hanging out and singing with Eddie in his basement.

I'm really proud, but the job's not done yet. Vocals, mixing, a teaser EP for the show next week, gotta get some imagery going, figure out things like artwork, posters, stickers, and fuck me running I have a lot to do.

Chomping at the bit to start aggressively booking, but up until now we've only had crap music to post, and you're better off not having anything up. I cleared our MySpace of all the crummy demos except "Montclair" because Sarah suggested we keep that one up.

Need to figure out a release date and show as well. Probably won't be until the end of June.

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