I've wanted to make a rock & roll record for awhile now. At the sake of alienating all of my jazz-head friends - music is just music people! The labels that we, collectively, put on music is ridiculous and counter-productive. Of course, I just labeled my new recording "rock" didn't I? Frank Zappa was a genius of the utmost order, writing music that smashed the boundaries of all and anything that can be categorized as music. When asked by a reporter once, the differences between writing rock and orchestral music, Frank answered, "Nothing, all music is just a series of problems requiring solutions." I'm paraphrasing this of course. This does best describe my effort over the last year in writing and recording the music for "Conspiracy." I had many, many musical problems requiring musical solutions.
I feel satisfied by these "solutions" because I know this record is the best I could achieve at each and every moment of the process. I had collected about 20 song ideas over a 3 year period and wrote another 6 during the recording process. The final song tally was 11 original tunes, about half of which were written specifically for the album. I built a pedal board uniquely for project. I dreamed how I wanted the fuzz pedal to sound, how I wanted the overdriven guitar to roar. I bought a Klon KTR for the overdrive and a Terminal Fuzz from Earthquaker Devices. I settled on a silver faced Fender Princeton amplifier to record the guitars. The Princeton breaks up at 4.5 volume with such a sweet rumble. The sonic stringed weapons of choice: Gibson Les Paul Jr., Fender Jaguar - Johnny Marr edition, and my old trusty 73' Fender Telecaster Custom. A Yamaha electric bass was recorded through a Berhinger Bass amp or direct input, and the organ and electric piano and instrument samples was provided by Roland and Omnisphere.
The task of engineering and mixing the project was the next series of long and arduous problems requiring solutions. One example of this process kind went like this: setting of the mixing board and the room to record the drums. This of course requires tuning the drums, placing the microphones, playing the takes, then clearing my ears for the play back. It was an incredibly tedious process, especially when some of the songs required 30 or more takes to get it right! Believe me, I'm in no way opposed to asking for help. But this was a personal journey, one that usually required long, lonely, all-niters in my free time. It was hard enough finding the time and energy to accomplish this task, never mind asking my friends to join in my struggle.
When you record an album by yourself, you basically record the entire thing twice, due to all of the guide tracks needed. The process to start a song usually began with a drum loop. A rhythm guitar part then followed, also as a guide. I would often play the bass part next, to give the song its "bottom." Then the real drums, are added to complete the report rhythm section.I found recording the drum parts the hardest part of recording any song (and this comes from a seasoned drummer). The guide vocal was recorded next, giving the song its shape. All the guitar tracks are then rerecorded over the completed rhythm section tracks. Organ and synths might follow this step for color or ambience. Guitar solos, string sections, and percussion parts were then placed into the songs to fill out the sound. The main vocal and the backup vocals were placed last.
In the end, the 11 songs had anywhere from 35 to 60 tracks each, requiring multiple takes on multiple instruments. Each take needing a sound check, a rough mix and a playback listen, to ensure the take was a solid one. After amassing hundreds of tracks after maybe a thousand takes, the mixing process began. This leads to the next set of problems requiring solutions.
Sifting through the near innumerable recording programs, plugins, compressors, reverb's, and mixing choices makes the maze from The Shining look like a supermarket aisle. The overwhelming options are also a blessing because if you can "hear" a sound in your head, you can find a way to bring that sound to life with software available. Thanks to YouTubers like Dave Pensado's Place and Mac Help Guy for all of their recording knowledge and wisdom. I befriended Urban Craig who gave me so much inspiration and guidance along the later part of my journey that I feel like I couldn't of finished my record without him.
As my friend Mark Griffith recently told me, after I called him with the good news of my album's completion, "Great, now the real problems start." Well, it's all gravy to me. Thanks for listening and dropping by the website. I'm not sure when I'll blog again but I'll do my best to update you on my record label shopping and any other things that you may find interesting along the way.