4th-10th September – Drum and Bass + Vocal recording/Laying the keel
I’m buzzing round like a toddler who’s been given too many sweets. DRUM RECORDING IS MY FAVOURITE THING. BASS RECORDING IS MY FAVOURITE THING. STUDIOS ARE AWESOME LOOK AT THE MICS NO LOOOOOOOK!!!!!
Seriously, I’m sure I’m particularly insufferable when I’m that excited. But it’s fun. We’ve hired a studio for 7 days to lay the drum and bass tracks. We do them together because it’s more fun and there’s something tangible about a recording where people are actually playing music together.
7 days may seem like an age to record maybe 70 minutes of music but trust me, it really isn’t – it’s an intense week. Because you’re not just playing the song once, and you’re not even just playing. You’re changing heads, tuning kits, playing the song once, huddling round and talking about parts, performances, sounds. I’m constantly vigilant for the sound of a drum starting to warble out of tune, a mic being knocked out of place. Some songs are easy – a warm up take, then a keeper. Then another just to make sure the keeper can’t be bettered. Some songs are not easy. A warm up. a discussion about changing part. Another warm up. Three takes. “Come through and listen”. What’s working? What’s not working? How do we fix it? Is the sound right for the song? Ok, let’s try it again. Two more takes. In the middle of third take, someone audibly farts and the room mic picks it up. Hysterics ensue. One person laughs a bit longer than is sane. Hmmm. Coffee break, let’s get our heads reset. The next take is the keeper take. All the while, the clock’s ticking.
Once we have a keeper take, we listen through and make sure we’ve captured the magic. Sometimes Take 5 is the keeper, while take 3 will be terrible except for one amazing drum fill that could never be beaten, while take 1 has a really cool groove in the last verse. We’ll edit those bits into the keeper take if we think it’ll make is better. Also, with the keeper takes I’ll usually let little bits of bass fuck-up slide in favour of an overall feeling of awesomeness, so once we’ve got the keeper Alex goes back in to punch the odd bar here and there.
In the end, 7 days is about right. On day 1 we get the studio set up, re-skin and tune the drums, try a few mic setups to see what best captures Mez’s sound. Alex comes in, we sort out his bass rig and get recording. By the time we leave, one song is in the bag and another, probably the most tenuous of the 16 on the list, is scrapped. It’s just not going to work without more time. Now we’re down to 15.
Then we get on with it. ~3 songs of drums+bass a day, and Whitty comes in the evenings to lay vocals down. We’ve rented an awesome old vintage ribbon mic, his voice sounds awesome. On the last day we do some acoustics, congas, and some backing vocals. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have wanted day 7 to be particularly intense. It was a long week. Much coffee was drunk. Many flying saucers were consumed.