For no other reason than to have a lasting record of our first summertime excursion into the studio, here’s my observations and ramblings on our time spent recording our third promo, Trismegistus.
10am. We arrive in style, first forgetting the directions then, upon salvaging a postcode by text from our no doubt bleary-eyed producer Alan, overshooting the studio by a good mile before realising and turning round when the road turns into nothing more than a path.
Alan emerges from his sleepy country retreat to back us into the driveway. We’re shown into what looks like a big garage, but what is in fact his new studio. Escaped at last from West Orange’s previous surburban grime and no windows incarnation in Preston , he’s built the new place in his garden with a commanding view of rolling fields, gambolling rabbits and nature in all its finery. The recording room is spacey, even with the grand piano, but there’s no traditional big window dividing it from the studio room. Instead, there are cameras and flatscreens linking both rooms. Easily impressed, we ooh and ahh like bumpkins for a bit, until Mark does the obvious and asks where the kettle is.
Said Chorley rambler has brought some hot crisps which go in a comunal bowl. ‘Very late’ Alan proclaims, as the burning kicks in. They keep us awake for the day, and are strangely morish.
As is always the case with drummers, I take ages to set up, boring Alan with tales of vintage drums and the like. After quite a bit of fiddling about we get a good basic drum sound and we’re ready to go. We’re taking drums and bass together, playing along to guide guitar.
We’re a bit anxious about Barleycorn’s Lament. It’s the longest song we’ve done, and we’ve got an acoustic part and we’re a bit worried that it might not work, but in time-honoured tradition, we leave it till last. Anyway, we get straight down to it with The Secret…, and bass is going fine, but I’m not happy with my first effort, so bully everyone into another go. This forms the pattern for the rest of the takes and after few hours of sweating, chin-rubbing, brews and more sweating, we’ve got our basic rhythm section down and we’re happy.
Guitar and vocal day, or for me as a drummer, eating day. Mark has again brought some daft elaborate three-part curry for his dinner. I love curry, but at night. He obviously manages to get half of it all over the microwave and kitchen. Anthony, meanwhile, is not eating as slowly as we’d anticipated. As for the guitars, there’s plenty of earnest self-examination and the need to get things just right. I pretend to know what everyone is talking about, nodding my head sagely.
Mark decided we should do an ale swap, due to our real ale fixation. Me and Ant trade, and I end up with Old Peculiar. I like it, but it’s one of about only five I’ve tasted. I should have stuck with mine, which I’d never tried. (I later found out it ended up broken on a pavement in Sheffield – there’s no justice).
Alan keeps us amused between takes, alternating between drawing us into the last few minutes of his ebay bids, and expressing his intense dislike of Steve Wright and Alan Davies. He’s playing keyboards for Cornershop at the moment, and they are trying to persuade him to take a more portable Hammond organ on tour and sending him e-bay links for possible products. He’s having none of it however, insisting on a ‘four-man lift- monster.
Ged, meanwhile, does a sterling job with the vocals – lubricated by some apple and blackcurrant and real ale, though not at the same time. He manages a ‘go’ an ‘urggghh’ and an ‘in the night’, so it’s an obvious success. We try quite a few ideas out, and the stuff’s taking shape.
There’s even time for a few keyboards, most of this is spent however, finding a sound that doesn’t sound like 1960’s Doctor Who incidental music. As usual, Mark’s dragged his old synth out of his garage, but it serves us well. More keys tommorow then!
I manage to round the day’s work off nicely by driving the van into the back of Alan’s Audi because I left it in gear. “It’s reet” he proclaims, as we inspect for possible damage. A rare moment of bumpers actually working, and my no claims is safe.
Mixing Day. Mixing day begins by spending an hour looking for the right seagull and the right waves, for Forged Land. Honestly, I wasn’t aware how many ‘wrong sounding’ seagulls there were until this day. They sound different in America! We finally find the right combination after what seems like ages. There’s some more keyboards to sort out too. They go down pretty quickly, after everyone’s agreed what key things should actually be in.
‘We should get on with the mixing’ I say, casting furtive glances over to Alan and shuffling in my seat. It becomes my mantra as we tidy up, finish keyboards and do all the odd niggly bits.
Alan plunges into the mixing unprompted like a man possessed, while Mark paces about, spitting feathers for some tea. I’ve made my poor-man’s jaffa cakes, six-pack of crisps and cheese and onion rolls last three days. It’s another hot day, so we zonk out out on Alan’s lawn for a bit as the studio is getting like an oven. We can’t have the doors open because of the noise, so it’s sweat and suffer!
There’s much debate about echo and reverb and the like, but we’re all pretty much agreed on how things should sound. I’m clock-watching like a bastard, and with my obsessive compulsion to ‘box things off’ , hoping we get done in time. We do, pretty much to the minute, so it’s cdrs all round and on our way.
There we have it. ‘Preserved in time for all to see’ as Iron Maiden once said.