February Recording Entries
by on April 12, 2008 2:33 PM in Blog

Songs recorded in Order

I really have to apologise for keeping people waiting for the next part of this blog – Basically it was very difficult to keep up to date while we recorded as I’d get home about midnight each recording day, and then have a little time spare to prepare for what song we thought we were doing next. I also had some work related activities I had to keep across, plus try be a good father and spend some time with the little one and wifey of course – so I jotted notes here and there and hoped to get time to put it all together at a convenient point in the future. As luck would have it, as soon as we had finished laying the beds of bass and drums, with guide guitar and some guide vocals, once I returned to work, I had a full time job managing a tender which required late hours and working weekends (even Easter eventually) – and in between that I’ve been returning to the studio on odd available nights to lay down guitar. So, even though I’m obviously trying to justify not putting this up sooner – there were some valid reasons.

What can I say just as a first impression though on the songs, is that I think this has a great chance of being one of our best albums yet – and of course, yeah, everyone says that about their new album – but its not just because it’s a new venture and exciting etc, it’s the songs that we’ve developed that I really feel good about. I think this album will be broader than any before it, from the point of view of slower songs, which we’d normally shy away from, and me attempting to sing a little more. To me all the songs sound like tmoc – but at the same time I think we’ve grown a little over the past 8 years or so, I mean you’d hope you would, right? – And, to be honest, if we just recorded another Ill at Ease or This is This, what would be the point?

Another thing that I wrestled with somewhat and which slightly slowed my response time for completing this was that I also wanted to keep this blog as a record of how I felt during the whole process, ie record my real thoughts with no self-censorship – and I’ve struggled with this a bit – and decided in the end I won’t air all of tmoc’s little dysfunctional family spats – our dirty linen – but I will say that there were times that I really wanted to strangle… – well I won’t get specific – it was a bit difficult, and I played the statesman as best I could since I was worried that someone might decide to take their football and go home – Jeez, in the old days I would have handled it differently, like with a much heavier hand (read “iron-fist” hiiiyaaaa) so maybe it’s a sign of me maturing somewhat, or not. Still, there is no call for bad manners as far as I’m concerned.

Before I go further I will explain where we are up to right now, this being the second week of April -08. All the songs bar one have had the guitar put down – I still have to work out the arrangement to one song we recorded that we didn’t get time to arrange. We recorded all the different parts and now have to work out how they should go together – that’s one of the wonders of digital recording (sorry Steve Albini) – even though tape can be spliced, it’s a shit load easier to cut and paste digitally. So this Wednesday I will start the vocals – I have at home what’s called a light version of the same recording software we use at Broadcast studio, so I can take a copy of all the material so far and play it back and record experimental bits and pieces onto it – and I develop vocal ideas this way – select a song, get a rough mix of it happening and then look at the feel and mood of the song and try write/sing to it while recording. Sometimes its utter crap – other times it leads onto what I think is a great vocal idea – This is only of course for the songs written without any definite lyric idea. There are 3 songs we currently have that were written with lyrics in place. Anyway, from now onwards I’ll be finishing the vocals, then will probably re-visit the songs again and see if there are any vocal parts that need underlining musically – or extra colour etc – and so go back and add a few guitar bits here and there (and ruin the song!!!). Then we have to mix all the tracks, get the album mastered, work out an artwork layout for the CD (I wish vinyl was still the way to go – much better space for artwork) and hopefully then get it all released – best estimate maybe Sept? I know it seems a long way to still to go, but this is what it is for us – we can’t just spend the next months working on it fulltime, so part-time it has to be.

Anyway – thanks for your semi-patience – Here are my notes with some expansion in areas:

Regards

John

MON 4th Feb:

Stanier arrived around 6-in the evening into Adelaide. He’d played on the Sunday in Perth for the final show of the BDO with Battles. Once arrived the idea was to start next day at around 10am and after getting a few tracks happening move towards a work day of 11am to 11pm.

TUES 5th Feb: Kim and John swing by to pick up amps and quad boxes from my house– I pulled them out of the shed – spiders webs everywhere and dust and rust on the front grills of the speaker boxes (we rarely use our quad boxes these days as we hire them when on the road, and this is the first time in a while we’ve needed to get our own out – we’ll probably end up hiring some extra from Frank at Custom music whose amps and boxes we normally borrow for band practice). I think our speaker boxes all got heavier – rusted out on the front on mine – At the studio Kim’s quad sounds crap, so we go off to Frank’s and borrow a new Woogie amplifier and cabinet, plus a sloped front 1960 Marshal Cabinet.

Started recording song called Tooling at 5:48pm. I ended up using a Goldentone combo amplifier for the guide guitar track as my MHB amplifier spat the dummy and blew one of its valves. When one blows you replace them all so got them all replaced by Frank – another visit to Custom music. . While there I saw a new Frank beast – a Woogie in the shape of a coffin – great look – found out later its for Adelaide band Kamikaze. My amp sounds a treat now. Used my sunburst Rickenbacker on all tracks. Tooling finished that night.

WED 6th Feb: Laid down Interpolter (12:09, midday) – had late lunch. Man, we got to watch the speed of these songs, I really felt this one went a little too fast but on me pointing it out everyone thought it was ok and shouldn’t be any slower – alright – I’ll check it later on as we near the end of the sessions and see how it sits.

We started recording Avenger at 3:50pm – this went smooth – middle section sounds really fucking nasty – love it, goes for just the right amount of time too – one thing I make sure of is if there is a riff you really love make sure its not overused, even though you wish you could play it for hours – less is more.

Started Pelham 123 at 8:06pm (I use the times on when the first recording was created on the files for the sessions so I know this was the exact time the recording started even if we stood around and wasted five hours rehearsing it first!) We finished up around 11pm and the neighbours complain if we go later so went home, stayed up late and went to bed at 2.30am.

THUR 7th Feb: Kim had to go to work this morning so I picked up John, whose mood wasn’t good I think as it was raining and there was no sunshine in sunny Adelaide for completing his tan… anyway we got to the studio where John put some percussion down for Pelham 123 – some shakers, which was pretty cool sounding – it’ll be for the special low rider type mix – mexicana style – (as if) – but we will have it in the background I’d say – just gives the song a little more something. Also recorded some odd bangs and hits on the drums – 20 cent piece scraping the snare, slow down of drum hits etc. By the end of the morning all the Pelham 123 percussion was completed.

Kim came in after 2pm and we started on the song “3-2” at 2:19pm after a false start trying to do “Eastern Decline” – We decided after a couple of run throughs that Eastern Decline needs some more parts and so need to think about it some more.

It’s only been 3 days and we already have 4 songs finished so best to move onto the songs that are least completed.

“3-2” has the most parts and is the most un-arranged – We spent most of the day recording all the little sections of the song plus getting snare hits and kicks etc all recorded in case we need to replace anything later (yeah its all cheating these days – I mean at least we don’t cheat like some do – do you know that if you want you can get ProTools to put a grid up across all the audio of the beat/bars of the song and then some producers then move all the drum hits and guitar and bass parts so they all are dead on the beat of the song – what you get is a machine like performance, although there are also what are called “groove templates” you can use as well which supply that little part of the human in the robot – and then you go see the band live and wonder why they sound so shit but their record sounds great – anyway we occasionally use a click track but that’s difficult at anytime – we don’t cheat as far as I’m concerned…) Anyway at present we’ve recorded all the bits and pieces for 3-2, mainly bass and drums, and I’ll look at arranging it on ProTools at home, hopefully keeping track of the steps and then do it in the studio (doubt that my effort will be good enough to use – but it will provide the idea for the shape of the song).

Recorded Milosevic at 8:21PM – kept going until we nailed it – Neighbours complained we were too loud – Fuck’em – they want to move into the city but aren’t prepared to accept what it involves – tough shit….fuck off.

FRI 8th Feb: Brett O arrived today and was dropped into studio by Kristie along with our 2yr old daughter Lily. Brett will stay till Tuesday Feb 12th morning. Lily does not like the Control room in the studio– seems the carpet on the ceiling might have something to do with it but the next day I find she will no longer enter the music room at home. I think it might have been the drums being so loud, so now she associates the computer screen with loud noises. (It takes until Feb 27th before she will venture into music room again, and even then its very quick and on alert…)

Milosovic needs to be played in E but actually needs to sound like its lower, so Evan who is recording us tried some tape experiments and got us the sound we wanted.

By the way, when I wrote the riff for Milosovic I called it a real slobberer of a riff, and when we were coming up with quick names to identify our songs Stanier suggested Milosovic as in Slobbered on Milosovic. We thought it funny anyway – google it if you need to!

Recorded Grey-11 at 4:49pm – I feel its too fast but will listen later when I feel some time has passed to allow for better judgement – also still think Interpolter may have gone down at too high speed. Will check out before John heads off to Germany to see his gal.

SAT 9th Feb:

Recorded Eastern Decline at 11:20am – well at least John did. We had tried to nail it with Bass and guitar but it didn’t quite seem to be right. In the end it was easier for John to record the drums on his own – and this is where I get blown away when he does stuff like this – cos he ran through it twice, just on his own, and it was the same both times, complete with every fill, paradiddle and whatever it is called that drummers play – and to top it all off, since we used a click track so a consistent speed was maintained, he played on an inverted beat most of the song because there is a section which changes from on the beat to off the beat – so instead of playing and hearing a 1, 2, 3, 4 in time with him, it was counting in between his beats. (re the click track, since Kim and I weren’t recording at the same time and the song starts with us and no drums, we needed a count at the front of the song before John comes in on drums – it also aids in any editing required later, cos you don’t want the first half of the song slower than the last half for instance – and that’s what often happens for most bands, a slow speed up as the song progresses).

Began recording the Argument at 4:58pm – Named for it causing arguments and once again it did so within the first 5 minutes. I usually count in 1,2,3 and start the riff with out the first beat of the riff, so that on second time around, the first beat is heard (it’s a kick) – and to me this works well – its quirky and perhaps reflects our (me and Kim) lack of real musical knowledge. John however, who attended the illustrious Julliard School of music in New York thought it must start with a count like, 1, 2, 3, 4, then his kick comes in on the first beat of the bar, followed by us – although technically correct – I could never understand why we just didn’t start it off in my odd manner rather than the straight up normal count – ie just play the last fucking 3 beats of the bar/riff and the next bar gets played in full – simple! But instead it became a battle of the Alpha-males, got heated, perhaps a better description is that the atmosphere became “strained” – but, being ever the diplomat I once again, and knowing it can be changed in the mix, conceded and learned the 5 count in method John was pushing (that’s what it is to me ie, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 gtr in) –of course the first kick can always be removed from the recording – Its early days yet on what will happen during mix down/editing so it pays to be open minded and get everything down. I’m such a nice guy….

There seemed to be a missing ending to Argument, so we spent some time trying different things – John Stanier came up with a good bass ending, very much in the spirit of TMOC, and I added some bass riffs and guitar, and we all really liked the way the song runs into the new outro. Arranging the song was a bitch but we tried a few different ways and finally settled on an arrangement that at first seemed to suggest it might be overusing a riff in one of the parts (less is more remember) but in listening back it all sounded very balanced. As I’ve mentioned before one thing sometimes is if you find a riff you like, it’s sometimes good to not overuse it, play it minimally so its always a riff you want more of. Makes it special.

Brett-O and I stayed back at the studio after Kim and John left while I recorded some ideas for our next song to record, which is nicknamed Barkhammer.

SUN 10th Feb:

Midway through the morning at the studio I remembered I had to get to a store and grab a display adaptor for my monitor at home. Got an idea for the middle part of Barkhammer on the way there and had to keep in my head for almost an hour driving there and back – almost lost it when I returned but managed to salvage it – dropped it back from a 5 count to a 4 as seemed to naturally want to do that. Works nicely.

Worked on recording Barkhammer from 5:36pm – Worked on this pretty much all day as the middle section was lacking and the outro was missing really.

One of the riffs John had was really good – will have to work out what to do with it as far as vocals as its not quite the normal progression I would sing across – but will see what might come up – the other riff was pretty bouncy, and I wasn’t a fan of it but we kept at it as sometimes things work out. In the end, John came to the conclusion himself that it wasn’t quite right for us and said he was happy to leave it out and use it in Tomahawk – we joked they sure use anything they get their hands on – and also that at least by now John had stopped playing drums like he was still playing Battles songs. We suggested the world only needs one Battles….:-) John gets the Australian sense of humour now so we don’t worry about causing offence. I think it’s always somewhat a shock for those of the American persuasion to find themselves the butt of a joke, or having the piss taken out of them by others – John has been to and from and in Australia so long now he does it himself.

Anyway – Barkhammer ended up being pretty good I reckon – a lot of dynamics to it – look forward to putting down the vocals.

MON 11th Feb:

Kim and I have detected John getting a little antsy as we’re getting near the finish – to be expected somewhat – he’s been on tour pretty much a whole year with Battles, plus came down to Adelaide twice to work on stuff with us throughout the year, just completed the BDO tour plus their own side shows in most capital cities – He’d just like to be back in Germany with his girlfriend. At this point we can see we will finish up earlier than anticipated –(originally expected to take 2 weeks, John leaving the Friday15th Feb 08) –

So we feel we have maybe one song to record, Left Arm Panic, however I had a listen to the songs we’ve got and really think we need to do Grey-11 again as it is too fast and everyone now agrees.

I have a bass only track I recorded a year or so ago at home and I re-recorded that today – It’s a pretty cool riff (if I say so myself) and I think it adds another shade to the album – its not a pumping mean riff at all – more like a melancholy sort of hopeful melody. I like it anyway – whether it ends up on the album or not I’ll decide after everything’s been mixed.

I recalled there was another song I wanted to try record – it was one we jammed on while working with Ben, an Adelaide drummer who helps us out rehearsing, and still does, and we write a lot of stuff with him. He always understood the deal regards Stanier playing on the albums – I would like to record some stuff with Ben though – It’s fantastic having John play and work with us, but it makes it very difficult to write during the year – so we use Ben in between.

This pace suits us as TMOC are never going to tour like we used to, nor play every weekend like we used to – we just don’t have that sort of time anymore – so since its at our pace and we can afford to work slowly (even though it tries the patience of fans a bit I gather) but its best this way since we don’t compromise for the sake of money or trying to pay our rent, not that I believe we ever would anyway. We recorded Slow Lateral (started at 3:55pm) – a song we wrote with our drummer Ben filling in the drum stool – We played it a couple of times to John and then put it down after one run through. It went really well – very happy with it. John put some extra percussion down for use later in the mix and it adds a lot to the atmosphere of the song – might leave it as an instrumental – maybe – who knows…

While rehearsing/recording one of the songs on one of the evenings, last Sunday I think it was – the cops start banging on the studio door – we ignored them until we finished recording then finally I opened it and said truthfully that we’d just finished for the night and had to complete the track as the drummer would be leaving the next day (well possible if the flight moves forward) – Cops were easy going – just said 2 people had complained and I said we knew who at least one of them was. We went out and had a look at the guys apartment next door after the cops left and while we were talking outside the owner comes out and asks all innocent what was all the knocking about – What a dick!! I told him someone called the cops – they didn’t care though… Man, some people are fucked, they move into the city and expect the city to adapt to them – wankers. Anyway, the idiot then crawled back inside his hole…

TUES 12th FEB: Grey-11/Left Arm Panic

BrettO flew back home to Brisbane today – he had taken photos and video footage while here and got to sample the wonders of Farmers Union Iced Coffee. I think he went home with an addiction to it…

At the studio we re-recorded Grey-11 – it sounds a lot better so I’m happy with it now. It was just racing too much –Stanier was always blaming me for that – saying it races because my guitar line makes it race – I thought the drummer was supposed to stop it from getting out of tempo – I guess you learn something new every day….

We also recorded Left Arm Panic – bit of a kafuffle as they say – this was the song John knew the least. I realised there was some weird stuff Ben played on our rehearsal recordings that we needed emulated otherwise the feel of the song just wasn’t there. It became hard to get it to happen the way I wanted it and in the end we recorded a version that sort of had the right feel and I think it can be sorted from within ProTools The main thing is we have about 13 songs to choose from for the album so we are all ecstatic with that. We’ve listened back to them all and they sound great from our point of view – I’m looking forward to hearing the final mixed versions.

Since we had finished early we looked at if John could move his flight forward and leave earlier than this Friday. Turned out he got on a flight that leaves Thursday, so Wednesday will be our last day of doing anything in the studio.

WED 13th FEB:

We invited Ben, our tmoc ‘alternate’ drummer over today plus Julie from dB magazine who wanted to take some photos – We spent most of the day doing some editing, plus some guitar bits and pieces. Plus we wanted to get a rough mix of all the songs so that John had something to take with him. Ben had a chat with John and John said he’d ripped a few of Ben’s drum riffs off – I think Ben liked that!!

Julie wanted us to show her how we play in the studio etc – wanted to do some shots so me and Kim sat down and started playing – She looked surprised and said, yeah right – you sit down while playing. We both said of course – I mean, we’re playing new stuff which in some cases we needed to check our notes written 3 minutes before recording while we are playing – so sitting down is easier. Julie was incredulous – she still thought we were having her on – “So standing up is all a show?” Kim and I realised that Julie had maybe never been to a recording session, so we explained, this is pretty normal – you stand up sometimes, but when recording it really doesn’t matter. So, there you go, Julie learned something during her visit, even though she was sure the Scott brothers were having her on, and I think was still suspicious afterwards!! Anyway, she took some good shots of the studio, John at the drums; Kim and I at our respective instruments and I think even a band shot of all of us with Evan the studio engineer. We looked like we’d all just finished eating a big meal…

We all had many lunches together over the last 2 weeks, but we never even went out once for drinks anywhere as there wasn’t any time – this was somewhat a bummer but we are not about to stay out till 3am in order to start at 11am and feel like shit all day. I guess we really are getting, what’s the word, mature…

Anyway, we all bonded when Kim gave John and I a haircut each at the studio – Kim is quite a good barber – he’s been cutting my hair and his own for a good 25-odd years or longer!! On leaving that evening we all said goodbye, great to work with you etc etc, even the two alpha males laughed over the tensions that had occurred, and anyway – tension works well for getting good results – maybe that is another side of John Stanier’s genius – the horror, the horror…

THURS 14th FEB: Stanier departs for Cologne.

Started on laying down guitar parts, but really wanted a rest. Thursday and the Friday were a little slack but we ended up laying down guitar for Tooling, Grey-11 and the Argument. Back at work on the Monday and then start night time recording of guitar parts and move onto vocals approximately around April.

I will try add some more comments as things progress.

Regards

John

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