Recording Update 1
So two days into the new album recording and I should give you guys a progress report. Don’t worry, we’re still getting all of this down on video and proper studio diaries will be coming very soon. This is just a quick update to keep you all in the loop.
We loaded in first thing Monday morning and spent a few hours setting up, tuning drums, placing mics, etc. One thing you can say about Drum Craft kits, Aquarian skins and SABIAN cymbals is you don’t have to work too hard to get a great tone out of them! That said, some parts of the kit were designed for live use rather than recording – particularly the hi hats. Absolutely brilliant live hats with heaps of cut and volume but in a recording situation they absolutely dominate every microphone and make the drums impossible to get balanced. Similarly, the brass snare has amazing cut in a live situation but we’ve found in the past that it tends to have a little bit too much shell ring for our tastes.
The plan was to borrow hi hats and a snare from our ex-drummer TY, the same gear we used on the albums he played on with us. The hats are far quieter and a lot darker sounding and they could easily be lost in a mix in a live setting but for recording they’re perfect. Interestingly enough, we thought we’d try Damo’s brass snare out to see how it went this time. I’m processing the drums a little differently this time and using different samples and reverbs to add to the sound and it actually came up sounding great. We identified a couple of places where TY’s snare will still work better – mostly for short specialty sections – but at least 95% of the work will be done by Damo’s brass snare, which is really cool.
As I’ve said in my previous blogs, the race was a bit on to get the album written and underway and it was seriously only a matter of weeks since we’d wrapped up the writing, which gave us hardly any time for preparation. It’s one thing learning the material but another thing actually trying to perform it. What works in your head sometimes just fails miserably when you attempt it and your body just refuses to cooperate. Vocally for me, I know what I’m capable of and most times I’ve written the melodies and lyrics but more often than not when I stand in front of the mic for the first time what comes out is a huge surprise to me, and often awful. But just performing the part for the first time tells me a massive amount about what I need to do for the proper performance when it comes time to do it.
We decided to make the first couple of days pre-production recording for Damo, since this was the first time he was attempting to record these songs. Even though he regularly uses a click track live and we’re even starting to jam on some of the new songs to a click track in the rehearsal room, getting into a studio and recording with even that exact same setup can be worlds apart from how you’re used to. It’s a whole different mindset even if the material is fairly familiar. Stuff you take for granted that you think you can play OK suddenly feels awkward when every part of your performance is being scrutinised. Pre-production is where you work the bugs out, get comfortable with the studio and make any necessary last minute changes to either your gear or performance to ensure the recording can go as smoothly as it can.
From a producer and engineer’s point of view, it was important to spend a while getting to know Damo’s kit all over again, and learning what his new skins sounded like. With TY, the amount of session work we do together on other projects takes all of the guess-work out of this stuff, in fact I even have a template set up that I load for his kit and it just simply works. We’re in and ready to record within a few minutes after setting up the kit and mics. But every drum kit has its own quirks that you need to understand to get the best out of it.
This time we’re going for a big, solid drum sound. Similar in some ways to the sound we got on Return Of The Tyrant but with a little more crack and depth to each hit. I did discover during the course of the first day I have a slightly dodgy connection or channel on my gear here and one of the toms was unable to decide if it was too loud or barely audible. Re-routing ahoy! Solved. (Well this problem anyway, I still need to work out what needs to be repaired once the session is done).
So over the last couple of days we roughly recorded all of the album songs and two bonus tracks. Damo has the rough mixes of them (drums played to our demo backing tracks) and he’s now going over them at home, mentally preparing himself for the rest of the week.
I’m expecting both triumphs and tears, but in the end, I think we’ll have the framework for the album all set to decorate with guitars.
More updates soon!