Monday, July 25, 2011

SFTD Recording Journal (Part 3)

July 23, 2011:  This is the weekend when we track Ken's parts for this new School for the Dead album.

 Ken and I arrive at 11:00 after stopping at the local Shaw's for some provisions.  The piano had been tuned during the week and after we load in our stuff, Ken sits down and starts playing Queen songs.  The piano sounds beautiful.

At around noon, we begin recording.  The first song is "Jake and Kim Broke Up (Leave Me Out Of It)" and Frank brings out the good old Farfisa organ.  That song is so fun and now it is even more so.

By one o'clock the Hammond organ parts for "Turn It Down" are finished, Ken takes a hint from Tony's goofball guitar parts and creates some hilarious parts of his own.  This song is so ridiculous.

The heat-wave continues even in the forests of New Hampshire and the room starts to get hot and humid, but we prevail while the dog and cat wander around, occasionally collapsing in lazy heaps on the floor.

Ken Recording School for the Dead Collage
Ken recoding piano, Wurlitzer, melodica, Farfisa,
Nashville-tuned acoustic guitar, accordion, bells,  and pianet.
Missing from pitcture: hammond organ, electric piano, and Emu synthesizer

We move on to the foreboding, "Waiting for Life" and Ken switches to the alternate electric piano which lives in the other room.  He must play the song while avoiding the low C key because it sounds crackly.  He powers through and the song takes on a new life (this would happen to all the songs this weekend).  As he switches to the Hammond to add some percussion doubles, my iPhone tells me that Amy Whinehouse just died.

After "Waiting For Life" organ, we take a short break while Frank makes some iced-coffee.  Ken and I have peanut butter sandwiches.

At 3:00 we resume and I record a new scratch vocal for Waiting For Life, and then Ken adds piano.  I'm sitting back on the comfy sofa sort of between the piano and the studio monitors.  From where I am I can hear the actual piano and I can also hear it coming through the board.  It sounds huge and beautiful, as though it is in a room specifically treated for piano recitals.

At 3:45 we approach "Rumor Mill".  I had mentioned that piano might be good on that song as well.  Ken sits down to try it, Frank hits record.  Done.

4:00 we stay at the piano for "Levitation". After Ken plays his part, we double some of it with muted piano strings.  This requires me to stand on one side using the flat of my hand on an octave of strings while Ken does the same with his left hand simultaneously playing the part with his right.  It was nice to feel the strings vibrate through my fingers as they were struck. 

Ken then adds Wurlitzer to this song and we begin a search for a good mellotron patch on the synths and computers.  Ken plays the part on my Emu and Frank records it as audio but also as midi notes so that he can continue adding sounds later.  Fancy.

At 5:45, we start "She Does, She Does".  Ken plays the intro riff on the Whurly while at the same time I play it on the Emu.  It was fun, Ken adds some more Whurly parts and then sits at the piano and plays on the chorus, basically flipping the song over and giving it twice the depth that it started out with.  Frank and I shake our heads at the crazy beautiful voicings that Ken finds for this song.  Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you wrote a bunch of songs and then a group of friends came along and spent time, and energy, put in thought and heart and they made all the songs sound much better than you imagined they ever would.

Dinner break!  Ken, Frank, Sky and I went into town to go out to eat know what?  It's a long story that's probably not very important. Lets just say that three restaurants and three hours later, I finally got to eat my pizza.

After dinner (or while I was eating my you-know-what-I'll-just-take-it-to-go pizza on the sofa), Ken and Frank jumped right into "I Don't Know About Anyone Else But" with the so cool Pianet and then acoustic piano.  The Pianet sounded really nice and we spent time making sure it weaved in and out with Tony's parts in a complimentary way.

"Saving Your Life Is Going To Be Real Interesting" then came to life with some piano and organ.  As we were wrapping up for the evening, Ken picked up the Nashville-tuned acoustic guitar and says he has an idea for a part and proceeds to twist my brain around that song in a new way.  Time to go to sleep.

I awoke early the next day in the comfortable guest suite and spent a quiet morning with Dagmar the cat.  Frank and Skye appeared made waffles and bacon for us.  Delicious.

At around 10:30 we start recording again.  The first song is "Infinite Kitchen".  Ken fires up the Hammond Organ and the first sound to pop up is perfect.  We track through it and double it with the Hammond percussion.  While this happens, I came up with a strange little part on the guitar which I then translate to the Pianet and we record it.

My journal notes at this point gets a bit brief:

11:45 percussive organ on "People You See Regularly Never Grow Old"
12:00 "Wrong Way Out Of Town" piano. 12:10 Done.
12:15 Finished organ.
12:20 "I Wasn't Looking For This" piano.  Awesome.
12:45 "Somebody Else's Problem" Wurly.
1:00 Frank fixes strap on Ken's accordion, a neighborhood cat prowls through the backyard.
1:25 Start accordion on "Bad Day Done"
1:40 Switch to melodica instead, then piano.
2:05 Nashville-tuned Guitar on "Saving Your Life Is Going To Be Real Interesting".  Sounds like sunshine.
2:25 Done.

And that was that.  One weekend and we have amazing head-shaking parts for fourteen songs.  Frank and Ken make a great team.  Next stop, the rest of Tony's guitars and then my stuff.  So far, it's all looking good, folks.  Thanks for reading.

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