News: 7/2/2008  

Journal of a Record #3

Yesterday was my first day in the studio and I am both relieved and terrified to have the session official started and open.  After all of the hours spent, all of the missed gatherings and frustrated evenings working on this, it feels so weird to walk in the studio, shoot the breeze with Kelsey the engineer, and throw on headphones to start recording.  It’s like finals week in that you know you can always put more work, more thought in before the big day and you can’t really rest until it’s all finished and you can’t change it.  The first day of recording was a relief to finally reach but also mimicked finals in the sense that all of the areas where I am unprepared were made obvious immediately.  Like giving a speech, anything well rehearsed unfolds instinctively and anything not is a pit of nervous tension.  I have much work yet to do.

The night before was a bit of a panic, I found myself pacing around the apartment stewing over melodies and lyrics without even realizing what I was doing.  I don’t like the feeling of putting something to print that I’m not extremely familiar with so to have pieces of songs undecided the night before I go in to record the final version is very unsettling for me.  I got a text from a friend I met a few days ago and decided to meet up for a beer because the pressure wasn’t bearing fruit and I was home alone feeling crazy.  I didn’t sleep well and although I got up early with hopes of a productive morning, Stumptown was unreasonably hot and they were playing dub music so I didn’t get anything done.  The time came and I had to just head up to the studio, ready or not.

This is the second project I’ve done with Kelsey and I feel very comfortable in the studio; I feel like I can stretch out and take my shoes off and I also feel like I can speak up for what I want to do.  It’s great working with just him in the studio because it’s very focused.  Next week while I record extra instruments and have lots of guests in, it will be more easy-going and I won’t mind other people hanging out.  But building the framework for the songs is exhausting and intimidating and I’m happy to lock away down there with nobody but the engineer and work hard.  Somebody barged in while I was recording a vocal and in losing my flow I realized how much of a zone I’m in down there.  I’m thankful to have such an environment; it's definitely a luxury.

For the geeks, I’ll explain a little about how we’re recording the project.  The vision for the production is to create a sound that puts the listener right in the middle of a room, with instrumentation limited only to things that wouldn’t need to be plugged into anything to be heard there.  The word “roomy” gets thrown around a lot in the recording process, referring to reverb (which is often added after the sounds have been recorded), but when you are actually in a room you hear both the echo of the walls and floor and the intimate sounds that are audible when you are within a few feet from somebody.

To capture the fullness of the living room quality, we are putting a microphone right up close to each instrument to pick up the direct, up close sounds and in addition there are two microphones set up in the far corners of the room.  We will also be panning different percussion and supplemental parts to different sides of the stereo mix to create a dynamic sound that is full in the sense that it surrounds you rather than simply having the space in sounds smoothly filled.  So far, I’m really happy with the sounds we’ve gotten and I’m really excited to see where the sounds go in mix.

I was surprised and pleased to finish the guitar tracks for four songs and the vocal tracks for two.  Working in the studio is intense and intensive because it’s a game of perfection since anything called done is put into archive never to be change.  Playing guitar in the studio is nothing but a lot of work; a technical maze of tension that brings frustration and anxiety.  I really don’t enjoy it.  I love singing in the studio though and I felt very good about the first two vocal tracks to go to tape.  Today I will get more guitar done and Kelsey will play the three songs from the project that have a full drum kit so that dan has something to play bass to tomorrow.  I’ll do more guitar and vocal tomorrow with hopes to have the basic skeletons done for the cello and violin parts that will be recorded on Monday.  We’ll be taking a three day weekend for the holiday and I will journal next then.

Journal of a Record #4

Tags: music, joel p west, Recording, Portland

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