News: 7/9/2008  

Journal of a Record #4

Recording is going well, Portland is lovely, there’s a bunch of great people in town, and I am completely exhausted.  The first three days of tracking in particular wore me out; our schedule got bumped a little so there was a huge amount of work to do to prepare for the instrumentalists we had scheduled for this week in addition to the work I need to do to finish writing. I think we’re through the worst of it; the first mile of a morning run is always so much to fight through.  We’re warmed up now and there is good momentum.  I haven’t slept much at all and because the songs are not finished and I wont be able to sleep until the whole project is done.  Six o’clock every day in the studio feels like the end of something, a major accomplishment, and it’s starting to wear on me to realize every evening that I have work to do for the night and that I’ll be back in to the studio the next day.  It’s all kind of a blur right now but I guess I prefer it to having to split up the project into scattered weekends or whatever.

Songs are starting to take shape and it’s exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.  I have some really specific sounds in my head that I want for the record and I’m finding that I have limited control on where the songs go because there are so many factors and details going into them.  It’s disappointing in a way to realize that it won’t sound exactly how it does in my head, but it’s a good thing because the sounds I hear in my head are sounds that other people have made and I need to embrace the way that those sounds become an influence into new sounds that come out of what I am making.  And even though it’s hard to let go of the reigns, it’s an important part of the process and in a way, it’s where the magic of a record happens. I’m being reminded that this is really all that art ends up being: a purging of everything entering a mind, a collection of elements that delight our senses and rattle our bones, a breathing in and a breathing out.

There’s a song I’ve been trying to crack for months with no real success and I realized last night that the reason it’s been so frustrated is because I want to use it as a place to slip ideas into the record that I haven’t found a place to put yet.  But when I really look at it, basically I want it to be somebody else’s song because those ideas are sounds I’ve heard in other people’s work and love so much that i want to make them too.  And the song has gotten stuck because I am fighting what my instinct wants to do with it.  When I’m writing, I try hard not to indulge songs when they are leaning toward something because I figure it is probably leaning towards something I have heard something similar and subconsciously know what’s “right” for the song.  But I’ve been fighting that for months and I’ve realized that at this point in the process, indulging what my hands and voice feel natural doing is what makes the songs become my own and what brings them to a finished state.

I’m the only one that can make my music and it’s important to avoid simply emulating a style or being so in love with someone else’s music that I try to recreate it.  Now that the songs have skeletons, I need to sit back and let my heart pump blood around them.  There’s some vanity necessary in making original things.  Kelsey said something after a vocal take yesterday that has stuck in my mind as I'm putting final lyrics and tracks down for the songs.  I asked him what he thought about the take and he said, “it sounds like you, so I think it’s right on.”  I’ve finished the bulk of the writing and I’m trying to loosen my grip and let the songs become what they will.  I’m a control freak with my work so it’s hard to do but it’s an exciting process watching the work I’ve done over the past year manifest in ways that I don’t have complete control over. I suppose that the artists who have made records that I really love were able to do this; it’s the magic of making something and I’m excited to watch my influences fall together into something new, something that only happens once.

On the technical end of things, we are doing mostly percussion on the record to keep that organic, communal, roomy feel but there are a few songs with drums to support it.  To keep the drums back and equal with the acoustic instruments, we recorded them as dry as possible in the isolation room that is usually used to record vocals in more of the pop style.  Kelsey set up a bare bones kit and taped up the drums to make them dry and stiff with no reverb trailing off of them.  He also used only a kick mic, a snare mic, and two overheads.  Usually you put about four hundred microphones or so on a drum set so you  can adjust each little element itself.  The drums on this record are just punchy and dry so they just sneak in and accent what they are supposed to and since the bass is all upright, it’s helping stay back and support that. The snare is this vintage acrylic slingerland with a bunch of tape on it and I’m so in love with the sound of it on the recording that it’s hard to hear anything else.  They sound very much like Neil Young’s Harvest record and I couldn't be happier.

I have a bunch of guests in the studio this week and so far they have done nothing but make magic on the record.  I’m so thankful to know such fun and talented musicians; what they are doing to shape this project is kind of a dream come true.  I'll give the full report on their contributions in a couple of days.

Journal of a Record #5

Tags: music, joel p west, Recording, Portland

1 Comment

Cool... I didn't see the video the first time I cam here.
Bill made this post on 11/19/2008 at 6:49 pm

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