News: 7/12/2008  

Journal of a Record #5

Photos and Video by Wes Scheler

It snuck up on me, but we’re almost done tracking.  I’ve been so lost in checklists and word documents that I have sort of lost track of what’s actually on tape and listening back is kind of a crazy discovery to see what our work actually sounds like all together.  I have all but three vocal tracks, some percussion, girl vocals, and a couple other quick odds and ends to finish and I will be all done tracking and ready to mix everything that we got.  I feel like we’ve started the coast downhill and it is such a relief to be so close to finishing.  Once we start mixing I will not be able to change anything and although that once stressed me out, I am so excited for that.  In a lot of ways, there’s not much more I could do to the songs besides over-think them so I can’t wait to just have them finished and rest my mind a bit.

One of the most exciting parts of getting a majority of the tracks laid down is getting to finally hear what the record sounds like.  I had a lot of specific vision coming into this project in regards to production but I realized early on that if your expectations are too specific you are bound to be disappointed.  I’ve been trying to let the album breathe and it’s actually really tied to the thesis in the sense that when we trade in wonder for control and often miss out on beauty because of preconceived notions.  Like I did for the last project, I had a pretty extensive playlist from other records assembled for Kelsey to show him what I wanted drums, guitar, vocals, reverb, etc. to sound like.  On the first day in the studio I was planning on showing him all the songs as a means of communicating what I wanted each piece to sound like but last minute decided not to.  Instead, I described to him my ideas for what it would sound like as a whole and let it fall into place.

I have a bunch of really amazing artists around who have contributed to the record, Kelsey being one of them, and I realized that my nit-picky vision can limit them.  My friend had a conversation with a lady who did makeup for a Wes Anderson movie and hated it because she was not an artist but rather a means of actualizing what was in Wes’s mind.  I am not a trained writer or instrumentalist and my writing is much more about concept and composition so the parts end up being pretty dumbed down, things I can play.  I had all the parts for bass, violin, trumpet, cello, and drums all planned out and sketched with software on my computer but once I got in the studio I decided to give the contributors the overall goals and vision instead of specific parts.  It’s hard for me to let go, but what happened is that each person was able to be an artist and contribute their interpretation of the ideas.  It got really dynamic and much more interesting than what I planned.

There was one magical day that basically shaped the identity and overall sound of the whole record and we all left sort of disoriented from hearing so many amazing takes one after one all day.  The record has a lot of string parts and although I had a lot of it decided ahead of time, coming up with the second or third violin part is a tricky grid and Kelly worked for about six hours straight finishing all of the layered string sections as well as the fiddle parts.  We had not gotten through what we needed to the day before and we had until two-thirty to finish all violin parts so she could get on a plane back to San Diego.  I was really nervous about it but she not only hit nearly everything first-take from nine o’clock all the way to two-o’clock, she also filled all the gaps I had with some of the most beautiful violin pieces I’ve heard.

Jon also played that day and topped songs off with piano and trumpet parts that I already can't imagine not having in there.  I gave him less guidance than anybody on parts and he made some really great stuff happen with the loose direction I gave him.  All of it was different than I was anticipating and I’ve gotten to discover the record rather than simply manifest the limited sounds I have in my head.  Dan also got some great parts in on the bass, I told him to just play hokey country stuff and showed him the parts I had and he ran with it.  The upright sounds great in there and I want to try and get that going for live shows.

I have a few more days in the studio and I’m hoping to get the mix done before my purchased time runs out, but Kelsey and I decided that we will get done with tracking before we even think about mix and that there’s no rush to get it out.  I’m hoping we can have mix done in time to make a trip up to Seattle where I’m planning on having the project mastered.  For the next couple days, I am working through a checklist which is getting smaller and smaller and in the meantime eliminating stress bit by bit.  I have it all organized in word documents and the goal is to turn all of the orange words black.  Almost there… 

Journal of a Record #6

Tags: music, joel p west, Recording, Portland

No Comments

Leave a comment

Sezio will never publish your information