First, this was not a party. The last week has been trying, and it was decided that a "party" was inappropriate. Music-making, though, doesn't have to be gaudy, and it always feels good. We didn't have a bunch of folks over to laugh, and I think a grand total of three beers were drunk. But good friends did show up, and we did have a good time. And we made music!
Christian was unavailable Friday night, so I set up what I could that night. We got up early Saturday and set up. I couldn't find everything I needed though-- not enough SM57s or XLR cables. I didn't have enough to mic up a 5-piece drums set the way I like (2 OHs, hi-hat, kick, 2 snares, tom, tom, tom). That's when I thought of something: The Glyn Johns Technique
! Glyn used only a few mics and got a better drum sound than people who use dozens more. The upshot is that one overhead looks straight down on the snare and the second one looks sideways at the snare from above the floor toms. Anyway, limitation is opportunity, and that's the exact idea of this sort of project. So we went a more spartan route. You can decide the results tomorrow.
After setup we got to tracking. We got 6 songs down-- all first takes with a couple pick-ups. I think we might have avoided some of the more sophisticated songs on our candidate list, but the selection is still pretty great. I really wish we could have hit more, but our time was very tight. Right after wrapping drums, I put down three or four guitar layers. CH and I shared bass duties. We set up two electrics and did some solos in tandem. Christian played my Fender Aerodyne, Elsie, through Max Lollar's Fender DeVille (no, I will not give it back), and I played my old Micro-Frets through an amp modeler and the KAOSS pad. His stuff sounds a lot better than mine.
We took only the shortest of pizza breaks before moving on to keyboards and vocals. Christian did some wonderful stuff on the piano, B3, Hammond. You'll have a good time with it when you hear it. Doug Orey let us use his lap steel. We had no idea how to play the damn thing, so we had to ask Wikipedia for everything. My vocals were another rush job. There are significant issues with them as of the current mix version, but I am confident I can sort them out before release.
Today I patched up some vocal stuff, did dubs, tried out some harmonies, and conscripted friends to sing. I've got Nicky, Erin, Doug, and even Brindie on there. I spent a full hour working with Stevie K on some cool percussion gags and our dear old friend Thingama Jeff
. I employed the Kaossilator for the first time on one of my records. This record more than others employs acoustic guitar, and I was lucky to borrow Doug Orey's Martin for that purpose. Great machine, that. I think very last thing we tracked was Nicky Frye on a few bars of mandolin. A small part, but crucial.
Our method of recording is peculiar. All the projects exist as a single ProTools project file, with the song breaks demarcated across one timeline. I keep all instruments used on multiple songs on the same track. Some tracks are unused for some songs, but I never have to look far for something. I also can EQ a single instrument across many songs with one tool. I've found that this adds some cohesion to the collection for a listener. As helpful as this technique is for our slap-dash recording style and my particularly manic attitude towards new ideas, it does make mixing difficult. I have manage volume levels and panning separately for each, being careful not to alter another song with an edit to the one I'm working on. I have to be wary of songs that carry a barrage of guitars, for they might sound anemic unless I do some tweaking of the reverberant space-- usually using aux input reverb sends. Mixing eats up a few hours, more than I really had today since much of principal recording was not complete until the afternoon. Still, I have very advanced draft mixes that I am sharing with CH now. We will compile our mixing notes, discuss if we have time, and I'll make my final pass tomorrow.
I think record will sound better than the previous two. Whereas Pizza Party was gloriously lofi trash and Pool Party was polished slop, Pajama Party (is that really what we're calling it?) is organic and loose, with maybe a few hard edges here and there. The drum sonics are naturalistic, the guitar sound is deliberately broad, the vocals are unpretentious. We use no synth sounds and only two samples. Except for the keyboard there is only one direct-input instrument: my lead guitar. It's a straight-from-the-hip recording. As much as the songs it contains are like a journal (albeit not really a confessional diary thing), the record too is a testament to the moment of its creation. It says, "Here I am. This is what I see from right here and from right now. This is what it's like to be here now."
I'm still deciding where the appropriate level of dynamic compression is for something like this. I'm still struggling with some discord in some group harmonies and a pernicious bass that is clobbering everything above it. I'm thinking these struggles won't be resolved before release, and they'll just become artifacts of the final document. Not every note is right. It shouldn't be. If it were, it wouldn't be a record of a song. It'd be a simulation. We don't want that; we want the real thing. That's why we dig music.
Pajama Party will be released on Monday, August 31st. For free.