Tag Archives: practice

Laying Foundations

I wanted to make a Biblical reference here about building your house upon the rock, but there’s nothing like a little blasphemy to really work the jinx.  It’s an apt metaphor though, because the more solid your foundation, the more stable everything you pile on top will be.  In the case of  most of these songs, the foundation is the drums.

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve played with some really amazing drummers.  Kevin Lawrence is going to be handling the drums on this album.

Kevin has been playing drums since he was 3, though I imagine he was beating on the rails of his crib in perfect 4/4 time prior to that.  His parents are both musicians, so he grew up in an environment that fostered his gift, and it shows.  We’ve played together for years now, and I’m still amazed at the things he’s able to do, and the relative ease with which he does them.  I am very glad he’s a part of this project.

We’ve been practicing the songs live, to get the feel right, and we’ve started tracking drums.  So far, we’ve just done some preliminary recording tests to see how everything is going to sound.  I’m a little limited in what I’m able to do based on the equipment I have at my disposal, but I’m making do with what I have.  Frankly, I’m not sure I have the skill to handle much more than what I have anyway.

The heart of my drum recording setup is a Fostex MR-8HD I’ve borrowed from my friend, James.  I’m able to record 4 simultaneous tracks with this, and the sound quality is very good, all things considered.  I’m using a couple of Nady CM90s as overheads, a Nady SCM800 on the snare, and a Realistic dynamic mic on the kick drum.  I’ve experimented the most with the kick.  I normally put the mic inside the kick drum, pointed towards the beater pad, but I think I like how it’s sounding when I move the mic out of the drum about a foot away, pointed back through the sound hole towards the beater pad.  I’m getting a little more of the breathy “poom” sound of the kick.  I was just getting the “thud” with the mic inside the drum.

Hooray for onomatopoeia!!

I was a little concerned initially about using a condenser mic on the snare, but I didn’t have a whole lot of choice, as that’s all I have.  I tried to borrow a Shure SM57, but my personal music store, James, had fried his on a previous misadventure with phantom power.  Apparently you plug in dynamic mics *before* you turn on the phantom power.  The scm800 has performed pretty well, though it still comes close to pegging the meter on the recorder, even with the gain turned all the way down.  The sound I’m getting is pretty good, so I’m just rolling with it.

If I had another mic to use on the snare, I’d use the scm800s as overheads, because that seems to be where the bulk of my sound is coming from – the overheads.  I’m using the kick and snare mics to isolate and shape the sounds of those two drums, so not much else comes from them once I start using the eq after the fact.

Right now, we haven’t done any “final” takes of any of the songs.  We’re still testing.  Here are a couple of work in progress test recordings.

Reliable – You can hear me playing guitar in the background – bleeding through the overheads.  Again, we knew these weren’t going to be usable takes, so I just played along.  When Kevin is tracking, he does it solo – without a click track even.   It’s frightening, really.  This is from our first night of recording with the MR-8HD.

032305 – This is a song that’s not yet finished, and we were just looping a couple of parts for practice, and to learn what’s currently there.  Also, the part Kevin is playing doesn’t actually work with the bass line I’ve got written for this, so it’s going to need to be changed.  I’m preserving it here because it’s ridiculous in its awesomeness.  This is from our second session with the MR-8HD.For a chance to win more Personalised Hoodies from PML, just like this post and share it on your facebook page!

Preproduction Junction, what’s your function?

Preproduction probably officially started several years ago when I first started writing and demoing these songs.  For this context, preproduction started sometime in late 2008.  I had been in a band that came to an end, and I was working on another project – Metroid Metal Live – that seemed like it would be a one-time event.  (That’s turned out to not be true, but more on that at another time).  I wanted to have something lined up to take advantage of the momentum from the Metroid Metal Live show in January 2009, so that’s where the idea for a “solo” project originated.

There have been a number of former bandmates I’ve kept in contact with over the years, and there’s always been discussion of doing long-distance recording, but nothing ever came of it.  This seemed like a perfect fit for this, so I started talking to these guys again, and without exception, they were into it.

Through my previous band, Life on the Blue Dot, and Metroid Metal Live, I had access to an absolutely amazing drummer, Kevin Lawrence.  He was keen on having a project beyond MMLive, and I would have been a fool to turn him down.  We’d been practicing every week for MMLive, so after that, we just picked up and started practicing the songs I’d selected for this album without, if you’ll pardon the pun, missing a beat.

I’ve noticed in the past that songs improve immensely AFTER they’ve been recorded.  When you’re tracking each instrument individually, you have a chance to figure out what does and doesn’t work, and can adjust accordingly.  Sometimes you don’t notice those tiny details when you’re rocking out at full volume.  I did some basic open-room recordings with Kevin, and they’ve proven to be very useful.  For instance, this recording of Concrete Flea felt good while we were playing it, but when I listened to it later, I realized it was WAY too fast for other parts I had planned (particularly the melody) to work effectively.  So, we adjusted, and in subsequent practices we’ve worked to slow it down.

Also, listening to these recordings has reinforced my belief that I have no business playing guitar on this album.

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