Forgive the excessive amount of exclamation marks but our debut EP launch is almost here and we’re super pumped. We had a great rehearsal this afternoon with Reece (who’s come back very refreshed from his 2 weeks holidays in Adelaide). If we play like that on Friday, it should be a VERY good night. We spent the rest of the afternoon printing out some more CD’s (currently burning as we speak) because who knows, maybe 30 won’t be enough? We did however decide to go down the jewel case route rather than making them from scratch (never again). Even though it’s a LOT easier it still takes literally hours to make these up. I had to get the dimensions right to fit into the cases (because I don’t care what you say google, your dimensions are WRONG) which required a bit of trial and error. Then we had to print out 20 copies of the front and back covers, cut them out from the photo paper, fold them and put them into the cases. Probably the longest process is actually burning the CD’s- we’re talking about 5 minutes a pop. While my CD burner CAN burn at 24 speed and do it in a couple of minutes, I found that it sometimes doesn’t burn properly and puts glitches into our beloved songs. Better to be slow (4 speed) and steady. A close second to burning times is CD printing times. While it’s totally mind-blowing to be able to even print CD’s at home you can only do one at a time and again, each one takes a couple of minutes. But it’s a labour of love and totally worth it to be able to share our music with people.
Greetings. First of all, sorry about the slight delay in blog posting- you can blame some undercooked fish for that. But here I am at 5am on a Monday morning, somewhat recovered and raring to go.
This time, I thought I’d write about something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. I thought it would be fun to upload the bare skeleton of a track, nothing more than an idea and see what it eventually turns out like in the future.
At the moment it’s called “little lab” but that’s just a working title. This was something I came up with on the spot when I was testing out a new plugin- first came drums, then came organ, then came voice, then came guitar. As you can hear, it’s pretty rough- the vocals are just mainly to sketch out the melody but I usually stick with the theme of the first line that comes into my head. There’s a little bit of scat singing at the end where I run out of freestyle talent but that’s pretty common for me in the early stages- I can fill in the blanks later. Since it’s about a woman who’s desperate to have a baby and doesn’t really care about who the father is, this one’s going to be for Olivia to sing.
Let’s see how it pans out! Could be days, could be weeks, could be years. But you heard it here first.
It’s been a VERY long time in the making, but our debut EP is finally ready. And yes, its taken this long to get our packaging sorted.
We thought it’d be a great idea to do something a little different for our EP packaging, as in not just the usual plastic jewel case. Back in my younger days I’d gone through a bit of an origami phase (of which I remember NOTHING now) and so the idea was floated of making our own folded cardboard cases. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Nothing could have been further from the truth…
We started off with high hopes. A trip to Officeworks got us 5 sheets of black cardboard, a box of blank printable CD’s, some glue and some photo paper- and something that I’d wanted for a very long time (ever since I saw the one we used to cut OPG films at Greenslopes), a paper guillotine. The goal was to make 50 EP’s, and ONLY 50. We figured since we’re only a little ol’ indie band we needed the novelty/ exclusivity factor to get by. Little did we know that even 50 was going to push us to the limit.
I started out by making a couple of prototypes out of a Sultana Bran box and they seemed to work out OK.
After much trial and error with the prototypes, we went through the very LONG process of cutting the good black cardboard into the right dimensions, which even with the paper guillotine took ages. Then it was a matter of measuring and marking very carefully the centre folds, scoring both edges of that with the back of a table knife so it’d fold right, cutting out the bit in the middle, cutting the slit for the CD to slide into, folding the front and back sections down and gluing each bit as you go with a small paintbrush, and then holding the whole thing down with an old radiography textbook and a dumbbell for 4 hours until it dried. Many, many hours were spent hunched over on the loungeroom floor to make this happen…
Once we had the big pile of 50 cases that we needed, it was a matter of printing out the front and back covers. We decided to go with a 50/50 split between an Al case, and an Olivia case (preference depending on whether you enjoy hot babes or hot beards better. My condolences if you end up with the latter). This was particularly painful- you’ve got no idea the amount of INK that printing out something like this on high-quality printer settings takes up. I think we went through about at least $75 worth of ink and had 3 or 4 trips to cartridge world to get refills. So once we had those printed out it was once again back to the lounge-room floor for a date with the stanley knife.
I tried using a glue-stick to put some front covers on instead of the liquid paper glue I’d been using before, which was great because it was super easy to apply. It wasn’t until I put a case in my car for a day that I realised my mistake- and everything literally came unstuck in the heat. So we decided to go with my 2nd favourite adhesive of all-time, Selley’s Kwick-Grip in a spray can. This was almost as easy to apply and meant that we didn’t get all the residue spilling over the sides making everything look sticky. The problem was that we could only stick 4 cases on at a time and then had to wait for a few hours before we could stick the next ones. This meant that this process took place over MANY days- all the while slowly driving me insane seeing this shit all over my loungeroom floor and staring at me saying “but there’s still so much to go…”
Printing the discs was a much more pleasant affair- even though I could only print one at a time (place disc in disc tray, place tray in printer, hit print, remove disc from disc tray- repeat process x 50) there was no extra labour required.
All in all- they turned out OK. They don’t sit perfectly flat when you lay them down and there’s a few glue spots around that snuck out but in the end- it’s the imperfections that let you know that they’ve been hand-made. And at least you know they were hand-made with love. We hope you enjoy the fruits of our long hours of labour.
(PS- for anyone that’s interested, if I manage to find the photo I took with the dimensions and instructions on how to fold the cases I’ll upload them).
It’s been all quiet on the jam front for quite a while now. Things have been so hectic recently that there literally hasn’t been time to even think about making any music. Here’s a picture of the jam room at the moment.
As you can see, you know when its that clean it hasn’t been used for a while. I haven’t even had time to pick up and PLAY a guitar for about 2 weeks now, and usually when that happens I start to get a bit loopy.
My cousin Kenny (who’s a supremely talented guitarist) let me play his Fender Stratocaster at a family barbecue once when I was about 16 years old. He asked me how I’d managed to get so good at such a young age and I told him that I had nothing better to do than just to play every afternoon when I got home from school. He laughed and said “just wait until you get a job, you’ll be lucky if you get to play once a week”. I shrugged it off and thought “As if, I’ll always find time to play”. And so far in my life I have. But I’ll give you a bit of a rundown on my typical day now…
5am- Wake up and go to gym
6am- Go home, shower, breakfast, iron uniform
7am- Go to work
330pm (if I’m lucky)- come home from work, rest and recover on the couch (maybe)
4pm- housework/ yard work
5pm- go to shops, get dinner ingredients
6pm- cook dinner
7pm- eat dinner, chill for 30 mins
8pm- wash up/ chill
9pm- go to bed
This is pretty standard for a weeknight. At the moment I’m working a 6 day week with Sundays spare to see family/friends/ do all the other stuff that needs doing. So I’ve become very good at multitasking. As I’m writing this blog, I’m at work waiting for a patient to arrive and eating some lunch. And though you can see, yeah, I do have some free time in the schedule- the thing is I don’t really feel like doing anything other than flaking out on the couch and doing NOTHING when I get home from work.
The other problem is, that schedule is about to get even busier with my new job- I’m going to be working from 745am to 5pm every weekday with a 45 minute commute each way. So long spare time…
I’m hoping that I’ll find a way to manufacture some time for new music but at the moment it seems a long way away. Damn adulthood keeps on getting in the way of good music. But that’s OK, I’m sure its building character. Or something.
Until next time…
Today we’re going to delve into the wonderful world of tax returns, the christmas that comes but once a financial year. And I’ve got to say that Santa/Mr ATO was VERY generous this year with a stocking full of lot’s of lovely little bits of colourful plastic with various Australian historical figures on them. So what does one do with a massive tax return? Put it on the mortgage? Invest wisely in shares and indexed funds? NO DAMMIT. You go out and you buy the best damn electronic drum kit on the planet. And so I did.
We already had a pretty decent “frankenstein” electronic Roland TD20 drumkit which I’d cobbled together from various bits and pieces over the years (bought a slightly faulty drum brain module from the states when the exchange rate was good, got a second hand hi-hat sensor pad kit, new genuine roland snare and kick pads with donated shitty rubber tom pads from our old drummer on a slightly mobile cheap roland rack). But ever since I’ve had it I’ve wondered “wouldn’t it be nice to have something that’s the real deal and not held together with 50 meters of electrical tape?”.
I knew that the top of the range new Roland TD30 kit would always be beyond my means (who’s really going to pay $12000 for a drum kit? Not this guy). But lucky for me there was a cheaper version. We’re talking less than half the price, and the only thing that’s missing is a slightly less complicated version of the hi-hat pads and one less tom pad. That’s a no-brainer to me.
I always like to have a look around on the internet before buying literally anything and I’m glad I did. Most places will price match even online deals and I saved about $700 doing that buying from my local music store. And truth be told, I always like to buy local- much more handy if anything goes wrong and you have to return it to get a warranty repair. Bearing in mind that I had no intention of buying when I walked into that store after work one afternoon, but the difference in sound quality was night and day. Completely blew me away. Liv was very understanding when I gave her an excited phone call telling her I’d found the perfect home for the tax return that was melting a hole in my pocket (I never like buying anything without her blessing) and 5 minutes later I was the very proud owner of a TD30. (P.s. A very big thank you to Music Express Upper Mount Gravatt http://www.musicexpress.com.au you guys made the whole process very easy and hassle free).
Of course the biggest test was going to be how it sounded on a recording. And in very sad news for studio owners around Brisbane, the answer is AMAZING. No longer do we have to spend hours setting up and mic’ing up a drum kit, I just plug it in and BAM! 2 Stereo outs and you’ve got pro quality recorded drums. You want separate outs for each tom? You got it. You want MIDI recorded with that as well? Easy, straight in via USB. And I think this will end up being one of the most useful parts of this- by recording the midi data for the different drums you can edit timings or add extra cymbal hits very easily. Then, just feed that back into the drum module and record whatever kit setting you want to hear- perfect flexibility if you decide you don’t like the kick, snare, toms sounds- whatever.
I can still remember the phone call I made to Reece in the car on the way back from the shop. I don’t know who was more excited, me or him, because of course he’s the one that plays it the most. I don’t know if he’ll ever get the stains out from his pants from that day…
We’ve used it live a couple of times and its performed exceptionally well. It’s very quick to fold out and set up and all of the cables are actually LABELLED. That is such a big timesaver when you’ve got about 15 of the bastards to plug into different holes. Soundwise, it’s great for the little venues that we find ourselves in where an acoustic drum kit would just be too loud. In sadder news, it means that Reece’s beautiful Sleishmann kit hasn’t been used live yet- but that’ll be good for when we’re playing the bigger joints i.e. River Stage/ Entertainment Center. It’s only a matter of time…
We’ve had a few big purchases recently. And even though I’m slowly weaning myself off my inhuman amounts of overtime addiction I still feel guilty spending money on things other than mortgages and food (I guess that’s a pretty normal feeling when you’ve got a joint account with your partner. Who never spends anything on herself and indirectly makes me feel like the biggest money waster on the planet). So I’ve just dropped a couple of grand on a new PA system, which obviously we needed. Maybe. We’re not scraping by on 2 minute noodles just yet but things are getting a little bit tight.
Gumtree to the rescue!
First of all, forget ebay. They charge you right from the get-go just for listing something and there’s no guarantee that it’ll actually sell. Second of all, even if you do sell, you have to offer paypal as a payment method, so kiss a healthy percentage of your sale price goodbye in fees. Paypal? More like FEE-PAL. And I’m not even sure that many people are on it these days since there’s so many other options out there now.
Like Gumtree. Funnily enough, Gumtree (which actually started out with 2 guys setting up a sort of community noticeboard for Aussies/Kiwis moving to London) is now owned by Ebay. And since the takeover, they’ve slowly started to sneak in cheeky little fees (wan’t to get back on the top of the list? Just pay us $3 and we’ll be happy to do that. Want to edit your ad? Sure, give us some more cash.) But the frugal and tight-arsed among us can still lodge things for free. And tip for new players; even though you can’t just delete your ad and post it again to get back up the top of the page (it comes with a duplicate ad warning) you CAN change the title and description slightly to get around it. Because I’ll be damned if I’m going to part with $3 of my hard-earned cash to pay those (I assume) money-grabbing evil corporate bastards.
I’ve gone through these mad purchasing and selling phases before. OK, let’s go through all the cupboards and see what hasn’t been used for a year. Second pair of rock climbing shoes that never really fit properly? Gone. Spare pedal power supply that’s become obsolete since I bought a Pod FX unit? Sold. Two old PA speakers that I haven’t used for 8 years. Unsold.
Aye, and there’s the rub. When you post on gumtree you open the communication channels up to A LOT of dickheads. And for some reason, gumtree insomniacs like to assume that everyone else has the same sleep schedules as themselves and like to start calling and texting at 12am (I definitely do not, I have to get up at 6am every day). Some other guy contacts me just to tell me that something on there is “way off cost mate, you can buy these in the music stores new for the same price” (in belated response, no you CAN’T, you can buy something that looks SIMILAR but is actually a cheap Chinese knockoff, and second of all, if you don’t want it DON’T BUY IT). The cream of the crop was the non-english speaker who phoned me 5 times in 2 days to come and buy a PA speaker and after being very concerned about coming “all the way from Inala, so you can give me a discount since I have to travel so far?”. Who then arrives, starts going crazy when he sees that the SINGLE speaker I had for sale was not in fact, part of a pair (no-where in that ad were there any plurals). Who then proceeds to spend half an hour bemoaning the fact that there weren’t in fact TWO speakers before not buying the single speaker that I had for sale. And then starts smoking in my house.
So seller beware, as great as gumtree is, there’s still the unwritten cost of dealing with complete wankers. But if you’re happy to deal with the crazies, it’s a great way to turn junk just taking up space in your cupboards into cash. Or to think of it a different way, someone pays you to get rid of your crap. And I’ve met some pretty cool dudes over the years as well. There was the guy who used to play guitar in the Pacifics (60’s Australian surf band), some young up and coming guitarists from local bands like Good Boy https://www.triplejunearthed.com/artist/good-boy (who unashamedly got hounded by myself trying to get some gigs lined up together), a session guitarist who played with all the major acts coming through Australia in the last 50 years, including Sinatra.
Actually, I can’t not tell the story involving this guy. I was selling my Roland Space Echo which this old session guitarist needed for some project. Problem is he lives at the Gold Coast. Solution is I’m actually going to be at the Gold Coast giving a presentation at a big radiography conference at Jupiters Casino. So the times align and it works out that I can meet him in the lobby of Jupiters right after finishing off my presentation. So I’m dressed up in a suit and tie, finish my talk, give him a call and he asks if he can just meet me in the front driveway so he doesn’t have to pay for parking. I eventually spot this very suspicious looking old car pull up in the bus zone and he says the words that most good abductions start with, “Get in”. I give him the pedal but we can’t stay parked in the bus zone so he pulls up at the front door of this fancy hotel. The hotel doorman comes over and opens the door for me, at which point this crusty old guy leans over and says to him “don’t worry mate, we’re just doing some business here”, hands over $250 cash and shakes my hand. I have never seen a doorman look so confused but I can only imagine what he thought was taking place. Young (not so pretty) rent boy has just been paid for an afternoon of entertainment by some old guy in a rape van. But I guess they’re probably used to that sort of thing there. He just smiled and said “Welcome to the hotel sir”. Classic.
Howdy readers. It seems too long since last we met. I could ply you with the usual excuses (things are really hectic right now, I got a new job, we’ve been camping with no access to technology) but they are, you know, excuses. Surely it’s not that hard to write something semi-regularly and when I first started blogging, one of the key things that the how-to guide on the internet said to do (I don’t do much in life without first consulting the online oracle) was to make sure it WAS regular.
So this brings me to “The Pledge”.
I solemnly swear that there shall be a new blog post every 2 weeks, every Sunday night (or there-abouts).
It’s in the diary as a recurring reminder, so therefore it will happen. Now I’m not making any guarantees about length or quality here- but I’ll endeavour to keep things interesting and fresh.
Which brings me to the core of THIS post. We’ve recently had a couple of gigs, one at Ric’s Bar and another at The Bench in Cleveland and I thought it might be interesting to enlighten people as to what actually goes into getting ready for a show. I’ll focus on Ric’s as an example. So take a deep breath, try to relax and let’s begin…
Personally, much like a boy scout, I like to be prepared (but hopefully not molested. Maybe). Gigs, camping, conference presentations; there isn’t much that doesn’t benefit from a bit of preparation. So we usually like to work a couple of rehearsals in the week before the show. I’m also a big fan of the dress rehearsal the last practice before the gig- so full suit/cocktail dress, shoes, tie the whole deal. In the words of so many of my junior football coaches- train like you’re going to play (but I’ll also take any excuse I can get to suit up).
Usually, we’ll all have been at work all day, probably getting slammed. You might think this isn’t ideal preparation but in reality it’s a huge help to my nerves. Distraction is key here; if you’ve got too much spare time to think about things you’ll get worked up and probably not in a good way. And no matter how many gigs we play, the nerves are still going to be there but I’m slowly learning to embrace them.
- Load the Car: There’s a lot of beautiful things about being in a 3 piece band and the amount of stuff we DON’T have to cart around is one of them. Having said that, everything we use on gig-night has to be disconnected, folded up, taken down the stairs from our spare bedroom/rehearsal room/recording studio and loaded into the back of the station wagon (HUGE fan of the wagon by the way. Do yourself a favour and get one, sedans are for suckers). And while there’s not TOO much in the way of gear, what we do have is goddamn heavy, so I’m usually pretty spent and sweaty by the end.
- Sort Out Dinner: I’ll start with a disclaimer here, I am and never have been in the employ of Philips Corporation (although I have enjoyed your sponsored company golf days and electric toothbrushes). We recently got an Airfryer and MY GOD- what this thing can do to frozen chips or homemade potato wedges is amazing. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside (also an apt life analogy for myself) with next to zero oil and all under 20 minutes. We will definitely be getting a lot fatter after this purchase…Our singing teacher says that you should eat at least a couple of hours before showtime and try to avoid anything too milky/gassy so delicious home-made wedges go down nicely (even with nerves involved).
- Venue Load In: THIS. IS. PAINFUL. So even if you make it unscathed through the peak hour city traffic and manage to pull into the tiny driveway without taking out any pedestrians you’d better hope that the gate is unlocked. Which it wasn’t. So that means getting Liv to jump out and run down to the venue to get the key while I do laps around the block in peak hour so we’re not blocking the footpath. Once you get into the driveway you’ll then be told that you can’t take your gear the direct 20 meter path through the back because there’s building work going on and you’ll have to go ALL the way around through the Brunswick street mall and though the front doors. Lucky most our shit is on wheels.
- Stage Setup: At Ric’s we like to use our electronic drum kit due to the sound issues (a tiny stage directly in front of a wall does not a happy acoustic make). DO NOT USE THE HOUSE KIT. Unless you’ve got a whole spare roll of gaffer tape. Seriously, that thing is more gaffer tape than drum kit. Use at your peril unless you’re some sort of Indian Deity with 8 extra spare arms to hold your drum kit together while you’re playing. The setup part is usually one of the easier steps in the process, just a matter of finding spare power outlets and trying to plug 100 different cables into the right spots. And praying that you remembered to bring all of said cables (because if you don’t Reece will let you know about it for the rest of your life). Then you have to move your car because you can’t stay in the loading zone.
- Drink Water: This is very important. Like most things in life, vocal cords like to be well lubricated and hydrated and load-ins tend to be a sweaty business. I usually cart around a big 1.5L bottle with me and go through pretty much all of it in a night.
- Meet And Greet The Support Act: We were very lucky to play with Junior Arcade at our last Ric’s gig and even though we’d spent a lot of time conversing through email I’d never actually met the boys. Happy to say that they were lovely and very professional lads and it was great getting to know them.
- Do A Soundcheck: If you’re lucky enough to get one. Or at least a level check to see if everything plugged in.
- Support The Support Act: This is so under-rated; the number of times in my Twist Oliver Twist days that we’d be the support act and never actually see anyone in the crowd from the other band was very sad- you took the time to seek us out and book us so why not at least make an appearance? Happy to say that Junior Arcade put on a great show and we were delighted to watch.
- Put Your Gameface On: I like to start doing my vocal warmups about 20 minutes before we start (so apologies to Junior Arcade, I missed your last few songs). This probably isn’t very rock and roll but I always find a quiet corner to make ridiculous noises in and make sure that I’m ready to go for the first song. It makes a HUGE difference. Also, get changed and suit up (apologies to anyone that saw me standing in the corner in just my jocks, there was no way I was going to get changed in those toilets i.e.: “the sea of piss”).
- Rock Out: This is probably the easiest part. Once you’re up on stage doing what you love doing time seems to just fly by. This is honestly one of the places where I feel the most comfortable. Here’s a pic of us doing that- Reece seems to have been possessed by Satan though. Probably part of his pre-show ritual…
- Pack Up: This part also sucks. It’s slightly counteracted by the adrenaline but that wears off pretty quick. I usually like to try and sneak a quick drink in after we finish playing but one of the saddest things is having all of your friends and family there and not being able to hang out with them because you’re too busy packing all of your gear up. Especially when your sound guy/bartender/dishwasher is eager to pack up and get out ASAP. So by this point you’re physically exhausted and all you want to do is get the car and drive into the little load-in lane. But of course some arsehole’s parked his ute there and so you have to park over the footpath, completely illegally and blocking all of the foot traffic with your hazard lights on while you bust your arse loading all of the gear THE LONG WAY ROUND back into your car and praying that some bastard doesn’t decide to nick something on the way past.
- Get Paid: It’s not much but it helps cover the ever increasing gear bills
- Remember To Pay The Support Act: Also very important. Not a great start to the relationship if you forget.
- Go Home: It depends on where and when we play but most night gigs in the valley see us home at around 12:30am. This particular gig we were all lucky enough to be working the next day. And have a major job meeting/interview with the HR Manager and MRI in charge booked in at 10am. Rock and Roll.
After we’d finished off the last couple of recordings an idea was formed. It was probably time to actually commit some of these tracks to hard plastic, just so we had something to sell at gigs and give to friends and family. We narrowed the track listing down to 6 songs. Which then turned into 8 songs. 5 of which were finished. So we had some work to do.
Since we wanted to do Gentlemen and Oh Sweet Lady (which are in 6/8 and 5/4 time respectively) this was going to be a case of recording real drums and thankfully we could track them sublimely at our friend Sean’s place. I’ve spoken about this guy before; he’s got a wonderful collection of vintage everythings- compressors, preamps, even an old genuine Studer tape machine. We got a time booked in and arrived bright and early (in music terms) at 10am.
OH. MY. GOD.
I never knew how long it took to set up a drum kit for recording properly. And its not like we were dragging our feet, poor old Sean and Reece were going as fast as they could and worked through without a break but I look at my watch and 5 hours have gone by. I think it was about 3:30 by the time we got everything set up and into place. But it was worth it- get it right on the day: trying to fix things up in the mix never works out (as they say, you can’t polish a turd). Here’s a pic of Reece before we started tracking…
I wasn’t completely sure what sort of sound we were going for when we started, which wasn’t ideal. I knew these songs would be a bit more ballad’y than the others so a sort of understated/roomy vibe would be better. But as far as the specifics of achieving that sound went, or even describing it, I had no clue. We spent plenty of time hitting things, adjusting things, taping things, towelling things until it was just right. It was really nice to be able to get Reece’s brand new Sleishman drums onto a record, they really are a beautiful set of skins.
So fast track to 5 o’clockish- Reece has done the first couple of takes on Gentlemen and it’s close but not quite there. We’re all in a sort of zombie-like haze by this point as you can see…
Neither Reece nor Sean had had any food for the whole day and we’re all starting to get a bit hazy so we decide to break for dinner. I drove us around Sunnybank and we ended up at this little chinese restaurant with I quote “the best deep fried octopus legs I have ever eaten” according to Reece. Can’t say that my stomach agreed with him. Not sure whether it was the octopus legs or the yin yang fried rice but something was DEFINITELY not in balance after that meal. I felt so sick I had to get Reece to drive us home whilst trying not to vomit in my new car.
The meal worked wonders for Reece though, he came back and nailed it on his first go. Everything moved pretty quickly from this point on- Oh Sweet Lady was next and didn’t need many takes to get right. I made myself scarce for all of the takes. Slight side-track here; I need to cannulate (find veins) on a lot of people for work and there’s no worse feeling than trying to put a difficult one in with someone looking over your shoulder. I figure its the same thing for recording; everyone who doesn’t need to be there should get the hell out. That’s why I like recording my parts at home, no audience. These guys definitely didn’t like being locked out though…
Once the drums were done Reece packed up and Sean and I basked in the glory. We ran some of my other mixes through his monitors as well which unfortunately highlighted their many flaws with their brutal sonic honesty. I probably got home at around 10:30pm and spent the next few hours playing around with mixes and drum effects until about 3am, helped along by a couple of double shot espressos (I managed to pick Olivia up from Caxton street after a hens night somewhere along the way too). It was a long hard day and there’s still a lot of work to do but hey, you can’t rush perfection. Many thanks to Sean for all his hard work, you did a great job my friend.
This is the story of two tracks. One has been sitting on our hard-drive just waiting to have the last little finishing touches added for the last 6 months. The other came together in the space of about 4 weeks from start to finish.
A Simple Man. This was one of the first piano riffs we came up with. It’s got plenty of bottom end to it and a driving beat, the lyrics came together pretty quickly and we’ve been playing it in rehearsal for quite a while now (it’s a VERY fun song to play). And the recording has been around for a very long time as well, finished- yet not finished. There was always something there that annoyed me, telling me it wasn’t quite all glued together. And so I’d keep adding layers over the top, making these extremely long strings of effects on every track trying to fill in the missing pieces, but nothing worked. So I ended up going back to basics. Completely scratched the vocals and started over. This was actually the first time I’d had a chance to try out the new Universal Audio Neve Preamp plugin (BTW are you reading this UA, you’ve got a little fanboy over here- how’s about a sponsorship deal?).
This is a very cool little software plugin that works with the preamps on the Apollo Interface i’ve got to make them sound and act like vintage NEVE Preamps. And I liked it so much, that I decided to sell my beloved Twin-Finity 710 Tube/Solid State Preamp- it’s THAT good (BTW, if anyone’s interested shoot me an email- $800). Combined with the Bees Neez Shelise (that’s got a nice ring to it doesn’t it?) it fits my vocals perfectly, like sliding your hands into a perfectly sized pair of gloves. The other thing I’ve started doing is being a bit more brave with my effects. I used to always record a dry signal and then put the effects on afterwards with software. Which is fine, but it chews through a lot of processing power and tends to overload the poor little CPU quite quickly. So I took a little leap of faith and decided to save the effects as I recorded them- Neve preamp, Studer Tape machine, and 1176 Compression. And I’ve got to say, its a lot easier just having it DONE and not worrying about fiddling with the knobs after the fact when it comes to the mixing stage. So I got the vocals where I wanted them, and it just needed a little bit of an intro. This was actually quite easy (sort of). A few knob twists on my Roland Space Echo pedal and little chord plucking and the intro was done. And I was quite excited to be able to use the second pedal on the space echo for the first time on a track. You know, the one where it makes it sound like you’re guitar’s about to launch itself into space. Actually getting the timing right took about 10 takes I think, that was the challenging part. A few clicks later and it was on the internet. Hopefully the internet is gentle and kind with it.
Tough Talk was completely different. This one came about flicking through the presets on the NORD and playing a couple of simple chords. I really like the idea of being able to layer 3 different sounds on top of each other with that keyboard, so it’s got the Farfisa organ on top of the saxophone samples and maybe a piano? over the top. The guitar lick for the chorus came quickly and the lyrics were relatively pain-free to write (I think we’d just had some sort of bullshit argument so it was good inspiration). So most of it was already there about 4 weeks ago, there was just the breakdown that needed a bit of work (done as of last night- thanks to some helpful input from Olivia to just leave it alone and not put a whole bunch of unnecessary overdubs on top. Thanks Liv, I never know when to stop). The thing that really excites me about this track though is the vocal sound- once again its the NEVE preamp working its magic but I found a cool little preset on the AMPEX tape recorder plugin that makes it sound like I’m part robot. I’m reasonably in love with that sound- it’s got that cool little John Lennon Auto-Double tracking feel to it and he happens to be one of my songwriting heroes.
So two tracks in one week- both with their stories to tell. One short, and one long.
Thanks for reading,
It’s been a while since we last performed. So when someone asked us if we wanted to play at their boyfriends’ going-away party I inwardly said “LET’S DO THIS!!!!!” Outwardly I said…”I’d better check with Olivia.” I didn’t have high hopes, what with all the study and assignments and the fact we had about 1 week to get our shit together and relearn how to play all our songs. But when she said yes (she is a trooper) it was ALL SYSTEMS GO!
So here’s the thing. Even though we write all of our own stuff, remembering ALL the words seems to be pretty hard for me. Remembering the licks seems to be a bit easier but I knew it was going to take a fair bit of practice to get this stuff down. It was worse for Liv, she hadn’t even picked up the bass for about 3 months before this and all of the practice we’d been doing was for our new songs (keyboard stuff, hopefully debuting soon). Reece was no problem at all. Even though he always says he’s as rusty as a rural southern american service station attendant, neither Liv nor myself can ever tell that he hasn’t nailed it. Surprisingly it all came together pretty quickly. I think we had maybe 2 rehearsals that week and a few run-throughs with just Liv and myself, but I guess its sort of like riding a bike. Except with moving your arms, fingers and mouth about.
So the set was sorted- 12 songs which we could probably drag out to about an hour. Venue was sorted- our friend had a pretty cool queenslander with a big backyard and undercover bit with power we could play in. I was actually pretty keen to try out the PA system I bought last year (which has come in VERY handy for rehearsal- actually being able to hear what you’re singing makes a huge difference) and see how the Apollo Interface was going to cut it live. Getting all of the gear to fit in one car was a crazy pipe dream which was never going to happen so luckily Reece’s new ute came to the party. Half an hours drive later and we were there.
And I just want to start out saying something in my defence: of the 300 or so individual pieces of equipment, stands, microphones, cables and instruments I had to remember to pack, only forgetting ONE of those things doesn’t seem like such a bad effort. Only trouble is that the ONE cable I forgot was the one that made the whole system run. So Olivia, love of my life, I am forever indebted to you for making the hour round trip to pick up one 1.5m long thunderbolt cable. True love. It didn’t work out too badly, it took about an hour anyway to get all the stuff hooked up, change into a suit and have a couple of shots of dutch courage (I still get pretty bad stage fright, even if its in front of a small group of people).
So everything was hooked up, we did a quick sound check and I’ve got to say that I was blown away by how much air this tiny little PA system I’d bought could move. It sounded HUGE. We had the electronic kit to try and keep the noise levels down and being able to run everything through a vintage tape machine emulation on the apollo and have the vocals through vintage compressors, eq’s, reverbs and delays made it sound fantastic (I think. Maybe it sounded like cat sex out the front. I can only assume).
After a shaky start we cruised through the set without any major hiccups. Except for the furry stage invader who somehow managed to unplug Reece’s crash cymbal from the kit (I think it was a scottish terrior maybe?). And best of all, the cops didn’t show up- always a bonus (its not that I don’t like the hardworking and dedicated police officers of our fine state, but you all seem to have very sensitive ears). So a great night had by all. Or at least us.
PS: shoutout to the guy who wandered in wearing a pair of dungarees with a pair of drum sticks wondering if this was the house he was meant to be playing a gig at because he heard music and didn’t actually have the address of the place he was going. Good luck to you sir.
PPS: sorry there aren’t any photos, I forgot to take any in the excitement. Just like a certain cable…that I’ll never be able to forget ever again. Reece won’t let me.