Saturday, June 27, 2009

Please Believe Me

I know you may not believe me, but we are oh so close to mixing the album. We worked hard last week, re-recorded a couple of vocals (see previous post), added some really fun instrumentation (ukulele, hammer dulcimer, keys, new BGVs), got a good hold on most of the songs on the whole, and ate sushi on back to back days. Thank heaven for California rolls, Unami and soy sauce. Next week's rumors I'm hearing are of harmonica and acoustic guitar overlays.

Well over 365 days into this laborious process, I cross-my-heart promise you I am, indeed, making a record of eleven songs. Please believe me. If I can ever figure out how to add a music/audio player to or to this Middle of the Storm blog, I will do it. Not that you require proof...

Monday, June 22, 2009

I Had To Tell You... That I'm Sleepy

I'm dragging today, and am fighting my daily bout with the post-1pm lethargy (a good reason my friends call me "Pappy") as Ben and I are up at the studio adding touches to "I Had To Tell You". The A/C is on today, and we give thanks. I'm struggling to stay focused and to engage myself in the process of listening closely and contributing ideas. I've avoided the computer until now so as to force myself to actively participate. It's not that I'm disinterested, but that these hot summer afternoons absolutely zap what little energy I already possess. Must. Keep. Eyes. Open.

Ben added a keys pad (i.e., a layering, bedrock, sonic glue) to the first verse of this song. Something resonant and binding has been missing here and we're trying to uncover what it is by experimenting with sounds. Also, he and I have both realized that my lead vocal on this song is not very good. It is too dark, it tries way too hard (who me?), and is not at all that convincing. I will re-sing it. The more times I've listened to it today, the grumpier I've grown. Must re-do. Take that, communism. The pads Ben is adding is helping set the tone of the song a lot more than my stunningly smooth 12-string guitar playing could ever do.

Ben is overdubbing more hammer dulcimer over a piano part he played a few moments ago. We're going for a Raggedy-Andy sort of sad to prop up the lyrics that include these lines:

I've had chains wrapped around me for the last seven years
I crowned myself Messiah since Messiah was not near
I shook my fist at heaven, I told God to go to hell
There was so much that I had to say, but had kept it to myself

These are potentially expensive words. I see how they could easily be misinterpreted or taken out of context without knowing the story's backdrop. Hence, they may be expensive in that customers might want their money back after purchasing a "christian" album expressing such sentiments. I have no idea how the song will be received, as it is hopefully as honest in its narration as the true story on which it is based. The reality of humanity is that we owe to grace as great debtors. In our worst moments, we curse the blessing of our own skin, our own breathing in and out, the universe and Maker alike. In our best moments, we remain desperately in need of that which is beyond our frailty or capacity to bring anything good to the Mercy Table. I struggled for weeks, in the process of writing it, to allow the main character the red-blooded freedom to tell God, "I hated you that day." That is not the sort of cheap, plastic, pre-fab line that floats easily upon the waters of this industry. I am trying to be as honest as I can, since I so personally and closely related to the story of my friend's losing and losing, while in the midst of such tremendous anger, hostility towards God, loss of income and business, found himself spewing those very words with all the venom and bile his hard, tired heart could muster. And in the process, God still showed up with all the mercy and hope He ever possessed. And redemption occurs like fire through the open windows of a dry and brittle house. So it is with beggars and new beginnings. The story of any one of us is, in some measure, the story of us all.

These are the stories I hope to tell you.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hammer Dulcimer In An 85-degree Studio

Ben is currently playing hammer dulcimer on "I Had To Tell You". The overhead ceiling fan is spinning, usually a no-no while recording with such sensitive microphones, but since it is a brisk 85 -degrees indoors, we had to act responsibly. Be merciful, oh air movement across cardioid patterns. We tried turning off the central air and fan for the first few takes of this summer afternoon session, but our misery and sweat got the best of us, and, henceforth, we've thrown recording caution to the wind by allowing these invisible cooling breaths to traipse across microphonic brow. So be it.

Earlier, Ben overlayed hammer dulcimer over an Andrew Osengan electric guitar part on "You Don't Have The Strength". Feels like a Crowded House tune. I definitely like this.

More journalistic endeavours next week. This is EP with the latest Chrome scoop, over and out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lawn Care with Eric Peters

Yesterday, I mowed and weedeated (weedate?) Ben Shive's lawn. His yard is fairly gigantic, and it made me sweat. Afterwards, I met him - by then, 3pm - for Mexican lunch. Mental note: never again eat cheese dip immediately after three hours of yard work. An unpleasant afternoon ensued.

That is all.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

French horn & Prep-mixing

A mostly slow week for me on the album front, but we did manage to lure Aaron Sands over to The Beehive Friday afternoon to play French horn on three songs. Though I've heard Aaron's name mentioned here and there over the years, I've never actually met him. As it turns out, we're neighbors.

Sidebar: I have been wanting to find a place for French horn on one of my albums ever since I first heard Vigilantes of Love's eclectic, and great, 1993 album, Killing Floor, on which it is a featured part on the song, "Eleanor." My hopes for such a moment were never realized until yesterday, thanks to Ben and Aaron, who allowed me the opportunity to see if what my ear has been hearing - or wanting to hear - for months might actually transpire on tape. I hope so.

Ben has been working on prep-mixing the songs, a somewhat tedious process in which he tunes vocals, both lead and background, the various instrumentation in need of it, cleans up all the "punches" (where two or more recorded takes run awkwardly together), and gets a general mix going. This step allows the person mixing the album - in our case, Ben himself - to have a clean, prepped slate to work with to start making all the pieces work together. Mixing will involve weeding out parts, decluttering sections in a song so as not to be overly busy or crowded, and creating the sonic atmosphere in which the essentials of the song itself will rest.

We are estimating a mastering date - the final process before going to the duplication plant - sometime in mid-late June. I'm going to try and figure out a real, live, actual release date in the coming days. Targeting late July or early August. Here's to good vibes, smooth mixing and a soon-to-be Chrome release date!