January 2014 started with a bang! Literally…
Towards the end of last year, I started work on a new project for AudioNetwork with Kes Loy & Barrie Gledden. We had so much fun with the 80’s Hair Rock project that the three of us decided to turn our musical attention to something more up-to-date, but still in the rock vein.
Kes, Barrie & I started writing together – thrashing out ideas with live kit & guitars… like we used to do in the many bands we’ve been in. After All, the best songs come from interaction, interplay & bouncing ideas around between the players & writers. As we were writing, tracks were recorded into Pro Tools to enable us to have a record of each section or song whilst the ideas were still fresh in our heads – give it 5 minutes and you can guarantee you can’t remember that great riff you just played, so having it all there to pick and choose from was fantastic.
Within a couple of days the tracks were there & formed; writing lyrics and vocal lines came soon after. It’s always a challenge writing lyrics for film & media… there’s a fine line between keeping content ‘within genre’ but also making sure there’s nothing in there that might offend… ‘Explicit Lyrics’ aren’t something you can add and would limit usage from most productions & films.
Following the initial writing sessions, I brought the whole project back to my studio (StudiOK) to set about creating more ‘song-like’ arrangements & laying down guide drums. As we’d not played to clicks when jotting down the ideas into the computer initially, creating something workable to play along to proved a challenge in itself. Even though a good many of the six songs were in common time, some were in interesting time signatures – 6/4 with bars of 7/8 thrown in. I played drum parts with only the music as I imagined it in my head and a click track to keep me where i needed to be.
Having kicked all six tracks into what I deemed full arrangements, I called upon Kes to come into the studio and lay down guide guitars over the new drum tracks.
Barrie added guide bass at his studio before the next stage… REPLACE EVERYTHING!
Even though the songs were now in their finished form and sounding great, the drums had been recorded to thin air & everything needed that ‘live-in-a-room’ feel to have energy & interplay – after all, this is a rock project.
Barrie has a multitude of amps, guitars & outboard gear at his disposal – how could we achieve that smooth & polished guitar sound heard on so many of the latest releases?
Track after track of guitar was added, until what we heard back was the sound we’d been aiming for – over 60 tracks of guitar per song. Thanks to modern technology we can do this and not worry about track count.
Just before Christmas 2013, Iain Angus – lead singer with Four Fighters – came into the studio to record vocals. Initially, Kes & I had sung on the tracks to get the lyrics & vocal lines into the projects, always with a view to being replaced at a later date. Iain has a great rock voice… very much in the style of Biffy Clyro and Dave Grohl – in short, ideal for this kind of project.
It was a long couple of days for Iain. He did take after take, harmony after harmony without faltering or grumbling. My voice would have been in tatters by midday, day one… Sterling work. I did manage a few high harmonies on there myself which, I believe, made it to the final mix.
Barrie booked a session at The Chairworks in Castleford for Monday 6th January 2014… First day back after the Christmas break, and it was down to me to now replace my ‘working’ drums with the real thing. Barrie had firm ideas about what he wanted from the kit – big, low toms & a very ‘rock’ setup. I’m very lucky in that my BLX kit is quite expansive – 8”, 10”, 12”, 13”, 14”, 16” & 18” toms – meaning, I can pretty much choose most kit setups for most situations…
Between us we chose a 14” Rack with the 16” & 18” floor toms. 22”x16” kick & a snare that i’ve not used for a while – my free-floating copper shelled Pearl.
I initially chose this after comments from a drummer friend of mine ‘That’s how i want my snare to sound’… Warmth of wood but crack of brass.
We ran full passes of each track about 3 or 4 times just to try different fills, beats & ideas. This makes editing a blast, and you can swap between takes to see if a certain fill works better than others as transitions into sections, choruses and verses.
Monday 13th January 2014 saw us splice the ‘most flavoursome’ drum parts together at Barrie’s studio… this was also the pre-mix session; readying the sessions for running out from Pro Tools through Barrie’s ever expanding analogue studio.
Now we had the drum takes set in stone, it was important to re-play the bass along to what we had – the live kit felt full of energy and drive & the bass now needed to reflect this.
The rest of that week was spent, the four of us, mixing the 6 tracks; Barrie taking the helm as ‘Wizard of Oz’.
The mix is the time when you actually realise what you have; what’s been recorded and what’s there to work with sonically and musically. As Geddy Lee said ‘Mixing is the end of all hope’…
The project is now in the bag and delivered to AudioNetwork. Alongside the full tracks AudioNetwork also request underscore & ‘cut-downs’ of our tracks… such durations as 30 second & 60 second versions for use as theme tunes or adverts. Turning a 3 minute song with lyrics into a comprehendible 60 or 30 second version provides a myriad of challenges… but that’s another story… let’s just say, we did it!
Watch out for the Modern Rock Anthems album release in Spring 2014.