I Said I’d Be Back Soon!!!!
This time off is proving to be quite fruitful in terms of blogs (he says two days in!!)
Right on to the next project of 2014….Mr Samuel Taylor debut album. I’ve known Sam for many years he’s a top bloke. Very enthusiastic and committed to his craft. He was part of the band Dead Like Harry which recorded with 2fly for most of their output over the years.
This project was an album project to be recorded over a period of around 10 days with a few extra revisit days. The first day was spent how most sessions early on are spent, getting drum sounds, drinking tea and chatting about how we’re going to approach the tracks. Sam’s style is very classic folk/rock but he wanted to experiment a little in terms of textures. Initially, we considered being influenced by the likes of John Barry, the composer responsible for many of the Bond themes but also one with a distinct style and use of interesting instrumentation and harmony but he has penned many a film score and 70’s advertising campaign. (“The Girl With The Sun In Her Hair” being one of my personal favourites which was used for a shampoo ad in the 70’s.) They really don’t make ad’s with music like that anymore!! But after going through the process I think we may have been just a little ambitious!
For the rhythm track recording Sam had selected two fine musicians. The drummer Adam Crofts (The Hosts and ex Dead Like Harry) and Eddie Cosens (Reverend & The Makers, …….my brother-in-law also!)
Having never worked together, once the sounds had been established, the pair got on famously musically speaking and soon we had a couple of takes of the first tune nailed…i.e. done. The rhythm tracks continued to go down without hiccup and pretty soon we were ahead of schedule. Nothing had been rehearsed for this album as Sam wanted to keep a fresh feel to the record. This was to prevent over familiarity and allow the players and takes to evolve naturally through the several passes. Everyone worked very well together the musicians took direction well and understand both Sam and I’s esoteric random suggestions!! You know the ones……everyone says them even if you think you don’t!
Over the next couple of days various tasks were undertaken. Vocals were done two to three tracks at a time as not to over tax Sam and to give time to comp between the takes to create a master vocal track that all the backing vocals etc could be matched to the lead performance. In between vocal takes we recorded acoustic guitars, some electric guitars and various bits and pieces of percussion most notably a “Stomp-Box” that I’d actually never recorded before. It’s basically a block of wood with a piezo pick up embedded in it and you do as you’d imagine and stomp your foot on it. This creates a kick drum like low sound. Many acoustic performers tend to use for a low end rhythmical purpose stated above. As I’d not recorded one before I did a little searching around to find the best way of getting the best out of it. Turns out you just shove a stack of low end on it and it sounds pretty how you’d imagine.
There were some lovely people and other great musicians enlisted for this album too. On piano was my good friend Jon Trier. Jon is a fantastic player and very gifted musician. He knows exactly what to play and when. It makes production so easy when you have this kind of player available for sessions. Funny story here though…..all the parts were played very nicely and sounded great coming from Jon’s rig (a Native Instruments Kontact with some pretty great sounding pianos!) Sam decided that there was something not quite right!!!! It took me a while to understand what he meant by ‘not quite right’ cos all the parts were played very well and sounded really great. That was the problem. They sounded too great!!!!
It was something I’d never considered with sampled instruments. Especially sample packs. These things sound great right out of the box and with one or two minor tweaks you got the perfect sound from any desired instrument.
Sam then went on to explain that he wanted particularly the pianos to be unique to this record……..and he was totally right. Jon managed to find a very nice Yamaha upright for us (him) to use. It was owned by a friend of his and fellow top class musician by the name of Pierro Tucci. This was his personal piano situated in his home studio. So what followed was a little field recording. We took Jon’s and my MacBooks and set up a very simple 3 mic array. Two Royers over the piano and a U67 down a short hall roughly 11’ from the piano. It sounded great. Very different from the perfect sampled piano. There was the odd chair creaking and noises from Jon’s fingers hitting the keys. We had to stop at one point due to the bin men emptying bins!! But, Sam was totally correct. The real piano even with all of it’s imperfections sounded much more suitable for the type of record we were trying to make.
Jon also provided a great string arrangement for one of the more extravagant songs on the record. Joe Hastings and friend and colleague of Sam’s also provided a couple of great string arrangements…..Joe also came in on a couple of sessions and gave some brilliant input. The strings players were my usual go to cello player the wonderful and very reliable Miss Lucy Revis, and the violinist was a friend of her’s who I’d not worked with before Chris Brain. Both played the parts with the necessary attention and subtlety and made the tracks come alive and have a wonderfully natural sound. We worked them quite hard too in certain songs and terms of timing and layering. The results speak for themselves as all good music should!
Accordian was provided by Sam brother Matt another ex Dead Like Harry member. The backing/duel vocals were provided by the crystal voiced Jodie Marie a singer songwriter from Wales. Her and Sam’s voices worked very well together and there was a real chemistry between them that again gave energy to the songs.
So, not to go on too much cos believe me I can! The next few days were spent adding more guitars and vocals and even rerecording the odd song here and there….primarily cos it was recorded in the wrong key and the vocal didn’t sit well. It was either too high or too low and sounded odd either way!
All in all though a thoroughly enjoyable record to make. The mixing was also a pleasure due to Sam’s trust and ability to allow me to experiment before settling on the direction a mix was to take. An attribute that can only be learnt through experience.
Sorry if I’ve missed anyone out…oh! yea…..there was something else….the butters in the form of John Redgrave (ex Dead Like Harry again!!) and George Bannister for kind of providing some backing vocals (i.e. shouts/screams) and some hand claps and foot stomps……thanks for that lads!!!
Tata for now.