After so much trial and error, development, feedback, talent searching, talent matching, talent training, after so much blood, sweat, and faith…we are finally recording the album.
Last Sunday Ryan and I went to his friend’s project studio in a guest house in Burbank where he had been recording the new Madras record and getting amazing drum sounds. Seems like they did all the grunt work and worked out the kinks because by the time I got there at 10am on the hottest day I can remember in Los Angeles, the kit, a hybrid of Pearl, Tama, DW and a signature snare that Ryan called his old professor for advice on, sounded absolutely amazing.
Ryan spent the next eleven hours tirelessly incorporating all we had talked about into the drum patterns. We had referenced all the songs I could think of that might have influenced these compositions over the time they have gestated in my brain – everything from early Stereolab, to D’Angelo to Charles Ives, My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, Jeff Buckley, Pink Floyd, and all the great drumnbass artists and white labels I have grown to love -and figured out how to pay tribute to them one way or another within the context of the beats. Of course, you’d never know what is what when you listen to the final takes, but it was a fun excercise to go back down memory lane and reverse engineer.
We tracked parts for The Big End, We Breathe So Brief and Moving Dark Circles – a song that I wrote almost ten years ago (!) between when Blue Dog Pict dismantled and I began playing solo and with Automated Gardens.
The original song list didn’t include MDC, but Ryan insisted on it. He thinks it’s the bees’ knees – and hey, what can I say, I have always loved it, but the song just never found a home. Until now.
I brought the tracks home and imported them into ProTools so that I could track other stuff as I go, and I am glad I did, because Jessica Hathaway (who helped me finish writing Breathe So Brief) and who was the original female voice on the song when we debuted it at the Hotel Cafe, happened to be moving back to London, England and came to say goodbye. I got her to sing in her parts over the drums tracks and, despite being exhausted and ready to catch a flight the next morning, sounded good as ever. it was kind of like catching a rare pic of a bird thought to be extinct. I hope that isn’t a bad analogy. Suffice to say, it was a lucky catch and now I can be sure to have her parts on the record.
I had done the same thing last spring when Natalie John, the USC jazz student who originally replaced Jessica when Jess first left, was moving to NYC. I had Nat come over and track her parts for the same song, along with her beautiful trumpet solo, the night before she left.
I am going to use both their voices in the final version. Their respective qualities are so distinct that I now have more colors to play with. The record is made up of precious moments barely captured and that makes the tracks all the more urgent and compelling – like knowing it’s your last perfomance. Wonderful stuff.
It’s no different with Ryan. I am leaving town for 6 weeks – going up to Toronto for a variety of reasons – Robot Pride Day 2006, the Toronto Film Festival etc. Ryan realized we had to do this now, so we quit stalling, cut a deal with Dan and away we went. Again, because of the urgency, Ryan played for his life and we got it done. We record the remaining three tracks next Sunday before I get on a plane.
I’m going to take the tracks on a hard drive with me to Toronto and see what amazing musicians I can capture there before bringing it all back to Los Angeles where I will finish recording and mixing for what will hopefully be a spring release (no later, I promise).
Oh and I must make mention of the fact that it all probably started coming together after I worked out a solid stylistic game plan for the record. A lot of the delay has come from deliberating exactly what the style was going to be. I could have made the Clara Bow /Kurt Weill record but then where does Blood or The Mean fit into the equation. I realized that with Blue Dog Pict, there was always that overarching concept that showed me the way. I saw some photographers’ works that finally tied together where my sensibilities lay these days. I will find some links and post their works for reference. Mainly it’s sepia toned, Steampunk – that hybrid of organics and tech. (Found it:)
The amorphous fluidity of breath, and the rigorous logic of engineering. The collision between the two. For machines to dream about…