Monday, April 18, 2011
So, after a couple weeks of being at home, and in the grind of normal life, I was pretty excited to head back down to La Crosse and work on the vocals with Logan. If you know anything about Orwell, or have followed us in any way over the past 7 years, you'll know that there is 1 thing this band has always had a complete lack of....LUCK!
It seems that whenever we have a forward progression going, something just stops us dead in our tracks and provides another hurdle for us to have to jump. That being said, our lack of anything going our way ever, has kind of turned into another instrument of creation for us. Therefor, please understand, this is not complaining, it's a simple statement of fact that we have all grown to accept with open arms, as more often than not, it creates an opportunity for us to do something in a different way than we had planned, which almost always results in something we can use or learn from.
Anyway, this weekend was for vocals. We had planned to basically get all the vocals done in 3 days. Not a small feat, but hey, nothing has been so far, and goals are always good to set. Anyway, Logan was feeling pretty shitty and decided to head into the hospital on friday night just to make sure his bacon vodka hangover wasn't anything more than just that. Turns out he had strep throat. How do you like that? A vocalist getting ready to work his instrument for 3 days of what was sure to be some throat destroying metal vocals and he has strep....our luck. haha
Well that put Logan out for the weekend, and by no fault of his, put AT LEAST another week delay on the record. Will and I were determined to get SOMETHING done, and since Erik and him had been working on the bass all week, we decided to just try to work on the vocals I was going to be doing on the record. I knew this was going to be a bit of a task, mainly because the vocals I do are mostly back up/ double sort of things, rarely, if ever, do I have anything vocally that stands on its own without Logan. So Will and I went to work, listening to the demos to figure out what Logan had been doing vocally, and then recording the parts he and I had planned for me to do. Because a good portion of the time was spent with me trying to land these "doubles" in the perfect spot without the main track to line it up with, it as a slow process. It also doesn't help that I'm not really a seasoned metal vocalist. I've been doing it live and on record since the beginning of Orwell, but on this record, I am doing A LOT MORE, than and we wanted to take a more raw, honest approach to what I was doing with this record. Less "THIS IS MY METAL COOKIE MONSTER VOICE" and more "THIS IS ACTUALLY HOW I MIGHT SOUND IF I WAS GOING THROUGH THIS".
Long story short, by the time I found my range in what I was doing, my throat was pretty much shot. We pushed through and finished 2 tracks, which at this point I am very happy with, and I'll be heading down to La Crosse again within the next week or so to get Logan going and get myself finished up. By that time, the bass will be done, and vocals will be the final remaining piece of the puzzle. So, slow as it may be, this record is getting closer to the finish line day by day, and my excitement is only growing.
MORE TO COME.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Today is my final day of reckoning. It is the last day Mr. Steve is going to be in La Crosse, and I have committed to finishing up my involvement in the guitars by days end. Because I think it's a testament to Steve's commitment (and mine/ours - pat on the back) I feel the need to mention that we woke up at about 9 AM, stepped out into the perfectly warm, and calming breeze of the back yard, with my pup Max in toe and immediately decided on a plan for the day. Plan being: make Will and Logan cook breakfast, work until its ready, eat, and then work until my guitars are done. That is what we did. I should probably confess that Steve had a hot dog somewhere in the course of this day, and I had a few quick smoke breaks, but other than that, we had our goal, and we worked feverishly to achieve it, phallic food and drug items aside.
By 7PM I was done with all rhythm "BIGination," every overdub of effects, and every last harmony that I had contributed to the record. The only thing left was my 1 guitar solo (on track 4.) I think I probably took 20 - 25 runs at it by the time I was 100% happy with it, which wasn't a huge deal, as it's a pretty short solo in the first place. Anyway, I was pumped, I don't choose to solo often, so when I do its usually pretty fun for me.
As I was basically ready to toss all my shit and my dog into the piece of shit I call a car and finally drive home to my home and fiance in northern wonderland of Wausau, we decided to take one more listen to the final song on the album. Without giving to much away, this song began as kind of a nice comfortable, and soothing coast into the oblivion that is the end of this record. It was never meant to be some giant crescendo, the record has plenty of those. This song was meant to give you you a sense of comfort, and hopefully a sense of unfinished business, as we will no doubt continue our musical evolution with whatever we put out after this. But this will all make much more sense as the concept of this album is revealed and you as a listener/reader/music lover are able to see where this song sits in the "storyline" that is AVOHFASIH.
Seriously, I need someone here to stop me from going on crazy tangents...
Long story short, I added 2 additional solos to this song. The first of which is more of background spacey deal, and the second, another more traditional, but short offering. I have to say, it was pretty damn fun to do this. Like I said, soloing is not my thing. I've never felt confident with it, and normally I only do it when I hear the solo in my head and it just happens. My brain doesn't process sitting down and writing a solo. However, we knew the song needed something. It had the comfortable, hopeful feeling that we wanted, but it needed more variation in the background, it needed things here and there to surprise you and wake you up a bit before putting you back into the sunny warm haze.
9:15pm - Tim - guitars - DONE.
Erik gets off work at 10, so I'll be about 1/5 of the way home by the time he gets here to work into the wee hours of the morning with Steve on his overdubs, solos, cleans, etc. Regardless of what happens tonight, Steve is heading back to Minneapolis in the morning, and everyone is going to take a breather for a few days. We are well aware that we are now left to our own devices to capture the remainder of the bass, a few guitar solos, and the vocals, but after spending 9 grueling days of working on this record at such a constant pace, this music feels like its in our blood. It's part of how we think now, and our loved one would attest, that it's part of how we breath and talk. I have never been so enveloped in a piece of art/music/whatever AVOHFASIH decides it wants to become, and although I know its hard for those around us to really understand just how deep into this we are, I think it will become very apparent upon the release of the record.
So, this is me, signing off for what I'm sure will be at least 4-5 days of solid relaxation and reflection, and unfortunately a return to the everyday rat-race of normal life.
See you in a few...
Today is Sunday, possibly the day of your lord, the day of rest, whatever. This is not the case for us. For us, it was finally time to add some balls to this record. Time to record some bass!
Will has been a continually evolving bass player since he joined Orwell back in 2005. Out of all of us, I personally feel that his progression has been the most drastic. Will wouldn't argue with the fact that he basically joined this band after having played bass for a only a few months. This wasn't really a huge deal at that point, as the year was 2005 and we were all listening to bullshit music that left us all at a very stagnant point in our musical development. That said, I feel like Will and I really learned how to play together, and more pointedly, as a result of Erik joining the band, we were being forced to step it up.
The new tunes give Will some room to breath, to play around, and experiment with his instrument in a way that he was never able to in the past. His presence on this record is going to be much less subtle than it has been on past releases. Don't get me wrong, he hasn't morphed into Les Claypool by the magic of some witch doctor that lives in his beard, and that's not what we/he wanted anyway. On AVOHFASIH, Will is going to be laying down the foundation of everything, along with Cris of course. On top of that thick layer of wonderful bass balls, he's also taking some subtly leads here and there, and deviating from following the guitars as closely as he has in the past. Again, he has a bit more room for his instrument to breath, and enhance the music, versus just being "the heavy." (that in reference to the fact that on most metal cds the bass is either completely in audible, or mixed in so muddy that it literally just provides thickness and no actual musical value)
So, we took a good 3-4 hours dialing in the bass tone, which is absolutely awesome. It's rumbly and earth shaking, but fuzzy and nasty at the same time, all while retaining the definition we wanted in the first place.
FOR THE GEAR NERDS:
Ampeg Avt 3Pro
Ampeg 8x10 cab
Ibanez 4 string bass (not sure on the model....maybe Will can help me out here)
Schecter Stiletto 4 string
After finding the tone, we jumped right into the first track on the record. Will though it would be best to just go through the record song by song. This is kind of where the fun started. Will got into playing and we all just thought "yah, sounds good!" After mulling that thought over for a bit, we again decided "good" wasn't good enough. This had nothing to do with Will, his playing, or his writing. It more had to do with the fact that we had spent so much time on the guitars and added so much additional content and emotion to the songs, that they just weren't as simple as they were when we started the recording process. I guess we felt as a whole, that we needed to give the bass parts the same attention to detail that we did with the guitar. (all you bass players out there, please cover your ear boners throughout the remainder of this post, your band will remember you are there eventually! hahahahah)
So we spent a while going through the song, modifying Will's parts, allowing him to find spots to really pull through, and just finding the "spot" in the mix where the bass would add the rumble, but still be recognizable as an instrument. All in all, we got 1 and 1/2 songs done on bass, and Will decided he wanted to take some time outside of recording to go back through everything and refine his parts to the level that the rest of the music had reached. It seemed like a setback at first, but just like with everything else that took twice as long as expected, it's what needed to be done for the art to be driven to the level we wanted it, and we are 100% happy that we not only have the time to do it, but we have a producer, and a bass player, who are both in agreement that more work means better. Will spent a lot of time getting the songs to where they were, and as a musician, it's exciting for me to see someone who has already put in that many hours be able to recognize that maybe something isn't quite to the point of personal satisfaction. It's fucking hard to work on something for months, then sit down to finally put it out there, and effectively call it finished only to pull back at the last second so you can put more work into it. Bravo Will!
Lastly, as you probably could have guessed by now, we spent the remainder of the night on guitars. Which I should add are about 3/4 done at this point. More overdrive, slightly clean, and effects tracking. Again, I can barely express how fun this part is. After the main guitars were done, it's been all fun and games for us 6 stringers. Adding atmosphere, lots of ethereal things that only devout listeners will get to enjoy, it's by far the most enjoyable, and least nerve racking part of this process. Without the amount of time we spent on this part of the process, the record would have still been heavy, but not nearly as hypnotic and emotional.
So today was basically a day off.
Steve spent the day doing some editing and making sure everything was nice and in sync for the Will.
This time around we wanted to make sure that there was nothing limiting what we were able to accomplish with the soundscapes and emotions on this record. It seems silly that in order to do this, we ended up recording to a click track (metronome for you nerds out there.) Orwell has never used a metronome in the studio. I think it has always been a combination a few things. One being, its incredibly challenging to have your drummer be on with every click. It takes a long time, it takes precision, and it takes patience. I don't mean to say that our past drummers haven't had the ability to do it this way, its more a case of the band not being able to afford the time needed. Luckily this time around, we had the time, and Cris was willing. We had originally gone into this saying "no click track, if any record we've done needed to be guided by feeling, it's this one." That being said, this record is very ambitious for us, and there was a lot we wanted to do with guitars, layering, atmosphere, etc. I think it was about a 5 minute conversation when we changed our minds to be honest, haha.
The thing is, imperfection and fluctuation can sometimes help you and your audience "feel" the music, however, more often than not, it takes you out of the music when the tempo shifts down 10 bpm out of nowhere. It's mind-blowing how even a 3-5 bpm drop or raise completely throws you off as a listener, and you probably wouldn't even notice it consciously. It's more of the feeling you get when you are nodding along to the music and all of a sudden your heads not in time with the music anymore. Unless you have absolutely no rhythm, its pretty hard to get off the beat with songs that sit around 100 - 130 bpm.
So anyway, back to my original thought, the metronome is what has ended up really giving us the room to create the hypnotic trans-like state of a lot of the songs and parts on AVOHFASIH. As a listener, we want you to be moved to the next part of the song, subconciously. This, as opposed to banging your head so fast and hard that your neck hurts after the first 1/4 of our 8 minute songs and then slamming you into a new tempo so quickly that you have to stop and focus in order to realign with the beat and resume head-banging. This album progresses from song to song, and ideally, you'll close your eyes and just let it play.
So, in summation, today was spent hanging out, relaxing, and cooking various meats as Steve worked on making sure that the drums were ready for Will to latch on to.
Friday, April 8, 2011
.Friday, April 1
(guitars - Tracks 1 - 6.)
After an incredibly productive day yesterday, we jumped right in and got my rhythm's finished up. It took a couple hours, as I had left a few of the trickier parts for the end. We are on a pretty tight schedule, so we had to figure out the best use of our time. That meant doing all the stuff we were nice and comfortable with first, and worrying about the tricky stuff when the time arose.
After a quick break for some grub we started getting into the part that I have been most excited about from day 1; The overdrive, clean, and effects. AvohFasih has an intense amount of dynamics guitar wise. Especially if you put it up against Endeavors, which we had basically 4 tones on; a cranked 6505+, a cranked Mesa Tremo-Verb (both through a peavey jsx 4x12) a solo/lead tone, and an acoustic on one track. With Avoh, Erik and I each have a defined rhythm sound for the bulk of the record, but every other tone, effect, etc, was dialed in specifically for the part it was to be used on. We literally sat and played with knobs, pedals, amps and whatever else, looking for the sound that gave us the "feel" we wanted for the specific part we were recording. As a great, and funny example, Erik had to record a majority of track 1 laying on a bed with his head hanging off the end (supported by a camp chair arm) because when the guitar faced the ceiling at that exact point in the room, we had the full amount of gain we needed with the least amount of buzz. I am not joking, there's pictures....below in fact! haha
Anyway, obviously I don't want to get into specifics, but I hope anyone taking enough time to read this blog will take enough time to sit down with the record when it's done, put on the best pair of head phones or earbuds, and just relax as you listen. For those of you who truly enjoy soaking up music like I do (usually on my favorite spot on the couch, with my dog by my side, and just a lamp on in the corner) and really give it your full attention, we are packing in "ear candy" like it's going out of style! The amount of depth in the guitar tones, the various delays and melodic effects, everything is being done 100% intetionally to attach emotion to our brand of metal.
Tonight was also incredibly fun for me personally because we had a couple visitors who are really close to my heart come in and put their own little stamp on the record. That would be my fiancée, Dani, and my sister LeAnn. I could go on for days about how happy it makes me to finally be able to include my sister and her talent into our music, and that has nothing to do with the fact that my parents have been bugging me about it for years. Who wouldn't be excited to have the person they share their life with get to join in on something as close to their heart as their music? Forgive the mushiness, but wow, what a cool and fun experience.
Well, this beast is really starting to take shape, but we are running low on time. Tomorrow, Steve is going to be doing some slight mixing and editing, and then we hope to start bass, and get at least very close to finishing guitars...progress!
Saturday, April 2, 2011
.Thursday, March 31
(Guitars- all tracks.)
Well today we started right in with tracking our rhythm guitars. This is the meat of the album, the big heavy "holy fuck my brain is taking a beating" portion of what we have to offer. Again, a little homemade breakfast of corned-beef hash made by none other than meat extraordinaire Cris Bissell gave us the extra shove we needed to get going.
I should mention, that this time of year, the weather in Wisconsin is just as intense as it is in the dead of winter, in a completely different way. The mornings and afternoons are for us, t-shirt weather (anything really above 50 degrees) and the nights are frigid and mostly below freezing. I love Wisconsin, and I love the winter, but we are all excited for the t-shirt weather to last past 7. Sitting outside with a good book sounds pretty fantastic right now... anyway, on to the task at hand.
Erik starts, as we've always done, laying down the melodic foundation of the music. I can't express to you enough how playing with someone who is far beyond your skill level is both intensely rewarding and insanely nerve racking. Erik is one of, if not the, most precise and tight guitar player I have ever been in the same room with. He plays the riffs with such a fluid movement and level of articulation, it's mind blowing. He fucks up here and there of course, but none of us have ever been even the slightest bit worried about Erik being able to knock everything down like a pissed off, violent guido in Jersey putting Snooki where she belongs... on the fucking floor and away from the cameras. Erik effectively gave the rhythm tracks the beating of their lifetime which they wont soon forget! haha
It must have been about 7 PM by the time Erik had everything wrapped up and it was my turn to step up to the plate and do my best to prove to 2 of my favorite guitar players (Steve and Erik) that I'm not completely worthless! haha. Again, I don't get down on myself, but I feel that being in the presence of this calibur of guitar players, you need to approach what you are tackling with an amount of humbleness and just try to stay calm and push yourself to be the absolute best you can be.
I started, and finished strong, I knocked down 3 and 3/4 of the B tuned songs (oh yeah, I forgot to mention, a good portion of this album is in B tuning, as opposed to C for you guitar nerds out there.) I feel great about my performances on this record. I had A LOT more to do with the writing than I did on Endeavors (the whole band did) and I came into this recording process as practiced as I could be. I think more importantly than the performances (gasp!) we knew what we wanted. We had a sound in mind, and we wanted to capture us as players this time around, not a perfect version of what we are, but us, for real.
If you are a guitar player, you'll no doubt notice on the record, and of course live, that while Erik is insanely tight and precise, I am equal amounts of feeling and quite a bit more loose of a player. I think this difference in our style (picking style/technique, finger placement etc.) really lends itself to the new music, much more than it was able to on Endeavors. With a little bit more room for the guitar to breath and a whole lot less "holy shit fast FAST FAST!" our styles are able to mesh much more naturally. This is exactly what I was hoping for, and for the most part, excitedly expecting. To give you an idea of what I mean, listen to "Wavering Radiant" by ISIS or basically anything be Neurosis. You hear 2 distinct guitars, one mostly left, and one mostly right. They are playing the same part, but you can tell, very plainly that it is 2 humans playing the guitar and not some robot tight metronome perfection. Little chugs and differences in chord strums eb and flow through out the riffs, and to me, that's what makes those, and hopefully this record feel real.
At this point the record is starting to come together. Dr. Frankenstein has his monster all laid out on the table, the observatory doors are open, and he is making some final touches before the monster is raised into the night sky for a final burst of energy that will bring the corpse to life.
.Wednesday, March 30
Well, we finished the drums last night. Cris was 100% on point and so far we are on schedule! I can't say enough about the drum tone on this record, its HUGE. This is the first record we've done with Cris, and he was also one of the main proponents of taking the band in a new direction, so it was incredibly gratifying to finally hear the full potential of what he has been constructing over the past 8 months.
We finished the drums at about 2 AM and then had to pack up all the guitar and bass gear from our practice space (which is where we recorded the drums) and take it all to Will's house, where we will be tracking the rest of the record. I think everyone finally retired for the day at about 4-5 AM, so needless to say, it was a LONG night.
After waking up and getting some late breakfast, we got right to getting the guitars set up and immediately started shooting guitar tones. This is one thing we were NOT worried about. We've always been pretty confident about our tone live, and we have great equipment to work with. For a frame of reference, this is what we had to work with-
EVH 5150 III
Splawn Pro Stock
Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier
Mesa Boogie Oversized 4x12
Peavey JSX 4x12
Marshall 1960A 4x12
We started off with the obvious choice, the most expensive, and in all other cases, best combination we had available to us. This was the 5150 III through the Mesa Cab. This is Erik's live tone for the most part, with a few different stages of overdrive and pedals giving the rig a bit of color. After tweaking mic placement, amp settings, and anything else we could think of for about 3 - 4 hours, we finally realized that this combo was not giving us what we were looking for. To make a long story short, we started out testing all of the equipment we actually own, and none of it was really giving us what we wanted, so we went back down to our practice space and grabbed the Splawn, Mesa, and the Marshall cab, which all belong to our wonderful practice mates THE F-UPS, and their head honcho, and our good friend Travis.
(As a side note: Thank you Travis, we seriously appreciate your openness and trust with us using all of your sweet equipment!)
Anyway, again, to shorten a mind numbingly long story, we finally stumbled accross our tone at about 10 PM. It came in the least expected way, through the tiny little Marshall cab. Would I use this thing live? Most likely not, however, it has a perfect amount of clarity that we were looking for on the record.
I guess the strange thing is that I wouldn't exactly say that when we found the tone we were "excited." Because of the amount of time it took, and the ridiculous amount of fucking around we had to do to actually get to this point, it was actually more of a relief than anything. I don't mean that to sound pessimistic, or as if we just finally settled, because that isn't the case at all. We weren't looking for a "HOLY SHIT THAT GUITAR TONES IS FUCKING INSANE" this time around. We needed something a bit more laid back, with a lot more definition, and a lot more room to play with the different levels of distortion/clean/overdrive, and effects that we have strewn throughout the album. Maybe relief is a bad word, because we knew what we needed, and we finally found it. Confident might be a better way to describe the feeling we had, as in "YES, this is exactly what we are looking for."
It was a long day, and again, we have Steve to thank for not ever saying "that's good enough." He is pushing us to work, and helping us take this record to the level that it needs to be to translate, and for that we love him! haha, this record would have never been able to come together like it has without him.
Time to get some rest, rhythm tracks go down in the morning.