There are times in the studio when I feel privileged to be witness to performances by the awesome musicians I play with. On occasion, I’ll be the only other person in the room at the time of a recording, and I can hardly believe I got to be there for it. As much as the studio is a warm and live place to play, the reality is that there’s no actual audience present. For those special moments, I recognize that I’m an audience of one.
Working On The Album
KLB has been laying out the beginnings of an exciting first major album. Members will be offered the first opportunity to purchase it! Here are some photos and videos of the process. We’ve had an awesome time working on it, and we’re thrilled to share a few moments with you.
Roy Buna during one of his hot, searing sessions:
Bill Galloway in session. So exciting, I rose from a dead-tired-stupor to rock out to his music!:
Kayt, in session for a power-ballad:
Hmm. I count 15 studios that I’ve done work in, including home-studios, experimental studios and professional studios. There all so different! They sound different, and they feel different. They’re inhabited by different people and companies. The gear is different, and the services they offer are as varied as they are. While all are intended to help you along on your recording journey, it’s worth having experiences in more than one studio so that you know what to expect and what’s possible. (Check out my photo diary of the Toronto Studio Tour I did in 2012, located on the page entitled “Studio”!)
Why make sketch tracks? Why spend the time?
Oooooh, it’s sooooo worth it. A recording freezes the development of a song in time. That’s not to say that it’s done evolving at all! In fact, the band often tells me that we play things differently over time, and it’s true! Songs settle into themselves as they demand more specific tempos, rhythms and overall approaches. Also, the addition of various members of the band affects the way the songs are delivered. It’s really fun to look back on sketch tracks, once the tunes become fully developed.
The original reason for doing sketch tracks is to remember a song’s vitality. The sooner it gets captured, the more likely it is that the feel of the song will contain the energy of the impulse for it to have been written. The second great value of a sketch track is to have something to share with band members. In our busy lives, there’s only so much time to rehearse all together, so the recordings are great for those who love to practice. (Yes, several KLB band mates love to practice! Amazing.)
So happy I have a home-recording option to get creative with. Sadly, I’m acutely inexperienced at it! I do what I can, and I love it, but it’s been a super-slow learning curve. I tend to believe that recording technology should be left to the professionals who have spent lifetimes studying the potential of their gear, and gaining experience with all kinds of musicians.
My humble system consists of a Tascam digital board, given to me by a friend (You Rock Louis!!!), and an assortment of instruments that I can plug into it. My bottom-of-the-line synthesizer is helpful for creating the suggestion of rhythm tracks, as well as for playing basic bass lines on. Keeping in mind that what I do with my system is all intended to merely outline/sketch a tune, it’s not usually my aim to make it more than that. My lovely acoustic/electric piano can also be plugged in, so it’s great to be able to record directly from it in the same way that mandos, guitars and vocals can be.
After these basic recordings are made, the amazing musicians I work with can expand upon, and interpret, the simple lines I write. Some recordings enchant me though, so I’ll continue with them creatively. Always a steep learning curve, I have to accept that my computer, although awesome, is challenged by large audio files. So frustrating! The mixing program I’m using is Adobe Audition. It’s a very good program, with enough to suit my needs, and simple enough to get into without tons of training.
Starting The Album
Conversation with John Preketes about how we figured out how to start the album.
My First Studio Experiences
I did some work in studios, recording poetry for dance, but the real beginnings of my studio time were with my friend Gus Apostolos in his cassette recorder, brick-walled back room at the store he worked at. Those were fun! I had no idea what to do, as we were improvising and both of us were a bit nervous of the “red light”. (I can’t remember if there actually was a “red light” indicating “recording on”, but some folks experience an excitement and shyness, commonly experienced when a recording environment becomes live.)
Later, Gus moved his studio to an apartment, and while our shyness was less, concerning the “red light”, we were shy about the neighbours who might hear us. Crazy! I have no idea why we cared about that, because there’d never been complaints, but we were highly aware that there was always the possibility.
Finally, I was introduced to an amateur recording engineer who, over the years, became a very knowledgeable and experienced technician. Mr. HighRotation (Alias) was also an extraordinarily accomplished professional musician, having spent the 1960s-1980s playing for some very popular bands. He held jams at his home on Friday nights, which I attended with some regularity for about 12 years. I learned so much! In addition to learning about recording and preparing for sessions, I spent hours listening to some major Canadian musicians tell stories about their days in the biz. It was a great musical education. For me, these tales gave me a window into the world of Toronto’s music scene in the 70s and 80s, long before I was aware of the workings of the industry.
I was not really a musician when I began attending the jams. All I had were piles of poetry, and the ability to come up with words on the fly. We smoked and drank and played and recorded, and got to know each other very well. Mr.HighRotation was very encouraging for me to sing and share my words. In the beginning, I don’t think I sang very well. I was shy, and my voice wasn’t yet mature, but Mr.HR and his friends seemed to hear something in my delivery that I didn’t know was there. In fact, I have huge gratitude for the opportunities they gave me to develop my style and comfort level in the studio. I have shelves full of CDs with samples from those sessions, many of which are very beautiful and worthy of airplay, or at least recreation.
Toward the end of those twelve years, there was an interesting dilemma that developed. In the past, the generation of musicians that came before digital access to music existed, the business had complete control of the products that musicians make. There were no freebies, unless you include the dissemination of music over the radio and TV, but artists were systematically paid for those. Nowadays, the major accesses to music are online and many things are free. The means for musicians to make money have changed and become limited in several ways. The dilemma for the Friday-Night-Jammers was all about what to do with the most incredible of our recordings. We recognized that they were good and worth sharing with the world, but the business was in transition to the extent that none of the guys were comfortable to release the material out of the “Vault” that was the studio, and our personal holdings. We made some attempts to release music for live-streaming with awesome reception by the public, but our inexperience with the modern music biz led to some very serious disagreements. There were fears about losing control of the material, and worse, paranoia that any one of the members would take advantage of the others. While I don’t believe that anyone was out to make gains at the expense of the others, the inability to trust the new music business model shut the project down and ended some beautiful musical friendships.
This story is very interesting to me, for it’s poignant description of the effects, the changes in the music biz, upon individual musicians. I have enormous respect for those that worked as musicians in the heyday of what was once a more financially accountable music industry. In the modern version of the biz, the hits go to those musicians who are both artists and very good business people. Marketing and self-promotion, as well as confidence in the business of music, are the new hallmarks of the up-and-coming bands. All this, in addition to being awesome players and song writers! It’s a different world.