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It’s strange to be sitting in a bar, drink in hand. As a veteran of the music industry, you’d think that would be par for the course for me. However, the reality is that I don’t drink a lot – hardly at all, in fact. Being in a bar or club invariably means that I’m working in some capacity – gigging, event management, the door, photography, reviewing or just giving my muso friends some support. It’s not really an environment conducive to drinking. Let the punters fully enjoy themselves and have a classy or rowdy good time. It’s not a good idea to lose focus when you’re the person responsible for an outcome! They may not notice certain things, but I do. That lead dangling off the side of the stage, for instance. That drink carelessly placed on top of the mixing desk. The lax security guard who mysteriously disappeared, just when he was really needed. The random person who has jumped up on the stage and is messing around with the guitarist’s carefully set up arrangement of pedals. All of these issues and many more present themselves to my attention! Tonight, I am at the Post Office Hotel, having a quiet bourbon, all to myself. Tonight is an unusual move for me. I would rather be gigging, but I thought I’d try it on the other side of the fence for once. I’m only doing sporadic gigs at present. Once my releases are done, I’ll swing into action and book some gigs at good venues for the launch and so on. The Post Office Hotel is a great venue, beautifully run, and there are no dodgy leads, no drinks on expensive equipment, nothing of concern. The staff members are friendly and know their stuff. It’s one of those venues that appreciates the musicians it hires, and one that has music on most nights. Speaking of music, it’d be nice if some acts were on…. It’s a bit early in the night, mind you. Ah, bourbon’s finished. I have enjoyed sitting here but I can’t really relax. I think I’ll go home and do something productive…. Write a song. Design a CD cover. Email my awesome songwriter friend in London. Something… ANYTHING to do with music.
Sitting here, having a listen to my mate Evan’s radio show on PBS FM, and pondering my year in music. I’m having a quiet New Year’s Eve celebration at home, surrounded by those that I love, and it’s an excellent time to take stock and reflect.
In terms of gigs, it’s been dead quiet. Some work functions, that’s about it.
But I have been busy. Oh, yes.
In spite of an ever-changing, difficult and even traumatic year, including the sudden death of one of my closest friends, the band and I have been working steadily away on our two recording projects.
The progress of the cover album is slightly more advanced than the originals E.P., but I’m really happy with the way that both are coming along. Half the songs have been mixed for the cover album so far. The tracks are sounding GREAT!! The guys could not have played any better. So proud of them!
This is the recording of my dreams and it is going to be well worth the long wait for completion. Luckily, I am in the fortunate position of being able to redo things until they are exactly right (as opposed to every other recording I’ve ever done). The estimated delivery time? Mid-year 2013.
There is one more tracking session left – backing vocals and some choir work. Just one…. It is an odd feeling.
I won’t know what to do with myself when there are no more sessions left!
Might have to start another recording project…. :P
I love recording and like to think that I have pretty good recording technique. When it goes well, it is a marvellous experience. When it goes badly, it can be nothing sort of torture. Of late, there have been a couple of hiccups with the twin recording projects, in relation to the recording of the vocals. I’ve also undergone a couple of deeply upsetting events, outside of the studio, which would make any vocalist question her ability. With all this as a backdrop, I went in to the last session feeling somewhat anxious and lacking in confidence, even though I liked and respected the engineer, Julian. We made a start and…. Guess what! It was great. Just great! I could hear myself really well, and, for once, the recording equipment did not collapse under the strain of coping with my (very) loud voice. Jules went to a lot of trouble to find the perfect settings so that my vocals would not distort…. Much. Heh heh. I managed to knock over leads for four songs in quick session. Most of the session time was taken up with listening back to the various takes, to make sure that they were perfect, some little edits and making rough mixes of the songs to take home. Stuff done: - Lead vocals for Heartbeat Expansion, basically the whole of the second take with one small “drop-in” to make one part a bit stronger. We then went a bit berko doing a rather cool demo mix. - Lead vocals for Hush, the second take. Jules and I then had fun constructing a couple of unusual backing vocal sections, using various bits and pieces of stray vocals. - Lead vocals on Lost My Voice. To my everlasting shame, I had to do a composite of the first take and the second take, with another drop-in. I don’t really like doing that sort of thing. I would much rather do whole takes. Continuity of emotion is important to me. Blah. - Lead vocals for Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, a cover song. This time, the third take was the charm. It was so much fun to do! I tried to get a nice balance between a raspy tone and a sweeter, more poignant one. Jules then capped off my evening by telling me that my vocals were awesome, that it made the whole process easy for him as an engineer, and that I was very quick to nail each track. Woot woot! Suddenly I feel a whole lot better! So guess who now has her mojo back? :P
The other day we hit Newmarket Studios for some more recording - another two sessions in a row. I have to say, it was yet another fantastic experience and I am constantly impressed at our productivity. I guess the fact that we are all so busy means that none of us have the luxury of being half-hearted about any of our endeavours - if you're going to do something, do it properly or not at all!
Most of the songs were knocked off in just a few takes. I cannot believe that we did Ramble On in a single, solitary take! Just getting through the song is a feat in itself, as it is extremely demanding. Personally, it is one of the hardest songs I've ever done, right up there with Aretha Franklin's "Think". I nearly hyperventilated at the end, I was singing so hard. And drummer Alan couldn't wipe the smile off his face for the rest of the day. Just wait until it's completed! It will be a standout song, that's for sure.
All up, we completed new backings for seven songs. Kanvar laid down percussion for several tracks, soulful keys were added to one track, and the incredible Greg Walsh graced us with a guest vocal on a Dylan track. We even found the time to mess around with an original song, Heartbeat Expansion, turning it into the Massive Attack/Portishead dance track I've always envisaged...
Still to come: Guitar overdubs, another keys solo or two, main vocals, backing vocals, more guest vocals, some electronica! Then onto mixing.
One question remains: A gospel choir. Should we go for it? What do you think? :)
Just finished our last pre-production session with the band, before we head back into the studio! That's it, we're done. I was feeling a bit anxious as there was so much material to get through and next to no time to do it in. As opposed to our previous pair of recording sessions, we've had a mere handful of rehearsals, all in the condensed timeframe of four weeks. So I was understandably fretting a bit at the start of the session. In truth, we did run out of time - we ended up putting two songs aside, to see if we could "wing them" in the studio, and we scrapped two more altogether. For all of those who have been begging me to do a Deep Purple song, sorry! Highway Star or Child In Time won't be making an appearance on the cover CD after all. Hopefully, if we'll be able to do it all again and get stuck into those tunes at a later date! So, what DID we cover? Well, the guys and myself have now worked up a blistering version of Ramble On, the Led Zep classic. I'm especially pleased, because this song is an incredibly tough and demanding one for the vocalist - a real workout - and I like a challenge, oh, yes, I do!! In addition, it is a great showcase for the musicians. Jon plans to smother it in acoustic guitars... Yet it remains incredibly rocky. We have also covered Radiohead's High And Dry - a surprising choice, perhaps, but one that fits in very well with what we're doing. It is lyrical and sad, with a gentle groove. I've been having fun putting my own stamp on the vocals. Thanks to Sheldon for that suggestion! For one reason or another, we've encountered difficulties with two songs - To Love Somebody and Rainy Night In Georgia. After practicing them up, we reckon we can nail them now. And, last of all but by no means least, we've been working on a drastically different version of an eighties number, envisaging the song as covered by Nick Cave or The Cramps. The title of this one will remain a secret for now... But we intend to blow everyone's minds with it! Hopefully, it will be almost unrecognizable.... As well as the cover tunes, two or three originals are on the agenda - we'll see how we go. We have a grand total of eight or nine songs to get through at the studio, an ambitious goal. Wish us luck, kids - it's going to be an intense couple of days.... And I cannot wait!
I’m still on a high, following our first session at the recording studio. We got so much done! The rhythm tracks for eight songs are now completed…. We also worked on another song, but it didn’t quite gel. We might have to scrap it, or, at the least, re-record it. Still, completing the backings for nine songs over 13 hours is a heroic effort. Most bands would be lucky to get three or four done. For several months now, the guys and I have been meeting up, reworking and reinventing songs and then rehearsing until we nail them live as a band, every time. This has been the perfect preparation for the recording. I have done a huge amount of recording over my lifetime, in many different studios and situations. From this, I have determined the way to get the best results, from my point of view anyway. Musicians need to play together – for inspiration, for genuine feel, for ease of synchronisation. The usual method of recording is surprisingly ruinous to this process. I have never been a fan of the typical “cut-and-paste” method of recording, whereby the drummer lays down his track for the whole song, the bassist then does their part, and so on and so forth. I listen to these recordings and can spot the coldness that creeps in…. Lack of feel is an issue. Plus it takes so much longer to record instrument after instrument. Instead, I now always insist that we set up and play as a band, with all the instruments miked up and me singing along as a guide for every take. The aim is to get great drum and bass tracks, and guitar tracks where possible. Then we record the lead guitars separately, record anything else that needs doing and, finally, my lead and backing vocals. I prefer not to record my proper vocals at the same time as the main band, because I sing ultra-loud when I am really concentrating. It is tiring and I only ever do a few takes. I also prefer to record to tape, rather than in a digital format. There is a delicious depth and warmness to the sound. You never get that quality of sound any other way. This may seem like an old-school approach, but it is one that works. That was the plan, and boy, did we deliver! The guys and I played and sang our hearts out…. Our completed rhythm tracks already sound great, even though they haven’t been mixed! We are really proud of our work, and intend to share these tracks with you over the coming months until the recording is finalized. You’ll get to hear the songs as they develop and become more and more polished. Personally, I couldn’t be prouder of the guys. They are fine, fine musicians, and conscientious, kind gentlemen to boot. You can’t fake that sort of thing. Their personalities (and talent) inform the tracks we’ve done. Stay tuned for the next exciting instalments! *Happy dance*
I am really enjoying editing the minidisc recording of the other night’s rehearsal. Pre-production is going so well. Often, listening back to rehearsals can be a bit of a chore. You wade through long swathes of discussion and instrumental noodlings, interspersed with occasional moments of brilliance that make it all worthwhile.
This time, however, it’s a different story. The recordings show a group of musicians that sounds like they’ve been practicing for a year, not just a few short months. I’m listening to our first electric rehearsal to date, but it sounds so polished! The rehearsal itself was fantastic, more fun than I’ve had in a long time. I’m still enjoying the afterglow of hearing the songs in their nicely-arranged entirety, and hearing all of us really let loose in an amplified setting.
For our first electric rehearsal, Sheldon, Jon and I were joined by Kanvar on drums. Kanvar is an old friend of mine, a previous member of Liminal, and a young drummer with great talent. Kanvar is going to play percussion on the first batch of recordings, but is kindly helping us out with the process of arranging the songs.
We’re working on two recordings at the same time – a selection of cover songs, as well as a bunch of originals. At this moment, I love all of the material. We have come up with a clever arrangement for one particular number. The song is almost unrecognizable, but in a good way. We have taken it from a bombastic, 80’s big-hair-driven number, to an ominous, sparse and downright disturbing track. I can’t wait to record it properly, and to surprise everybody!
It took such a long time to get this work off the ground, but I’m glad that it is happening now rather than earlier, because I honestly don’t think it would be as good. The current lineup has got something special about it – we have an immediate musical chemistry. I should know! There are no huge egos to contend with, all involved can play like demons and everyone does their homework before each session. I look forward to posting some of our rough demos and rehearsals for all of you out there in internet land. Just as soon as the publishing companies get back to me….. *Taps foot*
It's been a strange couple of weeks. I lost my voice recently, and it's still not back to normal. I am in limbo. Dang virus! After months of preparation and hard work (as I was not only a featured performer, but also the Event Manager and Stage Manager), the day of the big gig had finally arrived. This was Community Music Victoria's Big Sing (In The Round), held in the ultra-glamorous Melbourne Town Hall's Supper Room. This was probably my biggest Melbourne-based gig since appearing at the Athaneum Theatre, many years ago. Event management is sometimes nothing less than damage control, and it certainly seemed like it, this time around! However, with the support of my ace event team, comprising of the lovely Alex, Fee and Deb, all the problems were resolved and we looked forward to a successful gig. And, surprise upon surprise, it was a lovely sunny day! Melbourne weather never fails to confound. The event itself went very smoothly and everyone played their part. The audience was truly appreciative and got right into it. I was delighted to be the first presenter, and led the audience in a "vocal warm-up". Or at least, that's what I told them we were doing. I don't think they all believed me, after I kept dissolving into giggles at the sight of grown people trying to sing whilst simultaneously holding their tongues... Hilarious! At the end of the gig, I joined headliner Leticia Maher onstage, to help hold down some harmonies. We led the audience in a rousing rendition of her hit Popcorn, and then closed the show with her gospel-influence song Take Me There. All in the room joined in, and the song took on a haunting, contemplative air. Leticia brought the dynamics down to a whisper, creating a beautiful moment of stillness. It was a sensational way to end the show, and the enchanting mood that had been created stayed with us all for hours afterwards. However, the minute the gig was finished, my voice started misbehaving. Some strange rasps and squeaks came out whilst I was saying farewell to some friends... And then things rapidly deteriorated. By the next day, I couldn't speak at all. It transpired that I had contracted a rather nasty virus, but that my trusty voice had hung in there and done all I'd asked of it, right until the moment its services were no longer completely essential. Two weeks on, and I'm finally starting to feel better... But the voice still isn't back to normal and I can't sing yet. I miss it.... But I know it's in there somewhere and will reappear when the time is right. It is just an odd feeling, being a singer who cannot sing.