Billy "Billy Bass" Alford / Blog

Cry Baby

Cry Baby was written by Mike Kindred who co wrote the song "Cold Shot", which was one of Stevie Ray Vaughan's hits. This song was performed by the Austin band Krackerjack in the early 70's, which featured Stevie on guitar.

Stevie once told me he wanted me to record Cry Baby and other songs on an album, but his untimely passing prevented that.

I recorded Cry Baby in the spirit of those days in Austin long ago. Rest in Peace SRV.

Pay to Play-Part 1

     Lately I've noticed an online rag is asking bands on their RN page if they're interested in being interviewed for their mag. The only thing they forget to tell you is that it's $100 to get in the rag. I can't blame a guy for exploiting his service & trying  to make a buck but I think it's sad that today's artist would even consider it and even worse, not having a clue that it's not the way it works!. It's one thing to promote yourself but to pay for press, really? They should be paying you! There's an old saying, "cream always rises to the top". If you're truly worth your salt, someone will notice & you'll be whisked off to eternal rock stardom & forever pampered!

Pay to Play-Part 2

     Back in my pampered days, (insert laugh track here), I first encountered the "pay to play" syndrome when I moved to the UK in the early 80's. My band was asked to open for Peter Gabriel on the UK "Shock the Monkey Tour". It was a several week tour and cost us 100 quid a night, about $140. We did it and had great fun but I always wondered why Peter needed 100 pounds. Isn't he rich enough? The band also opened for U2, The Cure & paid a like amount for those shows. The irony is that our drummer was Korda Marshall, the now famous British music mogul (Warner Bros, Atlantic, Mushroom Records, etc). I wonder if he's still paying for his bands to play? Surely he's made some £ by now!!

Paying to Play-Part 3

  By the time I moved back stateside, pay to play had reared its ugly head on the LA music scene but with a different twist. You bought the tickets from the promoter & it was your job to sell them to your fans if you wanted an audience for your time slot. The good thing is that you had to get creative, get off your duff and promote your gig! The bad thing was that bands didn't always have the cash to purchase tix!      Payola has been a part of the music biz since day one & I believe some of the seediest businessmen I have ever met was in the music biz. I saw 4 Corvettes & $50,000 cash delivered to delivered to The Red Hot Chilli Peppers manager for the rights to a 3 night show in Long Beach. I saw the rights to a John Mellencamp tour sealed with 17 ounces of coke at The Hotel Martinez in Cannes during the Mediem Music festival in France. I even had one record executive tell me, "I know who likes the boys & I know who likes the girls"! There was a really dark side to the music biz back in the day, I assume there still is today. 

Paying to Play-Part 4

.        That dark side may be sitting on your desk in your bedroom called a computer, hooked up to satan's Internet! You look at all the little things and promos you can do online for $10 here, $20 there & before you know it, you're spending hundreds a month with little results. What does a top ranking on RN do for you? Not much other than bragging rights. I've enjoyed climbing the local RN charts, but I'm not spending any $ doing it. I would almost like to think that the music is standing on its on & that we're climbing because people actually like the music and play it for that reason!! What a concept! The pay to play concept permeates the simplest of promotions. You fan me on RN, I'll fan you back, you like my FB, I'll like your FB. It sounds so freaking silly yet we've all bought into it hook, line & sinker! The dark cloud of buying your way to the top is becoming a business within a business!! It's like we're all being conditioned to pay to play!

Paying to Play-Part 5

      It all has to start somewhere. Could it be that it starts with that first interview that you pay for? Where will it all wind up? I'm sure you'll never encounter some of the unscrupulous bastards I've met in my time but just remember to keep asking questions and don't turn your back on them if you do! If you really want to spend money to promote yourself you can hire an expert PR person but even then, how do you know if your getting screwed? You don't! That's what I meant when I said, cream always rises to the top. If you're really that good, you'll be discovered & at some point, a management team will be suggested to you to help you make the hard decisions about your career & when & where to allocate funds.          There's a reason your wallet fits in your back pocket, that's so you can sit on it! And yes, I do like a little cream in my coffee! It really does rise to the top!! Good luck as you trudge the road of happy music destiny!! Keep it simple & keep on rockin'!

On Recording, Part 1

I know guitars, amps and the effects I use but I don't follow all the latest trends in recording, it's above my pay grade anyway. One of the hardest things you'll ever do as a musician is to get a pro recording that represents your music as you want it to be heard. I don't know why, but trying to put together 10 finished tunes is like pulling teeth. Back in the day bands would walk into a studio and run through 10 or 12 tunes just like they were playing live. I think The Beatles recorded "Meet The Beatles " in a day or two. Somewhere down the line recording became much more complicated with multitrack recording, not to mention the new digital age which actually sped things up somewhat but is still complicated.      You can still play live in the studio but even the purest of players will move things around "in the box" & but still keep the integrity of the tune intact.  SEE PART 2

On Recording, Part 2

     The way I've learned to choose a studio is to first look at the board. In the last 40 years probably 90% of all hit records have been recorded on a Neve Console regardless of genre. I've never heard a more true, warm sound than a Neve. I know a lot of studios are using Protools exclusively but I've found even when recording to Protools using a Neve board is the way to go. You can even go to 2" tape if you want but it doubles your recording time.       A trap you want to avoid is walking into a high dollar studio with all the nice lounges, catering, ect. If these studios don't have the right gear, all the bling in the world is not going to make you sound better. As a matter of fact, we recorded our record at a studio that was an old chicken coop but had all the best gear. We dealt with bad lighting, no heat & other inconveniences but the studio had the proper gear so it didn't bother us. As a matter of fact, it had the Neve console with flying faders that "The Who" used to record "Quadraphenia". You might say, "That sounds expensive". Quite the contrary. We were paying $35 an hour at one studio and for $20 an hour more, we had everything we needed to go from demo to an industry standard, album quality recording! One thing you can do to cut cost is to simply be prepared & don't do your pre-production on studio time.      In summary, one other super important thing that will come back to bite you is not using a click track when cutting drums! I don't know how to stress this any better than saying don't take any excuses from your drummer, make him use a click track or threaten to hang & quarter him! Ok, maybe that's a little drastic but none the less!  The reason for, putting all the music on a grid is so later on in the mix when you find that one snare hit that's off or a note that is out of tune, you'll easily be able to fix it. Believe me, at some point you will regret it if you don't use a click!

The Mix, Part 3

  Last but not least, the mix!! You can't make a band that was recorded poorly sound good in the mix but you can take a band that was recorded well and make them sound great!! Once again, we are looking at the proper gear. We used an SSL fully automated board to mix on with about a half million dollars in outboard gear. We used our favorite records to make reference to so we'd at least have a starting point of how we wanted to sound. My coproducer Isha Erskine would work a couple of hours getting a working mix, I'd come in with fresh ears and finish it but before we burnt it I had the other guys check it out just so there was no grief later.        We laid down the mix with vocals, without vocals, with lead, without lead, 1 DB up, 1 DB down just so when we got to the mastering, if there was a problem in the vocals or guitar, or the track was to soft or to loud it would once again would be a quick fix!  Ah, the mastering!! Do you go with digital or analog mastering? How 'bout both? I insisted on having analog gear inline when we mastered. The mastering engineer had a $5000 mastering program that he was quite proud of but when we put it analog gear inline the difference was obvious. Once again we used a Neve for the left & right stereo mastering. I've been told that the studio exclusively uses the analog gear along with the digital program for all of their mastering including the latest Eric Gales record.     You will find yourself on an emotional roller coaster during your recording experience. Up, down, up, down. In the music biz, there is nothing more rewarding than finally getting your music laid down. Avoid as many of the pitfalls as possible and it'll make things much better! Good luck and I hope this helps you in some small way!!!

Recording Wah

I found a great way to record a wah-wah track and I thought I'd share it with you. One problem I've always had in the studio is getting a wah track to have balls, well I figured it out, have you ever tried reamping? Whenever I record I always put down a clean track of everything I play on guitar. After I record the first wah track and I'll come back and get another cool sound out of my amp and run the clean track back through the reamp box and it records exactly what i played on the origional track but without the wah. I then mix the two tracks to achieve a ballzy wah-wah. Listen to my song "Lost In You" and you can hear the the results of taking the time and effort to get a great wah sound.