Monday, January 21, 2008

Livin' the Dream

Never let it be said that the Stickmen don't sometimes stick to their plans.

This Sunday marked the first recording session of Black & Blue's vision of 2008, to record one song per month. Out of the gate, and we've got our first hit.

Well, maybe not a hit per se, but we did actually finish an entire song, from start to finish. But let's cut to the chase.

You can download the new song here.

This is a song written by Bill Fischer MANY years ago. I think during the Mudd years. I'll leave it to him to give the exact details of the songs genesis. But it's something we never had a full band recording of. There are some four track stabs at it, if I recall correctly, but nothing of this magnitude.

The recording session probably could not have gone more smoothly. Bill was elected as the producer for this song, putting him in the position to have the final say in all creative decisions, and also burdening him with the responsibility of keeping the session on track. We also set some time limits, in order to avoid falling into the trap of endless noodling.

The initial takes had Munson on drums, Fischer on acoustie and vocals. Broken finger prsent. We did a total of 15 takes of the song. I'd reckon about half of those were false starts, or mid-song bomb outs. We very quickly nailed a serviceable track. I think it might have been take 3. But we wanted another, just in case. I think around take 10 we had another solid track in the can, but I thought we could do even better. By take 15, we had it. The key to this first track was simply to get a good recording of the drums. Everything else can be done in overdubs. Being a novice drummer myself, I have to say I was quite pleased with how well the drum track turned out. Though it was a simple beat, with very little variation, it came out sounding really good.

We overdubbed a second acoustic guitar played by me. I think I got it in two or three takes. A separate tambourine track was done with me playing. We did some experimentation with lyrics, and ultimately settled on the dual-Fischer vocal track that you hear on the final one. I laid down some vocals that just didn't seem right. Nothing against the vocals themselves, natch, they just didn't seem to fit the song.

Fischer of course laid down the harmonica track. The most challenging part of the whole song was the bass line. Previously, the song had no bass line, so this was all new ground. Bill was to record the line, broken finger and all. We kicked around a few different bass lines. For the most part, Bill would play something, and I would give feedback. I kept pulling him in with the classic line "keep it simple", which seldom gained traction in the original Stickmen lineup. The bass line came together in under a half an hour, but recording it proved to be a bit more troublesome. not only was it a brand new bass line, not only is Bill not a bass player, but he's also got a shattered finger. However, that said, I have to admit it turned out just stunningly, and I believe is one of the anchors of the song. Upon listening to an early mix down, it really hit home to me just how critical a well written a delivered bass line is. The bass line in this song sells it, if you ask me. It really fattens out the low end of the song, and has a melody of its own that is complementary to the main melody. Very well done Bill Fischer.

My hope is that every song turns out to not only go together this well, but come out sounding so good. I'm very pleased with the final results. I truly believe that this recording is on par quality wise with anything on our first album. The fact that two of use threw it together in a frozen garage in Torrance says volumes not only about the people involved, but the equipment available.

In our next recording, I will be producing the first ever complete studio recording of Girl #134. There are other recordings of this, but none with a full arrangement, and none that have reached final mix-down status. I believe G134 to be the strongest song I've ever written, and I'm looking forward to seeing it put into final form. I think my only lamentation is the fact that my guitar (which I lovingly call "coca-cola") is currently residing in England, and will be unable to attend the session. It is this guitar that I was hoping to use to record this song with. Still, I may just draw upon YD, the old acoustic standby to pull it off. It will of course change the tonal quality of the song, but perhaps for the best. We shall see.

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