Friday, May 9, 2008

A Big... A Tin Truck.

Looks like there's a marked decrease in blogging activity lately around here. That actually may be a good thing, as it could be viewed as proof that we belong to that rare breed of people living today who have lives outside of the internet. Crazy talk, I know, but stranger things have been known to happen when the Stickmen are involved.

This past weekend marked the completion of the fourth Black & Blue collaborative piece, "Big Tin Truck". We violated our policy of "one month, one song", but what are you gonna do? Life got in the way. Sue me. Sue us. Defensive? Yes.

Still, the recording tasks for this song were wrapped up this past weekend. I'll try to give a summary of the events.

The first thing I wanted to do was fix the busted "lead" guitar track. Somehow, when we finished up our previous session, neither bill nor I noticed that the track kind of fell apart near the end. We fixed that first. There was a suggestion by bill to use cut and paste to just move some good bits over to cover the bad bits, but I ix-nayed that. It seemed like it would be problematic, not only getting the pasted bits in sync with the drums, but also the fact that the tempo probably varies throughout the song. So in typical Munson fashion, I just "ivory towered" the whole thing and decided without any experimentation or actual research that it was a bad idea. Hey, it was that approach that worked just fine for science until that pesky Gallileo came along and cocked it all up.

But I digress. So we got the lead guitar track fixed. Uh, then we did tambourine. Was that it?? I really don't remember. Man, I must be getting old or something. I thought we did some other stuff, but I cannot for the life of me remember what it was?


I think we did bass. It's all a big blur. I can't believe that events that took place just a week ago are already lost in the brain fog of my mind. I think we must have done bass. Yeah, it's all coming back to me. Not really, but I've always liked the sound of that expression.

Bill had a bass line that I didn't really love. And after putting up with bass lines that I didn't really love for the better part of 10+ years, I was sick of being silent. So I finally got to say something that I've been holding in cold storage for almost 20 years: Less is More. Bill complied (since I'm the producer and all) and notched the complexity of the bass part down a bit. But it wasn't enough. It was still way too meandering and frilly.

Less is more! I repeated. He notched it down again.

Put this loop on repeat about six more times, and we finally got to a bass line that I was comfortable with. Still not happy with, but hey, I'm willing to compromise. Especially when I'm mostly getting my way.

the bass line that we recorded was pretty good, though I would have preferred something even more primitive. I'm a big fan of root notes, and not a big fan of flashy bass lines. Call it an artifact from my years with the Stickmen. Call it whatever you want. Fact is, I do not believe that the role of bass within a Black and Blue song is that of lead instrument. it's a support instrument. Anyhow, it came out sounding good.

Bill Fischer, being his usual self, fed me three different tracks of bass line. I think there was a direct line, a line from an amp, and a mic that was picking up the amp. I may be exaggerating, but that's how I remember it. S'Okay, I don't mind Bill. Just remind me to keep you away from those knobs.

Bill did his usual bang up job. The kid doesn't cease to amaze me. He's a darn fine guitar player, and a darn fine bass player. But let's talk about me for a second also. I suppose we've been amazing each other for the past six months. Between the two of us, we can now competently play every instrument needed to replicate a four (or even five) member band lineup. That's pretty stellar. Granted, neither of us are experts at our "satellite" instruments, but we are competent enough to pull off a recording that sounds like something you might hear on the radio. It's no "Windows From the Asylum", but it just might be the type of thing you hear on star 98.7 or something.

But we got the bass line in the can.

One of the more amusing things about Bill is that he's been playing the same tried and true diplomacy tricks with me for the better part of 20 years. No joke. I've come to appreciate it. Not because they work, but because they're predictable. His favorite??? "Let's TRY it". or "we can TRY it". On its face, it sounds like a compromise. But the truth is, it's Bills secret way of saying "eff you". Which is fine. He's entitled to it.

So Bill's "Lets TRY it" for the weekend was an alternate Bass line. That's one of the things that's great about Bill. He never pushes back directly. He'll do it your way, all the way... up until the very end. Then he hits you with that "lets TRY it" bull sh!t, and takes you down the path he wanted to go from the beginning. Like I said before. Same old tried and true nonsense that he's been layin' on me for 20 years.

The good news for him is that I'm as consistent as he is, but on the other side. I'll TRY it. So we set up to record another bass line. Bill knocked it out pretty quickly, and that was the end of it.

I think that pretty much wrapped us up for the day as far as recording goes. We did a lot of misc. dorking that day, which took up a lot of time. A protracted visit to Carl's, and a fireside chat with Lisa and the gang took us away from Rockin', but well worth the time. We also "played compyoodie" for a while, burning all of our work to DVDs for me to take with me. Not only would I now be able to mix stuff down on my own, but we also had dual copies of the work in case of computer crash or localized armageddon. We also put away a lot of junk food mini-candy bars that were sitting in a giant-sized, very inviting plastic sack sitting on top of some filing cabinets.

I think the day lasted almost exactly 8 hours. I showed up at noon, and was on the road by 8.

OH, that reminds me! Before we recorded, we did a quick little jam session. I had a chance to show off some of my new drum Skillz that I had picked up over the past week, including a new drum beat that I've prepped for "On The Road". We ran through a couple of songs, but I'll leave it up to bill to report exactly which ones. I dont' remember, though I'm sure "That Thing You Do" was one of them.

Anyhow, once we were done recording, I decided that I wanted to do a quick "capture" of the beat I had come up with for On The Road. We did a very quick re-wire to make sure everything would be captured. Bill on guitar and vox, me on drums. We were really just capturing ideas, and not trying to get the whole song. There's a funny little gag I do with a drum roll during the refrain. It actually started out as a joke, but it sounded kind of cool. Who knows, it may end up in the final song. So we got that recorded, and also transferred that to DVD.

And now it's time for the payoff for all the bashing I did about bass and bills crazy methodologies earlier in this post.

So I get home. I install cubase. I load the cubase files onto my computer. Incidentally, I also hooked my laptop computer up to my bigscreen TV, so now my monitor is 42" wide. This makes mixing down much more fun, as I can sit on the couch with my wireless mouse and keyboard to do work. Fun fun fun! I got Big Tin Truck all lined up, and started doing a mix down. I got some automation going for the harmonica parts, did some EQ adjustments on the drums, and tightened up a few things. Ah crap, I'll skip to the punch line. When it came to the final mix, it turns out that Bills "Can we TRY it" bass line was the one I went with. It sounded better in the context of the final mix down that the original "less is more" line that I pushed so hard for.

Score one for diplomacy.

Anyhow, the first mix is now available on my website, and it's pretty good. it's rough, to be sure, and still needs some clean up. But it's good. Critical reaction has been entirely favorable, culminating with a request for me to quit my day job to pursue music. Oddly enough, circumstances may make that choice for me, but that's a topic for another post.

Here's the song, for you all you eager readers. (hi billy!)

Big Tin Truck

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