Friday, February 01, 2019

"...really explore the studio space this time"

Mr. Wendell and I are exchanging text messages. In Ye Oldene Dayes we would probably have waited until it was six o’clock* and then rung each other whilst looking out of the window. It’s the weather, you see. We are due out at The Hovell (sic) to continue fixing and mixing the putative new Helen and The Neighbourhood Dogs EP but as Fiddly – de facto engineer, producer, remixer and designated Record Company Um & Err Man – points out, they don’t salt the roads out his way. Nevertheless, time and tide wait for no man** and so we embark on the potentially hazardous trip out to the middle of what the registered voters of Nowhere are said to regard amongst themselves as a bit of a backwater. Narnia-like, Fiddly’s garden is the snowiest of all the places we drive through on our journey. “I do my best work in these conditions” I remark over a steaming mug of tea in the kitchen. “Remember that session for the first Blue House album?” Fiddly does. “It took me four hours to get home from that one”.

We are due to have a bit of a listen to our work so far, Wendell has a harmony to do on one of the new songs, and we’re going to beef up the choruses of something that at this point has two official titles and may well end up with a third if it is not careful about how it conducts itself. In time-honoured fashion, I’ve also found a bouzouki part for the middle eight of the new one. “You’ve always got a bouzouki part for the middle eight” remarks Helen via email when she is informed of my honourable intentions regarding The Misfits. If you look at the text, black on white, in isolation, it could almost come across as admonitory. “He’s not putting a bouzouki up my middle eight!” responds Mr. Wendell via CC. And then he got off the bus...

Cheese shop sketch and Third Man Theme once again summarily avoided during the bouzouki work, we have time to review the various bits and bobs that Fiddly has appended to the rough mix of “What’s the Moonlight For?” AKA “What’s a Rainbow?” AKA “What’s The Moon Light For?”*** These turn out to be a number of percussion tracks, which he flips through in turn in much the same way as Heston Blumenthal might talk you through his latest tasting menu. With a flourish he tears away a cloth which turns out to have been covering a rude flight case. “Here’s the kit!” he proudly exclaims. There is a cabasa, there is a guiro, a tambourine. There are not one, but two cowbells. It’s like nepeta cataria, only for guitarists. We beaver away playing through the tracks and indicating that these are the rhythm parts we would like enacted forthwith, only ideally on the beat and without undue recourse to Bezzing around the studio at the same time – apparently it plays havoc with the close-miking. We check the forecast again. Snow storms due at half past nine. Time to move on.

Once Wendell is set up at the pop-shielded microphone, having been sternly instructed not to sway back and forth, we start with the vocal overdubs. It’s not a big room, and is cluttered - by now not least with a number of discarded percussion instruments – and so I am perched behind a drum kit, out of his eyeline so as not to be distracting, but air drumming enthusiastically along with the faint feed hissing from the headphones. “I can hear you, you know” he remarks laconically, as I attempt a stick spin which climaxes in me unsuccesfully attempting to pluck it from the air before it lands on a sixteen inch Paiste crash cymbal. “I think you should, er, go again” I remark as casually as someone who has just enacted a particularly avant-garde Bill Bruford-style roll around the kit should. Ever the pro, he nonetheless nails the next take (while I sit on my hands throughout) and upon listening back to double check for timing, phrasing and intonation errors, enthusiastically mimes the cajon part that portends the section where we come out of the instrumental bridge section and go into the middle eight he’s just double-tracked.

Fiddly bursts out of the wardrobe-sized control room, at remarkable speed for a man of his age. “That’s it!” he enthuses “That’s the tambourine part we need, right there!!”
“I was doing the diddley bit on the boxymathingy” protests Mr. Wendell.
This was bad grammar of course, but that is how Wendells talk when they are excited; I mean, in Narnia—in our world they usually don’t talk at all. 

*It is one of the great tragedies of our time that a generation has grown up with no appreciation of the rich seam of textual imagery contained within Mickey Jupp’s seminal 1979 pièce de résistance Switchboard Susan.

**We will enjoy a lengthy conversation with Fiddly regarding the riparian ownership rights of non-tidal waterways with specific reference to the Gipping above Needham Market. This is why it’s generally a good idea to get out there on time, especially if you want to get any work done.

***Because it’s made of cheese.

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