Thursday, April 07, 2011

Shake it up, Baby!

And so au revoir then, Pig Pen studio. As of last night (6/4/11) I have officially finished doing all my bits for the next Songs from The Blue House album and have merely to fulfil a watching brief from now on, occasionally (say) suggesting tentatively from the sidelines that the twelve string guitar which double tracks (one of the four takes of) the guitar solo in ‘A Good Day for the Slaves’ might perhaps benefit from being a little prouder in the mix than it currently is. Unfortunately when it comes to mixing, mastering and gently buffing the basic tracks with a diaphanous sheen of studio trickery I am very much the last person you need hanging about the place as my two main interests are (1) getting the thing finished as soon as possible and (2) being able to hear all my bits properly. I do, however, make a nice cup of tea, although bass player Gibbon is much better at coffee, but I'll confess I occasionally forget who has sugar and who doesn’t. All in all then, I may as well complete the crossword at home as clutter up a perfectly good recording studio by clogging the sight lines and disrupting the carefully strobe-tuned audio shadow. Besides, the rustling of The Guardian tends to irritate engineers when they’re trying to locate fret buzz and drop outs. Some people, eh?

This triumphant last hurrah involved managing to forcibly append my beloved bouzouki to one track on the album, where the sweet synergy of open-tuned double stringed jangliness and the key of ‘D’ meant that resident produceneer That Nice David Booth was so moved as to enquire whether he might also use it on his own album. Flatteringly, I find that ad hoc musical forays of mine frequently result in collaborators wishing to take instruments off me, and also that the mixing process results in (for instance) guitar parts of mine being polished to such a degree that errors, glitches and in some instances entire takes disappear in a frenzy of technological tinkering before reappearing patched up, fixed and virtually unrecognizable from the original recording. It’s marvellous, it really is, and I have no idea how they do it in merely the time that I am otherwise occupied, having been dispatched from the control room in order to get (for instance) sky hooks, or have been asked to go for a really long stand.

I also contributed backing vocals on three more songs, where my unique blend of harmony, dissonance and a Beefheartian oblique jazz-rock approach to melody was expertly coaxed from me from the safety of the other side of the soundproofed two way control room glass, where I could make out the shadowy form of the third Blue Houseketeer - James, Our Glorious Leader – literally wrapping his arms around his sides lest the raw emotion of the performance become too affecting for him, and throwing himself bodily to the sofa, shoulders shaking with the sheer intensity of absorbing the performance. For a fleeting moment the studio talkback crackled into life and I heard what sounded like the words “…gargling with soup…” but which surely consisted in whole of the phrase “…worthy of Difford at his most supportive and poptastic, or David Crosby, weaving the gossamer threads of harmony to create a shimmering backdrop of voix mysterique for the track”. When it was time to record my final take of the day – ‘Raise Your Flag’ – I knew what was at stake.I took a final drag on a cigarette, sucked on a couple of zubes, had a gargle with delicious Brewers Gold, and went into the vocal booth. The rest is history…