Thursday, September 13, 2007

Trading Fours With Foreigners

I just finished recording in what could be the largest recording studio in the world. I've worked in a lot of studios, some bigger than others. But this one takes the cake. The guitar room is in Groningen, The Netherlands, the vocal booth is in Basel, Switzerland, the room we used to record bass is here in California and the programming/production suite is in Veendam, also in The Netherlands.

It's a cool studio though...each room has its own kitchen and bathroom, I had no problem finding a parking spot, and my equipment was already set up and waiting for me. The only thing missing was the hang. Because we were all at extremely distant corners of the studio, we never really got to hang out. Such a pity...the band seems like a nice bunch of people.

It all began about two weeks ago. I was going back and forth on the Sellaband forum with a guitar player/songwriter from the Netherlands by the name of Pieps. I can't remember what the discussion was about or if we agreed or not on the point of the thread. But Pieps and I ended up in a corner of the virtual broo-haha talking porn...guitar porn that is. Pieps and I found that we share a passion. I think my pal Jamie Shane put it best when he said, "I like skinny women... and big fat guitars." After looking and listening to what Pieps was all about on his Sellaband profile page, I found that he kept a harem of his own and he knew how to bring 'em to their knees.

At some point, I told Pieps that it would be fun to jam together but with the price of gas, I couldn't justify driving all the way to Holland. About five minutes later I had a guitar track in my in-box along with an invitation from Pieps to lay one down. The track was to be a song which Pieps was writing with another Sellaband artist, Alexia Gardner. I visited Alexia's page to see what I might be letting myself in for. And after changing my underpants, I went immediately to work on the track.

Alexia has one of those voices that appear rarely in the life of a bass player. I have a dear friend named Angela Carole Brown who is just that type of talent. The times that I've had the good fortune to play behind Angela, I spent most of the evening trying to lift my jaw up off of my shoes...she is just that freaking good. I have yet to meet Alexia in person, but once I heard her sing, well, don't tell her this, but I'd pay to lob some big fat low stuff under that voice. I mean, putting some bass under Pieps' fat-ass guitars was already going to be as much fun as I thought legal. But the two of them? Now you're talkin' my language!

I imported Pieps' guitar mix into a Cubase4 project and, listening to the track, started the process of deciding which bass to play. I had just played a blues gig on the '64 Fender Jazz so it was first up. I went directly to the computer through a Millenia TD-1 mic-pre/direct box. This thing is probably the most transparent DI I've ever heard and is always my first choice. The old Jazz practically plays itself, I just have to make sure my fingers are in the right place at the right time. I had no clue what the vocal melody was going to be, so I had fun playing as many notes as I could all over the track as I tried to come up with something complementary to Pieps' well-executed guitar parts.

Hmm, I thought, I think I'll play a mellow thumb-slap part. So I switched to the Zebra-wood monster 5-string and had at it for a while. I came up with plenty of sophisticated jazz-funk riffs that were very clever...and had nothing to do with the tune. I decided to go back to Alexia's profile and see if I could get some direction from just the sound of her voice. Hearing her voice is like looking up and down an empty elevator shaft. Her voice is spacious and no matter where she takes a line, you always know that there is plenty more where that came from.

And that is when my part started to gel. I threw cleverness and the two basses out the window and started over. My part would have to be the glue between what Pieps had already played and what Alexia had yet to write. I plugged in the trusty fretless Gibson Ripper and attempting to channel what would become the melody, I closed my eyes and pushed "record."

After I sent the track back to Pieps, he sent the track to Alexia who then recorded her vocal track in Basel, Switzerland. At this point, I finally didn't meet the rest of the band, Pieps' brother Joris, whose name I know through having reviewed his band, Radio Orange, yet another group on the Sellaband artist roster. I finally saw a picture of Joris on his profile page and he didn't look anything like I had imagined. Listening to his programming and mixing work, I would have thought him to have ears the size of trash can lids. What Joris brought to the table was musically very sophisticated but sensitive and humble. Alexia's lyrics and that juicy, gooey voice had all the room they needed. Wearing the track like a floor-length mink coat, Alexia seduces each listener into a private corner to tell her little story.

The song, "Why Don't You". is now getting the attention it deserves. It was great fun and I've never not played with better musicians I haven't met. Thank you Pieps, Alexia and Joris. The bottom line from the Bottom-end is that I can't wait to do more of the same...but it would be nice to hang out with the band at the espresso machine in the studio lounge some time.

1 comment:

rduht said...
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