Wednesday, February 13, 2008

SolidTube Pre-Production

Feb. 4th. The first full band rehearsal went very well. Since this was my first face to face meeting with the rhythm section, we did a short "let's find out something about everyone" session before hitting the first downbeat. The combined age of the drummer and bassist is less than one of my basses, and I'm sure that I have at least one pair of shoes older than the guitarist, so getting in touch with what makes these guys tick seemed a good way to start.

It can be a mixed blessing to work with young musicians. But this group really "wants it" and their enthusiasm and open-minded attitudes more than compensate for any lack of...let's call it, "vintage vocabulary." As a group, they have much to learn. But those things that must come naturally are abundant. So we embarked on a journey of discovery. We have two weeks to become a band with a twenty year history. The first session put us well past the third year.

All of the band members are excellent musicians and very capable. The key concept for them to master is how to combine their talents to create a group identity or signature sound that is beyond what any individual member would have previously conceptualized. The process is simple, really. We just take the song, throw it in a pile on the floor and start picking out the bits that aren't absolutely necessary. So, we have another pile of drum fills, bass licks, turnarounds and so on that we can either discard, recycle or file away for future reference. What is left is usually a lean, groovin' little track devoid of all the extras that frequently obfuscate a good song.

Today will be rehearsal number two. Let's see if we can get a few more years under our belts.

Feb. 7th. As you may know, SolidTube's Bass player, Paulie, had an engagement he could not get out of so I will be stepping in to sub for him tomorrow night at the Vienna Calling show. Today's rehearsal schedule consisted of getting me into the mix of these great songs and I'm really looking forward to seeing what this band does after the hard work that they have put in this week.

I can say in all honesty that I've seen few musicians demonstrate the dedication, concentration and perspiration that the members of SolidTube have this week. They are hell-bent on taking their music to the next level and have been a dream to work with. The rhythm section is made up of Jakob, Paulie and Julian(recently dubbed Julio), Guitar, bass and drums. All three are excellent musicians and have way more chops than this style of music requires. And this is where we have experienced the greatest degree of growth as a band.

These guys are really into jazz and are well-studied. Now, many quasi-jazzers would tend to look down on music that doesn't allow for extended chord voicings, poly-rhythmic beat patterns or two handed tapping bass parts. It can be a nightmare to get a jazz musician to just play a goddamned triad or a simple dotted quarter, eighth note kick drum pattern. But these guys, as easily as they could launch into "Donna Lee" at 208 have accepted the concept of playing simple parts as if this were the hardest thing in the world to do. This is where the magic of a track will be found. It's not just playing simple...It's playing simple and MEANING IT. I think that their audience tomorrow night will know that they mean it.

As far as Mandana, Mike and Gerry, what can I say? After the many years that we rehearsed together this week, we have become true brothers(and sister) in arms. It's been a long time since I've worked with people who have such a love for their art and have remained un-jaded. The band and I have been working, eating, joking and conceptualizing together now for only four days, but it truly is beginning to feel as if they are working on their second or third album. The effort has been amazing. We start on time, end late and no-one is in a hurry to leave. Reminds me of what band practice was like before money entered the picture.

Well, Vienna Calling tomorrow, a much deserved day off and we dive into a solid week of preparation before moving the circus into Wild One Music studio.

Feb. 10th. The band has taken two days off to digest our intensive week of rehearsals, recover from the adrenalin rush of Vienna Calling, and to make final preparations for the studio. The initial rehearsals served as an aging process and were quite successful. The next three days will be spent concentrating on basic rhythm tracks. We will spend fourteen days in the studio and in order to walk out of Wild One Music with ten solid tracks in hand we must work very efficiently.

The first day will be a load-in and set up day. We have been very fortunate to have Mike's house available for rehearsals and I want the band to feel every bit "at home" in the studio as we have felt during rehearsals. Recording environments can sometimes feel restrictive for a new band so a lot thought went into our choice of studios. After looking at pictures, videos and equipment lists of the available facilities, I chose to go with my gut instinct. I listened to the mp3 samples of all of the short list choices and felt that the tracks put up by Wild One somehow "felt" comfortable. All things being nearly equal, the vibe was, in this case, the tipping point for me. Jakob Grabmayr, the studio Mgr. at Wild One seems like another kindred spirit. The studio has all the hardware we will need and a massive protools setup. The microphone collection and arsenal of pre-amps will provide all the colors required to make a very interesting album.

And so, tomorrow we hit the rehearsal studio(Mike's living room) at noon. By Thursday we need to be a lean, mean tracking machine. If the experience of the past week is any indication, I have no doubt we can pull it off.

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