Wednesday, March 26, 2008

ConFused5...FUCK! I Don't Want It To Be Over

FUCK!...always wanted to start a blog like that. The universal plosive monosyllabic attention getter...and a word with deep hidden meaning. But I digress. What I meant to say was, Fuck, I really don't want this to be over. Went in to Sonic Flow Studio and ran up some work mixes and suddenly it began to sink in that the recording sessions for ConFused5 are history. As Sammie Davis Jr. might have said, "I dig this not, man." I haven't had this good a time since...well, since last month in Vienna as a matter of fact. So I guess I should stop whining.

Recording with ConFused5 drove home something that came to light as I was working with SolidTube last month and was also the theme of my article in yesterday's Sellaband Tribune. The greatest single product that this new thing we call Sellaband can offer the artists on their roster is genuine artist development. If the truth be told, the recording budget does not allow for an all out recording/mixing/mastering package without some huge favors and vigilance on the part of a project manager. But it is sufficient for a band to get a good taste of what studio recording can be. Yeah, yeah. Of course you can make an album for the price of a happy meal with your godamned laptop. But that ain't studio recording with a full band, pro engineers, pro gear and an eye looking in from the outside to help get the most out of yourself.

This album will be really good because the guys in the band allowed me to look deeper into their music than they themselves may have. They also, to their credit, are good enough musicians that they can try different approaches without losing their identity. Musicians can be stubborn and inflexible but I find that this usually stems from insecurity...perhaps they don't have the chops and are afraid to admit it. Or their egos won't allow them to see things from alternative angles. This was not the case with ConFused5. Their attitude was, "We've demo'd the songs, and this is as far as we could take it. Now it's your turn."

As someone who believes in artist development, I believe some of the best work toward a record will happen in a rehearsal room. We tore these songs to pieces and the guys themselves discovered how to put them back together in a way that every part and every note became intrinsic to the track. Time was short, but I wanted the band to really believe in themselves. And that meant that they had to relearn the motivating force behind their parts. These are seasoned guys, but they had to turn off the automatic pilot and fly the plane without instruments so to speak. It was amazing. As the parts became simpler, they began to play with real conviction. And suddenly the vocal melodies started to leap out of the tracks.

The other area where the band really grew was in taking a very organized approach to orchestrating the songs. Once the rhythm section was cleaned out, the parts, though simplified, had greater impact and we discovered that there was now much more room for the keyboards and single line guitar parts that give these songs so much character. Markus and Alex play great harmonic single line parts together and featuring them in a mix can be difficult unless there is room. Many times a band can slip into the habit of playing over other parts which are in the same frequency range. It's good to adopt the philosophy of Willie Keeler. He was a baseball player known for his ability to get a base hit whenever he needed one. When asked how he did this he replied, " I just keep my eyes open and hit em where they ain't." Keeping this in mind will definitely make you a more valuable musician in a group setting.

Recording guitar solos with Markus was great fun. We really got into the rhythmic aspects of soloing and with the rhythm tracks as simple and forceful as they were, he found that he had so much more room inside the tracks to really express himself. Beda and Kurt had provided a great bottom end on which to build. The solos in this music are mostly composed more than improvised so it took a while for Markus to relax into the groove these guys laid out for him. But once he let go of the old habits the shit started to catch fire.

I'm so proud of all these guys. They really stretched their musical horizons and played some great music. And it could only happen because they weren't afraid to change. That is the key to developing as a band. You just have to be willing to try other things and to keep an open mind. There are no limits to what you can pull out of yourself if you are willing to say, "Fuck it...I want to be better today than I was yesterday." Not every musician has that kind of courage.

Well, tonight the band and I got together for a farewell dinner. I had so much fun here and hate to leave this town. But, as much as we've grown together as a production team, I think that if I push the talk back button one more time and say "Perfect...except..." they'll be packing my bags for me. I also should send a big shout of thanks out to Wolfgang, Max and Spanky at Sonic Flow Studio. They were all great guys to work with and really know what they are doing...when they're not mounting vacuum cleaners and meat grinders on the wall. Spanky's name is actually Harry but Spanky is his new nom de guerre...I'm hoping it sticks.

So...onward and upward! Tomorrow it's back to Vienna for a quick beer before flying home. Thanks Markus and ConFused5, it's been a slice.

Monday, March 24, 2008

ConFused5 at Sonic Flow Studio...Continued

As I said in my last entry, the guys at Sonic Flow Studio have built a very cool recording environment. The room is large and they have plenty of large studio gobos. These are move-able walls which are used to create isolated areas in the studio. With these we were able to isolate the guitar amps from the drum microphones. They are also handy in creating a vocal booth or for changing the acoustic characteristics of the room itself. Another thing I might have missed if I hadn't taken a good look around is their extensive collection of table-top meat grinders. These are strictly old-school and are of the hand crank variety. Yes, Wolfgang and Max are have an interesting eye for visual design. There are about fifty of these beauties mounted just inside the studio entrance and what says "Rock'n'Roll" better than a platoon of meat grinders standing at attention at the gates of the tabernacle?

Markus has done an amazing job of getting the media to come out for pictures, articles, video footage and interviews. The question I enjoy answering most is "What kind of projects do you enjoy the most?" My immediate answer is always a very diplomatic, "This one!"
But my serious answer is that I really enjoy working with musicians, singers and bands who may not have had the opportunity to work in a real recording environment with an outside production influence before. Working in a professional studio with ample time to explore and develop has a way of refining the musicianship of any musician. And with the right production team a band that is ready, willing and open-minded will grow by leaps and bounds.

Many musicians with limited recording experience tend to think in terms of what their heroes might play in a given situation. All of us are influenced by what we listen to and love. But when the opportunity to make a recording presents itself, the most important thing for me is to dig deep into a musician and find out what he has to say...and then to pull that statement out of him in his own words so to speak. I've done plenty of sessions as a bassist where I've been asked to "do that Jaco thing" or "give me a Larry Graham type of slap thing." But when I'm trying to interpret what an original artist has inside of him, I simply won't stop until the musician himself can listen to the track and say, "oh...yeah, that's what I always wanted to say, I just never knew that I knew how to do that." That moment of realization is the big payoff as far as I'm concerned. If a song sells or not is often a matter of opinion and luck, but if a musician can let himself be taken to that moment he knows he is capable of more than he had dreamed of, then he can listen to the music for the rest of his life with a clear conscience.

ConFused5 is made up of excellent musicians from top to bottom. They are very capable on a technical level but have never had the chance to have an outsider look at their music under a microscope. Fortunately they are also mature grownups and have relatively open minds so we have been able to experiment quite a bit during the overdub sessions. If a musician doesn't have the chops to try different things, well, then you're dead in the water. But in every case, I think we've been able to get to the deepest recesses of the musician's original intent and the recordings will reflect a genuine musical honesty.

Today we will finish off the last of the vocals and I'll go into Sonic Flow to run up work mixes tomorrow. Man, I hate it when things start to come to a close.

Monday, March 17, 2008

ConFused5 at Sonic Flow Studio

After a strong rehearsal week, ConFused5 and I moved into Sonic Flow Studio and settled in to cut the basic rhythm tracks for their new album. Sonic Flow is a studio after my own heart. Wolfgang and Max have built a great sounding room and have stocked it with great equipment. The studio records on either Protools HD or Logic and there is no shortage of great microphones, pre-amps or good vibes. But what I found particularly interesting was the vintage vacuum cleaner collection. I have no clue what they sound like, but they sure look cool.

Markus and Alex have brought Marshall and Orange guitar amps in addition to the Tube Thomsen combo that Markus uses live. The studio has a really nice sounding Vox AC30 and a few nice Fender combos so tracking guitars will be more than fun. The only limitation we have here is that there are only sixteen input channels but that isn't any different than recording in the average analog studio of twenty years ago. With a little thought and creativity we were able to set up the studio to record the entire rhythm section: bass, drums, two guitars and guide piano, in the same room at the same time.

And so, as Captain Beefheart once said, "the fun begun." I had hoped to record at least two tracks per day and optimistically thought we might have a few days where we would catch three. Man, was I ever wrong. All the band needed was a few run throughs of each song and damned if they didn't start nailing track after track. On the first day we finished the basics on four songs and by 6:00 pm of day two...that's 18:00 in Austria, probably because of the weak dollar exchange rate, we had all ten tracks finished and ready for overdubs. As always, I let the band choose one track to record over again just because bands usually get cocky at about this time and think they have a better one left in them. And as usual...I was right and they were wrong. The first take of "Why Me" was loaded with energy and vibe and that's the one I'll keep. But what the hell, we had time to spare, and who wants to quit playing in the studio anyway?

Because the section was working so efficiently, I decided to grab a lot of rhythm guitar doubles immediately upon deciding that the take was a keeper. When playing live, Alex uses an Ibanez chorus stomp box and he asked me if we would be using it in the recording process. I answered that yes, probably...because the door lock in the toilet was broken and this little baby would be useful in holding the door closed. Then I showed Alex my very favorite chorus device.

My favorite chorus has two versions. If the tracking guitar is a Les Paul, I like to double the part with a Stratocaster through an AC30. If the tracking Guitar was a Strat, then I'll double the part with either a Les Paul or a Gibson ES something or other...335, 345 or 355. Since we had Markus' 345 at hand, my favorite chorus in this case consisted of the Vox AC30, Alex's Les Paul Custom, Markus' ES345 and my Knopfler signature Stratocaster. Yeah, it may not be as portable a chorus device as the Ibanez, but it sounds pretty goddamned good. And to tell the truth, I don't think I would use any of the components of my chorus to hold the toilet door shut, so I think we made the best use of the materials we had available.

On day three Herbert and I began to work on keyboard overdubs. Herbert is great to work with. In addition to being a very well trained musician, he has a great instinct for musical ideas and best of all, he has an open mind and is not averse to trying different voicings or rhythmic motifs in order to create the proper soundscapes with which to feature the melodies and lyrics of these songs. We have a deep love for classical music in common and musical ideas fly back and forth in three languages. Between Herbert's German, my English, both of our efforts at speaking each other's language and the language of music, I suppose that totals up to 3.5 languages...but the music is coming together really well and we are having loads of fun.

Meanwhile, because Markus has nothing to do at the moment, he has been doing what he has an absolute genius for, and that is dragging the media out to the countryside and generating interest in this band and in the Sellaband platform. By the time this album is released in July, Markus will have made sure that the very cows grazing on the nearby alps will have heard of it and want a copy of their own. So far we've done at least one interview or media event per day in the studio and tomorrow will be no different...which reminds me...shit! I gotta shave and wear clean socks tomorrow. Ah well, a small price to pay.

Tomorrow we continue with keyboards and then it will be time to record guitar overdubs with Markus. I wonder how many interviews he'll schedule when it's his turn in the box...

Thursday, March 13, 2008


We are ready to go into the recording studio! It has been a full work week for ConFused5. Actually it has been two work weeks in one for the guys in the band. All the guys work for a living so rehearsing every available minute has meant that they have been working two jobs this week. I don't know how much their straight jobs take out of them, but I've been working them pretty hard and I think that we will peak at the right time to record a good solid album.

As I've written before, ConFused5 is a collaboration of diverse characters. Herbert is a full time music instructor and a consummate musician of the highest order. He has a great deal of experience in writing and arranging, plays keyboard and wind instruments and is a fine, classically trained tenor about town. And if you know anything at all about Salzburg, being a tenor in this town is no joke. His musical vocabulary is extensive and I get a kick out of him throwing out classical bits and pieces between C5 songs.

On bass and vocals, Kurt is the guy out in front. Kurt has been all over the world as a multi-instrumentalist and is laying down the fat-ass bottom end as well as sharing lead vocal responsibilities with Herbert. C5 is fortunate to have two excellent singers who have very different singing styles and yet blend really well when they sing together. As a bassist, Kurt is my kind of guy. He lays it down big, fat and with intensity. Bass is not an easy gig and he really does a great job of grooving with the kick and catching guitar figures.

Alex doesn't say much, at least I thought so until I stood in front of his amp and paid some attention. On a live gig, Alex may use 3 or 4 different sounds per song because he covers so many bases. One of the fun things for us will be to let him record what he plays live in layers of tracks so that all those great parts are there all the time. He is considered the rhythm guitar player in C5 but his contribution goes much further than what the title would imply.

On drums we have Beda, a professional percussionist, educator and clinician. Beda was a recent addition to C5 and the groove factor certainly went up a few notches when he came on board. He has chops oozing out of every pore and he'll hit anything you put in front of him. But in addition to being a bad-ass drummer, Beda is a fine musician with a great ear, large vocabulary and what's at the top of any producer's wish list, an open mind. When you think about it, drummers get paid to hit things...and sometimes they can be real pricks...not a great combination and perhaps a great subject of a future blog entry. But drummers who are also open-minded musicians are very valuable to a project like this and the recording sessions should be a ton of fun.

On lead guitar, and the guy who's driving this bus down the autobahn is my good friend Markus. Now, Markus is an interesting guy. He works his ass off in the office all day and all he wants to do is play in a rock band. He's also a connoisseur of fine guitars so we have a lot in common in that regard. His efforts in generating the $50,000 Sellaband budget have made him somewhat of a statesman on the website and when we're not actually working on music we are usually discussing either great guitars or the strategies that made this project possible. Add his ironic sense of humor to the mix and you can be sure that none of our rehearsals have had a dull moment.

Tomorrow we move the drums into Sonic Flow studio and we will begin recording the basic rhythm tracks on Saturday. Because this is rock music and the feel is so intrinsic to the style, I want to make every effort to record the tracks with the guys all in the same room. There will be some isolation issues to work out but the final product will be better for our efforts. The keyboard tracks will probably be guide tracks and we will do the final tracks as overdubs after finding just the right sounds. But I want as many of the guitars to go down with the drums and bass as possible in order to capture strong band performances. Once the tracks are feeling good, I'm sure we will do some doubling of the fat guitar parts. The solos and vocals will go down last and I'm hoping that tracking with the full band will render some inspiring foundations on which to build the songs.

So, to the studio we go. In a few days we will find out just how valuable pre-production rehearsals really can be. When getting a band ready to record, I tend to think of things in terms of a sports team. You can win a ton of games all season long, but if you're blown out by the time the playoffs come around, the whole season was a waste of time. Our playoffs start on Saturday and I think that we are peaking at just the right time. The guys are loose and having fun...and that's how you make good music.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Next Case! ConFused5

As the night court judge said, slamming the bench with his gavel, "Next case!" I've been in Salzburg for six days recuperating from the whirlwind SolidTube project and am now in the Midst of ConFused5 country. During the week I had the pleasure of meeting with Markus, his lovely wife Joanna as well as Herbert and Regina. We have met over bier, wine, leberkäse, cheese and pizza, always discussing what all of us have closest to our hearts at the moment, the album which we are about to record for Sellaband. Last night was our first official rehearsal with the full band. There is plenty to write about, but behind every band is a story and the history behind ConFused5 is worth telling.

ConFused5's band roster is as diverse as it least here in Salzburg. The band consists of bandleader and lead guitarist Markus Melms, currently a successful business professional, Herbert Hopfgartner, a graduate of the legendary Mozarteum and career music professor on lead vocals, keyboards and wind instruments, Alex Kranebetter also a business professional on guitar and vocals, Kust Breider, banker and veteran performer on bass and lead vocals and veteran professional drummer Peter "Beda" Bachmeyer. Herbert's lovely wife, Regina, a professor of vocal pedagogy at the Mozarteum can be considered as a quasi band member as she will contribute vocals to the album and has written the texts for the songs that we will be recording.

In communicating with markus by Skype and email over the course of the months we have been planning this project, I have heard bits and pieces of how this diverse group of musicians and lovers of music came together to create ConFused5. But it was over a glass of red at Herbert and Regina's that I finally was able to piece together their story. Elements of The Blues Brothers and Sgt. Pepper run through the tale but it is pure ConFused5 from cover to cover.

Twenty years ago, Markus, Herbert and Alex formed a rock band while in school. They played school parties and local gatherings and, with long hair and wearing the fashions of those times, they dreamed of one day recording a proper album and playing the kind of concerts where someone else carried their equipment from the car to the stage. As happens with most teenage bands, the years and economics conspired to eventually bring an end to their efforts but in the case of at least one of the band members, the dream to one day record an album burned brightly deep inside his psyche.

Cut to about twenty years later. Markus, Herbert and Alex had "shed the things of childhood" as the saying goes, and gone their separate ways. For his fortieth birthday party, Markus, as always scheming to squeeze the last drop of fun from any situation, decided that the best way to celebrate would be to get up on a stage again and have a go at playing in a rock band. Can you say, "Hey man, Let's put the band back together!" Phone calls were made, emails were sent, the Rock House was reserved and there stood Markus Melms leading his old bandmates for an evening of their favorite cover songs as well as a few of the original compositions which will be recorded on this album for the very first time.

Music being the addictive drug that it is, the occasion, rather than satisfy a need, only caused the trio to want more. And so there developed a new band out of the old. Markus, Herbert and Regina started to get together over wine and cheese(sorry, this is no longer a lava lamp crowd) to play music. Eventually, new songs came to be composed by the boys and Regina was asked to supply lyrics. All that was missing was an audience and a reason to perform. And then along came Sellaband.

As Markus tells the story, I had apparently responded to another Sellaband artist in an Austrian dialect that sounded familiar to him. He sent a message to my Sellaband profile asking just exactly where I was from. I went to the ConFused5 profile, listened and liked the music, and found that we share the same roots. Eventually I learned that Markus and I were actually born in the same hospital! Naturally we began to exchange messages and communicated almost daily from that point. And now, by the grace of the almighty internet and because of our shared interest in making dreams come true, no matter how old and dusty they become, I find myself here in Salzburg making music with people I didn't know until a short time ago but who have become and I'm sure will remain fast friends.

So, it's off to rehearsal after which I'm sure I'll hear words that have become music to my ears, "Oiso, trink'n ma no' an?"

Saturday, March 08, 2008

SolidTube...Bringing it Home

Feb. 25. What an evening! As I had described in the previous post, we had a nice group of fans and believers come to Wild One Music last night to join SolidTube in singing the final chorus of one of their songs.

The most I had hoped for was to show appreciation to the folks who have made all of this possible and maybe to add some ambience to the track. As it turned out, the group of believers stood around the microphone and created a chorus of such great feeling and vibe that I'm forced to include them in the final recording.

Feb. 29. Last night was our last day or recording at Wild One Music studio. As always, for me at least, reaching this point in a project has a bittersweet taste. The whole gang was at the studio at some point yesterday in case we needed to pick up any loose ends. There were only some guitar, harp and backup vocals to record but I really wanted everyone to come by so that I could shake their hands, look them in the eyes and sincerely thank them for their hard work and great attitudes. And I wanted them to hear this from me in the studio where it all happened.

While finishing the recording phase of a project is reason to celebrate, it also marks the end of our time together, and this leaves all of us with a touch of sadness. We have attempted to record the tracks as a team and as this is the first professional recording experience for some, I have avoided shortcuts and have taken the long way around (as long as the budget allowed) so that everyone walks away from the studio with more than they came with. I think we accomplished what we set out to do and feel as though we've crammed ten years into the month of February.

Today I will review the tracks one last time, make work mixes of everything, and then organize the material for mixing purposes. I'll be in Salzburg recording with ConFused5 during March so I won't see the SolidTube tracks until April. When I open the sessions in Protools, I only want to see the material I will be mixing. The entire session material will also be available of course. But as we have a deadline of May 1st, I need to streamline the process of elimination as much as possible.

One person that has become indispensable to this project is Jakob Grabmayr. The staff at Wild One consists of Jakob and his assistant, Frank Pitters and I hope that both of these guys realize how much I appreciate their hard work and the extent to which they have become an important part of the SolidTube family. Many times I've gone to work in a studio, done what was needed and walked away without anyone really giving a good personal shit about each other. Business is business and as long as everyone gets paid and the project gets done there's no need to make new friends or even know the first thing about the staff and vice-versa. I can say in all candor that this project was NOT strictly business as usual.

Jakob has built Wild One over the course of fifteen years and his technical knowledge in combination with his personal pride and attention to every detail has provided us with the perfect environment to commit this music and the band's personality to every cut on the album. Having been a musician himself, Jakob clearly understands the importance of creating not only a great recording environment, but also addressing the needs of the typical musician when waiting around in the hours between takes. The studio lounge had everything the bandmembers needed to make the time pass pleasantly. I have only two suggestions and I think it will be perfect. One, I would get a set of rubber coffee cups and hide the silverware in a safe place. Some of the guys were new to these things and came close to hurting themselves. Two, A strong door made of bars would be great. Then I could talk to the band without risking one of them running away...there are cats in the area and we had a few complaints from neighbors claiming their pets had been traumatized. Nothing was ever proven, but a good strong set of bars on the door would force the area animal lovers to point their accusing fingers elsewhere. Oh, and I guess there's a third thing. Hanging a tire in the courtyard would be good. It turns out that my guys like to swing on things...sorry about the lamps in the hallway, I guess they weren't as strong as they looked.

So...this will mark the last entry of the SolidTube studio blog. There will be much more to write in the coming months as the project reaches completion. But until then stay tuned for the adventures of Confused5 scheduled to begin on March 7th in Salzburg. And to everyone from Mandana, Mike, the band, the management, the studio and especially each and everyone who believes in this recording...well, the words to express what I really feel haven't been invented, so I can only extend my most heartfelt THANK YOU.

Friday, March 07, 2008

SolidTube at Wild One Continued

Feb.17. After three full days in the studio we have basic tracks on six songs. The most interesting thing for me has been that we have worked our asses off, been stuck in close quarters, could most probably identify each other blindfolded by smell, and still have yet to experience the least bit of friction. Something is definitely wrong here. I'm not used to working like this.

As I've said before, we are trying to record the rhythm tracks as live as possible. Because SolidTube performs a lot of their gigs as a trio, some of the songs derive their feel from Mike's acoustic guitar. Translating that feel to a full rhythm section is intrinsic to retaining the original intent of these songs. In order to keep the band members in one room, I've decided to record acoustic tracks with the onboard pickups that work so well on live gigs and sound equally like shit in the studio. The object is to capture the feel, not necessarily the perfect sound. After we have a great feeling track, we record electric guitars and then we will replace the acoustic guitar tracks with proper microphones. So far this strategy, although requiring an extra step, has been very successful.

Paulie recorded what I believe to be his first fretless bass track today and simply gutted the part. We cut the track with his Fender 5-sting and I just felt that something was missing. He played the part perfectly, but the song was begging for a mysterious sense of urgency so I asked him if he would care to take another stab at it with my fretless. Well, sometimes making things hard on yourself can pull a great performance out of you. I don't know if it was the concentration required to keep that bass in tune or just the unfamiliarity of the instrument in general, but the entire band was speechless after the playback. It wasn't the part he played, but the intent behind it that put the whole track into focus.

We rounded out the evening by setting up the seventh track which I hope to have in the can before 2:00 PM tomorrow. Tuesday the 19th should be our last tracking day after which we will set up the studio for guitar overdubs. I plan to set up and mic at least five different amp rigs for solos and doubling chorus/bridge sections. At the same time, we will set up the room to replace the acoustic guitar parts that were tracked with the drums. The guys are very well rehearsed so we hope to give Mandana some inspiring tracks to sing over.

One culinary note, the goulash at the little joint around the corner kicks ass. I've had it three out of the four days we've been in the studio...and I don't care what the band says, I'll probably eat it everyday we are recording.

Feb. 22. Today is the day. At 4:00 PM, okay, 16:00 for the continentals, we will begin recording lead vocals. And anyone who knows Mandana's voice will realize how important this next phase of recording is to the project. To review our status so far, all ten tracks have been recorded by the full band. We have completed recording all acoustic guitar tracks and are well on our way with the electric guitar solos. The band has done a great job and I feel that we have accomplished more than we could have imagined at the outset.

One of the important aspects of making studio recordings is trying to capture the feeling of the original demos. When all the tools of the trade come into play it can be easy to get lost in the "fun factor" of technology and lose sight of what made the songs charming in their original form. We've worked very diligently at not over-thinking. In some cases we've recorded a track and, finding something amiss, stripped it down to the way Mike and Mandana first wrote the song, explored the motives behind the lyrics, listened to the interplay between the voice and acoustic guitar in the demos, and then took a step back to see where we may have missed the boat. When Mandana takes her position at the microphone today I think that she will be inspired by the tracks that the band has recorded but will also be well inside the comfort zone of the original demos.

The first task at hand today will be electric guitar overdubs at noon. On a side note: as concerns the whole time thing...I have finally realized that no matter how impressive 4:00 PM looks in a 16:00 smoking jacket, the time is the same. An hour is an hour. Pity, It would be nice if the hours went by as slowly as their inflated numbers would seem to indicate, something on the order of the 7 to 1 dog year ratio would be nice.

Feb. 23. Yesterday's vocal sessions with Mandana...I don't want to give up too much, but I will say that she is one of the easiest singers I've worked with. After trying a few microphones we decided that the Tube from AKG really fell in love with her voice. I think it would be hard to find a bad Mic for her, But the AKG really seems to capture the vocal nuances and, more importantly, the emotional aspect of her performance.

Mandana does two things which are of great value. She makes written notations on the lyric sheet, and she remembers what those notations mean. So many singers and musicians fail to take notes and this can cost valuable studio time. Sometimes the difference between a decent track and an amazingly never-to-be-repeated performance can come down to a few pencil marks on a piece of paper. Every take we recorded was an improvement on the one before because Mandana was able to execute the changes according to the written notations on her lyric sheet. As far as I'm concerned, two of the most valuable tools a musician can bring to the studio are a pencil and a good memory.

Earlier in the day we recorded an electric guitar track with Mike. After all the fun of tracking with the band, Mike and I settled in to create a part where there had been none. I have to thank Mike for his patience and positive attitude because this sort of work can sometimes be nerve-wracking. After tweaking knobs we found the sound we were after and dug in. We took a few passes at the entire song first just to throw ideas and feels out there. And then we began to assemble the part by section. Sometimes we punched in for only a note, just to get the idea solidified exactly the way we wanted it. The result was a really swinging part full of character and was perfect for the song. But Mike, being the balls to the wall guy that he is, wasn't satisfied. I know that I had the part I needed but, this being Mike's song I agreed that we should take the time to see if he could beat what he had just played. So, after a short break to clear the old noggin, he listened to the part from front to back one more time and took one pass...and there it was, the same notes, same phrases, same sound. But this time performed with an intensity that the pieced-together version would never have.

Today we will continue with vocals. SolidTube had a gig last night so I hope that everyone slept well and can bring their best to the studio. I'll know in a few hours.

Feb. 24. Today brings another exciting day for the SolidTube gang. Early on in my discussions with Docnik about the production, I thought that it might be fun to include the local Viennese ST believers in a more substantial way. In listening to the demo version of "Sunny Day" I had the idea that bringing a group into the recording studio to sing along with Mandana and the guys would serve as a proper "Thank You" to the folks who have made all of this possible. Since it will be impossible to put headphones on as many people as we expect, and as I don't want the track to bleed into the "believer's chorus", I will have Mike play his acoustic guitar and Mandana sing. Both of them will be listening to the track on headphones and hopefully this system will allow us to record the believers in time to the music. It will either work or it won't...but we have plenty of bubbly in the fridge to lubricate the effort so either way it should be fun.