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...

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