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.