... I realized about a week ago it's been a while since I've even looked at my site... which is and isn't a good thing... I always remind myself (and peers), typically that's the case when things are going good!
Since getting home from tour, I had a couple days "off" then went into the studio March 1st (Phase One) with The Sole Pursuit to start (producing) their new album (12 songs).
We booked 4 days for drums with 2 different session drummers (Riley O'Connor and Tony Nesbitt-Larking).
... both were great... really great actually. The realist part of me was all "yeah, it'll sound like drums!", but I/we can really hear the different styles and approaches they brought to the 6 tunes (each) they played on... and their experience and ability to take direction helped keep the sessions running smoothly.
This is always a major variable when working with new musicians... generally pro's are easy to work with, but again, it's a variable that can really bung up your schedule if your run into any roadblocks... insufficient ability, politics, personal taste... or worst of all... ego.
... the days went super smooth though and it was a pleasant rolling stop to our 4 days up at Phase One.
Shout out to Dajaun Martineau and Darren McGill for keeping things rolling along... it's always nice to work with people who make you feel like you don't know what you're doing!
We've been knee deep in (electric and acoustic) guitars since March 6th I think... typically getting through 2 songs a day for either Kyle or AJ... made a list of songs we'd like acoustics on and chipped away at those since last Monday.
We ended up renting a 12-String and Mandolin from Long & McQuade... nobody here really "plays the mandolin" but we got the sound we were after on the songs we were thinking of trying it on... all said and done between the 2 instruments... well worth the $70 rental... for the month... not that I'll keep them that long.
... seriously, a decent sounding 12-String was $22/month! Just throwing it out there... if you need gear (or have admittedly crappy gear), look into rentals. Bad sources won't (or very very rarely) make for a good recording.
It's worth the couple dollars.
... speaking of... rental drum kit for a 3-song EP I've also been working on with a younger band called Scarlett's Hand. I think the drummer practices on an electric kit, but we needed a live kit... so it was off to L&M, and then over to Phase One (March 17-18)... kit needed a bit of love, but even swapping out for old skins and some moongels... sounded great!
... player was pretty good too!
It was a tight schedule tracking 3 songs in 2 days but we got through the instrumentation then finished off the vocals the following Saturday...
... another case of why I feel working with a producer has major advantages over simply booking a room.
If the guys had of just booked a room, they probably would've either had to cram their vocals in at the end... which is a bad idea... or book more time... which is understandable but let's be honest... studios totally encourage clients to book more time. They sell the experience, but on paper, they sell time.
Producers sell the experience, but also a final product.
... and it's never easy to tell a band we need more time... unless of course it doesn't affect the budget... in which case people are generally cool with it.
We were scheduled to finish up at 7pm and I had the singer ask me at 6pm if we're going to finish everything... we had 2 lead vocals, backup vocals, and I think a guitar solo left to do...
I left the control room for a minute to think about where I wanted to track vocals... and to triple check we were cool to stay an hour or 2 longer at Phase One to finish up guitars.
... I hate rushing vocals and there really wasn't any need to.
... I almost want to tell bands off the top, consider instrumentation and vocals 2 separate things. Focus on getting the music down (or at least what you need to sing on top) then think about vocal sessions as a different beast. It really is switching gears... plus in situations like this... it's tough to track vocals with so many people around... I'm a big fan of vocalist + producer / engineer + control room.
Much more efficient... resulting in better takes and a better result.
So this week it's been finishing up acoustics with The Sole Pursuit and into lead vocals... and mixing the tracks for Scarlett's Hand.
I'm in talks with a couple more projects May/June I'm pretty stoked about... I'll be blogging about it if it goes through... I'm always down for adventures... especially blog-able ones.
- Mike :-)
Work, work, work
Bonus points to anybody who knows what tune inspired that...
Oh the things that pop into my head after what seems like months of non-stop action. I'm not complaining though, I'm having a blast on the albums and EPs that have been in the studio lately.
The downside to a full schedule is while you're working (living the dream!) and helping others, your other life (anything outside the studio) tends to gets lost in the shuffle... time flies by.
It's June... almost mid June. The last time I posted something was in early May.
I get around 150 hits a day here (either searching for my name or "so you wanna make a record") and sometimes I have to remind myself "if I leave it too long between updates, people might think I'm doing nothing." It's often the opposite looking at other producer/studio sites... unless they have a good blog... a personal one.
Anyway, even when you try to schedule gaps in, jobs pop up and you take them.
Because when it rains, you have to collect water one way or another. That's something I've learned over the years that screws up people. They don't find a way to make the opportunities work and willing to sacrifice a little... and often.
Let me clarify... this means good opportunities. Good people + fair budgets/return.
A couple months ago (there's a blog post half written about this by the way) I did a quick 2 hour talk at Durham College about my path in music. One of the questions was along the lines of "I like my sleep... how do balance staying up til 2am seeing bands/emails/research/working and then getting up at 7am to start doing it all over again?"
I held off completely laughing at him in front of the entire class, telling him whoever in the class has insomnia is going to consider it a blessing a couple years after they finish the course... but there's a very clear line in the sand the older you get when it comes to entrepreneurs... we aren't workaholics... we're inspired. When we're inspired, we keep moving... especially our brains. When we aren't inspired, we do something else until inspirado hits.
This ties in with how I view a lot of bands and artists. So many talking about working hard but they have no idea what or where the hard work really is. They get discouraged so easily when something takes too long, costs too much, or seems out of their reach. If it's worth it, you keep moving towards your goals... when it isn't... for whatever reason, smart people change their focus, no explanation needed, no apology necessary.
I'm inspired by so many around me... and I'm not just looking forward to what the future holds, but seeing how many of my predictions pan out regarding who'll also do well.
Short post I know... I should get back to work now though... these songs aren't going to mix themselves!
... so it's March already... and I have to admit... life has been a blur since xmas... the good kinda blur though.
As always, I've been trying to find time to write... even something short... but no dice... so I'm forcing myself to write something (anything) tonight.
Studio life has been kick ass since December. Usually the holidays are pretty tame... people are busy spending money they don't have and then dealing with their credit cards come January. This is a problem when it comes to budgeting for band related costs and investments... this wouldn't be a problem if more people actually budgeted for things... but that's another rant. A couple mix projects and EP's showed up though which filled up the schedule in a hurry.
They say when it rains, it pours... and it's definitely been pouring the last few months. All the major projects: Jason James, One Fire, The Sole Pursuit, The Divided Line, Blind Race, and now Luke Michielsen who started his new album yesterday, have been/are going awesome... and the mix and oddjob/editing projects have been fun as well. It's nice to have some variety, but really nice having so much positive energy floating around the studio.
A couple highlights...
Tony Roost from One Fire Movement asked me to produce a single called One Day featuring several of the One Fire artists. A sort of urban/soul tune along the line of Bruno Mars/John Mayer... but with several artists trading off verses and all singing the chorus together.
I'm sure you can see how this could get complicated and turn into a jumbled mess. You have to be careful taking on projects like this... recording is far from simply recording most of the time... I'll leave that for imagination and for another rant too. But I signed on pretty quick because I knew the level of talent that'd be involved, and when you've got singers who can sing, and egos checked at the door, the track will sort itself out.
I think the tune will be coming out in the next month or two. Looking forward to sharing it with everyone... it's definitely a departure from the norm around here.
The uber talented Samuel Bisson was in to track cello on the Jason James EP. It's an acoustic guitar/vocal based project Jason asked me to produce and during prepro he tiptoed around the 'c' word. It's easy to name off a wish list in the early stages of a project, but if you need session players, you have to either know the right people, or start looking now.
Not many people know session players for strings (or horns actually) that can just "play". I met Sam on one of the Parabelle albums. Kyle (guitarist for Parabelle) found Sam through Google. Sam showed up and threw down. He's been my 1st call ever since.
I'd like to write a post on what I think makes a good/great session player. The biggest thing I feel they should add to a project though is production value. Exceptional players make the whole recording sound better... strings especially make things sound expensive.
Some people might puke at the idea of paying someone $100/hr (standard around here for session players, and most will get through a song an hour), but after you hear what great players can do, it quickly turns into ear to ear smiles and a "shut up and take my money" situation. One song in and Jason fully understood what I was talking about.
Here's a link to Sam's site: www.samuelbisson.ca. Definitely send him a message if you need the good stuff.
I'm only listing two highlights because I said a couple earlier (a couple means 2... unless we're talking about cookies or ice cream scoops), and because I don't want to play favorites.
I've found myself staying at the studio late and getting up early simply because I'm excited to get back to work. Again, meaningful work... with appreciative people... it's a two way street... there's a lot of extra hours that go unnoticed (and unpaid) on the production side... or probably in the entertainment industry in general.
#DearBands: It's amazing how much further you'll go if you say thanks instead of making (assuming) demands... just because you think someone is working for you. There's more than enough music being made these days... and more than enough good stuff to go around... and the good stuff gets priority, if given the choice.
Heading in for 9am to get some mixing done before we get back to tracking drums on the new Luke Michielsen album. This is album #4 (including the Slowking album) I've worked on with Luke. He told me to "go crazy" sonically during prepro... thanks Luke. :-)
P.S. I put all that stuff in the title because I'm curious if it'll show up in search engines.
P.P.S. Hoping to get some tour dates for Age Of Days soon... I miss playing.
P.P.P.S If you puke at the idea of paying a highly skilled musician $100/hr, quit music now if your goal is to turn it into a career... and hopefully you can go through life without ever needing to call a plumber or electrician.
... so it's that magical day where everyone reflects openly about their past year. I wonder what people did back before facebook... seems like everyone is talking about overcoming adversity of some sort... personal, financial, professional, etc... for me though, December 31 just means another year of taxes/bookkeeping comes to an end... if anything, people should reflect on their birthday... speaking of... I turned 30 a couple weeks ago... and thank you. :-)
I'm aiming to do a real 2013 recap next week. In short though, looking back over credits (and projects on the drives) for this year... and the iCal... it's been quite different than the last 4-5... less projects, but better projects, less headaches, yet bigger (more important) headaches... not to mention a few twists in the plot I certainly wasn't expecting at all... lol. People are funny sometimes... the winds of change were a'blowin' pretty hard this year... change isn't always easy, but it's much easier when they're pushing you in the direction you wanted to, and should be going anyway.
I had a lot of time to think while out on tour... I moved to Toronto around 10 years ago now... I think I started at Pocket in Feb '04. Between there and freelance I made $4k that year. Total.
... but I never felt poor because I kept a full schedule... with what I felt was meaningful work with good people... and I never complained about it... and I wasn't ashamed to tell people of what I could and couldn't afford to do at that stage in my life... or what my priorities were... not always easy... but then again... meaningful work is part of my own "meaning of life".
I'm very grateful for finding mentors and friends early on who were older than me... they've definitely shown me a few time saving approaches through their own experiences/advice... the music industry is still going through an awkward teenage phase in my opinion... but I feel I have a pretty good grasp on why some people can turn their passion into a living... and that's why I don't have a panic attack when someone says the word(s) "resume" or "job interview".
I'm sorta just rambling here for a bit while Pro Tools backs up some stuff... off to a family dinner this evening which as far as NYE goes... sounds good to me.
Happy New Years everyone and all the best in 2014!
- Mike :-)
I swear I think about posting/updating this more often... usual excuses apply... things get busy, I start posts and rant... rants become novels... I decide to post later... but this gap also includes summer holidays! Summer has been awesome for me... so what's been going on since April?
.. frig, it's been probably longer than that looking at my iCal.
Basically, this year started off good, steady... then got rammed really quickly after taking on another Parabelle album back in January. I didn't have a ton of time in the schedule but Kevin asked about doing another acoustic/electro sounding thing similar to the "remix" of This Life a the end of the Starry Eyes album.
I have a lot of fun working on these kinda projects... outside the obvious stuff like acoustic/vocal, I get to build up the instrumentation somewhat on my own... it kinda feels like a school project. You get the main ingredients, you cook it up, serve it, and sorta wait to see what the reaction is going to be... not just from the fans, but from the band too!
Long story short, stupid me blocked out 2 weeks in the schedule to get it done, as I had another album starting right after... Kyle and Kevin were up for a few days tracking and then I ended up spending a lot more time on it than I'd originally planned... which is sorta normal... whether it's two weeks or six weeks, I'm going to work on it until I think it's "done".
... it got finished and released a couple months ago I think... maybe back in April? Yes, I think it would've been April because the Age Of Days album came out around that time.
After the Parabelle 'Air' album, I went into co-producing/engineering the next Vince Hawkins and Company Slave album. I had a lot of fun working on this... I love riffs... and I love (good) solos. I think I also had the largest drum kit so far in here as well for that... sorta left field since when I think "blues rock", I'm not thinking "6 piece kit, with 20+ pieces of brass". All good though, it was fun. The recording process rolled along nicely, with very few hiccups... always a bonus on the larger projects!
I think it comes out sometime this fall on Grooveyard Records. I'm looking forward to sharing some links once that's up. I'd link to the label page but I just checked... they have an auto-play.
After that (good ol' iCal!), Fallen Heirs were in to do a single. Often, I discourage bands from just doing one song. Time wise it's not efficient... but it is a great way to test the waters working with new people, plus I highly encourage bands frequently release material these days. It'd been a while since they'd released anything, and we'd been talking about working together for a while at that point. I had time for a song. They wanted to do a song. Sounds good to me.
Another efficient and hiccup free project, I feel like we were done within a weekend... then editing/mixing obviously. They are super nice guys too... and party responsibly. The track is called "Wake Up", I'm fairly certain it's on YouTube.
Yeah I could link to it... I'm still debating linking to everything in this post. It takes a while! I'm a busy guy!
... and it's really nice outside!
After that, I had a chance to play for the FLYING BURRITOS!!! in the Exclaim Cup hockey tournament. Why am I bringing this up? Because it was awesome.
I honestly don't do much outside of the studio... which is good because I love it, but also bad because your brain needs to step away at times to gain perspective. I play hockey a couple times a week which is good, but despite feeling like I'd been hit by a truck by the end of the tournament... it felt f*cking awesome. It felt like I'd been on vacation for a week... barely thinking about music, bands, or studio life at all. We ended up winning our division (lowest), in Disney/Hollywood fashion... in a shoot out... against the only team to beat us, in our opening game.
Again... it was awesome.
Post hockey super-greatness, The Joy Arson were back to record the 3 remaining tracks on their debut EP. I just got the masters back a couple weeks ago actually, and it sounds awesome. Lots of 90's influences, but hey, we're all 90's kids around here... hovering around our 30's now. I'll definitely be posting some links once it's released... I think in October... apparently alongside the new Breached EP... there's a release show for both here in Toronto... which we did sometime between January. That turned out awesome too... those guys are making some moves so I'll be surprised if you don't hear about it... if you call yoruself a rock fan.
From there it was into... no it wasn't... (thanks iCal)... I had a band called Red Steps in to track the beds for their debut album. I've worked with their drummer a few times now so he passed me some of their demos/EP. I really liked what I'd heard so I was happy to get the word they decided to scrape up the money (inside joke) to come in. I'm not sure what state it's in right now since they were tracking overdubs/vocals at their place... looking forward to hearing the end product though... regardless of whether I get my hands on it for mix.
So... from there it was into Age Of Days rehearsals. I decided back around Christmas that next tour, I would take some time off before to practice up... I also just simply wanted to take some time off this summer. Work has been non-stop for about a year and a half now... which is awesome... but you go through periods where you just have to grind through it... and grinding through the creative process sucks... it's still good when you know you can grind through it... but when you have too... and you're tired... it sucks huge.
Rehearsing was fun though... and the idea of heading out to do a few dates with Halestorm was f*cking awesome. Nobody seemed to know who they are in Canada... big surprise <-- sarcasm. Once things got rolling on tour though, post near death experience, no joke, it was an awesome "vacation" and the shows were good.
I sorta regret not keeping a journal... well the detailed type I normally would... but perhaps sometime I'll type it up what I remember and post it... in a few years. I still have last summer with Buckcherry done and ready to post... it might be more fun to post down the road though at this point. Who knows... my blog, my rules!
We ended up flying back out for a weekend to play a couple more shows with Buckcherry and shoot a video for "I Did It For Love".
I used to hate videos, but years ago, after watching a few from Soundgarden, I've accepted that 97% of all drummers look stupid in music videos, 100% of the time... so I just try and have fun with them. You are at the mercy of the editor!
I'm not supposed to say too much about it... but it's a pretty standard rock video. Hot chicks, muscle cars, rock band... we could've used better catering but hey... Canadian music industry we're talking about. Unless you're part of the 1%, you'll probably find yourself at a Walmart deli counter trying to figure out how much shaved ham is necessary to feed 12 people.
The band performance filming was fun... actually... I'll do a post about the video (please hold me to it!) once the video is released. Hopefully it's out in the next few weeks.
After all that, I spent some time up at the family cottage... that was July.
Age of Days did a quick festival appearance (first of five on the bill!) in their hometown of Fredericton this month. It was a pretty sweet bill as far as affordable small town festival rock bands go. Monster Truck, Big Wreck, Buckcherry, Sebastian Bach! All the bands were awesome, Sebastian was very entertaining... I love watching pros work a crowd. Skid Row was slightly before my time but I still recognized a bunch of the songs... couldn't sing along to every song like some people though... *cough*MattMcLaughlin*cough*.
Big Wreck was the highlight for me though... Thornley is a monster talent. I'd briefly worked with him years ago on a project that unfortunately never saw the light of day. It's one thing to hang with people in the studio, it's another to see them on stage. I believe the greats always shine on stage... "great" will always be argued... but watching Big Wreck was great. It was only fitting they were sound checking when we showed up that morning... and just finishing up their set when we had to head out... they sounded awesome.
I think that about brings everything up to date... better late than never! I'm currently working on a few tunes with singer/songwriter Rory O'Hearn and a birdie told me Rebel Hero might be heading in soon to work on a few new tracks. Along with that, men's league summer hockey playoffs are in full force, men's league summer hockey playoff beard is in full force, and Age of Days will be back to rehearsals soon for an upcoming tour this October with Papa Roach. Super stoked.
On a final note, that Papa Roach tour also involves some US dates. I told myself back in my teens I wanted music to take me to every province in Canada... territories, you're still on the list! Last year, finally hitting Manitoba, I'd reached my goal. This year, I'm hoping to start that adventure again with visiting all the states down south through music... should be good times.
P.S. Don't hit a moose... it f*cking sucks.
P.S.S. This post is probably full of typos... I apologize. I limited myself to an hour though!
"... I'm feelin' pretty awesome these days."
Yeah... I'm just putting something here because I keep thinking about it... and to let people know I'm alive since I haven't updated my site or made a post of any kind since the beginning of the year.
I have several blog posts started... which I intend to go back and proof read before posting... and then another month (or two) slips by.
So what have I been up to? Well in short... 2 albums, an ep, and a single... that's 29 tunes I've been working on since January 1.
Kevin from Parabelle asked about doing another acoustic-ish album in January... I had a couple weeks free so I said yes. Why on Earth I thought I'd get an album done in 2-3 weeks (considering how much instrumentation I had to do as well)... I'll never know. It just doesn't seem to ever work that way. From experience... projects always take 30% longer than I think... 99% of the time. So by filling that gap in the schedule... well some would've called that gap "holiday's"... that Parabelle album squeezed a couple other projects right up against each other.
... that resulted in something like... 10 weeks of straight tracking/editing between Parabelle, Breached, Vince Hawkin's, and Fallen Heirs... and then the focus switched to conquer Mount. Editanmix.
I'm far from complaining though... again, in this career, you're either doing well, or you really aren't. Studios are still closing left and right, and some still have this dream they'll make a living recording/mixing bands (and that's it) but there's so much more involved in making music... and if you understand that... at least you have a chance.
Other big news... after quite a long search (June 2012 to be exact)... I finally have an assistant/intern. Huge shout out to Luke who you'll probably see around the studio (hopefully) for the new few months at least. After 50+ submission, and interviewing a half dozen people at the studio... Luke was the first one to nail all the requirements and... and... get this... actually show up!
There's a lot more in saying that... but to anybody starting out... you need to find and meet people who work in music for a living and see how they do it. Studios are dying... they will not keep you employed... considering they actually hire you in the first place. Understand that the value you bring to the project is, and has to be "you". Your ears, your personality, and your experience.
It's not the gear you bought from a store or the "by the book" bullshit they taught you in school... well some of that bullshit comes in handy but it doesn't pay the bills! Everyone doing well has a way that works for them... you gotta find out what works for you and a great way to learn what works for you is to shadow a few others.
I understand there's bills to pay, day jobs, family, etc... but you just have to make it work. You can't tell me you don't have time because you're working 40 hrs a week when we (music professionals) have all worked 20hr days at some point... and I'm not making that up. You look and feel like shit after a a few days or weeks (I'm just glad I didn't have skype back then since my mom would've called me out on it)... but you know it's a good idea for the bigger picture.
Work has been steady for 14 months straight now. This also includes turning down several projects for various reasons. Some might say I'm doing something right... I think I just have a better handle on what I think others are doing wrong. There's some bigger plans in the works this year too... it's been tough finding the extra hours outside the typical 80+hr work week to get to them... they've begun though... and starting is typically the toughest part of the process. I don't want to spend my life recording bands... but I do plan on spending a good chunk of it working alongside them.
I hope everyone is having a great start to their New Year... it's been kick ass over here.
(... because when you're laughin', you're smilin'.)
So I've decided a couple things... well decided and accepted.
#1. I failed largely huge big at posting October's recap last month... last month as in November. I apologize to those who asked what happened to it. In short, it's hard to write these because of time and because so many projects spill over from month to month. It's hard not to go into crazy detail but also tough to just skim over things as well... especially when you're me... and if you know me personally, you're probably laughing a little. I'm going to keep at it though now that I have a better idea how long these will take now... and how long I'd like to make them.
#2. Along with the 60+ #DearBands ideas sitting in my Twitter account, I have a bunch of blog posts partially started which I'm planning on giving more attention too soon. I'd like to post at least once a week in the new year... or whenever inspirado strikes. Like most things though, the hardest part is getting started, but once you have some momentum it'll get easier and easier. The feedback has been great so far though and it helps motivate for sure.
#3. A couple is 2.
A couple hiccups with projects opened up some space to work on new tunes with All But Over and brand spankin' new band, The Joy Arson.
I have to say, working with a band that has nothing released is a little more difficult than one who has a few releases under their belt with their sound developed. Songs aside, you have an idea sonically what you're after and what they think sounds "good". With a new band, it's a clean slate. You'll get some references... typically of bands that have albums that won Grammy's, spent tens of thousands of dollars to make their albums, full of top shelf talent, etc, but you really just need to start recording and see what makes peoples ears perk up.
I believe in bands sounding like bands. Sure, a producer/engineer/mixer can help sculpt the sound, but the bottom shouldn't fall out if they're out of the picture. A band shouldn't be lost creatively or sonically if you take people on my side of the glass out of the equation. Part of the job is pulling ideas they have out of their head and getting them to come out the speakers... the process gets a little easier with each release in most cases since they get better at articulating their ideas and you have some form of reference to what they lean towards.
It's not that I think one is more fun than the other, just each present their own set of obstacles to overcome.
The goal is to have these tunes out early December and they're pretty close to being wrapped... year is almost over... my birthday, xmas, then new years... then valentines day... I need a vacation.
I finally re-wired the studio!
I've been putting this off since July I think. There are lots of spots in a studio that never get cleaned... I do my best to get to them at least once a year, do a thorough clean/vacuum. I'd picked up a couple new pieces for the studio as well and needed to make space for them. You'd think this isn't a big deal but re-wiring and shuffling things around can cause stupid amounts of headaches... like when a cable that was 2' too long before is now 2" too short... awesome. The new setup has minor changes but I noticed the improvement instantly. Comfort is key, and if I wished something was "another way", I'd rather just find a way to make it work that way. Customize it for me, just like anybody would their instrument.
Lastly... aside from a shit ton of meetings, emails, and phone calls discussing projects for next year... I had a couple rehearsals and played a couple shows with Age Of Days opening for My Darkest Days (the shows were technically beginning of December). Lots of fun and it was as if things picked right up from the summer. There's word of a tour or two next year so we'll see what happens there... as much as I love the studio life... sometimes it's good to change it up... and it's always good to see things from the other side of the glass.
(... yeah I'm hurrying... I have a system though.)
Sometimes it's hard to find the time… and sometimes finding the time to find the time is a problem in itself. I do my best to write these near the end of the month instead of the beginning of the next month but honestly, sometimes there's just so much I'd like to talk about that it's overwhelming... so before we get into double digit days of November *cough*… here's October.
Early in the month, Breached finally used their prize from last years CMW "demo listening panel thing" which was a day at the brand new (and hugely big large) Revolution Recording studio. This place is huge… and awesome.
The plan was to film and record an acoustic EP with the time instead of record a song or something. For the type of band they are and the production style involved to "do things right", recording a song just didn't make sense. If you plan properly, odds are you can maximize your time and energy… all without leaving the other side (who donated the prize) feeling taken advantage of.
(...or sad... confused... and alone.)
The day was pretty relaxed… the Love & Crossbones (film/video) crew were all very fun and professional, while the house engineer(s) and staff were all very pleasant to work with... something I sort of miss from my days at Pocket Studios.
Having my own place, I work alone a lot, which has it's pros and cons. If I had to choose one over the other though… working with a great team is the way to go for sure. Dynamics are important in life and the dynamic you get from being part of a great team can be one of the best things about any job. Often it's a delicate balance, but so far, the vibe is good there. Revolution beyond a studio really, it's a creative space.
I skipped out early to play hockey that night but it was reassuring to know they were in good hands. It's a nice change to just enjoy hanging out in a studio… as a fan… even though I was technically there to produce it.
UPDATE: The Breached EP is mixed and ready to go… just waiting to finish up the video aspect and hopefully I can share it soon!
(... and now...)
The last few years I've been quite active during Toronto's big 3 indie music festivals/conferences (CWM, NXNE, Indieweek). This was the first time in a while I didn't really get out too much. I'd typically check the schedule, plan my route, hope the weather co-operates, and then enjoy my evening(s) checking out bands with a friend or two. I found the schedule tough to navigate online this year… serious side note for a minute… why can't these festivals get the schedules right? I understand there's a lot of info to organize but really… they always seem to be missing something I'd consider important… like genre, hometown, set time, etc. I'd be awesome if you could quickly scan through the schedule or filter on an app by genre... then at least you'd know what kind of acts to expect... you just can't get enough info from the artist/band name and venue.
So the last couple years I've been asked to judge for indie week… all good... it's fun to watch some bands and give opinions… the latter being something everyone has to and loves to do in this line of work. I can't remember how behind schedule the show was, but when I got there, on time, there wasn't much going on at all… just the bar staff and a few volunteers milling about. Classic. At least I had time to grab food and meet up with some friends in town close to the venue. Eventually I got a text from another judge that the show was starting and I made my way back over to the venue.
If there's one thing that sets pro shows apart from amateurs regarding shows… it's set times. Pro shows run on time. I don't know how they do it, but rarely do bands hit the stage more than 5-10 minutes later than they're scheduled at a well run show.
Oh wait, I do know how they do it... people get in shit for showing up late and not going on stage on time. There are penalties, consequences and repercussions for not doing things the way organizers had planned to run the show.
A personal favorite is the excuse to push back a show until "our fans get there".
Seriously... if you tell them you're on at 10pm, and they show up at 10:45... they aren't your fans... they are your friends... and apparently your friends don't care enough to see your band... they care enough to come out and have a few drinks whenever they feel like it.
(... make sense?)
The thing is... trying to schedule hundreds of bands in a weekend and not having a strictly enforced schedule screws up peoples evenings. If you're trying to showcase bands and people can't see the bands, this defeats the purpose of buying a wristband that gets you into multiple venues over several nights to see as many bands as the festival encourages. There's been times I've shown up to find out a band isn't on for 30 minutes… and times I've shown up, on time, and a band is already halfway through their set.
Again. I don't get it. I don't get why 90% of shows that could run on time, don't run on time. It's one of my deal breakers when it comes to sticking around at shows... since I'm actually there to see the bands… so when there's no bands… and considering how much sleep and free time I get… I'd rather be doing something else that late at night… usually involving house pants, a bowl of cheerios, and watching happy wheels.
(... a little window into my life.)
That being said, the show Saturday night was really solid. I think it was one of the strongest lineups I've seen… definitely the strongest I've got to judge. Every band looked great, sounded great, had some memorable tunes, and the atmosphere of the venue magnified the energy. Good times. I felt good about the band that won the night and knew they'd represent well at the finals the following day.
Speaking of… the finals were great too. Being held at Tattoo, there's a great stage, audience set up, and sound system to showcase the finalists. It's a shame Tattoo seems to hate bands and treat them like shit… but that night seemed to be an exception since I hardly noticed.
Right from the get go, the acts were solid, entertaining, and had a nice blend of pro polish and scrappy DIY. Lots of genres represented… folk, rock, metal, instrumental electro jazz… I skipped out to grab a bite to eat at one point, but a couple things I thought were missing were hiphop/urban and RnB.
Last years winners were Tiny Danza (aka Nixon now which is a whole 'nother topic). I didn't catch them that night but I'd seen them before. Even if they weren't your cup of tea, you knew they were good… no argument. There were lots of great acts that night as well, and it seemed like everything was represented for the most part. This year, it just seemed odd none of those acts made it through.
(... I notice these things.)
It was a great night overall though… more a celebration of bands and artists doing what they love, after countless hours in the rehearsal spaces, showcasing what they've come up with. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Congrats again to Burning The Day on taking home the top prize. I had my own top 3 and they were in it for sure. I was surprised the judges gave them the edge in some ways but in others, how could you not. Sometimes it gets down to criteria on a sheet, sometimes it's doing what you know is the right thing to do… and sometimes you do what you feel is the cool thing to do... possibly because you're out of touch. Take that however you want, regardless, Ireland will enjoy what's coming there way.
Finally, the new Morgan Sadler EP is done! Mixed, mastered, and in the can! You can check out the songs here, here, here, and here. I'm really happy with how things turned out and looking forward to posting the songs when the time comes. Morgan's been thinking a lot about how to release, redefine, and basically launch her new music and "brand". It works from the ground up these days which has many advantages… in the long run for sure. We've had quite a few brainstorming sessions and I'm looking forward to where she's at in a year... or two.
... and now to finish writing November.
(... I'm working on it.)
"... use it or lose it."
September was one of those months I feel like I did a bunch of stuff… but don't know what I did exactly. I had a few hours to think about what I wanted to write about during my flight back from Edmonton the other night… a common thread for last month? Professionalism. There's a couple main points I'd like to make and I'll do my best to keep this to a toilet sitting's length.
Early in the month I finished mixing Sarah Shafey's next album. First and foremost, Sarah, and Donna Grantis (who c0-produced the album) were a pleasure to work with and I think we're all happy with the results. Initially though, my radar went off that Sarah could potentially be difficult to work with. This is nothing personal, this is based purely on past experiences with similar artists.
"... if it happens once..."
Sarah is very organized.
How is this a potential problem? Over the past couple years I've accepted a few things about musicians… one of them being, be cautious of musicians who don't act like "musicians". That doesn't mean they have to be a complete train wreck… but there's typically a large grey area around details like timelines, deadlines, payment schedules, reading/comprehension, financial priorities, common sense, etc. You know… little things. They'll get done, you just have to accept the patience necessary that come with the lifestyle.
Sarah showed up to the first mix tweak session with point form notes, for all the songs, and copies for each of us.
I love point form notes for mix tweaks… tell me what you want, not how you feel. There's lots of code names I can decipher (eg. "warmer", "darker", "brighter", "Bohnam"), but for the most part, just tell me in almost primal terms what you want.
It's simple that way. It's not being rude, it's being specific. You don't have to describe the neighbourhood when what I really need to know is the address.
Sarah also mixes and engineers, and this is her album.
"... you're here to ruin everything... aren't you."
We all have our ways of doing things and what sounds right to us… sometimes knowing too much about what happens behind the curtain is just as annoying as assuming you know what happens behind the curtain. This wasn't the case at all with Sarah though, it just made it easier for her to articulate what she was thinking.
Bottom line, being organized has a couple ends. On the bad end, it's simply an obsessive attempt at micro-managing with a side order of unrealistic expectations. Instead, you should be able to roll with the setbacks and not prevent progress when there are opportunities to get ahead.
Another problem with badly highly organized people, is they're always aiming to hit the bullseye as opposed to crossing the finish line. They'll constantly reset the cycle, thinking another attempt will give better results. Imagine you're driving and you see the same intersection 4 times… yes, you're still moving but chances are there's something wrong with your directions and/or your sense of direction. I think that's the problem with artists that can't finish in general. We don't always have to come in first or hit the bullseye. Completing art is about getting it across the line... that being said, where you set the line is up to you.
On the good side of being organized... efficiency, focus, and endgame vision.
I did a spec mix for a band early last month. I do spec mixes often and although my track record for getting the project is pretty good… sometimes I don't, they let me know, and it's totally cool. Considering our initial meeting, this particular project seemed like it was for sure, just going through the normal paces to know what I'm getting into time wise.
They explained early on how the previous studio they'd recorded at had screwed them over a little (red flag) and that they had a tight timeline. I turned over the spec mix within the week and explained it'd be best to have the rest of the songs asap if they wanted it done by the end of Sept/early Oct.
One week goes by… nothing.
Two weeks go by… still no response.
Response from management was they didn't know what's up either.
"... something seems off."
By this point I'd already assumed I wasn't getting the project but it wasn't official until I saw the band posting about mixing at the original studio on Facebook... Facebook official!? It's not like people aren't going to find out what you're up to, it's just that you look like a bit of a knob for leaving people in the dark or directly attempting to indirectly mislead them. Then again, with some people, it just doesn't cross their mind to say anything for whatever reason.
"... most of the time, it's better to say something, all of the time."
The main annoyance isn't the poor communication though, again, musicians being musicians. It's the time I don't get back. I blocked out a chunk of time to do the project since they were on a tight schedule and it seemed like all things were "go". It's not about how long the band/artist thinks a project will take... I do a mix on spec to see how long I know it'll take me. I don't want to cut corners or wear myself thin trying to hit a deadline if it's unnecessary. It sucks to look in the mirror and see dark circles under your eyes from a project that just wasn't worth it. So lack of communication is one thing, and I know the band will have their excuses, but the long and the short of it is, it's unprofessional… not to mention it leaves a mark on the people who referred them. Will it end someones career? Of course not… but acting unprofessional rarely helps in the long run.
So bands/artists, just keep these things in mind when someone doesn't bend on budgets, timelines, and deposits. Another band or artist before you is to blame. They got there first and messed it up. It's up to you to break tradition.
"... just stay the fuck away from this tradition."
So, with that out of the way… I was blessed with the presence of The Pecan Sandies later in the month who were in to record a few more tunes for an upcoming release. They were in earlier this year and were just as much fun this time around. It's a simple 2-piece, baritone guitar and drums driven rock outfit, and easily one of my favourite acts in the city. They talked about a few of their video ideas and I can't wait to see them completed and out in the real world… two great musicians making simple music they love and have fun playing. What a concept.
Lastly, as I made a slick reference too early in this post, I was in Edmonton last weekend to record drums for some new Tupelo Honey songs. I love mentioning these types of gigs to people… their response is a mix of "that's cool!" to "why would they bring you all the way out there? Is there nobody out there who could record it? Are you actually THAT good at recording drums? Am I in the presence of drum recording royalty or somethin'??"… yeah that last bit sounds better in a Joe Pesci voice… seriously though… some people make comments like anybody could do it... which is 100% true… to a point… but when it gets down to it, it's shitloads more fun to work with your friends, and much easier to work with people you've worked with a lot in the past.
"... good times... it's a team sport."
The recording process is just that, a process. The more you work with people, the more you understand their process and don't have to say much to know what's going on. Like most things in life, it's more fun when you're good at it. Put a good producer, a good engineer, a good drummer, and a good assistant (to glue everything together) in a room for few hours, good things happen… and we have fun in the process.
I usually see the Tupelo guys when they're in Toronto… it's been years now since we first met and the visits are frequent enough I forget they're on the other side of the country. We've flown Greg to Toronto a couple times to track drums here, so it was fun to go out there for a change and I'm glad Jeff (producer) threw the idea by me and the invite. It was a quick trip but felt more like a visit with friends than actual work.
… then again work rarely feels like work... and on that note...
"do, do, do, do, do, duhdoo, do
do, do, do, do, do, duhdoo, do
do, do, do, do, dooooo0000."
"... for every question, there's an answer."
August… let's start with the easy.
The Parabelle album is out… it actually came out like 5 times it seems like. I woke up one morning to see posts on Facebook about how the Kickstarter folks had received a zip file over night with the new album in it. This was a bit of a surprise since they were aiming to get them the physical copy 2 weeks before the actual album release date (August 28th)... but manufacturing hiccups set things off course a bit.
(... shut your big damn mouth Big Bird.)
These days, I say just put it out. Once it's ready… just put it out and let it roam free on the internet.
I think the days are gone of the big hype machine for an album… considering the days of the full length album are in question anyway. If people are waiting for it, they'll hype themselves up. We can still let people know when something is coming out… but I find it kinda lame when bands get a little too hype-y about something nobody is waiting for.
We all need exposure for the music, but ultimately word of mouth is the best way for it to get around. This takes time, especially in the beginning. Not long ago, if a single or album didn't react right away, say within the first couple weeks, we'd consider it a flop. These days, it can take months for something to catch on and even then, you should still be constantly working on and releasing new quality material.
Granted Kevin has been releasing material for 7+ years through Evans Blue and now Parabelle, one band has 140k+ likes, while the other is approaching 10k. That's the difference exposure makes though... EB had a couple songs on the radio early on... Parabelle... close to no radio support so far. They've been working other areas, building up their fan base through regional touring and word of mouth... being approachable and reachable at shows and online creates an engaging relationship. The fans feel like they're part of the process opposed to of just a consumer. This builds core fans and it's all about the core fans, they're the ones who keep you alive.
(... it's all about meeting people and makin' friends.)
The response has been great for the new album though. I'm always a little anxious when an album gets released… I imagine it's similar to that "kids first day of school" feeling… quite fitting right now. I know I like it… I know the band (unless they're lying) like it… but that doesn't mean the fans will... and pleasing your fans is part of the equation. It's about creating a balance between trying new things, but still keeping enough of the familiarity.
You have to leave time to experiment during the writing process as well as in the studio. Sometimes you hit on something you feel is great first try, other times, you know there's a good idea in there... it just takes a while to refine it. When it's right though, you know it... and that's where listening to your gut comes in. One of the hard parts of producing is learning and knowing how to listen to your gut. It's not always the most popular opinion in the room… but when it thinks it's right, or more importantly thinks something is wrong, it'll keep you awake at night until you act on it.
(... and if you don't, it'll haunt you forever... until you die... and then a bit past that.)
Another surprise... they decided to post some of the album demos on BandCamp.
Throughout the year, they passed me about 20+ demos and from those we went over some ideas and directions for the album. The demos posted included a few tunes that, although we still felt were good, just didn't fit with what we were aiming for or were simply replaced by a stronger tunes later on.
I think it's neat for fans to be able to hear "demos". The process of record making is pretty raw and messy at times, so being able to include some "behind the scenes" content so easily these days is awesome. It's safe to say most of us on this side of the glass have heard the raw Motown, U2, and Led Zepplin tracks by now… we geek out over them because we can hear the in between stuff... the kind of stuff I refer to as "hiding the body" during the mix stage. We get graded on the final result… but there's lots of gems and lessons in the process for those who are listening.
(... you have to understand the angles of your audience.)
... I've made 5 albums with Kev now ( 2 w/ Evans Blue, 3 w/ Parabelle)… just thought of that.
I should do a post on 'Melody' sometime. I have a lot of memories from that record... not to mention how much I learned making that record. It was the first one (label wise) I felt I really had a big part of... I knew people were going to hear it. There was very little pressure on me and only had one person to report to, that being the producer (Trevor Kustiak), but I can only imagine how much pressure was on him. Considering the success of Cold (but I'm still here) I'm sure all the higher-ups wanted to get their fingers in stuff... feel like they're contributing. There's lots of people who feel the need to put in their $0.02... especially if they feel it's their money being spent.
The record turned out pretty good and seems to be a favorite from EB fans. I still get emails from EB fans saying everything from simply "great stuff!" to "I wish we could work on an album together". Considering that album came out 2006... I'd consider it a success if people still care about it.
(... and it feels good.)
So... back to August, for those who are wondering, I have been busy this past month. It was split pretty much 50/50 between producing some new Morgan Sadler tunes and mixing Sarah Shafey's next album. I'm equally excited about both but I'll start with Morgan…
Morgan is a singer/songwriter/pianist. When we talked about what she wanted to do (hear), we spent quite a bit of time listening to references and talking about where we'd like to draw inspiration from. All these references are "full band". Morgan is a singer, songwriting, and plays piano.
One of the things that grinds my gears is when producers steamroll what an artist is, at their core. This is often under the disguise of "development", but if you strip away all the extra instruments and production, does the artist remain intact? Do they still know what makes them "them"? Can they still write songs they're happy with if the producer is out of the picture?
A good producer will bring out the best in a band, but with solo artists, you really have to listen to what they want to do, and decide before you start, or very close too, if you think you can deliver. You can still put your sonic signature on a recording but it shouldn't overpower the artist. We're a spice, not a main course. The initial chemistry between artist and producer is the key to understanding where the limits are... and experience working together builds the trust needed to push them.
I'll keep this short since we're both pretty excited with how its turning out… it should be all wrapped up this month… and hopefully it comes out on YouTube not long after.
YouTube is the new radio… just a reminder.
The Sarah Shafey album is a mix project referral from Donna Grantis. Donna and I met a couple years ago during a quick tour playing together in Dane Hartsell's band. It's nice hearing from old friends and always fun to hear and see how others track their records. There are some solid players on this album! It's nice hearing great takes and people playing together. We're just into the mix tweak/touchup stage but I'll be sure to pass along some links once it's released.
Some side notes…
Both of my hockey teams made it to their division finals which took place this week. One just came up short 4-3, the other took home the top prize in a shoot out. Both were great games and it's always fun feeling some pressure. Fall/Winter season starts up in a couple weeks... it's always nice to get a fresh start. That's one of the things I love about my job... with each new project, I feel like I get a fresh start. You're always learning new things throughout the process when you take a project from start to finish.
I achieved 100% failure rate in heading to the cottage last month. Too busy. Way she goes… but if it stays warm… that's the plan this month. Plus, considering how much it's rained recently, the fire bans are definitely off now. I haven't had a summer until I've roasted marshmallows.
(August... we got some new shit on Mars.)
Mike Langford - Official Blog
Being on both sides of the glass, I get the chance to wear many hats in the music industry. This is a place to share my thoughts, views, predictions, rants, stories and news!