Songsmithing #1 & #2

I’d like to do a new blog post after each recording session for Titled. Since we’ve done exactly two recording sessions thus far, both will be discussed here. In these kind of posts, you’re going to get some details as best as I remember them from the sessions, as well as some title leaks. This is basically for the person that’s interested in the creative process and for gearheads that like knowing about nitty-gritty aspects of the recording process. I’ll try to not do that thing where we assume you totally know what we been by certain bits of kit and I’ll post some links. These aren’t sponsored links. We’re not trying to get you to order something from Amazon in order to get a cut. Just trying to be helpful for those who care. If you have any questions, by all means, ask.

#1

John, Sam, and I got together and went over some of the titles. Immediately, the title that we knew would give us the most guff was “Please Don’t Kick Me Where The Sun Don’t Shine.” And the reason we thought this was…well, it’s intentionally meant to be humorous, right? But it’s like, a dated, juvenile, pickin’ n’ grinnin’ kind of humor. Like something a slow-talking cowhand might say in a Yosemite Sam cartoon. It’s also a bit crude, but in fairness, it didn’t violate any of the criteria we initially set, and so we let it ride. So since it has a Western quality, we were thinking in that direction…but there’s another song called “The Balld of Zombie Bill” and that just begs for Western sounds, so that was mixed and then we thought, what if the place where the “sun don’t shine” was like, your heart, man. Deep.

Ultimately, Sam said, “What if the song was just the most totally serene, beautiful, and simple thing ever?” And we thought it was pretty darn interesting (and a bit chuckle-worthy) to have that contrast. A title that leads you one way, and a work that leads you in a another, and thus, they kind of work in tandem to give the listener a differen impression of each. Sure.

For this, Sam used his Kaosspad to generate a white noise loop through his Fender Deluxe Reverb and Vox AC15, and hopped behind the piano and played these simple, chord paths that leave you dangling in the air until the next one comes around. It’s almost like you’re a feather in freefall, and swift little breezes are batting you about every now and then. That’s a little corny, sorry. But c’mon, we’re talkin’ about music here. Let’s get freakin’ ephemeral.

We also worked on the song that I’m going to title. Admittedly, while the idea is to write music inspired by titles, this music came before I finalized my title. But! I began writing the music during the run of the Kickstarter while thinking about the time of ambient sounds I wanted to create on this album, so really, the music was inspired by the project in general. I think it counts.

Basically, I had a very simple pattern based mainly around 9th chords, and an atmospheric sound in my head that I had been unable to recreate at home. At Sam’s, I plugged my PRS SE Custom 24 through is rig, but I couldn’t get the clarity I needed. He recommended I try his Elvis Costello Signature Jazzmaster. It was better. Still a bit muddy. We used a Boss Equalizer pedal to drop the mids a bit. Sam turned his Eventide PitchFactor to an Octave setting and we ran stereo through his Deluxe Reverb (reverb cranked) and his AC15, but John and I weren’t feeling it. He left to go make a drink and I started moving throught he setting on the Eventide and fell in love with the setting called Nice Chorus. It’s a very subtle chorus, but there’s a pulsy undertone. I flipped on his MagnaVibe pedal for one of the channels and it was awesome. He came back and scoffed at the chorus effect. He’s not a fan of chorus. but admitted it sounded good. He saw I was using the Magnavibe and said, “Why not use the real thing?” We diconnected the AC15 from the chain and used his Magnatone Troubador instead and cranked the vibrato on it. Gorgeous. I think we may have had his Endangered Audio Analog Delay in the mix too. He started a click track and off I went, making half the song up as I went. We’ll be coming back to it to add more.

#2

Sam strapped on my Univox Badazz bass and started running a beefy riff. That bass doesn’t do clean. Just can’t be done. It runs hot n’ growly and don’t play nice, no sir. He ran it through his rig of the AC15 and Deluxe Reverb, and also ran a third line into my Ampeg BA-115 combo. Heavy stuff. John got behind the drums. I grabbed Sams’ Strat loaded with Lace Sensors and cranked up my Vox AC50. Within seconds we knew we had “The Ballad of Zombie Bill.” You know, when I first envisioned the song, I thought of spaghetti western sounds, but this new almost-Robert Rodriguez sound we had was WAY more that title.

We decided to take this one to tape and run it all live. Miked up everything as we had it live except we took the BA-115 out of the chain and just DI’d it. Partially to get the DI sound and partially because it’s right under my AC50 and we didn’t want hte bleed. So of the 8 inputs, we had 3 on the bass. One of the guitar, and 4 on the drums (two overhead, snare and kick).

After a few run throughs, we were off. Did about 5 takes and we’re using the last two. Sam transferred it onverr to his Korg DAW and cranked the tape speed way down for the intro, which sounds so badass, i almost want the whole song that way. We’re gonna use the ending of one take and add it as an extended end of another. A few touch ups here to get the mix, but man, it sounds like such a 60’s garage band B-side. The Kick mic input didn’t work for some reason, so we may have to overdub some kick, but personally, I like it how it is now, soft kick and big snare. That was a pretty typical mix on many older songs. Guitar was runing through a 20:1 setting on my MXR Bass Compressor, Danelectro Cool Cat Transparent Overdrive V1 for a bit more gain, MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay, and a nearly maxed out Tile setting on a Line 6 Verbzilla for one part. Sam was just pure raw bass with some increased gain on the amps, and he screamed through the pickups for the end.

We also threw a single guitar line back on “Please Don’t Kick Me Where the Sun Don’t Shine.” Strat, neck pickup through the rig as decribed above. One close mic, two far away. Simple 4 note line just to add an anomaly to the tune.

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