recording notes: 4/23-24/09
recording notes 4-09
house of david, nashville
cut 4 songs today, in this order:
Don’t Stop Me This Time
KG, Joe Mc, Scott Martin, Ron Eoff, Paul Griffith
I’m a little brain-dead this morning–another night of abbreviated sleep. But I’m excited about how things went in the studio yesterday. We got (what we think are) great tracks for four songs–the band sounded incredible. In this order, we recorded:
Don’t Stop Me This Time
We had cut Gloryland previously, with the same band, at Wow and Flutter back in September, but because of my own lack of allegiance to the click track, it was obvious we’d need to do it again. (For everything recorded back in September, we recorded my guitar and vocal first, to a click, then the rhythm section came in and played to those tracks–which worked fine, except for this song). So because everyone was familiar with it, we cut it first. Several good takes, but the first ended up being the best overall rhythm track. My own effort wasn’t the best, but we’re probably going to re-cut my rhythm guitar track anyway, for tone-related reasons. We took a lunch break–everyone else had been working on sounds for a while before I’d gotten there, dragging in a little later than expected, so after a couple of hours on G-land, a break was in order.
Don’t Stop Me This Time is a new song–or a song I’ve finished in the last few months, after revisiting one of my favorite work-tape fragments from a cassette dated 2002. I’ve been playing it out some, so some of you have heard it already. Got two good takes; I’m personally not sure yet which one I like better. It’s a little early for that.
Black Dog–another newly completed song–and again, based on something I started a few years ago. I’d had the refrain section, musically and lyrically, for years–only in the last couple of months did the rest of it reveal itself. This is gonna sound funny, but it’s one of the most musical songs I’ve written yet. I don’t know how I found all the chords for the bridge, but I know they didn’t arrive because of years of formal study. All I can say is, when I was writing it, I could hear the notes in my head, and that told me where to put my fingers when I was singing the melody. This will make more sense when you hear it. I hope. I’m saying this more out of astonishment than pride. I think it works, and the track is great. (Again we have two hell-yes takes to choose from). Both Don’t Stop and Black Dog are intensely personal songs, facing some of my own drama and demons, which, I think, resemble those of a lot of other people.
Pecolia’s Star is about a woman named Pecolia Warner, whose voice I encountered in a book by William Ferris called Local Color, about folk artists in Mississippi. Warner was an African-American quilter from Yazoo City. Each chapter of the book is written as a first-person monologue, so it’s like you’re hearing her voice in your head while you’re reading. Something about her voice made the song happen, that’s all I can say. The verses are written in her voice, and the chorus shifts to third-person. I don’t think I’ve done that before. It’s a quieter song than the others, so was a great way to finish up the session. I had used the ES-125 on the first three tracks, but for this song, on Joe’s suggestion, changed to a Telecaster. I played through Don Hamilton’s beautiful blackface Deluxe amp for all four tracks. Thank you again, Don, for the loan.
We’re going back in today to try to get four or five more. It’s a good groove–working in a studio like House of David creates a kind of focus that’s hard to get when recording at a home studio. Windows are all covered, so you don’t know if it’s dawn or dark outside. Makes it easier to listen, somehow.
I was posting updates on Twitter yesterday (kevingordonmuzk, if you want to follow)–until my phone battery died, and will do the same today, time and work permitting. (Yes, I know, those updates are called tweets, but I still can’t use that word and not LOL.)
We got down to work by 11ish, me running a half-hour late per usual, arriving at the studio with everyone else up on the deck, cooling their heels and smoking, looking down at me. Cut 4 more, in this order:
One I Love
Don’t Take It All
(song w/working title:”Bus to Shreveport/Don’t Tell”)
Trying to Get to Memphis
This gives us a total of 12 tracks, counting the four keepers from the September session. There are still some songs left, which will be recorded in a more stripped-down format at Wow and Flutter.
“One I Love” is a co-write with Gwil Owen, and is the closest the Ramones ever got to sounding like KG, ha ha. Lot of fun going primal on this one. I gotta admit–this song was a dark-horse going in, but the track’s so good, it’s almost certain to make the record.
Went to lunch at The Woodlands–vegetarian Indian food. Excellent–and as Ron is fond of saying, it was “fluffy, not stuffy”.
“Don’t Take It All” is a slower, darker piece, and it took a couple of hours to get it. I’d never settled on the music for the solo section, but for obvious reasons, had to come up with something. Which took a little time. But the track turned out great, with Ron playing some cool fretless bass.
“Bus to Shreveport”: my favorite track of the day. It’s unfinished, but we cut it that way on purpose. It’s a narrative about the time I rode the greyhound to Shreveport, from Monroe, at the age of 12, to go see ZZ Top at Hirsch Coliseum, with an uncle who was 18, 19 at the time, and his kinda impulsive friend Hank. A big adventure, that’s all I’ll say right now. The song and the way we recorded it seem to capture the seedy S’port rock n’roll vibe; it rocks like _____(insert your personal favorite expletive) and doesn’t hide any of the fun we had cutting it. Good thing.
“Trying to Get to Memphis” is an oddball; I finished it last year and have only played it live a few times, solo. A guy knocked on our door one night, asking for gas money to get to Memphis, because his wife’s mother was gravely ill. But more about the way situations like this make me feel–how it’s impossible to know if the story’s true, and what to do about it. The vibe of the track is like nothing else I’ve ever done.
Dinner was a 2nd night in a row of Five Guys . . . not a very healthy option, but after a full day of recording, those bags of greasy treats looked mighty fine. Loaded out, and got a CD burned of the rough mixes, and got home at 12:45. Took a Benadryl and slid off to la-la land.
Listened to the roughs this morning in the car, coming back from taking the kids to play at a friend’s house up in Greenbrier. It’s exciting to hear so much new stuff at once, but you’re constantly reminded of the “rough” nature of the tracks. Some of my vocals are good, some not so much, but either way, at this point are really only there to guide the band through the arrangement of the song. Guitars, too–inevitably what you thought was the perfect tone or part for the track will end up sounding not so perfect after some studying. So now it’s back to Joe’s studio, Wow and Flutter, to add additional parts, re-do existing ones, and cut more songs. A big thanks to the band, who worked tirelessly and absolutely killed: Joe McMahan, Ron Eoff, Paul Griffith, and Scott Martin. And to Mr. McMahan again, who somehow manages to function brilliantly as producer while simultaneously playing his ass off; and to Adam Bednarik, (alter ego: Porcelain Man), doing a great job at the console. Will keep you posted; I think we’ve got a good one here.