This Closeup is Part 3/5 in a series dedicated to the process of recording an EP with YSP Featured Writer Dan Knight. I’ve asked Dan to document most of the process, but since Day 2 in-studio was spent largely focused on drums, which I recorded, I’ll be guestwriting this section of the guest feature.
Wednesday, June 25th
6 – 7 p.m. – Arrival and Setup
Being a world famous rock star isn’t easy—or at least, I no longer imagine it to be so after commuting twice nightly between London and Sinthany Studios. (O! Woah is me.) That said, Justin Sinnaeve, the producer on our EP, has been more than obliging in accommodating our late-night studio time requests, and always supplies plenty of Fresh Pots (and a rainbow of liquorice).
7 – 8 p.m. – Practice
Dan and I discovered a few things about recording very quickly: you’ll never nail a perfect take on your first take; roughly jamming the different pieces of song arrangements is not the same as preparing and endlessly practicing a rigidly structured song for a recording; recording guitar scratch tracks with a metronome is difficult; recording guitar scratch tracks with a metronome is necessary.
After an hour or so playing through the songs, Dan and I quickly realized that our scratch tracks, without a click/metronome, were driven by Dan’s natural rhythms and muddled slightly by a sense of live-performance urgency: some parts were cut short, high energy parts sped up (and then slowed to overcompensate) and counts for verses and choruses were often inconsistent. Still, I was convinced that I could ‘feel’ my way through the song rhythms and go all Enema of the State Era Travis Barker (who, filling in for then-drummer Scott Raynor, learned blink’s 20-song setlist 2 hours before a show and played flawlessly).
8 – 9 p.m. – Attempt recording with scratch tracks
Shockingly, that didn’t happen. After practicing the songs a few times, I stepped up to the plate and tried to record the drum tracks playing along with the guitar scratches we had recorded. Unfortunately, the inconsistency between the recorded scratches, our pre-practiced versions, and our day-of jamming made recording tight drums a near impossibility.
I’ll go on record as saying that the difficulties I had at the kit were largely those same difficulties that drove me to quit playing hockey as a kid (thanks, Dad). Oedipal issues aside, the mental games one plays after multitudinous hangups and mistakes become distracting. “Just play the songs,” I would say to myself. “Just play the songs, and don’t make any mistakes. Like that one kick beat you keep slipping on—yeah, that one, that one that’s coming up right th—OH! you missed it…again.” Fatigue seemed to increase exponentially, so that an occasional missed note based on muscle soreness quickly became the complete inability to play certain kick patterns based on pre-conceived expectations.
Each mistake, through repetition and mounting anxiety, became engrained as part of the song. There was a habitual element to my self-fulfilling prophecies of failure that, I think, frustrated everyone else in the booth probably even more so than they did me. (Just like when I was a 10-years old playing minor hockey.)
9 – 10:30 p.m. – Attempt recording together
Justin, with a fine sense of musical acuity that most musically-oriented persons would sell kidneys for, contrived a system through which Dan and I could preserve the organic, basement-band sound with which our music was conceived. Unfortunately, after adjusting to the faithfully sporadic, click-less scratch tracks, playing the songs tightly enough for recording, even with Dan’s live guitar leading me, proved nearly impossible.
We jammed. We played three of our songs, over, and over, and over. The incredulity of it all was that we failed to nail a single song. Perhaps it was in studio pressure, perhaps it was that we hadn’t consumed enough fresh pots (I think we did, considering we had enough coffee to give an Elephant incontinence and/or kidney failure), but as frustration mounted, Dan and I became increasingly out of sync.
We resolved to return to the studio on Friday, to re-record our scratches with a click, and then to record the drum parts (which is probably the way we should have agreed to do it in the first place, but we’re stubborn).
Despite my frustrations, I was thrilled with the experience had unto that point. Recording music is a profoundly unique experience, and one that I’m grateful to have crossed off of my bucketlist.
10:30-12.a.m. – The Drive Poem
Chubby Chicken wrappers
chipotle sauce and tear-salt
I’m going on a diet
(as soon as
(we finish this record