Anecdotes #3: September 21, 2020 – Awake as the Sun, Endeavour, The Gatekeeper, Apathy, Star-Off Machine

 

Whoops. I know I said I was – and I quote – “document what I’m writing and recording in real-time, on this here part of the website”, that’s not quite happened yet, has it? So here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to over the past month.

I bought an amp! Yes, a real-life amp that makes amazing horrible loud noises and needs a microphone to record. I’ve been experimenting with sounds and mic positions, and eventually ended up with what you see on the right of this entry. You know, the standard off-centre position an inch or two from the front of the amp.

Despite the lack of control over the sound once it’s laid down on ‘tape’, I’m finding it does tend to sound a lot better generally in the mix – it has an edge to it, a weightiness the software modelling amps are missing. I’m not sure how else to describe it.

Anyway, so I’ve been laying down guitar parts on a few unfinished songs – sometimes replacing otherwise fully-done guitar tracks using software. They include ‘Apathy’ – a track I released years ago under a different name, but a really shitty version, honestly; and ‘Endeavour’, a song I wrote no less than 20 years ago. That one used to get played in a band I was in at the time, which turned an otherwise short punky tune into an extended drone of noise and Sonic Youth excessiveness. Hopefully capture a little bit of that in this new recording. Remains to be seen whether I can hit the high notes – perhaps I should have transposed it down a few semitones…

I’ve also added a lead guitar part to a slower tune, ‘Awake as the Sun’ – did that today! Left the original modelling rhythm tracks on that one – they have a nice lo-fi grunge to them that suits the tune, and there are some improvised/noise parts I’m loathe to try and reproduce. Took out the big-sounding Albini-style drums and replaced them with a flatter close-miced kit – really adds to the claustrophobic closet-sound of the tune, which bursts out when the lead guitar starts. Did the vocals today too – it’s always terrifying mixing a relatively clean vocal, so added some flange to hide my insecurities.

As for another tune I’ve been working on, ‘Star-Off Machine’ (every parent with a collection of Dr Seuss books in the house knows what this is about), same deal with the guitars as above – it’s not meant to be a well-produced rock monster, and the modelled amps (using Overloud software) will do the trick. Spent today doing the vocals, then the usual endless mixing and remixing to try and get them to fit… only to land on a relatively clean mix with little processing. As you do.

Last but certainly not least, worked on a tune called ‘The Gatekeeper’. It was on contention for the Bunkerland album, but was left off as falling on the ‘poppier’ end of the spectrum. That record was more about the grunge. Just as well though – I replaced the modelled guitars with some amped takes, and it sounds much, much better. Different style – the original had the Big Muff Pi all over them, the new takes are more stripped back with just a bit of light distortion.

There were some modelled lead parts in the background of the synth solo which I’ve left in – they’ve got all these weird effects on them and aren’t the main focus, so left them alone. Might do that vocal next week!

Finished the day off mastering ‘Awake as the Sun’ and ‘Star-Off Machine’ – I guess that’s the next single?