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Geez, talk about slackin’… Truth be told, there hasn’t been much to write about since my last entry. T2 departed a week ago (on his 22nd birthday!) and B and I have pretty much just been enjoying a little mellowness before we depart on Friday.

Well somewhat mellowness I suppose. We finished the first round of mixes last Wednesday; the day Tom left. We then had a nice break between then and Monday when Francis returned home. I can’t say it’s been totally peaceful though. There is still a masterpiece to complete and the further along it goes, the more pressure there is to make sure everything is just how we want it. You really miss the other three members dearly when all the instantaneous decision making falls on the two of our heads. You get so used to a five man panel, that when its reduced to just two, every decision seems so heavy. Of course they sent along their notes, but a lot of what one person says differs from the next and without the ability of debate, B and I have to make the final choice. Timesaving yes, stress-saving no…

So what else can be said? The songs sound great. Many of them exceeded all my expectations which creates an interesting perception problem when I listen to them. You see, for instance, we have a song called ‘Radio’ which was one of our stronger tracks coming in, but – once recorded – it sounds exactly how I pictured it. There are no surprises; it came in a great track and it leaves a great track. On the other hand there are songs like ‘Seamless’. A song I had a plan for, but no wild expectations. In the end, it blows my mind with how far along it came and how gorgeous it sounds, but is it actually better than ‘Radio’ now, or is it simply that it blew all my expectations for it away that gives me that perception? Tough to say, but fuck, it’s a great catch 22 to be in, that’s for sure.

I know how hard it must be for a teacher to mark their students work now. You have the kid that gets 95%, and above, on everything. When he hands in his final paper you expect 95% results, but if he only gets a 90% you’re probably somewhat disappointed with him. On the other hand, the kid scraping by with a 50%, hands in an ‘A’ paper for his final. It was no 90% but are you now more impressed with the kid who got the 80%?? Does he leave you with the better final impression? And was his paper truly an ‘A’ paper or did you mark a ‘B’ paper more leniently because it came from a ‘D’ student?

Lets just say after 6 weeks here, my brain is tired. I’ve been so engulfed with these songs for so long now that I don’t even know what to think of them anymore. I’ve played, listened to or analyzed them every day for months and it doesn’t stop, even after they’re recorded. But then again, maybe that’s not for me to worry about anymore. I’m done with them. I’ve created them, nurtured them, curbed many of their faults, and now I’m ready to send them out into the real world (actually we are). One that is harsh and rarely positive. I can only hope that I’ve brought them up to withstand the critique; to surpass another ear’s expectations as they all have mine. Only then will I be able to look back and truly think we did something great here. And if not, chalk it up to another experience I will never forget and always cherish, even if on some levels it may have come up short. But as I said, that’s all for someone else to determine and I’ve never really paid much mind to what someone else thinks. I wouldn’t have even been here in the first place if I did…

 

Thanks for listening to me again. The journey isn’t the same without you guys. Can’t wait for you to hear it.

Whiskey and Red Bull Cola is the Devil!! I think I gave away a piece of my soul last night that I may never get back again.

So we roll home to The Glade after another long day of mixing and seeing as Tom’s birthday week was now in full swing, out came the whiskey and our new find, Red Bull Cola. The rest of the evening gets blurry at approximately this moment.

Now I’ve had my fair share of Red Bull drinks. On my birthday, thanks to Ronin and Kevo, I must have downed at least 10 Jaeger-Bombs over the course of the evening. Needless to say, I didn’t think twice as I poured a triple.

Over the next couple of hours I felt like I was on some amazing drugs. I don’t know what they put in that shit but I was flying, the conversations were exciting and the music, magnificent…

But, as with any seemingly utopian experience, the next couple of hours that followed were exactly the opposite. Damn you Red Bull Cola (or cheap Irish Whiskey)… I feel so violated.

Monday morning and I suppose some more congrats are in order. What a final yesterday at Wimbledon! Talk about a great way to kill five hours on a Sunday; watching some tremendous talent on Centre Court. I must also send some love out to Daniel Nestor, our lone world class, Canadian player who won the doubles title, and also to the British girl who won the junior title…

Its funny, but can you believe that I’ve had a couple of people write me concerning the fact I love to talk about sports and I play music. Both letters were from the assumption that as a musician, I shouldn’t be so into sports. For real?! Not that this is any reason for my love and knowledge of both, but if you really think about it, no person would ever feel lost at a party if they had a grip on both subjects. Pretty much anybody you meet either knows one or the other. The fact is, nothing is better than when I find someone who will talk about both. Makes my day…

So where are we right now? Oh yes, well Saturday I made my first venture out of Purley. B and I took Tom to see The Natural History Museum in London. Like all the 10 year olds there, he wanted to see the dinosaurs. But like I said, it was a Saturday and all the 10 year olds were there. The place packs up as everyone stops at the end for the big photo op’ with T-Rex himself… The prehistoric beast, not Marc Bolan. I can’t believe more people don’t freak out in that cue. Its hot as hell and extremely claustrophobic.

Afterwards we enjoyed a couple of pints on a Soho patio and then headed back to home base where we ate some BBQ and continued with the beverages.

Sunday was pretty much the same ol’. It finally rained more than a little. Still not a full day of rain (not that I’m complaining), but more than we’ve been used to here. I’ve got to say, the weather has been remarkable. I’ve touched upon it a couple of times already, but there has not been a day, written off by rain, so far. And the days that have rained, have been equally sunny… Can’t complain with 50/50…

Today (Monday) has been the rainiest though. Still not consistent all day, but it came down in loads several times. Perfect for a day of mixing though, which is what we continued today. Its two days until T2’s birthday which doubles as the day he leaves. We’re hoping to get the initial mix out of the way by then, but we’ll see I suppose.

Being Tom’s birthday week, we also took a trip to Tesco today and loaded up for (well the next 2 days for now). We’ve discovered the “All New” Red Bull Cola. This meant an immediate whiskey purchase and we’ll see what kind of mess that leads to. Whiskey Bombs?!? I’ll report back tomorrow!!

Well yesterday we finished all the little additions to the mixes. A backing vocal here, some organ here, a new lick here. Every idea we’ve had is now in the mixes somewhere, maybe never to be heard again, but at least they’re there. I’m sure Francis will have further desires, but until he comes back from tour, we’re done with it.

I must say I feel a little down in a way. This project has been in the forefront of my mind for over a year now. Ever since the day T2 strolled into our rehearsal space, auditioned with a beautiful take on ‘Light Bright’ and completed The North. Having that year of creativity now out of my head has cleared some space and if you know me, this is never good.

Not to say that its all said and done. Mixing has begun today and I’m currently listening to ‘Radio’ for possibly the 559th time. Two things I’ve learned so far today:

(a) mixing at this level is fucking intense. When I remember mixing the KOVER record, we spent maybe a ½ hour on each song. Today we started just a little after noon and here we are at just after 5pm and ‘Radio’ is still blasting through the control room speakers.

(b) Now 561 times through ‘Radio’ and I still love it.

Nothing much else to write right now. I will continue to listen to every one of the songs some 700 times and then we’ll listen to them all again and agree upon their final make-ups. I just hope Gregg still has some stories in his databank. He’s kept us entertained in the downtime with tales of working with pretty much everyone you could imagine. Bryan Adams, Gary Moore, Prince, Jeff Beck, Queen. Even famous movie scorer Hans Zimmer who Gregg’s nephew works with. Basically drop any name and he’ll either tell you something from his own experience or have some crazy story about their albums.

Anyways, ‘Radio’ is finally satisfactory. On to the next track!

Tuesday evening and the vocals are DONE! Well for now at least. Tonite we have a lot of work ahead of us mulling over the rough mixes to see what is missing, what’s too much and what’s simply not working. Basically T2 has a week before he heads back home, so he (we) have to make sure that anything he needs to do, gets done. B and I are gonna hang for another week or so. This will insure we’re here for most of the mixing process and that we’ll be around to see what Francis thinks when he gets back from tour.

We’ve learned a few things during the vocals. One is that B’s voice is far beyond what it was the last time she recorded. Gregg still complains that he can’t always tell what she’s saying, but from my point of view, that’s nothing I’ve ever concerned myself with when it comes to listening to music. I don’t know the actual lyrics to many songs, no matter how much I love the artist and anyways, isn’t that what the liner notes are for?!

The second thing we’ve learned is that Jesus can fuckin sing! How handy has that been!? Instead of me harmonizing everything, it was fun to be able to pass off some of the work onto him. Three solid voices are always better than 2 and when the 3rd voice is more than capable, all the better. Sucks to be him though. He gave up his secret. Now he’s going to have to sing those parts live as well.

Lets see… what else. Well Happy Canada Day for sure… Congrats to Spain on their Euro Cup victory… Oh we’ve had some better success with iTunes lately, mind you we’ve had to go into the past to find some gems. Sinatra’s, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, and Wilco’s, Being There, helped us to get over the hump… I’ve been reading more Klosterman which always makes me happy. I’m sure his opinions echo many people’s my age, but he’s one of those writers that even when you don’t agree at all with what he says, you still laugh your ass off (at yourself) and at least see his side. Its funny because I don’t think I would ever feel star struck around any musician (aside from possibly Eddie Vedder, Ian MacKaye or John Frusciante), but I think I would be nervous as hell if he was interviewing me.

I’ve got to point out that TV here has some serious advantages to home. I know I’ve poked fun at the British TV shows, in the past, because they’re even more ghetto than Canadian ones, but there are way less commercials and I think I’ve found more interesting things to watch on 5 fuzzy stations at The Glade than I usually do on 200 stations at home. For one, they play concerts on the BBC. The CBC needs to get their act together. I’ve been watching footage from Glastonbury for the last few days and if you have interactive TV you can even select who you want to watch. And I know you’re saying that we get concerts on Much’ all the time but that coverage is awful in comparison. Here they play mostly the bands (wow think about that), with the hosts only coming on to prep you for the next band. They even had people performing acoustically in the studio. Other than that, there were interviews with the artists that were to the point and not cheesy like a Much interview.

TV, TV, TV… Oh, the Wimbledon coverage has also been amazing here. I suppose it should be considering it is their Grand Slam. But still, once again the interactive TV lets you select the match you want to watch, both BBC1 and 2 have matches on during the day and there is great behind the scene’s coverage that you don’t see at home. Plus, listening to Boris Becker commentate in his thick German accent is hilarious. It doesn’t hurt that a Brit is doing well also.

Today I also stumbled across something that I don’t know what to make of. Everything that is probably Canadian here is called “American Style”. That may not be clear but here is the best example and its what I came across today. I’m walking towards the studio and on the ground is some litter. “5 Doughnuts – American Style”. “American Style”?!?! Who wants to eat an American doughnut?!? Now I never got to try one of these “American Styled” doughnuts, but if you’ve ever been to the ‘States, the doughnuts there are horrible in comparison. Unless, of course, you are one of those boarder towns lucky enough to have a Timmy’s… Mmmmmm Timmy’s…

Its Saturday morning and I woke up feeling guilty on 2 fronts. A) I miss my dog and b) I’m well overdue on the blog front. So here I sit, OJ in hand and because my computer won’t go anywhere without its power cable, stuck inside while Tom and B enjoy this beautiful day we’re having.

So where did I leave you? Oh yeah, somewhere in Guitar Heaven. Guitar Heaven is a crazy place. Mainly because when you leave it, it all feels like one day. I can’t even remember what songs went down in the final session. This may also be due to my joining Tom in celebration of a job well done afterwards. I know we left the bridge to ‘Back To Me’ alone in the end. We’ll wait for the vocals and organ to go down before attacking it with more guitar. ‘Curve’ was done. Nothing fancy. The solo in ‘Radio’ was pretty much done on the first take. T2 (Jesus) seems to have this uncanny ability to fear a song and then play the perfect sentiment on take one. This is further proven by the fact that he didn’t fear ‘All These Things…’, couldn’t work it out, then feared it and lit it up gorgeously. I guess the remaining piece was his solo on ‘Wait For You’. One he cringes at because it has Brian May’s fingerprint all over it, but once again, who doesn’t need a little Queen in their life? Not to mention, it’s a fuckin brilliant solo. Even if Greg (drummer) does make fun of him for it…

With much of the guitar work now behind us (there are some small parts that we’ll revisit after), its all up to B. This is a role she relishes so there is no worry in camp. Our only concern was how many songs we could get through in a day.

As has been our first track every step of the way, B immediately dove into ‘No Money…’ She very quickly knocked this one out of the way and we all decided it was time to get T2 and me into the booth, to get our feet wet. This one would be fun as hell though. Anyone who knows of this track already knows about the gang vocals in the chorus. Well putting them on the album was even more fun than singing them live. It was 20 minutes of Tom and I shouting the lyrics at each other in the booth. It took a few takes to find the correct distance from the mic and just the right mix of Sinatra and Hetfield, but it was hella fun. The backups on this one are certainly a highlight.

With some serious singing out of the way, Tom and I took off for a quick bite… C’mon, doing backups on one song can seriously take a lot out of a man. It obviously only got B warm though because by the time we got back she had done ‘Heartland’ and moved onto to ‘Radio’ already. After, it was time for T2 and I to get back to work. Francis was now surveying and certainly had some great instruction on how to get all of the harmonies just right. He would leave on tour the following day (yesterday) and so we possibly won’t see him for the remainder of our sessions, though he will be listening to rough mixes and conveying his thoughts daily.

Day one on vocals was an excellent start. Vocals are so scary because the slightest kilter of vibe and everything goes to shit. Day one was extremely positive and it would carry straight into day two.

Going into day two, we were pretty stoked. We had calculated doing two vocals a day and considering not only did we bang out 3 on day one, we finished 98% of the backups as well. Well guess what? On day 2 we got 4 down.

B was on fire yesterday. She started the day with ‘What’s My Name?!’. I love her vocal in it. During the verses, she comes at you with about as much attitude as you could fathom emerging from her 5’1’’ frame, but then in the chorus, where you expect her to take on some Janis Joplin rock persona, she doesn’t. Instead she is herself which makes lines like “Here I am, ‘turn you to an honest man” sound stern but not standoffish. She will say this is what she doesn’t like about the song, but then again you’ve never seen B look at pictures of her. If you ever have, it explains everything.

Next was ‘All These Things…’ I would say our most Pearl Jam sounding song. Very ‘Yellow Leadbetter’-esque except once again, its Bernadette and not Eddie Vedder. Who is considered the female Eddie anyways?

She then tackled ‘Back To Me’ and did what every great singer does… resurrect a song! It may be her strongest vocal yet. Its all you want to listen to when you hear this track now. Whereas a couple of days ago I was wishing we could start it again from scratch, two lines into it and I was back on the bandwagon again.

Our day concluded with ‘What You See On The Way’. B carried the momentum from ‘Back To Me’ into it and produced another splendid effort. Credit goes to our reworking of the intro which now perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the song. We never got to lay backups on it yet – still some things to work out – but it sounds almost like it doesn’t need any, and that’s always a good sign.

We called it a day by dinner. B’s brother and I picked up a shit-load of KFC and we all went to town. There’s something to be said about KFC over here. Its like a major food chain. At home I group it with chains like Dairy Queen. That tier of fast-food just under the big shots. Here, its on par with the WackDonalds’ of the world; tons of meal options, very current ads and huge lineups. We then watched the movie “Jumper”, which was surprisingly entertaining. Not great, but certainly entertaining. I wish I could jump home right now and see my dog…

We’re taking a break for the next couple of days, picking it back up on Monday. I will be off to Tesco when I’m done this. We haven’t been in a few days and the cupboards are bare. I have to point out a couple of funny things we’ve learned by going to Tesco.

For one, hoods (as in hoodie/jumper hoods) are seriously frowned upon here. I’ve been told on several occasions to take mine off while in there. Seems wearing a hood over here has somehow been taken as a sign that one is potentially up to no good. I suppose its sort of like not being able to wear “gang colours” to some clubs in Canada, except that those are clubs and this is a grocery store and not gang related at all (I must also point out that I always thought the “gang colours” deal was bullshit too).

The other is to do with our credit cards, as in our North American credit cards. To my Canadian friends, when is the last time any clerk ever looked at your signature on the back? Ok some background first. Over here their credit cards all have chips on them, so they have to punch in a code, thus authorizing the purchase. Fair enough. So here’s the deal when I use my “swipe” credit card here. First I have to tell them it doesn’t have a chip and needs to be swiped. This either a) confuses the shit out of them b) pisses them off or c) all of the above. They then swipe it and keep the card (something that also never happens at home). As I sign the card, they examine my signature, in the same manner a jeweler would go over a diamond, before returning my card to me. On a couple of occasions I’ve had to either show another piece of ID or something else with my signature. Its become quite comical to me for the same reasons I always find (many) retail clerks comical. Why do you care?! You are the bottom rung of the food chain there and yet you care soooo much if someone takes the company with a stolen credit card for a few pounds. Always baffles me. These people are either bored or the reason capitalism works so fucking well. The people with the least to gain from it are the ones who protect it the most…. Oh well, off to Tesco…

Messages From Guitar Heaven

What is there really to say about the last couple of days? Guitar Heaven has continued, led by our very own Jesus. It began with him laying a flurry of electric rhythm tracks which thickened up the sound immensely. The bass and acoustic tracks I’d been grilling over the past few days have now disappeared into the canvas like the first shades of colour on a painting. The multitude of tones and textures, together now, are simply gorgeous.

Now we (well Jesus mainly) have turned the attention to doing leads. Most of today was spent focused on them, aside from some rhythm fill-ins in spots that needed work when we returned to them in the morning. Francis is a great help at this stage for obvious reasons. His ear for holes and hooky opportunities is priceless. Combine that with Gregg’s mastery of finding just the right tone efficiently, and I’ve got to say we’re in very good hands at this point.

Most of the leads have been going as smoothly as everything else. In actuality, songs like ‘What’s My Name’ and ‘Another Way’ are continuing to exceed expectations. ‘Another Way’ has two “solo” sections which seemed to have problematic potential until T2 hit a stride during work on it and made it look easy. The influence of Hendrix is there. Something I feel is shied away from too much these days, forgetting that there is a whole new generation of guitarists, yet to be saturated by it. Tom agrees. The evidence will be on this track for sure…

‘What’s My Name’ simply has a fantastic groove from start to finish. Gregg can’t even hide his love for this one. Considering most of the time he is pushing us to make the songs better, on this one he just sits back and lets us go to town. Francis loved everything T2 was putting down on it and then took it to a whole other level, pointing out some key moments where Tom could continue to leave his imprints on its outcome. His work in the middle 8 is some of his best and then it ends with this Zeppelin-esque effect that takes it into the following section beautifully. Look the fuck out for this one when its done. At this point, both Gregg and Francis are stoked on it with just B’s guide, so it will only continue to get better once she puts some heart and soul on it.

If we’re having trouble with anything lead-wise, its with ‘All These Things…’ It started off just like the rest, but when we got to the solo (which concludes the song) some hang-ups began. Being one of our more bluesy tracks, and concluding with a solo that runs into a fade, T2 is obviously feeling some pressure to make sure it ends as amazingly as it begins. Couple this with the fact that we’ve left about 2-3 minutes of space for him to fill and let the over-thinking begin.

To begin with, he started attempting it at the end of a long day. We attacked it by just letting T2 go to town, but though there were brightspots, it wasn’t taking any shape at all. In the end we kept some of the ideas, but we’re gonna put it on the backburner and Tom and I are gonna work it out at The Glade (I can see him in the garden this minute figuring some direction for it). We didn’t feel anything brilliant was going to come from forcing it. It will come, and when it does, it will be perfect.

Let’s see, what else went down… ‘Heartland’ has – I don’t even know how to do justice to the explanation – a section of the solo recorded backwards that has to be heard to believe. It then goes forward into the climax which pushes it to even grander scales… ‘Seamless’ has reached a point where I now get scared every time something gets added. It just sounds so beautiful right now. I think we’re doing leads on it tomorrow… ‘What You See On The Way’ is more rocking that I ever thought it could be. No complaints about that here. The problem we’re having with it currently is we don’t think the intro is matching the balls of the body. We haven’t been able to pinpoint the culprit but we have some theories and with another listen tomorrow I’m sure the solution will be revealed… We finished the day working on ‘Back To Me’ which Francis seemed to make his pet project of the day. ‘Back To Me’ is one of the songs that shows us just how objective music listening is. Whereas in working with Moe, he felt it was one of our strongest, both Gregg and Francis feel it is the weakest. I think that started to change today though. Tom and Francis came up with a simple, hook-lead that plays over the main riff. Something so simple, but you find yourself whistling it for hours afterwards. Tom also added some riffing in the chorus’, perfectly interlaced between B’s vocal. It’s the one thing I’ve noticed that Francis does so well. Create catchy leads that are so solid, yet don’t take anything away from the vocal. Regardless, the bridge is still naked so I’m pretty sure that’s where we’ll pick it up tomorrow… Until then…