Back in the attic with Blair – the morning after it looks like 60% of the New Yorkers (That’s Alright) idea is working so we record it. Then listening back we hear that the Electric Piano (Native Instruments virtual instrument) is chopping off the ends of the notes with a nasty noise which wasn’t noticeable when we were tracking but certainly isn’t acceptable. It’s been a few years since I worked this way so I’m rusty, to say the least. Out with the manual but still no clue to why this is happening… Anyhow B spots a light going on each time this happens – it’s some kind of direct from hard drive thing so we turn that off and it works. But we’ve lost more time.
Good news is we finally get a call on an accordion with a lead to a store 30 minutes away we can rent one from – my wife drives over there and picks it up.
Next – the big one. Blair’s Tune (as it is still called as I only have a melody). This is tricky as it starts off in one tempo, slows down, speeds up again and then breaks down in the middle with no one keeping time except me singing the melody which defines the tempo. Plus it is a weird quirky beat I’ve never heard anyone else use… Obviously, in an ideal world we would have had Blair there for the basic tracks and he could have led the tempo changes with his keys, but that wasn’t possible.
First thing we address the glockenspiel / vibes part which plays sixes all the way through the upbeat sections. We find a sound using the Kontakt sampler – a glock and a celesta together and it works fine. Then we try to make my favourite string patch (see My Other Life) work – what I like about this patch is that it is beautiful but it doesn’t sound like one is pretending that we hired a section. It’s more like a melotron type thing. However, I tend to play with much less force (which translates to midi velocity) that Blair and it sounds way too strident and bold with him playing it. I don’t know the part… So we try different master keyboards and B is getting slightly cranky because none of mine suit him like his beloved Yamaha Motif, but we persevere and although we can’t do any midi quantization, as there is no tempo based file to work off of, we can still edit individual notes. This way we are able to get the intro working and so I have him play thorough the whole song. I’ll edit the part when he’s gone home. Now we need to press on or we won’t get finished in time.
Accordion. I’ve never recorded one before but I have been warned that they are tough and can sound nasty. So I play safe and place my Neumann M147 large diaphragm mic about 12″ from what sounds like the sweet spot. Thjis goes into a channel of API and a Distressor compressor which I set at a low ratio to just catch the really loud notes. EQ is just high and low shelving. We’ve hung blankets over the window to try to minimise noise from the road outside (amazingly we don’t run into any problems).
Now – what to play? Rather annoyingly for both of us, B is something of an idiot savant in his composition and he doesn’t exactly remember what he recorded in his demo. So we make it up. WE get the verses and choruses working – maybe it won’t be needed all the way through, probably not, but we need to be covered. He plays a neat rhythm in the verses, long chords with a perky accent at the end of the bar which moves the song along nicely. The sound is a little scratch but what am I to do? Later, when rendering the tracks I put a PSP Vintage Warmer tape saturation emulator on it and this smooths out the sound nicely so I’m not worried.
The problem areas are the two breakdown sections – in the intro and the middle. On B’s demo the middle was fantastic but the melody was too close to some xmas song or other – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (the bridge section), I think. So we need something new. On the basic track I sing the melody of High Anxiety (Mel Brooks) but we’re really looking for something more Mediterranean. We’ve used the The Theme from The Godfather quite often during the project as a reference point…
We are really just hoping that we’re great and we can pull something out of nothing for these sections. And that is supposed to be our job, but it is a little scary, not to mention stressful, this late in the day. It takes a while and I’m not sure if we have it, but B’s last idea for the middle is promising, but we’re too tired. It’s 10PM. I call a halt.
We need to start at 10 AM – B is leaving at 3 PM. We hadn’t planned on going to a 3rd day. My wife is going to have to drive to the airport and pick up Bob Hoffnar (pedal steel) while B and I try to get finished. We have 1.5 songs left to address.
At least we know Mark is working the bar tonight. We get there and Mike B is stamping hands and taking money at the door. Is this some new State clampdown on underage drinking? Then I see the musicians, but I still don’t register. ‘Oh, shit. It’s Saturday.’ I tell Mark. “Yes, it is…” he replies. I thought it was Wednesday. I’m a mess.
The last thing we want after doing music all day is more of it. But it turns out that the VERY loud two girls and a guy drummer band ‘The Frills’ are not bad. The bass player is going for David Bowie 1971 which is actually a great look for a young woman.