Saturday, December 8, 2012

Recording A New Record - Photos (A Trakan Music Update)

In my last article, I rolled out a long list of everything we've been up to in this indie music project. Well, today I want to focus on one thing in particular.  Lately we've been recording a brand new album! 


Pre-studio demoing of new tracks on my "portable studio"
Happily, for the first time in the five or six years that I've been doing this, I have a stable band contributing to the songwriting process and supporting me in the studio. 

So late this summer, after playing a smattering of shows to promote my second record, "Powder Kegs Beneath Dagger Trees" (PKBDT), I started showing up at the factory where we rehearse with some new songs I wrote on my acoustic.  We began composing parts as a band.


The resulting songs were quickly whipped into shape and ready for the studio late in September, so I reached out to the guy who mastered PKBDT, Mike Namoff at The Hatch Studios near China Town on the south side of Chicago. We put a schedule in place and agreed on pricing, and on September 30, the band showed up to kick off the recording of my my forthcoming third release, "Backporch Hymns."  



Mike Namoff behind the controls at The Hatch Studios
About two months later - last weekend - we finished those sessions, and the "Backporch Hymns" should be ready to hear in 2013 at some point (after all the editing, mixing, mastering, duplication, promotional, video and art decisions come together).

So I wanted to take a moment today as I switch gears from tracking to editing, and share some photos/stories from the our sessions.



To start, let me introduce you here to Mike Namoff, the owner and engineer at The Hatch Studios in Chicago.

In a great building with lots of history (an old lumber mill near the south branch of the Chicago River),  Mike's truly a good guy, laid-back, light on ego, and super talented.  I'm excited we met him before he gets too well-known and moves to LA or something.  I couldn't recommend an engineer more enthusiastically if you're in the market for a studio. Some of my Budweisers might even still be in the fridge if you hurry!  


Some more photos from our stay at The Hatch:




Here's Matt above, beating me to the comfy chair in the corner, clearly having an enlightened moment and demonstrating just how comfortable an experience it is recording at The Hatch.  (I took all these photos unless otherwise noted by the way.)




The view from the "control room," through the eyes of Mike the engineer.  Mike has a great balance in the way he works - flexible and respectful, letting us make all creative decisions without any overbearing "you should" advice, but also quick to provide timely and accurate production feedback when needed.  You could tell he was cheering for us, instead of just punching the clock and it was greatly appreciated.  (Again, you might notice a lot of Budweiser in this photo shoot.  You'd think we were going for a sponsorship or something!)



The very first thing you have to do when tracking a song (at least in my experience) is to put down "scratch tracks" that provide vocal cues and the song structure.  They are later "scratched" when the real drums, bass, guitar and vocals are put in place.  Here's me makin' scratch tracks. (Photo by Roxy)



In the "live room," the first thing we officially tracked was drums.  Here's a live Chris action shot from the room's sweet spot.


Roxy making badass rocker faces - how can she not, playing that sweet Lakland bass through that Orange amp?!  (We're big fans of both Lakland basses and Orange amps too by the way, in addition to Budweiser.)


Somehow we don't have any photos of Matt rockin' his Les Paul through Roxy's OCD pedal. (That's what we get for not having Rob Gaczol shooting the photos!)  I considered Photoshop-ing a Les Paul into this photo, but I guess we're settling for a Matt-on-bass action shot instead.


Claire waiting her turn above while Freddy kicks off his shoes and lays down some rhythm electric guitar.  Notice I beat Matt to the comfy corner chair this time.  He was forced to read his Peter Criss autobiography from the other couch.


Claire's turn!  We have so much cool instrumentation on this record, led by our mad Canadian fiddler here.  (More product placement in the background, of course.)


You can't have fiddle without a little washboard.  Am I right?!  Beside that thing's been laying in the corner of Trakanland studios for years.  I knew I'd eventually meet someone like Chris who could make it sound good with the pair of "second-hand keys" I've also had around for just such an occasion.


I added some steel drums, inside "the booth"... If we ever have to play this song on SNL, I'll need to find someone from Trinidad.  It took me two separate days to get this right.  (Photo by Claire)


I also found space in a song for a Sioux flute.  Because you can't have fiddle, washboard and steel drum without Sioux flute... again, am I right?!?! (Photo by Chris)




Finally, the official vocal tracks! (Photo here by Roxy)...




... and Roxy adding background harmonies to pretty this thing up.


Oh one last thing - thanks to Dave Noss, Joe Goldberg and Diana Jewell who contributed tracks a couple years back - tracks that I'm finally getting a chance to use on this EP.  I really appreciate your patience, guys.  


And I think I have photos laying around from those sessions a few years back too.  Let me see...




My good friend Dave Noss flew in from Cleveland a couple years back to add some drums.  How cool is that?  What's cooler is he's an airline pilot when he's not drumming, so he may have flown the plane himself.  




You may remember Joe Goldberg from my first record, "Opening Soon Under New Management"?  Well I don't have footage of him performing the part he plays on this next record, but let's go to the way-back machine above to see him in action from that first record.  (I CANNOT believe there was a bottle of Budweiser in this photo too.)




Last but certainly not least, I can't wait to finally share Ms. Diana Jewell's soulful vocals with you.  This is her above, tracking her performance for the next record a couple years back at Trakanland Studios.


So that's it!  The first hurdle - we have tracks.  Next step is me finding time to pick and choose the best performances ("editing"), after which time Mike at The Hatch will mix them.  


I'll need to find a mastering engineer after that, create all the package art, and decide how I want to package the final product.  All those stories coming soon!  For now, off to work on editing those tracks. With a bottle of Bud.

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