Welcome back to Messin’ With The Music. For this episode we’re covering The Hives ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’. It was originally released as a single in 2000 and is from their album Veni Vidi Vicious. It’s a straight ahead garage rock style song although it has cleaner studio production than you would expect in a lot of songs that fall in to the garage rock category. As with a lot of garage rock songs it’s built on a straight forward beat. There’s a single chord pattern that is used throughout the song with another chord added during the chorus. When you keep a simple chord pattern like that, changes in dynamics are used to make the song more interesting. In this song the dynamic changes are accomplished by adding multiple layers of guitar with different effects such as crunchier distortion. Other areas will drop out the guitar totally to change the dynamics. The vocals also add to the dynamics by being very rhythmic. It’s a fun song to crank up the electric guitar and play along with.
The challenge with doing an acoustic version of this type of song is how to keep a strong rhythm going without the use of a drum kit. In this case we decided not to put any percussion instruments in the song except for a small break in the beginning. A lot of the rhythm during the song is created by playing arpeggios on the mandolin part. There are two acoustic guitars playing the basic rhythm and are panned hard left and right to create the foundation tracks. There is a twelve string guitar that sometimes single strums the chords and sometimes follows the pattern of the other guitars. This was used to change the dynamics throughout the song. Bass is added to give more bottom end. A banjo part is added in a couple of different places for more dynamic change. For those new to this series we followed our basic principles: Play the tracks straight through and use the same single mic for all the tracking.
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Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs play ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’:
Welcome to 2022! Another year has flown by. At this point I can’t say whether that is good or bad. Some things I wished would last forever (think vacation hiking, making music, friends and photography). The rest of the year? Meh. I was hoping the general tone of our world would improve and it sort of did, but just a smidge. We should certainly be able to do better. So we’re going to start 2022 on the blog by looking back. As we were searching through our files at the end of the year, we came across music that has never really seen the light of day. We decided to start releasing some of it online and began the ‘From The Vault’ series towards the end of last year.
For this edition of From The Vault we have a song recorded at the crossroads of Conduit changing in to Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs. We had a number of songs we were working on and decided the best idea would be to record live versions of them and work on production versions of them later. But for anyone who writes songs, you’ll recognize how you’re constantly coming up with new ideas and sometimes the older ones end up disappearing under the layers of dust. So ‘From The Vault’ is blowing the dust off and tossing the songs in to the light. This song is titled ‘No Class Lines’. When we recorded this live version the band was a three piece. The bass part was overdubbed later. Another thing I find happens when you’re recording live is your beats per minute starts to have the zoomies. The production versions often slow down a bit because you’re working with a click track. But not always. So this could have ended up slower, but……it could have been faster. We’ll see if we ever decide to do a production version. For now, I hope you enjoy the tune.
We’re back with another song for our ‘Messin” series. This time we picked ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ by The Who. It’s always fun to see what you can do with a butt kicking rock song when you take it down to acoustic instruments. The song originally came out in 1971 for their album ‘Who’s Next’. When I heard it again recently what really struck me was the lyrics. I think that a lot of people who know the song can shout along with the lyrics. But when I sat down and read the lyrics in full, the ‘holy shit’ feeling of how relevant they are right now really washed over me. I thought it would be great to put out an acoustic version where the vocals and the lyrics are up front as the major theme of the song. I especially felt it when I got to the last lyric couplet of the song – “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. F#&! yeah!! Welcome to the 2000’s!
The song is anchored by two acoustic guitars that play the chords as arpeggios and are panned hard left and right. There’s twelve string guitar, mandolin and some banjo parts. For percussion there’s hand drums mixed lightly in the background of some parts as well as tambourine and shaker. We have two tracks of vocals through the song, some working as harmonies. All these parts keep the rhythm going throughout the song (it would be a fool’s errand to try to match anything like Keith Moon’s drums). We put in little pieces where some of the synth and lead guitar parts are in the song, which cut it down it down from the album length 8:32 to around 5:16. We usually drop a static picture on our covers, but decided to go with a video of our own little ‘mini dumpster fire’ which pretty much describes my view of our current situation in this country. Hope you enjoy it!
Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs play The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’
We’re back with another live in the studio performance by Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs. This time we’re playing ‘Truck Stop’ which was recorded for our last EP ‘Celebrity Prostitution’. As before we’ve stripped everything from the original recording except the bass and drum tracks. As a two person band this allows us to video a live performance. We do this as simply as possible. The vocals were recorded with a Shure SM58 mic, which is what we would usually use for vocals playing live. The mic goes in to a preamp then a compressor before hitting the mixing board in to the multi track software. For the guitar in this video I decided to use a direct in amp emulator to go in to the mixing board. The only settings used on the amp emulator were for treble, bass and mids, just like you would set up on an amplifier. I’m using a ProCo Rat distortion pedal and a digital delay pedal, the same ones I would use playing out live. To keep the live feel there are no cuts, punches or any multi takes on the video or audio. The original recording used multiple vocal tracks mixed together to keep a full sound. The studio mix guitar had multiple tracks as one guitar take would go to two amps covered by four microphones with each mic going to a separate track. Having a variety of sounds to mix gives a lot of latitude when you’re trying to get a real good guitar sound on a studio mix. The lead guitar in the studio mix is recorded separately. I did remix the drums and bass for the video to fill and match better with the live vocals and guitar as well as adding some EQ and reverb to the vocals and guitar. I like having the video show us actually turning the video recorder on and off. You really do get ‘live’ start to finish.
Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs play ‘Truck Stop’ live in ChurchHouse Studio
For the end of this month I thought we’d put up a couple more songs I came across while surveying old hard drives. These songs are from a band named Oktober Skyline. The recordings are over fifteen years old. One reason I wanted to put these up for you to listen to is to show the wide range of music you might work with if you want to run a recording studio. This band played a style that was labeled ‘math metal’ or ‘mathcore’ (at least it was when we were recording these songs). Some of the touchstone bands for this style are Dillinger Escape Plan and Botch. What really intrigued me while recording the songs was the timing, especially the timing of the drums. There’s a lot going on if you listen to the drum and guitar parts. I’ve always felt that to do a good job recording, you have to gain some familiarity with the musical style. So I spent time listening to bands that played this style, bought a few CDs, blasted them on the car stereo. There are things I really enjoy when listening to this. One is the sheer power wash that hits you when you crank it up. Multiply that times ten when you’re in the room with the drums live. Something very liberating about that. I really believe you can learn something from any type of music that you listen to. There’s always room to grow. You might not latch on to every style as something that you’re going to spend a lot of time with. But your musical life will be a lot richer if you get past labeling music as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I’ve always felt that music, or any art, is subjective.
These songs were released on a four song vinyl EP titled ‘Oktober Skyline’. I actually found a page on discogs.com that lists the EP
The songs were not named before they left the studio so the file names were just coded numbers, but I believe the first one became titled ‘My Hair Just Grew 3 Inches’ and the second is titled ‘Mandy’s Tape’. The band did put out a full CD later that you can find online and ‘My Hair Just Grew 3 Inches’ was included on that CD.
But wait! There’s more! I found some live video of the band. As usual in these older ‘home’ videos, the sound isn’t great, the recording is shaking, but you get an idea of the insanity of this type of show. I did record some tracks with just the drummer later. If you watch carefully he’s using a double bass pedal and some of the kick drum sounds are at the speed of a snare roll. Woof!
While I’m on vacation hiatus, we thought we would showcase another Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds track that many people probably haven’t heard. ‘Drain’ is another great track from The Flank’s album ‘At Stake’ that we released several years ago. Up until now it’s been housed on our Soundcloud account which many people who are following this blog may not be familiar with. We’re adding the song to our YouTube station where we’re showcasing most of our music now. We’re building up a large amount of new tracks with Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds artists that are in the works. When I get back from our much needed vacation/adventure/retreat I’m hoping to hit the ground running, live in the studio the rest of 2021 and have a bunch of new material that will be released in 2022. Bedsides the music we’ll be working on releasing more videos. We’ve got an ambitious agenda, let’s hope the rest of this crazy world doesn’t implode and we can release the creativity.
Here’s ‘Drain’ from The Flank:
‘Song 2’ was originally released in 1997 on Blur’s fifth album, titled ‘Blur’. There’s lots of interesting stories that go along with the song. At first it was just a slower acoustic piece Damon Albarn was messing around with and the now famous ‘woo-hoo’ was whistled. Their guitarist Graham Coxon suggested speeding it up and crushing the volume really loud. They then asked their record company to release it as a single, more or less just to mess with the record company executives as the song was pretty much a total departure from all the songs they had been successful with previously. The band was surprised by the fact that the record company released it and the amount of success the song had. I think one reason it was successful was by that time many people had become accustomed to the ‘quiet verse, loud chorus’ style. Numerous bands like Pixies had used this style before and Nirvana took it to a whole new level of public recognition. The name ‘Song 2’ was just a place holder name as it was the second track on the album. The band decided it would be fun to just keep that as the title.
We decided to cover this because, first, we’ve always loved the song (pretty much a requirement if we’re going to mess with it). Second, it presented a challenge to record it acoustically. How do you do the loud part to make it different than the verses? Blur crushes the chorus guitar part, but even more so the bass part, with huge mounds of distortion. This gives the original song a massive change in volume and dynamics. And another challenge is the chords in the verses and choruses are pretty much the same, so the dynamic change has to done using different instruments. For the verses we went with mandolins – the left and right channels are separate mandolin parts. The chords are the same, but the fingering is a bit different. There’s also a single string played on twelve string guitar in the verse. The mandolin parts go throughout the entire song, but when the chorus starts we added chords on twelve string guitar, six string guitar and a bass part (no distortion of course). Throughout the song percussion is simply a Indian hand drum for the bass and a wood block for the snare. We multi tracked all the vocals and put a lot of reverb and delay on them – the vocals on the original song are pretty straight forward.
Here’s Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs covering Blur’s ‘Song 2’:
There’s a lot of good things about having your own studio to record in. You can work on anything you want, anytime you want. You can take your time recording your own music and not have to worry about how much money you’re spending, giving you the ability to experiment. We’ve been having a lot of fun working on cover songs and have been able to create them at our own pace. We’ve also been able to create videos of us playing our own music live. Since the band consists of the two of us, playing in the studio gives us the ability to record some tracks ahead of time then play the other parts live along with the recording for the video. The song in this video, ‘Countdown’ was recorded for our EP ‘Celebrity Prostitution’ (it’s available to buy as a digital download on CD Baby and other places – you can check it out on the Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds label website). Because the original recording was made in ChurchHouse Studio, we’re able to use parts of it for a live video rendition. The original EP version had multiple tracks of vocals and guitar. For this video we stripped all of that off and just kept the bass and drum tracks. So what you see in the video is literally what you would hear from us playing out live. There’s no overdubs or punch ins on the vocal and guitar tracks. Just turn on the video and let it rip. We did the video on a simple GoPro recorder which gives you that ‘fish eye’ wide view along the edges. We had a lot of fun recording this way.
Here’s Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs playing ‘Countdown’, live in ChurchHouse Studio:
When you have a musician coming in to the studio to work, you want them to have the best experience they can. Your job is to make the recording process as transparent or invisible as possible for them. This allows them to totally concentrate on their playing and creativity without having to worry about the technical aspects of the recording process. I recently had a friend come in to start working on a new song. Time is a precious commodity so we wanted to complete as many tracks as possible in one session. He wanted to see if we could complete the guitar, bass and vocal tracks in one session. We’ve worked together before and he’s an amazing musician, so I knew he’d hold up his end and have his track ideas ready to go. My job is to have the studio prepared to move seamlessly from one track to another. Here’s some basic preparation steps that will allow you to do that in the studio.
1) Decide what equipment you’re going to use. One of my goals is to give the musician multiple sonic options whenever possible. In this case that applies mostly to the guitar sound. If the musician has a particular amp or effect pedal of their own that they want to use, I try to get it in to the studio before they get there so I can have it miced and pathed. In this case we were using all in house studio equipment and decided to use stomp box FX pedals instead of rack mounted FX units. This photo shows the overall floor pedal setup.
2) Set up the effect path. The guitar signal is split at the stereo chorus pedal (the pink pedal). One line goes to a delay pedal, a flanger and a distortion pedal to an amplifier. The other line goes to a phase shift pedal and then in to a POD direct in amp emulator. This allows for a variety of guitar sounds to be recorded in one pass, both amped and direct in. The order of the pedals does make a difference in the overall sound. You can try several configurations to get what you want.
The output from the distortion pedal goes to an amplifier set up in another room. Although this large room is great for natural reverb, in this case the amp is just close miced with an SM57.
The bass guitar goes to a ten band EQ pedal. You can see it in the upper right picture of all the floor pedals. I love this pedal for bass, whether recording or live. It allows you to really dial in a specific EQ as well as boosting the signal if necessary. Two other items will go in to the patch bay. One is the drum machine seen in the upper left of the pedal picture to use for a click track. For vocals we have a Neumann mic going in to the patch bay.
3) Set up the signal path through your patch bay. This is where you run your incoming signals in to the rack mounted units then in to your mixing boards. I have paper diagrams of all the patch bays connections – when you have a lot of connections you don’t want to make any mistakes.
For this session all the inputs except the drum machine will run in to rack mount pre-amps and compressors/noise gates. Although the mixing boards have pre-amps and compression for each channel, I like using the higher quality outboard units. For me they’re also easier to fine tune.
4) Set up the signal path through the mixing boards. Decide what channels in the mixing board each signal is going to. I’d advise coming up with a logical system that works for you. I tend to set up multiple recording tracks by instrument the same way for most sessions. This makes my life a lot easier as ‘muscle memory’ will kick in if you’re trying to move quickly to make an adjustment during a recording take.
This is also where you select where each track will go in to your recording software. On a digital mixing board you should have a page that defines where the signal will be sent to. Again, try to maintain a consistent logic as you do this setup.
You can now set up the tracks in your recording software. You’ll want to keep the same order whenever possible. I usually have tracks that go left to right on the mixing board go top to bottom in the recording software.
5) OK, here’s where the organization part really needs to kick in. I like to create a chart for everything in the recording path. With this many transitions and connections, there’s a pretty good chance you could have some type of failure in one of the pathways during the session. The last thing you want to do is have to start guessing where a problem is while you’re trying to record. I don’t want to have the musicians standing around waiting while I’m trying to make a fix. It just feels less professional to me. And it could put a stall on the musician who was on a roll. Inspiration is like lightning in a bottle. When you catch it you want to keep it.
6) Test every pathway. I go one path at a time and test all the connections from the instrument all the way in to the recording software. I work to get a good strong signal level at each stop. Make sure the effects pedals work. Get a good strong signal in the pre-amps, compressors, mixing boards and software. Get basic settings ready in the pre-amps and compressors. That way when you’re recording the changes will be tweaks rather than ‘where the hells the signal?’. This is when you can change out a cable if it’s causing a problem.
All of this does take time. And nothing is perfect. You’ll probably hit some small glitch in any session you do. But when you get to run a smooth recording session it will all be worth it. In the session I was referencing in the beginning we completed the click track, four guitar tracks, the bass and three vocal tracks in a three hour period. And the session was a lot of fun. You can’t ask for much more than that. Now – go out there and create!
For Part 15 of our Messin’ With The Music’ series we decided to tackle ‘Lawyers’ Guns And Money’ by Warren Zevon. The song comes from Zevon’s 1978 album ‘Excitable Boy’. This was a huge album for Zevon and contained many of the songs people know from him – ‘Excitable Boy’, ‘Werewolves Of London’, ‘Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner’ as well as ‘Lawyers, Guns And Money’. There’s a lot of ways you can describe Zevon’s songwriting, but one part of his music that I always enjoy is the entertainment value of the lyrics. First, his vocal style makes the lyrics pretty easy to hear and understand. Many of the song lyrics are built as stories: some humor, some fun, some just out and out strange. He may be an acquired taste for some people, but you’ll absolutely recognize who it is when you hear them on the radio. Another cool thing about this album is the amazing amount of well known musicians who participated in the recording besides the ‘main band’: John McVie and Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne, Jeff Porcaro, Linda Ronstadt, J.D. Souther, Waddy Wachtel, Jennifer Warnes, Danny Kortchmar to name a few. Some of those names might not be as familiar, but if you look them up you’ll see how many well known songs and albums they’ve played on. Zevon was definitely a well respected musician among his peers.
For our version the main instrument holding down the song is a twelve string guitar. We recorded it twice and panned the tracks hard left and right. For these acoustic versions this is a common way we start the songs as it builds a good stereo field and makes the song sound full. If you had drums and electric guitars, they would usually handle that part of the recording. There is a six string guitar and a six string banjo. Besides the chords during the vocals, they play riffs in between the vocal parts, sort of mirroring the guitar that plays on the original song after the second verse. We also added mandolin and bass parts. There are duo vocals on this song – we actually sang both live in the same room at the same time. That was a lot of fun. We’d usually add some percussion, but with the banjo and guitar playing riffs, it seemed pretty full and more percussion wasn’t necessary.
Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs cover Warren Zevon’s ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’: