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!
Every once in a while I go back in to the older hard drives in the studio system. Sometimes I’m looking for a specific track or photo. Sometimes I’m just trying to remember what was on that particular drive. When I returned home from traveling I took one of these jaunts down memory lane on one of the external hard drives to see what was there (in the future I’m thinking about also checking on material on the stored DATs which contain material from when we mostly recorded on ADAT tape and mixed down to DAT). When you work in a studio you find that almost every recording experience is different. Some bands (or individuals) will want to include you on the entire project, from concept through completion. They’ll let you know what they’re doing and when and how they’re releasing the music. Others will complete the recording project and move on. So there are a lot of bands that I really have no idea what happened either to the band or the recording after the studio work was completed. The particular hard drive I was checking on had some material that was recorded at least a decade ago. So when this music was completed, some in the mid 2000’s, the posting of content on the internet was not a given.
I remember the session for the recordings I’m posting today. The band wanted to play as a collective in one room which always has more technical pitfalls to work through. We do have the large room space to accomplish this. You need to mic everything very carefully and use the right mics to keep bleed through to a minimum so you have some separation to work with when you’re mixing. The other issue is if one individual makes an error, the whole band has to play the song through again. It’s live music – no overdubs or punch ins. It’s especially challenging if the singer wants to remain in the same room. For the vocals on these songs I decided to try something new. The vocalist had to be facing the band using a very narrow band directional mic. I then set up a large sheet of plexiglass between the mic and the band to cut down on sound hitting the mic. Worked out pretty well.
The name of the band was Eastern Accordion Ensemble. The two songs below are ‘C P Martini’ and ‘Action’. I guess you would put them stylistically in to the ‘punk rock’ category – although at this point that moniker is about as specific as saying ‘rock music’. The sessions were a lot of fun and I thought the music deserved to get a little space in the vast internet universe. If anyone has info on the band or the songs, please fire off an email or comment to us, it would be interesting to know where this went. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.
Eastern Accordion Ensemble – ‘C P Martini’
Eastern Accordion Ensemble – ‘Action’
‘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’:
We have another Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs ‘Live In The Studio’ performance for you. This time we recorded a live version of our song ‘The Wish’. This song was originally created with our previous band Conduit for the CD ‘Superior Olive’. You can find out more about the band and the CD version by visiting the website for our record label Velvet Wrinkle Wreckerds. The version in this video is performed with just vocals and acoustic guitar. That’s how we write most of our songs, so this gives you an idea of how we start out with a tune before we add all the other parts for the full studio version. This version is recorded with just two room microphones. We want our blog reading friends to have the feeling of sitting with us in the room as we play, so the video is live start to finish from turning on the camera to the end, comments, silly faces and all.
And….the story of the t-shirt. For anyone who’s not from the northeast US, ‘Live Free Or Die’ is the state motto of New Hampshire – it’s also on their license plates. New Hampshire is an awesomely beautiful state, so I wanted to give a ‘shout out’ in the video like when I wear national park t-shirts (please support and cherish your national parks). I always thought it was such a cool motto to have on a license plate. If you want great hiking, head to the White Mountain National Forest. Some wonderful, rock strewn trails to challenge you. I’ve included a photo from the last trip my wife and I took below .
Anyway, here’s the video – Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs performing ‘The Wish’ live in ChurchHouse Studio.
Last time we released a new song by Steaming Mulch they said they were going to come back in to the studio soon. It usually takes them a while to get together and bring a new idea in for recording, so I was very pleasantly surprised when they said they had a new tune ready. The entire song was finished pretty quickly. The band usually has a basic song idea and comes up with the parts and riffs as they work on it. The new song already had the basic structure and instruments decided before we started recording. This made the recording process a bit different than usual, but just as much fun. After we finished recording they said they wanted to have a video for the song. Another great surprise as we usually use a static photo for their videos. As with their static photos they said we could do whatever we want. Ah, carte blanche to create! So we put together some footage for the song. They, of course, came up with the song title – pretty much keeps with the style of title they usually come up with. Hope you all enjoy listening to the song and watching the video as much as we enjoyed creating it.
Here’s Steaming Mulch and their new single ‘Whisper Beneath Me After Proto Essential’:
We’re finally back with another episode of Messin’ With The Music. It’s been quite a while since we were able to get together to start working on tunes again due to the pandemic. It feels great to be recording again and Mule Skinner Blues was a song we’ve been looking forward to finishing. The song has a long history. It was written and first recorded by Jimmie Rodgers in 1930. His version was a pretty straight forward blues tune. He originally titled it ‘Blue Yodel #8’ but it became commonly known as Mule Skinner Blues (or some variation of that) as time went by. Many artists have covered this classic song. The next well known version was by Bill Monroe in 1940. He picked up the tempo a bit and turned it in to a classic bluegrass style tune. The version we used as a template is Dolly Parton’s amazing 1970 version. We pretty much followed her lyrical take and song structure.
Instrumentally we have two different acoustic guitar parts, one hand played and the other picked. To add some flavor we added an electric guitar with some effects and a bass part that has a few effects too. There is a mandolin backing these parts and a banjo riffing throughout the song. There’s also a snare drum and floor tom holding down a beat in the deep background. All of the instruments are a platform for the vocals which are really the heart of the song. As always with Messin songs we recorded ‘straight through’ tracks for a live, loose feel using the same mic and sound path for all the instruments. We want to get the feel of everyone standing around a single mic playing the song.
Here’s Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs playing ‘Mule Skinner Blues’: