Category: Recording

Messin’ With The Music Part 19 – ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’

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’:

From The Vault 3 – ‘No Class Lines’

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.

Messin’ With The Music Part 18 – ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’

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’

Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs – ‘Truck Stop’ – Live In The Studio

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

More From The Vault

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

https://www.discogs.com/release/586126-Oktober-Skyline-Oktober-Skyline

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!

From The Vault

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’

Do It With Style

We returned this week from our latest National Parks adventure. There’s nothing better than watching the sunrise from an amazing mountain trail to clear your head and give you all the inspiration you could possibly ask for. We’ll continue to work on the Messin’ With The Music series. There are a lot of irons in the fire as far as new original compositions go. I’m often inspired to start writing a song when I hear a certain style of music that catches my attention. I find it doesn’t usually work if you try to carbon copy a style or song. The style is a starting point for the composition. Over the course of putting all the pieces together it should pick up your personality with different timing, chords, instruments and technique.

I think the following songs will provide an example of how a basic song style can underpin a variety of different compositions. The songs are all blues informed guitar music. But the style of the blues incorporated here is a bit more specific than the vast variety that falls under the ‘blues’ moniker. I’m not sure what specific name to give it. I’ve heard it referred to as ‘delta blues’, ‘hill country blues’ or ‘talking blues’ – and I’m sure some musicologist somewhere could give you a correct and exact definition. For me there are several important components. First, the interplay of the guitar and the vocal. The guitar line often matches the melody of the vocal, sometimes note for note as they are played together. Second, the guitar, especially between the vocals, tends to be riff oriented rather than chord based. Finally there is an overall looseness to the playing style that rolls in and out of the song’s basic timing. When you listen to the three songs that are included here, don’t get hung up on the differences in recording style or sonics. Listen for the overall similarities and how each musician takes the style and makes it their own. I picked songs that have a wide span of years between them to accent the recording differences and show how long this style of music has been popular.

First we have ‘Spoonful Blues’ played by Charley Patton. This song is dated as 1929. The songs that have been preserved from this era don’t usually have the sonic quality that you will hear in recordings made as technology advanced. It was probably recorded live in a hotel room somewhere using the technology of the time, a very basic tape recorder or possibly cut directly to vinyl. So the song is just vocal and guitar played at the same time. Again, pick up on the underpinnings – the interplay between the guitar and vocal, the guitar riff and the overall looseness of the song. All the pieces are there. Although this style had already been around for a while, recordings of this era were the first attempt to capture the music and would be important touchstones for musicians who came later.

Next we have a song that couldn’t be more different in terms of recording and guitar sonics. I would imagine most of you have heard ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ by Jimi Hendrix at some point. The song was recorded in 1968. An amazing display of virtuosity and the possibilities of what could be done with a guitar sonically using electronics. Listen closely. Despite the vast sonic differences the underpinnings are all still there. The guitar and vocal match. The repeating guitar riff between vocals. The looseness of the playing. Another piece is that the guitar and vocal are very prominent in the mix compared to the bass and drums. It’s a great interpretation of the musical style.

To finish our run I’m adding one of our favorites, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. This song ‘Clap You Hands’ was recorded in 2010. In some ways it’s a stylistic middle ground between the two previous tunes. His guitar playing style goes back more towards earlier Delta Blues sounds. He even favors vintage guitars in this case playing an electric/acoustic. The recording quality advancements are easy to hear. The sound is clear and there is a lot of separation between the instruments. The drums and washboard are given a more prominent place in the mix which add drive to the sound. But as in all these examples the basics are there. A basic riff between the vocal parts that carries through the song. The guitar and vocal matches in the verses and choruses. The loose playing style especially with the slide parts. A wonderful update of a classic style.

If you get too hung up on musical styles and trying to come up with a style that’s totally ‘original’, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. When musicians are asked to describe their music you’ll hear every crazy genre and subgenre name you could think of. We all want to be ‘original’. But you can take any style that already exists and add your own personality to it to make it original. Sometimes the best thing is not to over think it. Have fun, hit ‘Record’ and let it fly.

Music By The Flank – ‘Drain’

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:

Messin With The Music Part 17 – ‘Song 2’

‘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’:

August 2021 Grapevine

It’s time for some summer listening. I like to listen to a lot of music while I’m driving, especially new albums I’ve bought (I still love albums on CD). And even in the summer when I’m listening I like to go ‘windows up’ – wind noise takes away from me hearing everything I want to, especially if it’s something I’m hearing for the first time. Yeah, it’s a bit odd but I’ve never felt the need to worry about my odd behavior. So the theme for this month’s music can be headed under the idea of ‘critical listening’. The idea for this month’s selections and discussion is try to listen to all the different parts of the song. Usually if you’re listening to a song you take in the overall sound. Most people will pick up on the main parts of a song – the vocal, a lead instrument break. Maybe it has a great drum beat. But often it’s the little pieces that you don’t consciously listen to that make a song stick with you. That’s why the arrangement and the mix are so important. And it’s why the arrangement writing and the recording process are such an art. The best sounding songs treat all their parts as equally important as the main parts. You can listen to some songs and hear that the little things were considered ‘throw away’. Those songs may hit you because of a great vocal, but I don’t think they’ll stay with you as long. At least they don’t for me. So here we go……..

First Up: John Hiatt With The Jerry Douglas Band – ‘Long Black Electric Cadillac’

Here’s a great way to start. John Hiatt has been around for a while. His songs have been recorded by countless musicians and he’s known as one of the best song writers around. He teams on this song with Jerry Douglas, another musician in great demand, best known for his dobro resonator and lap steel playing. First, let your ears cruise through the overall song. Great vocal sitting on top and the lyrics are a lot of fun. The song is arranged to highlight the vocal. Now let’s pick apart the rest of the song. Hone in on the double bass. You can hear it keep a steady bottom end, sitting on the bass roots of each chord. This sound stays in the center of the mix. – (I should probably add here that you might miss a lot of this if you’re just listening on your phone or tablet without headphones. Things get lost – especially bass tones). Hiatt is keeping the main strum going on six string acoustic. There’s an electric guitar and violin that hold down regular rhythm parts and come in occasionally with sweet little lead riffs. In the recording arrangement these are panned pretty hard to the left and right side of the mix. Jerry Douglas’s amazing slide work on the resonator often acts as a call and response to the vocal, so it tends to sit relatively in the center of the mix. With everyone doing their part, the rhythm of the entire song just chugs along. And that’s the important and difficult part in putting an arrangement together – everyone has to do their part. All the players have to keep the rhythm going. Even the vocal has a rhythm to it. Catch the nice little break at the 2:12 mark. If the musicians do it right, what do you have? Awesome.

Next Up: Mdou Moctor – ‘Ya Habibti’

I’ve included a Mdou Moctor tune in a Grapevine before. I just bought this album and got to listen to it front to back on a drive. Tuareg guitar music, sometimes called desert blues, presents a whole different type of rhythm. If you haven’t heard it before, the feel is bit more exotic than most music you’ll hear on American radio. Even though Moctor is known for his amazing guitar work, the musical arrangement is more drum based. The instrumental lineup would be familiar – kit drums, bass, rhythm guitar and lead guitar. The rhythms and scales played give the music it’s different feel. The drums and rhythm guitar stay on a pattern that drives the song along. The bass is not as prominent, but listen closely and you can pick it out. The bass and the guitar sounds usually keep to higher end frequencies, so you don’t have as deep a bottom end. Another sound that drives this song is traditional rhythm instruments as well as handclaps that are added in. You can hear them panned to left and right along with multiple layers of vocals that give the recording width and fills in the stereo sound. Take some time and listen carefully. See if you pick out the string sound on the rhythm guitar and some of the tom fills on the kit drums (hear some nice tom fills at the 3:07 mark). On this song Moctor keeps his guitar playing to quick, repeating passes. If you look online you can find some live performances where the guitar work absolutely shreds. I’d love to have this album on a long drive on an empty two lane road out in the desert.

Finally: Black Midi – ‘Dethroned’

We’re moving on to something with a very different feel. How would you describe the music of ‘Dethroned’ by Black Midi? I’m not sure there’s a perfect description and my take on descriptions is ‘why bother’. In the beginning of the song the drums have a very prominent presence in the mix. They set the tone for what is to come. The beat is not really straight forward, but if you listen you can hear how they work around a count. A guitar comes in when the vocals do and that guitar in the beginning keeps a very straight count. It’s placed slightly to one side of the mix. Vocals have a big presence, but they mute that slightly by drowning them in reverb. By the minute and a half mark the bass is in adding a deep background and the guitar sound is starting to expand. Listen to the repeating riff the bass is playing. It’s probably the most straight forward line in the first half of the song and really keeps the guitar and drums grounded. At the 2:30 mark the drums and guitar turn to more simplistic lines. By three minutes a second guitar line is added and the guitars spread out in the stereo mix to left and right side. By the 4:00 minute mark things get a bit chaotic. The guitars have now taken over prominence in the mix with the drums dropping back a bit. The song rolls to the end in this fashion. I put this song in because it’s a great example of how a band can chart out a song arrangement from beginning to end and how the prominence and stereo placement of each instrument in the mix determines the song’s journey. If they had kept one sound and placement of instruments throughout the song it would not be nearly as interesting and engaging.

Retro: Alice Cooper Band – ‘School’s Out’

There can be a lot of reasons a song remains memorable. In rock songs one reason can be an unforgettable guitar riff. (That’s one reason I still love listening to Led Zeppelin – riff rock at it’s finest.) The guitar riff in ‘School’s Out’ has to be one of the most memorable of all time. Just play the first 20 seconds of this song and most people will immediately name the song, before a single vocal line. But like a lot of music from that era the other part of the recording that pulls me in is the clarity and placement of each instrument. Listen to the prominence of the bass line in this recording. It’s really another great riff that weaves around and enhances the guitar line. The main guitar is placed in right side stereo and the rhythm guitar, playing lower fuzz tone chords is on the left side. The drums are really crisp. And the vocal sits on top, nice and clear so you can take in the lyrics. In the lead guitar part of the song, they put a guitar playing the original riff in the right side stereo and the rhythm guitar in the left channel while the lead takes a vocal space in the middle of the track. It’s a fine line keeping the instruments in a higher crisp frequency without pushing them too far up where the sound just becomes annoying. Recorded and mixed correctly, this song becomes a classic. Without the correct mix and arrangement the song could end up in the bargain bin. Another point to remember is that in 1972 when this came out, most people heard songs for the first time on the radio. The frequencies and clarity were really important to cut through on radio. Sit back and enjoy this classic summer song.