Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Visitors

On Friday we needed to get most of the meat and potatoes recorded (because I had to come home for a Beautiful Mess show on Saturday) and our singer's friend Erin Wyatt-Fernandez came by to take pictures.
I was very glad she did as it took a ton of extra pressure off me.
I had a job to do on bass and any photos I was able to get were bonus with a lower priority. Erin had fun getting shots of everyone with her freedom of movement between the various rooms in the studio while I was often tethered to one spot by multiple cables.

Despite our amps being isolated in other rooms with their respective microphones, David and I did most of the basic tracks standing in the same room with Jaime. You can fix minor mistakes later, but getting the overall feel of a song just right requires human contact, from a subtle nod meaning "we go to the next part here" to just locking-in with the kick drum.
Some bands live and record on opposite coasts or even separate continents from each other and try to get around this basic principal, with varying levels of success.

At the end of one song we needed to sshhhhh... but I swear to this day that when she took this picture I could hear her flash pop and even the high-pitched whine of it re-charging through my headphones. Only a forensic analysis of the original tracks will settle the case, but that explains why I was shhh-ing in the first place.

I don't like playing bass solos.
I used to watch Billy Sheehan work his magic in upstate NY clubs with TALAS when I first got into this business, and he set the bar impossibly high.
And the general public isn't much interested, anyway.
My deal is all about being subtle, like a grindy tone and letting certain notes ring just barely long enough or almost too long.
All I care about is anchoring the music in the low register so the other Televators can shine.

But one song has a bass solo (more of a short interlude?) as an integral part and I decided to try my 8-string to spice-up the sound.
It took me a few takes to get the playback mix right, and a fast re-write of the part to manage it on this beast of an instrument. At this point I have no idea whether or not it'll make the final cut, but I had fun and learned something new.
The towel seen between my legs was looped over the neck and had one corner tucked under 4 of the strings so they wouldn't ring on their own, so I could concentrate on playing the rest of them.

My favorite photo. Relief.
Bassists don't get to do many overdubs, so I kinda felt like the guitarist I used to be 25-30 years ago.
It was great to have a pro photographer there to document a new high-point in my long career.
Thanks, Erin!

Other visitors included Paul Leary of The Butthole Surfers, Paul Barker (bassist during the best years of Ministry), and Jesse James. Mr. Leary produced the gold and platinum selling albums by Sublime and was very nice. Paul Barker is supposed to do an extended re-mix on one of our songs. I don't know WTF Jesse James was there for.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Milk Run

For some silly reason I expected to have a few days of my normal life before any new unbelievable stuff happened.
I was wrong.
Stay tuned...

Anyway, here are my favorite photos from last Wednesday through Sunday in Austin Texas, in and around Wire Recording Studio.

Phone pic of the rack of snare drums etc in the "kitchen":

Another phone pic of my friend Steve's bass amplifier system, which he graciously loaned me for our recent live shows and the recording sessions:
Over the last few weeks I built some custom cables to hook it all up in various ways, and he gets to keep most of them. Thanks, my brother!
I was "Bi-Amped" which means that the bottom speaker box (4x10" drivers) only had to deal with deeper bass frequencies while the smaller 2x10" top cab handled everything above 220hz, each with their own power amp channel. This is a much more complicated but also more efficient way to handle the full range of tones needed, and gives you way more clarity.
In addition to the 2 microphones on my speakers, I also sent a signal directly to the mixing board which got pumped into whatever vintage gear Stuart Sullivan felt was necessary. The 3+ resulting signals then get stirred back into a cocktail of bass guitar.
When I tore the bass rig down on Sunday I noticed that ALL of my original settings were still intact, meaning that none of the engineers or producer felt the need to sneak into the "Piano Room" where they were isolated to change what I felt was the right sound for Televators.
That was a huge compliment, but we shall see how much of my preferred sound ends up in the finished product.

Becky's vocals were done in this small room just off the main one.
The drawers are full of microphones and spare parts.
The round "Popper Stopper" keeps spit and percussive consonants from hitting the giant vocal mic.
We all had the "Private Q" units seen here. They are headphone amps that have knobs for everyone's instruments, so for example I can choose to have very loud kickdrum and quiet vocals in my ears while recording some parts, then turn up the guitar when I need more.
An incredible time saver, not having to ask the engineers in the control room for personal headphone mixes all the time.
Whoever invented this system deserves free BJs every day.

Taking infrared pics while on break got old pretty quick because it interfered with true rest, but there were some pretty skies early on.

Yes, pianos have lots of strings.
I lit this shot with an LED flashlight while killing time in the bass amp/piano room:
Spent a ton of my spare time in there because of the cool shit to photograph plus a little more private space for chilling out while still having a view of the main control room where all the action was. The AC seemed about 5 degrees cooler, which was nice.
Kept my camera gear and snacks out of everyone's way, too.

Kick drum is the heart and soul of heavy rock. Stuart and Lee made sure we had enough kick to do our music justice.

Some old microphones remind me of embalming tools:

New studio mics are suspended in elastic shock mounts, yet are still photogenic:

In the low-light studio conditions my 50mm-F1.8 lens proved it's worth:
Shallow depth-of-field is fine so long as you pick your focus point with care.

Becky's friend Erin came by on Friday and I'm SO glad she did.
A true pro photographer, she covered all the stuff I wasn't able to shoot due to my bass workload:

IF I can get permission, Erin's photos will complete the story of our experience in the studio.

Rough mixes are done and I hope to hear them tomorrow.
Apparently Paul Barker (bassist during the best years of Ministry) is going to do an extended re-mix of one song, which is eventually destined to be released on vinyl and also become a big part of a movie about fast cars...but I don't know what to believe anymore.
The rest of the album will get recorded in Europe for some reason, even though Austin served us well?

Going on the record, all I can say for sure is that my initial reservations re: promises made and grandiose plans laid have been dashed.
So far, everyone making wild claims has backed them up.

It's getting increasingly difficult to be a skeptic, but that's my nature and I think my responsibility at this point.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I Would Drive 500 Miles...

Since Wednesday I've set a mileage-per-day record in my Delightful Dodge Dakota.
Up to Austin for set-up, further north to a certain Marriot, back to the studio, around town for stuff, repeat, home, Beautiful Mess show in Adkins, Austin, home again...506.1 miles in five amazing days.

I will get to the specifics soon, but just wanted to start the Televator's recording sessions posts with a quick mention of my extreme fatigue.

Some of our songs are long, and others are fast. ALL are pretty heavy.
Extreme concentration while the dollars are flowing like water on a GPM scale messes with your mind.
Can't begin to imagine how tired our drummer Jaime got, but he's younger than me and recovered well.

Recording studios are an amazingly complicated place.
Ours was chock full of vintage equipment with jaw-dropping stats.
I'll spare you the details of which legendary hit songs had the vocals or drums or bass etc recorded using this item or that, but for a music junkie like me it was a trip through history that made all the biographies and oral reports I've read come alive. It's easy to think they are BS-ing until confirmation comes from 2nd and 3rd sources.
But with the good comes the bad.
We lost a lot of time right before the very first instance of hitting the record button when a fuse blew in our guitarist's Mesa Boogie tube power amp. The speaker cabinet was isolated in a closet with a single ribbon microphone, and it was screaming loud!!!
Probably louder than it had ever been pushed since built, and the amp's fuse quit like a big fricken wuss. For a change, I didn't have a spare and neither did the guys at Wire Recording, so an assistant engineer got sent to Radio Shack and we were back in business a hundred wasted bucks later...

Me: "It's a tube guitar amp--of course it's a slo-blo fuse!" and naturally I was right--the replacements looked exactly the same and worked perfectly.

On the second day we also lost an hour at the start when *again* the guitar wasn't working right.
After the entire signal chain got de-constructed and many cables were strewn about and many tiny screws were left rolling around on a dimly-lit end table, I overheard a conversation that mentioned that this particular guitar is equipped with EMG pickups.
Me: " has a battery?"

When I hooked-up my multi-meter that piece of shit 9-volt was reading a mere 3.11v!!!
I replaced it with an already used 9v from A Beautiful Mess's wireless in-ear monitors that had enough juice to get the session cooking again, and cook it did.
The guitar was screaming, and sounded amazing!!!

Minor details like fuses and batteries can bite you in the ass.

The third item in the picture above is THE pick.
Call me weird, but I made it a point to practice and play with any one of several nearly identical picks in my pocket but when it was time to actually record Televators music this was the exact piece of plastic clenched tightly in my right hand.
Most bassists pluck the strings with their fingers at about a 75/25% ratio or some such.
As a guy who's played mostly lead and rhythm electric guitar since the Ford administration I'm most comfortable hitting strings with plastic instead of dirty calloused fingertips. And when you hear the results from this week's work I hope you agree that there's no better way to play tight and fast basslines than with a 0.88mm Dunlop Ultex triangle.

Kinda wish they made a 0.75 version to tame my aggression a bit, but what are you gonna do?

All kinds of photos from Wire Recording Studio are coming soon.
The last few days have been the most important and educational of my entire life.
Music has always been the key to happiness for me, and all of a sudden it's working much better than ever.

Famous By Fifty!!! is my new motto, but that's pushing things a bit.
51 is more realistic but doesn't flow as well when you say it out loud.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

The SPURS Are #1 In The West

The night before our mini-vacation we got to use my Christmas present and see the Spurs play Philly.
Best seats I've ever had, and a parking pass to boot--thanks again, Holly!

We had the best time ever!

Here's San Antonio's favorite referee Joey Crawford admitting to Coach Pop that his penis is smaller than a six week old snapping turtle's:
Tim Duncan looks on, having no idea he would earn a technical foul in this game despite not even playing. At the game the announcer pinned the tech on Pop, so we were surprised to learn the truth when we fired up our DVR. Even though it wasn't Crawford's doing, he might have been in trouble had the crowd of 18,000+ found out, seeing as how we haven't forgotten the time he ejected Timmy from that Dallas game a few years back for laughing on the bench.
Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter also wore suits that night, although they escaped the "DND--Old" that Timmy got entered into the stats on his own behalf.

Bruce Bowen had his number retired a few days before this game, and it brought back many fond memories seeing his jersey in the rafters with the other legends. 21, 20, and 9 are probably next, and they better find a way to enshrine our cranky old coach, too.
Since the year 2000, the SA Spurs are THE #1 franchise in ALL team sports in the USA, period. We have the best win/loss percentage in the last decade and the current one. Better than every other baseball, football, hockey or curling team--not just hoops.

I always try to catch the tip-off because it's the only part of the game when they use spotlights:

Manu Ginobili, the single most amazing and unpredictable player in the NBA:
Did you SEE that pass he made to Patrick Mills last night???

As a bonus, it was Military Appreciation Night. There were many moments before the game and during commercial breaks that brought a tear to your eye.

Danny Green making sure I'm paying attention to the Coyote:
It was super-cool being so damned close to the action you could hear stuff besides whistles and shoes squeaking. A little spoiled now. I want a job as a courtside photog in the worst way, but don't much like the idea of being one of those sweat-sprayed sitting ducks under the basket. I'd like to shoot their faces in coach's huddles during timeout and action shots from above the rim using remote-triggered cameras.

Pop coaches Manu:
Like he needs it. Probably better info flowing from player to coach in this instance. Manu can run a team once his playing days are over. Hell, there are like a half-dozen current NBA coaches who are former Spurs players, and the front-office spread of our alumni is staggering. The whole league is buying what San Antonio is selling.

The Spurs are on a 10-game winning streak right now, and just secured a spot in the playoffs even if they lose every game left in the season.
We have the best record in the tougher Western Conference, which makes us the top dogs in the league as far as I'm concerned. The East can bite me--they stink. Lebron James is never going to get a ring because he sold his balls years ago for shoe cash. He's a franchise and money-making machine but "King James" should read "King Choke". When SA whipped his Cleveland Cavs in the 2007 Finals, Lebron could have learned enough to make it to the next level, but he wasn't paying attention in class.

Our recent acquisitions of Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, And Patrick Mills are genius moves for cheap $$, and already paying off.
The bench is crazy skilled and tough as nails. They WANT to win like I want to be able to tan--a LOT.
Our youngest player, 20 year old Kawhi Leonard, is already playing like a seasoned veteran, which is why he's a starter and a closer and a game-changer. We all miss George Hill, but Kawhi is the shit and RJ is already a distant memory.

TD21 looks like a kid again, and is dunking more than he ever has before.
Tony is the best damned point guard in the league right now.
Splitter has SO much junk in his inside game it's almost funny. A few years ago I watched a lot of EuroLeague games just because I knew he would come here eventually, and he was THE best big over there, fighting through double and triple teams with ease. A Duncan fan since he was a boy, this guy is going to be a major part of our future.

Manu is Manu again. We won plenty when he was injured, but Ginobili is our not-so-secret weapon. He can make the impossible happen every night.

Neal and Green and Blair are stepping up and playing like real men.

If we can keep it together and not lose anyone to injuries, there isn't a team that can keep us from our fifth Championship.
How the coaches will trim our roster for the playoffs is beyond me. There's only one guy that isn't performing above and beyond the level required.

I used my "ATT Center" Sony H1 for these pics because of the rule against detachable-lens cameras.
There always seemed to be an exception for the rodeo, which is why I got better quality pics of the action and concert.
This year they enforced the rule for the first time, so after one aborted attempt to enter I straight up LIED to two different screeners to get my Alpha300 into the building.
I think I haven't posted the rodeo/concert pics yet because I feel guilty.

Special Thanks to all my friends that came out to see Televators at Evil Olive last weekend!
Thanks for the beers and kind words.

The stress is mounting--heading up to WireRecording Studio in Austin this coming Wednesday for our big break.
Seriously, why couldn't this have happened 25 years ago when the dream of being famous was important to me?
How did taking a phone call while shopping at ROSS for picture frames and a can opener turn into this big crazy thing?

I'm glad that the band sided with me on including the song that my bass lines sparked into being back in January. The producer wanted to record a different one but we all believe that the 7-minute opus "Milk Run/Cosmic Stream" represents the future sound of Televators, so at least I'll have one of my compositions recorded professionally to serve as my musical legacy after 32 years in this crappy stinking business.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Views Of Texas

A pair of infrared photos using the Sony F828 that Matthew kindly gave me after my F717 died a few years ago:

While cameras are just tools, sometimes they can mean a lot more. Every time I use it, I still re-experience the surprise, gratitude, and elation I felt when opening this unexpected gift.

On the dry side of Canyon Dam:
The story goes that my father took us here to watch construction in progress. I'm sure he was looking forward to fishing the new lake, but never got the chance.

I have a great story about the parking area above the dam, but there's no way I can share it on the internet.

Sadly, with normal lake levels this year there will be a lot of drownings.
People need to realize that being able to swim across a pool don't mean shit when you're in a lake on a hot summer day, and full of beer. Add to that the submerged trees that are full of fishing line and nets and anchor ropes, and it's a recipe for disaster.
If your buddy wants to swim out to an island, distract him however you can.
I have been in serious trouble all alone in the middle of deep water and it's about the worst feeling in the world.

More Views:

See the tiny people on top of the dam?
Unlike Medina and I guess Hoover, Canyon is made of earth and is gigantic.

I got in trouble for leaving out the urinal photo:
I went back and forth while we were there, and at this moment wish I had used it at least once. But to be honest, urinals suck.
Women think they are so convenient and that men are lucky to be able to pee standing up, but like anything in life there are compromises.
I'm going to leave it at that--if you want to know more, ask a man who really cares about hygiene and grooming. If you don't know any, ask your husband.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Drowning Worms

We weren't catching fish, but I guess it's still fishing if you're sitting there quietly and your line is wet...

This part of the Guadalupe is gorgeous, and I guess the water was too cold because there were no tubers to disturb us.

The only catch we witnessed was by one of these fly-fisherman in a small inflatable.
It was in the morning, and I was surprised that they landed anything with all the loud talking they were doing, plus their guide kept splashing the water with his oars despite using an anchor.

It provided a clue as to our lack of success, though--we couldn't quite reach the fish from our shoreline.

Google overhead view shows how shallow it is on the left side (that's our cabin a little below and to the left of center) and even casting halfway across the river you aren't anywhere near the fish.

We had zero results after a few hours at Canyon Lake, too, but at least I had a nibble and saw some big ones in the shallows by the shore.

Not complaining--fishing is fun and relaxing whether you land any or not.