When I was a kid I had dreams of being in a band and going into the studio and recording “my Pet Sounds.” I’d be at the control room, we’d spend weeks and months writing, arranging, producing, mixing…the whole nine yards.
Then I started to realize just how damn expensive it is…to say nothing of how difficult the process is! There’s a reason why Brian Wilson is considered a once-in-a-lifetime genius and the rest of us are, well, just the rest of us.
My first brush with recording was a 4-track tascam and a Shure SM-57. My friend Dave and I bought it a music store and went straight to his house (stopped for a six pack) and set about the business of recording, maybe not Pet Sounds, but certainly Please Please Me.
My god…what a tedious process. I hated the sound of my own voice. I still do. I hated the sound of my guitar…and jeez…every little mistake captured and magnified right there on that tape.
My perception and expectations have changed a lot over the last 30 years. Now…with technology changing as much as it has, my not being in a band anymore and generally writing in isolation within the Cathedral, I don’t really have this notion of recording “my Pet Sounds” in quite the same way.
The biggest thing I enjoy about recording now is the immediacy of it. I can write a song and have a recording in just a couple hours. I can walk into the Cathedral and within a few button pushes, have that red light flashing and lay down tracks. They’re like polaroids…
I see my recordings as a snapshot of the moment…the emotion I felt right then as I played the songs. The mistakes, while massive, don’t matter to me as much. Maybe I’m not a perfectionist and I’m just making excuses for my laziness but I don’t think so. I record something and I hesitate to mess with it because those mistakes are honest. The crack in my voice, or the overly aggressive attack of a particular note…that’s who I am in that moment so I tend to only fix real mistakes and bad performances.
Tech these days allows you to do anything…to hit perfection. Fix things on such a microscopic level that going down that rabbit hole can result in never returning.
I fight that urge sometimes but I think I’ve found a good balance.
I try to record everything in one take. I don’t “punch in and out” if I miss a note. If I do and I’m not happy with it, then I start back at the beginning.
When I’m recording guitar I’m actually playing guitar. I don’t use MIDI. Same with bass…drums and keys I use MIDI instruments but the drums are an actual drum set with a MIDI-USB out. There’s no way I could sit there and click each drum beat one at a time. It doesn’t FEEL like I’m playing drums.
I have tattoos on both of my arms. One says “Analog/Mono” and the other says “Digital/Stereo.” I think that’s as good a representation of my entire life as i can come up with. I enjoy technology and everything it affords but I don’t want to lose that organic spirit or aesthetic that I believe is so very essential for all of us in life.
Anyway…here’s a link to a couple demos I threw together a while back…same song but one is acoustic and the other is “band.” In both cases I’m the only performer.