Thursday, May 22, 2003

Just recorded two new tunes for the album - I hope the fact that we recorded a couple of tracks with different players and no producer (same engineer, though) will not give the impression that we were unhappy with what we had achieved already. When we started this project, I told everybody I wanted to make a "quiet" album and that's what they delivered. I have a few issues about my own performance but I'll skip the self-flaggelation for now. My first album is so raucus that I would rarely have an occasion to put it on, so I was intent on producing an album that I will be able to listen to and enjoy for years to come. Well, now it's *too* quiet - so we're adding a couple of electric tracks...but as it turns out, they're not that "electric" after all, but they will pick up the energy of the album. We remade the computer song as a blues shuffle and I was delighted to have my old buddy Mike Fitzpatrick at the kit. He is the shuffle meister and I seem to recall when we were making the first album he said "this is the first blues album I've ever made without a single shuffle". Well, this one will have a shuffle!

I would still like to record a solo instrumental for this album, but that's looking less likely because I haven't even started to write that. That was another item I had on my "wish list." I was fortified being around Harry Manx last year when he was going through the same sort of thing - going over the album with a fine-tooth comb, tightening it up and making it as good as it can possibly be. We are surrounded by people who just want to put out the first thing you record - "It perfect just like that." I was actually relieved to have the record company come back and ask for some things to be improved because there were a few things I wanted to add, including a song I just wrote. Even though the timing wasn't the greatest, we did get Harry Manx on one track (overdubbed in my home studio) and we did send some tracks to Germany so my buddy Butch Coulter could overdub some tracks.

I found it great to work at home and even if I did not record there, at least to edit the tracks so that when they go to be mixed - or, in this case, remixed, I will have removed anything I didn't ever want to hear again. Fred has asked for a remix and he would like to hear some of the vocals re-done. I'm very curious to hear somebody else try to make something out of this album. We recorded is right off the floor with everybody playing in the same room - just like blues albums should be recorded, and now we're stuck with sound leakage in all the mics - Any mixing will be quite challenging as it is mostly about getting a sound while compensating for the leakage.

I don't have the budget to re-mix anyway, I will be cutting into the mastering budget and then into the design budget. One of the songs we just did is a remake of the computer song on my last album. Fred had asked for this song to be re-recorded all along, but nobody paid him any heed. Finally when the opportunity presented itself at a gig with Gary Kendall, I did another spontaneous thing and booked the Downchild rhythm section (Kendall, Fonfara and Fitzpatrick) for a session the following Monday. We'll I still hadn't decided on a new groove for the computer song (now called Hi-Tech Blues 2.0) and I wasn't nearly finished the other song I wanted to record. So here I am in the same boat again - I'm going to record a song I just wrote the night before (which is the opposite of what I know I should do, which is play the tunes with the people who are going to record them - preferably at live gigs (consider it getting paid to rehearse). So that song wasn't ready but we worked on it together and got something. The lyrics were not right, though I spent another 24 hours trying to make them sound OK - especially since they described the triumphs and tragedy of Loreena McKennitt's life. I hope she doesn't hate me for writing this.

When will I get to make a record when they do more than put a mic in front of me and get me sounding exactly like I do? I guess I was looking to sound *better* (different?) than I do...but who can fault an acoustic solo recording where you close your eyes and it's like the singer is sitting across from you? We had the songs sounding *that* good on the first round before we brought in any producer. We were recording at my place on my old beige G3 Mac. But Fred was underwhelmed with the solo acoustic effort and wanted something a little more produced. I chose my first producer because he had a reputation as a song-fixer. He did have some ideas for improving the songs and even tried to show me some more appropriate chord changes, and pasing chords, etc. Anyway, I couldn't play hardly anything that he suggested. I would try, but it just didn't come naturally. Other things like repeating a little tag in one tune, I remember long enough to record that way, but playing live I bet you anything I will revert to the original arrangement.

Speaking of reverting, my engineer had suggested that one of the tunes was dragging at the beginning so we should cut the first verse in half to get to chorus quicker. I was able to remember the change and we recorded it that way. Then a few weeks later I arrive at the studio and engineer and producetr are working on that same song - and they have edited back a long double verse at the beginning because it "sets the narrative." ?!?!! I was speechless but made a mental note to just stick to my arrangements the way I first write them.

I started this project with the intention of doing it in my own studio. Paul Benedict sold me some converters and got me set up and we spent about six months trying stuff at my place. We ended up recording most of the album at his place but we did the most recent stuff here and I hope that at least some of the next album will be done here, too. Both producer David Baxter and myself received a valuable crash-course in Cubase because Paul was very generous in taking time to explain stuff and even letting us get "hands-on" (though he lived to regret that).

Quote of the day: "An amateur practices until he gets it right. A professional practices until he can't get it wrong."

Seen about town: The Toronto Blues Society had a special evening at Hugh's Room and I decided to go "all out" and have a nice meal there - the most expensive piece of chicken I've had in a long time - but worth it.

The first performer up was was the wonderful Morgan Davis - he got us immediately into the blues zone. I love the sound he gets with his solid body guitar and small amp. He keeps getting nominated as "Acoustic Artist of the Year" but I've never yet seen him playing an acoustic guitar. On the other hand...

Jack De Keyzer had his trusty Yamaha flat-top to finish off the evening with Al Lerman. It has no pick-up so must be mic'd. He was using that guitar when He played a short set for the media launch of the new Toronto Star Bluesfest taking place at the CNE. They have mega stars and an very reasonable ticket price. I met Mark Monahan and some other luminaries of the Ottawa Bluesfest but do you think I would have thought to bring a package to pitch some gigs for myself? Naw! Consequently I have no festival gigs this summer - except for Downtown Jazz who found me a spot in a little sports bar called Brass Taps. Well it really is a "sports bar". When I went to check it out I was shoved back out the entrance by two guys with hockey sticks and equipments bags who were coming the other way.

Anyway, I've decided that if they're going to be a loud inattentive audience I'm going to play some even louder music that doesn't require attention and to this end I have engaged Caspar Project to collaborate with me on these shows. This will mark my first foray into MIDI since I arrived in Toronto over ten years ago.

I was one of the first people (in my area) who ever heard of MIDI - and see how it's been integrated into the larget musical world now. I'm going to pull out my old MIDI guitar controller and my MIDI pedalboard and see how much information I can throw at Caspar Project (ak Peter Hasek), because he's got amazing tools to manipulate the sound. Hey, maybe we'll play a little modern jazz!