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Date: Mon 23 Dec, 2002 at 12:28
Headline: In The Studio, part 2

Seasons Greetings & Holiday Salutations!

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We reconvened at Sound Image on Tuesday Dec 17 to finish up the rest of the music tracks before adding vocals. Fortunately, the bassline that was giving me such a headache before did come out rather well on the last pass, so I didn't have to re-record anything. Matt just had one solo to overdub, so the evening was pretty much a guitar marathon for Tim. Fortunately he, like the rest of us, was ultra-prepared going in. He threw down his parts quickly and proficiently, pausing only occasionally to listen back to a potential trouble spot or grab a snack from the control room. Had to smile watching him work, especially as he laid down his jingly jangly Johnny Marr-esque fills in 'Esperanto'. The guitar sound on this record is gonna be great.

Your Focus Determines Your Reality

Thursday Dec 19 was Vocal Night. I had been dreading this since the sessions began, for a couple of reasons. First of all, I always get sick at this time of year. It's almost a Holiday Tradition with me at this point -- I can't remember what it's like to spend New Year's Eve without a high fever and violent coughing. Sure enough, the symptoms began showing up early last week and I was very worried that they would impact my singing.

The other thing that was bugging me was the fact that my last experience singing on a recording (the first SONS CD) didn't go so well, and for the most part didn't yield results that I can honestly say I'm still proud of today. Most of the feedback I received for that first record went along the lines of "great songs, good playing, fair production, lose the singer", and listening back today I have to admit that some of the vocals were not up to, let's say, a high enough standard, so I was very self-concious about going back and recording again. I made sure to have both Matt and Tim kicking my ass every step of the way so that I would get everything right, at least from a technical standpoint. Then if anyone still doesn't like my voice at least I can chalk it up to a mere difference in taste. :-)

Tim did most of his leads before I did mine, and to be honest he helped me even more with his example than with his critiques. I watched his stance, his focus -- how he put all of the energy straight into his voice, didn't get carried away physically, worked smart instead of just hard. He is a very good singer, and amazingly aware about what his voice can and cannot do, and exactly how to get the results he wants. I gleaned what I could from watching and listening, and applied it to my own work. In consequence, I may have sung more conservatively than I had meant to originally because I was so focused on getting the details right rather than letting loose, but I think in the end the vocals on this CD will be tighter and more confident than last time around. That's something that pleases me greatly, and hopefully will please all of you as well.

The Men Behind The Desk

Though everyone in the band has contributed in their own ways to the sonic creativity that has been going on at these sessions, the guy who has really come most severely to the forefront in the producing realm has been Meldrum. I can't say that I am particularly surprised. Possessed of the best ears in the band and being a part-time producer/engineer for other artists, he is highly skilled at not only identifying when things work and when they don't but also able to instantly analyze why something doesn't work, and quickly come up with alternatives. Also, for someone who has one of the most dry and cynical wits I have ever encountered, he is quite personable when he wants to be, remarkably good at putting people at ease in these potentially stressful situations. I can't imagine this project going as smoothly as it has without him.

Our engineer, Toby Seljaas, has been equally able to keep the sessions light and confident throughout -- and to hear some of his horror stories from his years of experience working in California, we must seem like a day at the beach for the poor guy. :-)

Not much left to do now. With all of the leads completed by last Thursday, we decided to split the session in two and do the backing vocals at a later date. Our friend Juli Mueller (from Jupiter and the FloydShow band) will be joining us this week to add some finishing touches to the proceedings, then it's all down to mixing & mastering.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

your humble correspondent
Thom Bowers