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I thought I’d pull the Facebook posts together from the first week for those of you who don’t use that social medium. We’re coming toward the end of the rhythm tracks and today we’ll have all the drums down on 10 of the 11 tracks with only “Blind to the Beautiful” sitting drum free as an acoustic version. Gavin has done spectacularly well, everyone benefiting from playing the material on the 2 week UK tour . Calum Malcolm has done a tremendous job with the drum sounds and has coaxed great performances from Gavin. Steve Vantsis arrived last Sunday and spent Monday and Tuesday moving over the programming and recordings from the demos we’d put together over the months so we had guides to work with. Gavin arrived Tuesday and he set up his kit in the main room under the beamed ceilings as Calum wanted to go for a big drum sound on the album. In 91 it had been designed as a drum room but ironically we never used it that much as it was too big a drum sound to manage! With the furnishings in place as my domestic residence it calmed the room down a bit and despite being a bit worried about intruding rattles and tinkles from surrounding bric a brac we found it was relatively secure. The drum sounds were set up on Wednesday using “The Great Unravelling” which had been well rehearsed for the UK tour but had never been played live as I still didn’t have lyric together and wasn’t confident enough to jam it on stage.It was a thumbs up all round on the sounds and suddenly we were in the zone of principal recording!
June 17th – “Today Calum Malcolm sets up for the Feast recording sessions. The house turns back into a studio for a couple of months. Now the problem of finding all the bits and pieces that go to making it all work again! Steve already here, Gavin arrives tomorrow to set up drum sounds on Wednesday when Robin arrives and Foss comes over to begin the sessions proper!”
June 19th – “Calum working on drum sounds with Gavin. The punishing repetition of various single drums being sounded for recording probably something like a mild slow mo artillery barrage mixed with water torture! My least favourite studio time! Foss here working on “High Wood” on his Mac and I am on the PC at the back trying to make sense of the “Great Unraveling” lyric. Lots of moving the house around and forgot the main phone was next to the kit position. Cue frantic rewiring. Couches shifted confusing the cats who once again are ejected by the sounds of a working band. The Behringer monitor system working a treat and massive help in the studio as we don’t waste time with mixes being set up, adjusted and sent out from the control room. Usually a frustrating process now seemples!”
June 20th – Robin arrived last night and set up his gear. Foss set up yesterday afternoon and we ran through his 2 principal songs and checked out the “High Wood”. That is now next lyric in my sights which I hope to have done by the weekend. Another tough WW1 journey! Working today on drum and bass tracks on “Great Unravelling” and putting down a guide vocal from the new lyric. I hope it sits . The band will be playing as a full unit in the studio for the first time. My Dad dropped off fruit loaves for the boys who’ve become addicts to my Mum’s baking! Scones, shortbread and also a lettuce/pea and mint soup for lunch! What a lady!
Need to get my beard trimmed sometime as David Barras in tomorrow to film the principal interviews. Foss and I need haircuts! Dongle containing 7 of the UK shows from Warrington onwards arrived from Wales yesterday so that has to be added to the filming we made on those shows to give us material for the “Feast of Consequences” making off DVD. All coming together and gathering momentum. Smiles in the control room . Sounding great! “
I’d completed the lyric to “The Great Unravelling” but still had 2 more to find. I’d not worked with Foss as much as either of us had wanted to on the 2 remaining songs from the “High Wood” suite. The planned writing sessions on the tour days off never happened as we were all exhausted dealing with the shows which involved a lot of concentration and as we were clocking in over 2 hours on stage every night and I was driving the tour the last thing on our minds was writing material. I was really feeling the pressure on the lyrics for “The High Wood” and “the Leaving” as they were to bookend 3 tracks that had been getting great audience responses and comments. They both had to stand up for muster on parade! At this point in recording proceedings I always feel a bit of a spare part. I am not a musician and the discussions in the control room regarding parts being played was well outwith my jurisdiction for comment.Calum was very much in charge and we’d spent time earlier on in the week listening to demos and analysing the structure, nipping and tucking and playing with edits to really tighten the songs up. “All Loved Up” which we had all felt was a bit flabby in the basic structure and too long for what it was intended to be, a punchy rock track, was subject to scrutiny and as Calum offered his opinion to is as to being a single we had to shave it down. It’s now sitting at around 4mins 40 secs, just about radio friendly with a fade to remove the “offensive material” ! 🙂
Friday June 21st – “Fine day yesterday. Laid the backing track for “Feast of Consequences” . Foss and Steve are in the control room with Gavin’s kit and Robin’s rig in the main rooms. I sang my guide vox in the kitchen with the door to the garden open the wind chimes adding some colour to the mix! Really pleased with what we captured and it was interesting to see the difference between the original demo and the version we play now after the UK tour. The tempo felt held back on the demo so we adjusted click tracks to give it a more natural drive that the song has inherited from playing live. Gavin is playing better than ever and Calum is well impressed at how much he’s come on as a drummer since the “13th Star” sessions. “Feast” sounds like a classic rock song now and has put a high bench mark up! “All Loved Up” on today’s agenda. Calum has suggested a few edits we’d become aware of that we needed as it was feeling too long when we played it live. Now a lot more punchy and direct Calum is already thinking of radio play. It’s been tapped back to about 4 min 50 for the album version which puts us within striking distance of a single edit. Again this version benefits from the live outing and has a pile of energy in the studio performances.
Still getting used to the new edits just now as again we’re recording as a live band. Dave Barras is in to film proceedings but the intended interview time is being swallowed by my commitment in the control room despite this being muso territory just now. Just have to keep in touch with the ever changing shape of the song and protecting the lyrics !
Mark Wilkinson is pressing for a track order for the sleeve design but at the moment I’m unsure of the order without getting a better idea of the dynamics of the new recorded versions.
I know “Perfume River” will kick the album off and “The Great Unraveling” will close it with “the “High Wood” suite as a 5 song chunk. The rest of the order is a quandary !Need to get these last 2 lyrics in the box these next few days as we will be hitting these songs for recording by Wednesday at the current rate. Settling into the studio routine now and everyone positive and happy as it comes together as we planned.”
Friday – “All Loved Up” laid down and now moving on to “Crucifix Corner”. “Loved Up” an absolute corker and screams single potential even at this basic stage! Probably most “up” song I’ve worked on since “Big Wedge” or “Incommunicado”! “Corner” sounding immense in the control room. Calum has nailed the drum sound. Really feeling the pressure to get “High Wood” lyric together. Could be a long night for the scribe!”
“Had to post this notice up outside the front door as the chimes are in the main room !”
My titanium mike stand I use on stage was set up in the kitchen where I had my Behringer mixing console and Bose headphones to work on any guides the team needed. As we were playing to the existing demos a lot of them had adequate guide vocals to work with. Replacing those with more advanced guides is on the agenda for next week as Robin and Foss get into overdubs and need a bit more “feel” to work around! The kitchen, which we used to use as a guitar booth in the old days, has turned out to be a great environment to sing in. Not only do I have fresh Columbian coffee to hand but also the TV in silent mode to entertain me during control room discussions on the backing tracks! Having the door to the garden and fresh air is also a boon although a couple of times the wind chimes and bird song added a bit too much colour to the takes! 🙂 Amazingly despite all the changes in the studio environment it is still more than capable of providing great acoustic spaces and the integrity of the original design is still there. I closed it down as a commercial studio back in 98 and only use it myself these days. There’s something quite familiar when the space returns to being a recording studio and the vibe is still here! I was pleased that the kitchen had accidentally provided a new singing booth! 🙂
Saturday 22nd June -“ Backing tracks for ” Thistle Alley” and “The Gathering” laid down today and “The Great Unraveling” which we were going to have a crack at again as it was done first day was reviewed and ok’d as it sounded fantastic Lyric for “High Wood” close to completion and should have it wrapped by tomorrow afternoon. It’s a tough write as I am trying to cram as much as I can into it and I know I’ll still be dissatisfied when it’s done. I could write an entire album and beyond on this theme alone !
Tomorrow we go for “Perfume River” and “Other Side of Me” leaving “Blind to the Beautiful”, “High Wood” and “The Leaving” to complete the backing tracks and let us surge into developing the songs with overdubs of lead instruments.
Now discussing strings and backing vocals for tracks and a brass section for “The Gathering”. Everyone is really pleased with the way it’s developing and I have to say this is one of the finest recordings I have worked on for a very long time.
It has energy, fine musicianship and at the heart of it all there are great songs. This is easily going to match “13th Star” and already sounds, dare I say, like a classic to match anything in my solo catalogue so far.
Calum, who wanted to produce this album from it’s original conception, has done an amazing job and has been an immaculate sage and advisor in the arrangements. The boys are putting in solid shifts and the UK tour “rehearsals” have paid dividends and more as we are all sitting comfortably with the material and have retained the energies we discovered on the stage.
Calum wants me to put down advance guide vocals on the tracks in the next couple of days so the musos have something a bit more inspiring to work to than the demo versions. It’ll be good to contribute a bit more as at this stage I am very much in the background as the backing tracks are laid. It’s sometimes frustrating sitting at the back of the control room as the singer. A bit like being the interior designer watching the foundations go up on the building!
A lot of my day today was spent in the garden weeding the raised beds and clearing my head so the words could take root. It’s great therapy and especially with the “High Wood” a touch of getting back to nature was inspiring.
It’s an Indian takeaway tonight as I can’t be arsed catering and have a lyric to finish. Boys are watching Italy v Brazil now and this is being written as a creative break before I saunter back into the lyric forest to pick wild words.
Hopefully I’ll forage enough ingredients to deliver “High Wood” for brunch tomorrow !”
The garden was providing a fine retreat for me and I could get away into my own head space. “High Wood” was still a daunting prospect and I didn’t really get to grips with it until late on Saturday with the final flourish on the Sunday.
Sunday 23rd June – A complex ride but I finally got there. I had to leave a lot of intended imagery and subject matter out as to be honest it constitutes another song that we don’t have time or space to write for this album.
I still have “The Leaving” to put together and perhaps I can include the missing imagery there. I’m pretty happy with this and Foss and I have only to check the keys to bring it to the Feast for recording tomorrow.
Today we cracked “Perfume River” which considering the live version sitting well on tour has been quite complicated as Calum and Gavin have put in a hell of a lot of work into the intricacies of the rhythmic spine.
“Other Side of Me” is up for scheduling later this afternoon.”
I was relieved to wrap “High Wood” and I think it inspired me to get straight into “The Leaving”. As I said in my post there was a lot of imagery relating to a family’s visit to a WW1 cemetery /the effect on a young boy/ his Great Grandad’s medals( Foss and I had long discussions on the relationship through the years re the boy to his ancestor and spent ages trying to work out a miltary background and lineage!), the tin boxes of medals in antique stalls in markets and the kids playing with them after finding them in the sideboard in the house. This was to translate across to “The Leaving” where the boy had grown up and was a serving soldier about to return to another tour of duty and who was looking at his Great Grandfathers medals before he left. Generations further on and still in bunkers and digging in while the new weaponry was deployed. That was my original “movie script” for the “High Wood ” suite but it was now obvious it was a far too ambitious project. Mark Wilkinson was slightly disappointed as he had procured a collection of photos from Afghanistan that he wanted to use. I’d hoped to salvage some of the modern imagery in “The Leaving” but as I advanced into the song I knew it was a scene too far! The final lyric tied everything up well and I had managed to “top and tail” the “High Wood” suite and make sense of it all. I’ll always have a slight regret that I missed out on an even bigger story but perhaps that’s something I can look at in the future.
I finished the final lyric for the album just before 7pm and celebrated by taking Robin, Steve ad Gavin out for Sunday dinner at the Waterloo Bistro. Gavin has put in a solid shift but yesterday he was suffering a bit. “Other Side of Me” proved a test as we hadn’t really worked it in rehearsals and he had to really concentrate on getting what is a very intricate and dynamic drum contribution down. It’s turned into a superb track that has gone from being on the edge of the album track choices and a possible bonus track to standing proud in the list. In short there are no weak tracks on this album and it’s coming in at a length that’s not demanding and not selling short.
Monday 24th June – ” Moving into the end zone of the rhythm tracks with “High Wood” and “The Leaving” up today. “Other Side of Me” is laid down and sounding magnificent. Calum has suggested a gospel choir on that and talking to my Dutch friend Egbert Detrix about strings this week on a few tracks.
I also have to chase up an old friend for backing vocals and hope she can get up to Scotland for a session as there’s some perfect moments for her to play with.
Finally decided on the running order so Mark can get on with putting together all the relevant images within the 100 page booklet. The tracklist of “A Feast of Consequences” will be
All Loved Up
Blind to the Beautiful
A Feast of Consequences
Other Side of Me
The Great Unraveling
I must admit I got very excited when I typed this out !
A couple of people had asked for info on Gavin’s drum set up. He gave me this list to put up for you drummers out there!
Tama Star Classic (Birch) 2001
20″ Kick drum
10″, 12″, 14″ toms
Cymbals – Dream Bliss
20″ ride, 18″ crash x2, 19″ crash, 14″ Hi Hats, 8″ splash, 12″ splash.
As I write this Gavin has just completed “The Leaving” after racking up the “High Wood” earlier. All that’s left for him to do now is some percussion that we will discuss tomorrow when we go through the entire set of backing tracks to make sure we have everything we need and that everyone is totally happy with the versions. Steve has already put down bass tracks to everything but he’ll be reviewing again in the next couple of days and adding touches to his contributions so far.There’s some stunning bass work on the album and it’s great to see him smiling as the songs we wrote together finally get put down “properly”!
As I said tomorrow is reviewing the album so far and Robin and I have to lay down “Blind to the Beautiful” to give us the 11 tracks that make up “A Feast of Consequences”. We are well on target for having the album ready for release in early September. It’s been a superlative first bunch of sessions and I am well proud of the guys for what we have managed to capture in what is actually less than a week.
Thinking back to last year when I couldn’t really see how we were going to get to this stage is a lovely heady feeling. The near panic attacks I was having on the balcony in Durlach last Summer seem an eternity away now. There’s still a long way to go and a hell of a lot of work to be done yet. I’m personally glad I have all the lyrics in place and can now concentrate on my own performances. The next 2 weeks focus on Robin and Foss after Steve has tidied up all his bass parts. There are other contributions that have to be scheduled over the next few weeks and after I have done the advanced guide vocals I am looking at getting to grips with my lead vocals after we take a short break in mid July. We will be well into the heart of the album by the end of this month and I have to say I am more excited than I have been for a very long time at getting this project out into the wide world.
I’m managing to cover the bases just now and a huge thanks to everyone who has pre ordered the album so far. You are helping make this all happen as without your support from buying the album and the merch this project would be nowhere near the stage it is at just now. Please spread the news about what we are doing here. I’ll keep you in touch with the way things develop here in the studio on Facebook and of course on here. We all sincerely appreciate you being out there for us! 🙂
take care, stay alive