2/10/03 Tonight, we all met at England Recording Studios to officially begin the album. We’d met a few times previously to bump ideas, share demos, and do some arranging. But this was actually slated to be the inaugural "Be" session. I showed up first to set up a computer template from which we could work. Kevin and Mike showed up next and spent several minutes setting up their gear. Mike played some cuts from the pre-Kansas Livgren CD (Proto-Kaw)? and some awesome tracks from one of his Jellyfish albums. We listened while we worked. Pat showed last. I played them a demo of one of my newest candidates for the album. Actually, we've written almost all the core music for the album. But there are a few "stragglers" that are still in need of a home. After more discussion, we decided to begin the session with a tune Mike and I wrote, called "Nowhere is Home."
Unlike most of our albums, we recorded live, i.e., all of us playing at once. Mike played his Epiphone Joe Pass through my Fender Deluxe. Pat played his Ibanez Musician. Kevin was playing a 7 piece Roland V-Drum kit. I was playing piano and organ.
Unlike most of our albums, we recorded live, i.e., all of us playing at once. Mike played his Epiphone Joe Pass through my Fender Deluxe. Pat played his Ibanez Musician. Kevin was playing a 7 piece Roland V-Drum kit. I was playing piano and organ.
We went through about 5 takes and some minor arranging of "NiH" before deciding to move on to a different tune. It ended up being Pat’s music and reworked lyrics of my original lyric, "The Great Stereopticon." Interestingly, he had just brought us a rough demo of this one for us to hear this evening. We spent the remainder of the evening actually recording it. We all agreed that there probably weren’t any keeper moments from the evening, but rarely are there from first sessions. We got great sounds, great signals, and some familiarity with the setup. It’ll only get easier from here. Carl
2/13/03 I showed up solo to do some more computer tweaking, and to change some of the templates that Monday night's session necessitated. I also created a new template for my song "Symposium," as we plan to try and tackle that one Monday night. Carl
2/17/03 Tonight's session was a trio of Pat, Kevin and me, as Mike couldn't make it. Keeping this in mind, we approached the evening as another "honing" session to see what works and what doesn't. We spent most of the night on "Symposium." I'd demoed this song early on--probably before Thanksgiving--and the others had become quite familiar with it. Unfortunately, the newest version is a bit different as I developed the middle section of the song. It was especially tough on Pat as he and I play a fairly unforgiving unison line for about 32 bars. After we'd laid down about 10 takes, we moved to "The Great Stereopticon." I'd redone some of the lyrics and had some minor arranging suggestions. We talked through it for several minutes before actually laying it down. After the 4th or 5th take, Pat and I were pretty pleased by the sounds, performance and spirit of our tracks. Kevin, on the other hand, will probably be "refining" his tracks this time next year. heh heh.
Although we probably went a little longer than we should've, it was another productive night. Plus, we're having fun. Carl
2/24/03 Tonight was a 2-parter. For the first two hours I showed up solo to do even more song templates, and record the scratch piano or guitar parts for the others to follow. Kevin showed later and we spent about 5 hours on drums, drums, and more drums. With the help of Mssrs. Negra Modello and Guinness, we had a ridiculously good time. Spleens were ruptured and tears were shed...and that's a good thing! Carl
3/2/03 More drums! Pat, Kevin and I met to put some finishing touches on "Stereopticon." It took much less time than we thought, and so we recorded another of the "Be" tunes live. It's a song called "Beings" and it makes me cry. It was wonderful hanging with my buds and playing Salem Hill music. Got some pretty funny pics too! Carl
3/6/03 Can you say more drums? We revisited all of the tracks Kevin has laid down thus far to see if we still liked 'em. And in the immortal words of Mr. Belew, "we did!" We finished the drum tracks to the album opener, and rerecorded Mikey's "Nowhere is Home." Interestingly, I redid the template for a song Pat and I wrote called, "Love Won't Save the World." Interesting, because Kevin watched me languish as I created and loaded the template and then went into the main room and nailed to song on the first take. My favorite lyric from the album. Pat's music is wonderful. I brought along my two oldest kids, Alex and Chloe. Kevin and I spent the latter half of the evening making them endure our two man "Star Wars" impersonations. Some times I feel that my kids don't appreciate humor the way they should. Taking inventory after the evening shows that we're over halfway done with drum tracks...and not a paradiddle too soon. Carl
3/11/03 Was worried that "Beings" was a bit faster than it should be...so we redid it slower. Also did some mental arranging--thinking about featuring Kevin on vibes for this one. We'll see. Carl
3/15/03 Kevin and me. He was pumped about drumming to one of mine, "Children of the Dust." I was pumped that he was pumped...save for the fact that I hadn't made a template of it and it's much more detailed than the demo everyone has. So we spent the first half of the night hashing through inputting a template. Once we were happy with what we have to be happy with, we spent about 4 hours getting it just right. I've noticed that Kevin is really cutting loose with this album, and it's fun to watch him flail. Carl
3/18/03 Just got back. This was a VERY productive night, but Kevin and I are suddenly quite concerned. First the good news: We actually were able to record two tracks tonight...an amazing feat in and of itself, but downright miraculous with "Mr. Fagan's" self-analysis of every beat of every bar of every song. We recorded a song called "Apollyon," the bulk of which was penned by Mike. I've written a brief middle section so that Mike's music won't push the listener to the brink of buying a firearm! heh heh. It's driving...Kashmir like. The other song is called "I Didn't Come for You," the bulk of which was written by Pat. These are both very heavy pieces. Therefore, I felt that this particular session was most representative of the entire "Be" album. Plodding. Pensive. Pissed. All the 'P' words! But afterwards, Kevin and I looked at the time counter on the hard disk. It read 51:30. And this has us concerned. 51:30 is a nice sized album. In fact, downright svelte by SH standards. But we've still got four, full-length songs and two shorter intro and outro pieces to record before we're finished. And by our guestimate, we're looking at about 83 minutes...which means we're in trouble. The four of us had talked about acceptable length (album length, gutter brain!) in October and we'd all agreed that "Be" must be a single CD--optimally, about 60 minutes. We've already cut two lyrical ideas in January to trim the length, and at this point, further cutting will involve actual, fully-realized songs. Not to mention that cutting songs also affects the story, flow, pace, and general mental well-being of the author(s). I'll float the development by Pat and Mike and see what sage words they have. Carl
3/20/03 Had planned on going tonight. But Kevin had some stuff to attend to. Plus, the war's started. Not really in the mood to immerse myself in a heavy, depressing story. Getting enough of that from CNN.Carl
3/31/03 Dear Diary, we've had our most productive session yet. Despite the ubiquitous England Recording gremlins, a pre-Salem Hill mix/mastering session that was...uh...challenging to say the least, and the prospect of having to record with (don't scream!) mismatched drumsticks, the Kevinator was able to knock out four tracks. Four! That is, my faithful journal, a recording record for SH records. We completed drums to the chronological, last track, entitled "Regard Me, pt 2". And while we were at it, we decided to do "Regard Me, pt 1" as well, which, chronologically speaking, falls somewhere between the beginning tune and the ending one. This was followed with a small instrumental section to a fairly vocal-carried piece called, "So Human." I was pretty exhausted after those three, but Kevin looked up at the clock and it was only 9:30, so he insisted we tredge ahead and record the stupidest piece of drivel on the album, "If Only for a Touch." He nailed the first 9/10ths of the song and then pulled a Fagan on me and spent the last hour and a quarter doing about 120 takes over an 8-bar outro. I must say, it's pretty awesome stuff. (But I think the difference between take 43 and take 120 is negligible. Just my two cents...heh heh heh)
So, by my admitted mathematically-challenged count, other than one elusive Dearing-derived ditty called "The Red Pool," we are done with recording drums. After laying down "The Red Pool," we'll clean up the tracks, give 'em a little tweak here and there, and move on to Mr. Henry. ...and not a paradiddle too soon. Carl
MARCH MONTH'S END In retrospect, I figure we'll do a little synopsis of each month. We didn't do much in February, but seeing that we're moving at a nice pace now, I imagine there'll be a few more sessions than the handful we had in Feb. Also, it looks like this has become "Carl's Be Session Journal," as my comrades have suddenly become quite shy. So be it. I enjoy the absence of the threat of editorial excision.
I realize that I'm the most optimistic (naive?) member in the band, but I still anticipate a release date in late Summer or early Fall. Discounting the "Not Everybody's Gold" aberration, Salem Hill albums have historically taken about 4-5 months to record. Seeing that we already have the bulk of the artwork completed, and seeing that we don't plan on using any guest stars on "Be", I just don't foresee us recording past late June or early/mid July. ("Famous last words!" shout the Hillions.)
Although with our recording on the 31st, we're much closer to having an accurate idea of our run time, the biggest concern with the album at this point is its length. I've talked about this most with Mike and his idea is to record everything and make a decision after we have everything in front of us. Initially, he volunteered to give up "The Red Pool." But, seeing that he's already given up one of his lyrics, and seeing that I really like TRP, I like his idea to record everything and make the hard decision of what to cut later. Personally, I'm not a big fan of a piece I've written called "If only for a Touch." It's my attempt at playing Gabriel and rewriting "Counting out Time" from The Lamb. Musically, it's a gnarly piece (gnarly being a good thing). Lyrically, it's a bit more...uh...sensual than normal SH fare. But Kevin likes it. If we aren't pressed for time...
4/7/03 This was actually one of the few "sessions" that wasn't held at England Recording. Mike had written music and altered my lyric for a tune called "The Red Pool." Thing is, we didn't have a demo of it and we're ready to finish up recording drums. So, on the way home, I met Mike at his mom's house and he played me the verse and chorus riffs over and over so I'd have 'em in my head when I got to the studio tomorrow night. Mike suggested we put a middle development section to it and we talked about some ideas for that. I didn't hang out long (got a pregnant wife at home), but enjoyed being with Mike and his boy, Marshall. Cool kid. Cool tune too! Carl
4/8/03 Kev and I met to finish up the recording of drum tracks by laying down "The Red Pool." Because this tune was, for all intents and purposes, brand new to us, we spent about an hour and a half creating the computer template and arranging the piece. In the past month and a half, Kevin has been invaluable in this regard as besides being the band's flailing bastard, he's also always served as our sounding board. Since we're laying down his tracks first with only minimal melodic or harmonic scratch tracks for reference, he's got to have fairly solid musical sensibilities. He and I fleshed out my music idea for the middle section and then embarked on the actual recording. The Gremlins appeared immediately (see 3/31/03 entry) and I put on my troubleshooting hat. I'll spare you all the sordid details. Suffice it to say that I was able to fix the problem tonight. But in doing so, it occurred to me that this same problem I just noticed tonight may have also been present during our 3/31/03 session. Therefore, I was concerned that that night's recording might have been corrupted. I checked the files from the 3/31/03 session. Yep. Useless. Our most productive night, and in my fury to fix the problems we were having then, I hit a button that actually ended up torpedoing the entire session. Nevertheless, we recorded "The Red Pool" with the problem corrected. Nice track.
Despite the success in laying down the new track tonight, I was devastated that we couldn't use any of the four tracks we recorded on the 31st. And with Jaynie a week or two away from giving birth, my energy level is low. Kevin has voiced his opposition to Ron engineering drum sessions as he wants me there to produce as well. But seeing that we've already recorded the four tunes that need rerecording, I don't see my presence as crucial. I've asked Ron if he can finish up drum tracks by recording Kevin Thursday night. Hopefully, it's a go. Carl
4/10/03 Met with Ron tonight to redo the drum tracks. Carl didn't show. Everything went fine as I had already played these songs and was able to lay them down rather quickly. We were done by 9:30. Kevin
4/11/03 Got an email from Kevin saying that the session went smooth, and they were able to rerecord all four tracks in record speed. Later Ron called and said that he should engineer every drum session as Kevin works with him at about ten times the speed he works with me. Obviously. Ron's phone call echoed Kevin's email in that the tracks are nice. Jaynie's doctor is a bit concerned that her blood pressure keeps swinging wildly, peaking with a diastolic of around 100. I'm on hold until after the baby's born. Carl
4/18/03 Good Friday. Tessa Isabel Groves born at 2:23 PM today. She's yellow and angry, but other than a touch of jaundice, she's doing fine. Mom's fine too. I get to bring 'em home Easter Sunday.
4/29/03 Everybody's home and relatively settled in. We've had Tessa on "the lamp" for her jaundice since we brought her home. She looks like a glow worm bundled in the blanket. Tonight was my first chance to get to the studio and slowly resume the recording of "Be." Our agenda tonight was to set up the drums for playback and listen to all the tracks. Since we're using V-Drums, we can dial virtually any parameter (shell type, head type, muffling, depth of drum, tuning, decay, room ambiance, etc.). Initially, I was a bit hesitant about recording the whole album this way, as I'm a bit of a purist. Tonight dispelled any reservations that remained. Kevin and I were literally able to create and customize a drum set we'd both heard in our mind's ear. Because electronic drums are triggered, there are some false triggers when adjacent drums and cymbals are struck. Therefore, we had to scrutinize each track and eliminate any false triggers from the mix. Because there are 13 drum tracks, that process consumed the remainder of the night. But I left juiced at how awesome these drums sound. Carl
5/3/03 Not a recording session, but I wanted to document that I've revised a good portion of the lyrics (again), mostly the last chorus to "So Human." Can't wait til it's time to warble. "Hmm hmm. (In my finest operato) Me me me me me me me." Carl
5/5/03 Finally, we've actually begun laying down the drums to the hard disk. Kevin and I met at England to put the finishing touches on the tracks. Other than a technical glitch with Mike's "Apollyon" track, the evening was sheer joy. For the first time, we got to work with and listen to the tracks in the correct order and Kevin and I were pretty smiley all night. The "Apollyon" track was the only dark spot on the evening, consuming a large portion of the evening to wade through it to find Kevin's original performance. Listening to just the drums is exciting enough to fuel me to pick up the pace and start recording at a more regular and frequent pace. Pat and I will most likely be recording our instrumental parts for the next month or so before we move on to Mike and then the vocals. I can say without hesitation that these drums tracks are the best performances Salem Hill has produced so far. Likewise, they are easily the best sounding. The kick drum makes my heart flutter, the snare drum conks, the cymbals are all shimmery, and the toms will rattle your nether regions. And ain't that what it's all about? Carl
5/10/03 Spent almost eight hours at England today. The drums are complete. Everything is in place for Pat and I to start filling in our parts. As is the modus operandi for Salem Hill, we'll do this, then bring in Mike to add anything he hears is necessary. Kevin will also play some mallets on this album, although probably not to the degree of the Sweet Hope Suite. I do see him featured on at least one track ("Beings") and possibly a nasty unison part in "I Didn't Come for You." The drums are awesome. If Pat, Mike and I rise to the level of Kevin's drums tracks, "Be" will be extraordinary. And I won't allow us to settle for less. Carl
5/13/03 Pat and I met for lunch to talk about his bass tracks. Due to his job, things are about to get real tight schedule-wise the first of June. Therefore, we'll be blitzing bass tracks, going as many as 3 nights a week, with a committment to be done with his bass tracks by the end of May. Although I don't relish the time away from Jayne and my brand new one, I'm actually pleased that we're being forced to pick up the pace. Wouldn't it absolutely give a coronary to our fans to release this puppy early? We've never been early on anything! Carl
5/17/03 I spent almost ten hours recording electric guitar parts. Although most of our tracks are recorded into a computer template with a piano scratch track, so much of "Be" is guitar oriented that I don't feel that Pat will be terribly inspired hearing a plucky piano patch where a crunchy guitar track should be. I showed up at England at about 10:00 AM. My main guitar is now a Carvin 727 7-string I've named "Oz." Since I've only recorded in the studio with my 7-string for the "Puppet Show" bonus track Waiting for Wonderfulness, I knew that it'd take some time to find a setup that would be acceptable. My main studio amps are a tube Fender Deluxe and a solid state Roland Jazz Chorus 120. However, the Deluxe seems to have some difficulty with handling the meat of Oz, I tried some different mic configurations. Nothing was working. So I went into England's storage area to see what kind of bass cabinets were collecting dust. Couldn't find any. But I did find a 2x12" Ampeg speaker cabinet that I'd mutilated over a decade ago (it used to be a 4x12" cabinet). I tried using it as an auxilary speaker in addition to the Deluxe's stock 12" speaker. Yuk. So I unplugged the Deluxe's speaker and ran the Ampeg as the main (and only) cabinet. Heaven! Loved it. In fact, I was getting such awesome tone and response from this dinosaur, I didn't use any stomp boxes, effects, EQ, verb...nothing! Just pure tube tone and vintage speaker growl. I was so happy with my sound, I recorded almost all of my rhythm guitar parts. Even had time to stick a mic in front of my acoustic and do some of the album's strumming. Pat comes in Tuesday night. Carl
5/20/03 Bass tracks. Pat brought in the top half of his Trace Elliott rig--a 4x10" cabinet. For his main axe, he's using the same bass he's used since I met him: an Ibanez "Musician." We spent about an hour playing with sounds, going with an AKG 112 mic for the Trace and a direct line to the recorder. We recorded "The Great Stereopticon" first. It's music penned by Pat, so it went pretty smoothly. Interestingly, for this track, he's chosen to record the mic'd signal by using a little Korg "Pandora's Box" to grunge out the Trace. We recorded the ballad "Beings" in two takes. Pat switched to an Ibanez 5-string to record "Symposium."
5/21/03 This was supposed to be another bass session, but Pat had a last minute business meeting he had to attend. So I went out to England and did some acoustic guitar work on "Beings" and some electric work on "Stereopticon." I also had to do some computer manipulation with the drum audio of "I Didn't Come for You." I'd played along with this track on the 17th, and noticed that there were some problems with the drums. In the digital age, this was easily rectified by a few proverbial points and clicks. Carl
5/22/03 Pat again. Picked up where we left off.
5/23/03 Not a recording entry, but "Be" news, nonetheless. Set up a new account with our replicator and plan on coordinating with them on the graphics the middle of next month. Also talked with Salem Hill's former manager, MB Sheppard for over an hour. Before his resignation from the band, MB was always a shot in the arm for me. Talking to him yesterday reminded me how much I'd missed that. It was great hearing that he and his family are doing well. We're actually planning on hooking up sometime this summer if schedules permit. I must say that I am enjoying life with my family, my Hillion brethren, and the extended Salem Hill family more than I ever have. Hoping the dream never ends. Carl
5/29/03 Bass tracks are done! Pat showed with a committment to finish his tracks. Pat opted to record Mr. Dearing's "Apollyon" first. He used his Musician with a dropped D tuning. We'd actually demoed this dropped down to C, but Mike was concerned that he couldn't scream it properly that low. This one took the longest to record--an hour. Next Pat played on one that he'd written the music for, "I Didn't Come for You." This is also a dropped D tuning. As expected, this one was done in only a few passes. Interestingly, this album is a departure from typical Salem Hill fare in that Pat has chosen to depart from unison parts I've written. The middle section of "IDCFY" has a very Toolesque crunch line that I'd envisioned being doubled by rhythm guitar and bass. Pat chose instead to follow what Kevin had done rhythmically. And the result was quite nice. The third track was another Dearing-penned ditty, "The Red Pool." Pat played his Rick on this one. Nice rocker. We saved the gnarliest for last, my "If only for a Touch" (which I'm retitling to something else). The music portion of this is tough as it's very quick and all over the place. Pat nailed the entire song in probably 20 minutes. We looked up at the clock and saw we'd completely four tunes in about 2 1/2 hours. Carl
MAY MONTH'S END The most productive month so far. Starting the month finishing up drum tracks had me a bit concerned that we were behind the schedule I've secretly held in my noodle. And then Pat dropped the bomb on us that he's landed a job requiring him to be out of state for 80% of each month. But, in retrospect, perhaps that was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to record my rhythm guitar tracks and many of my acoustic guitar tracks. And it forced Pat to hunker down and really focus on his parts. He recorded 4 tracks each session. Without a doubt, this was the fastest SH has ever recorded. More importantly, after each session, I came away completely juiced by the quality of the performances. Pat was very attentive to what Kevin had laid down and it was amazing seeing him lock in and deliver.
On the down side, I'm still a bit worried that we're too long. Due to the unknowns (post production sound effects, spacing, etc.) it's impossible to get an accurate idea as to where we are. My guestimate right now is at 77 minutes--3 minutes over standard length. We'll see what needs to go (if anything) late in the game. For now, we'll follow Mike's suggestion to record the entire thing and make necessary cuts after we've laid everything down.
On the up side, we're ahead of the game as far as the graphics, layout and text go. We'll be sending all of this off in the next 2 to 3 weeks. Seeing that the graphics part of replication accounts for about 80% of the replication time, when we finally ship the audio, we'll only have about a week to 10 days wait for the final product. So, a late summer release is very, very doable. Carl
6/7/03 A solo outing. This session was primarily keyboard work. And work it was. I've been practicing as much as my schedule allows, but it was a rude awakening to feel the forearm pangs after a couple of hours in the studio. I also was completely shocked by how sore my fingers were. I played mostly B3 parts, and the left hand sweeps to capture the growl of the instrument absolutely wore my fingers out. Pile on an ambitious attempt to "finish" the acoustic guitar work on the album in this session also, and the session was done well before I actually intended for it to end. But, while rubbing my dainty digits afterwards, I reviewed each song to try and note what was needed next, and I realize that our next session at England probably needs Mr. Dearing present. Surprisingly, we're that far along. There are some piano tracks that can be done prior to Mikey showing, but we're dependent upon Ron for this. His church just purchased a Baldwin grand a couple months back, but due to its new environment and the plethora of nine year olds that bang the holy (fill in the blank) out of it every Sunday, and he's assured me it isn't something we'd want on a SH record. Although I don't worship with Ron, I imagine that nobody was anticipating the arrival of this piano more than me. Although I hate the "tightness" of most Baldwins I've played, I'm juiced about having real piano on "Be." Strange as it seems, this will be the first "real" piano we've used on a SH album. Ron has called in a tuner and expects him sometime late this week. Called Mike and told him we can go whenever he's ready. Unfortunately, his mother has broken her leg in half a million places, so he's knee-deep (couldn't resist) with her. He'll let me know when he can book a night. Carl
6/14/03 Ron had called a couple days back and told me the piano was tuned and ready. Unfortunately, he's booked for the weekend so we're off. Took another look at the lyrics and made some minor revisions, especially to the lyrics of "Beings." I've changed the title of "Regard Me, pt 1" to "A Perfect Light." I've changed the title of "If Only for a Touch" to "Underneath." And I've changed the title of the album from "Be" to "No, we don't do 'Happy.' If you want 'happy', if you really truly want 'happy' listen to someone else. My suspicion is you don't really want 'Happy' from Salem Hill, you just think you do...but you're mistaken." Haven't run it by the other guys yet...and it's gonna 'cause some difficulties with the text spacing on the cover...but other than that, I see no problems. Carl
6/18/03 Got a call from Ron that this coming weekend is probably gonna be another no-go. Can't live with that, so I asked him if we could go ahead tonight...just late (after his congregation has had choir practice and cleared out). He agreed to bring the gear, but stated he wouldn't be able to stay and engineer. However, he did stay and take these lovely piano shots.
6/24/03 Came back to England to reinstall the gear Ron had disconnected to bring to the church. We sat and listened to the piano tracks. Interesting, folks. Not to negate my entry above, but I honestly can't see using all of these piano tracks. The sound is, to put it in a favorable way, "retro." Ron was listening along and kept telling me I've captured the grand piano sound of Abbey Road Studios, circa 1968. Uh, The Beatles are my favorite band, but one doesn't cite "Martha My Dear" when one talks about incredible grand piano sounds. I think the guys are coming to hear what we have so far later. We'll see what they think. Carl
7/1/03 Happy July!
7/1/03 Finally an entry by someone who isn't surnamed Groves! After hearing from Carl about how well everything was going, I was really looking forward to hearing what had been done so far. I wasn't disappointed. Yes, folks, it really is going to be as good as Mr. Groves has said in these (e)-pages. Kevin and Pat have both turned in stellar performances throughout, and now it's up to Carl and myself to fill in the rest of the instrumental ingredients. Fortunately, he's left me a lot of room to work in, which is something that was sorely lacking on the last record. It was also a pleasant surprise to hear how the arrangements had evolved since the demo stage, and I also found out that my copy of the demo was lacking three or four songs! The actual recording process was fast and relatively painless. Since Pat had forgotten to bring my Boogie bass head (it actually makes a great guitar amp - the last two thirds of my Robbery tracks were through it) I ended up using Carl's Deluxe through my old Ampeg half-cabinet...which used to be his Ampeg half-cabinet. It's amazing that I plugged in and changed none of his settings and it sounds nothing like him (it's better when I use it of course!). As he has mentioned, we put down bed guitars on the songs that I had brought in. I did have to learn the choruses and/or bridges that he had added to my stuff, since I hadn't heard them until I walked in the door. I also added a minor keyboard part to one of them, which I'm sure I'll do more of later. The rest of the time was spent making me a CD of the rest of the stuff so I would have all of it - we'll see what kinds of sonic mayhem I can think of to add. Oh, and I love the piano sound! Mike
7/3/03 One of the things that Tuesday night's session enabled us to do, was to go ahead and lay down some backing vocals that we knew would not involve Mike. Therefore, Kev and I met at England to do just that. We started on some Lennon-esque parts to "Stereopticon." Good stuff. We recorded some other parts as well, but the night was consumed by the semi-A capella piece, "So Human." This is also the only song from "Be" that is scored, top to bottom. Therefore, it was a fairly time consuming as we had to learn our parts, memorize our parts, hit all the right notes (no fudging allowed when there ain't no crunching guitars to cover up the 'almosts'!), and deliver a performance that captured the rather acerbic lyric of the song. So Kev made me go first, stating I could lay down the "essense" of the song. Cool. I wrote it, wasn't hard to learn. So after we'd trudged through my track, it was his turn. He spent about an hour struggling with the middle part which was a bit high--right in his full/falsetto break range...and then told me I needed to sing the middle part, and he'd rerecord my lower part--the one I'd already done. Doh! So we did, and it all smokes.
7/7/03 With Mike's mom still ailing, he couldn't go this week. However, as I posted in the 7/3/03, our band meeting on the 1st has cleared up alot of the gray areas in regard to what's required of whom. So, with Kevin volunteering to engineer, we decided to make it a night of lead vocal tracks. As has been the case with most of this album, recording lead vox any sooner than the very last ain't the way we're used to working...which was good enough reason fer me! I showed up before Kevin and decided to begin with the song in which I sing in my low register throughout, "I Didn't Come for You." Since Kevin didn't plan on showing for about an hour, I literally started the machine, hit record, and ran into the vocal booth to record my parts. Not a very demanding part, vocally, so it went well. Looking at the clock, I figured I had several minutes before Kev was to show, so I rerecorded my vocal track to "Beings." Much better than the take from the 3rd. Kev showed and brought spirits. (Actually, he doesn't drink dark beer, so I keep the fridge at England stocked with Guinness, various Porters, and "Old Peculier" ale when I can get it.) Without going into sordid details, and without bringing reproach upon ourselves from our more...er...conservative fans, we really disregarded any inhibition and recorded all night long. I sang. And I sang. And then I took a break. And then I sang some more. And I kept waiting for my voice to give. After all, historically, I'm the most fragile in that area--especially compared to the titanium vocal cords of my Salem Hill comrades. But the voice held. And held. And at 1:30 AM we stopped because...well...it was 1:30 on a Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Didn't go to work Wednesday and really don't remember much about the tracks. I did wake up with a sore throat and jaw. Can't wait to hear what I did! A strange beast, this "Be" recording. Carl
7/14/03 Me and Mike. I engineered and he played. Mickey ate pretzels.
7/18/03 Not session news, but paramount to "Be." I've received the final proofs of the graphics from Bill and can't say enough about them. Unlike ANY of our previous work, the graphics for "Be" are all photo-based. The cover is a photo by Kevin Hancock, the inside images are all photos by Bill and me, and the tray is a photo from NASA. However, I found out quickly that just because we're using photos instead of creating images, there is still a great deal of layout and editing and cropping and (fill in some graphic artist endeavor here). It's work. And, as is always the case, I'm astounded that the impossible ideas I or the band shoot to Bill come back better than we'd envisioned. "Be" is no exception. In fact, he created an image for the inside tray of the CD (in less than a day!) that is simply extraordinary. Like I told him already, I'm glad I chose him to be my brother. ...and I've already got several distribution offers for Europe. Seeing that we won't be using Cyclops for "Be", I've been a bit worried about getting our stuff in the hands of our European fans. I've been overwhelmed by the response so far. So much, in fact, that we'll be upping our intial number of units pressed. Woo Hoo! Carl
7/20/03 Me and Kevin. More backing vocals, and I redid some leads that just didn't measure up. Particularly, Kevin did some nice engineering/producing on the vocals to "Love Won't Save the World." Later, I cracked the knuckles and recorded a bit of keyboards too. I'm in practice mode now so I can play some interesting solos when the time comes. Probably late next week. A bit of a disappointment tonight is that Kevin is unable to find the power cord and pedals to his malletKat. Obviously, without those, he can't play electric mallets on "Be." And he needs to. A good night. Productive. Carl
7/23/03 Me, Kevin, Chaz, Alyssa, and what seemed like a constant barrage of phone ringing. Kevin still cannot find his malletKat hardware, so it was a fairly unproductive night, at least in regards to new recording. I did some organ work, recorded a little girl (Alyssa) singing one of the choruses to "A Perfect Light." But the real success of the night was actually succeeding in backing up the project. I had tried to do so on 7/14/03 after Mike had left. But we got error messages after 45 minutes of transfer, and I was too tired and pissed to try it again. Tonight was a great opportunity to make sure that the hundreds of hours of recording were backed up. This time, it went off without a hitch...even though it took almost an hour and a half to back it all up. As a side note, Missy Ross has been working with me to redesign the website. I'm hoping that by the time folks read this entry, it'll be done. Carl
7/29/03 Mr. Dearing and myself. Another great night. I have to say that my bandmates continually amaze me. Mike came in and recorded a couple of guitar tracks, mirroring some rhythm stuff I'd done on Pat's "I Didn't Come for You", and putting his own gtr tracks on a couple other tunes.
8/3/03 Mikey and me again. I'm pretty awestruck right now, so forgive me. But I'm fairly certain Mike is through with all but a few solos and some keyboard pads. He came in and recorded vocals for five straight hours.
**NOTE of 8/18/03** Apologies for the absence of Be entries. I've written 'em, but I've had the Blaster Worm virus on my PC for the past week and I haven't been able to access the webpage. Away we go! Carl
8/5/03 Mostly keyboard work. Lots of solo stuff. Spent about two and a half hours writing and recording the keyboard solo to "Symposium." It was...well...humbling. I'm again reminded of the fact that I'm a guitarist who dabbles in keys and not a bona fide keyboardist. But, hammer about two hundred takes into me, and I can hold my own, thankyouverymuch. Was pretty worn out after that 16 bar solo, so did a bit of clean up work and called it a night. Carl
8/7/03 Me alone. Recorded harpsichord on "Underneath." Also resang quite a bit of lead vocals as Mike has shamed me. Still, I didn't feel that it was a great night. Can't quite put my finger on it. Carl
8/12/03 Mike finished tonight. He sang quite a bit, played some pad key parts, and did his solos to "The Red Pool," "Apollyon", and "Symposium." He also completed a wah guitar part he'd begun on "Children of the Dust," but didn't complete due to Kevin's drum part changing. Again, he used the Mesa-Boogie pushing the old 2x12" Ampeg cabinet. I was blown away by the night. However, I also feel we've come to the difficult part of "Be." That is, we've recorded all the obvious "gotta be there or else" parts. Now it's time to add the little things. Therefore, I dismantled a lot of gear, packed the mics in England's carrying case, and brought the studio home. Carl
8/14/03 Key parts of the studio are now set up in my bedroom. Looks like a war zone in there, and Jayne's not thrilled about the maze of cabling that's spidering our floor. But at least I'm home. The proverbial Salem Hill gremlins, having been on vacation for the past six months, returned with a vengeance. My Fender Deluxe is blown. I imagine it's from pushing the Ampeg. After all, the Deluxe is really just a little 40 watt tube pup. Pushing a lot of volume or more than the 1x12" it was designed for was probably not the best idea. But damn, did it sound great. As fate would have it, I didn't bring the Jazz Chorus home with me, so I have nothing to play electric guitar through. Pretty pissed about the whole affair, and called it a night. Carl
8/15/03...so I focused on acoustic guitar and vocals. Strangely, I get a better acoustic guitar sound in a certain room in my house than at any of the three rooms at England. Won't tell you what room. Gotta save some secrets. Recorded acoustic on half a dozen tunes, and then decided it was time to record the intro. It's a little acoustic guitar and vocal thingy that Mike and I wrote called "Reflect." Thing is, it segues into "Symposium." To make it work, I have to raise it from D major to Eb major. Have capo will travel, right? Wrong. My capo--the capo that's never failed me in the years I've used it--simply would NOT firmly depress the high E string. The gremlins are pretty active, it would appear. Now, in fairness to the capo designer or the gremlins (whoever's responsible), I don't capo all 6 strings for the opening, leaving the low E open. If you're really interested in why I do this, email me and I'll go over it with you. Suffice it to say, I was feeling pretty persecuted after the amp and capo failures. So I took some plyers and bent the capo. Yep. Mangled the poor thing. And it worked perfectly. I absolutely LOVE the acoustic guitar sound on "Be." Went through the whole album and burned a rough mix for Mike and myself. However, I forgot to assign track markers, so the CD-R I made was one long song...BUT IT FITS ON ONE CD!!!! Woo Hoo! Because 90% of the keyboard tracks are still on file at England, the mix I burned was without them. And Mike told me he didn't want one long track and no keyboards. Picky bastard. Carl
8/17/03 Not a session...well, a recording session, anyway. But today has been a listening session. Despite having a one long track CD, I've worn the puppy out. And it's proven quite educational. Love some things. Hate some things. Probably gonna have to change the track order. Which won't match the graphics. But there are sacrifices that must be made for art, right? Carl
8/18/03 Laid out of work today and recorded. Took an hour for lunch and ran my Deluxe to the shop for repairs. Today was mostly vocals. I think I've resung almost every track. Which is a shame that those hours at England were wasted, but that IS the recording process. I've also fixed a lot of the problems I discovered with the rough mix yesterday. Backed up the project and burned a couple of new rough mixes...with track markers. Kevin's due to record some mallet and auxillary percussion stuff later this week. Carl
8/19/03 Despite having no keys on it, Mike wants a copy, so I went to the club to leave him one and ran into him. Talked about a few things, but nothing major. I plan on taking gear back to England Thursday. Carl
8/21/03 Kevin and I planned on going tonight, but I had to cancel. I'm completely exhausted from all the "Be" energy I've been expending. Mike will have to wait to get his copy with the keyboards. Carl
8/23/03 Packed up all the gear from home, took it back to England and connected it all (I hope). I had hoped that Kevin would join me, but I haven't heard from him. I'm completely pissed about my amp being fried, as I'm really struggling to find "my" sound going through a pedal board with an emulator. I broke down and used the Jazz Chorus on a copy tracks, but it's exhausting trying to extract the warmth of a tube amp from the cleanest solid state jobby to ever vibrate the planet. I used the JC for the guitar solo to "Love Won't Save the World." Refined some keyboard parts, burned another rough mix (with keys), then went home early. Carl
8/25/03 Mike sent a nice note to all of the Hillions about the rough mix. We agree on most of the problems that've surfaced. He's at a disadvantage as he doesn't have the new rough mix I've made with keys. I plan on taking care of that tomorrow. I also sent out a note to the others that I was pretty much finished after this week. I'm pooped. I'm at the point of eating, sleeping and dreaming "Be." It ain't healthy. Kevin's disappeared. Carl
8/26/03 Dropped off a copy of the 2nd rough mix at the club for Mike to hear. Called Kevin to get him in to finish up. Sent him an email. Haven't heard from him since last Thursday, and it would appear that he has simply disappeared. Great. Ready for this thing to end, and can't locate my drummer. I've enlisted the eGroup list members to email him nasty notes to contact me. Headed out to the studio and finished the keyboards. Carl
8/28/03 Kevin finally called and we're on for tonight. The music store called, and my Deluxe is repaired. Woo Hoo!!! Talked to Mike about more things that need fixing or revising. Got to the studio at about 7:30 PM and spent the next hour trying to locate and remove a phase loop. Lovely way to start the evening. Fortunately, it got better. Kevin wanted to sing first to get the campy chorus of "Underneath" out of the way.
8/30/03 This was to be it for me. I couldn't imagine anything making it necessary to book another recording session after tonight. With my Deluxe back and working, I played a lot of guitar...and mainly because it was just a joy having an amp that sings. Did solos or solo like things on Apollyon and I Didn't Come for You. Played a couple new organ parts I felt were needed from listening to the 2nd rough mix. Spent the last half of the evening cleaning up the album, i.e. removing amp buzz and between verse chattering from the tracks. And then the lightning struck. Right in the middle of a function, the power zapped out at England. And literally. It made a "zap!" noise. 30 seconds later it was on, and I tried to reboot the harddrive to see what kind of loss we'd incurred. And lightning hit again, right in the middle of the reboot. I was certain that anything that might've been salvageable from the first zap was taken care of with the second. I waited 30 minutes to see if the power came back. It didn't. I left the studio with a voice message to Ron begging him to call me and do a diagnostic to see what we'd lost. Now, sympathetic reader, I know you're wondering if we backup our work. Well of course. But not every session. It is just too time prohibitive to do so, seeing that a full project backup takes anywhere from 1 to 3 hours. So the last backup I'd done was 8/18/03 (you can go back up to that date and see for yourself if you don't believe me.) Which would mean that anything done after the 18th would have to be redone. And I haven't the energy for it. I waited until after 1 AM to here from Ron, but nothing. Carl
8/31/03 Ron left a message this morning saying that he'd booted the system and the project looked fine. But he didn't go into any details. I've prayed fervently that we're okay, so I'm hopeful. Guested on bass at his church and went back to the studio to see how things were. Fine. Thank you, Lord! Other than a rather minor action I was taking when the power died the first time, everything else was fine. Dodged a bullet there folks. Let Ron and Tina listen to parts of several songs, and got home at a reasonable hour. I am doubly happy to report that aside from any minor corrections the other Hillions want to make to their performances, the tracks for "Be" are complete. We've tentatively scheduled a meeting later this week to discuss mixing and post production. The end....is....in....sight....Carl
9/4/03 Mike, Kev and me. Pat's traveling to God knows where and couldn't make it. Ordered pizza as this was mostly a chat session, so the vocal pipes weren't in danger of being clogged with pineapple and ham. Nice choice, Mike! Fixed a couple of vocal tracks for Mike that weren't his fault. I'd recorded him way too hot on Stereopticon, and in the digital world, this will not do! He also re-recorded the signature theme that makes its first real appearance in A Perfect Light. He'd sung it rather strong initially and I liked it somewhat at that time. But, after thinking about it contextually, it doesn't work to be strong in this song as it makes its strong appearance in the closing track. Were were on the same page (different lines, tho) as Mike didn't like the way he sang it for a different reason and so he wanted to redo it before I wanted him to redo it. He sang it beautifully, and I think that it works really well for the story and album. Poignant. We spent a lot of time talking about effects and space and tracking ideas. Mike nixed a couple of choruses of Apollyon. I wanted to expand the opener and they vetoed me. I wanted to add a semi-humorous intro to Apollyon and neither seemed too keen on it until we were ready to shut down and leave and then we all gathered around a mic and made merriment. We listened to the Be Bloopers CD. Terribly funny...with an emphasis on terribly. Carl
9/6/03 Little known to Mikey was the fact that his nixing of the vocals to the last Apollyon chorus totally screwed up the "call and answer" guitar work I'd done over it. So I had to re-record it. Also did some e-bow work on the opener. The day was really spent getting all the studio ducks in a row to mix. Lots of cleaning up. Listened to the whole album all the way through. Made me cry. I>Carl
9/9/03 Me alone. This was supposed to be the first real mixing session. Unfortunately, I still wasn't happy with the synth sound I was getting for the solo in Symposium. Mike brought his Korg DW8000 to the studio last week when he came and left it for me to use. I own my own DW8000, but, like so many pieces of my gear it seems, it's completely fried. I plugged his in and midied it up to the computer to see if my solo worked with any dinosaur sounds. Voila! Mike's custom patch 69 (keep it clean, folks!) rocks. I was so juiced hearing the wonderful sounds of a DW, that I recorded a couple other keyboard parts. I did end up mixing Symposium, but realized after a couple hours that I had no desire to mix the album by myself. Ron has been completely absent from the Be sessions, and I've spent way too much time alone in the dungeon like control booth at England. I ran a few mixes I thought sounded good (found out they weren't once I listened to 'em in the car on the way home), and then gave up. I experimented with some new 24 bit mastering software we'll be using and was really pumped that it's easy to use. But mixing wasn't happening, so I went home. Carl
9/10/03 Got with the rest of the band today and told them that I couldn't mix the album alone. Not that they wanted or expected me to, but it was turning out that way. Luckily, Pat is in Tennessee next week. We've slated 10 hours a day this coming Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at England. Be will be mixed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday during the day. Then Ron and I will master it Tuesday night. We'd hoped (and reported) a 9/15/03 release. We've been told by our replicator that it'll take about 2 weeks to have the discs replicated. The rest of the order has already been completed. So I'll go on the web in the next couple of days and announce a release date of 10/6/03. That'll give us a week's pad in case of the proverbial delay. We'll still have product for our trek to Jersey to play Jim's ProgHouse...er....ProgSchool. Carl
9/14/03, 9/15/03 and 9/16/03 Twelve hours a day. The album sounds great. But mastering just didn't work. Ron is still absent and I'm not as comfortable with the new mastering software as I'd like to be. Listening to the stereo mix is awesome. Listening to the mastered disc isn't. We're exploring 3rd parties again. Gonna have to dig down in the pockets, boys.
9/21/03A delayed post, but the site's been down due to the Isabel (my youngest's middle name, BTW) storm on the east coast. As such, posting to the site has not possible. But we're done. The mastering difficulties we'd encountered last week resolved, so "Be" is now mastered. Shipped for replication today, in fact. Had to do some touch-up work early in the day on a couple of tracks, "A Perfect Light" and "I Didn't Come for You." There were some mixing gaffes that were barely noticeable, but would've haunted me if I hadn't fixed 'em. Kevin and Mike showed up in the late afternoon and the three of us mastered "Be." Amazing. It was great having ideas from every one and I believe we used 'em all. Of special note are some post-production additions to "Underneath" (you will laugh until you stop), some segue effect sounds, and an album ending that can only be described as sublime. Listened to the master last night and several times today before shipping. Incredible. I'm relieved we're done, but my relief is overshadowed by intense and unabashed pride. This one's special. Very special. Can't wait for folks to hear it. Carl
I figure since I pretty much monopolized this journal, I'd solicit the others to give their final thoughts on the recording of Be now that we're done with it. In fact, I've already set up the page. So the pressure's on my comrades.
Here at the end, I'm struck by a numbing emptiness from not being needed at the studio. As folks who have read this far will undoubtedly know, the recording sessions for "Not Everybody's Gold" were miserable for me as I played the engineer, producer, cheerleader, scheduler, beer supplier...you get the picture. On a couple of those sessions, I actually made music. But it was rare. I love Salem Hill. It's the edifice that houses my children: my songs. And I formed the band to make music, not dicker with knobs and buttons and schedules and egos and lions and tigers and...oh my, I've run on, haven't I? Before we even embarked upon writing "Be", I'd voiced my refusal to the others to go through the NEG grief again. The others were very supportive and really wanted to make another SH record. I was pumped by their enthusiasm and impressed that they seemed determine not to allow the same thing happen with this album. And, up until about 6 weeks ago, they succeeded. Although Pat was fairly absent from the Be Sessions, Mike and Kevin kept me company when their schedules allowed. My partner at England, Ron Foster, was completely absent as engineer, however. So, although my band buds were there at times, it got lonely at the end. Fortunately, I made it a point to regularly remind myself that I was actually a player in Salem Hill and on this album. So when things got bleak, I'd whip out a guitar or tickle some plastic (ain't got no ivories in the control booth at England.) So things didn't end quick enough in some regards and I can't see engineering another SH album...but it still wasn't the hell that was NEG.
Childbirth is painful. I'm ready to enjoy our new bundle of joy. "Be" blows me away. What really makes me smile is the fact that all the writers in the band contribute substantially--for example, the opening four tracks are penned by Dearing/Groves; Groves; Dearing/Groves; and Groves/Henry. Yet there's a cohesiveness about "Be," regardless of the strikingly different places each writer is approaching the subject matter from. A lot of "Be" is intensely personal to me. There are things being said that I feel like saying. And I imagine the same is true for the other Hillions. The playing and singing is easily the best we've done. There ain't no progholian masturbation on "Be", the longest song is about 7:30, and there are three songs that clock in at under two and a half minutes. So we may hear some guff from the progholes who thought that the "Sweet Hope Suite" was the direction we should've continued in. But all four of us--Kev included--were very diligent about making sure that the songs fit the story of "Be" and that they served the music, not Salem Hill. Not an easy task. But as I was telling Kevin today, if you look at "Be" like I do, it's the perfect progression (albeit a reaction as well) from NEG. For I don't see "Be" as a 15 song CD. I see it as a 71 minute rock symphony. The deliberate "song approach" doesn't mean that there ain't some wailing on "Be." The finest keyboard work I've every done is on this album. I'm fiercely proud of all my keyboard performances, and the solo in "Symposium" may surprise some folks who may wonder what to expect after the departure of our last keyboardist. The other Hillions play their arses off too. I also love the humor that we've managed to convey on "Be." Funny thing (figuratively speaking) is that all of our studio albums are serious, serious, pop a few Prozac and cry yourself to sleep. Yet our live album reveals us to be who we are. We laugh. We do stupid things. We have fun. We wanted the next studio album to capture that. And despite the rather dark and serious nature of the "Be" storyline, there is quite a bit on the album that'll make folks smile...maybe even chortle a bit. But they'll cry too. They'll nod along. Then again, perhaps they'll think we're full of doggie doo. But they'll realize quickly that they'll have to invest themselves in the story to hear what "Be" is saying. So, once again, despite all of the differences we've made with "Be", it is, quintessentially, a typical Salem Hill record. And easily my favorite.
In a way it's hard to believe that we're finished - and that six months have gone by in the process. After reading Carl's synopsis, I have to concur on just about every point. This is by far the most collaborative effort that I've been involved in since the first record way back when. As such, it has also been the most enjoyable record we've made since then. And, in further agreement, I think it's the best thing we've ever done.
As has been stated, this is a very song oriented project - in that respect it's a return to form. Those who were expecting "Son-of Sweet Hope Suite" will probably be disappointed, but those who were hoping for something along the lines of Catatonia or the Robbery probably won't be. The songs are some of the strongest we've ever come up with, the playing and singing are better than ever, and the production is simply stellar. There's also a major change for us in the inclusion of one element that our studio efforts have traditionally lacked - humor. This is by no means a comedy record, but there are a couple of moments that lighten up a pretty serious subject. At least it will take a little longer before you reach for the anti-depressants!
Individually, in addition to his always inventive, immaculate drumming, Kevin has done some mallet work that is outstanding - check out the Zappa-esque solo in Symposium. He also does a great Freddie Mercury impersonation! Pat has done his usual great job. The bass is big, bold and in your face (as it should be), with a lot of interesting textures as well. Carl (in addition to the production and engineering work) has done a lot of great guitar work. The acoustic guitars sound better than we've ever managed to make them sound and the seven string beast makes its prescence known in a big beastly way. The keyboards are fabulous also. Anyone expecting a loss in quality in that department is in for a rude awakening. I played some of the parts (string and Mellotron type pads), but anything requiring actual keyboard skill was played by Carl - that's PLAYED, not sequenced! More of the keyboards on NEG were played by him than most people realized anyway, and any doubters should be silenced after hearing the solo in Symposium. The piano is great, too - imagine that in 2003, a REAL piano. I did my usual sort of "fill-in-the-blanks" role. If it needs a nasty guitar part, find one. If it needs a Mellotron choir, play one. If it needs another vocal harmony part, sing it. You get the picture. I did get to play the role of "specialty bass player" on a couple of tunes. I played fretless on Seattle simply because my fretless sounds better than Pat's (and he can't play left-handed) and the McCartney-esque thumpy bass in So Human since Pat doesn't have one with flatwound strings that are several years old. I'm also happier with the vocal performances than I have been in a long time. Did I mention that this is the best thing we've ever done?
Now about the next one...