Greetings from the Anarchist District. D’ja watch the debate last night? That was appalling. I think y’all know how I feel about it, but we should keep in mind that fascism is a disease, and Republicans have it. I have to take Facebook off my phone, it’s inciting me to violent thoughts, and I have to keep reminding myself that violence only benefits the side of the oppressor. Now more than ever we have to find the peace - in our souls, down deep, under all of the fear and reaction.
The Arts help us there. Give us a perspective, allow us to turn the prism of perception away from the marketing machines in our pockets, and the rift their encoded capitalism is ripping through our society. (Have you seen The Social Dilemma yet?)
Anyhow six month ago, I embarked on recording another set of songs - originals with lyrics - in, like, a 70s, ‘FM Radio’ style. I sent scratch tracks - me on piano with a metronome - down to Eugene where the inimitable James West laid down the drums. It took a while, but I overdubbed bass, piano, and recut my vocals, then I sent the tracks out for overdubs to several great musicians, near and far, who honored me with some incredible artistry and creativity.
It’s such a pleasure to listen to the great work these folks did on my songs, and I’m going to be editing and mixing it all together for release on Bandcamp this Friday - yikes, that’s in two days!
Mixing can be a tedious process, I like to approach it by breaking everything down and building it back up again. For example during the ‘tracking’ process I used a rough mix of the drums (generously provided by Eugene producer Collin Redmond) but for master mixes I will rebuild the drum sounds so that they fit perfectly into the overall sound field. Most of the time I will work to pull out the kick and snare, so they ‘cut’ through the layers of overdubs I’ve added, and keep the song ‘moving.’
For technical reasons, I generally don’t add any effect or equalization for the rough mixes used in tracking, so now I add any equalization - usually cutting certain frequencies, so that the various tracks build up nicely. At least some delay and/or reverberation are added to many of the signals, which puts them in the same psychoacoustic space.
Ditto for ‘automation’, which for me is the manipulation of the volumes and setting as the track plays; it’s just too confusing to work with before the final mix. I remember back in the day, when we would put SMPT code on one track of the 2” 24 track tape, that would run a small dedicated computer that connected to motors in the faders on the console. Jesus it was rickety! It wouldn’t always work or just bug out, oh man working with analog was so slow!
More than one mix on the first G. Love & Special Sauce record was done ‘by hand’ - where we put markers next to the faders and adjusted the levels as the song played, even doing the ‘fade out’ with the master track. Oh the beautiful simplicity of it all - tape machine to mixer to DAT tape. Ha, these days that’s like working with ancient tools!
Actually, I use my computer recording system more like a tape machine - ignoring much of the capabilities for manipulation of the software. I use a real metronome for my click track, even though I could use the software metronome and set up a ‘grid’ where the whole session is divided by measures and easily rearranged and such. The temptation is too great; to ‘loop’ a section, ‘just try flying in that part from the other part…’ and bam - even if these techniques are used subtly, there’s a stylistic alteration that is inevitable. A bunch of the later G. Love records were really effected by the ease of these techniques - until the last two for Brushfire, Love Saves the Day and Sugar - I don’t think producer Robert Carranza used much grid stuff, although I remember Citizen Cope loading Jeff’s drum sounds into an MPC - the old school sampler/looper for crunch.
Going into this music continues to be my refuge. Man the fires the other week were freaky, I admit to starting to loose it. But getting emails of my dear friend Libby singing on one of my songs saved me and restored my faith in at least my own community of artists and healers. I hope you have your own refuge, and if you would like to share in mine, please check out my three new songs coming out this Friday at Bandcamp. Your generous contribution will go directly to the artists who contributed, and help me continue to make this music.
Portland, OR, high smoke haze, should be getting warm, AQI 29 (Purple/LRAPA)
Illustration swiped from David Walker (https://www.facebook.com/dfwalker68)