Lets discuss, shall we?

Wow, where did my blogging go?    Ok, we don’t have time for that now, much to discuss.  Well, not that much, but some.

There will be some upcoming shows, which will then be reviewed, all of which I am very excited about.  The first will be Tuneyards, Feb 5th at the Bell House.  If you read my original tuneyards review opening for the Dirty Projectors, you understand that this is a significant event.  I believe it is their first large headlining New York show, and I expect nothing less than pure genius, 100% mind blowing ukulele jams.

The next will be Wilco at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair.  If you know me personally, you know of my great love for all things Jeff Tweedy, so this will be an important day.  But like any true obsessed fan, I’m just as ready to denounce anything new in favor of the old which will never be recreated.  In other words, I’m just a loose cannon, accept me for me, thank you.

Then, Nada Surf at Music Hall of Williamsburg.  This is a band I am not that familiar with, but I have been encouraged to check out by a trustworthy source, so its on.

badplus_wide

Also, if you’d like to take a listen to the Bad Plus New Years Eve broadcast, as written about in a recent post, it has now been posted here.  Although I did not take this photo, John Rogers did, this was our view the entire evening.  Also notice the ghetto sound foam we gaff taped to a mic stand next to the drums.

Much has been happening in the music world recently.  Our band continues to record various demos, and the results are overwhelmingly positive.  We’ve gone head first into the Logic world.  My goal for this project is to never be tainted by the evil of Pro Tools for as long as the songs exist on a hard drive.  We’ve overdubbed shakers while fighting the heinous bleed of a drummer practicing out of time lame ass fills in the rehearsal room next to us, we’ve eaten many a box of Entemans mini cookies, the bridge pickup is dying on both my SG and Telecaster, we’ve triumphed in the face of adversity.  And I still don’t know how to punch in using Logic, so nearly everything has been one complete take.

matthew_lesko_list_view

In Addition to band recording, I took part in a film scoring session last night for a documentary on that guy in the question mark suit who tells you how to avoid paying taxes or something, I’m not even going to google his name, because I was told he is one of the least trustworthy people in America.  Anyway.  We were emulating the classic 70’s guitar sound, and it was the perfect opportunity to break out the seldom used, often secretly desired, Wah Pedal.  Now dear reader, I’m about to blow your mind with the eternal secret of guitar tone.  Are you ready?  Sit down, have your feet on the ground, and relax.  Take a small amp, we used a 50’s Danelectro, turn it to 10, plug in a phaser, and turn on the wah.  Thats it. You’re done.  You might as well burn everything else you own.  I have no doubts this tone will never be recreated again,the battery on the phaser was nearly dead, and as we all know from esoteric message board posts, that is essential for the sound and is as elusive as the white rhino and giant squid combined.  You know what?  Don’t even try it.  I take it back.  Lets leave it mysterious.

Recording Guitars: Logic, Pro Tools, And Apogee Walk Into A Bar.

Recording music outside of a traditional studio is like capturing a wild rhino, using only a laptop.   Its possible, but not easy.   I’ve struggled for years with this issue, moving from ADAT’s to Pro Tools, to Logic Pro…the entire time considering throwing it all out and getting a reel to reel tape machine.

My band has recently begun recording demo’s for our upcoming EP, and budgets being what they are (0$)  We’ve decided to start the process on our own.   I’m a gear whore.  Always have been, always will be.  I am not confined by the finite space of my living quarters….I will find a place to put it all.   But, our modest rehearsal space in Williamsburg does not agree with me on this.   We have about an 8×10 room that we share with 2 other bands, surrounded by others, without proper ventilation, sound treatment, or lighting capabilities.  But still, we will make it work.   Coming from the old school, I prefer everyone to be in the same room at the same time, but sometimes that’s just not practical.   The approach we decided on, was to record drums live with a scratch track of guitar and bass, then overdub said stringed instruments at a later date.

We took advantage of this long holiday weekend, tracking drums last week, guitars on the day off Friday, and bass this weekend.   Now, just for a second, lets discuss sounds.   When I lived in LA for one hot minute, I was lucky enough to work on a few sessions in an all analog studio called Rotund Rascal.  I’m not sure if its still there, but it was fantastic.  Weeks earlier, Jenny Lewis, my future jewish wife, recorded parts of Rabbit Fur Coat there, and the place was alive with vibes of wonderfulness.   The artist on the session, a singer named Jay Nash, brought in 2 cd’s to demonstrate the bass sound he wanted, and it pretty much changed my life.   The first was Jackson Browne’s first album- Leland Sklar on bass, and Ray Lamontagne- Ethan Johns on bass.   This was the first time I had heard Ray, and it was just plain religious.  But the point is, these are the greatest bass sounds ever recorded.  Go listen to them, and tell me you don’t start weeping instantly.  Go ahead, do it, i’ll wait here….

This is Actually Leland Sklat
This is Actually Leland Sklar

OK.  Now that you see my point, lets discuss getting these sounds.   Every day we hear how awesome modern technology is.  The Internet, Cell Phones, Global Warming, its all just fantastic.  But the one place we have genuinely not advanced up until very very recently, is the sound of modern recordings.  They just don’t sound as good, its a simple fact.  Maybe we’re getting there, maybe we’re not, who knows.  For a long time, i’ve recorded many instruments onto many hard drives.  And I can honestly say, it never really stuck.  It was never a solid hit, the bass sounds didn’t even approach the above recordings by a long shot…Until this very moment.  I think I unlocked some magic door to the unknown, and i’m afraid to ever close it.  This door is called “Using A Fucking Awesome Converter and Pre Amp”  I recently invested in a new recording rig, for a new archive project happening.  This includes

1.  Logic Pro- software by apple
2.  Apogee Rosetta 800 Converters
3.  Apogee Symphony Mobile system- running on its own cards, there is no Firewire or USB BS involved here

This is really the secret.  Most home studios use an “all in one” interface.  This may be practical, but it just puts too much stress on one ingredient.  The external converter, thats where it’s at.

The Rig In Action:  Recording Guitars At Our Rehearsal Space
The Rig In Action: Recording Guitars At Our Rehearsal Space

We recorded at what’s known as 96k, which has come a long way in recent years.  This means a sound is being sampled 96,000 times per second when being recorded.  The first experience i’ve had with this technological wonder was an extreme failure.   Web Master Eric Tarn and myself did time in a Ska band for several years.  Our first album was recorded in a matter of days, to 2″ analog 16 track tape, was painless, and sounded pretty good.   Our 2nd album took years to complete, cost many thousands of dollars, and really didnt sound that great.  It was also recorded in 96k, and in 2003, that shit was just not up to snuff.  Everything sounded muddy, it just wasnt working.  This could be due to 3 factors:

1.  Our engineer sucked.
2.  We were not that good as players (eh, we were pretty good)
3.  Digital Recording Technology in 2003 was not that great.

This sort of blows my mind, because I can honestly say that I’ve seen an improvement in recent years.  This was also my first personal project recorded on Logic Pro, after being stuck in Pro Tools land for the last 7 years.  Really Pro Tools, WATCH YOUR BACK.  Logic is coming for you, bitch.  But let me just say this, to any perspective recording engineer out there, and i’m going to do it in all caps, on its own line, just to make a point (like that scene in Kill Bill where Lucy Liu speaks in english after she cuts off that guys head in front of the mobsters)

WHEN YOU’RE SETTING UP A STUDIO, USE AN AWESOME EXTERNAL CONVERTER AND A SOLID DIGITAL CLOCK.

Without this, its just fucking bush league psyche out shit man.  You just won’t do it.  OK, this has been my sunday night rant, I hope you all enjoyed the long weekend, now get back to work, you’re making us look bad.

Banjo Time, All The Time.  Apogee In The Background.
Banjo Time, All The Time. Apogee In The Background.