If any of you read Dean’s Gig Blog or “Glog” as we call it (that’s right . . . you heard a new Internet buzzword soon to be overused by blogging musicians everywhere, just remember you heard it here first and remember that I’m laying claim to the coining of that word!) you’d know that Dean was down here last night working on Crush. Usually we try to do complete rhythm tracks for two songs when he comes down, but I knew he had a ton of work to do on “Crush” (y’all know that song from the live shows) so we ended up working on that for about five hours and got all his parts done except for the solos, which we’ll be doing in a “solo sprint” doing all the solos for all the songs at once as we get near the end.
I see Dean mentioned the intro to Crush in his Glog that I made so I guess I’ll elaborate. As you live show attendees know, Dean does a little talkbox guitar intro and we start the song when it’s apparent he’s done talkboxing. Our original idea, can’t remember if it was Rob’s idea or mine, was to have a thirty second intro with a real orchestra sitting around tuning up with some talking and whatnot. Having a Crush on someone is sort of like an orchestra playing a deep classical movement. There are rushes of intensity, dense feelings, expectation, elation and of course dissapointment. Since the analogy of a Crush being like an orchestra with so many facets that can “play” anything, as anything can happen in a Crush with so many facets, that we thought it would be neat to hear the “orchestra of the Crush” warming up to get into Crush – get it?
Rob had worked with a guy previously that actually had a digital two track recording of a real orchestra warming up which he had emailed me like two years ago and neither one of us could find it. I looked on old PC’s, searched entire servers where I may have saved the file for “safe keeping” and I even searched backup tape archives – no luck. So I was faced with either buying an orchestra sample CD, none of which are reasonably priced, at least for what little I wanted to do, or finding royalty free samples and build my orchestra intro. I could see buying a sample library if I used orchestral sounds all the time but I couldn’t justify it just for this. I also have Tascam Giga3 and I used a couple of virtual instruments from there but the learning curve was pretty high and I was impatient, I get that way when I want an idea to flow. I hate it when a technical glitch gets in the way of creativity, it’s such a downer. I’ll read the very thick Giga manual for later because it looks very powerful.
After I started, I actually found myself working backwards from the first note of the song. I knew how I wanted to transition into the song, I could hear that in my head and I heard a few other things I wanted to use but it was easy to work backwards. I found some royalty free samples of oboes, violins, cellos, flutes, french horns and whatnot that sounded really good. The problem was, most of the stuff was single notes or two note trills. I had to tune each sample and create a melody from my tunings and and paste them together for each instrument to create a part that sounds like it was actually played by a musician, and then load the wav file I constructed for each instrument into a track. (which I could have done easily with Giga I’m sure if I had the patience to learn that first – which I didn’t because this idea was burning a hole in my pocket. I did use a couple of simple defaults though) I also got two royalty free samples of a real orchestras warming up like I wanted (thanks SuperGirl!) but they were sparse and had a lot of talking. Not really what I envisioned when I heard the samples by themselves. I took the talking peaks in the wav files and “de-normalized” them so the peaks were below the rest of the sample but I really had to beef them up with individual instrument parts to make them work for what I heard in my head.
I also wanted to take the listener on a musical journey through a few well-known emotions that you feel when you have a serious Crush on someone. I thought a lot about how I feel when I have had Crushes. The ones that are really up and down are the ones that you remember, if you have a Crush on someone, and they dig you, then it’s all happy. The fun starts when they are not sure they like you for whatever reason, maybe you’ve got Stinkfoot darlin’, or you’re moving to Montana soon to be a dental floss tycoon. Or maybe you listen to way too much Frank Zappa. Whatever – you know those kinds of crushes well right? There’s some happy stuff, cuz having a crush is cool at first and really happy when it works out (but that’s a different song – when it works out then it’s some love schmuv song) There’s anxiety if she’s not showing the same level of interest that you have in her, then there might even be some bludgeon you feel when you know she don’t like your python boot wearin’ ass. My idea was to use some subtle chord voicings against other chords to recreate tension and anxious feelings with the music. I tried to wrap all the wierd and wonderful range of emotions all up into about thirty five seconds and then ROCK right into Crush. It turned out really great, when I listen to it, it takes me through a snapshot of one little crush I had a while ago that didn’t work out in my favor. It’s cool to listen and feel like I expressed those feelings well because when I hear it, the familiarity of those feelings is right there, the music pulls those feelings right up. I’m very pleased with it. I let the boys listen to it and everybody was bowled over. Jimmy and Rob had a few suggestions they sent me over email. I printed those out so I won’t lose those too! When I marry that project over to the beginning of the real song, I’ll make those little changes. (Screenshot of the intro in Sonar 5)
For Dean’s parts, we used my Les Paul and the Marshall Plexi for the first track. I want the guitar on his side to be dark, heavy and thick without sounding like some dumb metal song. We started with his Explorer, but it’s a little brighter than the Les Paul and I didn’t want that to be the main sound on his side, so we did about twenty seconds and I decided to use record the Les Paul first and use the Explorer as a doubled track mixed in behind the Les Paul on his side of the mix. Usually we don’t double rhythm tracks, I think it takes away some of the overall timbre of the instrument and masks some of the individuality and articulation of the player. Now I think if you’re not such a good rhythm player, or your tone sucks, doubling can save your ass and make you sound like a rock god. Normally no need for doubling around here but since Rob’s sound on this song is going to be something along the lines of “The Rover” or “Royal Orleans” (Zeppelin) I needed to make sure Dean’s side is extra thick to allow that space for Rob while still keeping the song heavy. So we did one track with the Les Paul with three mics, one track with the Explorer with different mics through the same amp, then we set all the gain aside for the clean parts by using the trusty Hiwatt. There are some jangly guitars throughout the song so we got out the Strat and cranked up the Hiwatt – the Strat sounds absolutely dreamy through that amp. Of course I had to pull the inputs way back to clean it up. It reminded me of “Run to the Hills” Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Pretty cool stuff. There were about three different parts repeating through the song that Dean did with the Strat, I love the sound of that guitar!
We then moved on to the talkbox. Dean has a Rocktron Banshee that, while is not the Heil talkbox made famous by Peter Frampton, Joe Perry and others, it sounds damn good and won’t blow your amp if the driver fails. The corksniffers would look down their nose at anything that is not a Heil but I challenge them to a taste test! No chance anyone can tell, the Banshee sounds that good. It does not even need an amp, it has it’s own mini amp built in. It has a little gain knob and we cut that back quite a bit from his live setting to make sure we get some nice tone showing through and we ran through the song punching him in where his talkbox parts are. I also had him do some chord layering in a couple of spots and double a couple of the single string runs here and there. We put a lot of talkbox in spots where it’s the main part and some layering where it will be mixed in the background for texture – love the way it came out. My plan was to have him double those parts too but the talkbox is such a spur of the moment feel thing, I quickly realized that there was no way to have him double the parts without him wanting to kill me for making him do stuff over and over until it matches good enough, there was just no way, the parts have too much individuality and expression – that’s the whole idea behind the talkbox and luckily my good sense overtook me and we didn’t double the talkbox parts – saved by my inner voice of reason for once. I can’t wait for you to hear it!