Back to the Studio

Date: 01 September, 2008  |  Posted By: Mark  |  Category: Tracking New Songs, Videos  |  Comments: 0
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On Aug 15th, Jimmy, Rob and I ascended into the Virginia hills arriving at Dragonfly East Studios to record three new songs for the upcoming Funny Money CD. Our host and engineer was our good friend Scott Spelbring. Dragonfly has a tremendous live room for drums, and Scott has a very impressive collection of mics. Probably more importantly, he knows his live room very well and knows how to get the best sound out of it. In fact it’s so live and loud, that when I told Scott that Rob and I intended to sit in the same room as Jimmy to try and get that live vibe down, he did a double take and said “man are you sure?” I said we were and he just gave me that kind of chuckle that people give you when you are about to do something stupid while they get to be endlessly entertained by your ignorance and discomfort!

Jimmy used Scott’s kit and brought his snare and cymbals. Scott got everything mic’d up with some nice super-high room mics to get all those pretty reflections of those drums bouncing off the wooden walls. We did some test drum tracks with Jimmy using his Zildjian snare, the one made from cymbal brass that he got from them back when he had an endorsement. It’s possibly THE loudest snare ever made. It sounded really good with some ringy overtones, and we weren’t sure if that whas what we were looking for. Scott suggested we try his Ludwig Black Beauty just for fun. Jimmy played for a few minutes and we recorded it and took a break to listen back. Jimmy decided he liked his Zildjian better. It did sound great, so did the Black Beauty but they were too different to compare really.

With the drum sound set, Scott took off for a few to get his dogs from his house and bring them over for company. Jimmy Rob and I decided to run through the arrangements of the three songs and we did quite well! Originally Rob and I had the idea of recording my bass and his guitar at the same time to capture the live vibe as best we could but we spent alot of time working on drums and we figured we’d probably want to redo some parts later anyhow. We decided we’d just sit in the room and Jam with Jimmy as he tracked his drums.

There is a famous story about Keith Moon’s antics in the studio during the recording of Who’s Next. He and producer Glyn Johns along with the first engineer had spent about three hours working on drum sounds, moving mics, changing drums, tuning drums, etc. When they finally “got it” Moonie asked the guys in the control room if everything was just how they wanted. They answered “yeah man we really got it” and Moonie asked “are you sure” they replied, “oh yeah perfect Kieth, just perfect.” Then Moonie promptly stood up, and walked right through the front of the kit, brandishing that wide evil grin of his. Great story.

The point of that story as it applies here is this. The room we recorded drums in was very live and hyperactive. I was sitting about three feet from Jimmy and his pounding the kit was so boneshakingly loud that I had to look up from what I was doing because it sounded like he was walking through the kit continuously! At which point I would be in rather serious danger of big heavy things falling on me. I play with Jimmy alot and I’m pretty used to being in close proximity of his powerful drumming, but when he has something he does not normally have – a gargantuan reflective room as an amplifier – it’s downright scary shit!

Here’s a video of some of what we did. It’s long and mostly pretty boring, it’s kind of like watching a video of somebody at work, nothing exciting about a bunch of people taking their job seriously. Even in a cool studio making music. But that is how it is in the studio and so here you go!

New Song Sample

Date: 17 August, 2008  |  Posted By: Mark  |  Category: Tracking New Songs  |  Comment: 1

Friday night 08/15, Jimmy Rob and I went to Dragonfly East Studios with Scott Spelbring residing over engineering duties, to begin tracking new songs for the new Funny Money CD. We’ve written a bunch of songs and we decided to start tracking with three songs we thought were pretty finished and pretty great – the best of the bunch we have right now. I’ll write another post detailing our first session and how much fun we had when I am done editing the video from the session.

Jimmy at Dragonfly

Jimmy at Dragonfly Studios 8/15

I’ll give y’all a demo version of one of the songs we are tracking for you to hear how a track evolves from the demo stage to the version we feel is good enough to release. This is an older song that was written by Rob and Craig Stegall ages ago, one that Rob and I felt strongly enough about the music and feel to try and pull it from the vault to revive it as a Funny Money song.

This song was in dire need of new lyrics so I went about re-writing the lyrics using some ideas Rob and I wanted to explore using only the original title. I think Craig came up with the original title, which was “When Love Seems Dead.” For the rewrite of this song, Rob had the idea of using the simile of how at any given point in a relationship, “love” with someone can be like a dog playing dead. So we expanded on the idea walking ourselves through similar scenarios we’ve both been in. How sometimes when you reach a point in a tulmultuous relationship when you are not sure if the love is actually gone or if the love is just playing dead. Like when you have problems with someone you are supposedly in a serious relationship with, you talk about things, try to resolve them and nothing happens, there is no forward motion. Sometimes you just get sick of it and it seems like they do nothing to help the situation and it’s all one-way. Where the rubber meets the road, it’s all you and no them. You’re just like “yeah this thing is almost over now” and you feel that emotional door closing a little, that slightly uneasy sinking feeling of going down the far side of a long swale in a speeding car. Then suddenly the other person does something cool or unexpected, maybe start acting like they are more into the little thing you have built together than last week, or do something huge they said they would do for you on an emotional level. Something out of the ordinary arc of the relationship that gets your attention in a positive way. And you think, “Hey this might be alright! Maybe things will work out…” and you get all excited again about this person and your relationship, so you “throw it a bone again” and keep trying until the next time love plays dead. But once you start feeling that way, how do you really know which it is? Is love dead or is it just playing dead like a little dog trick?

I tried to put that whole space that we are all familiar with, that ebb and flow of the shaky love-not-love thing into these lyrics and I hope it makes a connection with listeners. It’s definitely something we can all relate to. So this song is about those feelings and the uncertainty of what it feels like “When Love Plays Dead.”

Remember this is NOT what we recorded, this is a demo, with crappy plug-in guitars and a Jimmy-approved BFD drum track. Oh and Steve didn’t get around to singing on the demo, so this is Rob belting it out. Enjoy!

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Road to Rocklahoma

Date: 16 August, 2008  |  Posted By: Mark  |  Category: Rocklahoma 2008, Videos  |  Comments: 0

Since people asked for band member experiences at Rocklahoma – I’ll tell.

One of the biggest problems we had with doing these multi-band festival shows, is that we are very used to our stereo in-ear monitor system we built for ourselves to use with Funny Money and we didn’t want to go back to the old “way of the wedge” for any reason. Not to mention the fact that any large venue multi-band show anywhere is usually a cluster fuck during changeovers. Steve, Jimmy and I all have Ultimate Ears in-ear speakers. Steve and I have the Shure PSM-400, Jimmy plugs straight into the mixing board back by his drums with a stereo cable. Rob plays commando with no ear plugs or in-ears, he tried them but didn’t like them. He’s a brave man. We have fine tuned our mixes over the last few years and it works great for all of us. (Ronnie has Ultimate Ears and a Shure unit but he doesn’t use in-ears with KIX)

So when this came up, and Funny Money was off that weekend anyhow, we decided to do it if Jimmy and I could figure out a way to get our in-ear rig down to Oklahoma without spending a thousand or more dollars on air cargo. We decided to drive. We figured eighteen hours, good company, a couple of iPods and Jimmy’s van, we’d have a great time. We’ve all made the drive to Florida numerous times and this was just a little farther so what’s the big deal? When we did get to the venue, we saw a bunch of Rockit Cargo pallets backstage that were from Queensryche. That must have cost them an arm and a leg and we were glad we didn’t further line the pockets of Rockit Cargo with our hard earned cash…

I had asked Scott Spelbring to go with us to run FOH since our regular sound man Joe Corcoran couldn’t make it that weekend. Scott offered to ride with Jimmy and I and we’re glad he did, we had a blast on the drive and Scott just added to the fun. With my new hard disk video camera in tow, off we went. I had an old digital tape camera and decided to update my gear for the trip. This one even has the Super NightShot Infrared system for that fuzzy green-and-white-tinged-hotel-heiress-sex-tape effect.

Here’s some video I took on the way down edited down for, um, you know . . . dramatic effect. :-)

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