10. July 2009
1. The Same Mistakes (Sanchez)
2. Green 17 (Langan)
3. Broken Glass Corner (Sanchez)
4. You Gotta Go Now (Sutliff)
5. Carefully Considered Answers (Langan-Sanchez)
6. Last Acid Riders (Sanchez)
7. After The Main Sequence (Sanchez)
8. Come For The Sun (Langan)
9. Wooden Horse (Sanchez)
10. I Saw Your Light (Langan)
11. Vanished (Tek-Sanchez-Masuak)
12. High Street Hitman (Sanchez – Sutliff)
13. Thinking About Neutrons (Sanchez-Tek)
Only one song remained to be mixed as we neared the end of June. The song now called After The Final Sequence began it’s life around the end of the sessions for The Great Leap Forward. The original track is found on a reel with the demos Colter recorded for Great Leap. At this point it was a a much longer piece, with the title Home Again. All Fall Down and Following Orders did make the final cut for that album. Also on the reel are I Saw Your Light and the sketch which eventually became Carefully Considered Answers. Nothing goes to waste.
I really don’t remember when I started work on Home Again (aka The Overture), but it must have been after Great Leap was completed. I can’t imagine writing such a complicated piece while still trying to get the initial three Career Releases finished. Whatever the case, it was an attempt to write a song with several sections. The front part was the only bit that was ever worked out to my satisfaction. It looks like Jeff added bass in October 2005. I never felt confident enough to ask Ron Craighead to play drums on it. As it happened, Seth came to town in 2006 and needed to borrow our drums for a recording project with Michael Wentz. In return, he agreed to do some recording for me. When I explained to Seth that this was just an overture to a longer piece, he suggested just leave it as a stand alone piece. That seemed like a better idea, and after that point work was done only on the first three and a half minutes of the song. When it came time to present material for the new album, this one was on the list.
The guitar solo was a tortured process. Richard Treece had a go at this when he did overdubs for Echoes. There was some conflict in the studio, and he was never able to get more than two passes at it, and he still seems to be coming to grips with the complex changes. In a brave moment, I asked Tweke Lewis, yet another Manband refugee, and former lead guitarist for Wild Turkey. He did a test recording, but also seemed unsure of how to deal with the song. Soon after that he relocated to Dubai, and never made any further attempts. In the end it was Deniz who was asked to fill the gap, and as expected he agreed. His first suggestion was to not attempt to play over the first half of the song. Good idea. It’s a long series of chord changes that never repeat. The second half just vamps on one chord. I was told to flesh out the first half with keyboards and strings. There was some talk of getting Pip Hoyle to play piano on this, but that was never pursued. The results were very good, and helped define the two parts of the songs much better. While searching through my files, I did turn up a first draft of lyrics for the middle section of the longer version of this song. I may have even attempted to sing them. Must investigate.
Note: There was in fact an attempt to add lyrics to the “song” part of this long piece. I don’t seem to have spent too much time on this effort, but it does suggest a return to this would be in order. The lyrics are good enough to try again with a new bit of music. The demo seems a bit like a forced marriage.
When I was preparing the tracks from Mike Musburger I decided we should put a fresh drum track on this one. This wasn’t the fault of the original performance. I figured it would be best if the drum sound was a bit more consistent across the album. At the very last minute I came up with the idea for Mike to play the second half with mallets. This performance opened up the sound during the solo section changing the mood dramatically.
The mix didn’t take too long, Much of the time was spent cleaning up the tracks, and fixing a few problems. Eight mixes were completed, but only two were ever considered satisfactory. The last one features a bit more delay on the guitar solo and small adjustments to the bass track.
With this one complete, it was the first time all the mixes were compiled and reviewed. The results were very close to our goal. Since our trip to Seattle, I was sure I wanted to return to Carefully Considered Answers. After the first two or three tracks were mixed, Jason Lytle loaned us a reverb from his studio. We had used this to great success on Roy Loney’s record, so I was glad to have it back in the studio for the duration. With Jason out on tour, I knew I would have it until the album was completed, and beyond. The classic “echo” sound was achieved by feeding a chamber with a tape delayed signal. That separates the reverb from the source, giving a bit more clarity. If the delay is timed to the song you can get a dramatic effect. The Wind Cries Mary is an example of this. At Abbey road this was referred to as STEED, Single Tape Echo Echo Delay. The tape itself also adds to the effect. Once we had this set up, I knew we’d use it on everything.
Carefully Considered Answers has Colter and myself singing in unison, with Lila adding another note to the group. The original mix was fine, but the vocals didn’t seem to blend like I intended. A second attempt would also allow me make sure I was happy with the guitar mix. Deniz and Bobby play a very complex riff, in harmony. The balance is critical, and I wasn’t sure I nailed it on the first pass. Today was occupied with several issues related to the cover art so work on this didn’t start until late afternoon. Just then a summer thunder storm blew in, requiring a quick shut down of the studio. As I was about to run off a test mix, Tom Azure called with several important questions about the cover art, and timing of the delivery. The remix of Carefully Considered Answers should be completed tomorrow, the last day of June. Before I was done with this remix, I decided to deal with a nagging issue. When we put the track together, it seemed long enough, as the plan was to fade the song. When I did the first mix, the fade always felt abrupt to me. I had asked Ron to play out past where the guitars had stopped, which he did, but he added a fill which suggested an ending. As an experiment, I added 8 bars of the backing track, two cycles of the riff, before the final one. This proved to be fairly easy, and dramatically improved the fade out. The wonders of digital recording. This edit meant I would need to mix the song yet again, before I could start work on the final remix.
The other song I decided needed a remix was The Same Mistakes. It was the first of the Mike Musburger tracks mixed. When I reviewed the final mixes, this one which will be the opening track seemed to lack the punch of the rest of the album. I managed to put together a new mix in just a couple of hours on the morning of the 4th. When I played the album for Deniz, I realized I had buried a small but important guitar part at the end of the song. It was easy enough to remix the ending section and edit it on to the master, but after that I still had some doubts about the vocal balance. I’ve done some serious work on the five vocal tracks, and got a balance. I will run off the new mix in the morning, when the ears are fresh. A few other adjustments were made which should give the song the muscle it needs to kick off the album. As you may well guess, if you can’t grab the listener’s attention with the first song, you might as well go home.
When I returned to Billings on Monday, I still wasn’t satisfied with the progress on Same Mistakes. We listened to the mixes again, and it did sound fine, but there were some details I felt I could improve on. The interaction between the drums and bass on this song are very important. Mike is pounding out a very simple four on the floor beat, but the pattern has a nice swing to it. Bob Brown plays a busy part over this, so the balance is crucial. It wasn’t until Thursday that I felt like all the problems were solved, and I could finally declare the album done.
There was still a full day of house keeping to prepare the materials for mastering. As mixes were completed I was compiling a master disc, which had the final running order, spacing and fades. I would need to collect all the raw mixes, with out fades, plus all the songs with fades matching the mock up I’d assembled. Late in the game I had made one final change in the track listing, moving Green 17 to the number two position. On Saturday the eleventh, I put the files and a mock up audio disc in the mail, so it was now finally out of my hands.
After eighteen months of non stop work, it was time to clean up the studio and put everything away. I would also need to back up the album files to permanent storage. During the course of this final project I finally found some demos and early takes I had been looking for. I’ve posted a couple and will add a few more once I sort them out… check back.