The Making Of Largo
The following excerpts from Bill Rieflin's diary trace the making of
'Largo' - from a phone conversation with Chris Connelly to the final
mastering. As Chris points out in his introduction, this record was begun
10 years ago, though at the time they didn't know that. Beginnings
are indeed invisible.
Doing Chris For Under A Quid-A-Day - by Chris Connelly
For me, understanding why I make records has only just begun to make itself
incrimentaly clearer and, in hindsight, I understand that records (that I
make) are complete contradictions unto themselves, and it all comes down to
that. When this was realised, how thrilled I was, I had become a living
contradiction! another conceit! the voice of the ever-sycophantic critic
bubbled over inside me with accolades, and....
"Largo" is no exception to my confusion, it is a travelogue, a guide
through a maze with no real co ordinates, it is perhaps, however, the most
honest of records I have been involved in. The contradiction lies in the fact
that it appears in YOUR hand one day, just like that, one minute you are empty
handed, the next you are holding this puzzle, just like I am coming up for air
to report - but the report is garbled, I am trying to squeeze 10 years of
thought into under 40 minutes - we began writing this record over a decade
ago, Bill and me, it started with a poem in three parts called "Wake," it
wormed and meandrered its way through others of my records, and rose to a
peak in the middle of the last decade when we sat and wrote it down, then
continued on our ways, until the culmination when we actually commited it to
tape. For me it was a simple process, open your pie-hole and report to the
microphone, but still it is a map without longitude or latitude, like these
dreams you have where a place you grew up in is now situated outside your
current abode. But I will let you in to a secret, I like being lost, I like
being in confused surroundings, and that is the sound of "Largo" to me.
12 DEC SUN 1999
Spoke w/ Chris Connelly this morn about scheduling time for a record we are making. The material is based on writing sessions we had a few years back. Two pieces from this period can be found on his record 'The Ultimate Seaside Companion' (one of my favorite record titles). A lot of the material is based on structural experiments. As in: What would it sound like if we wrote a song without repeating parts?
23 JAN SUN 2000
Speak w/ CC about The Future.
6 FEB SUN 2000
The tide turns. Excellent morning phone. Call Connelly. "I knew it'd be you," says he. How'd he know? Because he was playing Ornette Coleman's 'Dancing In Your Head.' "I knew that if I put this on, you'd call." I don't know how many years ago I told him about this record - a spanking Sunday morning record, I might add. He obviously still strongly associates it w/ me. I could do worse.
9 MAR THU 2000
Spoke w/ Chris yesterday. He keeps complaining about his wooden leg, but he won't do anything about it. I keep recommending maybe a different wood altogether. His current ash leg just seems too light. I think a nice sturdy maple would really do quite nicely.
4 JUL TUE 2000
There are plans for CC to come out for a week this month. The idea is to pick up our weird writing project and get a CD's worth of tunes under way. I would like to get it released by November. This is ambitious but possible.
10 JUL MON 2000
Preparing for Connelly's arrival. Clearing out the computer to make room for us. Sitting at the piano, stretching my memory - prodded by my primitive notation - in the direction of six or seven pieces of varied complexity. After a few hours I feel like I'm warming up. By the end of the week I hope to be playing reliably - if I can remember the songs.
11 JUL TUE 2000
My left hand hurts from playing piano, relearning songs for next week's recording w/ CC. All that stretching, I imagine. It's not even the hand w/ the hard bits. I've been taking our DAT "demos" and attempting to turn them in to a CD for easier reference. It would have gone smoother if they weren't recorded at a sample rate of 48 kHz (CD's use a 44.1 kHz sample rate). Oy.
Some of these songs are hard. And weird. I'm currently struggling w/ a song - provisionally titled 'Rondo' - w/ so many chords that I'm utterly lost. And I am supposedly one of the writers. Funnily, I can't imagine myself writing this song, nor can I imagine Chris writing it. That's what happens when working w/ another ( yes, in this case two is a group). Things appear that normally wouldn't were they written solo. Praise the Lord that I found an old chart for this thing. Unfortunately the sections are in the wrong order. Listening to it, you wouldn't think it was all that complicated. It's very pastoral and slow tempo'd. There are vocals, but I like it better as an instrumental. We'll see if and/or how it survives. I'm very excited about a slow, haunting piece called 'Largo.' This record wants to have a lot of strings. Hope we can afford it.
12 JUL WED 2000
Fun! Excitement! I'm working on a song called "Y." It arose from the question, "What would a song that doesn't repeat sound like?" It's a short piece, no more that 3 minutes. It took about 15 hours to write over a 3 day period. I'm relearning it from an old recording and some sparse notes. I had later changed a small chromatic section, but didn't notate the changes. So after spending some time digging for the lost chords, Voila! Success! Fun! Excitement! Earlier, I spent much time transcribing the multi-chorded 'Rondo.' I told FS yesterday's comment about it sounding like neither Chris nor myself wrote it. "Then who did?" she asked. "I don't know," I replied, "but whoever it was, they did it through us."
13 JUL THU 2000
A few days ago I came in from the back garden to call Connelly. On the stairs leading to the back door I wondered, "What is his middle name?" I called, he wasn't in, left a message. He called later that night, I wasn't in, left a message which started, "This is Christopher John Connelly...," (the emphasis was his). When I told him the story, he said it was strange because he never says his name like that.
14 JUL FRI 2000
Learning the last half of "Y" and the entirety of "Prayer." I like this stuff a lot and wonder how to turn it into a record.
16 JUL SUN 2000
Playing piano. I waited too long in the day to begin practicing. The Blue Room is on the west side of the house and quickly succumbs to rising afternoon temperatures. Playing 'Wake 3' w/ a metronome at a considerably slower speed. Work on transposing 'The Last of Joy' (cheery title) - down one whole tone. Transposition on guitar is generally easier except when it isn't.
17 JUL MON 2000
9:45 am. The piano tuner lurches and stumbles to the front door. I knew from our phone conversation that he was older (than most), so I am not quite but nearly alarmed at the sight of him. Tall, lanky, lurching, gray, old. Who knows, he might be the best thing on wheels. He first learned his trade in 1946. He's also seeing-impaired and has a hearing aid. He arrived w/ a driver. One-and-a-half hours later, he's on his way. The piano is now tuned quite differently. I reserve judgment until I have a chance to work w/ it. People hear tuning differently. With a piano there are some tuning options, although w/ a spinet there are more physical limitations than w/ larger pianos.
Steven Rhodes arrives, just in from L. A. He will be the engineer for the recordings. We look at a studio, and then another. We do a test at the another, and I don't think it's going to work. Tomorrow we do a test at (my) home to hear what kind of recording we can get. It may just work out fine.
Preparing for CC's arrival tonight. He called to say his plane is two hours late. Lousy for him, good for me. An old friend is having a birthday party/dinner. Now I can stay longer
18 JUL TUE 2000
Waiting for Chris to deplane last night, I was trying to remember when it was that we last saw each other. I figured three years ago. We finally decided it was two years ago while I was in Chicago recording w/ Chainsuck. We had a Vietnamese meal w/ Frank & Dave.
Up at 9:00 ish. CC has already gone for a run around the nearby lake. Our day begins at 10:40 when Steven Rhodes arrives to conduct a feasibility study. We're seeing if and how much of a record we can make here at the house. First, a piano test w/ various microphones. We are listening for overall sound quality of what is being reproduced and the quality of the recording itself (noise, etc.). It passes the engineer's inspection. Next up, the guitar - also recorded acoustically. Chris' guitar records very well. Piece o' cake. During all of this, CC is transcribing the pesky 'Rondo.' I counted a total of eighteen different chords in this one. The total number of chord changes is much larger. The song is probably only 3 minutes long.
After a quick logistical meeting (which songs, which instruments, how to be recorded, in what order, at which facility - we're also spending two day at a real studio) it's lunch time. Pho. After, SR hits the road; CC & I hit the Blue Room. First up: 'Rondo.' More time is spent figuring out chords on guitar and ironing out how our arrangements match up. We rewrite the ending, making things even more complicated. It is decided that for our next tour together we'll get a sponsorship from Cadbury for our new candy bar, the Rondo - "a swirling chocolate vortex!"
Next up, 'Prayer.' I realize while playing (trying to) how much I love listening to Chris sing this. It is rare that I really love listening to what I am accompanying. Dinner. Dishes (ye who does not cook does the washing up). More 'Prayer.' Moving on to 'Largo.' We think this is going to be the centerpiece of the record. Chris thinks it's very Scottish. At 10:10 pm, we are full. Listen to Land mixes. Then to Hughscore. It's a great sounding record. I want Fred Chalenor to play on 'Rondo,' to be sure. And anything else he wants, as far as I'm concerned.
We laughed a lot today.
19 JUL WED 2000
Analogy of the morning: Life is like a particle accelerator, constantly knocking us into things so that we can see what we're made of. This is related to the aphorism, "Begin where you are." We usually have a distorted view (in degrees) of where we are. A good cold splash in the face can help us to see things differently, if not clearer. It's not always guaranteed to be fun, that's all.
Last night at dinner we briefly discuss a work schedule. I ask Chris if he'd like to organize our time into fixed work time and off time. "We're not mining coal," came the reply. So, it looks like we work until we get black lung.
During the piano test yesterday, a squeak in the sustain pedal was revealed. At noon, after playing an hour or so, we took a break to let the piano technician wave his wand. He also examined the tuning - at my request - and commented, "It's a spinet."
Going through what we didn't yesterday: the 'Wake' series (1, 2, and 3 - 'Wake 2' is 45 seconds long), 'The Call Girls,' 'Y,' and an untitled piece. We also looked at two pieces which need some additional writing - one being 'The Last of Joy' from Chris' first record.
I've always wanted to put a new melody on the old music. The other is 'Stray' from 'The Perfect Seaside Companion.' I've written a 4 chord tag w/ melody and want to put another verse in it. I think that double bass will work really well. This brings us to Fred Chalenor. I spoke w/ Fred today about recording on Sunday. Looks like it will work. He's coming by tomorrow to hear a few things.
Took a nice break walking around the lake in the afternoon. A break for dinner, then a break for a hilarious South Park episode. The day ends w/ a recap of everything. And gin for me. These are more or less the facts. I'm enjoying myself, Chris, and the work. The music is unusual and is unlike anything on any record I've ever made. I have no idea how this will be received, but for certain it is genuine. In that way, it is almost beyond my personal likes or dislikes. It's running on its own steam.
20 JUL THU 2000
Sleep in 'til 9:30. Again, CC has gone for a walk around the lake, this time w/ his cassette recording of the new version of 'Stray' and the transposed 'The Last of Joy.' A morning of phone calls await him regarding The Damage Manual, a group w/ Chris, Jah Wobble, Geordie Walker, and Martin Atkins. I work on playing 'Stray' w/ the minimum of fumbles.
We begin a recording for Fred Chalenor who arrives just before 2:00. There are (at least) 4 songs we want him to play on: 2 electrically, 2 w/ his double bass. We play for him, record it, and make charts. Then, back to work.
The new version of 'Stray' is a real winner. There is a tag that's slightly jazzy and much fun to play (only 4 bars - most of these things are short except 'Largo' which is over 7 minutes w/ a lot of space). On 'The Last of Joy' (originally recorded over 10 years ago) we arrived at the idea of a call and response vocal. The original version is the call, the response was written today. The material on this record spans at least 11 years - probably more. But it doesn't matter. This record could be released any time and it would always be the same. It has nothing whatsoever to do w/ fashion or fashionable music. It has to do w/ following the creative impulse, guided by a few governing ideas. Regarding expectations, as Chris said the other night, "We're here to disappoint you." This caused great ripples of laughter.
After playing through everything, we break to a CD shop, then to Michael Cozzi's to borrow some gear - generously and unhesitatingly offered. Dinner. Then another run-through. Today, we have added to our repertoire the song 'Close Watch,' by John Cale. Seems that every time Chris and I have made a record together, we record a version of 'Close Watch.' Two others exist - one recorded during the making of 'Whiplash Boychild,' the other during 'Shipwreck.' None so far have made it public. Third time's the charm.
I remember an idea we once discussed concerning this material: releasing it under a fake composers name w/ us merely as performers.
21 JUL FRI 2000
Waking up off and on from 7:00 on. Up 9:00 ish (all times are approximate). Went to check on replies to an e-mail sent out last night:
"Bill Rieflin & Chris Connelly are making a record. We are looking for an assistant/intern/gopher/love slave to help move copious amounts of gear from the Rieflin household to the studio, and back again. While at the studio you will be under the command of engineer Steven Rhodes. This will/may involve setup of whatever needs setting up. If you know anything about recording this will be useful but not necessary. Then, in our ideal world, you will sit around invisibly until something else is needed. This may be something as demeaning as going to the store to get us some ice cream. Especially for the vocalist (vocalist humor). You will be working with experienced professionals who don't take any shit at the workplace.
"Why do you want to do this? I don't know. But you will be witness to a record in the making. A very interesting record made by very nice people.
"You are needed Saturday and Sunday. The hours are long and we start early. Please apply by e-mail ASAP. Thank you." I forgot to say how boring it would mostly be. But I got 5 responses from which one will work (we hope).
Steven Rhodes arrives a 10:00. Set up, and this and that. Computer crashes first thing. At least that's now out of the way. The first thing recorded is a metronome. Went through two mics and various placements. At least that's now out of the way. All songs w/ either a click or rhythm box are set up first, five in number. The phone is shut off, the answering machine turned down. This is record making on the cheap. It's more work but it costs less. On to the guitar.
'Largo' is first. There are large spaces between chords. "It's like defusing a bomb," says Chris. I haven't heard his recorded track yet. The room where we are working is small. Really small. Enough space for the engineer, the player, and the gear. Since Chris and I are both the producers, we are each responsible for our own parts. So I type while he strums.
Next up, 'Rondo.' "See you in an hour," he says as I squeeze out of the room. This means that he thinks it'll take that long to get a decent track for a 3 minute song. But what happens is he gives it 3 passes straight through, no problem. Quick 'n' easy. Tea and coffee break.
3:00 pm. 'Prayer.' The position of the guitarist and mics is moved at the engineer's request. I bail. Did I mention that the room is on the west side of the house? Right about this time, an already warm room grows warmer. Arrrrr. By 3:30 they've moved on to the untitled piece, provisionally called 'Georgio.' For no good reason. This goes on until 3:56.
Lunch/dinner at a local Vietnamese joint. Then, it's my turn in the little hot room. By the time I start recording, ambient temperature has reached maximum. Naturally, all doors and windows are shut - sealed tight, in fact. 'Largo' is first. I'm encased in mic stands, encased in headphones, encased in a small hot room w/ no ventilation. Not to complain, mind you. Chris had his go, now it's my turn to suffer. Then again, Steven has been in there all day - only breaking when the musicians break. The lot of an engineer. A bit of a raw deal. Anyway, I'm hot, uncomfortable, blah blah blah, and making the worst mistakes of my life. Humiliation beyond belief. It goes on too long and I loose my cool in all respects. Oy. After numerous punch-ins, I go for a take w/out interruptions, er, mistakes. Goes much better. But I also simplify the part, which is sort of a shame. At least I can play it. But the end, I'm sticky and past ready to escape.
'Prayer' goes fairly smoothly. Ready for an easy one, I request 'Georgio.' The track has some technical problems forcing the decision to re-do it later. 'Rondo' also wraps up quickly. Compared to 'Largo,' anyway. Chris then replays 'Georgio,' w/ me waiting in line.
There was an electrical storm in the early evening that freaked out the computer during a 'Prayer' punch-in. We powered down and waited for it to pass outside in the rain. By 10:35 we were reviewing the day's work. By midnight we had torn down (the gear), ready for tomorrow. A good day's work.
22 JUL SAT 2000
Ben, our assistant/intern/gopher/love slave, arrives just after 10:00. We load the cars w/ what remains in the house - Steven took a carload last night. Ben goes to the studio ahead of us, CC & I pick up a mic from Mark Walk on the way. Load in. While things are being plugged in, etc., CC & I go on a food run. Next, preparing to record. This largely involves getting piano sounds (deciding on which microphones to use and where to put them); then vocal sounds (same story as with getting piano sounds).
First up: singing on yesterday's tracks. Another thunder storm begins just before singing 'Largo.' Chris gets excited and says that he's glad to be singing while it rains. We quickly hop to in case of huge thunderclap (we want that sound on the song). He sings two takes. Then three takes on 'Prayer.' It's not that he needs to sing that many takes, but it's nice to have variety when later assembling the track. And since we live 2000 miles from one another, it would be a drag to discover that what is needed was not recorded. Multiple takes sharply reduce that possibility. It also means that we don't have to pull out the microscope at this stage of the game. We only have two days in which to record 13 pieces - no time to get lost in the vortex of examining minutiae. Get the performances now, sort it out later.
Speaking of minutiae, I have come to the conclusion that I hate playing while wearing headphones. So much of hearing is involved in the act of playing. This is probably even more crucial w/ acoustic instruments. Headphones completely alter what and how you hear. Even when. I now realize this is one of the reasons why I was having such a hard time yesterday. When drumming in the studio, I usually don't even want to hear my drums in the headphone mix. They're generally loud enough. I only want to hear what I'm playing to/with in my 'phones. Close mic'ed drums sound weird. I don't like it and the sound distracts me. It changes everything. I'd rather not hear it at all. As w/ the piano, there are now all sorts of things I'm not used to hearing w/ the unaided ear - things I don't want to hear. Sustain pedal squeak primary among them. Soon, my attention is taken by this damn sound, taken away from playing. It's pissing me off, making things worse. Then a simple idea: I don't have to wear them. Most of what we're doing is live voice and piano; we can just be in the room and play. Relief comes. Ahhh, the simplicity of the obvious.
For the live songs, we start w/ the easiest: 'Wake 2.' It only has 6 chords, the melody is basically one note, and it's about 40 or so seconds long. Top 40 material at its finest. Then, almost capriciously, we select 'Close Watch,' our John Cale cover [see 20 July for our quick history with this song]. Bingo bango, 1st take.
'The Call Girls' also goes smoothly (from here [this is being written Tuesday, 25 July] my notes taken at the studio end, and memory is engaged). We forsake a dinner break in order to forge ahead. 'Y,' perhaps the most difficult piece, goes pretty well. It's in two parts. The first part (amazingly!) is performed w/out a hitch. Stumbles aplenty in the 2nd half, however. One advantage of computer recording is the ease of "fixing" "problems" (covering up mistakes. I remember well an interview w/ Todd Rundgren in which he said something to the effect that modern recording technology is mainly used for making musicians sound better than they actually are. I can't argue w/ that).
At one point, the piano squeak has me on the phone, anxiously trying to track down anyone who can come and fix the damn thing. With no luck, I resign myself to the idea that I can do something about it later (the good ol' "fix it in the mix" syndrome. A dubious policy).
'Stray' is surprisingly hard. Not because of the notes or structure, but because, as Chris pointed out, it's a delicate piece. We played many failed, incomplete takes before hitting on the right feeling the song needs. I love our new version. This is definitely one of my faves.
By day's end we have recorded 12 of the 13 planned pieces, leaving 'Wake 3.' It's a challenge to play: a constant flurry of 8th notes at 176 BPM (for those who care). The action on the Steinway is much firmer than that of my Everett at home. The pure muscle involved in playing this piece on this piano is greater that what I'm used to. I quickly tire. It's the end of the day. I'm beat. And I'm cranky. Ask Steven Rhodes about my unpleasant, impatient side sometime. I see that I'll never get any further tonight and the evening's end is called. The computer is shut down at 9:37. We've done a huge amount of work today. We agree to meet tomorrow at 10:00. On the way home, Chris and I stop for a slice of pizza.
I have worked w/ many people who don't have the good sense to stop when a day's work is over. They suffer under the misconception that a lot of quantity equals quality. This, to me, shows a lack of understanding of the creative process, probably even biology.
23 JUL SUN 2000
Awake 9:00 ish, exhausted. I now understand how much work we did yesterday. It takes me quite a while to wake up. I'm surprised to find that early riser Connelly is still in bed. I soon learn this is because he was up half the night in pain w/ an ear infection. He's only had one such infection before - the other being a few months ago while working w/ The Damage Manual. He was doing a lot of flying over the Great Pond, and frequent flying seems to be the cause. Chris eventually tracks down his doctor in Chicago who sets him up w/ antibiotics. On the way to the studio we stop for coffee and pain killers.
Last night's plan for this morning was to review what we've done up to here. But now I want to dive straight into 'Wake 3.' We rearrange the microphones, working on the piano sound. By the time we're ready, CC's prescription has been filled. We go get pills, Steven goes for food. This is just as well since it has taken me all this time to wake up to the challenge of 'Wake 3.' I must get it within the 1st few takes, else my muscles (forearms) become exhausted (this is not hyperbole - this piano is hard to play). We soon have a workable take w/ the caveat that because I'm playing to a click, I can rerecord it later if necessary. Chris fortunately has only this one piece to sing today. He gives it his best Richard III. His voice is a bit gravelly, but it works fine and sounds good. This piece is one of 3 that has a section of a one note melody sung w/ shifting chords beneath it - this being the most dramatic and energetic.
Just for fun we decide to record a version of Robert Wyatt's 'Sea Song.' A few days ago we played it, out of the blue. We'd never played it before, either singly or together, but because we know it so well (Rock Bottom being one of our favorite records) it came fairly easily. It probably won't be on this record, but it did spark a lively discussion about releasing 45's.
I want to lay down some drums on 'Prayer' but need to pick them up from the downtown practice room. Off I go, impatient and cursing all the way at the weekend drivers (Sunday drivers are also out on Saturdays - everyone w/ nowhere to go). And it's hot out here. When I return, Chris has tracked a chorus of so-called background vocals on 'Georgio.' "So-called" because there are no foreground vocals. Hearing them strikes an ornamental idea which we then sing together.
Setting up a floor tom, played w/ mallets (mullets?). Two passes. Then a snare, played w/ brushes. Again, two passes. Then, Chris and I have a simultaneous radical idea: Let's go have a sit down meal before Fred Chalenor, bassist supreme, arrives. The three of us go Mexican, eating outdoors in the warm breeze. More coffee.
Back at the studio w/ time to spare, we finally begin to review our work. 'Largo' is first. For various reasons, we (I) decide to replay the piano . By the time we have sounds and are up and running, there is less than an hour B. F. (Before Fred). The piece is close to 8 minutes long so I don't have many chances at multiple takes. Fortunately, the first one is a goodie w/ only a few fixes. Among some studio banter, (at 7:50 pm, actually), Steven Rhodes utters the quote of the day, "Anything you think is useful, I'll make real difficult." Said w/ casual ease. Apparently taking his revenge.
Fred is coming to play both electric and stand up bass. Taking advantage of the space, we go right for the double bass on 'Stray.' The time/feel in this piece is very free, rubato w/ no constant tempo whatsoever. Fortunately, there is a representation of the soundwave on the computer monitor. I can see when things are coming and when they hit. I wind up conducting from behind the console, using the visual guide. This helps a lot. It takes a while to nail it, but the effort pays off. I could just "fix" it in the computer, but I'd much rather have a good performance. It makes a real difference. Anyway, I'd rather have Fred do the work. After all, he's not getting not paid for nothing. But it sounds beautiful. Lots of grinning.
'The Last of Joy II' has more of a sense of steady time, but it's still pretty free. The structure is one section repeated thrice. Same instrument. Fred takes a solo at the end. It's so good.
Then to the electric songs. Though he claims not have much worked on the pieces due to a power outage, he flies through effortlessly. He's either a liar or brilliant, and I know he's not a liar. Fred is truly one of the best players I have ever known. Connelly is awed (and odd). Fred elevates the pieces beyond our capacity. Lucky us.
The end is near. This recording session is now over. Tear down. Pack up. Put the studio back in shape (it was given to us for the weekend w/out official supervision - it's our responsibility to return it to a state of readiness for the next person). Home midnightish. Chris has been in pain most of the day, w/ no complaints. Not bad for a Scot.
24 JUL MON 2000
The big news for today is a photo session. For now, we've decided on another radical idea: putting our mugs on the record cover. Very simple black & white portraits w/ a black background, wearing black clothes. Floating faces are all you get. We think it suits the record. The shoot takes less than an hour. I should see proofs by Wednesday.
I'm feeling well drained from the weekend's work. After dinner I can barely stay awake. After resting, Chris and I go for a walk around the lake. We count the number of records we have either made together or have appeared on - separately or together: 14 of 'em, this new one being no. 15. In the ice cream shop we stand in line next to Gregg Keplinger - drummer, drum maker and drum tech for Matt Cameron. A pleasant surprise. Watch the movie 'Dogma.' Almost really liked it.
25 JUL TUE 2000
A busy day of driving around in hot, congested traffic. Take Chris to the airport. It's a shame to see him go. On the way, we stop at our favorite Burien CD shop, Soundwaves. Then to see Steven Rhodes. He has the keys to the studio which need returning. He buys me lunch, I pay him (not enough) for his excellent work. Then to the studio to return the keys and to pay the owner. This small paragraph takes 5 hours to live through in real time.
THU 3 AUG 2000
Propose to R. Fripp that he play on a track on the upcoming Connelly/Rieflin record.
SAT 5 AUG 2000
Chris Connelly & I have a phone consultation over the photos from the shoot on July 24. We pick a handful from which we'll get enlargements w/ more extreme tone values. From there, we'll see.
TUE 8 AUG 2000
Connelly and I are hatching a plan that may put us on the road soon...
TUE 15 AUG 2000
Having completed secretarial (computer) tasks - essentially putting away work that has taken my attention for the past few weeks - I am now freed to look at the Connelly/Rieflin recordings for the first time since the initial sessions. They sound great. The recordings and the performances. I'm very excited. There is also a lot of work ahead. First step is to back everything up. This means that my afternoon is spent burning CDs. This insures against worst case scenarios. At very least, I can always go back to the basic tracks.
SAT 19 AUG 2000
Examining and editing the Connelly/Rieflin music. Got some new speakers which I will be soon returning.
MON 21 AUG 2000
A surprise in the mail: CC sent me 'The New Confessions,' a novel by William Boyd. Funnily, before I opened the package I had a hunch that it was this book. Chris said it is one of the best he's ever read. And he is well read. It's come just in time. I'm between books and wasn't sure what to pick up next (actually, I'm reading a book by Dave Stewart about reading and writing music, but that doesn't really count). I would probably begin it tonight, but I am crosseyed from: too much computer editing.
TUE 22 AUG 2000
Phone conversation w/ Chris Connelly, throwing around the idea of the two of us touring this autumn. We decide that the new record is called 'Largo.' A good name, for a few reasons.
While looking up the word 'Largo' in Baker's Dictionary of Music by Nicolas Slonimsky (a hugely informative and entertaining resource - I strongly recommend it for anyone's music library), I fall upon the entry 'money and music.' The first sentence is: "Musicians do not manufacture material goods and therefore, like poets, subsist parasitically." Later: "Wagner was put in a debtors prison in Paris when he was already a well-known composer. Bartók complained bitterly during his last years of life in America that he could not even find piano pupils to provide pocket money....Scriabin suffered desperate financial difficulties after the death of his...publisher;...sometimes...he even lacked enough money for a postage stamp."
SAT 26 AUG 2000
Making rough mixes from the Connelly/Rieflin stuff. Much to do. Time is in short supply it seems.
SUN 27 AUG 2000
Making rough mixes from the Rieflin/Connelly stuff. Much to do. Time is in short supply it seems.
MON 11 SEPT 2000
Spoke w/ Chris Connelly for the first time since sending him the rough mixes. "I have not felt elation like that for years, I am really thrilled beyond words...." He likes it. Through a few specific instances, it's obvious to see that we're still on the same page. I only regret that due to the move and tour, completing the recording will have to wait a while.
FRI 15 SEPT 2000
More talk w/ Connelly about touring for 'Largo.'
TUE 26 SEPT 2000
Phone call from bassist Fred Chalenor this morn to say that he thinks the new record is "fantastic." Naturally, his playing contributes to the fantasticity. He said there were a few chord changes he hadn't heard before, which is something coming from him. Also talking about Annette Peacock. Connelly recently discovered "X-Dreams," a very good record. Fred says there is a new one worth hearing - so I must. I probably first heard her around 1975 on her record "I'm the One." Mick Ronson did a smashing version of that tune (w/ Aynsley Dunbar on drums) on his 1973 debut solo LP "Slaughter On 10th Ave."
MON 16 OCT 2000
After having finally moved house over the last month, work on the record continues in earnest. I have edited two songs today: 'Largo' and 'Prayer.' The tightening up is subtle but makes a world of difference.
TUE 17 OCT 2000
An afternoon of errands. Flickering lights and the threat of a coming storm convince me to cut my day's work on 'Largo' short. I did a touch up on 'Prayer' and started shoring up 'Rondo.'
The Alexandria Quartet is not available for recording until Nov. 8 or so. This may or may not be a problem. I also need to find a place to mix for the middle of Nov.
WED 18 OCT 2000
Fred Chalenor called. We ironed out some time when we can write string parts for tunes on 'Largo.'
Had one of "those" dreams this morning. CC and I were about to hit the stage to play the greatest hits from our new record when I realized I hadn't prepared in any way. No practicing, not the right gear, couldn't remember how to play the tunes. I recall in the dream desperately trying to remember the chords to 'Sea Song' and 'Close Watch' (funnily, they both begin on E flat, same chord inversion). Woke up sweating.
More 'Largo' work. Tackled 'The Last of Joy' (which needs a new name), 'Stray II' (might need a new name), 'Wake 2' (this is the right name for this one), 'Sea Song' (didn't write it - couldn't change the name if I wanted to), and 'Y' (a perfect name). Still need to decide whether the record comes out under Rieflin / Connelly or Connelly / Rieflin. I say tomato, you say tomahto. I figure the singer comes first.
Sascha Konietzko called tonight. 'Birth of a Giant' was blasting away in the background (on his end). I told him that 'Largo' is the opposite of BOAG. "So, it's gonna suck?" he replied.
THU 19 OCT 2000
'Close Watch' is now officially ready for mixing.
FRI 20 OCT 2000
Built a virtual Mellotron on my AKAI S300 sampler from a sample DAT made for use in Ministry. Somehow, years after the fact, I wound up with it. After using the computer for music purposes over the last year, the sampler seems criminally cumbersome. I still know people who make records with those things. Regardless, after much time the Mellotron was built and put to good use. A lot of time dedicated for about 50 seconds of playing time. Gnarly never sounded so good.
SUN 22 OCT 2000
Six tracks for 'Largo' are now ready for mixing. I'm sending them to engineer Steven Rhodes, now in L. A. He recorded the basics (basically, the record proper). He's going to have a stab at mixing.
TUE 24 OCT 2000
A reasonably frustrating day. That about covers it. That said....
Put some strings (sounds) on 'Prayer.' I like it. I hope Chris does too.
WED 25 OCT 2000
Need to make a rough mix of 'Prayer,' but I also need an 8 channel snake: female XLR to male TRS. There isn't one to be found in Seattle. Sometimes we're still at the edge of the country.
Spoke to BM about the idea of Rieflin / Connelly touring w/ PM.
THU 26 OCT 2000
Fred Chalenor and I worked for 4-5 hours on string parts for 'Largo' (the song). Most string players want a score. This is by no means a complaint, merely a generalization. When recording 'Hanging Gardens' from BOAG, I assumed that the song was simple enough for the players to work their parts out themselves, for instance: Here are the chords, you know how voice them within the quartet, go for it. Granted, it was successful (!) but still there were those who would have preferred a score. Well, this time there is a score - in large part because I am looking for specifics.
Among the mail was Caroline Lavelle's cello part for 'The Call Girls.' It's amazing and quite unexpected. It instantly brought Debussy to mind. I need to let it sink in. It certainly provides a different take on the piece.
Fred's quote of the day: "A constant state of Almost."
SUN 29 OCT 2000
The door and windows of the White Room are being finished out this afternoon. No work for me today.
MON 30 OCT 2000
More construction on the White Room. The inside should be finished by the end of the day so that I will be set up ready for work tomorrow.
This morning I wrote out a chart of 'Wake 3' for Fred Chalenor. I didn't actually play through it afterward, but I'm pretty sure it's right. He called asking about his part on 'Largo.' He was working on it at home and wondered if it was really what I wanted. It's true that I've never worked with bowed double bass before, but in my audio imagination it's just right. I may not have any visual imagination to speak of, but my "inner" ear is very developed. I can work out everything there before coming close to an instrument. And it almost always turns out right.
TUE 31 OCT 2000
Looking for somewhere to mix 'Largo.' Steven Rhodes, who recorded the record, has some ready-to-mix multis in L. A., but I don't know if he'll be able to do all of the pieces. And, looking for somewhere to record the strings. Tick, tick, tick. There is a deadline for a February release.
WED 01 NOV 2000
Today, work on 'Wake 3' in preparation for tomorrow's recording with Fred Chalenor.
THU 02 NOV 2000
A long day. The morning was spent putting together a package for Connelly including photographs for the CD cover and updated rough mixes for approval. Also completing preparations for this afternoon's recording w/ Fred Chalenor.
Borrowed a microphone from Mark Walk. He has been exceptionally generous to me through the years and continues to be so. In large part, the making of this record has been made possible by the generosity of those willing to help.
Arrived early at Michael Cozzi's place. He's donated his afternoon for recording. Everything sets up easily leaving a lot of time for tea drinking and looking up foul names on the Web.
Recording goes a little slower than expected. But I should have expected that. Fred is playing his double bass w/ a bow for this session. He is handicapped by the room in which we are recording. The ceiling is very low and he can't get his instrument high enough for comfort (he's a bit of a tall one). So he is crouching / hunched / crunched for about three hours. An added difficulty is a computer / program incompatibility (I brought my hard drive and am using Cozzi's computer) so extra steps need to be taken, insuring that I can access the data on my machine at home. It makes me a bit crazy and brings out Mr. Impatient.
The recording comes to an end because I have to run to a Minus Five rehearsal.
FRI 03 NOV 2000
Making a record can be hard enough. Making and releasing a record is something else entirely. Throw in a tour and it's quite a campaign. Spoke to Chris this afternoon about the something else entirely. The quantity of details is staggering. I'm having a hard enough time keeping the record on schedule. Yes, schedules are important in this case. As the record label, there are many things to coördinate with / between the distributor and the booking agent.
It is decided that 'Largo' will be released w/ the Rieflin family name coming first. This is largely a practical matter, and in small part an aesthetic matter. This is fine with me. I don't care either way.
Work with the bass recordings made on 'Wake 3' yesterday. Everything opens up just fine on the computer a home. A possible nightmare is avoided. Let us give thanks.
SAT 04 NOV 2000
A long day. My early afternoon was spent wrapping up 'Wake 3,' left unfinished from yesterday. Then, feeling tired and looking at the day ahead, I become irritable and, undoubtedly, irritating. I doze for 15 minutes before heading downtown to move gear for tonight's Minus Five performance - I'm the drummer.
SUN 05 NOV 2000
Married Caroline's cello part for 'The Call Girls' to the multi-track. I really like it. Chris called it "gorgeous." Also, found the right bass takes for 'Largo.' It's getting closer. Chris heartily approves of all additions thus far. I knew he had good taste somewhere in
MON 06 NOV 2000
11:13 PM. The end of a 14 hour work day. Fred Chalenor dropped by this evening and we wrote some very nice chords for the string players. It was refreshment to hear and to play. The recording session is meant to be on Wednesday. I still don't quite have somewhere to record them. Well, only just. There is always somewhere. I'm hoping for a more right somewhere. Made a few frantic calls this evening with a possible solution. I should know tomorrow. In fact, I have to know tomorrow. The quartet needs to know where to assemble.
TUE 07 NOV 2000
A day of furious writing. But no matter how hurried one is, some things just come in their own time. No matter what. What was meant to be a scratch track for 'Rondo' is now the lead string line furious played on the Tonemaster (as named by Fred).
Fred again in the evening to finish scoring and to copy out readable charts. I have never been so prepared. Another long day. Today was only 13 & 1/2 hours. Thankfully, the studio fell together and there is now a nice sounding place to record in tomorrow. If I wasn't so tired, I'd be really excited. But there is more preparation in the morning. Computer stuff.
WED 08 NOV 2000
Another long day. Arrive Soundhouse recording studio at 11:30 AM. I bring my computer. In the long run this makes life very easy. Everything boots up just fine. With time to spare, engineer and local radio personality Scott Crane and I go across the street for Pho. After lunch, I photocopy the charts for the string players. When I return, violist April Acevez Cameron has already arrived. Soon all are there and ready to go. Without the blow-by-blow, we record 'Wake 1' then 'Largo.' Everything translates just fine from paper through fingers to ears. Because they were only a trio instead of a quartet (the music was written for four players) there was some fiddling around (pardon the pun) to make things work. Here I relied on their input. The session took 2 & 1/2 hours and it all sounds great.
Tomorrow I will put it all together.
THU 09 NOV 2000
Very little work done today, to my great frustration. Now that I think of it, I did finally provide a small piece of writing to a lunatic who seems to think I have something to say. I'll show him! Otherwise, I listened to 'Wake 1.' Sounds good. As simple as it is, care in mixing will be crucial.
FRI 10 NOV 2000
I have been struck ill. Nevertheless, I was able to put the song 'Largo' in the "DONE" pile. At one point in the afternoon as I was sinking deeper, I had the urge to take a bath, thinking it would warm me. Instead, I mindlessly ambled into the White Room and made an unexpected arrangement change on the song. I think it was just as uplifting as the bath would havd been. I love this piece. The record is almost finished. Tomorrow will have to be a day of rest, however. Thankfully, a friend has brought over a handful of video tapes of 'The Larry Sanders Show.'
SAT 11 NOV 2000
A day of faux convalescing (you can't keep a twitchy man down). Fiddled with a bio that Chris sent me. My version is, naturally, better. I played him the new and improved 'Largo' down the phone. It's his birthday and he was off to meet another Scottish singer (much more famous & better looking) to celebrate the day.
I sifted through the last piece, provisionally called 'Partick Roulette' (sp?) (the name is basically regional Scottish humour of a sort). It has the most fantastic middle vocal bit, but the rest is fairly limp. With ambivalence, it is decided that it will not be included on the CD. It'll probably become a free internet outtake somewhere along the way. So then, the final step in the recording is to re-record a solo piano piece, as of yet unnamed. This needs to happen because the piano it was originally recorded on was so noisy as to be irritating. It's fine (more of less - with some disgruntlement) with other instruments, but solo it does not fly. If I am prepared, the whole recording should take no more than 3 minutes - the entire session no more than an hour.
Spoke w/ a friend (who I have never met face to face) via telephone. He told me that his wife of 29 years died earlier this year and he's been bumping into walls ever since. He's not sure what he wants to do next. He doesn't feel on his feet yet. This is a minor shame for me (most comparatively) because I was hoping he would put the important finishing touches on 'Largo.' He has great ears.
SUN 12 NOV 2000
Coughing all day. In bad humor.
The studio where I was planning on mixing 'Largo' has fallen through. Now I definitely need an act of Providence. Tick, tick, tick.
MON 13 NOV 2000
More coughing. Voice going all funny. Looking for not only somewhere to mix, but more importantly, for a good engineer - someone who knows how to put things together. That is, someone I can afford. Remember: I am the record label. It's all coming out of my pocket.
TUE 14 NOV 2000
The troubles of finding a mixer aside, I good piece of hope named Doug Haire called me on the phone this afternoon to tell me that a Steinway grand with my name on it awaits me at 4:30 PM tomorrow. Thankyou.
Guitarist and guitar instructor Curt Golden dropped by for a look around the new joint and for a listen-through to 'Largo.' Afterward he asked, "What possessed you?" "I was compelled," came the reply.
WED 15 NOV 2000
Re-recorded the final piece for the record this afternoon [Prayer]. There are a variety of takes, each with it's own quality. The shame about putting this piece on a CD is providing the illusion that this is the definitive version. There can be no definitive version. Anyway, tomorrow I may have a chance to listen. Recording was so.....I can't find the right word. When we started rolling, I choked just like a rank amateur.
SAT 18 NOV 2000
Spoke w/ Connelly this evening, updating ourselves on the record. He has now heard all of the current rough mixes. Naturally, he loves them. He and Chiyoko Yoshida are taking care of the cover art on his end. They are also working on 'Blonde Exodus,' his new solo album. And a goodie at that.
Spoke w/ Josh Roberts this morning about mixing 'Largo.' I was hoping it would be done by now which is why I told him some months ago that he wouldn't be mixing it. Well it now looks like he will be mixing it. I am pleased about this.
SUN 19 NOV 2000
Last night I made a few final adjustments to a few tracks on Largo. The closer it gets to the end, the harder it is to complete it. It will, nevertheless, see its end soon.
FRI 24 NOV 2000
An odd jumble of a day: Bought an airline tix to CA; Picked up two photos of Bill & Chris for promo use; Fiddled around for two hours trying to open a Freehand file; Deliver'd said photos to the Reproducer (sounds frightening, doesn't it?); Conversations w/ both Chris Connelly and Josh Roberts about 'Largo.'
MON 27 NOV 2000
Chris Connelly and Chiyoko Yoshida have been working on the cover for 'Largo' over the last few days. I first caught a glimpse of it during my vomit-fest (food poisoning). They are in Chicago. They do the work and post it on the Web. Nifty. I stay at home and make unreasonable comments. They work. I'm still in my robe. It's a party. Final tunings will be available for viewing tomorrow.
Speaking of final tunings, some last minute nips and tucks on 'Rondo' tonight. In the absence of a small trombone section (which is what I really wanted but cannot have) I was able to resolve something that has been bothering me. I found a sound I would never use,
but in context was perfect.
Spent some time on the phone w/ our booking agent, looking at various strategies. Also, a good conversation w/ Chris about the tour, the set, the CD artwork. And earlier, a phone conversation that may lead to European distribution.
WED 29 NOV 2000
A morning of CD cover art. Final proofreading, final decisions. Inspired by a conversation w/ Trey Gunn, and at Chris' urging, we're going with the black CD instead of the white. The whole package is very simple and stark. The design is Chris'.
Afternoon. A comedy of errors that would be funny if it happened to someone else. Having signed off on the artwork, I hit the road - erranding. I have a CD of rough mixes in the car which I listen to often. While coming down 50th street I realized that the sequence was wrong and needed to be changed. Right about this time my car started making funny noises. This was on my way to an FWD meeting. When it had ended I flew home to see what could be done about the fact that the artwork now has to be changed to reflect the updated sequence. But first I had to see if Chris agreed with the new sequence idea. I tracked him down, no sweat. He's not bothered about the change. But Chiyoko - the brains behind the operation - was nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, I contacted the printers to see if they could make the changes for us, since the cover art, etc., was at that time hurtling in their direction through some delivery system or another. No sweat, I'm told, certain technical limitations notwithstanding. OK. So far, so good. I then busy my self w/ e-mailing. Eventually I check my inbox and find a mail from Chiyoko Yoshida. She was at work finishing the artwork and now heading for FedEx. The mail had been sent only one half hour before I checked my mail. She had been at work all this time. The one place I didn't check. After all, it was late - why would she be there? After all, her band was having a rehearsal - why would she be at work? If I had only called there first, things would have been so much easier. Duh.
THU 30 NOV 2000
Readying for mixing. Actually record one more part for the song 'Largo.' It's a goodie. Tomorrow begins a three day mix-fest With Josh Roberts at Roof Bros in the Bay Area.
FRI 01 DEC 2000
[WARNING: The following entries contain certain jargon & descriptions that may be utterly meaningless unless you have a familiarity with digital recording and the process of mixing. Rather than explain as I go along, I am only reporting events as they occur. You'll have to figure out what it all means on your own time.]
The Mixing of 'Largo:' Day One. 8:00: Rise. 8:55: Leave for airport. 10:30: Plane departs (1/2 hr. late). The person I'm sitting next to is spilling into my seat, squeezing me out. I'm in a good mood. On the plane I make track sheets on 3 x 5 index cards. I begin to think of the songs in terms of number of tracks and what this may mean for mixing time. I budget out a time schedule based on what I see as actual mixing time available (Fri. 4-6 hours; Sat. 12 hours; Sun. 12 hours; Mon. 6 hours). Within a total of 34-36 in-studio hours, the way I figure it is 5 songs are allotted one hour each; 5 songs two hours each; the remaining 3 songs get five hours each. Thirty hours of mixing time. Thirteen tracks. This does not include time required for printing mixes (masters and safety copies), a DAT for my home listening, and possible time needed for burning either audio or data back-up CDs. Nor does this leave much time for the things that always go wrong.
1:00ish: Arrive Oakland. Engineer Josh Tobias Roberts is waiting for me in his farm implement. First stop: the grocery store for supplies - fruit, water, sandwiches, etc. By 2:30 Josh is preparing the computer. The entire record was recorded on a single hard drive which I brought with me from Seattle. The recordings are 24 bit instead of the usual 16 bit. At the recommendation of GL, the mastering engineer, we are mixing to a 24 bit DAT, instead of dithering down to a 16 bit DAT through converters. He gets to do that during mastering with ultra super fancy expensive converters.
The DAT recorder is being slaved to an external Word clock, again at GL's suggestion. He says it will be more stable and will give us better sounding recordings. We can't find the device he recommended, but Josh has a converter box that spits out Word clock. We plug it in and it seems to work. By 4:00ish we begin mixing 'Salt of Joy.' At 6:40 PM we move on to 'Strayed.' In comes the reverb.
A word about reverb. If anyone was to aks me, I would glibly say that I hate reverb. This isn't actually true, but as a gross cranky generalization, it's close to true. A slightly more refined way to put it is to say that I hate reverb I can hear. An even more prejudiced way to say it is that I hate reverb that I hate. As a listener, I generally don't want the space that the music occupies to be something that I notice. Certainly not as a surface element. I can conjure at least one record I cannot listen to just because I hate the reverb on it.
In one way, the space surrounding the music is the medium in which the music lives. This surrounding space can enhance and modulate the music, changing its character. But like any good medium, it should be transparent, it needn't draw attention to itself - even if it is providing a strong effect. It is through its effect on the music it is heard and felt. It is noticed reflectively. For me, reverb as a surface adornment is thoughtless and unnecessary. It lacks awareness of the meanings and possibilities of space.
Having said that, there is more reverb on this record than there is on all of the records I've ever made in my life - combined. It's wet. Wet is good. In the right places.
By 9:00 we are ready with two mixes. For the satisfaction of our ears, we compare recordings made using the external clock against the internal clock - just to see if we can notice anything. The difference is quite noticeable. We go with the external clock. Both mixes are printed two times (master and safety). The day ends around 11:00.
SAT 02 DEC 2000
Because of a broken car in the family, we take the bus to the studio in the morning. It's a long ride. We begin at 11:45 AM after stocking up w/ more food. First up: 'The Call Girls.' As we search for the perfect volume for either a vocal or a cello (I don't remember), amplitude is being moved in smaller and smaller increments. Finally after lowering the volume .01 of a decibel, if sat perfectly in the mix. We turned to each other and said, "We just heard the difference that .01 dB. made." Ah, yes, the microscope of mixing. It's a dangerous thing. At 1:48 we are ready to lay.
While listening back to our master mix we hear a digital error in the recording (a nasty click). It has to be re-done. Next up: 'Close Watch' at 2:25 PM. We begin 'Wake 2" at 3:42. At about five o'clock we step outside for some air. It is still light, unlike 5:00 in Seattle. From 5:10 - 7:45 we work on 'Y.' There is a distortion problem on a certain piano chord. Much frustration while attempting to remedy it.
The last piece of the evening is probably the easiest. You would think. It is only a two track stereo mix of a solo piano. What can be that hard? Answer: When the DAT recorder decides to freak out and spew errors over countless aborted takes. I give Sascha Konietzko a call. He has a lot of experience with these things. His diagnosis is that there is a clock conflict between our external clock and data received from the digital input of the computer. Why it decided to act up now, who knows? To make a tedious and boring story really short, we pulled our hair out for about four hours trying to figure out how to fix the problem. We finally laid an errorless master so we moved on to 'Largo.' We get as far as we can until we cry out "Uncle." It's late. We're tired. We sulk out of the studio like beaten dogs, weary and drained. Let's hear it for the middle of the middle.
SUN 03 DEC 2000
11:00ish. Josh switches to a larger CRT monitor. Our eyes are bleary from straining at the damn thing all day and night. We continue with 'Largo.' By 1:30 we are ready to print to tape. We are very nervous about errors on the masters. We monitor extra attentively, listening through the DAT deck as we print. Whatever buttons Josh pushed in an effort to correct the problem seems to have worked. We are particularly relieved because 'Largo' is an eight minute song and we could eat up a lot of time re-doing it.
2:53. Josh sets up 'Pray'r' while I listen to all of our mixes (masters and safeties) through headphones in search of potential nightmares. I find a few but am willing to live with them - particularly since there is no time to reverse direction and re-do them. You also have to remember that my ears have adjusted to microscopic sensitivity over the last few days. I'm hearing things very few others will.
A computer crash at 4:24. Back at work on 'Pray'r,' I realize I'm becoming exhausted. The work over the last few days has been intense. In order to complete the job of mixing this record by tomorrow, the energy level has been high and steady. The need for focused attention in the moment is constant, as well as the need for knowing where we are in the process - the process of each song and the whole arc of the project. This is where being twitchy and high strung comes in handy. And Josh does not shirk. He is right in there. In fact, he's doing the lion's share of the work in setting up the mixes. Thankfully, I do know my way around this program somewhat. I can move in every once and a while to give him a break, and to do things without having to explain them. In the heat of things I can become overbearing, impatient, and inarticulate. It's best just to let me drive for a while until I get to where I want to be. The last time we worked together, we each had a mouse we could operate. It was probably as fun for me as it was frustrating for him. One of the things I like about working with Josh is that he has a work style similar to mine. For myself, I describe it as impersonal. It's work. Few words are minced, although he does a bit of mincing.
5:55. Return from a break very tired. I have a cup of tea and listen to 'Pray'r' some more. I realize that my emotional involvement in this piece has been considerably less than the others - even though I love this song and this performance. Mostly I think from being so tired. Something else is nagging at me about the vocals. I finally realize that they have been alienated from the song through the effect that I put in them. After we change it, the song feels different and I start to get excited again.
8:00. Begin 'Rondo.' It falls together quickly and it sounds good. The night ends after we print it.
MON 04 DEC 2000
To be on the safe side, I change my flight home to the last one of the evening. There is still plenty to do today. My morning begins with multiple phone calls. At 10:30 Josh begins setting up 'Wake 3.' At 1:00 we move to 'Sea Song,' the last mix of the record. Accordingly, the last song on the record. At 2:40 we are listening back to the safety copy. It is done.
We burn a CD for Connelly so that he can approve (or not) the idea of a version of 'Pray'r' with out the drum machine. Then it needs to get to Fed Ex. While we're at it, we overnight the master DATs to the mastering engineer in Hollywood. Then back to the studio for packing and cleaning. At this time I realize that I am officially exhausted. By 6:00 we are all packed up and ready to go. By all accounts (so far) the mixes sound great. Josh did a wonderful job and I am grateful to him for his work. We walk across the street for a beer and to meet the man who rented us the DAT recorder. Then to the airport and, eventually, home.
TUE 05 DEC 2000
7:30 AM. Awake. I start making a CD of the mixes so I can hear them in order (the sequence was established a few weeks ago). The process is time consuming (and interrupted by phone calls, hot beverages, etc.), but 3 hours later I'm ready to listen. I must say that they sound pretty much as they should. Of course there are little things I would be happy to change if given the opportunity, but that opportunity is not available. Mastering is tomorrow and I turn my attention toward that. I make notes about individual tracks as I listen, hoping they are useful in guiding the mastering engineer in the right direction ("open, spacious, dynamic;" in other words, don't compress the shit out of it).
WED 06 DEC 2000
If everything has gone according to plan, 'Largo' mastering was begun at 10:00 this morning by Gavin Lurssen at The Mastering Lab in Hollywood, California. I've been hanging around the house in case I was needed for any input from Gavin. Apparently I am not needed.
Also, the proofs for the CD artwork were delivered today at the old address on Meridian. I drove by and swooped them up from the front porch without incident. They look pretty good but are, unfortunately, laser prints. It is essentially impossible to tell what the finished cover will look like with any exactitude. All I can really OK is the design, spelling, etc. Eventually I find a misspelling. Something I have had the chance to catch many times but didn't. Poor Caroline's last name is missing an "e" at the end. What a bother. I call Chiyoko Yoshida, who put it all together, and we talk about the lameness of a laser proof. I send it to her, nevertheless.
Gavin calls around 4:10 to talk about his day with 'Largo.' He took my notes to heart and used very little or no compression. He described how the complex soundwaves of a piano really hammers digital converters. The option was to throw a digital compressor on it or to live with a CD that isn't quite as hot as, say, the new Korn disc. His choice was to simply have it be a little quieter. That's fine with me. Anyway, that's what volume knobs on your home stereo are for. If you want it louder, just turn it up. I get the reference disc in the morning and will call him with comments.
THU 07 DEC 2000
The reference CD arrived from The Mastering Lab about 9:30 this morning. I was able to give it a good listening through before the 11:30 AM Minus Five rehearsal. All in all it sounds great. Very smooth. There are three categories of changes I would like to make: 1) relative volumes; 2) length of time between certain tracks; 3) EQ changes on three songs. I call Gavin but he is in session. Our conversation will have to wait until the end of rehearsal.
Gavin calls and we go over my comments. He explains the process of his work in greater detail, telling me what is easier to do in the time allowed (it must be done tomorrow). We arrive at a game plan, and he'll tackle it tomorrow. I get the reference CD on Saturday.
The CD artwork proofs that I overnighted to Chicago never arrived. This is greatly annoying. Not only to me.
FRI 08 DEC 2000
1:40 PM. Gavin calls to say he made the changes we spoke about yesterday. I'll have the reference CD tomorrow.
SAT 09 DEC 2000
4:22 PM. A day of waiting for FedEx to deliver the newly mastered reference CD. As of this time, it has not arrived. Bugger.
10:33 PM. The CD never arrived. I invited a few friends with ears to come and listen to 'Largo.' At one point there was an outbreak of laughter which I interpreted as nervous giggles, pent-up from being in an uncomfortable situation for too long. The tension builds and finally there is release. I am not bothered. Chris and I laughed our asses off while making it. I realize that we have not made a "normal" record. Probably even a weird record. Certainly a dramatic one. Someone suggested that it is music made by musicians for musicians. I don't quite see it that way. It is true that the record was made by musicians. This is unavoidable. But it is a record of deep feeling. A lot of music lovers search out the unordinary. Well, here it is. Afterward, I put on the new Land CD which I haven't heard since it was mixed (I have been avoiding it). It sounded great. Also mixed by Josh Roberts.
MON 11 DEC 2000
Unhappy morning. Finally received the reference CD with the EQ changes - made at my request. Well, I was wrong about the changes. It was better the other way. Close to tears. Now the production schedule is going to be screwed up because of this. The real problem is that the mastering engineer is away for two weeks.
Later: After a few phone calls, Gavin the mastering engineer unexpectedly calls while on holiday. After some discussion I make a decision about how to deal with this - taking in to account 1) a deadline which must be met, 2) the quality of the record, and 3) the added expense to change back the changes made. It is a compromise but one I can live with. I am satisfied enough to be able to drop it and move on.
THU 14 DEC 2000
While sitting this morning I had an idea which may give a silver lining to the hang-ups with mastering. This may make everything all better. Let's hope it's not a bright idea as was the last one that got me into this mess. Then, getting a new muffler for my Trooper. I am accompanied by Homer. Agamemnon is attempting to woo back Achilles for the fight.
The licenses for the cover tunes on 'Largo' have been approved and secured. Thanks to TM. The first one took 11 minutes for approval. The second took 7 minutes. On-line licensing. What a concept.
WED 20 DEC 2000
Spoke w/ Josh Roberts regarding 'Largo' re-mix tweaks. It might be included on future pressings.
FRI 29 DEC 2000
I recently read an interview with a well-enough known musician in which everything he said about himself was an utter fabrication - not merely an exaggeration. What I found so bizarre was that the new picture he painted of himself was so entirely pathetic. If he was going to make something up, why did he make up that? Imagine being so terrified of who you are that you invent anything just to make yourself seem interesting to others, or worse, in an effort to make people think you're "cool."
This morning I received the 'Largo' remix from Josh.
TUE 02 JAN 2001
Busy day e-mailing and phoning, mostly regarding 'Largo.' The production copies arrived today from the manufacturer. They look great. Better than I thought they would. Soundwaves in Burien now has a play copy.
THU 04 JAN 2001
Another morning of activity - typing, phoning, this, that. The shape of the tour continues to morph into the unexpected. I'm holding on to nothing. Hoping for the best.
We decide not to use the re-mix, at least not for the CD. But it'll wind up somewhere.
FRI 05 JAN 2001
The final mastering of 'Largo' arrived this morning. It's done. Really. Thank you Gavin.
Of course the story continues - touring, etc. But this is the end of how the record was made. Stay tuned for the rest.