Just One More Thing

I don’t quite remember how this came about, but Mikes Zobac and Southworth collectively agreed that adding some synth pads (to thicken and warm up the songs, much like a comforting winter soup is thick and warm) and some percussion would be a nice idea.

When they broached the subject to me, naturally my first instinct was to wail “Oh no! COME ON! I thought we were done recording! When are we ever going to be done? More studio time, more scheduling, are you guys NUTS? What’s next, a timpani solo and a gospel choir?” This record will never be done, why did I ever start it, oh woe betide me. Drama? Only in my internal monologue these days, dear reader. A key difference between my 20’s and 30’s and a welcome one.

My policy these days is to listen carefully, breathe before I speak and say yes to the suggestions offered by professionals who know more than me after they have explained themselves compellingly.

These two Mikes have never led me down the garden path, so I pasted a demure smile on my face and said “Sure. When can we do this?” A few days later, Mike Zobac and I were in the studio for two more short sessions, one for synth parts, and one for tambourine and shakers.

Our keyboard session went pretty smoothly – Mike Southworth has about 100 000 sounds in his hard drive – and miraculously we hit upon the perfect warming and thickening agent. I played some simple chords (with impeccable voice leading) and everything was sounding good. We moved on to find a nice Tom Sawyer/churning of the universe sound and sprinkled a light, tasteful dusting over the last chorus.

Satisfied, we leaned back and listened back to our efforts. A terrible, distorted crackly awfulness came wafted back from the speakers. My heart sank, a little. Mike started adjusting settings and talking to himself. Refresh, reset, reboot, restart, still nothing. My fists began to clench, a little. We messed around with the computer for a couple of hours, and finally in despair we started over and I re-recorded the initial keyboard parts. We still couldn’t listen back to the parts and Mike tried everything he could think of to restore them but to no avail. We went home and made arrangements for Mike Southworth to take a look at our files when he came in the next day.

When we came in the following afternoon, all was well. It was a latency issue that sometimes happens and Southworth resolved it quickly. Not for the first time I observed that deep, intimate familiarity with the gear, the programs and their quirks is totally invaluable. Mike Zobac and I have good instincts and a willingness to troubleshoot and experiment, but that is no substitute for knowing the tools and the gear inside out when faced with a quirky random problem.

Our keyboard parts turned out pretty well. It’s kind of subtle without the tracks being properly mixed and mastered, but it actually does sound fuller and warmer in the verses now.

Every Single One

We quickly set up some percussion instruments and I got to engineer (that is, press stop, record, and restart) while Mike Zobac laid down some tasty rhythmic goodness on short sections on a couple more songs. “Are we really done recording?, I asked Mike. “Yes, we really are”, he said with a grin. All righty then. I was smiling too. On to mixing. How long could that possibly take?