Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Scrapbook Pages 19 -30

First Proper day at Mute

After my Alexander Lesson I cycled up through Hyde Park and Notting Hill to the Mute building, where I met James, our assistant for the session.

We did a bit more plugging up (I wanted to get my small Genelec monitors working) and pretty soon Daniel arrived for our meeting.

Our plan is to listen to all of the tracks in some detail over the next couple of days, and we made a really good start. One of the songs Daniel felt was still very busy, so we threw around a few ideas and were able to enhance it quite nicely - I'm sure Andy and Vince will like it too. Other songs we simply discussed mix ideas and approaches or made minor "tweaks" . I also started showing James how I want to get all the soft synths recorded, which is something we are going to do on a track by track basis.

Polly Scattergood is in Studio 1 with Simon FT and Kevin - I heard a little of what they are doing and it sounded GREAT.

Daniel and I had a great Lunch and Dinner from Fresh and Wild

Monday, November 27, 2006

Scrapbook Pages 13-18

Scrapbook Pages 7 -12

Pages 1 to 6 from my Scrapbook

When we left for New England I started a scrapbook - here are the first few pages. Chronological from right to left, and bottom to top

Moved the Studio

It took 6 hours to move the Studio and set up again in Mute Studio 2, so it was a big chunk out of Sunday - I blew a fuse on my Benchmark DAC-1 (it was still set to 110 Volts - oops!) but Oli managed to find a replacemnt and I was so pleased to hear Erasure coming out of the speakers at Mute - sounded great!! And it was a great feeling to be prepared for next week.

I look forward very much to the next phase - hooking up with Daniel tomorrow, finishing vocals and Vince's updates this week, and mixing everything next week.

The sky was very striking - this shot looking out over the canal.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Saturday Night Summary

So the "Vocal Recording Session" is finished now, although the Vocals are not quite finished :-) We have one Lead Vocal to redo, and one Lead Vocal to do, and quite a few backing vocals - I guess we have done about half the bvs. Andy and I work very fast at backing vocals - we have a long history of working together and we trust each other. Vince has worked his way through most of the songs and I have incorporated all his updates into the Master versions.

Tomorrow Oli (one of the assistants at the Mute Studios) is coming over to the Hampstead "studio" and he is going to help me clear everything down and set it up again in the Mute Studio 2 for the "Mix" phase. On Monday and Tuesday I have our A&R guy (Daniel) going through the tracks with me. Andy is rehearsing for his Food Chain gig early in December; he will be back later in the week to finish off the vocals. Hopefully all the recording will be pretty much finished by the end of next week. This is pretty much all still on schedule. (I tell myself and the record company!)

Then I shall be exporting all the synth tracks (which at the moment are running "live") as audio files, freeing up the DSP of the computers for all the lovely mix plug-ins that I want to use, to bring the tracks to the next level. Can't wait!

I use Logic Audio by the way, in case anyone is interested.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Dinner

After an amazing backing vocal session (we did 41 tracks of BVs on one of my favorite songs) on 2 songs we went to have Thanksgiving Dinner at Andy and Paul's house. Andy's husband, Paul, had made the whole dinner (Organic Turkey of course) and my wife and I went over with Andy at the end of the session. I bought Pink Champagne and we enjoyed a glass each.

Warming Up

Andy always does a warm up before he starts singing - usually 20 minutes to half an hour. He uses an exercise CD by Sam West that I bought for him a long time ago they use this on tour as well - Andy and the backing singers warm up together). Andy has the CD in his iTunes. Today he came without his iPod or Laptop so he had to warm up all alone - when he came back from his warm up he said "It's just not the same without Sam". Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2006

3 More Excellent Lead Vocals

We started with a listening session:

First we did the final lead vocal! (Andy had been worrying about the lyrics - unduly in my opinion - but had sorted them out to his satisfaction). Warm sound:

Then we started on re-doing lead vocals that we are not happy with. One song is still a bit of a problem - Andy is not feeling the clubbiness he is wanting to feel - and we are working with Vince on changing the bass. Otherwise everything went swimmingly :-). Another very productive day. After Andy left I edited one of the vocals, and then to early night. Pilates in the morning!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Daniel Noack still keeps up his Genius Artwork

Daniel sent this nearly a week ago, but I forgot to share it:

Friday - Good to see Daniel in Studio

Started the day with a meeting with our Financial Adviser in the West End, which was helpful and positive!

Then back to the studio for editing and starting to check through the Vince updates. Had a telephone meeting with Vince, but he was on his cellphone somewheer Upstate Maine and reception was awful. We just about understood each other though, after multiple re-dials. I was really happy to have been in Maine where we had some real face to face communication.

I spoke to a helpful guy at Synthax Audio UK about getting a replacement Fireface whilst mine is repaired. (Thanks for the suggestion Guy) . I also disconnected Kore from my setup (I was having communication problems with the Virus TI) - I figured that 2 USB Audio devices might be interfering with each other. The Virus communication seems much better now. Andy came back early from his radio rehearsal and we did a really nice vocal on one of the songs. I had already edited the version from Falmouth, which was good anyway, but Andy felt it was too much "Falmouth Foghorn" :-) So we re-did it in a less "shouted" altogether groovier style. We were both very pleased, and I did the edit on Saturday. Great.

Daniel arrived shortly after and we played him a few tunes and got some comments from him. He seemed genuinely enthusiastic about some of the songs, which was nice. Daniel and I agreed to start the mix session in Mute with a Studio meeting where we go through the Multitracks of some songs together, so he can advise and criticise further. So busy playing him tunes and chatting taht I forgot to take a photograph. :-( In the evening I went to see/hear Maps at the Luminaire. Good gig and nice to meet some of the Mute Team.

Saturday I was up early in the studio listening to vocals and editing. I downloaded UAD version 4.5 software (Thanks Guy!) and am now cautiously optimistic about everything running together (which I really would like to have for the mix - I enjoy the SSL sound of the Duende and the great sounds from the other DSP boxes: The RE201 in the UAD is fantastic , and I like the Plate and the Fairchild. I like the TubeTech and Fairchild and Urei compressors in the Liquid Mix, and the Sony Oxford compressor and Character in the TC Powercore. etc etc. Also downloaded the latest Nomad updates.

Had a great day, feeling very excited and positive about my work with Erasure, and even went for a walk on Hampstead Heath.

Saw a touching film on TV in the evening. Oscar Wilde "An Ideal Husband"

Friday, November 17, 2006

Quick Update

I am getting a bit tired - so much to do, so little time! Andy is singing so much and so well it is hard to keep up with him - in fact I am glad that he has to do a radio show rehearsal tomorrow so I have a chance to sort through the vocals (from London and Falmouth).

Vince is working on the tracks and is sending me updates, new riffs rhythms and sounds. I am also working on the tracks and it is getting hard to easily combine the work that we have done - there is no simple "Merge" function available to make a song that contains the new work of Vince and me. So tedious manual labour! Vince and I are scheduled for a telephone meeting tomorrow, so we can catch up.

Daniel is visiting the studio in the late afternoon so we can catch up

A firewire socket on my Fireface has broken - everything still works, but I need to get it fixed, and I can't work without it! Might have to buy a new one and then sell it when I get mine back from repair. Running costs I guess.

I can get the Duende, the Powercore and the Liquid Mix all working together, but as soon as I try to use the UAD-1, the Liquid Mix crashes. :-( Work in progress.

Having fun with Albino.

Must pump up beats on 2 or 3 tracks! Drum fills!

Backing Vocals still to do - I always really enjoy that with Andy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Me, admiring my 6176 innards

Vocals - update

As we go through the songs and complete the final vocals with the final lyrics we generally improve upon everything that we have done so far. Andy continues to be in fine voice. Thanks Andy! There are some songs though that had a really good vibe from Falmouth, and so we will be checking through those carefully as well (especially the ones where the lyrics were already complete in Falmouth). It will be nice if we come away with some lead vocals from Falmouth too.

I just had a nice surprise - Vince sent a couple of songs over in eMail, I look forward to hearing what he has done tomorrow.

And now, to bed.

Andy at the Controls

Monday, November 13, 2006

Weekend Work

I "gave" Andy the weekend off, and I did some vocal editing - when a singer (Andy in this case of course) performs a song we usually do about 5 or 6 really good takes and then I go through and select the bits that I like from each take. That is really fun and part of modern vocal production (in my opinion). That process can be very simple (one complete take) or very complicated (lots of edits) depending upon the singer and the song, and over the years Andy and I have voyaged between these extremes. Finally I play the edit back to the vocalist and change anything that they do not like (which is usually just the odd word or phrase here and there).

I also got NI Kore working, which was pretty simple but rather longwinded as Kore needs to scan all my plugins. I had a problem with it before because I tried to go straight to plug-in mode and this time I ran it in Standalone mode first. Anyway - great to have it working, it will help me use Komplete4 which is in the mail to me now. Also downloaded a demo of Massive, which seems like it is going to be a great tool.

This weekend I also went to the movies with my wife, which was very nice. We saw "The Prestige" and "Borat".

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Day 2 London Singing

Andy hardly slept again, but boy was he in good voice! It just shows you (but thank goodness he now has the weekend off to rest and recover) sometimes that feeling must come out anyway. He did an OUTSTANDING interpretation of one song, and a great version of another too. I am very excited. I was just too tired to do an vocal editing, but will get to it over the weekend.

London Sessions - some technical musings

I had many backups of the Falmouth sessions. I brought 2 versions with me, Vince had 2 versions and I had a DVD backup and spare hard drive sent over by UPS. The night before the first Vocal Session I had transferred the Audio and songs from Falmouth (on an Avastor drive) onto one of the Internal Drives of my dual 2.7 G5.

We have used a large number of Reaktor synths, and I have always had AutoSave on, so the Ensembles have saved in the relevant song folder. Nevertheless because I have now got the Project folders on a different drive, when I open each song none of the Reaktors play, until I manually load in an ensemble. Once I do that all other relevant ensembles for that song are loaded automatically. It is a pity that they are not loaded by default, but still it IS workable, and all soft synths are playing as expected.

Another major production tool for me has been my Virus TI (even Vince has been having fun with that one) and that has also been a little erratic loading up the correct sounds, even though it worked great in Falmouth and on my G5 before I went to Falmouth. If the song is saved without the Virus loading correctly, then the next time the song is opened the Virus does not load any correct sounds, and you have to go back to an earlier song and re-import the sounds. Workable, but irritating! Great sounds they are though.

On Thursday I called Anne at Mute to check if my backups and SE Reflexion filter had arrived from the USA, and she sent them over, together with an SSL Duende that M had organised for me. I will be mixing this record "in the box". I really like the "recallability" of this style of mixing (just to be able to get a bit of distance from the song and then work on it for half an hour if necessary - great!) and I have had some great results with it. I sub mix to stems of course and then I combine these stems in the TotalMix of my RME Fireface. This gives me a deep and large sound.

I have been working with the Powercore for a long time, and the Waves APA44M, and recently have added the UAD-1 and the LiquidMix to my setup. These 3 pieces are all working very well together. My challenge now is to add the Duende to this setup. I got the Duende working really easily on its own - and it brought a smile to my face to hear that "SSL sound" that I know so well (from the 80s onwards). Very characteristic and enjoyable at extreme EQ and compression settings.

Anyway I have tried 2 different PCI cards to add extra Firewire busses to my system to cope with all this and both seem to have their issues. In fact Belkin tell me that the F5U508 I bought from the Applestore will not work with my system, and I should get an F5U504, so I will try that next week. The F5U508 kind of works, (and supplies power to the Liquid Mix) but I have to keep replugging things to keep them recognised.

Both the F5U508 and the Sonnet Allegro card prevent the LiquidMix working on the Mac Firewire buss. Focusrite tell me the solution is to put the LiquidMix on the PCI card Firewire buss, and it kind of works with the F5U508. I must get some longer Firewire 400-800 cables to see if I can get it to function better with the Sonnet. (but there is no buss power on the Sonnet I believe)

I am anticipating using an Intel machine as a Node, and to this end I have also bought a PRO/1000 Gigabit Ethernet from Small Tree so that I can easily run the APA as well, but at the moment this is not working either. Small Tree are being VERY helpful. It may be that there is sufficient bandwidth on the built in Gigabit ethernet to run the APA and a Node for Logic. I already have a high speed NetGear hub to try this too.

And so it goes on......

Back in London

The first thing we did was try to recover from our jet lag. Not too make too much of a fuss about it, but it is nearly a week now and I have woken up in the middle of the night and I sit here typing when I "should" be sound asleep. Funnily enough I thought I was completely over the jet lag, but I stayed up late last night experimenting with different combinations of the equipment (more about that later) and I guess it has thrown me off. Andy has had it even worse, poor love......

I had planned to try to find a cheap space to work to record and edit vocals - somewhere with a pleasant vibe and daylight and a reasonable acoustic, for convenience, in North London where Andy and I live. I was not looking for fancy equipment (we have everything we need), and I thought it would be easy to find the right space. I had meetings on Monday and Tuesday with owners of a couple of spaces and they were just not suitable. MJ, out A&R co-ordinator at the record company was also active trying to find a space, but somehow it seemed impossible to get something appropriate at the budget I had in mind. Then I spoke to some friends who had an empty apartment in Hampstead, and realised straight away that it would be fabulous - comfortable, high ceilings, broadband wi-fi, big table. The only issue was that it is a residential area, and so Andy and I made a plan to be finished with singing every day around about 18:30. Obviously I can carry on editing vocals after that when necessary. We aim to start everyday at 13:00 or 14:00, giving us time in the morning to get to the gym, Pilates, Alexander Lesson etc etc. So I set up there on Wednesday, and on Thursday Andy came down for his first session.

He was very tired, having been unable to get to sleep almost throughout the night, until 07:00 in fact.(and he arrived a couple of hours later than we had planned, but this was the first day and I have plenty to do anyway, listening through to the tracks and starting to enhance and organise them for the mixing). That was funny I told him because at 07:00 I was in the "studio" finalising the setup, before I went to my Pilates class. However Andy was motivated and determined about singing, and after a cup of tea and a warm up we tackled the first song. The lyrics are still getting tweaked, and the network printer didn't work with Andy's laptop so he hand wrote the alterations he wanted to make and we were off. After an excellent session on this song (in spite of the fact that I still feel the music is not REALLY working for this tune - we put it back to more of the demo vibe after out A&R meeting Andy reminded me, but it ain't working yet!) we took a small break for Bengal Spice Tea.

We were now using Andy's mic (a Neumann TLM 103) and this combined with the sound of the room, gave us a vibrant and crisp vocal sound. My trusty 6176 with Monster cable was already in place. The SE Reflexion Filter had not arrived yet, so there was a little bit of extra room sound on the vocal, but not at all unpleasant.

And then on to the second song: I was impressed because I had not realised that Andy woud be tackling a second song, but that is a nice precedent for the session - 2 songs a day! We had done a great deal of preparation work in Falmouth on vocals (working every night on 1, then 2 tracks a night) and that is really paying off now. We have a clear vision of what we want to achieve, and that is, of course, invaluable. I finished the session by editing the first song whilst Andy snoozed on the couch.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

One last photo from Falmouth

On the last night as we were clearing up, there was a full moon (or nearly a full moon), and the ocean looked amazing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Beautiful Drive

The drive down to Boston was a goodbye to New England, and I took some pics of the trees along the way. Beauty all around.

Team Photo

Joe's family finally visited the studio and Tammy took a group photo.

Thick and Fast

Even at the end of the session the jokes kept coming

Last Words from Falmouth

We are back in the UK now, I am slowly getting over my jet lag, and sorting through my camera. Here is a short Video with some final words from the band in Falmouth.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Saturday - Another Overview session

So we are having a listening session to the body of work so far. Andy and Vince are finalising lyrical tweaks, and we are checking out the overall impact of the tracks. A couple of tracks need to be tried faster, and the final arrangement is of course still being worked on. Andy and I resolve to finalise tempos early in the session next week.Some beats will be changed too (bring back some more four on the floor!). Also I will be honing quite a few of the drum sounds (shorter envelopes on snares). We are thinking of a sticker on the album "Warning - pure electronic". And after a long period of referring to the songs by numbers we are moving over to referring to the songs by name, so Andy is sharing his (working) titles with us. Excellent. Today is our last day in Falmouth. Andy and I are off to London tomorrow, where we will continue working and Vince will be communicating with us via the man-made miracle that is the Internet.

Joe Brien Filming

Joe has been a brilliant help setting up the session to start with, keeping us running and filming in the studio. He has shot over 9 hours of Video, which will be edited and hopefully used later as part of a DVD or something.

Two Men at Work, looking a bit the worse for wear

A Lunch date with Oscar

Today Oscar (and Tracy) came to visit the studio before we went all off to lunch together at the Flatbread Company.

The Glamour and The Thrills

This is a little peek into the non stop excitement that we have in the Studio. In this clip your heroes study the Masters and seek inspiration from them. We are not worthy.

Today's Work

A really interesting and productive day. We carried on working on one of my favorite songs (the fastest one!) - I was really excited about it when I rough mixed it this morning. Last night I had layered on the Virus parts that I had crafted, and that brought the track back to here it needed to be, IMHO. It had me dancing around the house (fwiw). Still we knew it could be improved and Vince focussed in on the Intro and the Coda. We made a really vibey intro from the chorous riff, and Vince wrote a new riff on the coda. Andy's vocal from last night sounded really good to Vince & I, in spite of the fact that he was not that happy with it last night. Sounding great - I really am excited to mix it. It's a statement (for me anyway). Great lyrics too - Dada. Also great backing vocals to come. The other song (and the final song of the "rework" session) is the song where we reinstated the sequence piano (at our A&R guy's suggestion). Also we remade the beat on the song again (indebted to a bit of Kraftwerk inspiration for that) and we also crafted a beautiful middle part - Vince wrote an unusually lyrical melody for this part, which we enhance with Virus and Reaktor OBX sound. Andy sung on this song in the evening, and also very confidently and very beautifully. We are really at the level now where the lead vocals are satisfying to Andy and I. (Andy is his own biggest critic I believe). Andy went off to DJ at Spring Street, and I rough mixed, bounced and backed up. Downloaded Intego Personal Backup - seems pretty useful. At least it doesn't do that annoying juddering in the DVD writer that Retrospect seems to do these days.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Andy makes a public address

Andy makes a few comments to camera.

Backs are important too (as well as Backups)

We have been hard at work for nearly 4 weeks (very intense) and the strain is starting to tell. Vince is having trouble with his lower back, he was really in pain today, poor boy. Not that he makes a fuss, he is a tough cookie, but you can tell. Anyway he shares the problem with us, of course. I know what he is talkin about - I had many years of severe sciatic pain, which I was finally able to cure with the help of my Alexander Technique teacher and my Pilates teacher, both of whom I thank from my heart for freeing me from pain. Of course I work hard at being pain free too. I take the responsibility of Lessons and Classes. When I am in London I try to have one Alexander Lesson a week and 3 or 4 hours of Pilates. And I use my Aeron chair. These things all help me. Those who know me and my working habits know how I obsess about getting the right table and the right chair for my work, and these things have not been perfect here. I cannot over emphasise the importance of posture and "good use", especially for the computer users amongst us. Get it right as early in life as possible, and this will help avoid problems later. Love to all.

So much done, so much to do.

I am at that stage in the project where we have done SO much, and yet suddenly it seems as if there is till even more to do than when we first started (which is clearly impossible!). I guess the main body of the work is inked out, the scafoold is built, and now there are so many details that we want to take care of, and all of these details take time. Of course there is a sense in which the detail goes infinitely small, forever folded inside itself, fractal-like. So it is clearly important to retain the big picture (that'll be my job!) and focus on the important things. We do not have an infinite amount of time to complete the record, and the songs and the record would no be better if we spent an infinite time. Of course we still have a long way to go, but today somehow I was daunted by the responsibility and by the size of the mountain still ahead of us. Time to draw breath, re-assess, gather our forces and begin the next phase of the assault. We have reached the base camp, we know which mountain we are climbing, (and we have scaled similar peaks before) now we have to choose the final route and pray for fair weather. My responsibility is to get us to the summit and down again safely. May the force be with us.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Good Morning. BackUp is very important

Everyone knows this and I just want to encourage everyone with valuable data to back it up! I have 2 onsite hard drive backups and an offsite hard drive backup. (Joe keeps it with him and brings it in every evening at the end of the vocal session.) Also I have a DVD backup of everything. I started my day by completing one of the DVD backups as I listened to the work from last night and started putting rough mixes together. We have also been filming on mini DV (tape 7 so far) - and Joe has been dong a lot of this, so I backup the tapes into iMovie (what a great program!). Today I loaded in tapes 5 & 6. And I played with Native Instruments Reaktor Travelizer. It was a rainy morning and so I didn't go out on the bike. Suddenly Vince arrived (at the usual time it has to be said) and I am siting at the computer unshaven and unshowered. Gross! So he takes over on the current track and I dive in the shower.

Today we picked up the pace

Vince wants to get the the gym tomorrow so we planned to work on 3 tracks today, in order to win a bit more time tomorrow. This made it a fairly full-on day, almost hectic. But it was an enjoyable challenge, and I feel good now it's over. :-) Andy also had loads of energy and sung all 3 songs really well in my opinion. I'm now extremely tired, so it's goodnight.

Disco Problem

It seems like Oscar doesn't like Disco - perhaps we will have to redo the whole record now? :-)

Daniel Noack keeps up his Genius Artwork

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

test post

trying to make videos appear in newsreader somehow

Another Beautiful Sunny Morning

Jens Pielawa sent a nice edit of an image I posted, so I thought I would share it with you, before I go cycling.

Powerful Vocals

Pic shows Vince finishing off programming and Andy completing Lyric edit(s). 2 big songs today - and big songs to sing. Andy in strong voice, but not finding it as easy as he sometimes does. For me this is giving an extra level of excitement and effort to the vocal performances which I feel we are both enjoying - I am loving it.One of the songs has no lyrical changes, and on the other song a few changes have been made. We do two intensive hours, separated by a tea break, more or less one session on each song. Even though I can't let you have the sound I thought you might like to see a video of Andy singing.