Today is all about putting down guitar tracks for my first ever cover version. After recording 44 tracks to date, this is new territory. I’m also loving working with the Acme DI box, the Ear Trumpet Myrtle mic and the Arrow UAD unit.
I have blogged a lot about the Acme which was used extensively on Motown albums and it has a very distinctive 60s sound to my ears. I keep thinking about the third Velvet Underground album in terms of sound and that’s in my view no bad thing. This is a total departure from all my acoustic guitar and ukulele work and requires some very different thinking.
I’ve also found myself using the same guitar a Warmoth custom hardtail strat with a graphite Moses neck and a Tom Holmes bridge pickup which is giving a great great sound. I’m using Reaper DAW to put down the central tracks and tomorrow I’ll be hooking up with Agi and adding vocals before connecting with Carl Rosamond in the afternoon to explore mixing.
These as we know are very strange times globally and these recording sessions are totally different to my normal way of working. To start with I’m playing all the parts and doing all the vocals. We are also working really quickly on material and there is something to be said for such concise time effective ways of working.
One big lesson has been in investing in really excellent studio gear and not cutting any corners. This ia all the more important as there’s a run on studio gear in these times as more and more people are looking to beef up their home recording setups.
I was talking to a good friend today about the concept of “albums” as opposed to projects. To date, I’ve always thought of releasing albums, but I’m now inclined to think instead of releasing tracks as part of a project. The latest project “All Kinds of Crazy” will have the title track released with accompanying video on April 20th as part of “Songs of Hope” from www.musicfortheheadandheart.buzz
This is a very stripped down track and I play all the guitar parts on the superb Waterloo acoustic with the excellent Ella Playford guesting on vocals. I’m really pleased with the end result. We just finished the secord track for the project “Your Chosen One is Coming” and Nick Bloomfield is also going to explore video options for this track. A third track “All is fine, until the world goes pop” is also in progress. I playing all parts on this material and using the superb Arrow UAD unit in a studio to studio set up. For the first time, so far everything is played on guitars, not a ukulele in sight!
I have no idea how long the pandemic lockdown will be for, but it looks like there will be no shortage of time for this project.
I have always been a massive fan of UAD plugins and during this pandemic lockdown I decided to grab an Arrow UAD interface. My initial impressions is that this is really excellent. Crucially it gives me access to my already purchased 31 UAD plugins, but also alsong with the Reaper DAW allows me to work with a seriously high end portable recording unit. The only limitation is that I can only use a few plugins at any one time, but often “less is more” in such situations and my new project is all about working in a stripped down manner.
I’ll report more of my findings in due course, but I’m seriously impressed by the Arrow and the sound is absolutely terrific.
Today I laid down all the additional guitar tracks for “Your chosen one is coming” To my ears the guitar parts sound like something from Television’s classic “Marquee Moon” album from 1970s, much to my amazement. The Acme DI unit is earning its money in spades and we are recording studio to studio via Steinberg’s VST Connect performer pro version.
I am also for the first time using only electric guitar, no ukuleles or any other acoustic instruments in sight although the album title track with Ella Playford on vocals was recorded using my excellent waterloo acoustic. I’m used to having a band, so its a new experience to be playing everything and doing all the arranging. During the global pandemic lockdown i do have an unusual amount of extra time.
This process allows us to record high resolution 24 bit files and then mix and master in the Headingly studio. “Your chosen one is coming” is the first track to be recorded this way and its sounding great. We already have a terrific video for “All Kinds of Crazy” and are looking at releasing that sometime in April.
This has been a somewhat surreal experience doing the first few tracks, studio to studio. Fortunately Carl Rosamond has a brilliant grasp of how to use the technology as well as how to get the best sonic results.
I recorded the rhythm guitar track for “Your Chosen One is Coming” and then added vocals using the Ear Trumpet mic. The custom Warmoth hard tail strat with a Tom Holmes HB and single coils (info for guitar geeks) sounds absolutely terrific into the Acme DI. I am absolutely loving the simplicity of the Acme and can now appreciate why it was used to great effect on so many Motown tracks.
We then added some additional takes studio to studio using a Pro Version of VST Connect to record additional takes.
This is a really stripped back sound, but I am loving it. In a strange way it reminds me of a cross between The Velvet Underground and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. There’s a stack of songs to record, but hey, I have the time now to do it!
Today was the first time we looked at remote recording from one studio to another via the internet. This required some setting up and the brilliant Carl Rosamond organised it so my studio can talk to his studio.
We used the Acme DI and the Ear Trumpet mic with my hardtail custom strat. This is really old school recording recording a straight instrument and vocals here and then looking at adding other parts. That said I’m keen to remain in “Springsteen Nebraska territory” and keep everything really stripped back. The Acme sounds fantastic and I can see why they used them on the old Motown recordings, guitar straight into a desk.
Its a different sound to previous recording, but I’m really liking what I hear so far. Seeing as we are gonna be in lockdown for what I suspect will be many months, I’m gonna go to work and create a whole bunch of songs. The first proper session will be this Friday where we work on “Your chosen one is coming”
My terrific bass player Fergus Quill told me about the Acme Motown D.I. WB-3 which I had never heard of. Not only had I never heard of it, but my fellow tech enthusiasts had never seen or tried one. I started to investigate and immediately found that there were none second hand which is one of the signs of great gear.
I was originally going to travel to New York where I could try one out, but the global pandemic made that impossible. My wife then managed to get one for my birthday from the excellent folks at KMR in London.
I’ve been playing with it for the last 24 hours and can I can see why studios and players are so impressed with this unit. The price will put a few folks off and my producer commented “What? A DI box at that price? Then he heard a clip, and admitted that it sounded great.
I had a similar reaction to the Fire Eye Red DI’s that I have blogged on previously, but the Acme Motown D.I. WB-3 is a different beast. I’ve used it as a straight DI into a desk and it 100% gives the natural sound of the instrument. Its one of those pieces of gear that gives that elusive extra 20% for those wanting great sound.
It also sounds fantastic when plugged into a simple fender small combo. The sound is smoother and more musical. I’ll be spending more time with this simple unit that is built like a tank and sounds terrific. I can see why many studios love this box and I’m super pleased to have one.
Its clear that we are in very uncertain times with music events cancelled globally. There’s endless chatter online about this and all kinds of lamentations and comments like “You must be heartbroken cancelling festival” Yes, its not great news but lets remember, human life and well being is way more important than a weekend event or a gig.
New thinking, new projects
Since setting up Music for the Head and Heart I’ve been increasingly aware that many artists “have their egg in one basket” and are over reliant on a single source of income from live work. The income stream from products changed long ago and now with the global pandemic, live events have been wiped out. As soon as SXSW was pulled, I thought, “Wow we have a BIG problem” This means artists need to think differently about how to generate predictable income streams for a sustainable way of living.
700 tea bags and a home studio…
We are in new territory and my view is that life will literally never be the same again. The good news is that this creates new opportunities…. I’m working on a new aspect of Music for the Head and Heart with some terrific like minds. This will unfold in the near future and in my very will be pretty inspiring.
I also have a home studio, 700 tea bags and 39 instruments to use for some new recordings. No excuses now, as I have the time to do all those things I have been meaning to do. Stay well, stay safe
Since my first band The Small Change Diaries in 2015, I have increasingly become aware of the importance of using great photos in music promotion. The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is so true and of course many great albums were also remembered for their classic photos. The Clash’s “London Calling” Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and Joni Mitchell’s “Hejira” are a few of many examples.
I was lucky to come across Karen Turner five years ago and we have done a number of photo shoots with her, both in the UK and overseas. I have come across many photographers who have great gear, but the key to taking great photographs is someone who has the eye to know how to really capture the subject. Karen Turner’s photos have been a key factor in all our band promotions along with video clips.
Here are some of the superb photos she has taken to date and I’m currently waiting to see the latest photo shoot with the new Caravan of Dreams quartet.
This has been an excellent week for The Caravan of Dreams. Florence Rutherford Jones joins the new quartet line up and we just completed our second full band rehearsal, photo shoot and recording session. Flo will be playing violin as well as contributing on vocals. She is a great addition to the ensemple.
On April 4th we’ll be playing our first new gig as a quartet with Laurent Zeller as a a guest at the Music for the Head and Heart showcase in Leeds. The evening with also involve The Caravan of Dreams backing up the superb Captain of the Lost Waves