Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Suppurating The Studio III: This time - it's personal.

Greetings from the Grand Canyon State!  We are currently sequestered in our luxurious digs (okay, where we're staying still involves a fold-out couch, but it's much better than the Super 8 we stayed at recording All Guts...) at the Extended Stay America in Phoenix. It's officially the end of day seven of tracking our new album and things have been going swimmingly.

We arrived in Phoenix late Monday October 2nd, loaded in our gear and crashed out at Motel 6 for the evening. Tuesday we began in earnest, dialing in rhythm guitar tones. Since (in contrast to our situation when we recorded the last album) we actually own a decent amount of guitar gear this time around, I was stoked to actually use our road gear in the studio. It's nice to know that what's being recorded is a representation of the actual tone we have onstage. Ryan Butler, who is once more our intrepid and tireless engineer at Arcane Digital Recording, has a stockpile of killer amps that we employed last time alongside Wes' JCM 800 but this time, we built the tone around my 6505+, bolstered by my Maxon overdrive pedal, the same setup I use live. We also were working wth Bud's Bogner Uberschall, but ultimately ended up using Ryan's which was a little older model with newer tubes (Butler's Ubershcall helped us get the high / mid definition on All Guts as well). We ended up reversing the conventional wisdom about both amps' tones, using the 6505+ and my modified Marshall cabinet (the mod was detailed on this very blog last year) for the darker guitar tone, and the Ubershcall and a Mesa Boogie cabinet for the brighter tone. So far it's already sounding crushing. Ever since Anatomy Is Destiny, we've used four rhythm guitar tracks on all our albums. This time around, I ended up coming up with all the riffs and basic song structures (due to the departure of Wes Caley) so it fell to me to track all the rhythms on the album. 

Mike enjoying the sub-infernal temperatures of the Phoenix evening as Rob and I hack our way through the tracks.
Rhythm guitar and drums are by far the most time-consuming elements of our albums to record, because they are pretty much always going, all the time, throughout every song. We have always been a very riff-oriented band, so without good-sounding and well-tracked rhythm guitars, there isn't much else for our records to stand on. Needless to say, when I sat down to start tracking, the pressure was on. This time was definitely more difficult than my rhythm parts for All Guts... Not only did everything fall to me, but our very limited rehearsal time meant that I just hadn't had the opportunity to play these songs very often, let alone write / arrange / memorize harmonies and such. I finally wrapped everything up early Sunday afternoon - quadruple tracking every song - an intro, an outro, and thirteen new songs in just over five days. My brain was seriously fried trying to keep track of all the new riffs, the new harmonies and various bits from all the different tunes. There were parts that got changed / written / re-written on the spot in the studio. There was stuff I had totally planned out that "theoretically" made sense but didn't work at all when applied and then had to be re-tooled on the spot, which is really cool and fun, but also a bit nerveracking. Luckily, we're all very laid-back and are so used to working with each other at this point that the inevitable speed bumps in the road of progress are always ironed out quickly. In the end, I'm really stoked with how it's sounding. But it felt like a LOT of work. With brief respites for food and helping Ryan turn all of our song titles into gay jokes (it's actually a lot easier than you'd think), I was probably playing guitar about eight hours a day. I got my first ever hand cramp in my left hand, which is just now subsiding as I'm tracking leads.
Now that I'm done tracking rhythm guitars, I can get down to what's really important. Reading Butler's comics. 
The live room at Arcane. From L to R: Ryan's amp arsenal, our lead setup (EVH for my leads, Uberschall for Bud's), our live cabinets, my pedal board case, effects pedal boxes, and guitar cases. 
I've been convalescing the last couple of days, thumbing through Butler's extensive comic collection, getting some rest and working here and there to get Rob up to speed on any bass parts he might have any confusion on. Since we wrote the intro and one song in the studio in Corona, CA while tracking drums, as well as two songs in the jam room during our marathon ten-day rehearsal period before recording, this material is really new to all of us. The cool thing about the newness of everything is that the takes we're doing are really fresh and invigorated. They have a spontaneous, open vibe to them, which is really exciting to me. I have always loved to work off-the-cuff and just allow cool shit to happen in the studio. For the first time, we have enough time to record and enough material to allow us to do that to a greater extent than ever before. All the shows we've played together have made us a very tight unit and we all trust each other to come up with awesome shit on the fly and be on the same page and it's working out great. 

The big board sees all. The big board knows all. When everything is crossed out, we have finally won our freedom from the big board.
Our guitarist Bud, was the epitome of grace under pressure and spontaneous genius when he came in to track leads Monday. Having just heard the songs for the first time on tour, and then only as midi versions (as I wrote the songs, I'd tab them out in Guitar Pro 6 just so I wouldn't forget the riffs, I then exported them as midi files to show the other guys. Yes, they sound hilarious, and no, I will not post them). He came in and nailed many of his solos on the first take. Bud is sort of like the ringer on the softball team for us. From arranging Bach pieces for guitar, to chicken-picking and pedal steel guitar with his other gig with the Charlotte, NC-based Wiggle Wagons, Bud is an unsung guitar hero. Personally, I'm hoping this record will change that.  Bud quickly melted our faces with his fretboard gymnastics, which made me a little intimidated to get started on my solos (in between Rob's bass tracking). But, any trepidation I may be experienced was overshadowed by a healthy margin by how excited I am about this record.
Bud ripping corpses on new track "Sickened" - his first take.

Day seven saw Rob continue to punish his tremor bass and yours truly lay down some leads of my own. Before Rob started playing in Exhumed, he was playing guitar in Gravehill (if you haven't checked out the record that he and I recorded with the band, When All Roads Lead To Hell, you probably should - it's patch-jacket friendly old school black-thrashing Death Metal) and since picking up the bass, he's really started to become an actual bass player, which has been cool to watch develop. He started playing with his fingers, and has been actually following kick drum patterns and playing cool root progressions, not just mirroring riffs and shit. You know, bass player stuff. It's going to add an element to the band and this record that has been previously absent. At any rate, we got a bunch more shit done today (as evidenced by more X's on the big board) and we will continue to plow ahead - vocals will start tomorrow. 

I'll keep you updated on our progress as tracking continues. I'm hoping we'll have all the solos and most of the vocals finished before we hop on a plane this Saturday afternoon to head to Japan for three days supporting our buddies in Cannibal Corpse (who have been kind enough to let us ride on their coattails yet again). I'm sure there will be loads of retardation and accompanying photo documentation to fill you all in about when we get back. Until next time, keep on rotting in the free world, dudes and dudettes. 

Harvey and the lads


  1. Reading this makes me want to know.. How were the guitars recorded for Gore Metal/Slaughtercult? Were there Two/Four rhythm tracks? how many lead? Just a little curious on the process. I'm recording a cover of Decrepit Crecendo and would like to make it layered like the original.

  2. On the first two records, we just tracked two rhythm guitars although the cabinets were double miked on both records. For this album the cabinets are triple miked, and we're recording four. Much thicker. But we play a lot tighter than we did on the first two albums, which enables you to quadruple up and not lose all semblance of clarity.

  3. Also, there may be tab for Decrepit Crescendo in one of the old blog posts...