Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Behind the music - where you can smell all of the band's farts" - or "How to succeed in Grindcore without really trying"

Here's the latest installment in the continuing adventures of a lovable gang of misfits who must band together to overcome the odds and win the campus ski tournament, defeating the smarmy jocks and winning the heart of the pretty girl who is obviously too sensitive and sweet to be dating the leader of said smarmy jocks. Oh wait... I thought we were in an 80s movie there for a second. Nonetheless, the usual gang of idiots is at it again, pooling their collective, ummm... I was going to say talents, but that's a bit of a stretch, but the point is - we're making a new fucking record. It's going to be called "All Guts, No Glory" and we're recording in Arizona. Here's the fucking details:

Day 1 - Tuesday: After arriving in Los Angeles around 1:30 am with Wes in tow, we grabbed a well-deserved Burrito and arrive at Leon’s house about the same time as he does. We enjoy a few cold beers and unwind, even though we have to get up in a few hours and head off to LAX. I get up early and shower anyway, then we arrive at the airport with a minimum of hassles. One and a half uneventful hours later, we’re in Arizona and are welcomed by our old friend Ryan Butler (Unruh, Landmine Marathon, etc.), who will be recording the remainder of the tracks for the album – guitars, bass, vocals, incidentals, etc. Nothing particularly interesting happened after that, we hang out for a while, have a few beers and some food and then off to bed to get started in the morning.

Day 2- Wednesday: After discovering that Busch 30-packs were only $15 at the local Walgreens, we stocked Ryan’s mini-fridge and started thinking about guitar tones… Many guitarists are fucking obsessed with tone and Wes (especially) and I are no exception. The plan was to record four rhythm guitars and we had already decided to use Wes’ Marshall JCM 800 as the core sound for the rhythm guitars on the record, but the tone for the other two tracks would have to be sorted out in the studio. Luckily, Ryan has a killer arsenal of amps at his studio (Arcane Digital in Phoenix- yes this is a plug for the place, it rules!) so we had a lot of shit to choose from.

We settled on a two amp set up with a Bogner Uberschall and an Engl Powerball, for a bit brighter, crisper tone than the Marshall. It was a bit weird hearing all the songs with this tone first (since these tracks were planned to sit a little lower in the final mix, we recorded them first since the playing invariably improves as you do more takes), but by the end of day, we had a tone we were happy with and we had dug into a couple of tunes already.

Day 3- Thursday: Rhythm guitar is always the thing that eats up the most time in the studio for us and although we knew that going in, the fact that we had 17 songs to work through was beginning to sink in. Wes was up first, focusing on recording his songs. We had discussed having him track all the rhythm guitars, as Mike Beams had done in the past (in case you’re wondering, that means that I tracked a grand total of none of the rhythm guitars on “Gore Metal”, “Slaughtercult”, and “Anatomy…”- thanks Mike!) but he and Ryan convinced me to go with a “you wrote it, you record it” philosophy common in many bands with two guitarists. Needless to say, lazy prick that I am, I was not entirely enamored with that decision, and to be honest, I was a little intimidated having to record rhythm guitars (although I did record all the rhythm tracks on “Garbage Daze…” and the bass on “Slaughtercult”, there's a lot less pressure there). Luckily for me, I didn’t have to jump in too quickly, as Wes led the way, laying down some crushing stuff on a bunch of his songs (and one of mine too, by the time all was said and done).

Another great thing about recording with Ryan is that he, like myself, is a giant nerd. While listening to Wes’ tracks, I availed myself of the opportunity to devour back issues of Marvel’s “New Avengers” series by Brian Michael Bendis, which impressed the shit out of me. What can I say, I am a HUGE Avengers fan – I think I even posted a picture of my extremely beat-up copy of Avengers #1 on Facebook a while ago. And yes, I am fucking beyond psyched about the upcoming movies. Anyway, between guitars, comics and the Giants kicking the crap out of the Rangers in the World Series, I had no problem filling any downtime in the studio

Day 4- Friday: I ended up tracking a bunch of stuff on day 4, and it ended up turning out pretty okay. The tone had a little more high-end than I’m used to, and I definitely ended up hearing a little of the “twang” that I picked up from playing with Matt Olivo in Repulsion (the distinctive JCM800 + tube screamer Repulsion twang) than I’m used to, but anything Repulsion related is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. It also started to become clear that with the amount of material vs. the amount of time that we had for rhythm guitars, we weren’t going to be able to be quite as anal retentive about guitar as we were on “Anatomy…” (which, ironically, we had less time to record), and would have to let go any hopes of eliminating every trace of string noise, every slightly over-accented note, etc. etc. This was actually a blessing in disguise.

All of us in the band feel like “Anatomy…” was a little too clean sounding (funnily enough, that’s exactly what Neil Kernon told me when I was telling him to make it as clean as possible) and wanted a sound that was a bit more off-the-cuff this time around. By the end of the day, almost all of the Bogner / Engl tracks were done and we were really, really tired of drinking Busch. I retired to the good ol’ Super 8 looking forward to Saturday – when we would set up the Marshall and Leon would arrive in AZ.

Tune in next time, same bat-time, same bat-channel, for the next exciting chapter in the seemingly never-ending saga of this fucking album. Oh yeah, and we'll put up some pictures, too.


Harvey and the usual gang of idiots