I've got a few You Tube clips at the bottom for you to check out, and I'll post part two tomorrow.
|REFLECTIONS ON RECORDING MUSIC by David Bielanko |
Peoples! We here in "Marahland" have begun a new recording process. Our current efforts are aimed at culminating in two very different, original, stand alone LP's.
Way back in about 2001 I remember vividly a night I spent out in Philadelphia with our old Marah comrade Mike "Slo Mo" Brenner. We were in a bar called Bob & Barbara's getting drunk on beer cans and listening to Nate Wiley and The Crowd Pleasers (a brilliant live organ trio) and Mike was telling me about something called "pro tools". He had used it a few days before at a recording session and he seemed genuinely blown away with what seemed like the machine's endless potential....moving snare drum hits, dragging Xerox copies of cowbells around....wha?....5 minutes later protools took over the Earth. It was everywhere. There was soon no alternative. Some studio owners could be reluctantly convinced ($) to let you cut your music (or at least your bass and drums) on their antiquated tape machines but you had to beg them, and even that would quickly be "dumped" into the Protools computer and that was that. You couldn't fight it. We couldn't.
Working as we had done for our first two records (albeit with a super talented young engineer/producer called Paul Smith), Marah recorded its music the old fashioned way, had to. We bought reels of tape and bottles of rubbing alcohol, we had razor blades and Q-tips.
The process was fun, it was creative, experimental and most of all it was exciting. I remember things like holding your breath while the wheels spun in FF to save a song that accidentally got wound on in the wrong direction. I remember lots of stuff...shit getting accidentally erased, fuck it, cut it again...recording backwards organs, hanging microphones out windows, hanging speakers out windows and running microphone cables out into the street on hot July nights in South Philly. On the beginning of our first album "Lets Cut The Crap..." the whole band was playing under the horn section of "Fever" but that wouldn't do, so we all had to hold down mute buttons on the mixer...now the horns began alone, it was majestic...not yet...not yet...wait for it...the castanettes...BANG! High fucking five.
Nostalgia can destroy you if you let it. I know that now. You can never go home again either. I struggle with that everyday. Making a record every two years as I have done since I was very young I guess I have every right to feel a little cheated by the old ways changing. I've tried to roll with the punches and move with the times but ya know what? I can't do it anymore. I feel lost. I'd rather work at Walmart then make another album on someone's fucking laptop.
Photo: Lee "Scratch" Perry at work in Jamaica
When we came back from a Spanish Tour last October, we moved our big, beautiful Studer 8 track 1 inch tape machine to NYC for repair/alignment. Then we pulled the damn protools out of our joint, boxed it up and packed it away with the Christmas shit. We replaced it with several carefully considered 1/4 inch reel to reel tape machines. We drove to Walmart and bought rubbing alcohol and razor blades. I blew right by the job application rack on our way back out into the cold.
Now we're recording the new songs that have appeared around here over the last year or so. This will be our next "proper" record. We are also hard at work on a record called "Mountain Minstrelsy". It's something I've been trying to make happen since before we recorded "Life is Problem". We got it now. It's pretty and spooky and country and damn near academic in its way. I can't wait to tell you more about it over the next few weeks.
Anyway, if the subject of recording music still interests you, I urge you to click on the YouTube link above. It's a 5 minute clip of Lee "Scratch" Perry at work in Studio Black Ark in Jamaica. Lee & Co. are regular, talented, poor people making amazing shit happen in a mid-seventies, impoverished city. Lee is recording cool songs on very basic equipment - the TEAC 3340s 4 track tape recorder and a less than desirable mixer desk. He has a tape echo and a few average microphones. Mostly he has an enormous soul, some good pot and the desperate need to succeed at something in life. Something out of nothing.
Blah, blah, blah....this was written mainly for my own sake, to organize my thoughts and remember what the hell we are trying to do around here...anyway, hope you didn't find it too obnoxious. I'm going out into the woods now.
Anybody wanna buy a laptop?
MARAH & BLUE MOUNTAIN ON TOUR
Wed 10/10: Baltimore, MD - TBA