Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Sometimes, while recording, we're so happy just to be getting sounds to tape ("Hey! This thing actually works!") that we forget that we're just on the first step.

Once we know that we've got signal, that we're actually modifying bits and creating data, we have to stop and listen to what we're getting. This can be the hardest thing to do, especially after you've spent hours (or weeks, or months) just setting everything up. It seems like the hard part should be done. After all, now it's up to the band.

This is a mistake. The real job doesn't start until everything is already working. It should be a given that the meters are all moving, that the lights are blinking, and that we're not distorting. But the heady rush of the record button first being hit can be followed by a bit of laziness, by figuring that our job is over until playback.

Remember to keep listening, from the first note to the last fade out. Something not sounding right? Adjust it. Getting distortion? Turn it down. Think you might need to move that mic? Go do it. Sometimes I warn bands that, at least at the beginning, I'll be coming in and out of the live room as they play. Some recording engineer once said that he's never worried about screwing up a take by moving a mic. On some of his recordings he claims you can hear adjustments being made as the band plays. I'm not sure if this is something to shoot for, but if something sounds shitty at the beginning then it should be fixed by the end.

Of course, that's kind of a British way to think.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Back when I was in college, I worked at a little AAA (that's adult alternative) radio station in Ithaca, NY. We were bound to a rigid playlist, but we played some good stuff.

One of the bands I remember from those days was Spirit of the West, a Vancouver group I saw play at the Haunt a few times. We played their single "And If Venice Is Sinking" on WVBR. Ted's posts about the Book Depository got me thinking of another one of their tunes, from the record "Faithlift," called "6th Floor."

At the corner of Elm and Northeast Houston
Staring up at the southeast window
Someone circled allegedly
I refused to pay six bucks to see
People posing on the grassy knoll
How many is that, just him and Lincoln?
I was squinting through the sun
Do the count the bottom floor as one?
And I phoned home from the bottom of the building of the 6th floor
You seemed unimpressed at best that I phoned home
From the bottom of the building of the 6th floor
Suitable for family viewing
Cracked a joke about who he was screwing
Stood in the center of the concrete square
Human nature took me there
Debbie did Dallas, yeah
So did I
Found myself taking pictures of a brownstone
Against a blue sky.

I sat in the square once, a few years ago; I was in Dallas doing some work for the Daily Show. There was a massive heat wave, 112 degrees, old folks dying. There's a little X painted in the street where Kennedy got hit. I saw a couple of shmoes running out into traffic to get their pictures taken on the X. Sadly, there was no one in the Depository to put them out of their misery.

Jesus hangs behind the glass
Above Venetian doors
His window box boasts crimson flowers
Fresh cut the day before
And you couldn't find a smile
If you nailed it to his face
Jesus Christ hangs his head with grace
And if Venice is sinking I'm going under
Cause beauty's religion and it's christened me with wonder
They come in bent backed, creaking 'cross the floor
All dressed in black
Candles thick as pillars
You can buy one off the floor.
And the ceiling's painted gold,
Mary's hair is red
The old come here to kiss their dead.
And if Venice is sinking then I'm going under
It's beauty's religion and it's christened me with wonder...

Listening to "Faithlift" always makes me a little sad. Maybe because those shows at the Haunt were so long ago, or maybe because of those lyrics. I don't know. Whatever happened to Spirit of the West? Again, I don't know.