|"Live For Revenge!" (photo by Tiffany Mueller)|
This is kind of a continuation from the 'Making of Self Titled'... Aka: My personal growth as a recording musician, or a cautionary tale of things to think about before going to a studio... Aka: The ghost of Credit Cards Past...Due.
So where I ended the last post it was 2010, I was close to $7000 in debt from recording an album, my entire band had quit, and I was just about to quit my semi-public career as a musician. Somehow, less than a month after the band played its last show I was optimistically performing shows with a final and present incarnation of the new band of the same name. I'll skip most of the details here, so just accept that Rook, Moose, Kit and I were enthusiastically performing as the band Random Encounter (occasionally with our friend Konami) for about a month when we decided to start recording a new album that represented us, as opposed to the previous 'Random Encounters.' Our goals were well defined and fairly simple: to record all of the tracks we performed on an album called 'Unavenged!' So I called up the local recording studio again and explained that I had a new band that would actually show up to record their parts; No bs, no experimenting with arrangement for 4 months. We booked weekends at the studio for a solid month and a half.
|A New Band is Born!|
|In The Studio, Late at Night|
|Rook's Lucky Doll Head, Masha|
Back to editing: Around that time I'd started taking private lessons for rhythm (specifically snare drum) to improve my sense of timing and also saw a dramatic improvement in detecting if something was 'off rhythm' in the editing phase. The ever-developing "ear for editing" was also kind of a curse because there's no way to turn off the ability and I annoyingly found things I wanted to "edit" when listening to music recorded by other artists I'd previously found soothing. It was a feeling akin to discovering that movies are shot in multiple "takes", as opposed to all at once, and now being conscious of continuity or dubbing errors. The sound engineer also expressed that he experienced the same thing and made a game out of finding mistakes in songs on the radio. In short, I became a significantly better editor during the project (practice makes perfect) and started coming up with creative solutions and "fixes" that the engineer didn't even think was possible. I started to think I was pretty awesome until it came to the part where I had to record vocals...
|Kit Enjoying my Vocals|
After what felt like a month or so of recording and another month of editing (I kid you not, we were billed for exactly "72 Studio Hours" of recording) we sent the tracks off to Rob Kleiner. I can equate the experience of sending our tracks to a true industry professional to the story of the princess from Rumpelstiltskin spinning hay into gold. I only had a small understanding of how professional mixing and mastering worked but even then the differences were easy to hear. While this was being done the band sat down and had deep discussions about our branding, back story, and "age rating." I feel it's worth mentioning that once again we cut the new set of extremely explicit introduction tracks I'd recorded and again cut 'What's Up People', which has allowed us to share our music with a lot of (very young/old) people I wouldn't have thought possible over the years. We also agreed to produce a high quality album on a jewel case (as opposed to "sleeves" or a digital-only release), because we felt strongly about wanting to present ourselves as professionals. While I worked on finding a printing company, Kit worked on our Kickstarter, Moose scheduled an album release show, and Rook worked with Dennis Hansbury on the album art.
Somewhere in the all the above chaos the band had commissioned our friend Dennis Hansbury to make the album art without much of an idea as to what we wanted. Did we want video game iconography, to focus on the Russian monster-hunter mythos, or something else entirely? During a brainstorming session at Yogurt Land while Rook and I were gushing about the Russian artist Ivan Bilibin, (my memory is hazy as to how, but) we finally concluded that we wanted to recreate a sketch Rook had drawn of the band, in a style similar to Bilibin's, focusing on the band's conflict with Koschei the Deathless. Moose mentioned he wanted dilapidated buildings and someone (Kit?) said that profiles might be cool. Dennis gave us some alternate concepts of Koshei, took reference photos of the band members, and eventually the drafts we received quickly evolved into our album art, despite Dennis fighting a rather horrible cold at the time. My favorite piece is definitely the disc art/backing with the needle-egg-duck-rabbit-chest-
tree. It just fit really well together.
Where Self Titled was released quietly and kind of fizzled, Unavenged had an album release party complete with guest musicians, Protomen, and home baked goods! We also got a mention on BadassOfTheWeek.com and the opportunity to introduce people to our album on an east-coast tour of the U.S.! On a financial note, even if you technically 'break even' on the cost making an album, the sheer amount of effort involved with getting your music in front of people (shows, driving to shows, gas, interviews, promotional stuff, giveaways, the great migration from Myspace to Facebook, and your tour van breaking down every other show) comes at a large cost. At the risk of sounding like a corporate tool I'd still like to say that the tools we found most helpful on the post-production side were Kickstarter (crowd-sourcing which helped cover some of the costs associated with making the album), Bandcamp (which helps us conveniently share our music with people who can't afford our album), and CDBaby.com (which puts your music almost everywhere music is sold and has really solid reporting/remittance).
|Rock Party, Fall 2010|
|Random Encounter Photo Shoot (Fall 2010, (photo by Tiffany Mueller))|
This certainly isn't a Disney success story by any means but it's the journey I've undertaken to learn more about how recorded music is made. I hope that my misadventures are amusing and perhaps insightful. I also can't wait to write one of these about the upcoming Random Encounter album I'm currently working on! ...speaking of which.