Hold up. Wait a minute…

Didja spot the omission? Probably not, you’re busy with your lives and everything. It’s my job to keep on top of this, not yours.

Turns out I forgot to post photos and a studio report for Flotsam & Jetsam, which has, at this point, been out for exactly 2 months, and was recorded in June. I’ve gone into the dangers of trying to recall details after the event before, but we’ll give this a go for posterity.

The first thing to note is that this song is nearly double the length of previous offerings. Practically, it did make things tricky. You can do half as many takes, and there’s twice as much work to be done in editing and mixing.

A few years ago strangeday did some work on this song. I’ve been keen to do something with it for a while now, as I’m quite pleased with the feel and lyrics. It transpired that Ally was available for this studio date, and I decided that we could go for Flotsam & Jetsam as he’d written the bassline. Aaron had written some splendid guitar parts for the strangeday version, so I asked him to come and reprise those as well as adding a fair bit to them.

The day progressed reasonably well. We tracked the drums in the live room, rather than in the studio room, to get a bigger feel. This did mean a slightly more involved set up process. We then got Ally’s bass parts down, followed by acoustic and electric from me. At this point, it was clear that the timeframes were slipping from what we’d hoped. By the time we moved on to vocals it was clear we weren’t going to fit Aaron’s guitar parts. He’d turned up, but was pretty sanguine about coming back another day.

We set aside another morning, which also turned out to be village day, and sporadically raining. I wasn’t able to be there the whole time, so I got to hear the final parts subsequently as Paul provided mixes. And I was well pleased!

I think that’s about all I have to say about that for now.

We’ll talk soon.

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Once upon a time we recorded But That’s Just Me…

Did I ever tell you about the time we went and recorded the eighth song in the whole of 2016? Sit tight, I’m gonna.

You might have noticed over the last few months there’s been more ‘featuring’ type songs going on. Well. Two. Anyway, Paul was asking if I’d ever consider letting someone else sing the whole of a Pedestrian zero song. Then I saw a video of Paul busting out some banging vocals on the internet and I rather thought he might have a point.

This song seemed like a great fit. It also seemed like a great time to get in my other strangeday bandmate, AJ, to play some guitar. And oh he did.

The final two players in this great drama are Ant Martin, who is fast becoming a pø stalwart, and Cec Harding, returning for the first pedze track since January.

In terms of a recording day it panned out much as they do these days. Not obscenely early start; drum set up; drum recording; drum pack down; quick drum comp; Ant turns up with snacks (although El had also bought us bacon rolls from Dolly’s Diner); bass recording; overlap with next musician turning up; debate about whether to sneak in acoustic or have lunch; lunch; vocals; hastily improvised backing vocals.

It’s a great time, honestly.

All I ended up doing in the end was acoustic guitar and some ooh/ahh backing vocals in the chorus. Which was very nice. Seeing everyone else make their mark on the track was very gratifying.

And that’s about that really. Great times. Track should be out soonish. In the meantime enjoy a couple of images and a couple of videos in lieu of the photos I didn’t manage to take.

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The dog Tired studio times

I think the easiest thing is going to be to keep everything in the correct chronological order. Otherwise I’m going to have trouble working out what on earth is going on. Should you be curious though, Flotsam & Jetsam is still very much on the way, and we’ve actually been in to record next month’s release as well. All progressing well.

So this post harks back 2 months ish now. I never posted a studio report for dog Tired. So here it is.

Personnel for this one were: Paul West – drummist and backing singist, Ant Martin – basser, Jack Lewis – electric guitarer and lead singist, Toby Hawkins – acoustic guitarer and lead singist.

This is the first time I’ve deigned (haha) to share the actual lead vocals on a pØ track. I enjoyed it. I’ll be doing it more often.

This was a very reasonable day’s work. Relying a bit on memory now, but I believe the drums were in already, so we laid down some tight grooves quick smart. Bit spoilt having Paul really. He’s very quickly able to get into the spirit of whatever’s on offer from month to month.

Mr Martin was up next, bringing a bag of treats as is his wont. He also brought a big bag of bass. It’s such a delight watching people turn up and bring their own flavour to all of these dumb songs I write. I particularly enjoyed the big slappy bits. Oh yes.

Jack turned up just in time to overlap with Ant, which was nice, and I was next up, recording the acoustic. I can’t remember if I’ve said this before, but I’m feeling pretty confident with recording in general, but especially playing acoustic rhythm guitar.

Then it was Jack’s turn to do some electric. I had to run off to do some errand, I forget what, but came back to find Paul and Jack writing/working out the chorus riff. But where Jack really shone was the improvisation stuff. In particular, his improvised solo after the middle eight was a first take wonder. We tried for another take, but it wasn’t worth it as the first was just so good.

Then the vocals. I went first, then Jack. There was a little bit of fun working out one of my more obscure timings but other than that everything was very smooth and sounded wonderful.

And this time you don’t have to take my word for it. You can listen and judge for yourself! Class.

I am also able to report that the non-standard capitalisation of the song title aggravated at least 50% of the musicians involved. So there’s that.

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How to make an album – ptII

Well last week I reminisced about the week of recording for The Way Home. This week, I’d like to go a little into the detail of the time that went in to the project.

Around November 2014, I started thinking seriously about what I next wanted to achieve, musically speaking. The answer was fairly obviously a Roo’s Radio album. So I set about making it happen.

Initially I thought it might be me and Paul doing the bulk of the work, with the band filling in towards the end, but in fact, the others wanted to throw in behind the idea as much as I did. And I’m glad for that, as we have a far better end product because of it.

Not least because of what I’m about to tell you. Three extra people on the project meant a lot more working hours. Here then, is a rough breakdown of actual time that went into just the making of the music. Physical production and launch are a story for another time I think.

Album production hours

I’ve counted the total time of everyone involved, which in this case varied from just me (songwriting) to the band (four of us), to the band with producer, to a church choir (20ish). This is a very rough estimate, and I’ve erred on the side of conservative guesses to be honest. I’ve gone with 1 day = 8 hours.

The actual album process from start to release ran from January 2015 to November 2015, with some songs initially written as early as 2011.

Initial songwriting 2011 – 2015. Approx. 2 hours per song, but I may have written up to 25-30 songs in that period. Some of these ended up with strangeday, some may still see the light of day, and some are probably just for me :P. Only 11 made it onto the album (the intro track was written during the process of producing the album and is a reworking of parts of two of the other songs with some extra bits)
~60 hours

Extra band songwriting for 5 of those songs during band practices (2013-2014)
~96 hours

Initial album planning (December 2014)
2-3 hours taking to Paul W about recording and the band about the project
~10.5 hours

Building collaboration tool. 3-4 hours collating songs, influences, building an online wiki for collaboration
~4 hours

Pre-recording band rewrites
Roughly every Wednesday evening between January and May 2015 plus one Saturday a month in the same period
~64 hours (evenings)
~128 hours (Saturdays)

Working out final track selection and rough order/album journey/themes
~1.5 hours

Final pre-production with Paul, May 2015
~20 hours

Recording scratch tracks May 2015
~5 hours

Studio week May 16-22 2015
~276 hours

Choir recording June 2015 (inc prep) rough estimate
~43 hours

Extra recording days July/August 2015 2-3 days with various people
~72 hours

Cello writing/recording July 2015
~6 hours

Mixing and editing June-October 2015 – officially 12 days, but estimating 22
~176 hours

Band feedback on editing (very rough approx)
~12 hours

~26 hours

Total ~1000 hours or ~125 days
NB. This does not include artwork, physical production, design, launch planning or general low-level (casual) thinking about the songs/project management etc.

How to make an album – ptI

It was a year and two days ago, on the 16th May 2015, that we started a full week’s work on The Way Home – the Roo’s Radio debut album. It marked the first time that I had worked full time, albeit for a week, on a music project.

In actual fact, what went into that album was so much more than just that one week, as I’ll tell you more about next time, but spending concentrated time doing a project like that is always going to stand out as a special time in your memory – good or bad.

Recording an album is an interesting business. There’s a lot of hard work, but also a lot of potential boredom: waiting your turn, setting things up, getting something wrong over and over again. There are high points and low points, but you’re always striving to ensure that the best bits make it onto the record.

Prior to going in to the studio I had recorded a bunch of the guide tracks. I believe I finished recording these on the morning of Saturday 16th, and we then did a bit of work on the guitar for Flicker. Already the exact sequence of events is fading from memory. Flicker was definitely the first song we worked on though.

Paul wasn’t around in the afternoon of the 16th so we did some final bits of writing and got some rest for the week ahead.

We’d booked in a drum day on the Monday, so we spent Sunday on Flicker and possibly another song we didn’t have drums on.

Monday morning was spent setting up the live room for the drums, and then Paul stormed through the drums for six songs in one day. The last song of the day was Dream Again. Paul had to leave for a gig or practice and was right up against it to get the song done, but true to form he smashed it out.

For the rest of the week we had to try and get through as much as possible. Generally speaking we had to get bass and guitar sorted before we did vocals, so we’d spend mornings doing the instruments and afternoons doing the vocals. None of the lead vocalists were drinking alcohol, milk or caffeine so there was an awful lot of herbal tea drunk that week. And lots of vocal warm-ups and vocalzone to look after our voices.

For fun we hooked up a live webcam during the week. We didn’t have a huge number of people checking in with it, but the footage (unfortunately without sound as we didn’t want to broadcast our numerous mistakes and dodgy conversations to the internets) was saved. We edited some of it into this video, but perhaps one day we’ll do more with it.

Most days we’d decide on a plan of action for the next day. We didn’t plan anything too far ahead and just went with how we were feeling.

We had a chart of things needing to be done and it became clear as the week went on that we weren’t going to make it through everything. We still had 2 days of time booked with Paul, so as the week went on we tried to find some more time where all five of us were available. One of those days was in July and the other in August.

The last afternoon/evening of the week saw us working on However. It was pretty emotional because it was the end of a great week. And However is quite an emotional song that means a lot to all of us, especially Claire. So she poured her heart and soul into that vocal, which was the last thing we recorded in that week. Every one of us shed a tear during that performance. Magic.

Then we decamped back to mine where everyone including El piled into wine and cheese, breaking our alcohol/dairy prohibition. And that weekend was the first NAGfest where we played a set.

[Edit: You can now read Part II]

What a week! Below is a fun infographic I made to show what went into the week. There’s quite a few in-jokes there, but I think you’ll be able to appreciate it.

Making an album infographic

The plans we make

Well well..

This month a day’s recording became a weekend’s recording. Not a solid weekend, mind. But a very enjoyable weekend.

In order to accommodate the people I’d asked to contribute to Somewhere in between, I had to shift things around, and we decided we needed to record the drums before Sunday. It also worked to throw the bass into this session as well. The original plan was to start early evening on Friday, get a scratch track done, then set up and record the drums, and then record the bass.

Traffic on the M25 threw this plan out of the window, so the new plan became to record the scratch track Friday evening, which we duly did, then do drums and bass on Saturday evening. By this point we’d also determined it would make sense to get the lead vocals done after the bass, which we could then comp and edit on Sunday morning ready for Han Goslett to come in and do her vocals.

And so it was that I trooped to Awesome Source studios with Paul and Si on Saturday evening. A good time was had by all. Pizza was consumed, sick beats and phat bass were laid down. It was, once again, a wonderful experience to see something I’d written come alive with other people’s creativity. The night was wearing on by the time we got to the vocals. But, minor disaster! My sinuses thought it better to flood with mucus. Singing “Subwhere id betweed” wasn’t really cutting the mustard for Paul and a fresh plan was settled upon.

An early start on Sunday was conceived, and, fresh from a very hot shower and hopped up on vocalzone, I recorded an 8am Sunday vocal rather than an 11pm Saturday vocal. Potentially less rock and roll, but definitely less congested. The wonderful Han came by mid morning to record her harmonies and a lead part for the end of the song. Then we had the multi-talented Tom from Beer Pressure coming to play both a keyboard AND lead guitar part.

The benefit to “front-loading” the recording process was that, following a late, relaxed lunch, we only had the acoustic guitar and a guitar/vocal intro to record before calling it a day nice and early.

There might be a slightly longer wait for this one as mixing won’t happen ’til next week, but it’s turned out well so far.

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Studio day – Mind your PMQs

Tracking Mind your PMQs

I won’t take you on a magical mystery tour of the day this time, as it’s not proved to be my favourite format for reporting studio days. Instead, I’ll just throw out thoughts in random fashion. That’s proved popular so far. In as much as I haven’t had any comments posted saying that you don’t like it.

One of the amazing things about recording every month is the fantastic improvised bands we end up with. This month’s offering will feature splendmazing (getting bored with my superlatives) contributions from Paul, Ant and Matt O all of whom it was a pleasure hanging out with during the day in addition to adding their musicosity (almost definitely a word) to the song.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned, but Mind Your PMQs was only written in the last couple of weeks, so it hasn’t had time to embed too much. There was a little more writing on the spot than we’ve previously experienced, which did lead to a slightly longer day and we’ll need an extra evening session this week to get the backing vocals done.

It’s an obvious thing to say, but doing this regularly really does increase confidence. Particularly with vocals and acoustic guitar. I’m still a bit ‘fish out of water’ with the electric guitar (borrowed from Aj of strangeday fame this month) but I do have enormous fun playing the parts. Once we’d worked out what the parts should be.

The vocals were pretty good fun to do. We were really trying to get some passion in there and I attempted my best Dave Grohl impression (I’m rocking the Discount Dave Grohl look at the moment) for the final verse. I’m interested to see how it comes out. Hopefully Paul will be able to work his majicks.

I will say this. This recording/releasing lark is getting addictive. I’m already trying to work out how I might be able to step up the pace to twice a month. Stay tuned chizzlers.

Studio day – Oberland

Instead of having a constant problem with tenses like last time, I’m writing this report/diary/meandering mess after the studio day. It makes it easier.

The second song of the year is in the bag. Recording wise. Release will be at some point in the next couple of weeks. This is probably the shortest write to release time I have ever been involved with. Although having said that, Cec had the idea for the song years ago and has been toying with it since. Do we count that? I don’t think we will.

We kicked off at Awesome Source at 9am on a Sunday morning. I’d been in earlier in the week to record a guitar scratch track. Due to a lack of Ally for this session, Paul had also built a synth bass backing track.

We’d decided on three different guitar tracks, and subsequently three different guitars. The first was the main strummed chords, which was easy enough and we got it done in around 30 minutes.

The second was a little trickier. I’d written (ish) a picked part, and Paul suggested we borrow a classical guitar – which we did, from a good friend, Pete. I actually first learnt to play on a classical guitar, but it’s been a while, so I was fairly rusty and it took a while. The part’s going to need some editing to get it into shape. In an ideal world we’d get it right, but unfortunately time and money are against us. Perhaps we’ll look at that in more detail another time.

Third guitar was mainly to add a little extra texture to the choruses. A nice little CAPO 5 part.

Then we were off on the vocals. Cec is singing the main vocal, and she got her part down beautifully before lunch. Claire and I followed suit after lunch, and we were all done by around half four, which felt really good. Almost feels as if we’re getting the hang of this recording nonsense.

Even without editing and mixing, the song is sounding great. I’m very keen to get this into your earholes. In the meantime, enjoy this video of seven and a half hours condensed into one minute:

Studio day – Pint of gold


Paul recording drums - Pint of GoldLuckily Paul had all of the drums set up, so we just needed to cable them, line check them and set all the gains and we were off. A combination of a slightly late arrival and a bit of chatting meant that recording started around 10am. But within half an hour the drums were finished and now we’ve moved on to packing down ready for the bass.

Si recording bass - Pint of goldWe had a bit of a special treat because Si from 3dBs Down had agreed to come and play bass on the track. He’d written some beautiful parts and they’ve taken the track to a whole new and splendid place. All done and dusted in around an hour. Marvellous.

Toby recording acoustic guitar - Pint of goldBit of editing and setting up and we’re off with the acoustic. Hoping to do the drums and bass some justice with my playing. We’ll see…

Acoustic all done. Feeling very pleased, and everything’s going pretty well so far. Off to pick up some lunch while Paul sets up for the electric guitar.

Toby recording electric guitar - Pint of goldManaged to borrow a beautiful telecaster for the electric guitar from an open mic regular, Dave. For some reason as a teenager I couldn’t stand telecasters, but I absolutely love them now. Tone is sounding huge and the part is adding loads of energy.

All done. That was better than I expected. Partly because the tele was such a joy to play. Vocals next. Paul made me warm up using this video. I know it’s good to do but warming up really bores me. But I went for it anyway. Not sure I did the last exercise very well, but hey ho.

Toby recording vocals - Pint of goldMy vocals are done. That’s all of my parts. Just backing vocals from Cec and Paul to do now and we’re all done. Time for a beer I think. To the south!

Cec recording vocals - Pint of goldAll done bar the shouting. And by shouting I mean Paul’s vocals. He’s doin’ em tomorrow. That was a fun day.