We find ourselves in this strange, exciting, cool situation that none of us have ever been in before. Personally, I’ve got tons of band experience and that’s not me tooting my own horn or whatever…it just is what it is. I’m the guy that’s been in a band since ’89. No, I don’t want a cookie or a ribbon or anything, it’s just important that I frame my reaction to our current situation properly. My reaction, even after all my years is: HOLY SHIT!!!
Before I get into the details, you’ll have to forgive me for leaving a few of the key details out. Although I’m mostly unfazed by ‘celebrity’ it’s still important for me to protect their anonymity until the appropriate time. And also, I’m not a name-dropper…it’s just not my style. With that out of the way, here we goooooooooooooooooo…….
As a band we’ve been writing a lot. Our 5-song debut EP hit iTunes in September and we’re already closing in on another DOZEN songs. So when I say ‘a lot’ I mean a lot, a lot. I better add one more ‘a lot’ for good measure. Ok, so as you might imagine we’re already talking about recording again (yay) even though we haven’t played a show yet (boo). The inside joke is wondering whether we’ll actually play a show before our SECOND release appears on iTunes. In itself, that would be a crazy-unique scenario.
While discussing doing another record, we agreed that we were interested in exploring some other studios and different recording techniques. Beyond that we didn’t really know what our next step was. Sitting around playing music for each other, pointing out what production qualities we dig is a far cry from actually knowing how to make them a reality on our next recording. To put it plainly, I’m friends with a few dozen drummers that play in giant world-famous bands. So I reached out to them ask how to do it and who to talk to. I also explained where we were coming from because I had a rough idea of our budget and what we were looking for sound-wise. Needless to say, I was pretty surprised by all the names and contact info these buddies shot my way. Some names were familiar (read as: expensive) and some were not. So I did what anybody would do…I started Googling. I learned a lot about everyone on my new contact list and honestly, it was easy to see that some guys weren’t right for us. No disrespect, but everyone’s got different strengths and weaknesses. Beyond that, some guys are better at metal, or jazz, or whatever and therefore not the best fit for us. So my new contact list became a condensed list that we all got super excited about.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, I learned that the pros usually hire a producer, an engineer and a mixer. In basic terms a producer helps the band shape the songs, helps get the best performances out of each band member in the studio and offers suggestions for a lot of the cool bells & whistles that end up in the songs. The engineer is the one that sets up all the microphones for recording (which is TRULY an art form), pushes all the buttons, sets all the levels, knows all the gear (tons and tons and tons of gear) and is ultimately responsible for getting all those actual tones/sounds recorded. The mixer is the one that makes sure every element within a song is at the perfect level for a well-balanced sound before it becomes the final product -- sometimes the engineer and the mixer are the same person. PS- Producers are really responsible for making the music great…although plenty of producers are the ones to blame for totally fucking up great songs throughout history too, but that’s an entirely different blog.
At that point we knew what we needed so it was time to contact a few people to ask about rates and gauge interest/availability. We sent our EP to a bunch of producers & engineers, and then followed up with an email, text or call. Much to my surprise – don’t ask me why – everyone seemed pretty interested right off the bat. One guy that was interested – a highly sought-after producer - invited me up to his home studio in Malibu to discuss the project. See, here’s where I have to leave out some cool shit (sad panda face). So I go to this epic house, he greets me, offers me a beer and we steel away into the studio which featured the largest ‘Matrix’-like touchscreen mixing console I’ve ever seen. In true fact, it’s the ONLY one I’ve ever seen and it’s bigger than the TV I have in my living room. We chatted a lot about recording philosophy and what our goals were with this recording….ours AND his. He played lots of songs – every producer says ‘tracks’ by the way – so he played lots of tracks for me that he had produced to give me an idea of where he was coming from. Then he played…I mean cranked…a record he produced for a big famous band that doesn’t come out until next March. Yeah, so I heard almost an entire album roughly four months before anyone else will – crazy. The best part is the record sounded amazing. I really liked the production. So then he turned the console over to me...
He was curious about where Modern Bronze was going musically since the first EP, so the huge touchscreen morphed into Dropbox, I sat down, logged into our shared folder and started playing rehearsal recordings. It’s important for me to pause here because this is the part where I’m supposed to be shitting purple twinkies because I’m sitting there with a popular producer playing rough rehearsal recordings from the night before. Yeah - purple twinkies. Anyhow, he liked what he heard and immediately began offering input on what to do here, what compressor to use on that vocal passage, yadda yadda. It was incredible. Then things went stratospheric when he requested permission to come to our next rehearsal, mentioned a couple possible studios (one a true bucket list studio for ANY drummer), and suggested using one of his favorite engineers (a dude with a gleaming A-list resume responsible for at least fifteen records in my collection). Look…more purple twinkies!!
So get this, the cool producer guy gives me the number and email address for the cool engineer guy. I shoot him an email to introduce myself and explain the project. Engineer dude REPLIES WITHIN FIVE MINUTES and we set-up a call (he prefers to actually talk – what a concept). A couple days later, I call him (the engineer dude) and we talk for 94 minutes where I practiced my LISTENING skills. Uh, last time I checked I’m a fucking unknown drummer guy. This dude talked to a fucking unknown drummer guy about recording, drums, famous sessions, drummers and on and on for well over an hour. Furthermore, he’s an absolute sweetheart. Three days after that phone conversation the cool producer guy shows up as promised, there IN OUR REHEARSAL STUDIO drinking a beer grooving to all the new stuff. Purple. Twinkies. Two days later I’m back on the phone with cool engineer guy telling him what cool producer guy thought of the new stuff and we kill another 45 minutes on the phone talking studios (which HE offered to book for us) and scheduling. Everyone’s interested. Songs are mostly ready except for some fine-tuning and polishing. Our budget is set and agreed-on by all parties. It looks like we start tracking in a badass studio in February.
Wait. Whose life is this??