Recording the Age of Wonder - EP
Saturday (28th May 2016)-
It was a good feeling to leave Super Unison Rehearsal studios in Peckham on Saturday night knowing that with the help of Alex Mayland on drums and Arthur’O’Hara on bass, I’d just about pieced together a musical unit that would be able to solidly handle upcoming the recording session in a pretty professional way.
I’d practiced with them both individually, but that Saturday was the first time we’d all collectively played in the same room together (talk about last minute)!
The following morning, I headed into Brett Shaw’s studio literally opposite from where we’d rehearsed the night before. Brett's CV includes work with Florence and the Machine, Daughter and Clean Bandit.
and works out of his 123 Productions studio in Peckham where it has a wonderful live room, lots of character and a decent control room with some legendary key pieces of outboard gear.
Within the first 30 minutes of turning up, I was tracking the guitars for an acoustic song called ‘Weightless’ and just an hour or two later it was finished; sounding as organic as I’d hoped.
Al then came down to join me on another track called ‘Tablelands’ and we recorded an acoustic guitar while he laid down a fairly simple percussive four to the floor groove.
We then overdubbed and layered up all the other percussive rhythms on the song using various surfaces including some glass bottles from a nearby bar and even a chair!
Al’s playing is hugely complimentary to other musicians and is particularly key to my own guitar playing. There’s an unexplainable tightness and feel to what he does and I knew I’d be a bit of a dick to not make the most of it.
A more traditional day of live recording with Arthur coming to join us on bass. He has to be the best and most complete bass players I’ve ever worked with. Not only is he technically incredibly gifted but he also understands the importance of the basic nitty gritty things like locking in rhythmically or hearing the bigger picture of the arrangement.
We recorded 3 songs together in the live room that day experimenting with different drum sounds as the day passed. One of the best features of Brett’s live room is a moving ceiling which helps to seriously treat ambience.
The final track allowed me to get my hands back on my electric guitar which was amplified through a really nice Fender twin reverb amp.
That evening, the three of us headed back to mine for some good vibes, beers and smokes after a hard but very fun session.
I knew it was an ambitious target to begin with (producing 5 tracks each with their own different styles and sounds in 3 days) and that to make it happen- Day 3 would require a monumental amount of effort from myself and Brett.
We had to get through a lot of overdubs in order to complete the backing tracks before laying down any vocals.
I spent the day between lead guitar, creating soundscapes, harmonica and piano takes, and even got my hands on an accordion which is new!
We also had the mightily talented Harrison Cole come in to lend us his trumpet playing skills for a few hours elevating the backing tracks even further.
That evening the only thing staring us in the face was the uphill battle to record vocals to all 5 tracks which we undertook with minimal fuss splitting it up with a quick Pizza break in order to help my voice briefly recover.
It was in these final and extreme hours of Pizza power that I could truly appreciate how valuable Brett has been to the project. Not even a hint of impatience or complaint and he was still adamant on tweaking a few last minute things seconds before possibly getting locked-in at Copeland Park (an artistic industrial park).
You know you’re working with someone good, when their only focus is to continue until the job is done rather than watch the clock.
We started at 10am and left at 12.30am somehow just managing to pull off a tracking session that seemed beyond us earlier in the day.
We came back into the studio 2 weeks later to finish off the EP, touching up a few sections and redoing some of my rushed vocals as well as adding some backing vocals and harmonies.
The break allowed us to come back in with fresh ears and work objectively. As always, it was a day completely crammed of recording, editing and mixing and with the end in now sight, I couldn’t help but feel the excitement of finally achieving something I never thought I could - A well produced solo EP.
The writing sessions in Wales, the vocal coaching, the endless demoing, the even more endless practice, the piecing together of various musicians, months of pesto pasta, constant lyrical edits etc etc …- it all becomes worth it when you finally get to witness your ideas transcend into half decent productions; most musicians will agree with that.
Next up - figuring out how we’re gonna release this stuff!