With things recently developing in their small-scale manner, I now recieve more and more generous comments from friends and peers such as “Seems like things are going well- I hope you guys make it”. I can do little but smile to myself and brush it off, but with due appreciation of how it was intended.
“Making it” has a very different definition these days! There was a time long ago, that the idea of “making it” meant a six month tour of europe and an article in rolling stone magazine…maybe a gig at historic Maple Leaf Gardens. And that was only the beginning. And then over the years, “making it” became a more modest, but honourable definition- to sustain a career as a musician enough so you could work hard enough to pay your bills and still have enough left over to enjoy a reasonable lifestyle. “Making it” now just means doing enough so you don’t go crazy. The same impetus that urges you to start writing songs when you are twenty, starts taking you over in your late twenties, if you don’t deliver on them. “Making it” now is feeding that monster- that tender thing that once once made you so curious about the world of music you knew so little of, which then rose tenfold (like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors) and demands equal progress on your part to match every interval of its own growth. “Making it” now is a bit like appeasing the beast. And it often feels like your sanity is at stake- the more of yourself you have invested, the more you stand to lose.
Which is why today was so nice. The beast was fed quite well today. A whole new experience…a whole other world. Today was the first day of our recording at Phase One, and it was really exciting. With our producer, Steve, and Phase One’s own Senior Studio Engineer, Michael Jack, we were in good hands from the get-go, and things went great. It was really hard work too, mind you, but it was good, and most importantly, it was really fun. Being a newbie at anything, when interest is there, has its advantages (unbridled enthusiasm, often). All said and done, we were able to accomplish a good amount for what was our first day.
The goal for the day was really to dig into most of the “bed” tracks for the songs. That especially meant drums, and some bass. Thankfully, we were able to get drum tracks for every song nailed down today, thanks to some remarkable playing by Stefan Sezniak. Stefan is a session drummer who has played on albums and tours of many great Canadian artists, including Hawklsey Worksman. We recorded the “beds” live on the floor with me singing and playing guitar as a guide, Devin playing bass, and Stefan laying down the drum tracks. It was his tracks that we wanted- hence, I wasn’t singing for “performance” and it didn’t matter if I made any mistakes- it was only the drums that we were going to keep. Similarly, Devin wasn’t under gun for good performance either. However, if he did give a good performance, we were more inclined to keep it, because of the close interplay between drums and bass (combining to form the rhthym section of any band). If you get good chemistry on a live take, it’s always better than single-tracking.
Anyway, all of this was not an easy task, but will make everything that we do tomorrow that much easier, because it’s done. “Climbing Trees” was the toughest. Sometimes I don’t realize myself just how complicated that song can be- just because I never thought we’ve ever written any complicated songs, but there definitely are a lot of changes and dynamics to account for.
“The Sweetest Things in Life” went pretty smooth. We have made some structural changes to some sections, but it was still a piece of cake in the end. What was a real surprise however was “The Haunt” and how easily that one came together. We were having some real issues trying to tighten the song- it felt repetitive and mundane at times with the same rhthyms and melodies constantly being emphasized. But after working with Steve in preparation up to the weekend, we were able to workshop the song to the point were a lot of new changes in dynamics gave the song a whole new feel and sharpness that it didn’t have before. The challenge once again was since this was so new for us, how were we now going to explain these changes to Stefan? But, this fear was short-lived, as Stefan took all of two takes to nail it.
But the highlight of today was “Bonded”. This song came alive today in the studio with tremendously successful drums, bass, guitar, vocals tracks being done. Sitting in the control room with everybody at the end of day, sipping on a well-earned beer, and hearing the mix of the day’s work on this song, was a moment I won’t soon forget. With just those four basic tracks and some backing vocals, it just sounded incredible. I just can’t wait to see what else is going to happen.
Suddenly “making it” doesn’t feel so far away anymore, when you have days like this. For a moment, when you are sitting together listening to the music that you’ve just recorded, and it sounds wonderful to you, it’s a version of “making it” that I’ll buy. After all, the goal is in the process- and if you do not relish the pockets of joy in that, then you’ve made nothing.