After the false start in Lewisville, I knew I needed to dedicate some time to getting my songs worked out. Also, when I listened back to the tracks I recorded, I wasn’t happy with the way the guitars sounded. It sounded like an amateur, bedroom recording. That happens with the volume limitations one runs into when living in an apartment.
There’s something about the way an amp sounds when volume is cranked. The speakers are pushed in a way that low volume doesn’t and even a solid state amp sounds better when it’s loud. Tube amps are a completely different story. They NEED to be pushed, the glass tubes inside need to be hot, and with a nice, broken in speaker…well, it’s hard to deny how good it sounds. I needed to find a house to record in so that I could turn the volume up.
During 2010 and early 2011, I’d been going to a number of shows that JD’s band, Peru, had played. I’d gotten to know the rest of the band and become friends with them. Like some story out of some VH1 tell-all, they lived together in a house with a couple of other guys, and I believe their band was stronger for it.
There wasn’t any worry about someone not making practice for the myriad of excuses that musicians come up with, they could immediately talk about practices, songs, and do so over a few beers without worrying about having too much to drive home. Best of all, at least for me, most of them worked a 1st shift job, so their house was mostly empty during the day. That meant I potentially had the ability to crank my amp and record.
Arrangements were made, vacation was scheduled, and I had a plan. You’d have thought I would have worked on getting drums programmed, parts written, and everything in order. That’d have been smart. I didn’t do any of that.
In June of 2011, I packed my car up with everything I used to POSSIBLY record music: my computer, the three electric guitars I had (two PRS and my Fender tele), my trusty Takamine F360S, my bass (a Squier P/J that had been gutted and redone), my Egnater Tweaker 15 head and cab, a second cab, my pedal board, numerous mics and mic stands, and a backpack full of cables, picks, straps, and anything else you could imagine. My car was full. Now, I did go over the Sunday before to setup because, as you can imagine, there was a lot of stuff.
My plan was simple…get over to the house at 8am, work on drum programming, mixing, and other computer stuff until the other housemates woke up (generally around 10 or 11), and then record while they went about their day. It’s wonderful to have a plan, right?
Here’s the thing that I’ve come to realize, and partially embrace, about the way my recording process goes: I write a lot of parts when I record and songs change. I know that I’m not unique in that because there are TONS of stories out there. It’s awesome to be caught up in the middle of creating a song, feeding off of the energy of the other band members, and to watch a song come alive because someone hears something in their head and you frantically work to give that idea life.
All of that still applies when you’re the only one working on a project except things don’t happen in real time. I couldn’t and still can’t work on a bass part until the guitar is done, practiced, and recorded. I can’t write a second (third, fourth, etc) guitar part until then either. If I want to build a song, I have to not only write the part, but I have to practice it enough to play it confidently enough to record it.
If my friends worked 7a-4p and I spent 8a-10 or 11a doing more of the computer focused stuff, that gave me about 5 hours to write, practice, and record my parts. I should have worked on that stuff leading up to the Watauga sessions.
Going in, I knew I wasn’t going to worry about recording “Goodbye”, “So Far” was more or less complete, and “Zombies” had come along nicely. That left me “Spin”, “ALTG”, and “One and Three” to work on recording and/or writing parts for. Sounds simple, right? Sounds like I’d have ample time, right?
Thinking I had anywhere from 5-6 hours of recording time a day made me a little overconfident. I figured I’d get in, things would come together, and I’d walk away with time to spare. Oh boy, was I ever wrong.