In the last entry, I talked about the lead up to and the beginning of recording the songs that Skylines and the Horizon would eventually consist of. In this entry, I’ll be talking about the songs on it, what instruments I played, pedals I used, and bits and pieces of the mixing process. As these will get lengthy, I will post things in parts, based on the order that I recorded the songs in.
Without further ado…
Since “ALTG” was the most disappointing of all the songs I recorded in 2017, I decided to start with it. I wanted to be in a good place with that song after two different attempts at recording it.
I used the PRS as the rhythm guitar even though the p90 pickups would generate a fair amount of hum, especially with a distorted guitar part. I went with the Muffuletta set to Ram’s Head for the rhythm guitar. After listening back to the rhythm, the e609 and r144 had a brighter and bassier sound, respectively, but I felt like I needed something in the mid range. I decided to pull one of the guitar tracks from the 2017 recordings and set it -12db and panned hard right. That track brought a nice balance to everything.
I forget exactly when I did it, and it might have been in 2011, but I added octave notes that played over the chorus in addition to the second guitar line I’ve always played. That octave part always sat more in the background, but this time around, I opted to bring it to the forefront and drop the long standing second guitar line to more of a background part. As cool as I think the old second guitar part is, I wanted the focus to be on the lyrics since the song is supposed to be a letter.
“ALTG” doesn’t have a traditional solo in it, but I still opted to use the Tele through the Angry Charlie side of the Sweet Tea. I did the same thing for the harmonizing guitar part that occurs during the bridge of the song through the outro. Those harmonizing parts are one of my favorite moments on the EP.
The old bass line would play something that went more with the old second guitar part, but as that part was first relegated to a background guitar and has since been cut, having a walking part to match it no longer felt or sounded right and needed to change. Both the change to the bass and second guitar are relatively minor and didn’t affect the arrangement, but I think it helped tighten the song up.
Those are examples of the kind of minor tweaks I do to a song as I record and listen to it. Most of the songs on this EP have benefited from years of practice, recording, and tweaking to push in new directions as I’ve learned new tricks. I might not have that luxury with my next project, but I’ll be working on music more frequently than I have been over the years in addition to playing on Lo-Fi Nice Try’s songs. Hopefully that combination will keep my ears and imagination fresh.
Matt provided vocals for the song. Due to the differences in how we write vocal lines and phrases, we decided that instead of recording a double track of vocals, I’d sing as the double track. I’m still working out how to best make Matt’s vocal take the more prominent one.
The next song I turned to was “Zombies”. Of the 2011 songs, I thought “Zombies” was the closest to the sound I wanted to achieve, mostly because I think it was one of the last songs in that recording process.
If I’d thought to move it to my board before I recorded this, I’d have used my Zvex Distortron for the rhythm guitar, but I once again leaned on the Moonshine side of the JHS Sweet Tea, though I left all of the clean sound dialed out. That guitar plays from start to end. After the bridge and during the part leading up to the solo, I played some palm muted power chords reminiscent of “New Way Home” off of Foo Fighter’s Colour and the Shape. I knew I should have recorded it clean but I just went light on the playing.
There’s a second rhythm guitar that plays through the song and provides the harmony walk down part during the intro and pre-solo section of the bridge. Unlike the “primary” rhythm, this guitar plays straight power chords for the entire song with the exception of the 2nd and 4th cycles through of the chorus. I used the Angry Charlie side of the JHS Sweet Tea and it’s probably the gainiest sound I use on the EP. Over the course of mixing it, it’s become the louder of the two rhythm guitars.
For the lead guitar, I can’t remember what guitar and pedal I used. At some point, I ended up having to redo the second half of the song and decided to play a second palm muted part of the pre-solo, click the drive on, edit out the click of the pedal button, and then record the final chorus. I ended up doing a better job rhythmically but ran into a conundrum…the lead guitar is in the left channel and the rhythm guitars were in the right. I ended up fading the lead out and the rhythm in and end up with this stereo panning towards the end of the solo as the song builds up the last chorus.
The solo guitar is the Telecaster through the Angry Charlie. There’s just something about the way that guitar sounds cutting through the otherwise noisy ruckus created by the other three guitar parts.
Being a child of the ’90s and a fan of that whole era of music, feedback has long been a friend of mine. During the 2017 sessions, despite my hardest attempts, I couldn’t get feedback to happen. Maybe it comes from using an amp stand and the amp being angled up a little. With my current set up, feedback is all but an impossibility since I play at conversational volume. However, 2011 was a totally different story. I got feedback and plenty of it. I grabbed the feedback section from those guitar tracks, faded it in a bit, and now that ends the EP. I have an idea for a short play to go on during those final moments, but whether I actually do it remains to be seen.
JD sang vocals on this one. The first time we recorded them, the verses were shakier than we would have liked them to be. We tend to be quick and loose with the vocals and “Zombies” helped us realize that. During the first three cycles of the verse, JD held the notes at the end and covered up a small movement that the guitar does. We got back together in June and rerecorded the verses.
Matt and I provided additional vocals during the chorus, with Matt taking a higher harmony line while I sang the melody an octave lower. During the last cycle through the last chorus, I did my best attempt at a Dave Grohl style scream, but I can’t hold even the briefest flicker of a candle to what he does. It’s just a tribute.