Los Angeles – so here we are camped out in the Hollywood Hills home of some of our Australian friends. On the uphill side our neighbour is a former Hollywood movie titles designer who has an aviary full of ‘exotic’ birds that like to make their ‘charming’ calls all through the night… or whenever either of our children are sleeping. On the downhill side, a guy that apparently makes soft pornography in his lounge room. Should make for some interesting listening over the next few months…
We had about a month of settling in here after traveling over from Madrid. Long distance air travel with small children is something that I would recommend to all people as a ‘character building’ exercise and something that should be experienced at least once. I must say I do enjoy the look on the faces of the fellow passengers when their delight at having scored an exit row, turns to horror when they realise they have scored ………………………..A FAMILY!!!!!!!!!!………. First world problems really…
So we have had a few weeks of snooping around LA, getting adjusted to sitting in a car again. After a couple of weeks we have spent as much time sitting in traffic as we had spent doing the same in the previous year and half in Madrid. It’s HORRIFIC. No wonder there is such a layer of thick brown sludge hanging above the San Fernando Valley.
Now recording is well and truly underway here at Sunset Sound. We made a plan to do our band tracking in two batches and try to get a feel for where the album is heading by the time we are about half way through the session. There is a very friendly atmosphere and all of the guys have worked a lot with Joe before so I’m the new guy. So after a few hours of setting up everyone’s gear, introductions and a bit of general gossip, we are straight into it recording a song which is, for the moment, called Drake. Based on a drum loop it’s a twisted blues that documents the slow decline of a relationship.
So the process is for the band to listen to the demos, make notes on the structure of the songs and have a short discussion about how to approach it… what type of sounds we are looking for, whether the tempo is right etc etc. This is the normal process for recording with any band, but because it is a group of people I have never worked with before it is both exciting and a bit nerve wracking to see where it is going to go. Sometimes there is a concern when records are made with a band consisting solely of session players that there is a tendency for them to ‘dial it in’ and play with very little feeling. I am not particularly concerned because these guys have all worked with people and on records that I admire, but it is still new territory for me. From the first downbeat here any concerns about that are put to rest. After every pass through the song everyone is making small adjustments to their parts and checking that they are sympathetic to each other’s lines and suggesting improvements. It is patently clear that they give a shit and want the songs to be as great as they can be. After five or six dry runs where people are working out their final parts, we start recording. All the while Joe has been nudging all of the sounds and it has begun to take shape. An incredibly quick process and the song is in the can with a big fat dirty groove after about four hours work. I am really happy with how it is going. Lyle Workman, guitar player, is the class clown and is keeping everyone entertained between takes by playing medleys that marry ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ with ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and a constant stream of obscene Derek and Clive quotes.
Next we attacked ‘Here Comes the Sadist’ which mutated from being a mid tempo piano driven pop song to an up tempo soul tune with splashes of clavinet and spiky guitar stabs and licks. I am still in awe of how quickly this combination of guys can get songs to metamorphasise from one feeling to another without losing its core pieces. I had written ‘Here Comes the Sadist’ in Madrid at a time when the government there and throughout the rest of Europe, were introducing massive spending cuts that were aimed at reducing benefits and hard won rights to the working class, to pay for the profligacy of much of the stock market and banking sector. The Occupy movement, which actually began in Madrid as 15-M, was in full swing at the time as people were basically fed up with the situation. There were lots of dire warnings of ‘CONTAGION’ in press conferences that talked about ‘AUSTERITY’. The reality was that, as usual working people were being punished and a lot of the people that were responsible for the financial damage were going on with their lifestyles as though nothing ever happened. There was particular guy in our neighbourhood who, for some reason, based purely on appearance, represented that type of person. I would see him out walking in his Ralph Lauren tracksuit with his grey ponytail and I took an instant disliking to him and I confess totally to judging a book by its cover but it made for good song material. It seemed to me that he was completely oblivious to the fact there was so much suffering going on around him . So the song starts with “Here comes The Sadist on his afternoon stroll……”. I thought that it was particularly ridiculous that someone who is partly responsible for so much misery would still be out being the friendly neighbourhood fixture… out for a stroll… enjoying the sunshine… and the pollution… smiling and waving.
Ok so I am going to sign off now and keep you updated as we go. Thanks for tuning in.