Friday, November 10, 2006

Recording Blog 5 (November 9)

Well, it's down to crunch time. We wanted to have the album done by this time, but we just didn't have enough man-hours to get 'r' done, so to speak. But last night we did get a LOT of work done.

The way that we recorded bass parts was to record them straight into system "direct" and then once we had a decent track, then we would route the track out to the bass amp and record the "live" sound off the speaker cabinet. This works out well because bass tracks, like a lot of musical stuff, take a long time and can be very, very loud, making the house rattle as you try to get that one section just right. We came up with this system, because you can record and re-record and re-record direct and not have to have a lot of sound. Then, once we have several bass tracks, we'll drop them all at one time to the bass, we have a shorter time rattling the house.

Anyway, we had a few songs left that we had to drop the bass for, including several of the instrumental tracks that we had been working on. So, we started off by dropping those. Then, we listened to several songs and decided if they were truly done or not. Unfortunately we listened to Naive and we realized that my vocal really kind of sucked. So, that would be on our list for the night.

Adam went and picked up his wife from work and they came back and we unveiled some of the songs for the first time to her, and she was duly impressed. Songs that she didn't like from the demos finally made understand why we liked them in the first place - Closer being the prime example...that one has made leaps and bounds.

After we listened to some stuff, we then headed out to get some food. Mmmm...Zaxby's makes Chris happy.

We came back with bellies full and got right down to vocals. My voice felt pretty good, so I thought we might get a couple of vocals done. We started off with Somewhere and we got off to a pretty good start. I nailed the choruses and then moved onto the verses. Unfortunately the verses didn't go as good. For some reason (and I've heard other vocalist do this, too) I will nail parts of the song, then have 1 line that I can't seem to sing right. There was one line in Somewhere that I took like 5 takes to do whereas the rest of the song was 1-2 takes. Oh, well. We finished that pretty quickly.

When we moved on to Need pretty much the same thing happened. I nailed the choruses then had 1 line that took me way too many takes to nail. However, I finally got it down.

After we finished, I realized that my voice still felt pretty good. Usually, I am only able to get 2 vocals a day just because after singing as hard I do my voice is ragged. But for some reason my voice felt really good, so we decided to try to get Naive and I actually nailed it. I was really happy.

So, the album is basically done...I just have 5 more vocals to pull off and it will be done and ready to move on to mixing. Happy days!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Recording Blog 4 (November 8)

The last couple of weeks have been kind of strange because Adam and I have really been busy on our own, and just haven't connected a bunch to work on stuff. We each have worked on stuff by ourselves, but not really together. But yesterday, we were able to spend a majority of the day together.

As we have worked on our own, we had pretty much finished the tracking for the album. We have laid all the guitars after having the bass and drums laid earlier. The tough part about huge guitars is that they take up so much space...then you have to find the room to fit them into the mix....but Adam is a fantastic mix engineer, so I have no worries. But what I had decided with this album is that I wanted to pull out all the stops.

I don't think that anyone is ever entirely original or entirely derivative. But, I wanted to pull out any stops that we had and really make a conscious choice to not let anything sit dormant and fall into the trap of being predictable. If we have a punk song, let's turn it on it's ear and give it a raggae middle 8. What?!! Where did that come from? If we have a killer riff, then let's start off with it, then leave you hanging for the rest of the song, until we end with the same riff. If we use piano, how do we make the piano still fill up some space while sounding as little like a piano as possible? If we use key strings, why not throw some delay and a phaser and some distortion on it to just throw it out of whack? We are just not content to make a regular pop album.

Also, we had decided we wanted to have little instrumental interludes to kind of break the album up a little bit and keep things interesting. So, I sat down and wrote 4 instrumentals, some of them shorter, one of them about 4 minutes long. Now, I will say this: don't take these instrumentals too seriously. I wrote really cool music, but chose not-the-greatest samples on purpose...we just want it to be totally different than the rest of the album. Now, don't get me wrong...the stuff sounds really cool, but if you expect it to be orchestral stuff, you'll be dissapointed because it sounds more like cool video game music (NO - not Super Mario World music!).

So, yesterday, we only had a couple more songs to do in order to finish up the tracking for the album. Adam had to finish up a few lead parts, and then we had to lay down the guitars for Tunnel Vision. Adam laid down the lead parts on Need and once again did great stuff. His solo on that song is one of my favorites that he's done. Then we moved onto Tunnel Vision. We decided that he would go ahead and lay down all the guitar parts...because he's a better player than me and I was being lazy playing Madden as he worked. So, he laid down the rhythm and the lead parts on that one. We had decided that the 8 bars before the bridge started should be some kind of solo. So, he started messing around with this riffy thing that played off the riff we had played coming out of the 2nd chorus. As he laid down that track, I suggested that he try to play the same riff up a 3rd. He did and he took this very pop/punk song and added this element of Steely Dan or some 70's pop group with dual lead sounds so freaking cool.

After that, we did the last guitar work for the album and we laid down our parts for Cry Tonight. This is the oldest song in the HPF canon - I wrote this originally in September of 2002, after my wife and my second date. It had sat dormant for over 3 years and I pulled it back out and rewrote some of the lyrics. It is definitely one of my favorites from the album, if not all the songs I've ever written. Anyway, I laid down my guitar parts (one track took 2 takes and the other I nailed in 1 take - that's right gangsta's, I am a P.I.M.P.!!!), then Adam worked his magic and laid down his parts. This song really sounds fantastic.

After that we broke for dinner and I tried to get some sleep to rest my voice up. However, my stupid dogs (I love them, don't get me wrong) woke me up several times. After the fourth time of being asleep for 5 minutes and being woken up by frantic barking, I decided to just give up and get up. I ate some pizza from the night before and messed around with some different ideas for wierd synth stuff on some songs.

Adam showed up and I laid down the vocals for Cry Tonight. It was kind of funny because I laid down the majority of the song in 1 or 2 takes, but this one line on the first verse took me like 15 takes...very frustrating. It was just this wierd note that for some reason I couldn't get to without my voice doing this wierd flat thing. Whatever. I finally muscled it out.

I went and drank some water and then a person I shall call Bobby showed up, and we decided as we listened to "Cry Tonight" that we should lay down some gang vocals. So, Bobby, Adam and I gathered around the mic and yelled out some "Whoa-uh-ohs!!!" for the chorus and intro of Somewhere. Then we laid down the intro yells on Rise. We then laid down the repeats on the chorus of Waiting. And to finish off we laid down the hook and bridge of Tunnel Vision. I have to say that gang vocals are fun. You just get to yell into a mic and there are no consequences.

So, that is how we ended our night. The tracking for the album is (pretty much) complete. Now I just got to lay down some vocals.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Movie Review: Borat

5 of 5 stars

I am a fan of comedies. I am a fan of laughing when I go to see a comedy. Though I don't watch shows like Punk'd or Jackass a lot, there is a part of me that loves to see a joke played on someone unsuspecting. For the most part Borat is one long practical joke on unsuspsecting America.

Before I go on, I should tell you that this has more objectionable elements than I have seen in a movie in a very long time. Some of the objectionable stuff is just for laughs. But most of it is useful in the entire point of the movie: to point out how (poorly most of the time) Americans deal with cultural differences. And the movie, as it makes this point, makes a point of making the viewer uncomfortable on so many levels. Most of the discomfort, however, is because you feel like you will throw up the bag of popcorn you ate during the 20 minutes of previews because your stomach is cramping from repeatedly laughing. I mean, after walking out at the end of the movie, I realized I was hoarse from laughing so hard.

The film begins with Borat in his supposed native country of Khazikstan (sp?). He introduces to a litany of characters from his hometown, including the woman he kisses passionately who ends up being his sister (the # 4 prostitute in all of Khazikstan - as she holds up a trophy as proof), his large, ugly wife, his retarded brother, his mother, his next door neighbor, the town rapist, and many, many more. Borat lets us know that he is off to America to make a documentary on America, so that Khazikstan can learn to be better.

Once in America, Borat gets on a Subway and proceeds to introduce himself in typical Khazikstani fashion...with a kiss to each cheek. Of course, New York City subway riders do not enjoy being kissed on the cheek, and when he accidentally releases his hen from his suitcase into the subway, people go nuts. Thankfully, for the movie's sake, he makes it off the subway alive.

Now, the previews do not let you know that there is a plot to the film...plot being used VERY loosely here. Basically, Borat stays up late watching tv and discovers Baywatch and he falls in love with C.J. (which we realize right away is Pamela Anderson - Borat, however, think C.J. is a real person). So, he talks his producer into traveling to California so he can marry C.J. So, they take a cross-country road trip that takes all the typical road trip trappings (meeting people they've never met, finding humor in these new friends, friends breaking up from each other, lots of drinking, etc.) and formfits them to Borat's interview style.

There are several scenes during the road trip that are very telling. There is a scene with a group of high society Georgians that is probably the funniest scene in the movie (and one of the longer scenes - you will be in pain) - it is pure genius. How Sacha Baron Cohen was able to keep a straight face and stay in character during all of this, I really don't know...he really is a fantastic actor. In fact, I recently read an article online where the writer made a case that Cohen should be nominated for Best Actor for this performance and for Best Supporting Actor for Ricky Bobby at this years Oscars. We, of course, know that this will not happen, but I have a feeling that Borat (Cohen) will definitely campaign.

This is a hilarious movie. However, if you don't "get" the sense of humor, then you won't get the movie. The movie is not for everyone, I will admit. There is a scene with 2 naked men fighting, and one of them is extremely fat. While humorous, it is obviously offensive. So, watch with care. If you are easily offended this movie is not for you.

But if you can get past the objectionable elements, you will find yourself enchanted by one of the funniest yet convicting films in a long times.