“Lets go somewhere that makes us sound radio ready”
My experience with recording up until June 2018 had been in either my bedroom or someone else’s. It was all just pungent teenage funk mixed in with some kind of guitar track that didn’t sound enough like John Mayer to validate that level of perspiration. Summer seemed to be turned up to eleven every time I decided to put my lips to a microphone and it was only the naivety and pure love of music that pulled us through. Despite the struggle with terribly cheap recording equipment, lack of air conditioning and general understanding of the art of creating a record, those recordings that my friends and I made still have a special place in my heart. However, the first time I went to a ‘proper’ recording studio changed something within me. It wasn’t just because of the air-conditioning either, although that was a nice touch.
Early in the year of 2018, I began rehearsing some songs with a few friends for a university project. The project was a success, we decided that we sounded great, gave ourselves a name and tried to book some gigs. Over the next few months we played at a few local venues, supported a bunch of forgotten touring bands and managed to put enough of our earnings away to cut a single. This was our chance. In an overwhelming fog of excitement and confusion we booked a session at a local studio. Two days. Day one, drums. Day two, everything else. We were ecstatic.
The day arrived. We all got up early, had coffees and found our way to the studio. Even though it was the first month of winter, as soon as we walked into the foyer the air-conditioning (set to antarctic mode) hit me square in the face. But then, the studio. After dumping our gear, we proceeded to walk into the control room (which to this day is one of my all time favourite places to be). Just the sheer majesty of the desk and the towering ‘empire state’ like speakers, not to mention the plethora of outboard gear. Hundreds if not thousands of knobs and buttons all designed to manipulate and colour the frequencies emitted from our instruments. I had instant affinity with the place and the clouds in my mind seemed to part a little. I felt like I was meant to be here.
My stomach conveniently juxtaposed my minds awe of the place with cold ‘arctic setting’ terror. I was nervous as hell. The opportunity we had been presented felt like it could make us big. The next number one record. It could be the song that gets picked up by a Triple J presenter or some plain clothed officer from Sony music. We had paid a bunch of money for the two days and the pressure was on to get everything done, all our bets were on black.
The tracking began and we punched through drums and even got some bass done on the first day. We finished up exhausted, mentally, physically and spiritually. I hadn’t even picked up a guitar. Just the fact that we might have listened to upwards of fifty passes of the song was a feat for me. And again there wasn’t even any guitar or vocals yet. A new respect was found for those that sit in the producer chair, to have that ability to concentrate and be patient for extended hours requires some kind of monk-like meditative state. That control room is like a sensory deprivation tank too, designed so you only are focused on what’s coming out of those speakers. Everything else is numbed by the sub zero inside temperature. Pure, I thought.
The second day seemed to flow a little more, I guess we knew what we were in for. More bass, guitar, keys, percussion and vocals all were laid down and analysed under the microscope. But it did come together in the end.
The tune wasn’t a number one, nor did it get picked up by any executives. We still played the same venues for a while longer. We did many more records but I learned that expectations are good but only if you manage them correctly. I also learned to love the process. That soporific state somewhere between delirium and euphoria is a realm I crave to be in. Sitting in that control room and sculpting a castle made of sand, staying up to ridiculous hours to decide that the Neumann microphone was always the best choice on that vocal.
Go do it yourself. Love the process and the outcome. Work hard. Make your number one record and you never know, someone might just put it on the radio.
Written by Cormac Grant