Shimura Curves

Monday, November 28, 2005

Recording - Day 1

OK, so I was really nervous as I made my way up to Borough for the first proper Shimuras recording session. It's been years since I've recorded in someone else's studio, and the last time (When J3$$3 absconded with my masters, just as I was trying to sign a record deal) really was the last straw which made me get my own studio.

Not to mention that I'm quite shy and nervous of meeting new people, even at the best of occasions, and the rest of the band had bailed on the backing music part of the recording process. (No doubt put off my descriptions of music nerds arguing about whether cymbals should go "ting" or "tang".) But within ten minutes of meeting Terry, I was completely at ease. We just started talking about music, and were soon deep in discussion of how much we loved Dreampop and hated Ladyfest.

He and his boyfriend, David, live in this gorgeous warehouse loft apartment with 360 degree views of South London and a recording studio built into the spare bedroom. We drank loads of coffee and bounced around discussing our various gear fetishes (casiotone keyboards and Vox guitars littering the floor). I played him some demos and he was amazingly encouraging. It's just so great to work with someone who not just *gets it* but also gets enthusiastic about music. Being In The Studio is work, it's art and it's serious, but at the same time, it's getting excited and jumping up and down and dancing about and making funny noises. If your music doesn't make the person who writes and records it do that, how is it going to make anyone else?

There were lots of technical snafus - I kept having to reburn CDs because I'd downloaded the wrong AIF files, while Terry sat with the manual on his lap trying to figure out his new mixing desk, and both of us swearing copiously at machines. Finally we figured it out, and got everything working. I got out my guitar (cue much "ooh, aah, Jazzmaster" cooing) and we laid down the backing tracks.

I like working with Terry - he understands my terminology. I don't understand all the technical "give it more mid-range" stuff, but prefer to say things like "make the drums more... squishy! Make the drones more like cut glass stabbing you in the ears!" Though we were both very, very professional, even cutting out bits of tape to stick along the mixing desk to remind us where all the instruments were. (Even if I occasionally gave them silly names like "slurp" or "bakewell tart". It's all about food for me.) Put on more guitars than was probably wise, but ooh, how can you resist when you get the MBV swoops going on the tremolo arm?

The only problem is, we kept running out of tracks. Honestly - how did I ever make do with a 4-track (and Terry an 8-track) for so long? We were getting to the point where we had filled up all 16 tracks, and still had to find space for the vocals. Cue lots of last-minute mixing stereo to mono and mixing string quartets all to one channel. By the end of 10 hours, I'd completely lost focus and was lying on the floor clutching my ears, but still, Terry mixed on, even the professional, and even burned me rough mixes to take home and listen to.


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