Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Light and Shade

Just got back from seeing "It Might Get Loud", a documentary about the electric guitar as seen through the eyes of three artists from three different generations - Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White.

Jimmy Page, of course, is the founder and leader of Led Zeppelin. If you don't know who they are and want to find out, I envy you. Every track on every record was a revelation to me in my formative yerars and they continue to inspire me to this day. The Edge was born Dave Evans, and is a member of U2, who everybody probably does know about. Jack White is the leader of the guitar/drums duo "The White Stripes" and has several side projects including the excellent band "The Raconteurs".

The film explores the different paths that each man took with the guitar in his hand, and how the relatively purist view sits White's style, the modern effect-laden tack that Edge prefers defines the sound of U2 and that Jimmy Page is simply the finest guitarist/musician of his era and can walk comfortably in both camps.

Lots of cool conversations, flashback history lessons and verbal and musical jamming ensue. Page at one point states that great music comes from musicians who are passionate, honest and competent. So true.

I was a little surprised to find that I liked all three guys more after the movie, especially since Page is already my very favorite guitar player of all time. His quiet manner, humble interaction and the joyous look on his face as he played the vinyl 45 record of Link Wray's "Rumble" - when 50 years fell off his face and you saw the young Page grooving to the beat of that classic instrumental - was fantastic. The Edge admits that what he does is technically simple once the machines are turned off, but he has those machines tuned like a fine sports car and in his hands they become, as he claims "my voice". Brilliant. White has used his tough early years to embrace deep, gut-bucket Blues which he "disguises" as White Stripes, when "all we're trying to do is play like Son House".

Go see this movie.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hail to the Thief

Just in case you're in Edmonton, Canada anytime soon, if you see somebody wearing a green Columbia fleece jacket, ask them if they still have my wallet, credit cards, driver's license, social security card and $200 cash American and $85 Canadian. Also my cell phone and reading glasses.

Ask them if they stole it out of the backstage crew room.

Then tell them they suck.

UPDATE: Got the phone and reading glasses back. How thoughtful.

UPDATE II: Bank of America, after promising to expedite a new debit card to me, failed to do so and I will be closing my accounts with them upon my return. Pathetic.

Monday, September 21, 2009

All Kinds Of Pain

Tim Carroll's latest effort, "All Kinds of Pain" is now available on Gulcher Records. Tim recorded this record on a Roland VS-1680, and transferred those files to my Cubase rig and we produced, edited and mixed the album jointly.

I really like this record. It's a testament to the talent of Tim and to the inspiration that a convenient recording method can give to an already prolific song writer. Some of these tunes had completely different lyrics, titles and messages....and on "Drive All Night" two different versions are combined and presented at the same time. Try listening to either/or lead vocal...the songs work with either half the lyrics...Tim picks one or the other at live gigs.

Check it out. It's my third mixing/production effort after Gina Butler's "Simple Little Kiss" and Donna Beasley's "Good Samaritan".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When The Tracking Gets Weird, The Weird Turn to Pro Tools

Spent the day working on the album. The fine folks at M-Audio were able to ship me a Transit USB interface for Pro Tools and I can finally get cracking on my editing. The Transit is a small, credit card sized device that gives you an optical in and an analog out. Not really for recording, but great for editing on a laptop: small, light weight and bus-powered.

For those of you new to Pro Tools, I highly recommend the Thomson Course Technology books: Editing Audio in Pro Tools Skill Pack, Mixing in Pro Tools Skill Pack and Working With Beats in Pro Tools Skill Pack. All come with session files to teach you how to edit, mix and work with loops and Beat Detective. I have read through the mix and edit books, and now use them as reference guides for specific techniques. The Beats book is new to me, but looks like a great guide to rhythm/drum specific editing and mixing. I brought the first two on this run and bought the third a few days ago...very handy and well thought out.

Vancouver Sunset

Looking out my bedroom window as I wait for room service to bring dinner.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Something in the Air

The Tacoma Dome. Big, round, echo-y. And now with extra channels!

Wireless microphones and wireless guitar packs have been around for a while now. Not only do they remove cable clutter from the stage, they allow you to get closer to the audience and put on a more energetic show. That's the upside.

The downside is that in some venues in some cities, the wireless rigs fight for airspace with TV, radio and other radio-based communication systems. We scan for open frequencies and can adjust our particular units to use less-traveled paths through the air, and it usually works out.

Last night we ran into an issue that puzzled all of us. Simple plugging into the rack where the wireless units live put a loud, clear radio station through our guitar amps. Even if the rack was removed from power...unplugged...it still acted as a big antennae. The more gain - and less filtering - that an amp had, the worse the problem. The boss has a power conditioned and isolated rig, so he was fine. The bass rig was pretty clean but all three guitarists had issues. We tried every thing we could think of and ended up going with cables for our electrics instead of wireless. The acoustic instruments - being low gain - did not seem to be affected.

"Going to a cable" is the default first solution when the guitar rig fails...it's so often the culprit that making it the first fix makes sense. So, we always have cables ready at hand in case of emergencies. Last night we started out with them and the consensus was it sounded bigger and better and was more responsive. Which makes sense, since amps are designed to see a certain impedance at the input and wireless units don't necessarily match up. They also compress the signal a bit, removing some of the subtleties of the player's touch. It's a trade-off, for sure, and the entertainment factor benefits outweigh the sonic loss. But it is fun to get a reality check time and again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

North by Northwest

Like Lewis and Clark...or Martin and Lewis, at times... we roll this thing out to the upper left hand corner section of the map. Last night was Salt Lake City where the crowd was grinning from start to finish. Little Big Town opened and they were excellent as usual...a throwback to a day when you had to sing in tune and play in time before you were put into arenas. Definitely Old School.

We're on a 12-hour bus ride through beautiful Oregon at the moment...just stopped for fuel at a truck stop 200 miles out of Portland. I haven't been up this early (7:30) on the road in a long time. I used to be the first guy up, made the coffee and waited for the rest of the crew to rouse. Now I stay up late and sleep in 'til 10:00. Getting older, I guess. Ibuprofen tablets are a daily supplement to me.

I forgot to pack any of my several Pro Tools interfaces, so I had to order another one to be drop-shipped to the gig in Spokane on Monday. Which means I'll have some free time to explore Portland today, once we get there in another hour or so.