Making Records is a Tiring Business, Even When You’re Not Doing Anything

[The picture above is of a vintage Electro Voice Cardiline 642 shotgun microphone pointing at a Danelectro Honeytone.  Don’t ask, I have no fucking idea either.]

For the last week or so we have been making an album in Toad Hall. I told you more about the band we are definitely NOT calling the Wolf Crystal Ghost Toads last week, so I won’t go into that again, but I figured I would chat about it some more, just because it has been a rather fun process.

It’s a very tiring thing, making a record.  I wasn’t even particularly involved, but the overspill still ended up getting to me a bit.  Well that and the gig on Friday.  And the drinking.  Lots and lots of drinking.

I actually wanted to be a lot more involved in the recording process for this one, as opposed to Cold Seeds, for which I was very much just an encouraging observer. When it came down to it, however, there were quite enough people in our living room most of the time as it was, and I had a lot of PR work to do for Yusuf Azak’s new album, so it just wasn’t feasible for me to get stuck in as I had wanted.

It’s intense and satisfying work, making an album.  It’s amazing how quickly things come together as well, in that it only takes a couple of tracks to be laid down before something really starts to sound like a song. Solo guitar plus vocals often sounds like just a demo, particularly without any treatment, but in our case acoustic guitar, electric guitar, accordion and vocals were often laid down together which means that, assuming the take was right, you have something which sounds remarkably like a real song within minutes.

It still amazes me how magical a feeling that is, to end up with something recorded, however simply, and will a little bit of adjustment of the levels, a little EQing and so on, you suddenly get something which sounds like the real thing. As more musicians came and went and had a little tinker over the course of the week those simple beginnings began to morph into rich and complex songs, too, which is also rather exciting to witness.

Apart from organising Friday’s gig, however, as well as some assistance with exporting and backing up the audio files, my involvement was, as I said, pretty minimal this time around.  Mrs. Toad and I try and treat bands as well as we can manage though, so we laid in plenty of beer, and on most days we tried to make sure everyone had a nice meal, culminating in a rather red-wine sodden Sunday gammon roast and a nasty hangover yesterday.

These meals are fun, of course, because the people we work with on the label tend to be our pals, but also because it’s funny to watch the bands let off steam a little.  They’ve been shut in a dark room all day, and even when they’re not playing themselves they tend to be concentrating, not least when recording an oft-improvised album like this one, where what other people play will have a significant impact on what they then have to do.

So we’ve had some raucous piss-ups in the last few days, coupled with the inevitable DJ one-upmanship you get when a bunch of music nerds get pissed together with a stereo nearby. You end up hearing all sorts of demos no-one else has heard, weird bits and pieces from the past, and strange bands from today that no-one has heard of at all.  And then you groggily drag yourself out of bed in the (late) morning and start again.

So no wonder I’m feeling knackered.  Just keeping bands happy is tiring work, never mind actually making records.