If I’m Recording, I’m Not Writing

Me! - Photo by Matthew Swan

Photo by Matthew Swan

That sounds so massively bloody obvious as to not really be worth saying, doesn’t it, but I mean it in a more specific way than just not being able to do two things at the same time. ¬†You may not notice it around the Toad Sessions, because they are relatively brief, but I would imagine that it’s more evident around the Split 12″ recording sessions, and has become incredibly clear in the last week since we started recording The Organ Grinder’s Monkey: when I am working on a recording project, I simply cannot write. Not at all, not even in the evening once the dust has settled.

It’s about focus, really. I think of blogging as being quite top-of-the-head stuff – you write about what is most in your mind at the time, rather than systematically addressing specific issues as a journalist might. I know everyone is different, but that is generally how I approach things. It keeps me interested, ensuring I am always writing about something I am enthusiastic about at the time. I also hope it helps keep a sense of energy about the site; more so than if I was just writing about the new Nick Cave album simply because it had just been released and I felt some self-imposed obligation to write a timely review.

I am not a great multi-tasker though, and you have to be pretty damn focussed when you’re recording. Even though most of the stuff I do is live, and once the mics and levels are set up at the start I am pretty much just sitting there watching a band play, it still seems to demand an awful lot of concentration. As a relative beginner I think I probably concentrate harder than most at the moment as well, simply out of a fear of making an unrecoverable fuck up.

Even once you’ve finished recording, all you really want to do is listen back, start mixing, and start putting songs together to see what goes well. You’re basically putting the album together in your head – jumping many, many steps ahead to fantasise about how incredibly awesome the finished product is going to be. I can try as much as I like to pull the focus back to the blog, relax, listen to some new music and write about it, but I simply find it impossible.

If I were to put anything on this blog during recording then it would almost certainly end up being a preliminary mix from one of the songs we’d just done, because I would be so excited about them, and that would be a terrible idea. An unfinished version of an as yet unreleased song – the band would fucking kill me! I know you’re supposed to play it cool, but really, after a recording session all I want to do is listen to the songs again and again and marvel at the fact that we can make awesome, proper-sounding music in my living room. And then listen to it again because it’s awesome. And again.

Also, when recording there tends to be drinking, and then a very sociable post-recording wind-down with the band. When you’re not technically all that proficient, as I am not, the best way to get a fucking great recording is for the band to produce a fucking great performance, and that tends to be best achieved by them feeling relaxed and enjoying themselves. Perfect mic placement can’t make up for a band playing in an uncomfortable, constipated way because they don’t feel relaxed, so we try and make people as comfortable and at home as possible, and generally I think this works really well for us. It does mean, however, that once the session is over I am NOT going upstairs to diligently plough through my inbox looking for new bands to listen to, I am going to sit around the table with the band, have dinner, drink wine, and cackle excitedly about the work we’ve just done.

We’re now eleven songs into the Organ Grinder’s Monkey recording, after three out of five planned recording sessions. I don’t mean to sound like a giddy cheerleader, but I am really, really excited by what we’ve got so far. There’s something great about recording things mostly live. It feels more fun, and musicians tend to be less paranoid about mistakes. Fans just don’t notice most mistakes like musicians do, but when you’re recording the whole song live, the band tend to think ‘Was that a good take? Yes, right then, that’ll be the one, then.’ If they were recording each part individually I think there would be way more re-takes for tiny errors, whereas like this if the overall thing sounded good, then a couple of minor errors are really no big deal, and I think that’s a great attitude to take, as it also seems to make the general playing looser and more relaxed, leading to fewer mistakes overall anyway.

Either way, this is why you’ve not heard much from me this week. Not because I’m getting lazy and couldn’t be arsed posting, and not even because I am doing enough work during the day anyway and don’t feel obliged to post. Instead, it’s because when I’m doing something as involved and demanding as this, I genuinely can’t pull my head out of it long enough to sit and properly absorb something new, it’s just impossible to break the hold a recording project has on your thoughts enough to do it.

Still, never mind, it will be finished soon. And in the meantime here are some absolutely excellent photos Matthew Swan took during the recording on the weekend. Doesn’t Sam look all moody lighting his cigarette. Shexshy!

Photo by Matthew Swan

Neil Pennycook – Photo by Matthew Swan

Rob St. John - Photo by Matthew Swan

Rob St. John – Photo by Matthew Swan

Sam Mallalieu - Photo by Matthew Swan

Sam Mallalieu – Photo by Matthew Swan