Monday, October 1, 2012

Knocking the Windowpane

If pride cometh before the fall, you can expect my next drop to shatter my skull (again).  The Residuals will soon celebrate our album, Knocking the Windowpane, at our CD release party.  The event is at the Woods Ale House, October 6th, (2012), at 9:00 PM.  There will be a concert, CD signing, and a free Paddockwood beverage for your $5 entrance free. 

So how am I feeling?  A year ago this album was just a frightening concept for my ego and pocketbook.  Now I don't care if we ever sell another copy.  Listening to the culmination of all that effort in my car, seeing Kara tap her feet in the back seat is reward enough. 

And what an experience!  When we entered PulsWorks studio in December of last year, we were worried.  Some of us were terrified.  We were rehearsed and prepared, but as we sat before the microphones in the centre of the room, we were tense.  Were we making the right decision in our choice of studio?  The standard amount one can expect to pay to record an album is $10,000, but we were budgeted for half that amount.  Would our miserliness ruin our work?  Would we mess up and cause a fiasco?  Were we good enough to record an album?   

Indeed, nothing seemed to go right those first hours.  As we struggled through Patsy Geary's Jig and Miss McLeod's Reel, fingers fumbled, trembling hands strummed uncertain chords and tempers rose.  Ted's pipes squawked in the dropping humidity.  (We preserved a relic of our frustration at the beginning of the Patsy Geary Set track: Ted's drones fail to deploy and he growls, "Oh, you son of a gun.")
At the end of that day, we decided to try one last track.  It was Rick's song, The Blue Diamond Mines, a Jean Ritchie ballad about working coal mines.  For four brief minutes, everything went right.  We had a near-perfect one-take wonder instrumental track.  "It's a good thing we did that," said Rob, "Because if we hadn't, there wouldn't be a second day of recording." 

Over the next months, we got better at recording.  We relaxed.  We started to have fun.  And we also ripped through tracks with confidence and the good musicianship I've come to expect from my band. 

Soon, our instrumental tracks were recorded.  We left the big room we chose for its acoustics and entered a tiny padded room.  That was a fun day!  It's cliche, but we all experienced shock at hearing our voices in high fidelity (do I really sound like that?)  We recovered quickly and completed all of our songs in record time!  (notice the hilarious double-meaning there?) 

Next came editing.  Rob and I joined our engineer, Brady, in the studio to turn our work from kinda good into perfect.  It's amazing what a good sound engineer can do.  It's not just adding echoes.  The three of us surfed all of our music for not just the best takes, but the best sections of each take.  Seemlessly, Brady cut the rotten bits out, substituted good bits, and subtly blended the result so it didn't sound dumb.  His wonderful gadgets and gizmos were also able to easily change the duration of sung lyrics so that we sounded way tighter than we actually are. 

Perhaps some ultra-traditionalists are pumping their shillelaghs in the air in fury exclaiming, "Editing?  Why would ye want ta do dat terrible t'ing?"  It's worth noting that all the editing we did used pure "us", just the best of us.  No pitch correction tools were used.  Each track was recorded with all instruments in the same room, playing at the same time.  Also, no animals were harmed.  Also, go to hell you stereotypical conservative Irish straw-men! 

Rob recorded his tracks from prison
Then, one summer day, the recording and editing was finished.  I remember it because it was the day before my birthday.  Also, I fell down my front steps at home from exhaustion as the tension left my body.  As I was lying on cement at the bottom of my deck unable to move from fatigue, relief, and also pain from my twisted ankle, it became apparent that I was carrying a burden of stress from this project. 

At the time, I thought the stress was over, but there was more fun in my future.  There was the manufacture to arrange and make sure it would be in Saskatoon by FolkFest.  There was the booklet to design.  And also licensing.  Ohhh, the licensing.  Take it from me, if you're going to record an album, make sure you either write your own songs or borrow from the public domain.  8 cents per song per album may not seem like a lot of money to pay in licensing fees, but you pay tenfold in time-wasting as you fill out forms and hunt for composers on the internet.
Regardless of troubles, our baby is here.  I can be critical and severe, particularly regarding music, PARTICULARLY my own music, but I actually like our album!  My peeps tried their damndest and they succeeded in producing one hour of pleasing music.  What's it like?  Think Great Big Sea minus the drum kit and minus the cheesy songs designed to get them laid.  Or maybe imagine what the Dubliners could have done if they drank less. 

Knocking the Windowpane truly redefines Irish traditional music.  Nay!  Music itself!  Junk your other CDs, dismantle the recording industry, disband the Metropolitan Opera, send Bob Dylan to the gibbet, throw the Black Eyed Peas to the wall, dig up the corpses of the great composers and burn them.  You won't need 'em after you buy Knocking the Windowpane.  Am I over-selling this? Perhaps.  But I still think the Black Eyed Peas should be executed.
As the result of our hard rehearsing, our act is better.  We've doubled and trebled the number of gigs we've been playing.  However, for the Residuals, our big project is over and now we have time for some rest.  Rest, in this instance, means learning new material, enjoying alcoholic beverages in moderation and generally not worrying about stuff.  It feels good.