Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Wrap up

Hey all,

Seeing as my time in the studio is over I thought I'd give you some thoughts as to the album, our buddies at Sound and Motion studios and working with Gordon Raphael.

Shark - what to expect:

I think a lot of people are going to be quite surprised with the songs we've put together on the album. Hopefully pleasantly so :) If I look at the development of the band, this past year has been the first time we've really felt fully settled in terms of the lineup. We started off as a four piece back in '07 then Giles our guitarist moved to the UK then we were a three piece and had to adapt to that. After getting Arjuna we were pretty much straight into the studio without too much time to write with him. I'm not trying to say that our self-titled EP and "Kiss The Plastics" have bad songs in. In fact we're really proud of them. But this past year we've been really focusing on writing as a four piece and trying to deliver something that's varied and still sounds like us. We feel we also have a better understanding composition-wise on how to write this type of music as, remember, we're from a very punk-based background.

So the cd is almost like a summary of what we've been through in the past year and we've had a lot of time to refine most of our material. Expect the usual dancy type songs, some mellow ones but whatever "categories" you may feel they fall in, we've done our best to make it really melodic and memorable and included some cool rhythmic stuff and more tricky playing to satisfy the muso's :)

Working at Sound and Motion

Our relationship with S&M goes back to the middle of 2008 when we recorded two songs for Kiss The Plastics (Dirty Dancing and Tiny Islands) and we couldn't have asked to work with more knowledgable and chilled out dudes. They've been awesome to us and we've learned a lot from them. I haven't been to many studios in the country but it certainly is rated as one of the top ones in the country gear wise and they've all been in the industry for many years, working with some top artists, garnering a clutch of awards in the process. We're also lucky in the way they believe in our music and Matt and Fuzzy have given us a constant pool of advice to draw on, something really important to us as we're not the most experienced studio band yet.

In terms of tracking they're definitely flexible as they were completely open to our request to track most of the songs live as opposed to laying down each part separately and pulled it off exactly in the manner we wanted. Their live room is one of the best things about the studio as the acoustics are perfect for tracking live. If any bands are reading this, I would definitely recommend checking it out as an option for your next album.

Many thanks to Fuzzy, Matt, Carel, Jenna, Gavin and Tyrone for being so chilled to us and making such a comfortable environment for us to get creative. You've been a big part of our album. We look forward to working with you in the future!

Working with Gordon Raphael

Before "Shark", none of us had worked with a producer before so we went into the process with only vague ideas as to how much one can add to an album. All we knew is that we wanted one to help us with the songs and getting the right sound. So we were really fortunate to get Gordon done all the way from Berlin to work with us.

You would think that working with such a big name would make one nervous and in awe of him, but Gordon's such a chilled and friendly joke-a-minute guy that any feelings anyone would have like this are totally disarmed. It's important for any musician in the studio to feel comfortable and 100% confident in what you play and Gordon's done his job in that way by giving advice and encouragement to each player when they need it.

He's not one of those ego maniacs you often hear about in the music world so always takes aboard any suggestions we might have to get the right sound. As he's been around the music world for a while, he knows many techniques to make whatever sound is in your or his head a reality. He's always saying "That's easy, it's only 2 buttons" and it really is like that. He's got a simple approach in recording - he wasn't worried about microphone bleed when we set up all our amps in the same room (what this means is that the mic on the guitar amp for instance picks up other sounds in the room like drum kit and bass) and this is definitely an old school mentality) and he has loads of unconventional ideas that goes into making everything you hear sound unique and in the right place. For instance we put a microphone in the hallway to get a natural reverb when recording a guitar lead and this sounded really cool. It's all about the final result and if you have to use unconventional means to get that final result, then experiment and do it.

We hope we can work together with him some time soon.

So there it is

It's been fun sharing our studio experience with you. Still a bit of work to be done with vocals, mixing and mastering but that's not really my bag. We're all really proud of the progress of it. It's been hard work but having the cd's in our hands will make it all worth it.

See you at a show sometime soon!

Karl and The Plastics

Final two days of my stint

Hey all!

Friday 22 Jan '10

On Friday I got in a little late after getting a long overdue hair chop. Summer can be quite harsh on long haired peeps and it's good to feel the wind blowing against my neck again! These past few days I've been more of an observer as my parts are officially done so been listening to Scal sing the songs. Big ups to S&M for managing to sort out the sound card issues so swiftly! It was really unfortunate that a day was lost as technical problems really can occur at any time, especially at a studio as they always have complicated setups that I don't fully understand! But Fuzzy and the guys managed to organise a soundcard within one day so we were back on track, full steam ahead! Scal sang on "Caroline" first, one of the more ballady songs on the album. And a really good performance he put in! The lyrics ring out in such a personal way that it's hard to ignore and everyone will hopefully be able to relate to this with their own personal Caroline character. It also features probably my favourite bass line on the album, the one I had the most fun writing as there's a lot of space for me to play the melodic part of the instruments in the song, something I sought inspiration from Paul McCartney's playing with the Beatles for.

Scal also sang on "By Hook or by crook" which is one of my faves on the album. Such a cool vibe of a song and it's packed with hooks and again cool lyrics. That one didn't take too much time to track vocally so by the end it was six vocals down, six to go!

Gordon and Matt also did some mixing on a couple of songs. They've taken the approach of mixing as we go so it was mostly down to some tweaks, making sure all the parts were at fairly consistent volume, EQ'ing (equalising) some of the instruments that sounded a little too bassy or trebly, etc. That way Scal only has to sing two songs a day which helps save his voice to give his best performances.

We also got to spend time with Miles Keylock, a legendary journalist in the South African music scene just chatting about the upcoming album so there should be a couple of articles on us in the press within a couple of months.

Saturday 23 January '10

On Saturday there were a couple of hungover Plastics after my birthday vibe the previous night. But this day was all about recording strings for "Jukebox." Juki took an active role in directing them as he had composed the arrangements. I scored it but we found out there were a few issues, me being a relative newbie at it, so spent a few minutes trying to resolve those. Was beautiful listening and watching the violins, viola and cello playing in harmony on the song and it adds something different to the song which is at times thickly layered and dense sounding. Many thanks to Sarah-Jane, Nadine, Azra and Leana for agreeing to play on our album. You girls rock!

That night we played another Zula show and it was rocking! We were joined by McGuyver Knife, the 357's and the Curious Incident, bands with a lot of potential and definitely worth checking out. Gordon also played a dj set as well, spinning some really cool 80's dance music which helped set the mood between bands.

So my time in studio comes to an end. I'm gonna write a wrap-up shortly just about my thoughts about the album, Sound and Motion studios as well as working with G-Raph so check it out laters!

Till next time...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Penultimate day of tracking - What a fuck up!

Hey Saul,

Today was by far the most unproductive day cos we didn't manage to get anything done! The studio had a problem with the soundcard and it kept cutting out so we decided to call it a day and work later next week.

Ok we did manage to track a rhythm double in "Look out" but decided not to use it as we're going for a live vibe where you can only hear 2 guitars, bass, drums and vocals in the song. So trashed that idea. And Gordon managed to do a bit of mixing on the song.

Juki and my task for the day was to score... not in that way, sheesh! It's my job to notate the string section into musical score and Juki wanted to help me with all the technical parts in the programme he used called Reason which I've never used before. But that also ran into problems as the audio tracks we got from Sound and Motion weren't showing up on the cd we got given and Juki installed a different Cubase version to be compatible with the sessions he's doing for Boombox Troopers, recording Graeme Danger's vocals as he's going to be producing their debut EP. Aaaargh! Back to S&M it was and they let us use their upstairs mini studio SML. Managed to get everything finished in parts in score editor. Now it's just down to me to put everything together and hope it's right for the string players. Eek!

Thankfully the sound card issue has been sorted out so we can go back and continue work on what is my last day in the studio. We've got some cool interviews lined up as well which should be fun! Scal's probably gonna do 2 vocals as that's kinda the limit in terms of him giving cd-worthy performances without killing himself doing it! If you don't believe me, put on your favourite song and sing the whole way through with all the gusto you have, then do it again at least twice. Then it's the little fix ups that generally need to be done. It's a tough task, being a singer!

Hopefully better things to talk about tomorrow!

Till then, time to get stuck into finishing these string parts!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day Nine - Clappidy clap clap and some more vox tracking

In the words of Arjuna Jacob Cyril Burn-and-Turn Born-Lucky Kohlstock, wasabi everyone!

If you've been following my daily blogs you'll know we're quite far into the process. I think we've all agreed that everything except the vocals and strings (for one song) are complete so it's down to the Scal's voice to tie everything together. We did a half day today with Matt "back of the bus" James so we could use half of Saturday to record a string quartet that so kindly agreed to play on "Jukebox" for us and I think this suited Scal just fine as he says he's generally better at singing later in the day as he's been talking during the day and thus warming up his voice.

First up though was recording some hand claps on the choruses of "Save". I thought of a really simple patterns basically following the snare and so the four of us did two takes grooving and clapping to the song. We'd never done something like this before and it's surprising how red and sore your hands get after clapping for 10 minutes!

That minor extra out of the way it was vocal time for "Those Three Words" which is a song we've been playing live for almost a year now and I never get tired of it. The vocals have changed a bit since we recorded prepro on it about 6 months ago and the melodies sound nice and varied. I remember when we initially wrote it Scal was into giving it a more shouty delivery which sounded cool but he's settled on a more relaxed yet energetic performance which he always does so well. He did three takes of it, using the 3rd one which had a bit more of an energetic urgent vibe, plus a few fix ups where Gordon felt he didn't quite nail the notes in a couple of the more difficult parts where he leaps to a higher note. We're into the more distorted vocal sounds but this one called for a more clean sound with a bit of compression.

Next Scal did the singing for "Unusable Block" (might have to figure out the proper title for this soon, but hey might just keep it!). Gordon set up a similar mic sound to "Look out" - a more distorted and compressed sound where Scal could belt out certain parts a bit more. Scal knocked it off in two takes, using the second one if I remember then the usual minor fixups where a word wasn't 100% clear. I feel for him cos he had to sing in the second part of Juki's giant wall of sound evil guitar solo at the high volume required to track a vocal part so I think it left him a bit dazed! Warning: do not listen to that part through headphones at full volume! You'll see what I mean :)

We've been looking through this book Sash brought into studio of the best album covers throughout the history of rock 'n roll so we've started getting some vague ideas as to art direction, etc. Won't reveal any of that to you, let's rather keep that as a surprise :)

Short and sweet day hey! Four of the tracks have now been completed as far as vocals go so we've got eight more to go. Only two days left as well so it's going to be tough for Scal but he's a soldier and doesn't require that many takes so we'll get it done in time. Juki and I also need to do the score for the string arrangements, in other words work out what we wrote and write it out into musical notation for the musicians, so we also have some homework to do.

Don't forget, Saturday night 23 Jan '10 we'll be jamming at Zula. We'll be celebrating the end of the production part of our album so come party with us! Then it's onto the mixing and mastering experts so hang tight!

Love to all!
Karl and the boys

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day um eight I think... losing count - The vocals begin...

Hey all,

Just a quick one cos just got back from dinner with all the guys and Paul and Ingrid Righini, who were kind enough to take us out. Thanks you two, you rock as always! Heading out to a 21st now now so here goes:

Started the day by doing rough mixes on the last three tracks from our first session back in Sept/Oct for "Born in a Restaurant", "Those Three Words" and "Goodbye Hawaii". I realised my bass sound on "Born" was totally bogus so retracked it and luckily I managed to get it first take with one note fix up. Recording through an amp as opposed to D.I. is about 1000000 times better in terms of getting the bottom end and feel in the track so comfort = a good take! They're all sounding really cool and it was good to here the recordings after tracking them so long ago! Now it's down to Gordo to put his little stamp on them with some mixing magic, as well as the vocals which still need to be recorded.

Much of the morning and early afternoon was spent on "Save" with Gordon recording a lot of synths. He's a banging synth player! He used a lot of digital synths from his laptop and played them in on one of the studios small 2 octave (I think) synths. The song is sounding huge and probably one of the front runners for an early single. Scal then tracked the vocals including the synth hook. One of Gordon's strengths is vocals - getting really cool sounds through (sometimes) unconventional ways as well as working on making everything the vocalist sings sound 100% clear so you can make out every word. And wow, the vocals are sounding amazing! Gordo soundbite of the day #1 - after Scal did a take he asked Gordo how it sounded and he was like "I think it kicks shit... and that's a good thing!"

We also managed to squeeze in the vocal for "Look out" which is probably my favourite of Scal's singing on the album. Lyric-wise as well as delivery it's a thing of beauty and he put in an awesome performance, nailing it in 2 takes. Again, Gordon made sure the articulation was 100% there (soundbite #2 - "Wow that sounds like the English Language now" and #3 after Scal used some slang in the lyrics (I think South Africa specific) - It's not the normal use of the language but it's what he said") as well as making sure the whole vocal was the same volume the whole way through. Sometimes Scal moves a bit while he's singing cos he gets into it so the distance between him and the mic changes so he goes a tiiiiny bit softer and louder. So Gordo also worked on that. The way he recorded the vocals was set up two mics in front of Scal, one going straight into the pre-amp with a touch of warmth and distortion and the other mic coming out of Juki's Marshall guitar amp to give a more overdriven sound. The blend of the two, wow! All I can say.

So vocals will be the focus of the rest of the sessions methinks and will be cool to here them tie each song together. Jem took some pictures today but didn't manage to get them from him so will have to put em up 2moz.

Till then...


Monday, January 18, 2010

Day Six - Last of the bass, overdubs, production and acoustic guitars

Hello peeps!

Hope you're enjoying this blog. This has basically been for all you guys to get an inside view into the process of recording an album... well our process anyway! Hope it hasn't been too technical. I've tried to make it as easy a read as possible but give you muso's something extra.

I got up at 5:30 this morning for some bizarre reason?! Excitement probably as it's been a joy to participate and watch our album unfold day by day, layer by layer. First up was trying to record the "Jukebox" bassline on Juki's altered tuning 5 string. I managed to knock it off in one take with one minor fixup as it's a really simple part, tight on the kick drum so could really concentrate on the feeling of the part in context of everything that had been laid down before. I rarely get the chance to track with the full band and extras in my headphones as I'm either recording after drums or to the band with drums and "live" guitar parts so really enjoyed doing that. So bass parts on the album in the bag :)

Next we worked with Matt "back of the bus" James on cleaning up and rough mixing 3 songs from our first session recording "Shark" late last year. Man oh man, felt sorry for Matt as there were so many extra tracks to delete, comp into other tracks and volume balance. But he's a champion and managed to get them sounding ship shape for Gordon's inspection in no time.

The overdub and production stage is a cool part of the process as it adds that extra sparkle and fatness to the song that you don't necessarily get just from all the band members jamming in a room. It's kinda the difference between a live performance and a studio album. Each band has their own vibe with regards to this as some prefer the raw vibe of the basic tracks while others layer their recordings with loads of melodies and textures. I think our band falls somewhere in the middle and it's very song dependent. Because we've come up with loads of different sounding songs us as well as Gordon have definitely taken different attitudes based on what the song needs. So that in mind, we worked on "Jukebox" once Gordon got back from his Long Street expedition and came up with an instrumental string-driven middle eight. This involved Gordon playing the violin, viola and cello parts on the synth and us all giving suggestions as to the melodic direction of the part. Ultimately it's sounding really cool. The song is Gordon's baby and he's leading it really well. It's gonna sound like the anti-Strokes - big production, strings, the works compared to The Strokes back to basics rock 'n roll approach. A versatile man is our Gordo.

Next back to Fruit and Veg city (we really should look into getting a sponsorship there :) ) for lunch vibes then onto some extra guitar sheeite. We only did a few guitar overdubs (basically meaning recording certain parts again and adding them to the existing parts to make them sound fatter, especially guitar parts). Songs don't always need them and we felt that only a few parts should have so Scal doubled a few rhythms. Then on to the beastial guitar solo, or more like wall of sound and noise (the good kind), on "Unusable Block." It seems that Seattlites dig their guitar noise - see Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Melvins and countless bands in the Seattle 80's/90's grunge scene - and Gordo's no different. For more Seattle stereotypes, go here: He went to work with Juki on finding some cool ambient feedback based guitar parts. Juki's also definitely a noise fan, going back to his War on Salt punk band days :)

We ended off the day with some acoustic guitar and used a Yamaha tuned in Nashville tuning. We discovered this guitar lying around the studio somewhere and it sounds beautiful! It's strung with 5 non-coated strings (ie. all from the top 2 strings on a normal steelstring guitar) and 1 normal "bass" acoustic string. The tuning's weird cos the highest pitched string isn't at the bottom of the guitar so it gives it this sparkly voice. Which was perfect for "Caroline" as a layer so Scal set about recording it. Carel had to mute out my bass part so Scal could get a good enough mix in his headphones... which leads me to my Gordo quote of the day: "We should mute all your bass lines on the album and only have them on the special edition version. That way I can take your share of the album's profits." Old Jeremy "MOTB" Moyle dug that one!

Well, I'm pretty tired. Been working hard this past week and a bit... and I'm on leave! But couldn't think of a better way of spending my time.

Till tomorrow... same time same place...

P.S. I managed to dig up the studio diary posts on our facebook page. Check them out in the post below.

P.P.S. We're back at Zula Bar this coming Saturday the 23rd of Jan 2010 jamming with a few other cool bands so come in and let's have a party! We'll be celebrating the end of our active involvement in the album. From there on it's in Gordon and the S&M team's hands for the mixing and masterisation (sic) process.

P.P.P.S. I found a way to fix a water damaged phone - open it up and put all the parts in a cup on rice, uncooked of course and leave it for half a day. It works trust me!

P.P.P.P.S. Kidding, that's all I got :)

The diary entries from the first session - Sept-Oct 09

For those interested:

Day 1 - Monday 28 September 2009

For those of you who don't know, we're bringing out a new album next year and hit the studio today to go into production at Sound and Motion studios. The seeds for this album were sewn during our pre-production (also at S&M) a month and a bit back. We did rough recordings of 7 songs we wrote at the time and they sounded awesome! But where we are at the moment we’ve decided to only record 3 of them for now, together with 3 brand spanking new tunes, which are a bit of a departure from anything we’ve written before. But I guess that’s the nature of our band – we’re always discovering new music and wanting to take our sound in a new direction. The first step of this was expanding guitar textures via a whole bunch of new pedals that are making the new songs have a dreamy, spacey kind of vibe at times. Such a trip to hear what Scal and Juki are coming up with on their new toys! And Sash and I are trying to just lock together to create some cool grooves to keep the dancy feel we’ve always strove to get.

Well, there’s a bit of background to where we are at the moment. Today was a set-up day to make sure we get awesome tones and drum sounds so we can lay down the bones of our material. Matt James, the resident S&M guru (Sound and Motion of course, haven’t seen him in any leather get-ups… yet) spent the morning getting the drum kit to sound punchy and powerful so Bash Crash Sash could feel at home. He’s done a great job as the drums are sounding huuuuge! Juki’s playing through this Mesa Boogie stack kindly lent by Tyrone from S&M and Scal is playing through his creamy bluesy Vox. As for me, I’m using my ’82 Fender Precision through this radical preamp DI’ed. Sorry if this is too technical but just wanted to give some muso’s some inside info into the process J

The way we’re recording this album is the same process as Dirty Dancing and Tiny Islands in that we all record the basic tracks live at the same time. This will give the tracks the same kind of energy we get from playing gigs. We’ve always written stuff through jams so we feel this is the best way of going about it.

Stoked to get the process off the ground! Tomorrow we’re going to track the bones of 3 songs, looking forward to it! So it’s all on track so far! On Saturday we’ll be recording 2 or 3 of our new tracks. And of course we’ll be kept entertained by Juki Chan with his wall-to-wall piano playing lol!

Will keep you all up to date as to how it’s all going. See you all at Rocking the Daisies!


Day 2 - Tuesday 29 September 2009

Today was a day of tough graft in the studio. Our schedule's quite tight so we tracked 3 songs today but all of them sound amazing! The 3 we chose to do have been staples in our live show for a few months now so we thought we'd do them first to get a solid start on the album. What I can tell you is they were all done live, no click tracks, just the 4 of us in 1 room feeding off each other's energy to give the album's core a feel of being at a live Plastics show. It's a time-tested approach that was used back in the 60's.

We kicked off just after 10 after some coffee and a smoke and worked on getting the guitar tones and drum mic'ing right for the songs then started tracking. The tricky part of recording live is because all 4 of us are playing there's a lot of room for errors. But as long as the drum tracks are perfect (and they are, respect Sash!) you can do little fix-ups and re-do's on the guitar and bass parts. We're also going to be recording some overdubs and put some production into each song to fatten it up and create some textures, maybe some synth pads, piano and extra percussion. Looking forward to that cos I get to watch the other guys weave their magic!

Matt James, the S&M engineer, also had a rad idea to take an old song we were considering for "Kiss The Plastics" and record it totally analogue onto tape! That'll create a totally old school feel for the track which will really suit it. It's a really simple and mellow song Scal wrote which we didn't think was right for KTP but will be awesome to get onto "Shark."

We've got a couple of days break from the studio because of my work commitments before we're back in the studio to record 3 brand new tracks on Saturday. Before that though it's Kidofdoom's Cape Town launch of their brand new album at Mercury which we're excited for. If you see us there don't buy us any shots cos we gotta be perky for the next day's session... give them to our manager Jeremy instead ;)

Take it easy


Day 3 - Saturday 3 October 2009

Productive day in the studio! 3 more tracks in the bag, well the basics anyway. Our new tracks are quite tough to record, mainly cos they all have loads of dynamic subtleties so we've had to be super cohesive as a band. So it was quite a draining day for us but the results are sounding banging! These 3 in particular showcase the new direction our band is currently taking. They all have different vibes to each other - the 1 alternates between being moody and menacing and liberating, another's a slowish jam with rad guitar soundscapes and the newest (and never-before-played- live) is a hook-filled pop song with the the strangest swingy groove. Well that's the only way I can describe them!

Tomorrow I fix up a couple of bass parts and add some overdrive to a song or 2. Got some ideas of tones to make it sound nice and chunky :) Then Juki's gonna record some overdubs and textures.

So it's back to work tomorrow. Stoked with the way it's shaping up so far!

Catch ya later!

Day 4 - Sunday 4 October 2009

The recordings are really starting to develop nicely! I did all my bass fix-ups and added this really dirty overdrive part to one of the new guys which was loads of fun cos we got to tweak with my sound quite a lot. We're recording all the bass DI then Matt and Fuzzy are gonna be tweaking it to suit the song nicely when they mix the tracks. The rhythms are sounding really tight and groovy so Sash and my job's done for these 6 tracks!

Juki tracked a lot of his guitar today as well and added a lot of cool extra melodic stuff that's going to add that little bit extra to the song. He's gonna be finished by tomorrow morn then it's on to Scal to do his guitar overdubs. From there it's on to the fun stuff - production and extra layers like piano, acoustic guitar, percussion, synth pads. Sound and Motion's a rad studio for that cos they have loads of funky instruments lying around to mess around with and a beautiful baby grand piano called Agatha. I really suck at piano though - been messing around trying to figure out "Imagine" by John Lennon but not getting anywhere. So Juki will prob play any piano we need.

So it's back to another rad day in the studio tomorrow, Fruit and Veg city lunches and general hijinx :)

Take it easy - RTD is around the corner so prepare yourselves! And buy the new Kidofdoom cd, it's fookin awes-full!


Day 5 - Monday 5 October 2009

Almost finished all the basic tracking, bar some of Scal's geet and all the vocals which will be done in Jan. All the tracks are definitely starting to take shape and give us a peak as to what the final product might sound like. It's strange that - often when you start tracking you have some sort of idea what the song will be like but in the process often it takes many twists and turns, adding some extra layers, tweaking a guitar riff or bassline here and there. Plus it's often the first time the other dudes get the hear my bass lines crystal clear and they're sometimes like, "Rad" and I'm like "Well, I've been playing that for 6 months" Lol! Matt James took 2 days leave so Carel's taken over engineering duties for today and tomorrow and he's doing a good job! It must take loads of patience to be an engineer - often having to sit through take after take until the musician gets it right. They're a special breed!

We're all feeling a little tired but stoked at the outcome so far! Tomorrow's set aside for finishing Scal's guitar then production, which is what I've been looking forward to! Getting to think of the weird and wonderful things we can add to beefen up or add texture to the songs. So far, percussion, acoustic guitar and piano are what we have in mind for certain songs.

Till tomoz...

Day 6 - Tuesday 6 October 2009

Half of the album's in the bag! Spent the majority of the day working on production ideas and tracking extra instruments. I got to record some piano for the first time - really simple stuff cos I generally suck at it but it added a cool vibe to a couple of parts. Also borrowed a buddy of mine's Martin acoustic guitar which is pretty much the most amazing acoustic I've ever played on! And Sash added some percussion to a couple of the songs.

Gonna cut this short - lank tired after a long stretch in studio but can just say we're super stoked with how the cd's shaping up.

We've got a couple days rest before the big one, Rocking the Daisies. We're gonna be jamming a few tracks that we've recorded and a lot of you peeps wouldn't have heard before so looking forward to breaking them in!

Much love!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day five - bass tracking and such

Hey everyone reading this(and if you're reading this just after I posted it... what are you doing at your pc? It's a beautiful day, go out and enjoy the sun, maybe have a G 'n T at sunset. I know I'm gonna enjoy one on my roof after this)

Anyways, I digress. We had an off day from the studio which was much needed for me as I had some time to allow my ear to recover. Luckily I got to see my GP for the first time and he really worked wonders for me - I've got this weird solidified gel in my right ear at the moment and luckily for me I'm used to wearing ear plugs so it's not that uncomfortable, and has taken the swelling away. So I honestly feel like I've been reborn. I digress again... spent the off day at Waller's bday braai (happy bday Wallertjie!) and then Sash and Jem took Gordotronic to see the Dirty Skirts at Merc.

So to the studio, woke up super early and finished prep for my bassline I had to record for Jukebox. Juki wrote this really simple, rad bouncy bassline which I tabbed out from the midi version he wrote. Homework done I headed through a little earlier than the others to meet Fuzzy (head of Sound and Motion) at the studio. Rad recording with him again! I fixed up half a verse where I think I must have zoned out in "Morgan Freeman." It was kinda weird recording through headphones seeing as though I'm temporarily "deaf" in my right ear so was just hearing everything mono through my left ear. That was pretty simple so got that down by the time the dudes arrived. Then launched straight into my bassline for "Caroline." It's one of my favourite basslines on the album, very melodic but simple as well. The song itself is sounding super super awesome and mellow!

Next Juki and Scal added some extra guitar melodies on "Caroline" to give it an epic ending. Gordon moved a mic into the hallway just outside the live room just to give them a nice natural reverb. Then it was on to "Jukebox." The rest of the guys tracked all the basics (barring bass obviously). They approached tracking in a cool interesting way - we used Juki's midi version as a scratch track to get tempo and Gordo played the piano part, then Sash laid down the live drums, then Juki and Scal's guit. "Jukebox" has kinda turned into Gordon's baby and he had loads of ideas for filling it out so him and Scal worked on some rad textures and a cool leady solo vibe at the end. Which brings me to my Gordotron soundbite of the day: Scal was messing around with this bendy note thing and Gordo said "That's rock 'n roll. I'll give you R50 if you incorporate that into your part. Well maybe we can take it out of the management fund." Haha! Add some tasteful guitar feedback to the mix and the song is sounding rad!

To end the day off we tried to track the bass for "Jukebox." However I found out when working on it that Juki had written one note that's lower than the lowest note on my bass so had to detune my bottom string. That didn't really work so I tried Juki's 5 string. That also didn't keep it's tuning and we ended up tuning the 5th string up a note and putting foam under the 4th string to mute it. That was one weird experience - first time I had played a 5 string and in a weird tuning too! Fuzzy's gonna have a look at it and try sort it out for tomorrow. He's the bass player for Lark so he's got some experience dealing with bass issues.

A productive day! Slowly but surely the rest of the album's starting to take form. Loads planned for tomorrow but all will be reveiled this time 2moz.

Till then, get your hands on the new Julian Casablancas (Strokes singer) solo album called "Phrazes for the young." It's really awesome and doesn't sound like The Strokes at all.

Peace 'n all that,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

day 4!!

hey all! Sash here taking the blog today for karl and his unfortunate aural annomaly, anyhow we (the rest of the band went in on friday and started trakcking the very different sounding jukebox which started out as an acoustic song by Scal and then juki got his hands on it and made it into this really cool earl 90's seal sounding midi track and now we in the proccess of turning it into something totally different.\\: so we went into the studio and Gordon did the piano line with some really cool little changes and flourishes, then we had the task of trying to find a cool drum sound, mission accomplished and we got stuck in doing a couple of takes!
because the whole thing was done to a click track it was important to get the drum perfect so we did that and then at the end of a long day we put down some acoustic guitar. i have a feeling we never will really be able to play this one live as we are probably going to add real strings on and really go to town with it.
so its saturday today!!
what are you doing??
i hope its really grand whatever it is.
we have the day off i think were going to the lake to waste the day away and then to a braai.
back to work on sunday!
keep well
see you soon

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day Three - more tracking

Hey Judes', Jules'

So I got some bad news last night when I found out I got a small hole in my eardrum :( It's pretty damn painful and I've been medicating it over the last few days so this day was quite a short one for me. For most of it I was on the couch at home getting the rare chance to watch some cricket (go Proteas!). But we spent the morning trying to track a very new song called "Morgan Freeman" (working title... who knows where we come up with these names!). Most of the takes broke down at some point and we struggled during this morning session. But we rehearsed it a whole bunch before I went home at lunch and Scal went to have lunch with his girlfriend and our designer extraordinaire Waller. We also had some issues on Juki's guitar intonation (basically his guitar was out of tune on the upper frets where most of his playing on this song takes place. The most common cause of this is either the neck of your geet is slightly bent or the bridge is not 100%). After fixing that at Marshall Music, Scal and I rejoined the dudes and we got into tracking again with fresh minds (and a broken ear in my case). We nailed it on the second take. It's a song we've asked Gordon to make quite lo-fi and Velvet Underground sounding. We've been listening to a lot of that at band prac and thought the song could use a different sound to the big sound of the rest of the stuff and who better to get that than Gordon "fucked up sound" Raphael. I think (and I might be wrong - I was quite zoned out for this session thanks to the painkillers) Gordon's gonna mix it on the pc then run it through a tape to give it the old school 60's/70's vibe. Gordon didn't really like the song too much in the beginning ("it's not The Ramones is it?") but I think he's warmed to it, especially in the approach we're going to take on it. I still need to do a couple of bass fix ups - my bass part is quite sparse in places and I zoned out for a second and missed one of them hehe - but that I'll do on Sunday.

After finishing the tracking I left for home to rest my ear and try get some sleep. The plan for the other guys was to record a "safety" version of "Caroline" as it's a song we're going to record totally analogue onto tape this coming Sunday. More on that song after we track it.

Sash will write the blog for tomorrow so until Sunday it's cheers!


P.S. we will be performing at Zula Bar in Long Street next Saturday the 23rd alongside MacGuyver Knife and the 357's with special dj set by Gordon Raphael so pull through! You might hear some new songs ;)

Day Two - Tracking 3 songs

Hey dudes,

Soz only getting to this now but here's an update from day 2 of recording:

Arrived in studio at 10am with everything set up to start tracking. We gave ourselves plenty of time in the schedule to get all the basic tracking done for all 6 songs - 4 days in all - so could really take our time in nailing them all down tightly. As it was, we managed to do 3 of the songs so well ahead of schedule. As we arrived Gordon thought it would be best if we just tuned up and launched straight into a take of this song we have called "Unusable Block" (working title). I think that approach really worked cos we tracked 3 takes and used the 2nd (if I remember). We've been practising so much over the last month that we all feel really in tune with jamming together so for the most part it was a tight and energetic performance. After that we did a few fix ups of the bass and guitar parts just to lock everything in 100%. This song is one we're really excited for you to hear as it shows a bit of a new direction we've been writing in. It's got a real swingy groove and plenty of melodic guitar over the top and breaks into this really evil sounding bust out part where Juki plays what's known as "the devil's interval" followed by a wailing and ominous guitar solo that's so rock 'n roll. It's really concise and to the point and I think you guys are gonna dig it! We do.

Next we tracked the song that I think got Gordon stoked to come out and work with us called "Look out." It's a nice driving song, again with some great guitar melodies and some dual interweaving guitar harmonies we've also added to our armoury. It also features some awesome trip-hop style drumming in one part which I augment in my bass parts. The rhythms are pretty crazy!

After buying some lunch at veggie heaven Fruit 'n Veg city we got to tracking another newbie (never-before-played-live) called "Save" (working title). This was born out of a chorus hook Scal thought of which is sung in falsetto (also something to expect a bit of in the album) backed up by Juki's guitar. It's a song we pretty much wrote out of a jam and at the moment is very open to lots of production ideas we're going to be working on with Gordon next week in the overdubs stage. We're thinking some fat synths and handclaps so far. Juki plays this rad guitar riff through his bass synth pedal which creates this unique and fat sound. Originally in our preproduction version recorded at our bandroom I played the keys but I think Gordon's gonna handle all that on the album. He's a rocking piano/synth player! We recorded this one to a click track (a metronome Sash and I were hearing through our ears to keep this one nice and steady). It's not something we do too often as we like to keep the live feel but it works for this one.

So a productive day! 3 down, 3 to go then all the drums, bass and basic guitar tracks are recorded. Gordon soundbite of the day: when we asked if we should keep one of our takes, he said "Well no-one seems to be jumping up and down saying that should go on the record."

Much more to follow. Keep watching this space.

From the studio with love,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day One in studio - Setup

Hey all,

Just got back from a days work in the studio. We didn't get to do that much from a band's point of view cos it was all down to getting rad basic sounds from which we'll record the basic tracks for our songs - drums, bass and the 2 guitars. We took a camera along to take some snaps but unfortunately Jem forgot it in studio (wasn't my bad this time :) ) but tomorrow I'll edit this and add a couple so you can see what the whole setup looks like and what went down. For now I hope you enjoy this picture of me getting caught on camera not having learnt all the words to "A little help from my friends" from our occasional switch-instrument house party cover band The Daredevils. Note Sash rocking the bass... and the styling suit :)

The way we're doing it this time is to have all of our amps in the same room we're jamming and mic them each up with 2 mics. That's music to my ears (excuse the cheesy pun) cos usually from a bass point of view I go D.I. so the amp sound makes it feel like we're playing a gig, which is precisely the vibe we're going for - making the songs sound as if we're all playing our parts in the song to you at the same time, ie. the same vibe as a Plastics gig. It feels so comfortable so that's definitely gonna help us capture our vibe the best. Gordon worked out all the mic configurations and put them all through different compressors (something we didn't do last time) and as a basic sound it sounds fricken awesome! He sat mostly in the control room working with Matt "back of the bus" James and Carel from Sound and Motion guiding them towards the sound and looking up the history of Africa hehe! I've unfortunately got a bit of an ear infection at the moment which makes loud sounds quite hard to bear (hardly ideal at this moment in time) but the drugs definitely help ;)

So a lot of waiting for us but lots of behind the scenes work. Tomorrow is our time to shine and we'll be tracking 3 or 4 songs so it's a biggie. We've also decided to do one of our songs in the most old school analogue way - to tape which we're all excited about. I've always wanted to experience recording the way The Beatles and the guys from the 60's did it so here's our chance.

Till tomorrow, time to rest my ears now.


Monday, January 11, 2010

He's arrived!

Hey Plastic people!

So as you all probably know by now, we're coming out with our debut full length album of never-before-recorded material at some stage this year called "Shark", recorded at Sound and Motion studios. This diary serves to give you guys an inside peak into our recording world and how things are progressing.

Up till now, we've done the basic tracking for 6 songs of everything excepting the vocals. So far so good. But the big news is that Gordon Raphael, album-of-the-decade-winning producer of The Strokes first 2 albums, amongst others. He arrived on Sunday and we had a rad meeting/chilling session on Camps Bay beach just getting to know each others and discussing the POA for recording the album. First impressions are that he's a really laid-back cool dude who's infinitely knowledgable about rock music, especially 60's and 70's music so he'll definitely bring the old school vibe/sound we're looking for on many of our tracks. Also heard some cool stories about guys like The Strokes and Skin from Skunk Anansie which was awesome cos I'm really into rock music history and trivia.

Yesterday we spent the day in Sash and Scal's studio working on the tracks we're recording with Gordon. He gave us loads of ideas and opinions to take our songs to the next level and already we can see the benefits of a hands-on producer. I think he's into most of our more rockier songs (soundbite after playing one of our more mellow tracks: "It's not The Ramones is it") but there's one piano-driven Beatles style track he loves and says he has loads of production ideas for it. Stoked! The process involved Gordon sitting on the other side of the glass listening to us jam, captured by our NT-2 mic, and then coming into the room with thoughts, suggestions and little ideas for melodies. He also isolated the instruments by eg getting the guitars to play together so he has the whole song in his head. So all in all a really profitable day and I think we learned a lot from Gordon.

Sitting here about to leave for the studio for set up day, exciting times! We'll keep you updated with news, photo's etc documenting our progress throughout the next few weeks so watch this space!