Birth of the Mechanoid: Recording Day #1

Today was the first of two days of recording/producing ‘Birth of the Mechanoid’, an EP about the slings and arrows of workaholicism. For once I’ve been (positively) drained for the benefit of creativity, not to the detriment of it. Now to spontaneously natter about it.

Two hours ago I returned home after a solid day of recording new music at Seal Hayne. Ferry 6am, Train 7am – it’s been roughly a 15-16 hour day (with 8 of those hours being solid recording), not counting winding down – something I suppose this EP should’ve taken into account. Yes, I still struggle to schedule time for rest, or even really understand it, honestly speaking. Yet though today has been tiring, it’s been tiring in all the good ways, and such a release.

I’ve had four-and-a-half songs, or four concepts more appropriately, locked away in my conscience for a while; observations of my own and others’ self-destruction and attempted recovery in this socially-constructed marathon. Together they will form ‘Birth of the Mechanoid’, an amalgamation of musical ideas spawned from images, short poems, contemplations, and spontaneous riffs formed from the point I properly learnt to monitor and criticise my own self-destruction. I’m not a proud workaholic, nor one asking for sympathy, but I can be proud of this.

That considered, there was a lot of today which was left void of preparation. For the most part, these songs were still being written in the studio, and had never been rehearsed from start to finish. Some of the vocals I hadn’t even heard before. I suppose people are right when they say it’s a talent of sorts, but improvising in this way hinges so much on a moment – and if you don’t feel it in the moment, then you can lose the whole thing. I’ve wasted countless songs on not feeling those moments; thank God today went more in my favour. It felt like having a confessional between myself and the microphone, shedding bound-up observations which scared me within an intimate box room, with just me, my producer/mixer and the other machines. It’s the first time I’ve tested out something for the first time where it hasn’t been on-stage: as much as I love that process for the authenticity of the reactions, this felt necessary to keep in the studio, where any feeling of judgement was suitably quashed.

The moment that lingers in my head was recording some pretty damn long trumpet sections, in the mid-afternoon after four songs worth of singing and other things, and pushing my diaphragm to the point I felt I could collapse, vomit or both. There was something immensely satisfying about going back up to the recording desk from the studio, listening back and hearing Josh (producer) nod in agreement, ‘Yes, this works’. In general, I have a lot to thank Josh for this session. He remained open to the very predetermined systems which I have used for recording in the past, but also very honest, never critical as such but simply saying ‘Record it again?’ when we both damn well know another take needs doing. He’s also been very open to my improvisational recordings, allowing for the sometimes outlandish amount of experimentation I run away with in order to get the trumpet sound that satisfies me most. Most of all, he got well and truly behind the running motif of Birth of the Mechanoid: we’ve yet to mix the tracks fully, but they already have that industrious, factory-born mutational personality behind them that I was hoping for.

Though it was a joint agreement, getting four-and-a-bit songs part-conceptualised, recorded and part-edited in eight hours was exhausting, but well worth that exhaustion. Though the desire to let loose this brand of frustrated creativity has been hovering around my solar plexis for months now, concentrating its release into those eight hours made its effect feel that much more authentic. In other words, there has been no time for doubt to creep in, for me to doubt what I’m playing, singing or even the subject matter. Now it feels safe. I can say what came out of those eight hours, the feeling of it, is genuine and justified. Explaining the subject matter in the studio – as per usual, a fair amount of it implicit in the lyrics themselves – had its own pleasent openness aswell… yes, I’ve seen such, felt such, admitting to things I’ve done or verged on doing. Such things that, in context, are probably very minor, but hold a haunting gravity to them, because they have reflected me losing myself, rather than anything remotely criminal.

Anyway, contextual thoughts aside, I’m very excited to do the mixing and polishing tomorrow. Each song has a different structure, a different kind of hectic (Josh’s word, which I think is appropriate!) energy, and a sonic fingerprint of sorts. In the end the balance between trumpet and keytar has turned out pretty well, and using purely electronically-formed drum patterns (for the first time… ever) hasn’t knocked any life out of the collection as I had once feared. With some tweaking, sprucing and once again a little luck, these songs should turn out how we imagine: more-or-less professional with all the organic feel intact, emphasis always on the latter. The image and sound of the everyday android breaking out of its shell remains fimrly resonant, safe from the common pitfalls of the transposition from idea to musical data.

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