The Hours part two
Alright, for those of you who may care (I reckon there's probably about five of you) I'll finish my story about the making of The Hours. Rather pompous isn't it?
After Jesse finished tracking the drums that afternoon, which he did in record time -totally prepared, totally excited, and completely positive about the whole thing, you just gotta love the guy -Isabelle and I spent a couple hours recording the piano parts to All of the Love, Twist of Fate, and King's Cross. Then we waited around until some of our friends showed up to sing backing vocals. (Kudos to Barb and Erin for being the premier guests of honour). Once there was eleven of us we recorded the choir parts to All Together and For the Glory, but I convinced everybody to do handclaps on The Hours as well.
The pattern wasn't complicated as for as I was concerned, but Isabelle always acted as though it was really weird. It involved a slightly syncopated clap - snap - clap pattern, with the claps both landing on the"two" and "four" and the snap on the "three and." Anyway, we stood in a circle under a pair of elevated U87's and after a bit of practice we did four takes in series, which is what you hear on the song, starting at the Rhodes solo. There's a nice lift there when the song opens up a bit and you can just hear the handclaps in the mix. It's funny really because with four takes we'd have 44 pairs of hand clapping on tape yet underneath all the other percussion elements you can barely make them out! Either that's great or it's absurd! As is the norm when recording handclaps there were many sniggers and hunched laughs on the recording (I sware this is always true by the way: you can't record handclaps without laughing!) which I opted to leave in because I think somehow those good sounds sneak through, even subconsciously. The drums/percussion parts to this song were really quite staggering.
When I began the process of finishing the recording to the this song, I spent probably two days messing around with Jonas's drum alone. So either I'm completely incompetent or completely obsessive, or perhaps both, but after two solid days of screwing around with edits, non-edits, comping the parts and then filtering through Jesse's drumming versus Jonas' drumming, I then set about trying to create the perfect "Bonham-esque" drum sound. Let me tell you, if you're spending money online at three in the morning to purchase a compressor plugin that a friend told you about on the dream that it will deliver that classic Led Zepplin drum sound, you're obsessing a bit! You'd be pleased to know that I did find some kind of classic sound, though it did stray a bit from Led Zep. (Geek message: try the TC Powercore X3 plugin on the drum buss , set it to harsh compression and limiting and have a listen: it's good - also don't eq the kich too much, compress it to hell but leave the 400 HZ in it) Sorry about that.
After getting all the rythmic elements in place I then had to play parts that could match the monstrosity I'd asked for. The bass was pretty easy to record, what with all that drumming and loops and shakers, man, anyone could have played along in time. The guitars were substantially harder. I'll confess that I'm a rather inept guitar player. The secrets of recording studios and hard disk recording allow me to create noises that are musical, but I'm hardly capable of playing a chord in tune half the time. However, I spent an entire day playing around with the guitar, my little ol' Epiphone Les Paul, and got some parts that sounded right. It was great fun, I finally felt as though I could play the thing. The highlight came a bit later in fact, after I'd played the Rhodes solo, which is a personal achievement of my own too! I recorded the powerchords in the chorus and the little "digga digga" part in the verses and then sort of messed around in the spot that followed the "who paid for this" middle eight. The guitar ideas I had were lame so in discouragement I put it down and started to mess around with a keyboard. At first I set up a virtual instrument in Logic, their rhodes plugin (what ever it's called, EVP88 I think) and set it through a virtual amp and got a virtually inspiring sound. I got really into it and startted to attempt playing a solo on that sound. I was playing so hard though that I thought I'd break the cheap keyboard controller if I kept going. It did then occur to me that I had an ACTUAL RHODES sitting just outside my room.
Now if you've moved a real rhodes before you know how annoying they are to transport. The legs stick out at wide angles and the thing weighs about a 100 pounds. Moving it is a chore. Anyway, I set it up in my little control room, plugged it into my fender amp and mic'ed it with a 421. The straight sound was way too Steely Dan for me though so I plugged it through a Big Muff pedal. Now I had a sound to work with. The wine was all gone by now and I was pounding the shit out of the thing: mostly wrong notes, but really hitting it hard! A brief moment of retrospection allowed me to realize my enthusiasm was fantastic but I still needed to actually play something musical. You can't send a little quicktime of the performance along with every song to explain why the keyboard solo was such shite! So I paused and thought, Who's had played a really good Rhodes part that I know? Why Billy Preston of course! Listened to Get Back and got fully inspired.
I really like my keyboard solo truthfully, it's possibly the best lead I've ever done. Unfortunately it then lead to a conspicuously empty section right after!
It became clear to me that I should try a guitar part there. Back to guitar but now I could hear the melody line much clearer and with the aid of a delay pedal I figured out The Edge-like part that goes right before Chorus three. I really liked that part. The cool thing was that I was recording all these things while Isabelle was out. She then came home, some time in the morning, and had listen. It was her urging that made me replay the lead guitar part, she was convinced I could do it better (which also meant that I hadn't played it very well of course). So I did it again and this time it was truly magic. The guitar was great, the sound was great and the volume was close to deafening!!
The rest of the tracking was pretty straight forward, in fact I think those are some of Isabelle's earliest lead vocals. We were pretty unsure how far she could go at this point. I had the easy job because my parts were all in harmony and doubled! The mix came next.
Lots of tracks! Man, this song had by far the most instrument tracks, way more than any other. I think it was this - (skip ahead a couple paragraphs for the out come if you want)
Kit one: Jones's tracks
Kick (in front)
Snare top mic
Snare bottom mic
PZM (behind the kt)
(thanks Sean - I'll reduce the mics next time but it was educational)
Stereo Drum Loop
Stereo Conga Loop
Programmed Hand Claps
REAL Handclaps (the Mushroom version)
Original Real Handclaps (basement bounced tracks)
Distorted Guitar 1 (just amp)
Dist Gtr 2 (just amp)
Fuzz Gtr 1 (big muff)
Fuzz Gtr 2 (big muff)
16th Note guitar (in the verses)
Stupid little noodley gtr (from the demo - its where the opening line comes from)
Edge Guitar part
Rhodes rhythm track
Sequenced bass synth (in the outro - also left over from the original night of writing)
Isabelle's lead vocal
Isabelle's doube in chorus
BV3 (harmony in the chorus)
BV4 (harmony in the chorus)
BV5 (triple track)
BV6 (quadruple track)
I think that's about it. This song took quite a while to mix properly. I kept having to trim the faders down more and more because I couldn't fit everything in otherwise! You can hear the track start to distort as it reaches the climax at the end, there were just so many parts to cram in there. I don't think I'll ever record so many parts for a song again, but then again maybe I will, it was so much fun!
Sorry if this rambled for too long, I didn't want to write a part three of two to this tale. I love this song, it's so big and the parts are so fun to play now. The funny thing is, even though the album version is so massive, with just the five of us playing it live, it seems much bigger! But I guess I had to get there to know! Next album's going to be so much fun to do!
OK, good night