Monday, January 28, 2008

Al-Jazeera proudly presents (in association with Dean Lerner)

(please note, I neither know nor care about the journalistic style of said media vomitorium - ta.)

I’m going to attempt to keep a sporadic log of the progress of the repairs and mix of two album projects I’ve got on the go: Airbridge’s Quiet Sky and the Twelfth Night Live at The Albany 2007 epic, which will also get a 5.1 surround mix for the DVD release. There’s also a potential third album to help a friend arrange, record and mix (more of which in the future).

Background to the albums:
Avid readers (are there such things?) will know that I was once in a progressive band called Lahost, wayyyy back when. Also in that band were members of the (by then) defunct Airbridge, notably Sean Godfrey on bass. As the years have stolen by, some of us have stayed in contact and this has meant that occasionally we get to do bits and pieces of music together or, at the very least, compare notes on what we might currently be doing. Also on the circuit at that time were a slew of other prog bands, some of which have fallen by the wayside (as did Lahost) though some continue to tour even now, notably IQ, Marillion, Pendragon among others.

During 2007, former Airbridge guitarist Lorenzo Bedini had been writing some new material with Sean Godfrey and they asked whether I’d be interested in helping them out with it in terms of production and mixing. I’ll go into detail about the technicalities of what is going with it in another post, but suffice to say that I said ‘yes’. This material was all recorded in Cubase on an old blue and white G3 mac and will be finished/polished/fiddled with in Nuendo on an eight-core monster Mac Pro. Yum.

Look back through older posts for my involvement with Twelfth Night. The November 2007 gig at the Albany Theatre was recorded as a multitrack Protools session, so that repairs/tweaks/mixing could be carried out in order to both release it as a double live CD and to do further surround mixing for DVD release, as the gig was filmed. Most of the ‘repairs’ that are being done are where old guitars had trouble staying in tune, people couldn’t clearly hear each other for timings, pedal switching noises are removed, and so forth. Also being removed (as if it never happened...) is the false start of the first encore, Take A Look, the intro of which went south in a major way. He he he, it’s good to be king... ;-)

TN’s stuff is being produced within the relatively new (to me) environment of Apple’s Logic Studio. I grew up in MIDI terms via Steinberg’s product line. Originally the Pro-24 sequencer on an Atari ST computer, followed by the first (and incredibly flaky) version of Cubase, I’ve been with them through all the subsequent iterations and eventually moved up to Nuendo during my migration Mac-wards, for its surround mixing and post capabilities. So, there’s a fluency there that I won’t have in Logic. I’m sure it can do all (if not more) than Nuendo can, but most of the struggles so far involve finding out how it does all the things I can find quickly in Nuendo. Nothing like learning new stuff though, eh?

Current states of play will follow in subsequent posts. Both projects should be quite interesting for me to work on, not least because both groups of people feature some pretty strong-willed characters with definite ideas of how things should be done (including me). We shall see how that all works out... ;-)


At 11:23 am, Anonymous Widdly Walker said...

I seem to recall Airbridge from fanzine articles of the time, but never got to see them. Was the lead singer mustachioued (is that a word?) in the style of Terry Thomas? Did he get sacked for auditioning for Marillion? Or was it really a v.long time ago & I've imagined it all?

Intrigued by your comments on the production issues for the TN release, & the contrast with past live LPs which proudly proclaimed 'no overdubs', being recorded 'direct' to tape with no mixing possible?

Sounds like they were making a virtue ('we're fab! musos like us don't need overdubs!') out of necessity ('no money for a 48 track!'). I was easily fooled in those days.

The problem with rewriting history is that the 'strongest' individual who gets their way may not always have the best judgement. No different to recording any studio album, I suppose.

Maybe you should the ballsed up intro in the 'blooper' DVD extras...

I am also intrigued as to how the DVD footage turned out given - as far as I could see - all the cameras were static. Better for the crowd on the night, but somewhat limiting in post-production? Or will you be faking footage for that too?!!

Looking forward to it.

At 12:10 pm, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

Without going into excruciating detail about it, it's more to do with TN not having been a band for twenty years. Not regularly gigging means that all the little ‘coping mechanisms’ that you develop all abandon you.

For a fairly blunt example, if a guitar is tuned, and then left on stage where lights and such can focus quite a lot of heat on it, by the time it's picked up to be played, it could be miles out. Not something you’d do if you were out gigging all the time, but it can happen.

Gotta say that, on the night, Mister Sears did a valiant job of coping with the fact that his radio mic died on him only two songs in. I think he only missed a couple of lines before switching to Clive's mic. What a pro.

The aim is not about achieving perfection but to end up with a decent rendition of the night. If there was a horrifying clang from a wrong keyboard sound or a wrong patch on a guitar effects unit, it would be a little unfair on the rest of the band to have that left in, let alone the ignominy of the person who had caused the clang. Which would most likely be me, I’d hazard.

Actually, at least 90% of the work will be sifting through drum tracks (or anything that’s coming in via a mic), gating or physically removing other noise and trying to get things like that under control.

I can’t see us quite getting away with there suddenly being a 60-piece choir doing backing vocals, or seven-part guitar harmonies - ho ho...

Most of the cameras were static, which is actually the idea. You start to get nauseous if they’re all flying about all over the place. Works for the Bourne Identity, but not so much for a gig. Unless you’ve got piles of cash and can afford to fly/crane/dolly stuff about. Or a budget at all, in fact. ;-)

I take your point about the ‘strongest’ personality not necessarily having the best judgement, but it doesn’t automatically follow that a strong personality can’t have good judgement. “Design by committee” is also a dangerous polar opposite and can be a right old mess.

We’ll take it as we find it. I have no ego to invest in this, as I’ve got a vanishingly small amount of history with the band. I just want it to be a good, punchy end-result within the time and non-existent budget available. Not that I don’t have an ego, but it just doesn’t feature in that way when I’m working.

And yes, we’d planned all along to show the train-wreck of the original intro to Take A Look as an extra... ;-)

At 1:51 pm, Anonymous Widdly Walker said...

I take your point about countering the technical glitches on the night / making the most of the raw materials. It would be daft not to avail yourself of the technology of the present even for an album revisiting the past, especially as the TN of today is a different beast of the much toured band of yesteryear.

I suppose what I was trying to say, without getting too precious, is that live LPs should have a 'truth' in them. If too many edges are knocked off it won't sound like the real deal, regardless if you were or weren't there. But then I'm telling you nothing you don't already know.

Presumably the strong personalities 1st time round are still similarly forthright these days, hopefully they will still have good judgement! I think the band missed a 'counterbalance' towards the end of its previous existence, maybe that'll be you this time! (I won't tell 'em if you don't...)

Are you involved in the video post production as well? Presumably that is dealt within the digital realm, too - Premiere Pro or similar? (Is it obvious I don't know what I'm talking about?)

Will any use be made of audio/footage from the warm up or was that a dry run only?

And now we're after the event have you changed your views in the 'life in a band vs. proper job' post from last year? Sounds like a fairly good balance you've got sorted to me, maybe all this work on the CD/DVD will have you hankering for 100% wage-slavedom once again?!

Aah, all good fun...


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