2013 End Of Year Blog
As 2013 draws to a close I wanted to share some of my favorite moments from the last year.
80’s Hair Rock Album
One of the biggest projects of 2013 was the 80’s ‘Big Hair Rock’ style album. I had a fantastic couple of months getting my shred chops back on the guitar (and blisters on my fingertips). Working with Richard, Chris and Kes, composing and tracking the backing tracks was a blast and the project acted like a time machine taking us back 20.. 25.. 30.. years to our rocking youth (can it really be that long?)!!!
The album only really came fully alive when started to record rock vocalist Nigel Bailey. Nigel has a huge voice that totally commands your attention and he lives on every word he sings. He brought a true level of passion to this recording and I couldn’t imagine anyone else singing these songs now.
Alternative Pop Album
Pop music is a huge constantly spinning carousel of genres. Stand and watch it spin for a long enough time and the same music from decades ago comes round again. The big difference though, is that with each rotation a new, younger, musician is riding the horse!
When I started work on this modern Alt Pop album with Chris Bussey we understood the references the young bands were drawing from. We also know we are both capable of creating an energetic, even youthful, sound to the backing tracks (it’s harder to spot age from a guitar line or a drum beat ;-)!
The vocals however needed to be sung by much younger people or we would truly be entering a world of parody. Chris mentioned a young singer called James Brander and after watching some clips of him on You Tube we gave him a call and within a few days he was in my studio recording the lead vocals.
James has the kind of voice that I love; he is all about the delivery and he gets right in behind the essence of each lyric with an emotion far beyond his years. Because of this however I didn’t want to layer up his voice for any backing vocals as I thought this detracted from his raw emotion, so we called up a wonderful female singer Jessica Crabtree to complete the album. Jess has a lovely crisp clear style that complimented James’ attitude fueled performance perfectly.
Session factoid: If you combine the ages of James and Jess it’s still two years less than me. Oh well.
Early in 2013 I started work on a ‘classic american rock’ style album with Chris Bussey on drums and American guitarist/singer Randall Breneman. I first met Randall six months earlier at the Audio Network summer party and after a lengthy, alcohol fueled discussion as to the true nature of electrons and that music is merely a construct in the human brain, we realized we needed to work together!
It would have been easy for us to collaborate on some multi-layered, intellectually driven musical work, but we didn’t. We set up like a live rock band, turned up the amps & tracked the backings for the whole album clean through. Late nights, lots of vino and rocked out riffing. What a blast!
A few months later I traveled, with Chris, to London to meet with Randall and record the vocals. Randall has a great ‘sandpaper blues’ sound to his voice that suited a couple of tracks on the album but I wanted him to explore some new vocal areas for the other songs. I knew he had nailed the new vocal sound when, as he was tracking a vocal line, his wife poked her head round the studio door to see who it was that was singing and she couldn’t believe it was Randall!
Randall did a wonderful job with the vocals and we were all very happy with the mixes, so we decided to go the extra mile with this album and get it mastered at Abbey Road Studios.
We had a wonderful day at Abbey Road with the brilliant mastering engineer Sean Magee. I’m very proud of this album.
Keep It Analog
One of the reasons we wanted to master at Abbey Road was to print the master to analog tape and I fell in love again with the sound... so much so I decided to record all the next album to multitrack tape... old school!
I’d written a piano rock trio style album with Steve Dymond and Chris Bussy and we packed up camp and relocated to Greenmount Studios in Leeds for a few days of live tracking direct to tape.
I love the sound of this album, not only because it was tracked to tape but because of the wonderful energy coming from our performances, you can hear in the playing how much fun we were having!
I’ve produced a couple of albums for UK rap artist Jayel and on his new album I’m giving him much more creative freedom as he is really beginning to find his own style. It’s always good to meet up with Jayel and when he came to the studio a few weeks ago to track his vocals for the new project we had a ball! (and steak).
Throughout the year I’ve been collaborating with Richard Kimmings on a huge ‘MOR Rock’ project. This is already the biggest and most complicated project I’ve worked on in many years, and it’s still a long way from completion!
I’m extremely pleased with how it is shaping up and I’m looking forward to recording the live strings in Jan 14 (hopefully it will be finished for next years blog)!!!
I’ve had the pleasure of composing and recording with percussionist Evelyn Glennie for over six years now. We meet once or twice each year at her home studio and ‘create something musical together’. We are never quite sure what exactly we are going to end up with but as she has 4000 different percussion instruments to choose from we always come up with something!
This year she suggested that she travel to my studio, bringing only a handful of instruments, and we could explore some different approaches to composing. In November she arrived with a car full of percussion and we had two fabulous days recording with Chris Bussey on drums and Steve Dymond on keyboards.
Amongst other things Evelyn used some of my electronic percussion, including the Dave Smith Tempest, and she bashed my collection of acoustic guitars with stcks.
Watch this space, we recorded some great stuff!
Towards the end of 2012 I purchased a Leica M9P camera and Leica 35mm lens; I did not know how much this little black box was about to shape all of 2013 for me. (see images on this blog).
In Jan 13 I attended a four day workshop in London with Danish photographer Thorsten Overgaard. It was, not only, an incredibly informative few days but also tons of fun and I met some wonderful people.
The encouragement I got from Thorsten and everyone else gave me an incredible boost to get 2013 started. In fact I loved the workshop so much I immediately enrolled on the Sept 13 session which turned out to be even better.
I found Thorstens straight forward approach to both using the camera and towards editing extremely refreshing but it was the way he taught me how to look for light that, honestly, changed the way I view the world.
I see differently now and because of that I also think differently. I’ve started to compose and record music in a way that is much clearer and for the first time in my career true to how I want to hear it.
Even though I’ve worked on vocal albums throughout most of 2013 the year has ended up with very important bookends for me -
The Altered World album was the the first project I worked on, with friend and composer Richard Lacy, after returning from the first Thorsten workshop in January. It remains a special landmark album for me as I can clearly hear myself waving goodbye to the old me and delicately stepping forward as the new me and into the new year.
The last project for 2013 ended up being the bravest of the year and I’ve found myself embracing my new beliefs towards composition, performance and recording. Working with two fellow composers Tim Reilly and Jeff Dale, both good friends, we ‘improvised’ an album layering up instruments in a way none of us would have dared a year ago.
It’s been a very good year. A huge thank you to everyone who helped make it so.