May 28, 2014

Cramming and Jamming: The Loincloth Story

Sorry folks, I couldn't resist the title.  One of the biggest problems with being raised by a pack of wild smart asses is that you can never let an opportunity to make a joke slip by.  If you do, you'll remember that moment and how funny you know it could have been for years.  Regret is a killer.  Best to let fly with the sophomoric humor and allow that part of your personality to weed out the condescending snobs from your life.  There are plenty of places for them far, far away from this drummer.  To be fair to myself, this really is a photo of us "jamming" ( I hate that term! ) as we were in fact "cramming" before we went into the studio.  The title of this post is appropriate, after all.  I took this photo while watching a video on Tannon's phone he shot a couple of nights earlier down at the space.  I've seen way too many horror movies.  The video starts with Tannon looking down at the camera while he set it in place before walking back to strap on his guitar.  I couldn't help but think he was about to walk back to my limp body and start removing one limb after another, until eventually he found zombie gold in what would appear to be a couple of feet's worth of link sausages with thick, crimson slime dripping down his arms.  As it turned out, what I saw instead was the two of us conjuring up some sort of reptilian servant of the underworld with our heavy, creepy, dark Loin "jam".  Hmm... shall we get back to tall tales of Loincloth's weekend in the studio, and whatever-the-hell a "dark Loin jam" might be?  I think that's a splendid idea.

Last Tuesday and Wednesday were spent putting new drum heads on all of my drums, pulling out my shiny new cymbals, six of them to be precise, and getting some even wear on my new sticks.  All of my cymbals were cracked, so I was going to have to replace them eventually.  I wouldn't have coughed up the money to replace them all at once were we not about to record, but I had no choice this time.  They had gotten to the point that there was no denying their sound was off.  I use thinner ones in the studio and for live shows if I have the option.   I used thick cymbals for years until I noticed how muted they sound recorded. Thinner ones sound more like what you want your crashes to sound like when a microphone is involved.  The sticks make a difference too, if you can believe it.  I used marching band sticks forever until I got sick of going through heads and breaking cymbals.  I dropped down one size.  Anything smaller than that and I miss the feel of really thwacking something.  For my fellow Pounderers, Vic Firth "Metal" sticks are the smaller ones I use now.  At any rate, several years ago when Confessor first got back together I decided to try my old marching band sticks for the hell of it, and that extra mass made everything sound exactly the way it sounded when Confessor were plotting to take over the world.  I never would have guessed my sticks would have been the final ingredient to perfectly recreating my old sound, but the evidence was right there in my hands.  Within a few practices I had destroyed all of my heads and cracked most of my cymbals.  It was all coming back to me.  Ahh, memories... expensive memories.

Okay, back to our studio weekend.  We had some things to try out before we went into the studio, so we all got together to brush over things at the space Tuesday and Wednesday after work.  We made our final decisions about arrangement tweaks and new parts and were feeling pretty good.  They were light practices.  I pulled all of my punches so the new heads wouldn't be trashed before we even made it to the studio.  They were trashed by the end of our recording sessions, but they sounded pretty damned good while we were tracking.  Good enough that everyone commented about how sweet they sounded.  It's a nice feeling to have everyone in the room look at you at the same time with the Furrowed Brow of Approval!   I would be remiss were I to not mention the fact that I bought my drums because I loved the way they sounded so many years ago.  Thanks, whatever company made my drums!  

The trick to making my drums sound different is to keep them tuned low.  If someone is playing my kit when I walk into the building, I know the moment I hear it.  Basically, I get about an eighth of a turn after I feel the slightest tension on the lugs, then I back it up just enough to know that I've loosened it some.  Finger tight.  It's true that everything makes a difference when you're trying to figure out your instrument's 'sound', but tuning my own drums down is what gives the punch a little more body than some kits have.  My second smallest tom is as low as some people's floor toms, and my floor tom is pretty close to the tuning I use for my bass drums.  I used that to my advantage in the beginning of one of our tracks the other weekend, and I can't wait to hear it mixed together with everything else!  You'll know it when you hear it.  We don't have a final name for these songs yet, but when you hear one that starts off with something that sounds like "thunder punk", that's what I'm referring to. Hmm... I think it just moved a little.

We set everything up Thursday afternoon so Greg could get my drums mic'd up and Tannon's rig ready to roll.  We only barely got our gear into the building before the bottom fell out of some ominous thunder clouds that had been building up all morning.  That felt like a small victory.  I'm no expert, but I don't think that speakers like getting soaked, or expensive electronic devices for that matter.  And anyone who has had to endure being around a singer or guitarist when their mascara begins to run knows how traumatic that can be for them and their delicate little egos.  It's pitiful, really.  Then you have weeks of trying to convince them that yes, they really are prettier than all other singers/guitarists or that no, that bandana around their wrist doesn't make them look fat.  Best to avoid rain at all costs if you're in a band.  Little good can come of it.

Thursday morning we checked into the studio at 10:30.  You may be asking yourself, "Is there really a 10:30 in the morning?  Is it possible to rock that early?"  Well, the answers are "While I found it hard to believe, there really is a 10:30 in the morning!" and "No.  Not only no, but hell no!"  We were recording before eleven somehow, and it didn't take us all that long to get our first 'keeper' of the day.  We had six songs to record in three days. If you haven't been in a band that might sound like a waste of two and a half days, but everything that isn't damned close to perfect keeps you from being able to put that song behind you and move onto the next one.  There are many things about being in a studio that feel very different from the room you and your band mates have grown accustomed to.  You can't just laugh off a tiny mistake or a missed hit and finish the song anyway.  I usually have to keep chipping away at our songs, playing a little further and a little further into each one before I get to the point where I am making it all the way through a song.  You find yourself making the exact same mistake over and over too, which is always a real confidence builder.  Sometimes you can finally get over that mistake only to realize you have passed it to your guitarist who had been doing a great job of not laughing at you too hard. You have to laugh at yourself in the studio, or you'll walk out a basket case every time. 

By the time we wrapped things up Thursday night we had three of our six songs in the bag. Not too shabby for a day's work.  We decided to do the 'most complete' of our six songs first.  I knew that I had a lot to do to two of the remaining tracks, so I made sure we saved those for last.  Momentum is a factor in recording situations, and there would have been none had we not  done the songs in the order we recorded them.  We were still feeling really good about things and went home knowing we had bought ourselves the extra time we, or more specifically the extra time that I needed to get things worked out.  So we all went home, and I had a pretty relaxed night with Monica and our pets.  Oh right!  We have a new member of the Shelton family.  We adopted a hound mix named "Bella" three weeks ago.  I'll have to introduce you all to her soon.  She's awfully sweet, and she's a huge Confessor fan. Or at least... she BETTER be!

More tales of Loinclothian adventures to follow...

Oh, before I get a series of angry emails or "The Cold Shoulder" at practice I would like to submit this official statement:  

"Not all singers or guitarists cry when their mascara runs."

Thank you, and cheers!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Steve! Great to hear that Loincloth are off to a great start, can't wait to here it
    I remember being a young man listening to the Gods of Grind album trying to figure out how the hell you got your drums to sound like that, I never figured it out. Maybe it was impossible without the marching sticks (which I actually use now and then, on the extremely rare occasion that I practice these days) 
    Hi to Bella...any Confessor fan is ok in my book : )
    Looking forward to more updates soon... Keith