Saturday, 22 December 2007

buzz for aldrin is coming

Banner put together by Barb Peterson

Mark Mikel "It wasn't really a black day so to speak. More of a slow realization that more and more drop-outs were occurring. It took awhile to notice that the tape and tape-heads were still rubbing together during rewind. Actually Scott Hunt discovered it upon a quick close examination. The lifters weren't pulling it away. This caused the tape to shed. And it seemed everytime I played the tape it got worse.The original version of Milkman's wife was pretty much toast. As was the 1st take of Spaced-Out. Other songs I remember deteriorating were Lost Lonely Sailor and No Joke. Brilliant But Late Advice was in bad shape too. That was particularily heartbreaking because the song was unthinkable to remake. I salvaged what I could and mixed it down to the 2track machine and then transferred those 2 tracks back onto a fresh reel on the 16track. Then I started doubling and replacing things that were lost.The whole album was a battle at times. But when SH and I were mixing it, it fell together as a pretty wonderful experience.

Early sleeve design by Steve Mumford

Well you would think that things have been going smoothly but not yet, my friends.I DID pick up my 16 track tape machine that day but it was NOT fixed. The tape started dragging and the sound quality was horrible. There was also a small gap/opening in the front that I didn't remember from before. I wasn't sure though and I didn't think much of it.So I took it to a different guy in Columbus (Dan Abell) and he had it back to me in less than a week but at a price of $946.12 but I was glad to pay it if it was really fixed.When I got it home- a week ago today- I was anxious to put it through some work to test it. I started doing a mix of our song "Lost Lonely Sailor" when Chalmers and Kelley showed up. For some reason it just didn't sound right. I'm a bit out of the game but I knew something wasn't as it was before (soundwise). They knew it too but thought it was my mix.So with some more experimenting with A/B'ing from the source then back to the tape, I realized the tape machine was making everything dull. I called Dan Abell and he was surprised. He offered suggestions like cleaning the heads really well (did that already) and other trivial tasks and methods that didn't help.I spent most of that night trying to get anything at all to sound good on that machine and failed miserably. So Wednesday I bit the bullet and asked Dan Abell if I could drive it down to Columbus again and if he could go over the machine with me while I'm there. I was sure it wasn't calibrated correctly and I wanted him to make it right.So then on the phone Dan informs me of these little screws that are very user-friendly (if I take off the front panel of the meters). He said to find the one that says "REC EQ" and turn it clockwise. He also said that he had already set them counter-clockwise and if I screw anything up I can just turn them back all the way he had them.So I ran a song onto 2 tracks of the 16 track and turned the screws while listening to it record. All of a sudden I could hear a blanket being lifted off. It sounded fantastic. Then I turned the same type of screws that would effect the Play heads (marked Sync and Repro) and then they sounded fantastic too.So now it's Thursay and I feel off and running and I begin to add guitars to a song (Buzz for Aldrin) and around 4pm that day, the take-up reel stops turning and tape starts spewing and wrinkles our original tracks for BfA in a short section. I couldn't believe it. There's no way in hell that I just spent almost 3 grand (altogether) and still could not record to finish our album.So I call Dan Abell again (who's probably getting sick of me at this point) and he offers some suggestions that didn't help and then I accuse him of not fixing it properly. He stood strong against me and stated it was working fine when I picked it up. Again I decided to be a bullet-biter and asked him if I could bring it down again Friday morning (this is a 2 1/2 hr drive mind you) and he could see what the problem was and fix it.I get down there about noon on Friday and Dan is right there ready to take a look. He asked if I wanted to stay and watch. I said, "Yes, but let me step out and have a smoke and I'll be right back." So a couple of minutes later I walk back in and he said, "It's fixed.""Really?""Yep. All done.""What was wrong with it?""There was this small hole in the front panel where a metal plate should be keeping the motorized guide in place.""Ahhh, The old 'hole in the guide' trick, eh? That was like that before I brought it to you.""Really?""Yes."So the tech that did nothing and kept my machine for almost 5 months got to get me one last time. And even if Dan wasn't able to fix it thoroughly the first time and had to have me open it up to make it sound right, I like that he was always willing to take care of me fast. That counts for alot. Waiting is the worst torture. I will go back to him again in the future.Now the tape machine is fine (fingers crossed) and I'm hoping to see some bugs tonight. So this is hopefully the REAL "Return to the Studio."

Buzz For Aldrin will be both our heaviest album AND most psych album.Everybody sticks to their normal instruments for the most part. Mark Kelley adds some guitar and glockenspeil. Chalmers plays some piano.I play some extra instruments like- accordian, recorder (flute sounding but not a flute) along with my usual french horn, sitar, tamboura, electric sitar, tablas and trumpet-type extras. The return of my Yamaha Leslie (revolving speaker) cabinet gets us back to the sound on the first CD somewhat. I would run so many vocals and instruments through that thing back in the day(think Plastic Surgical Holiday or Meddle With Me).An amazing returning appearance by my Oscar B. Schmidt 12-string acoustic (not used since the first CD ala "Pretty Young and Free" and "Ball of String") and the amazing part is: the strings haven't been changed since recording those songs. Yep!! Same exact guitar strings will appear on both our 1st and 4th albums. Cool, yes?Violinist Cecilia Johnson has made many great contributions already. Our good friend Scott Hunt has added vocals and contributed a song for Davey to vocalize. Scott Tabner tears it up on lead guitar using (mostly) his black Les Paul guitar and (for the first time) his Marshall amplifier. Scotty was also going to sing his first vocal track on his new song but opted to have me sing it instead.Dan Chalmers and I "duel it out" on drums on a segue piece. He wins. I drum on his song "Closer." He drums incredible drum tracks on my songs -most notibly on the heavier ones- "Buzz For Aldrin," "Make Like Arthur Lee," "King of Zorg" and "4 sec Nightmare in a 5 sec Dream."I pulled out an old 3D outtake- Mark Kelley's "Al Gabone."I feel like the album needs an MK vocal track. Hopefully that will work out. I really love that song.The songs yet to be recorded include "Faceless Wonder," "A Warm Goodbye," and a remake of "Sidecar" (I think everybody's starting to hate me for driving it into the ground). We keep rehearsing it in so many different ways. That song was among rejected choices for the Happy Birthday CD. I don't think it was presented to Scott Hunt as an option. Still I feel it figures in with what we're doing now.More songs are being written too, so who knows what may attach itself.The intended running order so far:
Disc 1Walking Along (an Edge of Sky)
Make Like Arthur Lee
Milkman's Wife
It Seems You are so Happening
King of Zorg
I Don't Really Mean to Freak Your Mind
No Joke
Spaced Out
Al Gabone
Brilliant but Late Advice
Lost Lonely Sailor
Disc 2
4 sec Nightmare in a 5 sec Dream
She's in Style
A Warm Goodbye
Still Haven't Learned to Behave
Long Goes the Human
The Last Confederate Soldier
I'd Give it All Up for You
Faceless Wonder
My Heroine
Buzz For Aldrin
Good to be Alive
In the End (You're Moving On)
Studio Update:
Since I finally got my recording equipment working. We did alot more work on "Buzz for Aldrin" and "Brilliant but Late Advice." Work that was done while battling the demon posseded equipment in Sept. and Oct. include Tabner's "Long Goes the Human" and remakes of "Spaced Out" and "Milkman's Wife."So far everybug is very happy with what we've done. If it was released today it would work very well actually but the true vision has not yet been completed. I ordered more tape which should arrive on Monday. Since many of the original tapes were harmed by the machine it has made adding overdubs to many of them virtually impossible. It is not going to be easy to mix this album.Right now things are going well and I'm going back to the studio to do more damage."

Early unused cover design by Bob Tibbitts

Banner by Barb Peterson

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