Today we resume recording for the new album(s). 34 songs in total were laid down last summer by me on rhythm guitar and vocals, The Poet on drums and The Ex Norwegian on bass and production. All in New York. For the record (pardon the pun) those songs are: American Cinematheque, Another Day in the Apocalypse, Baby Blue Doll, Give Me Blue Skies, Born to Lose, Closer to You, Crazy Heart, Don’t Be Sad My Love, Gimme Some Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Stranger (Hello Hello Hello), Hold On My Love to Keep You Strong, When the Battle is Through, Honestly, I felt Freedom When You Said No, I’m Looking For, It Will Be Me, It’s Alright It’s Okay, Junk, Knee Deep in the Apocalypse, Marsha’s Sleeping, Jack Johnson (working title…), My Black Brother, Never Too Far Apart, Oh Sophia, Our Love Still Turns Me On, Silence Kills, So For Real, Summer Flowers, The Ambassador in Paris, The Prince of New York, Welcome to the Rest of the World, White House Jihad, and Without You.
We’re in Seattle presently. We’re primarily working on my parts, adding rhythm guitars and some minor leads — mostly acoustic and some electric, lead and background vocals, and various different keyboards and percussion instruments. From here, once I’m done with all my parts, the songs will be sent out to Vancouver in LA to add his special Transcendence magic (which “literally” translates to lead guitars, various keyboards, percussion and background vocals), The Ex Norwegian — who may clean up or redo some of his bass parts and add various other guitars and keyboards, DJ Johnny Rose who will add piano and keyboard parts, Infinito who will add percussion, and Zeke Zaskin, who, besides being the one who will ultimately mix and master the albums to completion, is usually encouraged to add additional guitars, keyboard and background vocals. Various other musicians will come in to add things like cello and strings and horns.
For all of our albums over the last 11 years we have used Trophy Wife as our main female background vocalist along with Vancouver and me and Zeke. But on All Your Heroes Become Villains and Ballad On Third Avenue we used The Toad for background vocals as well (this momentous occasion detailed in Diaries entries back in ’04 ’05 and ’06). He really knows how to match and augment my vocals and is a freaking stellar harmony vocals writer. So I’m hoping that all the tracks can be packaged up and sent to him down in Florida so he can add whatever he wants to. This is going to be the strangest album we’ve ever recorded due to the fact that we’re all in so many different states and all the recording will be run solo and sent back and forth over the internet or via giant external hard drives. A lot of albums are recorded like that these days. It’s surprisingly less infrequent than most people would think.
It’s not been easy getting back into it. It’s going to take a while to get back in the vibe of these songs and the respective albums that they will eventually become a part of. Besides the fact that the band is experiencing some of that seven year itch meltdown drama that is customary with bands who have been together for a long time. Vancouver is vehement about not wanting any “fake drums” on the record, meaning drum machines, samplers, keyboards, sequencers, MIDI drums — anything but “real drums, i.e. acoustic drums played on a regular old fashioned drum set.
Most popular music that we hear today on radio or TV is created using machine made drums or samples and NOT “real drums” or at best a combination of both, which is what The Ex Norwegian and I recommend doing this time out. An artist has a much better chance of the music sounding modern , current or contemporary AND has a lot more control technically of those sounds, compared to “just” “real drums”. He actually sent us an email saying “sorry guys, it’s me or fake drums”. On the other hand The Ex Norwegian is so freaking mad at all the drama that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with Vancouver anymore because of all this. Me and the other guys are stuck smack dab in the middle.We love Vancouver, especially his ability to make beautiful music. We put up with a lot of shit because of his unique talents and believe it’s totally worth it. He is after all a HUGE component of our sound.
Of course, it’s all subjective. What one person calls “real drums” can be totally different than what another person calls real drums. Gotye released a series of documentariy styled short videos detailing how he created his last album — the one that everyone is familiar with now due to that hit he had last year and when he’s discussing this one song he shows how he set up two floor toms and a snare and remarks “this song is special because it’s the first we ever used any real drums on any of my music…” So what we’re doing is normal for the industry at this point in time and in fact will sound a lot more like the music that everyone is now accustomed to. That’s what we want. We really want these albums to “sound” modern and current and professional, pristine, polished, commercial, regardless of what is expected for your typical rock band.
I spent all day yesterday listening to the two rock radio stations here in Seattle (both are awesome stations — I wish all the other cities in the States had stations as good as we have here) and just about 95% of the songs that were played all had computerized drum sounds on them as opposed to acoustic drums. It’s just the sound that people are used to now. We don’t see anything wrong with going in that direction for an album or two, especially considering the fact that The Poet is still “playing a drum kit.” He’s just “triggering” drum samples that are inside of the computer or drum machines etc. It’s really freaking cool. Working with the technology that we available to us now to make the best sounding album we can using all the tools we can find. It’s fun and creative.
I hope Vancouver catches up. Not only do I worry about us as a band but also about him. I personally don’t want him to fall behind just because of any purism or principle. He deserves to be well known and popular for his skills and musical gifts. But you’ve got to keep up; no one is going to hold your hand and drag you to what’s happening. But he’s always taken a long time to catch up in these matters. Back in 2001 when I first started getting into what was then being called “indie rock”, he hated it. It wasn’t until this year that he started to “like” indie rock. Of course now indie rock is old and stale and the cool thing to do would be to steer clear from it and head into a totally new direction — which is exactly what The Ex Norwegian suggested we do on these two albums. Try to mix our rock band sensibility with a more modern and popular music approach in order to capitalize on the thrilling success we had with the last solo album. I dig the idea. Just hope we can pull it off.
More later. Gotta run.