It was 2013 when we started this recording project……..
I had a Tascam 2488 recording console and a bunch of songs that we wanted to record just ourselves to see where things are going. Without a great deal of planning or thought, it soon came apparent that our rehearsed versions that were good for a live sound weren’t what we wanted for a recording. We then pulled the songs apart and re-constructed for what might be better suited in a recording production. I was having many issues with the Tascam 2488 and so upgraded to the Tascam DP24, fortunately the initial learning curve was easy as the interface was fairly similar.
After spending a year, re-constructing the songs and the failed first round attempt with the Tascam 2488, we began recording on the Tascam DP24. We had sooooo many issues with the DP24, definitely a ghost in the machine. These very strange clicks and pops could be heard and we tried for months to figure it out. We thought that it was our cell phones, active pickups on guitars, Wi-Fi, or even some kind of interference from outside, perhaps aliens or the Russians. I hounded Tascam for an answer but there was none, it was completely exasperating and frustrating, and it really looked like this would be failure. Then one day, Rob checked again with Tascam forums and lo and behold, there were many people having the same issue as us !!!!, we had just been one of the first. Very soon, Tascam released a FW update, I installed it and the problem that had literally ground us to a halt had gone away. Back in business…
All the songs were recorded and re-recorded over a period of 2 years, with different set ups and techniques. As we would record, I would mix the songs and if the final product was good, it was left and we would move onto the next.
The songs were recorded with a click track, a scratch guitar and a scratch vocal, sometimes a scratch bass. The purpose was to give Lisa the song structure and the dynamics. The click track had to be so loud in Lisa’s headphones that it was always heard at the beginning of the songs and the fadeouts, so it would later have to be erased out in the mix. Most of the drum recordings were a 5 mike set up trying different mike placements around per song. The recording of the drums had to be in one take as punching in was not possible with the exception of a couple songs where there was a drums break. The drums recordings would go good, though Lisa was pretty worn out at the end of each session, probably due to the deathly loud click track in her ear or the black toque she wore to hold the loud headphones as tightly to her head as possible.
Guitars or bass would be recorded next, and most of the original bass tracks would be re-recorded after Rob bought his new Rickenbacker bass. I, on the other hand would do anything to keep a guitar track as a tremendous amount of time and energy was spent playing with amp and the mikes to get the right sound and there was no way to duplicate it. Guitars are a Fender Telecaster and a Gibson The Paul with a Fender Twin amp and Peavey Custom amp, both tubes, both noisy, both with whirring fans to cool the tubes, but that’s rock n roll….. The only guitar pedal I use is a Danelectro, though I might have used a Boss Chorus in Expensive Mistakes. The acoustic guitar is a Takamine. Rob uses a variety of pedals on the bass for compression, boost, flange….it’s a bit of cabling mess, and he has slowly taken over ¾ of the floor space……
Production moved along, as tricks on the console became more evident and the quality just got better and better, which is why at the end of production we opted to re-record a few songs that had been recorded earlier on. There are songs that have some flaws in the recording, but the feel was just so significant, special or real, that they just had to stay. All the drums, and the majority of the bass and guitars are single recordings, no punch ins. If a glaring mistake was made, we would just start from the top, if for no other reason than I was too cheap to buy a Punch-In foot pedal for the Tascam.
Recording the vocals had its challenges, as I had a serious allergy issue in the winter of 2016 of which I had a sore throat from November 2015 to March 2016. I had tried to do many of the recordings in one take, but eventually resorted to punch ins. During the vocal recordings I would sometimes come up with different melodies for the leads or the backups, to surprise the band when they would hear the mixes, some worked, some failed. Many of the earlier recordings had Lisa doing back up vocals as well, but as time moved on and songs needed re-recordings, I would do most of these myself in the essence of saving time. I have always loved the sound of a double track, so there a few songs with a lead vocal double track, it may sound like it is a digital delay, but it isn’t, it is me singing the lead vocal twice. I had read some that Paul McCartney always used a 170mSec delay on his vocal, so I set mine to 180mSec. I had read several books on recording, mixing, and engineering and I would take some of the tips that various known folks used and employ them in this production. There are no copy/pastes of vocals anywhere on this album, all of the lines were performed. None of the songs were slowed down, keyed down to lower the range nor is there autotune, so all the flaws and inadequacies of a challenged singer are there in living 24bit digital brilliance 🙂
In the winter of 2016, I brought a few songs into Lacquer Channel to have Noah Mintz, senior engineer, listen to validate the mixing would be fine for mastering, he had a couple suggestions around stereo placement and compression, but that basically they were on the right track. It would be 13 months later before I would be back with mixed songs ready to master.
At about the 2/3 way of production, there were 10 songs recorded, 2 of which were covers, when I heard about the copyright issues with recording a cover song. So instead, I brought 3 new songs to the band, Lazy Cat, Things We Said Today and No Word of a Lie. Lisa being Lisa immediately liked them and came up with ideas where Rob being Rob was not as excited knowing he would be challenged to create 3 new bass lines. It is with some irony that these 3 songs would end up being the 3 lead songs of the album and No Word being Rob’s favourite.
For mixing purposes, Tannoy PBM 6.5 speakers are used for reference along with Sennheiser Pro 280 headphones. I also took the mixes out to the car, stock Ford sound system and see how they sound there. Well into production, one of the Tannoys blew up, no doubt from Rob’s bass, so the remainder of the album was mixed with headphones. I much rather mix with headphones as there is this life that is created with the stereo panning that is simply not found in other sound systems. I was happy to hear that mixing with headphones in this iPod generation is now quite common.
For some time, I was really unsure about the production but there were a few very key moments where I was sure we were onto something good that we would be happy with, if only we three. I had to temper these up moments with many down moments for all the challenges of the studio, engineering and producing. Being a runner, there were many runs with mixes on the iPod and cheap ear buds to listen over and over. My style of mixing and producing is to look for what irritates me the most about a song that I just can’t live with and fix that while nurturing what parts I love the most and showcase them, knowing that at some point I need to say, “ok, I can happily live with this”. Of course, there are always things that can/could be done different but as Rob said one day, “you have squeezed everything possible out of that Tascam recording console, and anything more will require Mutt Lang”.
For individual song inspirations, history and recording notes please see the chapters related to those.
There was never an original intent to take these recordings to mastering, CD production and an online presentation. The original idea was to create something that we three could be proud of, show a few friends and a timestamp for the 1,000 hour test, but it sort of grew and grew and as Rob texted me near the end:
“ if KnK is the best thing I do, that’s pretty ducking good in my books…’
“God damn auto-correct…”