Thursday, November 30, 2006

Studio Antics

I have come to the conclusion that we are not a very serious band.

Serious bands wouldn't get distracted from listening back to their studio performances by the game of dressing the drummer up in high heeled pink stilettos... would they?

Would a serious jazz singer allow herself to be photographed with a banana in her mouth? I think not.

Yes, photos exist of both of these occurrences, but no, I am not going to post either of them here.

No. Not even if you beg me.

Well, maybe if you give me flowers...

And I think it's fair to say that Honey excelled herself with the contents of her car boot this time. On previous occasions she has magically produced six ukeleles (in four different colours), and about a dozen shoes, some of them even making up matching pairs. This Sunday it was a huge bag of baby percussion - toy tambourines, midget maracas, technicolour shakey eggs, the works. The original intention was to play some hand percussion on Boys Don't Cry, but once the bag was tipped out over the floor in the control room, the place looked like a creche, and the temptation to shake things wildly for no apparent musical reason overcame us all. I doubt that carpet has ever witnessed anything quite so infantile in its entire professional career.

On another occasion our Sound Engineer returned from lunch to find an impromtu blues jam going on, with Honey stealing the show on Kazoo. Sir Fitz was feeling the icy blast of wind on the back of his neck I can tell you.

No, I wouldn't say that we were a serious band at all. I would say that we were a playful band. And I would also say that is definitely the best sort of band to be in.

'Serious' bands probably spend a lot of time having sleepless nights about whether the piano is too high in the mix in the solo. Playful bands like ours make our minds up on the day the mix is made, and decide we like it that way whenever we hear it from then on. Because that's the way it is.

Yeah, sure we probably could have inched our way to a more perfect recording if we'd sweated blood over it - but that was never the point.

The point was always to get a recording that sounded like we do live. And that meant playing live together in the studio. Which, if you were going to take it seriously, would mash your brain with the pressure.

Only by not taking it seriously is it possible to pull off this feat of daring. Having a cool, collected, gleamingly professional Sound Engineer probably helps as well. I never saw one flicker of frustration cross his inscrutable, smiling face. The man is clearly destined for world domination.

Okay, I have to confess, the week before we did all take it a bit seriously. Yes, there were nights of tossing and turning, there was angsting and indecision, there were emails flying to and fro debating whether or not this part or that part needed to be scrapped and re-recorded. And then, magically, we all calmed down and got things into perspective. All it took, I think, was a week of listening back to what we'd got already in the can, and realising that it wasn't half bad - and then, galvanised by the knowledge that we could actually make good music, we rediscovered our mojo.

Beloved was rather shocked by the inattention and childish behaviour displayed collectively by the Slinktet in the studio... but I think it is both advisable and necessary to maintain a lightness of touch at moments of stress.

Think about it - seven people all craning their ears to listen to the ultimate final, this-is-it mix of a track, focusing on the minutest of details... Was there a tiny cymbal sound just before the final stab at the end? Which of the two trombone growls sounds better over the last verse? Does the vocal go sharp at the end of the first line - and if so, does it add bluesy character to the number, or just sound like I can't sing?

All that concentration, all that pressure... you have to let off steam somehow. Serious bands probably OD on coke. We make the boys in the band try on girls' shoes. Take your pick.

When, you may be asking, can we hear these astonishing recordings?

I am going to tease and tantalise you for as long as possible, as any proper jazz vamp should, so I'm only going to put one track on myspace at a time.

The first one is the last that we recorded - in two takes - and it is dedicated, with thanks, to a young man who once declined to accept my offer of a repeat performance. I was pretty miserable at the time, I can tell you, but it just goes to show that something good can come out of the most ill-advised of romantic encounters.

It's called Well I Didn't Want You Anyway.

Thanks to Mysterio and Sir Fitz for making it into studio magic.




No comments: