Yesterday I had a fun and unique experience in the recording studio. A few weeks back, a friend of mine, Brian, put out a Facebook post asking punk musicians to volunteer to come down to his studio, jam for a couple hours, and then record a song for free. The idea was to see what would happen and, I think, give him a chance to try out some things.
It seemed like a fun idea, so I threw my hat in the ring. I’ve never gone into the studio without a plan and definitely never been part of writing a song from scratch with people I’ve never even jammed with before. Luckily, I ended up knowing the guitarist and drummer who, both named Mark, signed up for the experience as well. Kyle, the singer, was the only person I hadn’t met before.
The studio is in a fairly sketchy part of town and when I rolled up at about 2pm, I wasn’t quite sure where to park. There was a line of people along the roadside on West Indian School Road who were selling puppies, so I took a quick stroll to see the little fuckers. I am such a sucker for puppies. I saw a couple of Rottie mix puppies and had to just keep walking. I would love to have another Rottweiler.
Brian came out and met me and Mark M., the guitar player, showed up as well. We got our gear in and milled around for a bit waiting for Mark P. to get there with his drums. Once he showed, we got all our stuff loaded in and began to set up.
For those who have never recorded or been in a studio, this is the worst part of the whole process. At least I think so. I’m usually so keyed up to get going with the recording that setting up the mics and making sure all the drums are sounding good is a process I have no patience for usually. Today was no different, but I think the whole “unknown” thing kept me focused during the “hurry up and wait” portion of the afternoon.
When we were all set up, Mark and Mark and I just sort of looked at each other for a minute to see who was going to take the lead. I asked Mark the drummer if he had a beat and he did, so we jammed on that for a bit. It was sounding good, so we fooled around a bit more and Mark the guitar player came up with a cool riff for us to work on next and things started to really click.
We worked on a quick arrangement and began shaping the song. Mark the drummer had never been in a studio before, so it was really fun watching him get more and more comfortable while keeping his energy and enthusiasm in a great place. Being old friends made it seem like we were an actual band even though none of us had ever played together before.
Mark the guitar player came up with a really cool guitar part and we slid a few things together and all of the sudden we had a cool, Washington, D.C.-ish style punk song. We took a little break after Kyle the singer got there and then went back in to start getting serious about the recording. I came up with a cool intro riff and we fleshed out the song.
We tracked for about 30 minutes, probably, before realizing it was as good as it was going to get. We listened to it on the monitors in the control room and it was amazing to me how well it went considering we didn’t even have a riff in mind 90 minutes before. Seeing the look in Mark the drummer’s eyes was priceless. The first time in a recording studio is a cool thing, for sure, and it took me back to my first time.
Back in 1989, my friend Paul was taking a recording class during his senior year in High School. He offered to record Religious Skid and we went in a did a song at the studio at South Mountain High School. That was with a guitar player named Colin who I don’t think ever played a gig with us and Steve A on drums. Somewhere I have the reel to reel of that, I think, and a cassette tape of it. It was a weird song called “I Cried At Your Funeral” and I was doing my best/worst Johnny Rotten imitation on it.
I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of recording in the past 30 years, so I didn’t have the same “kid in a candy store” look that Mark the drummer had, but it was a ton of fun today to record with those guys. We hung out for a while to hear what Kyle was going to do with the vocals and it was sounding killer when I left. Kyle and Brian dialed in some good stuff, for sure.
It was nice to not have any vocals to do as well. I don’t get many opportunities to just be a bass player and I was hoping that we were going to skip doing backing or gang vocals. My wish was granted so I got to pack up my gear and head home to a wonderful dinner Rhondi made. She made a wonderful chicken with a little Indonesian spice thing going on and some rice.
As I sit here and think about the recording session and nice Sunday, I just have to feel grateful for the cool opportunities’ life continues to send my way. A month ago, this wasn’t even a thought and now I’ll have yet another recording to be proud of and add to a long list of songs I’ve been lucky enough to record. I can’t wait to hear the finished version and if it is possible, I will share it here, too.
See you tomorrow.