Studio session 24/11/13 recording the E.P. The Idolins

After a not too boozy night before, eating fish finger cobs, watching a Drag Queen rip the piss out of a bird called Donna (poor lass, but very funny! It was her 40th Birthday bash too), playing bingo and losing the raffle. I was gutted not to have won a gallon of whisky. I saw all of the hope drain from our mate Veronica, as ours wasn’t the winning ticket drawn. I grumbled, ‘Bastard’ out loud many times that night!

So the next morn, I packed up my beer, wine, herbal tea, tiger balm, wet wipes, tampax and guitar then headed off with our band,The Idolins for the studio. In A cold November grey day and a heavy period. I was nervous. (The day I don’t don’t get nervous, will be the day I quit music. That day will never come if I have any choice in the matter.) Nerves help performance, give the rush, make accidents, create perfections, the genius.  Paper Stone Studio has character, the big live red room felt good, even though a bit ‘chilly willy.’ If I could have legally lit a campfire in the middle of the cables, and had It have been practical. I would!  But I suppose too much heat makes one dozy. I popped open a bottle of Bud (At 10:30 am, I felt like I was on holiday abroad!  We commenced set up with the engineer, Tom. A dude that reminded us  Bar and I sat googling, after trying to put our fingers on his ‘looky likey’ for hours, in between conspiracy theories and Reptilians chat. Vince Vaughn mixed with Ice T. A talented, honest engineer. This session was recorded live. By that I mean. The band were individually miked up and performed each song live, together. Did I mention that my family of bandmates are special in so many ways. A great bunch of people. Talented too. Always a bonus, The likes of Jedward, The Cheeky Girls and the many delusional pop idol ‘wannabies’ whose family blatantly lie to them, have no place in our world. Well thats just cruel. Give a kid a wax crayon and let ’em draw. If they are good buy them paints. If they are crap, in time, try them on something else. Or you could just sell their work as Modern Art! Shit in the eye of the arrogant and pretentious. Being a good musician takes talent, dedication and practice. Oh and a good chunk of your day job wages buying instruments and bits.

Karen-Acoustic guitar and lead vocals, Nick-acoustic guitar, Hannah-Cello, Bar-Backing vocals., Mark-Cajon and djembe, Me-Banjo and lead acoustic guitar picking, licks and flicks. A few extra backing vocals were added later by Nick and Hannah, cymbals by Mark and tambourine by Bar was added at the end. As having ‘Bar’ our backing vocalist wacking a tambourine would have drowned out everything.

So we gathered and began to play. Maximum concentration is required to perform to ones best. Or you just let go and fluke it, or get possessed by your instrument.   One fuck up and its all over! Start again. Patience and attentiveness.  Now acoustic strings hurt after a while, even with hardened finger tips. After a few takes, the fabulous new song, ‘The Dancer’ was done. I’d heard the workings of the rest of band a few weeks ago. It was emotional. So I worked on a few bits for my part. Its one of those songs that would be so easy to over indulge in. But keeping things a little more simple to give space to all was achieved.  Its dark, velvety, haunting and beautiful. Holding ones breath, not moving through fear of the mic picking up as the instruments hit the last note. The vibrations dwindling into silence…”Now breathe!”

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I got into my own little world at the start of ‘Choices.’ Its an oldie, but a favourite, also known as the ‘sound check song.’ It used to be first on the setlist. We’d sound check it infront of said pub audience. It’s short at sweet, only about 2:30, then get a round of applause..and then… play it again to said audience, who clapped again. We never quite got it down well recorded before. It featured on The Sound Of The Rain Album and many demos. But we never quite captured it properly. We did yesterday!

I was sat on the piano stool. Messing with harmonics and my capo. Getting into my “Zone” dream world. Its an improvised intro. I like to think of it as a bit of ‘Doors’ influence thrown in. I then noticed all eyes watching me. Oops. The band were waiting to begin the hook to go into the first verse, all eyes staring at me.  I laughed out loud. I only have to look at Karen and pull a face for cracking ups to occur. Luckily that was the engineers sound check. We got that song down in a few takes in the end. Everyone afterwards entering the engineers room to listen back and ‘devastates themselves’ over perceived mistakes, or what didn’t come out as planned. As a collective. We thought, “ooh try a few more.”  But they didn’t feel right and I dropped a clanger. So the original one we chose will get mixed and mastered. It feels alive, melodic, right..Just so right!  You can get into the ‘What If?’ trap. If it feels right, go with it. Being in a band is about compromise. Happy accidents are cool. I sit back and make them all the time. I rarely play the same thing twice, Thats not a bragging thing. Its just the way I play. I’m a Gemini. I get bored easily. My Ying and Yang battlle each other. I’m working on my oneness.  I need adventure and new things all the time. Old age in later 30’s is mellowing, not settling me, myself and I.

Well I play the ‘known’ hooks on the guitar. The other way of recording, (except the ‘non musician/technician’ cheating way where samples and shit are used to generate songs) If you are recording a song literally track, by track. You can achieve such levels of anal retention perfection. Spend weeks and months on a song. But the danger of losing the great holy moly vibes poses a threat.  But as a band. Capturing the live feel was what we wanted.

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So we moved onto another new song, ‘What Would You Change’ Now this is very energetic live, a bit Mumford and Sons. But very much The Idolins. We all love performing it. Really easy during rehearsals. Its great to do on stage. One can almost mosh and flip a wig off on the banjo. I dont have a wig, but If I did or had a comb over. It would look superb going at it to this song!  SO

… After a break and pub lunch, the sleepiness and weariness hits. SHIT! The filmmaker arrives, takes his footwear off (as to not make noise while he is filming us live) and sets up. Red light fever hits! Its major fuck up time! Forgetting the structure. We are all like…AAAArgh. What is going on. We’ve played this song so many times without a problem. Trying to pose and hid the double chins when the camera is pointed at one. Nick hit a wrong chord clanger! The dirty and horrified look Hannah and Bar gave him made me piss, Karen got just to the end then lost herself. I kept losing my timing with Mark, who was bloody knackered.  Nick calms all and suggests a break. So the energy of this song was being sapped. Sorted our shit out..and finally I think it was maybe 7 or 8 takes in the end? We got it! We decided not to do ‘Forever Changing.’  Our collective battery has gone flat for the day. We have a great new recording of it. It would have been nice. But we were all exhausted. There is only so much musical creativity one can channel and output in one session. I never understand bands who take ages recording albums. Maybe they are too busy snorting, popping or swigging? Knitting or having nails and hair done? Or just extremely unorganised? Or just crap.

Proud? Yes. Satisfied? Yep. Excited? Hell yes! my work is now done. Well except painting the EP cover design. I’ve got a crazy little idea.


See Nick and Karen doing their Johnny Castle and Francis ‘Baby’ Houseman impersonations.

I’m playing live and solo this Saturday for an Oxjam fundraiser comprised of some Nottingham singer/songwriter. Should be panty liner fillingly fun. I’ve brushed off the cobwebs of some of my old and loved material. Pissed the neighbor’s baby off by practicing on random evenings in our healing room. You never know, the little winkle might grow up liking real music.

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