No Going Back

I announced my big plan to make a home-recorded album to most people I know. Not to mention posting a blog about it in January. So…. No Going Back! Going forwards is more complex than making a big mission statement, so when my heroic but nebulous idea had morphed into a list of  do-able tracks, I felt relieved.

When other musicians said yes, they’d help out, I felt more relieved.

When we rehearsed the rockier tracks  (rockier as in “more rock’n’roll!” ) with drummer Tom Peterson,  and it sounded okay. I was borderline ecstatic

 loosening up during a pre-production rehearsal

loosening up during a pre-production rehearsal

Now I’m down from the high and trying to remember all that  “what vocals where? which guitar when? which take and why?”  kind of stuff. My half-created tracks are like 14 or 15 little babies all clamouring for attention…..at least two will get thrown out of the pram before I’m done but I don’t know which yet. The loudest ones are getting too much attention. The quieter ones need feeding with fresh inspiration.

Analyse THAT!

 

Laying down

Drum ace Tom Peterson laid down five drum tracks in one afternoon a week after our rehearsal.  With able audio assistance from my partner, Mr Rob Raw, I’ll  lay down lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar,  percussion overdubs and possibly keyboards.

For twice as many tracks as Tom, in fits and starts during whatever spare time I can brutally squeeze from our chaotic schedules.

Then I’ll lay down all the guitar and vocals that didn’t cut it the first time round.

And then I’ll lay down. Period.

To be continued. In the meantime: a solo demo version of one potential track

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I have plans. BIG plans…..

….they materialised from somewhere deep in that nebulous no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

It’s over two years since I experienced that curious mix of planning, luck, creativity and unbearable stress  a.k.a  Recording An Album at Home, and I’m about to do it again.

Time was, I’d go in a “real” studio with loads of gear and a massive clock on the wall, hoping we wouldn’t run into extra time. In a way, that got results. With a low budget indie label, there was a vanishingly small chance of redoing anything that wasn’t up to scratch, plus there’s nothing like a deadline to focus your performance.

Olstyn 2004 - Recording Ready for Anything

Recording “Ready for Anything” by Kathy X (Studio X Olstyn, Poland 2004) – had to concentrate VERY hard!

the desk was THIS big...

the desk was THIS big… according to our top-notch engineer Martin K

The 13-track Kathy X album took 5 days to record AND produce, and it still sounds good. Fast forward to now. I’m fortunate enough to be LIVING in a well-equipped home studio with my favourite bassist Mr Rob Raw – who also does audio-engineering. Yet it’ll be May earliest before the New Album – with a similar number of tracks –  is born. Why the time difference? The songs are no more complex.  Five chords will still be the height of sophistication.  It’s something like this:

A band is more than its members.     As a band, the members of Kathy X squabbled and argued and rarely rehearsed longer than 60 minutes a month,  but we pulled the rabbit out of the hat when it came to doing shows and putting down tracks. They all had that “band stamp”.  As a solo artist, recording with guest musicians who’ve rarely if ever played those songs live with me, it’s a different deal. Less arguing ….. less chemistry.  The onus is more on ME to work the magic, which takes time.  Without going into technical details… it’s akin to putting on make-up for hours to finally achieve the natural look.

Logistics.    I have up to three projects on the go at any given time, and so does Mr Rob Raw. It takes about two hours for me to get in the right headspace to record a single track, him up to two hours to get the sounds perfect before recording it, and between ten minutes and three hours to actually record it. Multiply that by all the tracks on all the songs, add production and mastering time, divide that by the amount of time we are both at home at the same time,  subtract a few hours for not having to travel, add them back on for answering the phone and emptying the washing machine….and you’ll be confused.

Anyway it’s more than five days.

 Decisions….    About artwork. About promotion. About pressing of physical copies. About all kinds of stuff that used to be decided by someone else or communally is now up to me, which is both liberating and a pain in the arse.

But it’ll all be worth it…so watch this space!

Studio 88 Special Effects Area

Studio 88 Special Effects Department

Kathy Freeman Songs: BANDCAMP

More about Kathy Freeman at KATHY-FREEMAN.DE

Rambling about Marshall Stacks again

 

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I discarded 90% of my worldly goods when I moved to Berlin  but the Marshall Stack came with me.  Death Valley Surfers  had a New Year’s Eve show there at the end of 2000, and it came along in the van  (along with the other 10% of my worldly goods.)  I’d never envisioned the Stack not being a  part of my life,  but my life changed.  Gig requirements in my new home shifted from “band van” to “small car” or even “take the bus” shows.  My last-century  sound equipment was becoming more decorative than functional. It graced the minimally furnished front room of my first  Berlin flat, but it didn’t get around much.

Marshall Stack and Ms Ruby Freeman

Marshall Stack and Ms Ruby Freeman, Berlin 2003

Eventually  a move to a third floor apartment with no lift overtook all other considerations. Goodbye, Stack.

I was doing mainly salon and bar shows where a  compact and minimal setup was the way to go. After one or two experiments with a Beringer and a custom made Michael Bender (cult Berlin amp inventor),  I went for  a double act of sturdy new generation VOX-es.  They had precious little of the magic  I remember from the AC 30 I played in the seventies (though the little pink one scores  10 for cuteness)

Big Vox and Little Vox

I didn’t give Marshalls much more thought to be honest, until I made a trip to Liverpool with my partner in 2005. We chanced to see a poster in a  guitar shop, advertising none other than Jim Marshall,  signing copies of his new CD that day . The total lack of fanfare was unbelievable. I’ve seen better publicity for a church jumble sale.  Naturally we went in and he signed two posters for us. As can happen with meeting famous people, I could think of buggerall to say.  This was compounded by my guilt  for having ditched his creation the year before . But somehow I did manage  a couple of pleasantries, and will never forget the impression he made – courteous, unassuming and a total gentleman  – I’ll also never forget  my astonishment on hearing his CD  which was a million miles from the rock monster sound he’d created, more like granddad singing in the bath. Bless him.

Gentleman Jim Marshall, Liverpool 2005

Gentleman Jim Marshall, Liverpool 2005

Finally,  a photo  of the Stack on active service – at a  Joyryde recording at  Alaska studios, London in 1993.  I think the corrugated iron was there to make it even louder.  Scientific explanations  welcome.

Marshall Stack at Alaska Studios 1993

 

 

Cheers! More about Jack Daniels…

” I like Jack Daniels and I ride fast cars…”

Fast Cars and Jack Danielsthe story behind the song….

Sounds  clichéd , but  the inspiration really did come to me in a dream.

A girl was playing a video game in a dark sleazy bar. With typical dream logic, the other drinkers were simultaneously the characters in the game.  They were NOT nice people.  She knew she’d lose. She was destined to play victim. The game was pre-programmed. She was mourning her future before she’d even got there.

 “And I  will pay, pay, pay for the punishment that is to come”

Woke up with a feeling of desolation and the song followed within a few days. The dream’s message ? Throughout a one-track pursuit of all things exciting, shiny and dangerous, deep down I knew it would all go pearshaped and that none of the fun came without a price tag…..

 “Don’t know where, and I don’t know when…but I know just how this story’s gonna end….

Fast Cars and Jack Daniels performed by Kathy X at the Schokoladen Berlin

No Scotch, thanks. I’ll have a Jack Daniels

 I was 18 years old, preparing to go to a party. And learning how to cook.  Before leaving, I ate some home-made soup. The main ingredient? Parsnips.  Bad move. From nine till late o’clock I was drinking God knows what. Chased down with a generous measure of Scotch. Not rocket science to figure out what happened to my stomach. Since that night I’ve treated parsnips with caution, and the taste of even the finest, Glenwhatever 12 Year single malt carries a faint warning note. But Jack Daniels was never a problem. For my digestion anyway.

For the last word on spirits raise your glasses to George Thorogood.