When I started writing for my seventh release Necessity I didn’t, like I never do, have a clear idea of where the record would end up — didn’t know what songs would be on the record, didn’t think the album would feature the electric guitar and certainly didn’t anticipate the overall vibe of the album. But in retrospect, it all seems very obvious.
A few years ago I started going back to my “old” way of writing. For the most part, I now write everything down on paper. I have a sketch book (one of those little Moleskine manuscript paper books) that I write down all kinds of ideas — chord progressions, melodies, licks, etc. I had been writing directly in the computer, but going back to writing on paper just seems to work better for me right now. A little while ago, I also started documenting ideas into a portable recorder (a Zoom H2N). So between the manuscript paper and the recorder, I feel I’ve streamlined my writing process. I know this may not seem like big deal, but this “new” way of working really has helped me to be more creative.
For Necessity, I also changed how I record. I suppose my current approach is a little (or a lot) more traditional, but it feels very freeing to me. If you think of 70’s style recording (write a song, record bed tracks, then overdubs, then leads, then mix and finally master) that’s how Necessity was made.
So here was the basic workflow for the record. After I wrote the tunes, I created bed track templates in Logic Pro 9. Essentially, I did mockups of the songs using loops from EZdrummer and wrote rough basslines using Spectrasonics Trilian. Sonya (Mitlewski) played all of the keys with piano/Rhodes/Wurlitzer sounds coming from Modartt Pianoteq Play and pads from Spectrasonics Omnisphere. I recorded my rhythm guitars using my Seagull Artist Studio CW into two mics and my Godin Freeway SA into a Line 6 HD300.
I then bounced stereo stems of the bed tracks as: drums, bass and harmony (keys and rhythm guitars). Those stems, along with charts, were sent off to Dave Patel (drums) and Henrik Bridger (bass). Dave and Henrik then replaced the MIDI loops/parts with their original parts in their respective studios (Dave’s studio is called DaWG Studios and Henrik’s studio is called Château Juliet) and sent their parts back to me.
After I had all of the bed tracks done, I recorded my leads, which were all recorded with my Godin Freeway SA into a Line 6 HD300. The outputs of the HD300 went into an Apogee Duet and were recorded in Logic. One of the reasons the album is called Necessity is that I basically HAD to record leads directly. Right across the street from me there are three 30-50 storey condos being built. It’s non-stop noise. Recording the electric directly eliminated any noise “concerns”. That said, I’m truly happy that I used the electric (rather than an acoustic) for this record! I think there’s a saying about necessity…
One other recording “change” with Necessity is that I went back to bouncing individual tracks down as audio files. For instance, all of the MIDI keys were bounced as audio. When it came time to mix, everything was an audio file. I’m not sure how that affected the sound or feel of the record, but it helped me to focus and continually move forward. And finally, I mastered the album in iZotope Ozone 5.
So that’s the somewhat techy description of the making of Necessity! For those who want even MORE tech, check out the list of gear/plugins I used below.