The very first pre-production idea I had for any song on the album was one odd little note about the song Ghost. “ Reverb-y overlapping saxophones in the bridge”….. That was it. Something inside me said that was something I wanted to look at before anything else. Chris Harnett came in and improvised as many different bizarro sax techniques we could think of. We used all of them. 11 overlapping tracks of saxophone solos.
The song had already seen several arrangements. I had been playing a solo acoustic one for a while. My sometimes band King Nancy had worked on a very different sounding arrangement too. I still have hopes of us recording that version someday so I had to make some decisions about how to do some stuff differently.
I think this turned out the most art-rock-y of the album. Certainly had the most experimenting with sounds. There is a drumbeat that never breaks out until it breaks wayyyy out, Inverted choruses which technically also never break out and there are more noise sculpting guitars then there are guitars playing actual lines, riffs or chords. Then of course we have the saxophones, multiple contrary harmonies and vocal lines and a flurry of frenetic organ lines. Because of all these little experimental not-quite-pop-music-accepted isms this was the longest song In terms of starting and it never quite sounding like it was getting there for me. I had a vision but it was the sort of personal mensza puzzle of music where all these things had to be recorded that would sound horrible until I got them all together and could finally mix them properly. I don’t know how many times Robert Kelly (the world’s best engineer) looked at me wondering when the treatment was going to start making sense. I think he gave up the day Paul Heppleston came in to make whale sounds with his guitar. We had a lot of fun making this record.
As this is the last Song-A-Day because the album is officially released all over the interwebs and on CD (Vinyl is coming I swear!) I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing crew of people who made this extremely personal album come to life with me. If I thank everybody here you’ll be reading till Christmas. But that is why albums have liner notes. There are a few folks I have to single out though:
Robert Kelly (Engineer/Additional production) has the best ears in the biz. He loves to experiment and knows how to get every sound you can describe. If you are a musician and you are looking to do some recording and need an engineer or a producer to make you sound good he’s the guy.
My core band was, as always, Brad Madden on bass/double bass and Chris Clarke on drums/percussion. We make fun of each other and bitch at each other as much as any brothers do. But we also work really well together. There was nothing I could imagine for this record that these guys couldn’t do.
Ian Foster came in to help on a couple of tracks playing multiple instruments. Guitar, Piano and Harmonica. But he also wrote a killer string arrangement for Embers. We had a lot of fun recording the parts for that one.
The strings were played beautifully by Janis Campbell (Violins) and Naomi Kavka (Cello) (Brad Madden played the Double Bass as I mentioned earlier). It has been a dream of mine since I began writing music to not only write or score for strings but to have them recorded expertly so I can relish in them again and again. Thanks to these ladies ( And Brad) I can now do that. This doesn’t mean I have scratched an itch, more like now I will always have to get strings on my albums.
My most bearded of friends, Mr. H, Paul Heppleston was able to come in a make some crazy guitar sounds for me. In fact you hear that crazy ghost-y whale sound at the beginning of this song? Yeah he did that. Why did I ask him to make a whale sound at the beginning? I dunno. I just do what my brain tells me.
Tino Borges came in, sick as a dog, but managed to lay down some killer improvised guitar riffage in Firing Line AND lay down an impromptu harmony in Some Things of Yours (for Don).
Danika Drover, my go-to-girl came in and doubled Tino’s harmony and then laid down whatever other notes I felt were missing from the album. She has this uncanny ability to just do that. You say “can you sing..this?”…and she says “I don’t know” but then nails it anyway.
Brad Madden- Bass
Chris Clarke- Drums
Paul Heppleston- Treated Guitars
Chris Harnett- Saxophone
JS- All other sounds