Monday, November 17, 2008

Zak in the Studio (11.15.08)

I had one of the most fun and productive recording sessions of my life on Saturday. Kat and I drove out to Riverside, the home of Sound Sanctuary Recording Studios where I've done all the recording for the Zak Claxton album thus far.

The two songs we planned on doing were "The Sands of Redondo" and "Always Tomorrow". Both songs have a medium-slow 6/8 tempo, so I figured we could stay in the groove getting both down in one day. Kat and I arrived in Riverside at noon as planned, and hung out with studio owner/operator Phil O'Keefe and our pal Ken Lee for awhile until Bunny arrived. Bunny's lateness, by the way, was well justified this time; there were several freeway closures due to the myriad of fires rampaging around Southern California on the day I recorded.

But I digress. We brought Bunny's drums into the studio and got ready to rock. All photos by Kat Claxton, except noted.

We got all the drums and mics set up...

And then went back into the lounge and mapped out our game plan. But first, we took time to do silly poses, as is required by the musician's union.

Finally, we got into recording the two new songs. We started with "The Sands of Redondo" since a) it's the more complex of the two and b) both Bunny and Ken couldn't stay at the studio all day/night, and we had to get their parts down so they could take off in the early evening. My plan had all four of us doing a guitar solo on the tune, so after we got the basic tracks down (drums, rhythm guitar, and bass), we set up to do the solofest.

We tracked the players in order so we'd have some semblance of continuity on the track, and Ken led the effort. This somewhat random choice turned out to be an excellent plan, since Ken laid down this unbelievable solo with his E-Bow and SG, resembling whale calls and really setting the tone for the rest of the song. Phil went next, getting a little grittier than Ken but staying pretty smooth within the D minor motif on the Epiphone Casino. Then Bunny who is so much more than a drummer, took a Strat into the tracking room and laid down this awesome Arabic-themed set of crunchy notes that I just loved. For the final solo, I used a Les Paul and tried to bring the solo section to a peak level of frantic frenzy. I'm really looking forward to hearing this mix!

Before doing anything else on that track, it was time to lay down the basic stuff for the second song, "Always Tomorrow". I kid you not: Bunny got the drums down in one pass. There's only one take, and that's it, and I love it.

Ken had split at about 5:00, and after Bunny did his drums on the second song and grabbed a slice of pizza, he was out of there at 7:00. So, for the next 5-6 hours after that, Phil and I did layer upon layer of overdubs, adding all the vocals, background vocals, additional guitars, piano, and percussion to both tunes. Kat and I rolled out of there close to 1:00AM, and got some much-needed sleep at the luxurious Motel 6 down the street.

One more thing to note: we all had a great time, and soon after we arrived home on Sunday afternoon, I put together a little blooper reel of video footage that Kat had captured while we recorded (below). Enjoy the outtakes and screw-ups and so on. For the time being, it's all you have to hear, since it'll be a little while before we listen to these mixes.

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