I started recording Dawn of Isis today. I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while but haven’t been sure how to approach it. I’d been revisiting demos and trying to think of what each song needs but always felt restrained by my abilities as a musician/engineer and my technological limitations. Though as time has gone on I’ve started playing new instruments (bass last year) and discovered new techniques while home-engineering a number of records DIY-style.
Basically everything that’s come out of Simple Living Ferndale aside from Songs From The Moon‘s Protest Strategies and “Xmas Eve” has been recorded with a Tascam field recorder, which only records one track at a time. In order to multi-track I have to record something, transfer the SD-card from it to my laptop and line the audio file up with the other existing tracks, which is a much bigger pain in the butt than actual multi-tracking when you can play along to a recording and lay tracks down on top of each other. But I’ve gotten used to this technique, and though I’m in the process of acquiring a new computer, sound card and multi-mic setup, I decided I’d rather not wait to start and just hit the ground running with the tools I’ve become accustomed to using.
But I wasn’t exactly sure how to hit it, or what “it” was going to be. I didn’t know if this was going to be a record resembling my recent solo recordings–stripped down, maybe with some hand-percussion, nothing full-band sounding–but I was inspired by a couple of events. Yesterday morning I went for a walk and listened to the Blasé Splee record Et Cetera for the first time in a long time and it hit me that what I really wanted to do was make a rock record as extensive as that. Even though my solo shows are totally stripped down, I feel capable of transforming my songs into fully fleshed out compositions and can take care of the bulk of the instrumentation myself. The only thing I felt I couldn’t handle would be the drumming, which I was going to ask friends to do for me, but that idea never really sat right with me. I know it’s not a big deal, but if I had others play on the record I just wouldn’t feel right calling it “Jon From The Moon.”
Later yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend and she asked me if I played drums. I took the long way around saying no–that I do play percussion, or sometimes one drum at a time, but don’t feel comfortable on a kit. But I didn’t want to say “no” outright because I really wasn’t sure if I play drums or not, as it’s been years since I’ve sat at a kit. But I knew recording a rock record had to start with the drums.
For the last couple months I’ve had a key to Woodshed Studios in Oak Park, which is owned by Songs From The Moon producer/bassist/guitarist Ed Sertage (formerly of Bedford Drive). Though I don’t know anything about the knobs, bells and whistles, I have access to a large soundproofed room I can use at all hours of the day and night, equipped with a piano, countless amps, and drums. I asked Ed if I could use the space for DIY-recording because my upper-flat home with paper-thin walls is not feasible for it. I got to the studio today expecting to start by constructing basic drum tracks for “Carpe Vita” one at a time, with each drum on its own track, and spent a couple hours deconstructing the song and laying down bass, snare and toms separately. But then I recalled the conversation about drumming–and the particularly inspiring, adventurous nature of the girl I was speaking to–and decided to say fuck it and set up a kit and just make a go at it. I played along while listening to a demo of “Carpe Vita” on my iPod and recorded the drums to one track with the recorder on the other side of a wall of blankets. I played until my blisters broke and I could no longer hold sticks. I have two recorded hours of drumming to rummage through but I feel I have something to work with, and have a revitalized confidence in my abilities to make a band-sounding record by myself. Now that the first track is recorded I’m beyond excited to move forward, and feel like I’ve opened the floodgates to probably the biggest project I’ve taken on by myself.