Making music!

Some of you might know that at last year’s Kaleidoscope Gathering, I attended a sumbelritual where I made an oath. I promised that I would (finally!) record an album of my own music, with a minimum of eight original songs of mine, and that it would be available at the following gathering.

Last week, with about one month to go, I got organized to make the recording! My good friend Ja Sonier agreed to let me use his equipment and to play sound-engineer pro bono(what a good man is he!). We recorded a few more than eight of my songs that way. They are in the mixing stage right now, but we hope to have them available in time for the festival.

Why did I put it off so long? One reason had to do with the physical condition of my guitar: it needed repairs, especially for a bowed neck, and wasn’t much fun to play. It is now in the hands of a talented luthier. But more than that: the idea of recording my stuff is a little frightening. I’m a pretty good guitarist and singer for parties and small festivals, and I’ve always loved doing so. But a studio is a different place altogether, as is the audience for recorded music. And I can think of a number of local indie bands and singers who are much, much better than me.

Many years ago, I recorded a few songs at The Centre for Art Tapes, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. That was the only other time I recorded anything in a studio. (Six tracks were made that day, of which I still have only three, and my musicianship at the time was really awful so I keep those recordings under wraps.) So to record with Ja was, for all real purposes, a new experience. For instance, all the equipment is digital now. This time around, I also think I grew to appreciate more how the sound engineer is as much an artist as the musician is. A good engineer’s understanding of frequencies, techniques, timing, and the like, can make someone sound very good indeed.

It’s amazing what a microphone will do. I felt that played rather well in my short rehearsals, and then for the actual recordings I would drop chords, forget lyrics, mispronounce things, and have to start and stop all over again. It was as if I suddenly felt the presence of hundreds of other people, all listening, all judging. The microphone became like another human presence, an anonymous presence, and I made lots of flubs. Ja was very gracious. I suppose I’ll just have to get used to it, if I ever do this again.

We were recording this during a heat wave, and since we couldn’t run the AC at the time (it makes too much noise). So you can imagine what the studio was like. Sweat poured off my arms and down my back like rain. But as “they” say, “you must suffer for your art…”

For one song, since it had been written very recently and I had not yet memorized the words, I asked to record the voice track and guitar tracks separately. With that done, we started working on the mixing for the voice track. Then Ja’s computer overheated and crashed – it was more than 30 degrees in the studio. So we put the AC back on and took a break. When we returned, we found that the voice track had not been saved! But this turned out well in the end anyway, because the second recording of the voice track was much better. No flubbed lyrics, and a more passionate delivery.

The songs I’ve included on the album include a number of Bardic circle favourites from KG and WiccanFest over the many years. I’ll have them available at the festival itself (two weeks from now!), for a small and reasonable price, and after the fest I’ll make them available online. I’m also going to offer a concert at the festival too. My hope is that people will like the songs, and that perhaps other musicians will learn them and enjoy playing them at their parties and concerts too. (But if you are a musician and want to record a cover version, let me know first.)

A quick question for everyone: what format would you prefer? MP3, for playing on computers and ipods, or “normal” (whatever format that is) for playing in regular CD players?

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