The Band Recording Process

The Lag are a funny beast. We're more a live band than a studio band, by design. This friday we try to capture lightning in a bottle, with Patrice's hubby Johnny at the controls of a damn nice studio full of nice recording gear over an 8 hour day starting at 11am.

At almost every juncture, we've chosen play quality over versatility in recording. We'll be using room mics rather than close microphone placement for the drums so we get a more acoustic feel. We'll be laying all the tracks live with only the vocals added after the fact. We're running cables under doors, taking full advantage of the glass and room spaces available to us. We've stated that we want big dynamics, room in the mix to go from quiet, to loud, to louder if the mood strikes us.

We've figured out what order we're recording in, how long things should take, and what might break. We're bringing spares of a lot of stuff because we play our instruments hard; strings and drumheads like to fail at the weirdest times. We're making the most of our time while we're there. We're loading our drums in the day before to let them stabilize after tuning in the room they'll be recorded in.

And we'll be handing what we do over to someone who is in the business of making other people sound good. For a band that has been a bunch of control freaks, it's a weird sort of surrender. But it should be fun. More so than anything, we want to capture what it sounds like when we're in the old practice room, or on stage. Not just the noise the instruments are making, but the fun we have. Just going through rehearsal recordings, a lot of our songs end in a stoked rebel yell, or "whoots", or yelling at each other, or laughing. It's a great feeling (the copious drinking doesn't hurt either). And the funny thing is we can't wait to be done with the recording process so we can give the substantial backlog of half done new ideas some time in the sun (for those who don't know, whenever you're supposed to be working on practicing the same 6 songs, you get *really* creative about doing well, anything else).

As a kid I barely ever played team sports. I think this made me a little bit of an asshole socially. I'm not sure if the band helps or hurts with the asshole bit, but it's great fun and it really is fun being part of a group where everybody is there because they choose to be, doing something they love doing. It's the opposite from doing the techno thing for sure. Instead of a super polished, pre-factored thing that you've worked on alone for so long, the music of the Lag starts a collective process the minute you play those first couple ideas of a song to the rest of the band and go over the chord changes. Other opinions sink in, you lose control to people you trust, and sometimes you just listen to the last echoes of something together and know none of you could have done it alone quite like that.


More Adventures in the Tubes

In the great 21st century storehouse of knowledge that is Wikipedia, Murphy's Law is defined as "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.". I'm not a total believer in this, as I have a great appreciation for how not wrong things tend to go overall. I've yet to be struck by lightning or a meteorite, or bit by a fucking shark.

But with just minutes to make it to work... right at that slightly tense border of on-time and late where rushing actually makes a difference, I enter the Posey tube headed towards Oakland. I follow the downhill arc as the sunlight changes to a flickering low pressure sodium maize, down past where the sidewalk changes rhythm and into the long slow grind back up towards Oakland.

And that's when I see him, a silhouette that at first plays with my eyes making me believe he is consuming the entire width of the walkway that is my path to salvation... or at least gainful employment. Oh wait, not an illusion... this guy is the dreaded wide load.

After a cursory review of my options, I realize that this is just a suck it day. I was lucky in some weird way that he was going towards Oakland, otherwise I would have had to turn around and wait for him at the end of the tube. With my luck maybe right as he exited another one would start the same journey. Perhaps I had discovered a recycling cartel. In any case...

We live strange and different lives. I'm following this guy, just wondering what it must be like. He's not going to work, this *is* work. The pole that all his bags of CA deposit bounty are tied to digs into his shoulders, he stops every 100 short paces or so to switch sides. He is wearing that curiously common uniform of the dignified transient, the dirty sportcoat, the clunky shoes. We're both walking at a crawl, and I reach into my skull and take him out of the "fucking piece of shit who is in my way" bin and put him in the now more appropriate "people who work too hard for way too little" drawer.

As we reach the end of the tunnel, there is a stairwell to the side where someone can let someone pass. He turns to check if he's been blocking anyone, sees me and smiles. He looks like a Chinese Tom Selleck with a graying bowl haircut, he has smile lines all over his face and a goofy mustache. I say "Tom Selleck!" and wave as I pass him, he beams a smile and heads up the stairs towards Chinatown on a gorgeous morning to turn his wares into cash.

I was late to work, but Murphy was a prick and a few minutes just don't matter.

Posey Bike Bitch Prose

The Surly, my shiny new road bike, is working out swell as a commute bullet. Aside from a civil engineering feat we'll call:


The Island of Alameda is connected to civilization via three routes. They are the Park Street Bridge, the Fruitvale Bridge, and the Webster/Posey Tube system. The tube system is the most direct route from my apartment on the west end of Alameda to work in downtown Oakland (a savings of about 3-4 miles each way over the alternatives). But there's a catch. The reason why I call it a tube system is it is actually two separate tubes. One following Webster (Oakland towards Alameda) and the other connecting Posey in Alameda to Hamilton in Oakland.

Only the Posey tube has a sidewalk, and taking the road is both unwise (traffic treats it like a freeway with speeds of 60 mph fairly common) and also illegal. I know this because there are posted signs reminding me.

This sidewalk is elevated about 3 feet over car traffic, protected by a 3' railing, and about 3' wide. It is against a wall which is filthy with diesel and other particulate emission deposits. While never downright happy-go-lucky, sometimes it gets really bad. If a bicyclist comes the other way, you have to stand both bikes up and carefully pass each other. This morning I did this about 4 times. And then I ended up behind a small woman who was walking along at about two miles per hour listening to headphones. I didn't have the heart to startle her so I just got off my bike and followed her, figuring she'd turn around and check if anybody was behind her eventually. Of course, this never happened.

I emerged into the sunlight on the Oakland side slightly frustrated, the ride to work took me 23 minutes. This is about 50% of the time it would take via bus if you include waiting which is good, but math tells me I'm averaging about 8 mph, which is sad. I've got a target of about 15 mph average, should be possible if I get a holeshot through the tunnel and ride Broadway which has better light sync but I'm not there yet.

Could it be worse? Of course it could. A few months ago, I was doing the tube on my mountain bike, when I happened upon a homeless man pushing an overflowing shopping cart full of bottles, cans and other various shit. His transient-o-matic wide load was literally rubbing on the wall and regularly hitting the railing as well allowing no practical passing clearance. After a standoff of about 30 seconds, I just turned around and waited for the guy at the end of the tunnel, no amount of courtesy would let us pass each other without either climbing atop something, or performing some sort of gymnastic passage involving hanging on the railing on the streetside while carrying my bike.
  • Current Mood

The Bus.

Sometimes, on the bus I see amazing people.

Today, I saw one. He was dressed in a lime green tracksuit with pinstripes. He had a matching hat, with a large marijuana leaf upon it. He looked like a superhero. Maybe "Dopeman", or "Indica Boy" or "The Chronic Kid". I was too shy to ask him what his special ability was. I'm pretty sure it wasn't "excellent work ethic" or "good at job interviews", but you never know.

Sometimes on that same bus I see high school kids that think they are gangsta. They wear hats with the price tag still on them. I would like them to meet the Original Gangsta:

$1.95 hanging to the right, rock steady, same as it ever was.

Finally, I sat across from a gentleman who was dressed head to toe in Italian designer bits. He spoke into his nice phone in what I believe was Farsi. I'm only about .01% fluent in the language, but it sounded like he was talking to a girl. Just miles away, the bus his 50 seat limo going right where he needed to be. The shades, the nice kicks, label whore jacket, the whole deal. Seeing him on a bus @ 8:30 was like seeing a swan in a machine shop. If I was all-powerful, I'd get him a later schedule, a posse and a nice Lexus with ticket-worthy tint.

(no subject)

Hi there, it's time for my once every 2 year post.

Things are swell (thanks for asking).

Here are projects you should know about...

DAY JOB: I'm working at a little health information services company in Oakland. It's ok.

MUTOR: I'm working with Sean Ocean on some new techno material. He is acting as my cheerleader/manager/booking agent, and I get to write weird shit. Hopefully this might work a bit better than me solo, as I am a raging total fail at self-promotion.

THE LAG: We just played a show with our new three piece lineup. It was great. The shiny new Australian on bass is coming along nicely.

ARMIES OF TURTLE: This is a project I've been waiting years to get started with, but I think it's about time. I have some recordings I've made at home, very cute lo-fi stuff that doesn't fit anything else I do.

GENERALISSIMO: Just stopped by Andre's studio a couple weeks ago and made a fun contribution to the track "Iron Heart". The first take guitar solo left us giggling with joy, as I spooj arcs of ridiculously discipline-free over-the-top guitar over the band's regimented goodness, finally crashing into a pool of radio static. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANTED ANDRE?

Of course it is.

There'll be music everywhere...

An upcoming version of Dance Dance Revolution should be packing a Mutor remix of an old school track from an earier title in the franchise. Like, real money and everything.

Last weekend I played before Neil Landstrumm and it was great, had a blast. The only thing close to a problem was the table all my gear was on being set up so low that I couldn't possibly play without sitting down. My back pretty much insisted about 2 minutes into my set. Thanks Chris Yap for bringing him out and having me along. Good stuff. In my own estimation probably the best set I've played in over 5 years (despite it being nothing like what I'd been planning due to some equipment foo earlier in the week). Plus super fun hanging out all day earlier with Neil, who seriously weighs in as one of my biggest influences as a dance music producer.

My old highschool friend Justin (and former bandmate) came over this weekend, and along with my dear bassist George we wrote & recorded a timed rough for a 2.5 minute cue in Justin's work in progress (a documentary film called Vagabonds). Fun arrangement with 2 guitars and Justin playing piano, hope to make a "Lag"gier version of it soon with the full band that we'll then send back and forth to LA till it's done (Justin wants to add piano and possibly orchestral strings... although it seems prettier when it's less dense, go figure). In any case, after having viewed the scene with it's "placeholder" music (a Mazzy Star song) I'm flatterred that he asked me to work on it at all. It's a big sorta emotional turning point in the movie, neat to be called in for those (a more rewarding cue than say "kid #5 drinking soda" or "busy street scene with zoom to pretzel and cheese cart").

Now to try to sleep, Justin and I ended up catching up and talking old times till 6am last night, hard to go to sleep at a reasonable hour after that and waking up at >>4pm<<. Must de-slack now. Brush teeth, wash face, stay up in bed reading physics books till my eyes fail and I dream.
  • Current Music
    Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of) - Mars Volta

I think of Drew Barrymore at the weirdest times

I'm on lunch break, enjoying a nice bright day in Sunnyvale, walking alone to go get some cruddy sandwich at the local strip mall. At the crosswalk, walk thingy is flashing. I boldly prepare to make my way across the 8 lanes of smoothly paved suburban intersection.

No sooner do I leave the curb than... assface in a Lexus slams on brakes and does the "what the fuck?!?!?!" hand gesture and face, looking incredulously at his passengers, indicating towards the a-hole who dared cross the street in his way. I don't know what I was thinking, I didn't realize a Lexus was coming. My bad.

I look down at my feet and realize this is a great time to tie my shoe. Ah hell, I'll get the other one too. I have now made this poor sod 45 seconds later to Outback, his usually delightful billabong kangaroo burger will not digest correctly thanks to my contribution to his already epic stress level, my power knows no bounds. He will be unsettled during the board meeting this afternoon, and in his discomfort make a freudian slip that results in his eventual fall from executive grace and fiscal demise. Seeing as he traded in any meaningful relationships in his life and most of his personality for his ability to drive a lexus and accumulate mad scrilla, he will resign to the saddest slack: a burnt shell of a man. I would have preferred to pull a Firestarter on his ass but alas I was not born with the gift of pyrokenisis. In retrospec, I'm glad I didn't light the entire car on fire, it's hard to apologize for, and maybe *just maybe* his passengers were innocent. Don't know what it is, but it boggles my mind when someone in a car can't cut a pedestrian a little slack. Just totally graceless.

I slowly rise and proceed towards my goal of a reasonably priced lunch, peripheral vision is telling me he is headbutting his steering wheel. Poor guy is freaking out, and I've got two really well tied shoes and it's beautiful out. "Pleasant Valley Sunday" cues up in my head.
  • Current Mood
    amused amused

Whoa, My Account Still Works...

Flash update for those who missed it:

Working at Opsware.
Nice job, really. Yeah, it's support which I swore I'd never do but the only downside is the commute (SF-> Sunnyvale 4 days a week). Kinda neat in that support here works closely with engineering, and most of the people who I deal with are *really* smart. Nice to be surrounded by people who make you feel you have a lot to learn. Learning Python too, which is sorta quirky and almost doesn't even feel like a language. And I got the best piece of corp schwag ever I think yesterday (a Timbuk2 messenger bag). Now to find a patch large enough to cover the gaudy corporate logo.

And I'm playing this friday at a party. Live PA. I'm on right after Neil Landstrumm (one of my favorite producers of all time, and along with Tobias Schmidt my key inspiration to play live techno at all).
SF location (was going to be at OW but it's moved) call 510.287.5917 day of.

Happy Birthday Patrice!

Aside from the realization that I've known you since you were 15 (scary), super great night... it was awesome spending some time with a person I've known for 8 years, eating a great meal, putting a major dent in a bottle of bushmills and just KO'ing gracefully under a pile of warm blankets. Without any voodoo boy/girl crud, just some old friends that haven't spent enough time together ***raises half empty glass and falls over***. You're fucking badass, I'm so glad you're feeling better and things seem to be going well for you.

Tonight is the realm of _teh_epic_. Fire breathing jackasses will reclaim the earth, as Gus and I turn the screw on a fantasy world of Euro fashion criminals gone wrong. When a joke becomes something that makes you love putting loops together again (and I'm at a place right now where it's ok to put an Iron Maiden song together with some Al Green over a piano fill from a deep house classic, really), you know it's gotta be good. Day goes like so till then - band rehearsal with das Lag, work on my half of the SpaceHukur bisnis till Gus calls, then we try to land the limo so we can make a proper appearance. Maybe fit in a second hand clothing raid to get me 2seksi4my cat or something.

Why the fuck am I up this early when I've got a long day + evening planned? Well, um, I don't know.