This post was written more than two years ago. The content or information below may no longer be accurate.
As I said in my last blog, Skunk Anansie are back in the studio cutting our 8th album and now we are all set up to get the backing tracks recorded. Now that the drums are ready and making a good noise, it’s time to start tracking some songs.
The live room looks like a cross between a drum shop, a museum and a disco. The assistant engineer set up some audio-triggered lights to give Mark a fun vibe while cutting his tracks, which went down well, as you would expect! You have to have a certain amount of fun in the studio, because at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. The music business is too much of a hard ride to not enjoy yourself along the way. There’s only one way to really play music, and that’s to enjoy it!
When it comes to tracking the songs, we all play together live to capture the vibe, feel the tempo out, and also see if the arrangements are working well. The basic setup is Mark in the live room cutting the actual drum track, while Skin, Cass and myself play together in the control room laying down rough guides that we will re-track later when we set up the rest of the gear.
We record all of the tracks though, just in case we want to use them and re-amp them later. Doing it this way means we can get the vibe and energy into the track as a band but develop the song sonically later in the recording. This way also also gives us time to discuss ideas and direction of the track easily with our producer Tom Dalgety. We often scrap the original idea for a song and completely rework it if it’s not working when we play it together live in this set up.
For my guide guitar tracks I’m using some great new technology in the form of the Kemper Profiling Amp. It’s basically a sophisticated sampler that profiles your amp sounds and lets you play them back through it straight into the desk. I spent the time a while back setting up all my Skunk amps and cabs in a great studio with good microphones getting great profiles of their sounds for quick use in these situations, as well as demos when I don’t want to lug 8 amps to a day’s tracking session.
This works really well with the small on the floor set up of mini pedals I have made for when we fly to gigs to fit in hand luggage. As I said on the last blog, I’ll guide track with these pedals and then use the specialised studio board of vintage and more unique boxes for the real tracks later on.
The tracks are starting to take shape and the drums are sounding awesome! Tom Dalgety, our producer on this LP, is not only getting great sounds but getting great feel in the performances too. To be honest, Mark has been recording professionally for over 25 years, so he does nail tracks really quickly, but Tom adds another dimension with good suggestions and really knowing what he’s looking for in the recording process as well as the song.
With some of the drum tracks laid down and ready to go, we are setting up the bass and grabbing a few tracks with Cass in the evening to give Mark a breather. Getting great bass sounds is a mixture of a few elements – setting up a DI to get the direct sound of the clean bass guitar so it can mixed into the mic’ed amp signal for clear top and bottom end, as well as a great amp sound and a few choice pedals.
We experiment for a while with fuzzes, distortions and overdrives to get the most aggressive and punchy sound without sounding thin or too muddy, and then play it against the track to see if it gels with the drums. The amp of the day is a classic Ampeg SVT with an 8×10 speaker cabinet. The room is shaking and trousers are flapping, so it looks like we’ve got the sound we’re looking for. Cass nails the tracks in more or less one take with great feel and energy. He’s the longest standing member of the band that has been professionally recording, and it shows at the speed he can get tracks down.
A few tracks in and now it’s 11pm and time for everyone to get their arses out of the studio and back to their cribs. We call it a day, hi fives all round, and agree to reconvene in the morning.