The good folks at 8183 Studio and Cooper Films shot this amazing-looking video of me playing Small Victories. Word is there will be more videos in this series of other KC artists. Sounds like a good thing to me.
Been a while, I guess. I can’t quite keep up.
Amongst playing a ton with The Empty Spaces, recording a new Fullbloods album, working with on a couple other musical projects and working full time, I threw together a collection of my songs and released a solo record. It’s my first in five years, and it’s called Small Victories.
While I’m still unclear as to what made me think this would be a good idea, I recorded these songs over the course of a month and a handful of days. It probably all stems from some deep-rooted psychological issues, but I’m going to ignore those for now.
I can’t say much about what went into recording it. Most of the sessions were hours spent in the basement after coming home from work using whatever setup was left there from the night before. It just kind of happened. Some people seem to like it, though.
If you want to hear it, you have several options:
If I had a preference for you music-buying types, it would be for you to grab it from Golden Sound Records because a portion of that goes to support the other artists on the label and the things that we’re doing on that front.
For Record Store Day this year, Golden Sound Records teamed up with The Record Machine to release a split compilation on 12” vinyl that we haphazardly titled Secret Handshakes. This was an awesome project to put together. The compilation is comprised of twelve unreleased songs from twelve bands; six from each label.
I had the pleasure of tracking/mixing four songs on the Golden Sound side, playing on three tracks, and mastering the whole collection of songs.
If I remember correctly, the first song we tracked for the Golden Sound side was Everyday/Everynight’s Hot Bright Night. All the base tracks (drums, guitars, bass) were recorded live. The drums were captured with Audio-Technica 4041s as overheads, an AKG D112 on the kick, and a Sennheiser MD421 on the snare. Kick and snare got some compression from a couple dbx 163s on the way in.
I played bass on this track, running my Fender Musicmaster through my Gibson G-100B. I believe the amp was miked with a Cascade Fat Head with Lundahl transformer. Guitar amps were miked with the ineffable Shure SM57. Austin Lyon played drums on this track and it was new to both of us, so it was a lot of fun to sit in as “studio” musicians for a live track. We ended up tracking lead vocals with a Blue Dragonfly, which has become Jerad’s go-to vocal mic.
My band Fullbloods laid down our track Heavily Drugged during practice one Monday evening, shortly after we switched to monitoring ourselves via side-fills in the room. Careful enough positioning of mics and speakers yielded minimal monitor bleed. This was another live recording that we went back and overdubbed vocals on.
Bill played his white Rogers kit captured by a Cascade X-15 stereo ribbon as overheads, D112 on kick, 421 on snare, and 57s on toms. I played my Gretsch Duo Jet (DynaSonic) through a 60’s Gibson Scout, miked with a Cascade Fat Head. Glenn played his modded Gretsch Pro Jet through a Fender Deluxe Reverb miked with a 57. Alex played an 80’s Fender Bullet bass through the Gibson G-100B, miked with some cheap Nady dynamic mic. We did several takes, decided on one, and overdubbed vocals using one side of the X-15 through a JOEMEEK Twin Q with some slapback from a Roland RE-501. We achieved good base sounds, so mixing was a breeze.
Millions of Boys were in town for a weekend after a show they played, so we seized the opportunity to record one of their new songs. We tracked three or four songs in that session and landed on using this complete live take. The mic choices were pretty much identical to the Fullbloods session but it was mixed a lot differently. Ryan played Bill’s Roger’s kit with one of my snares, Sara played my Rickenbacker 325 through a Gibson Discoverer, and AVB played a Will’s Geddy Lee Jazz bass through the Gibson G-100B.
The Empty Spaces song on the compilation, The 1960’s Divorce Rate Blues, is a completely live recording. We did only a few takes and chose the best one. Instead of going to tape like we did with Low Noise, all tracks I recorded went to an Alesis HD24 ADAT machine. I can’t express how much I love that thing. Solid as a rock.
I played my Gretsch Catalina Club kit, captured with the same setup used for the Fullbloods track. Mat played his Epiphone hollow-body (not sure of the model) through his Peavey Classic 20… or 30 or 50, I don’t recall what it is exactly. Will commandeered his Geddy Lee signature Jazz Bass through the good ol’ Gibson G-100B. Mat sang through a Shure Beta 87 with some help from the JOEMEEK Twin Q.
It was a joy and a challenge to work with the variety of recordings I received from everyone and try to make them sound good together. This is only the second thing I’ve mastered for vinyl specifically (the first being Competing For Your Love by Millions of Boys), so I treaded lightly and stuck to some guidelines I made for myself:
- Leave dynamics intact. It was a breath of fresh air to know that no one would be listening to this in their car and I wouldn’t have to compete with road noise. I made the assumption that contemporary vinyl consumers care more about the ebb and flow of a record than the “radio readiness” of the songs. Some songs are quieter than others. That’s exciting to me.
- Reign in the low end. I cut most low end below 40hz and reduced the stereo width of everything below 200hz or so, depending on how it sounded on the track. Low frequencies with wide stereo images can cause the needle to jump out of the groove, and although I’m sure the actual mastering process at URP takes care of it, I wanted to do everything I could for a consistent and efficient sound. Cuttertone from SKnote was a pretty good utility for addressing these issues. Combined with some gentle EQ and light compression, I was able to pull the tracks into the same universe.
- Don’t change too much. These are mixes that the bands were probably happy with. It’s their sound and that’s important to broadcast on a compilation like this.
- Remember… This was a learning experience like anything else, so I saved multiple versions of master sessions to look back over as reference later.
I made separate masters for the digital versions of the split (available via redemption code with the vinyl) that have more of the limiting and frequency range you’d expect from that type of media.
We threw two shows to celebrate Record Store Day and to sell the split. One was a day party at Vinyl Renaissance on West 39th street and a night show at The Brick. Though Record Store Day is over, we will continue to sell the split on both Golden Sound’s website and The Record Machine’s website. Bands included on the split will probably be selling them at shows, too.
This was an incredibly satisfying project to be a part of and really got me excited about Kansas City’s music scene and its future. Both sides are fantastic, with great songs by Soft Reeds, Max Justus, La Guerre, Spirit Is The Spirit, Ad Astra Arkestra, Akkilles, Baby Teardrops, and The Caves.
Grab yourself a copy and support local music!
Thanks to The Midwest Music Foundation (and their many sponsors) I was able to head down to Austin this year with The Empty Spaces for the MidCoast Takeover unofficial SxSW showcase. MidCoast was two days of featured bands from Kansas City, Lawrence, and the Midwest region playing on the Shangri-La stage. It was a success for Kansas City, even scoring some press in USA Today
These are the scumbags I rode down with.
I had a lot of fun watching other bands and blowing lots of cash in Austin’s many bars, restaurants, and food trucks. It was my first SxSW experience, and though I didn’t get into any of the “official” showcases, I got plenty of clues as to what the music portion of this festival was all about. Two highlights of the weekend for me were seeing Deerhoof in a big warehouse and watching Hearts of Darkness on the MidCoast stage performing to a huge crowd of dancin’ fools.
The Empty Spaces played a consolidated set on Friday night, right before The Beautiful Bodies and Hearts of Darkness. This was an incredible slot that we were very fortunate to have been placed in. I got to play a beautiful C&C Drums kit, which due to the set hardware they used for all the bands and my short-ish stature was set up a little too high for me. I ended up busting a knuckle and bleeding on the tom heads. Marking my territory, I suppose.
Here’s a webcast of our set, during which the audio switches to what sounds like the rack tom and reverb return tracks soloed out. Weird things happen with the audio, but you get the idea.
As an aside, if you’re ever in Austin’s East Side, check out the Eastside Showroom. Their cocktails are top-notch and the upscale mid-30’s atmosphere is a hoot.
I love spambots. I’m not kidding. And males who are logged in to instant message clients on Valentine’s day are prime targets. Below is my most recent interaction with the 8th Wonder of the World: The IM Spambot.
B is my new real human friend and R is me.
AIM IM with ssbotishakrbabe Today 9:08 PM
B: hey whats up????
R: you’re a bot
B: Im not a freaking bot
R: let’s robot fight
B: A bot? not hardly babe. Are you?
R: who is this?
B: Dont you remember?
R: I’m afraid not
B: have we chatted b4??
R: I’m afraid not
B: oh ok sorry i wasnt sure. anyways whats up?
R: Oh you know, just sitting around killing chat programs with my enormous brain.
B: im Iike so borededddd…. you wanna do something fun?
R: Yeah! I’ve got this automatic reply application I’ve been working on. Let’s team up and get it to run for president.
B: k i took this iq quiz earlier and scored a 98. i bet you cant do better.
B: wanna try?
R: I’m not surprised that’s your score. The word “bot” is in your name.
B: A bot? not hardly babe. Are you?
R: How can one tell?
B: k go here http://twurl.nl/wgjf8h and click the start button.
B: they send your score to your cell.
R: You weave a web of lies, mystery chatter. I can only hope the consequences of such lies one day make you value human trust.
B: brb phone call. tell me what you get when your done.
R: Who is it? Your husband? Will you also lie to him regarding your current chatting activity?
R: “No, Roger, I’m just checking on your fantasy football league for you because I love you that much,” you’ll claim.
R: He’ll coat his words with a sincerity so unexpected and so uncommon that the guilt cuts you straight to your core, “I know, ssbotishakrbabe. It’s just you’ve been so distant lately. I don’t feel the connection we used to have.”
R: “Roger, don’t be daft,” you’ll reply. “Nothing has changed.”
R: Then Roger will appear out of nowhere with 36 porcelain dolls strapped to his back.
R: “Tell me the truth or I’ll dive backwards and crush all these dolls!”
R: “But Roger, slivers of such crushed dolls will be sure to penetrate your flesh and puncture vital internal organs!” Your face becomes wrought with sudden panic. The weight of your careless actions hit you like a judge’s gavel.
R: Roger compacts his legs to prepare for the leap of his lifetime.
R: TO BE CONTINUED…
R: I got a 76!