You see from my experiences, the studio is the arena that more or less breaks a band. Four bands that I have been involved with, have broken up from the damage caused to each other due to being in a studio environment.
Let’s begin with my favourite first; the way the drummer in the band recorded his drum tracks.
This always happened by me recording a scratch guitar track to a metronome/click track. The reason why I had to do it that way was that the drummer would always be out with the click track if I had to play along with him in real-time.
I’m not fussed either way however by the time I had to record the scratch guitar tracks a few other little events happened early on in the process.
You see when you go in the studio it is ideal to freshen up your gear. What I mean by that is new skins and sticks if you are a drummer, new strings on the guitars/bass and so on.
So when the drummer turns up with beat up skins (because he couldn’t afford new skins) and the drum kit than sounds like a cardboard box miked up, its “Houston, we have a problem”. This in turn leads to a band meeting. There is resentment there already towards the drummer from the other band members. The final decision is that we end up hiring a professional kit for a fee. The drummer is now upset with everyone and at the engineer as he believes it is a conspiracy against him. We are now upset with the drummer for making us stretch the recording budget to hire a drum kit which means less time for mixing.
Another golden rule for me is to ensure that each member is well rehearsed.
So while that fast 16th note double kick pattern might sound okay in a live setting, when you put the click track microscope to it, you start to see that the drummer really didn’t practice it on his own and it sounds “out” and sloppy against the click track. This in turn leads to another band meeting with some baggage in tow. The drummer now has had about 20 takes on a 30 second double kick section and he hasn’t nailed either one. We have spent money and no product is being produced. The band meeting decides that we cannot afford to keep stuffing around on this one song so a decision is made to can the song from the recording.
This leads to even more resentment from the singer to the drummer as it is the singer’s song. The drummer is refusing to accept responsibility that he is under-rehearsed, blaming everyone else for his misfortune. He is arguing that the song was sped up in the studio and that we play it slower live. He is arguing that it is the professional kit and the unfamiliarity of it that is making him play sloppy. None of this sits well with us.
So when you add all of these little hurdles together, you can see that the studio environment starts to become resentful and argumentative.
And it’s funny that as soon as we start to work in a studio (regardless if it is a home studio or an external professional studio) certain band members start to become unavailable for the scheduled time slots. The vocalist can’t make his scheduled times because suddenly casual work or something else becomes a priority.
So here I am spending my time and money and no one is putting in the same effort.
So I start to become even more resentful at how unreasonable the others are.
However I still believe in what I am trying to achieve and I still have the confidence and the motivation to see it through. As my Dad would always say, “Nothing is easy in life”.
Risk is always part of the equation. Some pain right now will lead to a lot of gain afterwards. But in order to get the recording over the line someone has to take the lead, so I take control like how I have always done.
So I begin to tell my band mates that their parts are not good enough. I make the drummer do take after take.
I re-do the bass lines with a pick as the bassist believes he is a finger style player. Like the drummer, the finger style bass lines work well live but sound sloppy in the studio. I get the singer to record line by line of the verses. In other words I become the control room dictator. The outputs eventually are good enough from all involved however getting to the end of the road meant a lot of road kill that would become hard to recover from.
I refuse to heel as I push for that finished product.
The problem of my ways is that I wanted it to be a band effort however I quickly learnt/realised that it was best to do it myself.
There was a producer for the recordings, however it was me that produced it and the producer was really an engineer. I am also the creator of the songs. Today there is no distinction between the roles. They are the same. In the studio I have at home, I am the creator, producer and engineer. I get what I want and I do a lot of trial and error.
No one said the music business was easy however being in a band and keeping a happy medium is tougher than doing it alone.