for the most part, i used the following equipment:
- martin d16 acoustic guitar (rosewood back and sides)
- gibson es137 custom semi-hollow body electric guitar (silver!)
- fender hot rod deluxe amplifier
- ibanez tube screamer ts808
- fender jazz bass (midnight wine)
- mapex drum kit with zildjian cymbals (ping ride, medium crash)
- i think the baby grand piano (in goodspeed hall at u of c) was a yamaha
- i have no idea what kind of cellos and violins they were. i know that deirdre was playing one that is over 300 years old
- blue baby bottle
- rode nt5 (matched stereo pair)
- shure beta 57
- shure sm57
- studio projects c1
- barry's irish breakfast tea
there's a lot going on here. it all started with the idea that it might be interesting (and ultimately somewhat disorienting) to try to mimic the sounds i often hear inside my head, especially when i can't sleep. hence, the internal monologue. what i baked up was a little disorienting. ingredients include, but are not limited to:
- reverberations from close miked cymbals (rode nt5), forwards and backwards
- orchestra (deirdre et al) warming up and tuning
- acoustic guitar
- snippets of feedback
- snippets of piano
- a tea kettle
fine, i'll admit it.
i split what's normally one guitar part into two so that the first and second halves could be panned against each other. cartier did some amazing things with an echo effect to create that spaceship noise. there's a fair amount of distortion on the drums, and several layers of guitar at the end. the vocal line over the outro chorus is doubled at a lower octave so you couldn't tell that i wasn't able to really hit that high note.
the invisible man
just two mikes on my lovely gibson es137: my blue baby bottle, and my shure beta 57. a slight echo, which is something of a theme on this record.
you have nothing to fear from me (self-sabotage)
this recording took far longer than it was supposed to. i had demo versions over a year before the album was complete. two cellos and a violin, each miked with a rode nt5 and a blue baby bottle. the acoustic guitar was miked with a pair of rode nt5s. for the drums (and this is the standard setup for all songs with drums), rode nt5s as overheads, a shure sm57 and a studio projects cs1 on the kick (blended), shure beta 57 on the snare, and a blue baby bottle about 6 feet in the air and 8 feet out from the front of the kit as a room mike. this was all done in the practice space, and the acoustics of the room were pretty lousy, so cartier had to work some magic in mixing.
the invisible man (part 2)
drums were played with brushes, just for a change of pace. this song was conceived and recorded pretty much in the space of one night. minor tweaks and overdubs were done later, but when the inspiration struck, i used as much of it as i could. it probably would sound better (cleaner, tighter) if i had redone some of the parts, but i ended up liking the immediacy of that first night's recordings. recording the whole thing by myself in the middle of the night all fit with the general theme of alienation and solitude.
fine by myself
pretty straightforward acoustic guitar, two cellos (both played by deirdre) and a violin. the violin sounded a bit scratchy, so there's kind of a lot of reverb on there to mask it. i probably shouldn't have told you that.
the invisible man (reprise)
there was another band practicing really, really loud across the hall as i was recording this, but i ended up using the intrusion as part of the sound. it's all live (including the vocals), with two rode nt5's crossed on the acoustic guitar and the blue baby bottle for vocals. just a hint of delay on the guitar.
at the beginning, there's the sound of the piano pedal being stomped upon to let all of the strings just ring a tiny bit, not from being struck with the hammers, but from the friction of the felt dampers pulling off. in mixing, that sound ended up getting stretched and warped to be almost unrecognizable, but i still thought it made a nice bridge from "the invisible man (reprise)". this is more pronounced on the cd rather than mp3, with no track gap.
i used the only piano in the practice rooms at goodspeed hall at the university of chicago that was even close to in tune. chris vlasses helped out with percussion at the end. he played the ride cymbal with a stick and a brush at the same time for a real nice effect. at the end, the vaguely rhythmic noise is actually a slightly distorted tambourine in slowing echo loop. the idea was to have it match the tempo of the muted acoustic guitar at the beginning of "a moot point, to be sure."
a moot point, to be sure.
for the cheap sounding spoken part during the bridge, that's actually a cheap tape recorder i bought at walgreen's for just this purpose. i recorded the spoken lines onto the tape recorder, and then played it back into the blue baby bottle. other than maybe a hint of reverb and the gradual slowdown at the end, there is otherwise no alteration of the sound.
the bridge was meant to be this wall of sound that just collapses under its own weight. there are the normal two cellos and violin, several tracks of extremely distorted guitar, the acoustic guitar, and then the tape recorder feeding back onto itself. for the end, i wanted the song to drift off almost like you're remembering it later. i love how beautiful feedback can be sometimes. i thought i was going to blow out my fender hot rod when recording it. it was really fucking loud.
there are actually about 6 different cello lines in this song, all played by (and several written by) deirdre. i knew what the song was going to sound like before i had actually written any of the music (which is odd for me), so i had chris vlasses record the drum part without ever hearing what it was going to accompany. it's weird to know exactly what the mood and feel of a song is going to be and not really know what the music is going to be like. in the end, i ended up building it off of the drums because i loved that slow, slightly swung 6/8 time so much.
dream caused/interrupted by a phone call
i had the idea to have a track that was just feedback and drums, and just sort of experimented until it all worked itself out. the original version (before cartier mercifully shortened it in mixing) was about 19 minutes long. i have no idea why, but this track is like a lullaby for me. as crazy as it is, i find it very relaxing.
anyway, for the ambient feedback tracks, i put two guitars on stands in a room facing the amp with the baby bottle in front of it (and very low gain on the mike). the guitars were tuned to two different d chords, and both plugged into the amp. i would get them to start feeding back, and then play with the gain knobs and occasionally pluck strings to get more sound out. the idea was for the two guitars to feed off each other as well as the amp, creating a medley of tones.
there are two different lines of ambient feedback. one lasts the entire duration of the song, and the other half the length. the full length one is also playing along simultaneously in reverse, while the half length one finishes, and then plays again backwards somewhere near the middle. this gave the track some nice symmetry while adding an additional chorus of tones. the two tracks of really noisy guitar in the middle was done with robert's epiphone sg (old rubberneck), which makes the weirdest, most unpleasant noises when its pickups get overloaded. that's the squealing and wailing during the really loud part.
i had the drum part all figured out for the various sections of the song, but i wasn't playing it very well, so i had chris do it. it was pretty difficult to explain when to change from one part to the other based on the non-rhythmic, only quasi-tonal feedback tracks, so i recorded a track on instructions for him to listen to. in the end, it didn't matter very much. the phone call, which actually did interrupt this recording session in the basement of the everett apartment, came at the end of the long feedback track (which, remember, is also playing backwards simultaneously), which is why it's at the beginning and the end. of course, it was for gabe.