We were back in the studio again on Friday 13th, November and Saturday 14th to knock out a new song called Rain. The sentiment is that just like bad weather, some people can be powerful and beautiful to look at, but you don’t want to be anywhere near either if you can avoid it. The song refers to chaos and destruction and is intentionally aggressive and hectic to convey that.
By random coincidence the weather suited the song perfectly. Friday night was stinking hot and Saturday was too, but that heat and humidity all built up and turned into a huge thunderstorm. I didn’t get to see any of the storm, myself, but everyone was still talking about it come Monday and it was all over the news, so it must have been pretty epic.
The heat that lead to that storm wasn’t doing Rob any favours, though. Rob had been trying to get the air conditioner in the control room fixed for weeks. Every time he thought it’d be sorted out the repairer gave him the runaround, and that meant he was stuck without air conditioning in a room full of valve driven electronic equipment, which basically translates to little heat generators that also amplify sounds.
Rob had set up a very high tech “3 fans laid out on the floor” temporary solution which we all found hilarious.
It was a much simpler setup than usual from our side with Brendan choosing to use the Ludwig kit available at the studio instead of bringing his own. Rob was a bit surprised that we went with the Ludwig once he heard how heavy the song was going to be because the Ludwig is the same sort of kit used by Ringo Star on a lot of Beatles recordings, and there’s quite a gulf between even the heaviest Beatles track and Rain. In the end, using the Ludwig did turn out to be much quicker and easier and the sound we ended up getting out of it was really good. The fact that it sounds a little less aggressive might help Rain fit in a bit nicer with the other tracks on the album as well, which is going to be important.
We tried to capture a bit more of the process this time as well, so here’s Rob walking his new recruit Jayden through the process of setup while Brendan rigs up the kit.
As I mentioned, setup was a lot easier this time round, which left us a lot more time to chill out. Here’s an example with Brendan and Adam playing a bit of acoustic guitar and bass during a break from set up.
Friday was actually a really fun night at the studio and we were all outta there relatively early. Well, I wasn’t but that’s all part of how it goes but everyone else was and that was great because when we arrived at the studio on Saturday we were all feeling good and energetic and ready to punch out some lively takes.
Rain is a pretty heavy song, certainly the heaviest song we’ve recorded so far, so we wanted to get the right guitar sounds to suit it. That meant we finally had an excuse to test out the serious guitar amps. See, for most of the sessions Adam and I have used 15-30 watt amplifiers. To put that into context, when we jam, I can easily drown out the rest of the band with my amp set to the 7 watt output mode. 15 watts is loud. 30 watts is properly loud. You get the idea, right? Well, Poons Head Studios has a collection of amps that make 30 watts seem wimpy.
I trialed my little Orange OR15 up against a beasty 100 watt Marshall amp. There was no denying that the Marshall was an outright beast as far as volume goes and my little Orange had no hope of keeping up. Surprisingly enough though, my little 15w amp fit slightly better for the sound we wanted so I stuck with her running through a Marshall Quad-box for quite an impressive rocky sound.
Then it was Adam’s turn to find an amp to suit. The plan had been to use the AC30 but it didn’t seem to want to play ball, hence another crack at the big boy amps. Adam trialed the 100w Marshall and it sounded goood. Then he tried the 125w Vox and it sounded really gooood.
Here’s how loud that 125w Vox amp is when you’re not even playing yet.
When we were playing the tune together to test out the sounds, this Vox monster was so loud that I couldn’t even hear the OR15. I’m usually the one telling everyone to turn up a bit so we can feel the sound as well as hear it, but even I was overcome by the volume of this ear drum destroyer. The Vox sounded great for the octavey bits but wasn’t quite right for the choruses, so Adam then tried the 100w Orange and it sounded realllly gooood, so good in fact that we decided to go with that and ended up with a double dose of Orange amplifiers, although in very different forms. I believe the Orange amp Adam was using is called a GRO100 and I expect it to get a look-in on any future tracks because it sounds brilliant.
And then came the tracking
Rain is played in 12/4 timing at 92bpm but we practice it with the metronome set to 276bpm to allow us to get the accents to feel right. The click track Rob uses only runs up to 220bpm and we tried all sorts of tricks to work around that, but in the end we had to improvise and use the metronome on my phone and run my phone into the board as a click track. Rob wasn’t a big fan of that due to the small target to stop and start the click but I think using the exact same click track we’d practiced with worked really well for us.
Once we started recording, things flowed nicely. We knocked out 6 takes and they were all in the ballpark and we could easily have put together a quality version of Rain from those takes if we had needed to. That was an excellent situation to be in because we had the rest of the day to record more takes if we wanted to, but there was no pressure on us to land a good one. That situation lead to a very chilled out atmosphere around the studio as we set ourselves back up to knock out another set of takes.
Not being in a rush meant that we could have a bit of a jam before we started belting out more takes of Rain. As it happened, we all really dug the random tune that came out of that jam and were desperately hoping Rob had captured it. Unfortunately that one disappeared into the ether forever but we asked rob to start recording and we played a not-quite-as-excellent version of the same random jam.
With that bit of fun out of the way it was back to doing takes for Rain. We ran through 2 or 3, getting better and better as we went. I think the 4th was clearly the best take we’d done all day but we felt there were a few things we could have done slightly better, so we went at it again and nailed it. It was really cool to know that not only did we have 6 solid takes from before but we now also had a really energetic, tight, accurate take as well.
Stripping it back
By this time the heat had gotten beyond a joke in the control room and Rob caught us all off guard by stripping off his shirt. I don’t think anyone cared all that much but it did make for a surprise. Couldn’t blame him though, geez it was bloody hot in there!
We’d listened back to the takes and selected that last really good take as the one to go with. Having noticed earlier that the 120w Vox head had made such a perfect sound for the octave parts of the song, we decided it was time to record a few overdubs, including some feedback noises for use wherever and whenever suited the song.
Adding an extra guitar take with a different amp
Adam recording feedback
While Adam was knocking out the extra guitar track and the feedback, Brendan and Bill had headed off into Fremantle to pick up some food for everyone. They brought back some of the best kebabs the world has ever seen, but along the way the said they were witness to one of the most extraordinary electrical storms they’d ever seen. It’s funny how the day had gone from stinking hot at the start and turned into a raging storm full of lightning considering that the song we were recording.
With all the tracking done for the day, we just chilled out and chowed down on those awesome kebabs. Rob grabbed out an old Bowie record and ran it through that enormous set of speakers he has out in the main room.
And that was the end of a very productive, satisfying session. We packed everything away and walked out very happy, which is exactly what you want.Here are some of the pics Adam snapped throughout the session.