Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Recording Side 1 of the Moutpiece Debut

I thought this uploaded about a month ago and just noticed it wasn't on here. Anyways, here is a bit of a yarn about recording side one of the Moutpiece debut album. Enjoy!!

It’s always the way in Dublin that nothing happens for weeks and then everything happens in one weekend. It’s an even surer bet that if your wife is going to give birth to your first child in a month’s time and every minute together, just the two of you, is priceless, that there will be such a cornucopia of choice as to make the eyes water.

Friday I had the Rock Jihad. A disaster for planning since we moved it to the first Friday of the month. February it was on the wife’s birthday. March it was on a bank holiday. April it was on Good Friday. And then May, June and August, the Jihad fell on the bank holiday weekend when everyone usually empties out of Dublin and sits in traffic all day Saturday and all day Monday. There was also a big session on over in Sligo with just about everybody we know. They had booked two houses, a party house and a kid house. (possibly my last chance in the former). The Melvins were on in town, as were The Lemonheads. It was also my wife and I’s last weekend to get away somewhere remote before it got too close to her due date to get more than a few miles from the Rotunda.

But all of that would have to wait because I had booked two days in The Hive Studios. Gary had already booked his place in Sligo, but we managed to convince Jane to give us the OK when she wasn’t expecting it. He’d had to endure dog’s abuse over it for the last few weeks and called me a few times to try to back out, but I was having none of it. Tommy was up to his eyes with work and a new baby. Conzo already had tickets to a gig in Drogheda on the Friday and would have to drive back afterwards and be up at 8 in the morning so we could head for Wicklow. But the date was set and that was it. The time for talk was over.

The Jihad was good. It was packed, which was very surprising considering all that was going on in town. It was a great night, Tara was a hit anyways. People couldn’t believe that a pregnant woman would come to a gig like this. She looked great and it reminded me just how cool she really is. She legged it at about 11-30 and we finished up at about 1. I broke down all the gear, grabbed a taxi and was asleep on the couch within a few minutes of making it home.

A few short hours later and I was up and somewhat ready to go. Unfortunately Gaz wasn’t. He answered the door in a pair of jocks that looked as if they had been worn both inside out and back to front in an effort to get more life out of them. I think that Gary’s teeth regress at night time so that when he wakes up they look like an uneven pile of bricks that someone has carelessly shoved into his mouth. They straighten themselves out over the course of the day and in the early evening, if he’s going out to dinner, they actually bleach themselves white and stand at attention. This wasn’t the evening though and the bricks looked like a ruined wall that had just fallen over, complemented nicely by the dark hues that could only be Guinness on his lips, cheeks and that little part between your eyes and nose where a pint class often crashes into your face when you take too hardy a gulp.

Then it was to Tommy’s, he was up and ready, but he lives a half hour in the wrong direction. Then back to the practice space to pick up the gear, then to Conzo’s, then on the road to Wicklow. Petrol station, a bit of coffee, everything but the oink stuffed into a roll with brown sauce, a few tunes on the stereo and into the Garden of Ireland.

It’s great going places with the band because it’s the four of us hanging out. Having a laugh. It’s nice to hang out with the lads because of a shared common interest and Tommy, Gaz and Conz are three of the coolest guys I know. As an American, it’s always nice to get out on the open road, with the sun shining and the tunes blasting.

Kilcoole has been a hot bed of Irish punk for years and I have no idea why. My hypothesis is that a few guys a few years ago got into it and put on a few gigs. Said guys were the cool guys in town and called the shots. Said town had nothing else going on and so punk was born. Now there are loads of bands there and they are all pretty good. Eoin is in the older generation, he’s probably 22 or 23. There are Kilcoole bands full of 13 and 14 year olds and they rock. So Eoin and Kidd Blunt have been heavy hitters in their scene and have become fairly big hitters in Dublin and have done a good few tours of England and Europe. Kidd Blunt played with us the last time we played in Groningen. So we have a history and we all respect what each other are/ have been doing.

The studio was in a gigantic garden shed in the back garden of a middle class house in a middle class estate in a leafy suburban village. It’s in his folk’s house and you just have to wonder what his parents made of these old lads showing up and drinking beer in their back garden all day.

The recording went well. I didn’t feel very comfortable. The drum set was too close to the wall and everything was a bit too low. I felt twisted and a bit awkward and I wasn’t sure that I’d hit all of my parts cleanly. Tommy sounded good and the tracks went down pretty easily. Eoin really knew what he was doing and set up everything quickly and was able to understand what we wanted right away. We got seven songs recorded pretty quickly. The drums were still very muddy and I couldn’t tell if they’d sound ok when they were cleaned up, but it was all there. The bass was warm and fat and it was a good selection of songs. It was a good day’s work and there was a real buzz in the car on the way home.

So it was back to a Saturday night in Dublin. Gary’s bird was away, as was Conzo’s . We had a free pass for skit. Did we take it? We did in our shite. I dropped Conzo home, then Tommy and then Gaz. I tried to stay awake until a reasonable hour, it was a Saturday night after all, but ended up dozing on the couch. Gary ordered a pizza and fell asleep face down at the kitchen table. I’d say we were all asleep by about half 10. That’s the funny thing about recording. It’s exhausting. It’s kind of like teaching. You don’t have to exert yourself very much. But you have to be ‘on’. You can’t relax at all.

The next morning it was a bit cooler. It was showering a bit and there was a strong breeze. The day before had been idyllic. Sitting in the back garden in comfortable chairs, catching a few rays. Today would be work. I could nearly smell it in the air. I didn’t have to pick up Tommy so we got over to Conz’s on time. We even got down to Kilcoole early stocked with sambos and coffee and ready to get going.

Recording with Gary is really good fun. He’s got loads of ideas. He may actually be as good of a guitar player as he thinks he is. His solos were amazing. Each one different from the last and completely spontaneous. On a few songs there are three or four solos going on at once. Gary trading licks with himself and lovely bits of feedback and noise. It was all very exciting.

Then it was Conzo’s turn. Live it’s always tough to hear what exactly Conzo’s doing when we are playing. I knew he filled out the sound and played different parts than Gaz, but beyond that I didn’t have a notion. So it was great to be able to sit down and listen to just his parts, to hear exactly what he plays and then to hear it in context. And his parts are amazing, a completely different take on all of the songs. He takes the metal guitar virtuoso sound off of Gary and gives the band a nice rock and roll feel. I was actually moved nearly to tears a few times in the course of the morning by just how good it sounded. Thank fuck nobody noticed. Sometimes when something is just really really great, I get all tingly and my eyes well up a bit. I remember it happening one time when I was stopped at a set of lights in Waterford on my scooter, surrounded by 50 or 60 other scooters. I’d never felt so cool in my entire life.

So then it was on to the vocals. It’s always great to hear the lyrics Gary writes. The way he gets them to fit with the music is amazing. And the way that he manages to get so much Dublin vernacular and so much of his life into them never fails to impress me. It was Conzo’s first time to really hear all of the lyrics as well and he thought they were great. Still there is something weird about sitting in someone’s back garden, with their mother planting flowers 10 feet away from you and hearing someone singing that they can’t keep their dick in their pants. So there we were. Tommy peeing behind the shed, Gary singing songs about being an alcoholic, and the three of them drinking can after can, while Eoin’s family and friends drifted in and out of the garden.

Eoin did a rough mix off the desk and burned it onto cd and we were back in the car heading north by about half 6. We dropped everybody off and then headed back to my place. Tara offered to cook dinner and there was no way that Gaz and I were going to turn anything down. Gary had planned to go raving all night, but we were just too worn/blissed out to do anything. We listened to the cd really loud through every stereo in the house and talked about big things all night. 7”? 10”? 12”? Who would buy it? Where would we sell it? When would we start to record the next one. Gary has been a really good friend. I am so glad that I stuck it out. I’m so glad that we stayed friends through his years of madness. So glad that the band is still together. So glad that he can play the guitar the way that I want to hear it. So glad that I play the drums the way that he wants to hear them.

The whole weekend was a massive success. It’s the first time in a long time that this band has reached it potential, shown what we are capable of. It was so much fun to put one piece on and listen to it and then another and listen to them both and then another and another. The whole process was so enjoyable. And it was great to see that we can still do it. Even with 3 mortgages, 4 babies, one more on the way, grey hair, good jobs, bad jobs, we still rose to the challenge. The timing for me is great too. Some day I’ll be able to tell my child that this was what I was doing in the weeks before he/she was born. This record will be a testament to the oodles of shitty jobs that I worked so that music could be my focus. I don’t want to be a rock star any more, but I’ll always want to sound like one.

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