I sort of glossed over this point in my last post, so I figured I should clarify, and add some links…
This EP, that was recorded 3 years ago and that I’ve been half-assedly writing about since then, was finally released on bandcamp last december as a free download (yay!).
At the moment you’ll have to get each “side” separately – each band put their songs on their own bandcamp.
Slugbait (tracks 1-3): https://slugbaitcork.bandcamp.com/
Stanton’s Grave (tracks 4-6): https://stantonsgrave.bandcamp.com/album/slugbait-stantons-grave-split
I would like at some point to get a physical CD made of these, partly so that we have something to give away at shows or whatever, but also because some of the tracks are supposed to run into one another and I’m not sure you get that effect from the online version. I’m not sure if it’ll happen though. I have an inlay card and disc artwork prepared for such an eventuality. I may end up just getting something cheap printed up and burn a load of CD-Rs (diy as fuck, man!).
For now, hopefully the online versions will keep ye all going…
Right, I’m gonna see if I can get this blog back on track and hopefully get it finished before I die. Maybe if I just split it up into smaller posts I’ll be able to get back on a roll…
It saddens me to say that Slugbait decided to call it a day back in December, but hopefully this split (which we all decided to put up on bandcamp as a free download just before they announced their retirement) and any live footage that was recorded at their shows will live on as a testament to their greatness.
Anyway, onto day 3 (which was about a month after the bass sessions, sometime in July anyway). I got a call from Sebdog saying he was on his way out so I met him at the bus stop in BV around lunch time. He had of course brought the now customary 6 pack of Tuborg. We headed up home to get things set up.
I already had my amp hooked up with the tubes warming up for most of the morning because I had been trying out different mics and positions. For the session I ended up going with a blend of m88 on the dustcap and the soundstar around the middle of the cone. I also had my new silver bullets in opposite corners of the room in case we needed some ambience (not something you need too often in heavy guitars, but since most of Slugbait’s guitarwork is lead driven and fairly dynamic, I figured it might be useful in places).
Anyway, once we arrived up, after greeting the family and having a brew, we got down to some tone searching (i.e. playing with the knobs on the amp and Seb’s various pedals until we had a suitable sound picked for each song), as well as making sure again that all the mics were working (there’s nothing worse than taking ages to prepare for a take only to find out about halfway through that there’s no signal being recorded, which happens much more often than I’d like). All in all it took less than an hour and we were ready to get going by about 2.
As with the previous sessions we started with 4 Men, No Mic (to this day I’m not sure what that means – I keep forgetting to ask). Unlike the other sessions though, we spent a lot more time on it since we wanted to layer the shit out of the guitars (who cares if it can’t be replicated live, the important thing here is that it sound good on record, right? 🙂 ). For this particular song we didn’t really go overboard – there were only 3 guitar tracks at most at any one time. That said, they weren’t really doubled tracks, since the song is mostly lead work (“fiddly bits” is, I believe, the technical term) and a lot of it was off the cuff which would make doubling pretty damn tough. It works though, so…
Next we started working on FFWP. This is a much heavier song, so we needed a couple of layers of nasty guitar in the intro provided by a proco Rat doubled with some of the amp’s own dirt channel. After a few attempts of going straight from the heavy section to the quieter parts (which used clean guitars) we decided it would be much easier to just record these parts separately (which should probably have just been our approach from the get-go :P). But it was because we broke up the recording into separate sections that I somehow didn’t notice that we only recorded one pass of the second heavy part of the song, something I didn’t spot until I listened back to the sessions myself the next day, by which time of course, our illustrious guitarist had left the building. In fact, I’ll just take a quick jump out of our timeline here in case I forget to bring this up later: after a few listens over the next few days, I felt that it definitely needed an extra guitar track to beef things up, since this is really where the song gets going. I decided rather than call Seb back for more overdubs (after spending 9 hours here already!), I’d just throw something simple down myself and see if it helped. I added a couple of extra channels with guitar rig 3 loaded (I was using the “gratifier” amp – supposedly an emulation of a Mesa rectifier, although I’ve never gotten it to sound anything like the one Senior uses) and ran my guitar straight into my interface (the first 2 channels have a high impedance input for connecting instruments). I had to listen to the bassline by itself for a bit just to check my tuning – I ended up in drop C. After that it was a simple matter of following the bassline as it played through, double it onto an extra track, then pan the 2 tracks left & right and have Seb’s guitar playing in the middle. Here’s a sample with and without the “girth” tracks:
And that’s where I’ll leave it for now. Next time we’ll jump back to the proper timeline…
Well, this update’s been a long time coming. You’d be forgiven for assuming that we just decided to call it quits without telling anyone – after all, it’s been well over a year since we played our last show!
The truth is, after our last gig in September 2012, we all got busy in various projects: Dan was working up in Dublin (which meant mid-week jamming was out for him); Eoin started another year of college, where it wasn’t long before the project deadlines were coming thick and fast (making him also unavailable most of the time); and Dave and I both ended up having lots of overtime to do at our jobs, as well as being busy raising our families. Basically, life happened 😛
And so, over 3 months went by before we had another jam (we were all around over the Christmas holidays, so we took the opportunity to meet up and make some noise). Then another 3 months, and another…
Between January and August we managed a total of 2 jams – 4 hours altogether. We were pretty happy that everyone remembered how to play all the old songs (although I’m starting to forget a lot of the lyrics), but we weren’t getting much time to work on any new material (I had recorded a few demos for us to start moulding into new songs – they’re on our soundcloud page if you fancy a listen). My biggest fear at this point was that the months of inactivity would cause apathy to take root leading to our eventual dissolution.
Then, at the end of August, the worst happened: Eoin came to me to say that since he was about to start his final year in college, he didn’t feel that he would be able to devote enough time to the band to keep us going. He also plans to get out and see the world a bit once college is over so he suggested we find another drummer (he in fact started putting out feelers himself to see if there were any drummers available to take over his position). This was pretty tough for me to take for a while, since when we started this band it was just the two of us: in fact we’ve been playing music together since 1997. But I always felt this band was about being friends first and bandmates second, so I didn’t feel right demanding that he put his life plans on hold just to stay and so we started pondering the question of who to ask to play drums for us.
Actually, strike that: first we had to decide whether we should even keep going – a decision that didn’t really take that long to make, thankfully…
So I was mulling over the various drummers that I know about in Cork when I suddenly remembered that before playing bass with Slugbait, Eoin Costello used to play drums in Fat Actress (back when they were known as Ephialtes). I figured a) he plays drums, b) he’s sound and c) he actually likes our music! I asked the lads what they thought and we all agreed he’d be an asset, so I texted him to see if he’d be interested in having a jam with us. Unfortunately he was in the Sates at the time, so we would have to wait a while to see how things would pan out (and just to show his integrity: before he agreed to jam with us, he wanted to know what the story with Eoin was and to make sure everything was above board).
This all happened several weeks ago. Since then, I’ve had the chance to jam a few times with Costello and he’s already learned several songs. Next week we should be able to arrange a full band jam or two and get ready to start playing shows and writing new songs again!
This beast is stirring; it’s time to rise…
Alright, so I’ve kinda gotten extremely lazy updating this thing, but I have a few posts already written about the Slugbait recording so I’m gonna go ahead and start uploading those over the next few days (I was actually just waiting to get sample clips ready for each stage of the process).
Anyway, yeah, shit’s gonna start flowing again here soon, so if at any point over this weekend you’ve got fuck-all else to concern yourself with, sure have a read…
p.s. I should probably say here too that this EP will actually hopefully come out sometime soon.
p.p.s. Also, if you see this before Paddy’s day, go see Hope is Noise and Them Martyrs in Bradley’s on Barrack Street in Cork (also playing are Bisect and This Place is Death). It should be great!
So, about a week after the first drum & bass session, Costello got in touch with me asking if he could come out to add a bit more to the basslines he’d already laid down. Of course I said yes – he’d mentioned a few ideas the previous week and I was curious as to how they’d sound.
First of all he wanted to double track the bassline on each song, which is something I had never done before, but I could understand the need for it in this case: since Seb is normally playing lead lines all over the place, it couldn’t hurt to add some extra weight to the rhythm section (as long as I could avoid any phase problems that might crop up).
The second, and more important thing he wanted to do was to add some harmonies to the bass at the end of FDR, during the part where the guitar is pretty much fading out and all 3 vocalists are screaming away to their hearts’ content. This all sounded good to me 😎
On the day in question, he couldn’t get his hands on his own bass, so he had to borrow one (I’m pretty sure it was Mini’s), which had some pretty old strings on it. This had me worried for a moment, but once we started tracking it I figured I could actually use that sound to our advantage – Costello has a deep-seated hatred of high frequencies in his bass sound anyway, so blending the cleaner bass tracks from the previous day with the dirty sound we were getting now actually worked out OK. Especially after we added just the tiniest amount of distortion (I don’t like to use too much on bass, otherwise it gets messy in a hurry).
And so we got to work running through the songs. The double tracking was done in fairly short order, then it was time to get to grips with the harmonies on FDR. It was pretty much a case of sit back and let him play through it a few times – he already had some ideas worked out anyway which sounded great alongside the main bassline, then just for good measure he threw down a couple more little flourishes. In the end we had what was basically a big bass chord and it sounded great! Have a listen:
As mentioned in a previous post, I spent a good bit of Summer & Autumn 2011 working with Slugbait for their debut release. They wanted to get 3 tracks done for a split with another band, and I was only too happy to get the chance to work with them a) cos they’re all sound and b) to get some experience working with other people besides spending all my time on my own projects.
Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos during the sessions, so get ready for a big wall of text, or maybe I’ll throw in some live photos of the lads in action just to break things up…here’s one:
The adventure began in June once we could all finally get our schedules organised (we’d been discussing it since february). We figured the best way to start was to get the drums and bass down first so that the guitars and vocals had a solid foundation to build on. Also, we had to get the bass out of the way first since Costello (the bassist) intended to spend the summer abroad.
The night before the first session, Eoin (SG drummer, here taking on the role of assistant engineer) and myself had set up the kit and mics in the corner of the garage so that the lads wouldn’t have to sit through a couple of hours of sound checking. We used a similar set up to the one used when we recorded Eoin’s drums for the Stanton’s Grave stuff the previous year – i.e. close mic’ed all the drums (top and bottom for snare) and a spaced pair for overheads. For the toms, we used the Eagle tom mics, for the snare we had my trusty Beyer m201 on top and another Eagle tom mic on the bottom. The kick was the Eagle kick mic, and the overheads were the Eagle electret condensers (funnily enough, marketed as overhead mics…).
Next day the sun was out and the midges were ravenous. Louis, Costello and Seb arrived out in the evening and we got to work arranging ourselves around the limited space. We pretty quickly decided to throw the big doors open a) to try get a less “cramped” sound and b) because it was fucking hot in there, especially with 5 people in such a small space. Thankfully they’d been thoughtful enough to bring a couple of six-packs to keep us cool 😎
Once we’d checked to make sure all drum mics were working and the bass (which was being tracked using an ART tube MP as a DI through the Ampeg SVX plugin) signal was coming through, we checked out the headphone levels (so Louis could hear the bass) then we were good to go.
First up was 4 Men, No Mic. This was pretty straight forward – the lads ran through it a couple of times with no major hiccups. A handy way to loosen up.
Next was Fighting Fire With Piss (a name Seb came up with on the spot when I asked him what I should call the project file :)). Again, this was pretty spot on – the guys were well practiced at this point with these 2 songs.
FDR was left until last, because it was still a pretty new song – They had even been working on lyrics in the car on the way out, and figuring out how exactly it should flow. So, after we flew through the first 2 songs, myself and Eoin took a break while the lads jammed FDR a few times just to make sure they were all on the same page. I hooked up my guitar amp so that Seb could go join in and left them at it for a while. I also decided to leave all the mics running, just in case they nailed it while I was out of the room 😛
After they’d gone through the song 3 or 4 times they felt ready enough to take a stab at it, so we got back to work. Since the song was now fresh in their heads, we only needed to do a few passes before deciding we had a take worth keeping. There were a couple of transitions that were announced by some quick stabs (called the “stabby bit” naturally) that we decided to try a few more times. The main reason was to try some variations in the drums to see what sounded better – all kick, a mixture of kick and snare, etc. Once we’d decided what sounded best, we just pasted the new part into the song (sacrilege! :P).
And that was it for day 1. Before the lads hit the road, we cracked open a final beer for the road (except for poor Louis, the driver) \m/
And here’s a clip of what we had gotten by the end of day 1:
I’m just putting this up because the wordpress blackout doesn’t seem to be working properly for me…
Many websites are blacked out today to protest proposed U.S. legislation that threatens internet freedom: the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). From personal blogs to giants like WordPress and Wikipedia, sites all over the web — including this one — are asking you to help stop this dangerous legislation from being passed, even if you live outside of the US.
Jesus, first post since July! Fucking hell, how lazy am I… In fact this is the first post of any real significance since April!
So, what the hell have I been up to for the past 8 months you may ask… good question…
Well, during the summer I actually put our own recording to one side while I recorded a few tracks with our good pals Slugbait. They wanted to get three songs down to go on a split release with another band, so I was happy to oblige. It ended up taking all summer what with conflicting work schedules and all the usual crap that gets in the way of making music, but by October I had three mixes that the lads were happy with – one of which can be heard on their bandcamp.
In the meantime, the band they were meant to release the split with pulled out (possibly because I took so damn long to mix it :eek:), so they were now looking for someone else to do the other side – did I mention this is being released on cassette? No? Well, it is. And I can now reveal that the other side of that tape will be taken over by none other than Stanton’s Grave! “Huzzah!” I hear you shout…
Of course this meant pulling the finger out and getting our own damn recordings finished! We decided that since the ‘Bait were doing 3 songs, we’d do likewise, although our 3 songs will be considerably shorter…
Guess what songs we decided to use? That’s right – the very three for which we had already completed the drum tracks! Why? Cos I’m fucking lazy, that’s why! 😎 Although this did mean I had to do some pretty heavy editing on Shut Up… because the recorded version is just too damn fast – we’re pretty much all having trouble laying down our tracks for it (I’m sure Dave will buck that trend)…
Anyway, once I’d managed that, we were able to start getting everyone else’s tracks down. I figured I’d already done OK on A New Hope last spring, so first I tackled the guitars for TV Zombie to get it more in line with how it’s done live now (i.e. me not playing during the first or second verse), then I went to lay down some new guitars for Shut Up…
It was at this point that I decided to play around with some different mics and tones, so I recorded my tracks via DI: this way I could reamp the guitars and fuck around with the mics and amp settings while the tracks were playing (while wearing ear protection obviously!). After a couple of days I figured I’d gotten something worth using so I moved on to vocals.
Well, I was already happy with the vox I’d done for TV Zombie last year, and for A New Hope back in April, so really I just needed to do Shut Up And Eat Your Freedom. This was probably the only part of that song where we didn’t have much difficulty 😛
So finally, all my tracks were done (or so I figured at the time – more on that later). I was time to call in the rest of the lads. Dan went first – he came down one Saturday night and we got things wrapped up in just a few hours. As with Eoin and myself, Shut Up… took the longest – about 10 takes (or more) over 2 hours! This is partly because, as I’ve said, the version we’ve got on record is a lot faster than we normally play it (we laid the drums over the old demo version as opposed to playing a completely new version – bad call on my part I guess…), but it could also have been because of some possibly screwy edits when I pasted the drum tracks together. Either way, we got there in the end. After that, A New Hope and TV Zombie were a snap – two takes each, about 20 minutes altogether 😀
Since then, I’ve been waiting for Dave to get a chance to come out here, but as with the Slugbait recording, work life keeps throwing spanners in the works. Hopefully sometime over the christmas break he can make it out here to lay down his guitars, then we’ll hopefully all get together to throw down some backing vocals of some sort. That’s the plan anyway…
While I’ve been waiting, I’ve started working on some basic rough mixes with the parts that I’ve got, and I decided I didn’t really like the guitar tone for A New Hope or Shut Up. It just sounds too thin or something, even with bass tracks in there to beef up the sound. I know I gotta leave space for Senior’s guitars (which will probably be massive :P), but I don’t want to be down on record as having a weedy guitar tone. Which is why, last night and this morning (10 Dec 2011) I decided to go back and do it again! I’m much happier with the results I’ve gotten now. I also decided to beef up the heavy outro on TV Zombie just for the craic, since I haven’t used my Danelectro Fab Tone in years!
Anyway, that’s the story so far. I realise this post has been fairly light on the technical detail, but I wanted to let y’all know what’s going on in the world of SG first – in the next few posts I’ll get into the details of how most of the above mentioned work was accomplished.
Hopefully it’ll be sooner than 6 months…
Ta ta for now…
Right, this is just a quick one, to let you know we’re still at it…
Last weekend we decided to have another go at some drum tracking. It should have been pretty simple, but we were using my new shells which I hadn’t actually test driven yet, so this was to be their first outing on a recording session. Things didn’t go very well…
It started like a normal session – Eoin came up, set up the kit around himself as usual, and I threw up the usual array of microphones. Then I had him play around the kit for a while so I could set the incoming levels. So far so good. Then we took a quick sample recording to hear what the mics were picking up, and also because I was testing out a couple of different kick mic options. And that’s where the trouble started…
Unfortunately I had made the decision to take the resonant (i.e. front) head off the kick drum, because it wasn’t a proper resonant skin, just a thin crappy plastic sheet with the manufacturer’s name on it and no hole to put a mic through. Now, I’m sure I could have put a mic in front of it and gotten something, but I tend to prefer the sound I get from inside the drum, so off came the head. Trouble is, what I didn’t realise (because this was my first time recording a kick with no reso head) was that the sound of the rest of the kit would bleed in through the front of the kick drum, so the kick mic ended up picking up more level from the snare than from the kick itself (have I mentioned before how insanely loud Eoin’s snare is?)! Which made it impossible to isolate the kick drum hits no matter how much I tried to gate the signal.
First I thought it might have been the mic we were using, but after trying 3 different ones and getting the same results it was obvious that that wasn’t it. Then we threw a thick blanket over the front of the drum hoping to keep the bleed from the other drums down a bit. Still no joy.
At this point it was approaching midnight and we were feeling pretty much defeated, so we called it quits. Looks like I’m gonna have to get a reso head for that drum and hope that keeps the bleed to a minimum, and also causes the actual kick hits to reverberate around inside the drum a bit more giving a hotter signal for the mic…
Cool story, huh? 😛
EDIT 27-07-2011: well, last night I tried a couple of things.
First, I messed around a bit with the sample recordings we’d done the other night to see if they could be made usable, and while the usual mangling that I like to do to kick signals gave a horrible snare sound as a consequence, once this was mixed in with the actual snare mic, the overheads and the room mics, it wasn’t particularly noticeable. So it would be possible to work something out recording this way.
However, the second thing I tried was to put a front skin on the drum (which first involved cutting a hole in it big enough to get the mic through). This made a huge difference to the balance between the kick and the rest of the kit that was being picked up, so I think I’m gonna have to go get a decent reso head now (as well as a new lug – turns out one of them is severely bent, and there’s no nut for it to screw into, and presumably no spring either…)
At this point I guess I should mention that since the last time I’d worked on A New Hope, I have in fact been tinkering with the drum mix to try and get more oomph (or punch, whatever…) out of them, especially the kick which seemed to be a little anaemic.
Several months ago I upgraded to Cubase 5, which came with some new plugins to play around with, one of which is a transient designer. Now, I’ve never used one of these before, so like any n00b I started with the presets. Whaddya know – there’s one called tighter kick drum, perfect! And it actually does do a pretty good job of getting more attack back into it, especially when used with some EQ and compression. So this, coupled with a newly EQ’d snare (the overheads and toms haven’t had much work done, since they sound pretty good on their own – maybe just some gating to clean things up) means the song now has a pretty damn good drum track to work with.
With the drums mixed by themselves, it was time to start pulling up some other faders. Bass and guitars managed to work themselves in fairly nicely, with some cuts around the main vocal frequencies (1 – 2kHz). Obviously I panned the main guitar tracks (the close mics) about 60% either side, and panned the room mics a little farther out, and lower in the mix, so they’re only barely perceptible.
Then I brought up the vocal faders. For the room mic, I compressed the hell out of it to get as much room sound in there as possible, so that it’d essentially act as a reverb track, provided it sounds alright – this being only a rough mix to see what I’ve got to work with I wasn’t too worried yet about sounding totally awesome 😛
Since it was pretty damn late at this point, I figured I’d bounce the work of the night to listen to the next day (using my good ol’ car test). What I notice listening back now is that I left all the vocal tracks at about the same level, which for a final mix is certainly not going to be the case – normally I’d have a lead vocal track that the doubled vocal would sit somewhere underneath just to lend a little girth (coupled in this case with the compressed room mic, and maybe some reverb or delay just for some stereo-ness :P).
But anyway, in the interest of whetting people’s appetites (or turning them off :shock:), here’s a little snippet.
Now we just gotta wait for a new bass track and even more guitars! Til next time…