Ade's Blog

Overworked and underpaid

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Tuesday, 13 March 2012 23:01

Overworked and underpaid

Things have been so crazy since the last blog update that I have completely lost track of what has been going on! So, forgive me if I ramble and jump around the timeline of the last couple of weeks, it's been exhausting, exhilarating and .... well ... manic!

So,. what's been happening? Well, I guess by now you have read the news about Pieter joining Nine Stones Close for the new album, if not you can read about it here. As you can imagine, I am very excited about this, it's fantastic news for us all and I can't wait to hear the results. Over the last few weeks we have been discussing how things might work, talking through the demo tracks and also meeting for the first time. Logistics are a little tricky and we have to move fast to fit everything into our respective schedules so Pieter has been working hard on the demos and I have been finalising the album to a point where we can record the drums. This has involved a fair amount of swearing and general frustration in the studio as I found that exporting a metronome track to audio was not possible. This meant building my own midi click tracks for each track .... time consuming and ultimately tedious, not the glamorous side of the recording process. Luckily my trusty studio engineer was on hand to help things along. Just as well as I cannot work with midi and am a self confessed midiot. The end result is that I think we are pretty much ready to go for the drum sessions which are starting the coming weekend. Wish us luck! Obviously a full report will follow from those sessions. It's exciting for me to see how this will be done and how it will all come together.

On the vocal front I managed to get some more lyrics finished and off to Marc. Marc has spent a couple of sessions in his studio now working on the new album tracks and they are starting to come together. Tracks with working titles of 'new song again', 'angrybirds' and 'epic monster' (I kid you not) now all have lyrics, vocals and proper titles. So far we have the following tracks with vocals, two of which are final vocals:

The Distance

A Secret

One Eye On The Sunrise

The vocals are sounding really great already and I am hoping to have the final 2 sets of lyrics completed in the next week or so for in time for Marc's next studio session.

On the Keyboard front, no news yet other than technical issues, the keys so far on A Secret and 3 other tracks are sounding absolutely fabulous!

Some guide bass lines have also been laid down and will be finalised at a later date .... things are moving fast!

Last weekend Michel joined me in the studio again for 2 full days. It's been a real slog to get all of these ideas out and recorded and ready for the rest of the guys to work on, thank goodness Michel has been there to help or this album would be WAY behind schedule. He keeps me productive and on track..... as well as making sure that I get the best takes. Sometimes a look is enough to let me know it wasn't up to scratch, sometimes the delete key has been hit before I even get 'the look' :)

After the midi click tracks had been created on Saturday we spent the rest of the day working on the last few guitar solos. The solo for One Eye On The Sunrise was a bit of a challenge as I struggled to avoid the old cliche licks, finally I nailed the end of the solo that had been causing the problems and its sounds .... odd ... but great, at least I think it does. After that the last few solos for the albums flowed pretty well, everything was sounding good and my finger tips were slightly shredded from fighting with the guitar. It was time to call it a day.... recording wise.

I cooked Hainanese Chicken for dinner, which is always a treat, and washed it down with vast quantities of Belgian beer. far too much actually, as me and my drinking buddy, who had joined us for dinner, washed down loads of bottles of fabulous Belgian beer. The beer count this week was off the scale!

Sunday began with the inevitable hangover and fuzzy head, which was soon cured by a walk in the sunny morning to the supermarket to re-stock the beer fridge. Priority 1 of course. I think we also bought some food.

The sole purpose of the Sunday was to record some cello for two of the album tracks. In the afternoon we were joined by the lovely and talented Katy Bell. Katy is a friend of a friend and a wonderfully talented concert cellist. It was the first time we had ever met and it was incredibly kind of her to give up her time for free to have a go at the songs. Having never recorded cello before I was worried that the results might not be that great, but after we had made a test recording we realised we were on to a winner! The sound was wonderful. A superb instrument, plus a great player, plus a decent microphone equals success! The intrument was a 19th Century English cello made in Oxford in around 1840. Beautiful. It sounded incredible too. I can't believe how lucky I am to have been able to record it. Hopefully what we did record was enough and we don't have to re-do anything, I guess I will know when I create a rough mix later this week.

The cello on One Eye On The Sunrise was a bit of an adventure for us all as Katy improvised and we tried different approaches. Luckily Marc's guide vocal arrived in the evening and we were able to listen to how things fitted together. One of the sections where we multitracked some cello parts really sounds brilliant, I can't wait for everyone to hear it.

Finally a late finish in the studio, followed by a few glasses of wine, slow cooked harissa lamb, home made red pepper hummus and roasted mediterranean vegetables was enough to finish off a busy but successful weekend.

Onwards and upwards .... watch this space for mmore updates mext week!

Beer Count: La Chouffe, Mc Chouffe, Maredsuous Bruin, Leffe Blond, Karmeliet Tripel  .... in various quantities.

Wine Count: Enough

Later ....

 

 

Sing Sing Sing!

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Sunday, 26 February 2012 22:04

 

... now it's time to sing, sing, sing!

I didn't get time to update my blog last week so loads of things have happened since the last update. I spent the whole of the last 2 weekends in the studio with help from Michel again at the controls. Last weekend we started the day working on a piece that Brendan had written a while ago. I was intending to use it as a kind of instrumental interlude but was suddenly struck by an idea for a song arrangement after listening back to it and noodling around on the guitar. After a little more noodling the composition started to come together very quickly. I wrote a verse and chorus and arranged the song structure. I often work like this ... writing on the fly. By the middle of the afternoon the entire track was done ... choruses, verses, all electric, ebow  and acoustic guitars, including harmony parts. In fact, everything but the guitar solo. After a quick tea break it was time to tackle that tricky beast ... the guitar solo. What is it about guitar solos? What makes a great guitar solo, well; .... great? For me it's all about the feeling, the touch, the way it fits with the melody and arrangement of the song, the sound, and some other, indefinable quality. I often find that an early take is the best solo, when you are in the song, writing it, living it. It's not always the case though. Coming back to a song weeks later to record a solo can often be very difficult. I find that if I do that I have to play the song through a number of times, play the chords, the rhythm parts and get into the groove of the song completely before I start trying to record a solo. That way I get into the whole mood and feeling of the song and I am in the right zone to play a solo. On the other hand, sometimes you have to really fight with a solo to get what you want. This was one of those fights. The solo for this new track took me about an hour and a half of constant playing, changing ideas, deleting and re-recording, to finally get what I wanted. Poor old Michel must have been about to quit from the pain of it all. For a while both of us thought that it wasn't happening, then suddenly a different approach to the start of the solo opened up the whole flow and finally I got what I wanted. In the end it was worth the battle! At least I believe it was.

After weeks of my wife cooking for us on these recording weekends I had offered to cook some Thai food for Michel. Anyone who knows me will know that Thai food cannot happen without the intake of Belgian beer. So, the cooking process was started with some Maredsous. On the menu was Larb (a Northern Thai warm pork salad dish) and a red chicken curry. The beers continued to flow as we enjoyed the spicy feast. A quick break from drinking and eating gave us enough time to do a quick mix down of the new track and then we were back to the table for dessert. Home made creme brulee and mango ice cream, courtesy of my better half. The rest of the evening was spent drinking gin and tonic, watching the Opeth Roundhouse DVD and laughing our asses off watching Jinsy! Great stuff.

Sunday was spent creating mixes for the rest of the guys to work on and completing a set of lyrics ready for Marc to do his stuff in his studio on the Monday. Finally, I managed to get a set finished and off to Marc after a chat on Skype. By Wednesday I had the demo vocal back plus another demo vocal for the track I finished on Saturday. They are sounding great already, just a few tweaks here and there required. The first complete song is now tentatively entitled 'Distance'.

Introlood

Toospart

Soon the weekend was here again and Saturday was booked in for recording again. I started the day with the customary cornflakes and coffee and before I knew it Michel was here and we were back in the studio again. Initially we started work on a piano piece written by Brendan. The original idea was to have classical guitar on it, but it just wasn't working. I tried everything after that on acoustic, 12 string, ebow, electric, but nothing was adding to the piece. Musically it's so strong that the guitars were detracting from it. I am now sticking with my original thought that it needs a cello. Back to the drawing board on that one.

Bacon and egg butties arrived at the right time and gave us a tasty interlude. After that we patched a few guitars and then worked on a solo for another track. I think we nailed that one! Then ... the pain ... I started work on a guitar solo for another track from a few weeks ago. It was painful. I had one of those sessions wherre I just couldn't come up with anything that worked, just couldn't get inside the song and play. After a couple of hours of frustration we decided to call it a day, especially as the food smells from the kitchen were very enticing, and I heard the pop of a cork!

After a hearty and tasty meal, wine was swapped for gin and tonic again. I played the new Motorpsycho album (The Death Defying Unicorn) for Michel at great volume. If you haven't heard that one yet, then do your ears a favour and get it; Michel was converted after side one! It's absolutely bloody fantastic, my album of the year so far, and it will take some beating, I can tell you. After that, more gin and tonic was required, more Opeth, some IT Crowd, more gin and tonic, and finally, sleep.

Moosic

The current status is that all of the album is written and arranged! The only thing now is to get the rest of the guitar solos done, the keyboards, the lyrics and vocals, the bass re-recorded, the drums re-recorded, artwork arranged, mixing, mastering, pressing etc.... so .... almost there!!

Beer count: Maredsous Blond, Leffe Bruin, La Chouffe, Affligem Dubbel (not sure how many of each though)

Gin and Tonic count: lost count

 

 

Working Weekend

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Monday, 13 February 2012 21:08

Food and wine included ...

Well, where to start? Last weekend was a very busy and very productive one for Nine Stones Close. While all of the residents of my adopted home town (Leiden, NL) were out on the frozen rivers and canals skating, drinking gluhwein, and generally being very Dutch, my friend Michel and I were hard at it in the studio.... 'it' being the new Nine Stones Close album. We hit the ground running, and despite distractions from outside, progress on a brand new track was quickly being made. The previous session I had come up with a half idea for a song by jamming around between edits. We listened back and started to build on the short demo, and the ideas were coming thick and fast. Suddenly, I was writing and recording additional sections and guitar parts like crazy! In between the obligatory BLT's and copious cups of tea provided by my lovely wife, guitar parts and sounds were sought out and recorded and the track pieced togther quickly.  By the end of the day a 13+ minute monster of a track had been created, including all of the guitar parts recorded apart from the solo. I have to say, IT ROCKS! I am really loving this one and can't wait for you all to hear it :)

With the basic track done the call for dinner arrived. I quickly threw together my special garlic bread to go with the home made lasagne and tucked into a nice large glass of merlot. After that came the fabulous dessert, a black forest pavlova, and more wine. Needless to say, after that lot recording was done for the day, apart from a quick playback of the new track so we could sit and smugly enjoy it with another glass of wine. After that we retired for the evening with a few drinks and some good music on the hifi. Mastodon - Crack The Skye, which was my album of the year in 2010, and a few Motorpsycho albums (great Norwegian band that you should check out). All on vinyl, of course.

Sunday started a little bit blurry around the edges, which was soon sorted out with bit of walk in the icy cold followed by a full English and a mug of tea. Breakfast of champions. The rest of the day was spent recording some additional 12 string guitars on a couple of tracks as well as putting down some guide bass lines for the guys to work with. Everything is sounding great so far and I can't wait to hear what the other guys add to the songs.

I spent some time last year worrying about what people might think of the new album material compared to Traces, especially as Traces has been so well received. The new album is definitely not Traces part 2, I can't write to formula or to style, whatever comes out is from the heart and soul, and that's what really matters isn't it? It is what it is; a statement of my current state of mind and musical direction. All I can say is, it sounds like Nine Stones Close to me. The good news is that all the material is now written apart from the lyrics, and those are constantly in flux. Hopefully the first set will be final this week ready for Marc to start recording his parts. Next week I hope to post a few video clips and sound clips (if all goes well). Michel and I will be back in the studio working on the final few guitar parts for the last 2 tracks. Beer may also be involved. Watch this space.... still a long way to go .... but we are getting there!!

Beer Count: 0 (shock horror!!)

Gin and Tonic count : off the scale

 

 

 

 
 

Let them eat cake

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Monday, 23 January 2012 20:40

Oh, and bacon butties!

Well, Saturday was another good day in the studio working on the new album. With Michel Simons at the controls again we were soon headed for the heart of the sun. After a sticky start fighting with the studio software and my crap early morning playing, a bacon butty and tea break came at just the right time. After resuming our efforts things started to really flow. In the afternoon we managed to get all of the guitars done for one new track, including the first time I have used classical guitar on a Nine Stones Close track. It's a little different but it's sounding really great. I also laid down some 12-string using my new Faith guitar, sounds beautiful.

Late in the day I started jamming around and came up with a new song idea. As I stomped around the studio like some demented metal thrash maniac, Michel commented that this tune 'might not be very Nine Stones Close'. Either way it rocked so we started to record it anyway, after playing around with a couple of ideas for the verses, I had the insane idea of changing the time signature every few bars. It worked! ... well ... to a degree... I actually made it too difficult for me to play along with the drums any more. After Michel had finished laughing his ass off at my incompetence ... for quite some time, I might add, it was time for dinner ... a rather nice home made duck and Toulouse sausage cassoulet followed by a sumptuous chocolate and ginger cake (courtesy of my talented and long suffering wife). DELICIOUS!

After washing everything down with a few glasses of wine we decided to hit the studio again for one last go at that guitar part. Strangely enough the wine seemed to have kicked my brain into gear, and a few takes later we were getting somewhere. Finally we entered battle with a new chorus riff, which just didn't seem to work no matter how many guitar god faces I tried to pull while playing it. Oh well, one to pick up in the next session. It was getting late so we called it a day. I poured myself a massive gin and tonic and we retired to listen to some music and chill out. All in all, a busy but fun session. I have a break from recording next weekend, then it's back to it the following weekend. I am hoping to work on some editing and lyrics in the meantime though. I might post a few vids and sound clips in the coming weeks so watch this space! Cheers!

Beer count: 1 x Maredsous Bruin

Wine Count: Several glasses of a rather nice Rioja

Gin Count: 1 x Monster XL size

 

Ade's Squeaky Blog Entry

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Monday, 16 January 2012 20:54

Stop that bloody squeaking....

I spent a bit of time in the studio again this evening working on a couple of things and listening back to some of the recordings from the last week. One thing I did notice is that there are tremendous string squeak noises on the acoustic parts. I know this is natural but once your ears focus on that sound you hear nothing else. The question is do I try and re-do the parts and see if I can get rid of it? It's all very natural of course and part of the guitar sound but I never heard it as bad as this on my recordings before. I wonder what the best way to minimize this on a recording is? Some people say it's about technique, but I think that's garbage, lighter fingering and raising or lifting the finger weight makes no difference, trust me I have tried it..... many times. I have a tried a few other things like string oil and olive oil on the fingers but nothing seems to work. Any advice gratefully received.

Anyway, other than that the demos are sounding good so far and everything is going in the right direction. I put down some guide bass lines (pics below) on a couple of tracks tonight so that Brendan can start work on them, hopefully the first track will be ready for some vocal input from Marc in the next week or so.

Saturday this week is booked as another full studio day and I am hoping to get at least one more track ready for the other guys to work on. I think pretty much all of the material is now written for the album, but you never know when a new idea might come into play. Michel will be helping me in the studio again on Saturday, which should really help to get things moving. Of course food and wine will also come into play at some point during the evening .. ...... oh and beer of course :)

We saw a couple of local artists at a local venue on our evening out on Saturday. The young singer songwriter, Katia, who supported the main act was very good, I enjoyed her set a lot, nice voice, good songs, nicely played, you can check her music out HERE. The main set was a band called Long Conversations led by a friend of ours, singer songwriter stuff and a very enjoyable set. Link HERE.

Right, time to get some rest

Todays' Beer Count = 0   ..... something seems to be wrong there :(

Cheers

Ade

 
 

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