Part 1 – Head Down… Tits Up!

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Jean Morrison, Jean, Morrison, Jean Morrison Music, Black and white, singer, musician, lighting, microphone, sad, checked shirt, gig, performance, concert

Ever heard the expression, one step forward and two steps back? Or have you ever been in a dream where you keep trying to run away from something but no matter how hard you try, you keep moving backwards? As most of you probably know by now, I began working on my first ever full length studio album. Since its inception the whole process has been surreal for me. I had handpicked some of the most respected musicians to play on my record and decided to work with sound engineer Brent Quinton as he came highly recommended. In hindsight I can see why his praises were sung but things did not go according to plan, to put it mildly.

Earlier during the songwriting stage of the album, I had bumped into Dave Birch (whom produced my 2008 EP, “FAWE”) at a local grocery store and discovered that he had taken up a nine-to-five position as a sound engineer for a wildlife documentary company. Naturally I inquired about this new job – ‘It was an offer I couldn’t refuse’ he said disarmingly. To be honest, I was a bit stunned and disheartened at this news. Here you have one of the best record producer’s taking up a bloody day job! You know something is really off when even the best are unable to make a reliable living in todays music industry. A few months passed and I decided to send Dave an email explaining how interested I was in working with him on recording a full length studio record. This was a long shot as he had obviously ‘retired’ from the industry. Dave did eventually reply to my email but unfortunately his father had just passed away and understandably was unable to commit to anything. This is the moment I decided to work with engineer Brent Quinton.

Everything seemed to kick off pretty smoothly with Brent, from organising rehearsals to shaping the sound of the first couple of tracks. But as we started placing one foot in front of the other, we suddenly found ourselves moving backwards at an alarming rate. The thing that concerned me right from the beginning was how regimented and formal Brent had set everything up. I guess this was the red flag I had so naively overlooked. We were booked in the studio from 10 to 5 everyday for the next two weeks at a set fee per hour. I’d first like to preface the following by saying, Brent did try work with me at a discounted hourly rate which was lower than he usually charges. Although this may have just been sales talk. Unsurprisingly, we began clashing both creatively and financially. The issue I had with Brent was that he had assured me that he would take the production lead to the project. Conventionally, a producer guides the recording process from start to finish, sitting through rehearsals like a fourth band member, being involved creatively which includes working with arrangements, song structure and song selection as well as various other aspects that result in an amazing album or song. Why else would they be entitled to a 15% royalty cut? Brent had quite literally done none of these things. He acted only as a rigid engineer who refused to cross the finish line once the allotted time was up. He had also only tracked and edited six of the twelve songs before the budget ‘ran dry’. The budget referring to the allotted time my money could buy with him. The time restraints also gave us as a band no time to actually comb through the songs and work out the best rhythm parts. It was like I purchased a flight to London and the pilot dropped us off in Kenya because he ran out of petrol and the only way to arrive at our destination was to pay the pilot more money. I felt scammed and betrayed as the only recording experience I had as an artist was with producer Dave Birch who had always just asked what our budget was and worked with that until we had a finished product in hand. I also felt guilty for my band who, even though were paid well, put the hours in and got no final product to show for their effort. We lacked guidance, leadership and someone who could take us across that finish line. I did my best to lead the project but with limited recording and production knowledge, there was only so much I could do. Not to mention the videographer I hired to document the journey in the studio that deleted all the footage because ‘his hard drive was full’. What a slap in the face! The whole thing just went tits up and my head was down, but not in the way I had imagined.

This is part one of a two part blog, click here to go to part two.

 

Posted on: 30 December 2012

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