Note: This is a Two-Part Blog. If you haven’t read Part One yet, I’d suggest going back. To go to Part One, click here.
Following a few months of heavy contemplation and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to email Theo Crous from The Springbok Nude Girls for some advice. I had never met Theo so a response seemed unlikely. Needless to say he replied two days later with some suggestions and even gave me some contacts to call. I was blown away by the sheer humility such a massive figure in the South African music industry could have. I’ll never forget that. While the contacts were great, I was nervous at the prospect of working with someone in an unfamiliar city who I didn’t know. The risk was just too great especially after what I had just been through with Brent.
Soon thereafter I decided to email Dave Birch (pictured above) again but this time he had been in a motorcycle accident and had badly broken his arm, he even sent pics to prove it. The poor dude was going through hell and back! Nevertheless I persisted with the emails month after month. In my mind it was borderline harassment and made me feel a bit uneasy but something was telling me not to give up on Dave. Eventually after a couple months and emails later, the legendary Dave Birch, whom produced my 2008 EP, ‘FAWE’ as well as some of the most successful albums to come out of South Africa, agreed to help me ‘undo’ and ‘unclean’ the metronomic mess that was my unfinished debut album. I was elated and could feel the excitement again bubbling in my bones. Almost every band that has ever recorded with Dave knows, unless your genre is nu-metal or dance you never record to a click track. There’s a reason you pay a shit load of money to have a great drummer play on an album rather than using drum samples. You want that authenticity! Brent had made Gareth sound like a glorified drum machine by obsessively comping Gareth’s most precise takes. Let me put it this way, if comping the best takes weren’t enough, he would literally snap every hit of Gareth’s kick and snare to the precise beat in that bar. If Gareth was a shitty drummer I’d understand why he would do something like this but he is one of the tightest and most proficient drummers in the country. I guess Brent’s highly commercialised pop rock influences were somewhat responsible for this painfully homogenised approach. I want it to sound like human beings are behind a song not a bunch of monotonous robots. I recall the wise words of Mr Birch, “There is nothing more powerful and fulfilling than the energy in a room with three guys just jamming together, essentially in a rhythmic juggling act”. One band that comes to mind is Perez. Perez had an uncanny ability to create huge full sounding songs with just the four of them jamming in a room together. This is the feeling I was wanting to replicate but it wasn’t to be on this album. Every song that I had done with Brent was recorded to a click track. It was completely unnecessary and sucked the life out of the entire album.
What lies ahead seems almost insurmountable but we’re up for the challenge. Once you’ve tracked your drummer to a click, there’s no going back really. We either have to start over or salvage the album by loosening everything up. We chose the latter. Maybe a lazy sax here or a moody organ there would balance out the gridlocked mess. Well, I’m really happy to say that we have done just that. My first song is finally sounding more complete and human than ever before, thanks to Dave’s ingenious arrangements and ability to humanise sound. The title of the track is ‘Cardboard Skies’ and I’m really excited about this one. It seems very likely, even at this point, that the song will be a single. Have a listen here to the before and after and tell me what you think.
Posted on: 6 January 2013
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