The following is a blog I wrote in late April that somehow did not get posted! Obviously it’s a great start for my current projects, so…I’m posting it…fo’ sho’!
Something insane is happening! It started late last year, when I decided I NEEDED to digitally archive some old tapes. Specifically three: Brillohead’s album, demo, and an acoustic session documenting the last songs we’d written but (I thought) never recorded.
I archived these the only way I knew how: I took a cassette deck, connected it to my computer, pressed play and recorded through my line in. The tapes were old. There was lots of hiss. Noise reduction made the songs sound like they were drowning. But it was the best I could do with what I had and, unfortunately, all my old music was recorded in a bizarre transition time: CD burners were not affordable, home computers were not powerful enough, and ‘cassette tapes’ were still a viable option for selling independent music.
From 1993-1996 I was in two bands, and in both cases we used a Fostex 4-Track recorder for our music…a quick explanation: if you think of a tape as a four lane highway, with two stereo tracks going in one direction (Side A) and two going the other (Side B), then a 4-Track takes those lanes and sends them all in one direction, splitting the lanes so you can record on each one individually. That means four individual instruments, vocals, or whatever can be recorded OVER each other without erasing the other recordings. Multitracking at it’s most early 90s home-DIY’ness (…did I just say that??)
Fast forward to 2010. I go over to hang with my buddy Ryan, who was also a member of both bands, and something wonderful has happened.
There it is…the Fostex. And an old box of cassettes from the early 90s. Did I mention Ryan is a music engineer? He has taken those old Brillohead songs, the ones I ripped from a crappy cassette that had been played a hundred times, and imported them to a computer. He’s mixed the individual tracks, he’s cleaned them up…he’s made it sound fresh and new again! NO HISS!
The disturbing things is that they sound BETTER than they ever could have even when they were freshly recorded. They sound clearer then they were intended to be. We have upset the order of the earth.
…and last night, we took the older stuff, the ANCIENT stuff…and started doing the same to it.
We found the very first tape we recorded, where we were trying to learn how the Fostex worked. We were playing with pitch (speed up the tape and sing over the recording…when you put the tape back to normal your voice is an octave lower and sounds slow…slow down the tape, opposite effect!) We were testing how to multitrack (after an obvious attempt to record a song on one track that went horribly wrong).
It’s like EVERYTHING we are doing today starts with that one fucked up attempt to record a song, and all our attempts to record afterwards. Think back…can you locate that ONE moment? An act where the way you are today got kick started?
We used to start each recording with the name of the song and the name of the take (perhaps drawing from my earlier dreams of being a movie star). Our ‘signature’ song, Dem Drugs…we heard one with no takes…then, suddenly, ‘Take Two.’ We found Take Six, and we know the one on the album was Take Seven. It’s like a whole development phase on tape, listened to for the first time in seventeen years…
…that’s longer than some of my friends have existed!
It’s so strange to think that goofing around in a high school lobby (then called the Snake Pit) and then in a basement somehow, over hurdles and obstacles and detours, has come full circle almost two decades later and is suddenly at the center of my life again.
I was saying to Ryan about the whole thing…did you ever expect that 17 years later we would be sitting in a professional studio, with a Fostex 4-Track, trying to salvage and remix our old songs? Does anyone EVER expect that their high school band will ACTUALLY get back together?
I guess I’ll keep you posted on what happens as it does!