location recording

My apologies for not writing a blog in a few weeks.  It’s been pretty hectic in my household recently and blogging has been something that has just been beyond my ability to get my head around.  First of all we were looking at buying the house we are currently renting.  We put in an offer with the owner, he accepted it and then backed out at the last second due to the advice of a slimy real estate agent who seems to think he could get more money for it.  Personally, I think he’s kidding himself as the condition of the property just doesn’t warrant any more than we offered and we couldn’t get any more money.  Unfortunately, greed won out and now the place is on the market.  Said real estate agent, upon realising that the house probably wouldn’t leap off his books for the price he told the owner he could get, of course convinced him to spend some money on fixing a few things up for the sale.  Add this outlay to his commission and marketing fees…  Well, let’s just say that we think that that would soak up any additional money he will get from the sale and he’d have been better off with taking our offer.  But I guess he’s going to learn that the hard way.

So with half a million bucks’ mortgage pre-approval (in concept) by the bank, we started hunting for a new house to buy.  We’ve now found one that’s pretty close to where we are and we’ve put in an offer.  Contracts have been exchanged and we are now in the throws of battling with the bank for final approval having already moved the end of our cooling off period once (from 5pm last Tuesday to today at 5pm) and about to try and get a further extension all because the bank keeps asking for just one more piece of paper.  That seems to be a reoccurring theme with them.  It’s been happening every day along this ride.  I’m told that’s not uncommon but it’s massively stressful and I don’t recommend the process to anyone who might have high blood pressure or a weak heart.  I’m sure that those of you who have gone through this are nodding in agreement.

All going well, we should be moving in in about five weeks but at this point nothing is confirmed and we could be stuck trying to fit all our furniture into our car on a semi-permanent basis.  There’s really no way to know.  I never realised how much energy this whole process takes out of you and, to be honest, I hate moving possibly more than any other thing on earth (with perhaps the exception of mimes).

We’ve been in this house three years or so.  We like where we are.  It has all the conveniences we need and moving now means some compromise.  Particularly for our kid who currently enjoys a three minute walk to school.  That’s about to turn into a twenty minute bus trip that places him at school an hour before class.  He’s not happy about that but we’re sure it’s character-building for him.  We assured him that we had to walk sixteen miles through driven snow, uphill both ways to get to school when we were kids and then come home and our fathers would murder us in cold blood every night before bed.  He just needs to harden up we think.  Outside of that, we reckon it’s the right house for us though it is a fixer.  It’ll be our first house.  I know, we left our run at the property ladder a bit late mostly due to living the rock star wannabe lifestyle… you know, as we musicians do… but now is the time for us to join the mainstream public in “the great Australian dream”.

On top of the hunt for a new home, dealing with an agent selling the home we’re in whilst we are living in it plus a recent visit by the sister-in-law, her husband and their three kids for a (very long) week (eight people in a house that usually only has three… for a week!!!  Genuine concept of hell, people!), I’ve also been doing the mixing of the final of Warringah Council’s Northern Composure band competition.  It’s been a welcome distraction from everything else that’s been going on.  We recorded the whole of the show (judge’s choice bands) in multi-track to take back to the studio to mix.  Winner of the comp gets their whole set mixed, second place got five songs, third place got three.

The first place getters, a band called The Alpha Experiment, were one of the finest and most entertaining acts I’ve ever had the pleasure of mixing.  Seriously, these guys were major stand outs and I’m not just saying that in the way that articles about live shows tend to bullshit on about how great everyone was.  If you know me, you’ll know I don’t pull my punches when it comes to the job of playing music.  In this case I really mean this.  I shit you not.  Awesome is the right word and you’re hearing that from a guy who doesn’t pay compliments to bands lightly.  I’m about as jaded and cynical as they get.  Not that Northern Composure hasn’t seen some crazily awesome bands in the thirteen or so years I’ve been judging (and mixing) the competition but, without a doubt, these guys were something special.

To be perfectly truthful, I don’t generally enjoy live bands when I’m mixing them.  Actually, I don’t really enjoy live bands period now.  I don’t go to see them because, if I’m not mixing them, I’m sitting in the audience with my arms crossed wondering whether the sound guy is going to fix the EQ on that snare or whatever else would be bugging me about the mix and the whole thing becomes less of a pleasurable experience and more just another day at the office.  But even when I’ve got control over the mix, I can’t say that the word “enjoyment” would be a way to describe it.  I’m working.  I’ve got my head in the mix and constantly tweaking things to present them in the best light.  Not that I don’t love my job but I’m concentrating on that job and doing my best to create an environment that showcases the best of the musicians on stage for the audience.  I am there for the audience first and foremost.  Sometimes that’s not a major effort.  Especially if the band has it’s shit together sound-wise.  Other times, it can be a constant struggle.  Singers with no microphone technique, amps that are too loud or set up badly, drum kits that are badly tuned, etc, etc can make the job extremely difficult.  That’s without even delving into the issues of poor musicianship.  There are a million little things that can make your band sound like crap no matter how hard your engineer is working at the desk.  None of them may be his fault.

But some bands just have it “all going on”.  The mix almost just falls together for you.  Everything sounds great.  Not that it mixes itself but somehow, all the pieces fit together without the effort required for other bands.  The Alpha Experiment was one of these bands.  And this was in spite of the fact that they were using up every damn channel on the desk.  In fact they used up every damn mic lead in the venue!  Still, from the first note out of the gate, it sounded shit-hot.  I was pretty much blown away entirely and I can’t remember another time that has happened.  (Sorry to the hundreds of other bands I’ve mixed.  Don’t take it personally.  Go and check out this band and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  If you’re like me, you’ll seriously re-address what you are doing on your instrument!).

Of course, I only mixed their live set at the heat.  For the final I was tucked away in a back room, monitoring the multi-track recorder while Paul was dealing with them front of house but even that was an enjoyable experience rather than “a job”.  It’s pretty rare that I’d say such a thing.  Tracking a live concert can be hugely stressful.  Especially the band comp at Yo-Yo’s because the set up time between bands is minimal, the bands can all be completely different line ups and genres AND I have to wear my judge’s hat at the same time.

Equally, mixing the recording was just as enjoyable.  Now I DO “enjoy” mixing stuff in the studio.  Once things are captured and you have time to tweak, stop and start, play parts over, trim, cut, drag and paste, solo out an instrument and fiddle with its EQ without having to do so with an audience hearing it while you’re doing it is a much less stressful job.  It’s still a job.  It’s still a hard job. You still need to bring your A-game but there’s time to get things perfect before it’s unleashed on the public’s ears.  So the stress levels drop and you can afford to get creative.

The mix of the recording of these guys came together as easily and joyfully as their live mix at the heat did.  There was very little I needed to “fix” of the performance (which is unusual even for the greatest and most famous musicians in the world.)  Their playing was virtually flawless and their music was completely engaging.

They are definitely a band that is worth seeing live… Even if you’re a jaded and cynical, old sound engineer who feels like seeing bands is too much like work!

Go and like them on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/alphaexperiment

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