Sometime last year, I was contacted by a Brit who was supposedly stating up a vinyl label and who supposedly wanted to release an album by BDSR. I say “supposedly” twice because my immediate reaction was “Yeh, right. What kinda scam is this?” I’d long wanted – and expected to someday – to put out some sounds on the obsolete, long-player format, but I figured that was still way off in some distant hypothetical sometime. I responded with an air of civility and interest, but with no serious expectation that anything would ever come of it.
Well, the months passed with occasional communication betwixt myself and the Brit, whose label was named after a Zoroastrian spirit, until he released his first actual album by some other band and sent me a copy, at which point I started to think this thing might be legit. I started making efforts toward putting together something that I could send in.
Those who are familiar with BDSR might have some difficulty believing that that was harder said than done, considering the rate at which we’ve recorded and released material. But this was for actual vinyl, not download or cd – putting out cd’s was pretty impressive at first, but we’ve done it enough now that the bloom is off that lily. For our first lp, something more than fuzzy guitar scribbles over drum loops seemed necessary; something like fuzzy guitar scribbles over actual drums, which created some little difficulty as far as the actual process of recording drums since what I normally use for recording is a single mic rammed into a laptop, which is why I resort to using a lot of drum loops – that and drum loops are easier to work with than drummers.
I’m not going to go into the details of the many failed recording sessions because that would surely lead to name-calling and bitterness, but there were several failed recording sessions and I must admit that I share in some of the responsibility there because I did not provide the degree of leadership that was apparently needed. In one session, I did jam a single mic into my laptop and record the whole shitshow – we forgot to lock the door of the restaurant and a hobo walked in during the session and tried to bum money and/or beer, I’m not making that up – so after the whole thing was done, when I realized that nothing usable had made it into the multi-track files, I pulled out the best sections of that crappy mono recording, overdubbed the living Jesus out of it and sent it to the guy at the label, who loved it and passed it on the plant to press the vinyl. However, there are apparently limits on what you can do with vinyl and the amount of feedback scree and distorted banjo that I smeared all over the place proved too much so the label guy asked if I could edit a little and I said “no” because I was happy with what I’d done and didn’t want to compromise the integrity of it or some goddam thing. I’m now wondering if I shouldn’t have just chopped it up. But I didn’t. And the label guy was all like “Oi, mate! That’s bloody well chipper! I’ll issue this as a bonus cassette with the first however many lp’s! Blimey! Hey-nonny-nonny!”, which I was really happy about, but that still left me with nothing for the actual vinyl.
So, I shifted the personnel who will be on the vinyl, drafted a Lutheran choir singer and set up more recording sessions which didn’t come off as desired or expected for various reasons and then the drummer started making noises about a friend who had the proper equipment to record drums and how much he’d like to have that guy do the recording so the drums would sound good and I was all for that because I just wanted to get the thing done by that point. It had been months since the label guy first contacted me and I was feeling the pressure of being way behind my own expectations. Usually, I deliver the goods and somebody else is the cause of the delays, a thing I take some pride in. And while I wasn’t exactly the cause of the many, many false starts and failed attempts, I am the bandleader, I guess, which is a thing I didn’t set out to be, but became somehow. So, it is down to me to send the label guy something he can put on vinyl.
The whole process has caused me to think a bit deeplier about how I go about recording. In the past, BDSR tracks have generally been mostly improv, though there have been songs with riffs, lyrics and whatnot. The M.O. has been to throw sounds out and hope they get to the ears that can hear, which has sorta worked – obviously we’ve released a lotta shit. I came up with a handful of riffs, chose a cover and penned some original lyrics, got together with the drummer and gave him the basic sketches, though I didn’t bother with all the different tunings, which doesn’t matter to drummers anyway. The plan, as of this writing, is to get together – the drummer, the guy with the equipment and me; the Lutheran dropped out – one night next week and lay down the tracks. It’ll all be recorded live to digital and should be all first-take. The spirit of improv will remain. Whether that actually happens or the whole thing falls through again…
The whole point of this is not that recording an album is a pain in the ass. I could’ve rented a studio – there’re a few here in town – and paid somebody to twiddle the knobs and push the faders. That was always an option. However, BDSR is DIY and that’s how it should remain. I’ll certainly offer the guy some money for the use of his equipment and know-how, but the idea of paying some audio technology major too much money to roll his eyes when I turn on the second distortion pedal rankles. We are not after smooth, studio-crafted pabulum. The album will not be an appeal to new fans at the expense of BDSR’s signature sound. I’ve been considering shelling out for a different sound program, one that allows multiple ins, which would make it possible for me to set up many mics and get a decent drum sound, but I haven’t yet. That’s gotta happen though.
Shit. I just walked into committing myself to setting up my own portable studio with multi-track capability. Now I have to follow through on that.
But that wasn’t the whole point either. The whole point was and is that BDSR isn’t my project, though as I said, I am the “bandleader”. See, I’m just the vehicle. I received the inspiration and agreed to see it through, but I am not in charge. That belongs to the Ineffable in the form of the Deity whom I worship and whom shall remain unnamed here because I consider that to be personal. It is not up to me to determine when the lp will get recorded, though it is down to me to try to get the drummer to show up at a specific time and to remember what tuning goes with what riff. I just do the footwork.
So, anyway. It’ll get done, I’m sure. The album will come out someday. And if you prebuy it, I’ll make sure you get one of the copies that come with a bonus cassette. Hit me for details.
Addendum: I meant to post this but then a week went by. At this writing, we’ve done the recording. The producer has the tracks and is doing whatever producers do. There were a few false starts, but everything happened in one take. We did one song twice – the two will get spliced together. There was one song that I just couldn’t get right, certainly because it involved me singing words I wrote. After the other people left, I threw the vocal onto my laptop in one take, then overdubbed the guitar.
So anyhoo – the Absolute wanted it to work out and it did. And I will still guarantee copies with the bonus cassette to fools who buy it before release. Hit me up.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.