A few weeks ago this photo retouching portfolio made the rounds. What I find interesting is how normal the retouched photos look, at least until you see each “before” picture. We’re used to seeing the fake stuff. Music is no different. Protools, Autotune, VocAlign, Sound Replacer, Beat Detective, the venerable copy and paste… most of the music you hear is airbrushed more than you’d ever realize. From Hole to the Deftones to Dave Matthews to Pavarotti. Really.
In stark contrast, I give you Bludge: You Probably Suck. Wordclock is finally getting around to releasing this record, and we’re releasing it as a free download. (We’ve also put up a tip jar for anyone who wants to help the cause.)
Here’s the story: Brad and I wrote and recorded the basics for this record in a weekend, in January 1999. On Friday evening we set up mics and got sounds. We wrote for the next day and a half, keeping notes on a whiteboard. Then we loaded tapes into the ADATs, pushed record, went back downstairs, and ran through each song until we got it right. We tracked 24 songs in less than 90 minutes.
We started recording guitar on Sunday night, but ran out of time. I spent the next few weeks recording guitar when I felt like it. Then over the course of a few months, I wrote and recorded the vocals, doing 4-5 songs at a clip. I wrote lyrics when they occured to me — mostly at the shitty dotcom job that inspired some of them — and sat down every few weeks to work out vocal parts and record them. Then I’d reel from the headache and forget about the project for a while. Finally, in October, I mixed everything in a day or two, burned CDs for a few friends, and that was that.
We did this record before my studio was PC-based. There’s almost no airbrushing here, save for multitracking itself. Drums and bass are exactly as they went to tape. Guitars and vocals were tracked in a few passes, with a few comps. There are no triggers on the drums, no software fixes.
For gearheads: I tracked to a pair of ADAT XTs and mixed on my old Allen & Heath GS3 mixer to DAT. Mics were mostly 57′s, with Crown CM-700′s on overheads and probably something like a 421 in the kick. Mic pres were nothing to write home about, though I may have had a Sytek MP-4A at the time. Compressors were mostly RNC’s and a couple dbx 163x’s. EQ was mostly on the mixer though I think I had some outboard then… Orban, Rane, nothing exotic. We tracked everything but vocals in my shitty-sounding basement.
I dug through my email archive to figure out when all of this happened, and I was surprised to see how long it took. I think of this project as taking a week, maybe ten days. In sum that’s probably what it was, but those ten days were stretched out over nine months. Nothing like a sense of urgency to keep your nose to the grindstone.
Well, here’s your sense of urgency: 23 songs in 14 minutes.