Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Indefinitive Guide to Producing a Band pt. 2

Welcome back.

I'm still coughing like a seal on crack performing a severely bitcrushed Barry White imitation. But that didn't keep me from thinking straight yesterday. I ended last days post stating that i do not intend to write The Definitive Guide to Producing a Band.

That would be a very pretentious thing to even try to come close to, so let's step down a few notches.
I do not know what i'm doing. This blog is selfreflection for the greater part. I've only been doing this for about 2 years now. Okay, i've always been in a band, kinda fulfilling the role of the producer, but that's different. That's our own music.

So i'm learning. I've learned that there is no standard procedure. No artist or band is the same, so how can the process of making a record be the same? For starters, the group dynamics are of great influence on the process. A singer-songwriter with a guitar and nothing else to worry about, needs a different approach than a full piece band with different characters. So even before going into the actual music side of things, there can be social relations to deal with. I'd never thought i'd be parttime shrink!

Egos can cause trouble. But the opposite of that, the lack of self confidence, might even be a bigger threat to the process. To 'read' the artist, appears to be quite an important asset. Get those things out of the way before you start, or at least be aware of the strenghts and weaknesses of each person in the band. For instance. A singer is insecure about his voice. The bassplayer is always making fun of this  by imitating him. Bassplayer thinks he's just being funny, singer wants to be cool and acts like he doesn't care. In that case i would never track vocals with the bassplayer being anywhere near the studio. And, for the further well-being of the band, i'd sit down and talk to the guy. Since the band hired me for the job, they trust me. So he'll take this note from me and change his attitude. Or else he's a shitface and needs to leave the band.

On this spiritual note i'd like to say farewell for today. I can feel the 8-bit Barry waiting to make it's appearance in my throat.

Stay tuned for part 3, of the very Indefinitive Guide to Producing a Band!
- S.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hello Highly Respected Blogreader,

You haven't heard from me for some time. That's partly because i was doing what i am supposed to be doing, and that's making records. The other reason for not posting anything is because i didn't feel like it. But now that i find myself lying on a couch trying to recover from the mandatory fall-fever, i felt i could spent my time better on writing something more substantial than the abstract four-letter words in Wordfeud.

Quick update: you might already know that Gram and Jenny Lane have released their albums successfully. Kapabel's Avonduren record is finished and will be released during Noorderslag. Bombay Show Pig has occupied the studio to record their debut album. No tents, just mattresses and sleepingbags.  In december we'll cross the pond to mix this record with Brooklyn based mixer Eli Janney. Did i mention Noorderslag?

Now that we got that out of the way, i thought this would be a nice occasion to explain to you what a producer does. I know many of you readers are musicians yourselves and might have had to deal with one;  even then it's not always clear what the role of a music producer is or can be.
Hence the word 'music' here; some people think that the role of a music producer is similar to that of a producer of films. Although there certainly are mutualities between the two, the image that comes to mind when talking about filmproducers is $$$. But let's not get into comparing the two, i'm stuck already. I'll just talk about what i know.

First off: i'm privileged to have my own studio. I fell in love with knobs, faders and meters at an early age, so over the course of 20 years i've invested my modest income in gear. Ever since i was old enough to have my own stand at Koninginnedag, i was selling junk in order to finance another second hand casettedeck. A mere 20 years later, when Kyte asked me if i wanted a space in his music community Kytopia, my collected gear finally got a home.

Second off: i have no education in music whatsoever. I did the application for Music Technology (HKU) twice, but got rejected, twice. I'm a less than mediocre drummer, can't play any other instrument and i cannot read sheet music. My dad plays the cello so bad that he got banished to the smallest of towns in Belgium, Teuven, so there's no DNA to support me in my musical development.
How did i end up here, working with great artists and musicians? That's a question to which the answer remains a mystery, and i will not try to solve it. I'm just grateful.

Back to the program. A band wants to make a record. With or without the help of skilled songwriters they have written a bunch of good songs, which they've played a bunch of times in a bunch of local bars.
The band is ambitious: they want to give up everything, yes everything, in order to make it successful. Their eagerness is not out of place: a booking agent, label and publisher are interested. The demos recorded in the rehearsal room sound promising, but lack quality.
Who you gonna call? Producerman!

I choose to work with bands that can check all boxes above. To start with. Most important: the SONGS. If your songs are not good enough, there's no way a production can make up for it. The process will become very dreadful, up to the point to where i would want to kill myself. Second most important criterion, but this actually goes hand in hand with the first one: the personal connection i have with the music. If the music in it's roughest form can move me, i want to be a part of it. This is very personal. This is what makes a producer unique. I might love a song, whereas another producer could hate it.

I listen to the songs. A couple of times, but not too many. I might visit the rehearsal space and listen to the band playing the songs. If i feel something ain't right in the structure of a song, we'll try various options.  Leave out some bars in the verse, extend the bridge, chop the song in half because it feels too long, whatever. It's all intuitive. There are no rules, it about gut feeling.

My gut feeling tells me this blogpost is going the direction of "The Definitive Guide To Producing A Band" - and that's bad. Fever is manifesting itself. I'll be back tomorrow, promise.


Monday, June 20, 2011

History of a song.

Top of the monday to y'all!

Did anyone go to festival de Beschaving in Utrecht? I went, and it was awesome. Big shout outs to the people who made that happen! Great location, great bands, great audience. The Villagers were my personal highlight.

So now that my system is rinsed and i'm ready for this week, i'm happy to announce this song is in the new Amstel commercial! It's being broadcast as from today, and here's the link to the ad.

When the advertising company called me to inform me with the possibility of having our song in that commercial, i was thrilled. But they needed an instrumental version. No problem..... o wait..... where the hell is that song? Normally everything is arranged by name in a folder, you know, all tidy and shit... but it was nowhere to be found!

Digging in the archives of my grey mass, i recollected how we made this song.

It was during spring 2008, when C&K retreated in Schiermonnikoog for a writing session for the new album. We rented a house, invited some friends over for Jori's birthday party, all swell. I remember Sjam of NBTD getting a funky haircut out in the garden when the cops arrived. They didn't want their precious little island get raided by some Randstad punks. Ok, i admit it: we had put a tent in the yard without asking.

Anyway, North Sea Jazz was coming up, and we wanted to do something special. We found out Wouter Hamel was playing our song Make my Day in a very jazzable manner, so we figured it would be  nice to release that song around NSJ. Since there was barely time to get in the studio with Wouter, he was so kind to drive up to Groningen, where we impovised a recording booth in the house of our good friend Arno Bakker. He's playing the sousaphone (tuba for newbies) in the song, and he's joined us many times during shows.

Wouter returned to the civilised world, while i returned to Schiermonnikoog. Colin (Kyte) came over as well, and this was an epic moment: we all went flying kites! The true origin of the legend. Colin proved himself to be a worthy holder of the name, while Kypski stressed the fact chickens are not supposed to fuck with that. I can still picture Kip being dragged over the beach head first, bare-belly-ed.
After we dug up 2 kilos of vongole from the beach, we went home and made a bonfire. Pasta with fresh vongole and cream, oh yes. Later that night Colin added some trumpets to the song.

So that was three years ago. You know how laptops have a tendency to slide from your lap. That's what had happened to me, and it had died right there and then. Making backups is something i do, but don't remember. When they called me for the instrumental version of the song, i couldn't find it.
It took us 3 days of non-stop searching to find out it was on some dusty old hard disk in Jori's mansion.

So now everytime you see that Amstel commercial on tv, you'll think of this little story.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New remix online!

My friends of Bombay Show Pig have a nice little project going. They have a minisite where they release a new remix of their "Baby, it's a face" EP every week. You all know that 3 is the magic number, so it's no surprise this little unicorn here has got something to do with it.

Look out for a tune called Top of Mind and make sure you download it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Dawn of an Epic Era

Dear fellow citizens,

I'm glad the world didn't come to an end last week. I'm having too much fun. At parties i'm often the one to call for 'just one last one'. This particular party called life is no other. I'm staying for one more. We're all staying for one more.

So... new era, new name, new blog, new strange apparatusses, new music. Where to begin? Ok, just a quick runthrough.

The name, i already told you about this. I couldn't think of a more hilarious name, plus my buddy Teo Skaffa promised me to make logo's and artwork, which he did - hence the rainbows.
Please send me you're Rainbow Unicorn related images or items to shine in the "Epic Shrine of Rainbow Unicorn Paraphernalia" section on this blog. By the way, this is the origin of the Unicorn:

Ok more serious now. The recently purchased items are serious.
- A pair of Calrec 1052c small-diaphragm condenser mics built in England early 80's. Great for almost anything. My studio-guru Pieter Kloos put me on to this. Thanks Pi!
- Yamaha Elctone B805. This is one of those super ugly organs your grandma has sitting in the attic with a 10 inch layer of dust on it. It kinda sounds like that too. But there are some quirky little features that makes this one worth a ride up and down to Friesland.
- Philicorda tube edition. Must have. Always had one laying around, but rightful owner Jori Collignon came to pick it up.  So i missed it, and immediately picked one up while they're still fairly cheap.
- I already had an upright piano, but recently i put it in the studio and had it tuned. Piano's are good for karma.

Don't think i'm a collector. Never have collected anything, except for stickers when i was five. Records, shoes, money.... i like it all but collecting it is not in my nature. Records gotta spin, shoes are made for walking, money is for spending. So i actually try to make some music with all these purchased items.

GRAM's first single is out! Happy vibes. I recorded an entire album with her throughout last year. It's finished, it's epic, and it's releasedate is to be announced.

Dazzled Kid has a new video out for one of my favourite tracks on the album, Yes Yes Not Maybe.

Bombay Show Pig is a noisy-rocky-electro-ey trio from Amsterdam / Den Haag. I'm happy to announce i will producing their debut album! They have a cool EP out, check it out. I've just finished a remix of the song 'Top Of Mind', which will pollute the web anytime soon.

Jenny Lane is another artist i worked with. Her new album is coming soon and it will feature a song produced by me.

But the main thing now is De Avonduren. It's taking shape. It's gonna be something else. Remember Peter en de Wolf? It's gonna be something like that. Here's a pic while recording 'Dood'.

Did i already mention how life is living in Kytopia? It's..... starts with an E.... you guessed it. 
It's "Even Better Than Living With My Mom".  
Oh and Kyte's new album... i hear their rehearsals every week... i'm not saying anything. Just yet.

Allright dear homosapiens, so long.