On preparing an album

One night in September 2016, I stepped out of the control room at the studio where my album was being recorded to go to the bathroom. When I got back, my producer had opened up a new window on the computer. Neatly aligned down the screen, in twelve rows, were all of the tracks on my album.

Now, why am I writing this down? Because that night marked the point at which we moved from one stage of the project to another. The album which I'd spent months and months painstakingly guide towards mastering...was now being mastered.

This whole process has given me the deepest respect for anyone in the music industry. You hear a song on the radio, or in a friend's car, or on your phone, and it holds your attention for 3 or 4 minutes (if it's good) or 30 (if you're into Prog Metal or Pink Floyd). But the effort to get those few minutes into your earholes is IMMENSE.

You either need to spend years and years and years getting very good at performing music and capture the few takes necessary to record a masterwork, or you need to put little bits together, and spend years and years making something to be proud of. Neither of them is more 'right' than the other: The Beatles recorded their first album in slightly over 10 hours; by 1967 it took well over 40 hours of studio time to record ONE song, 'Strawberry Fields Forever'. The joy of hearing 'I Saw Her Standing There', bum notes, rushed timing and all, is just as wonderful as singing along to "Let me take you down...." They're two very separate experiences, but the point is that the artist made the effort FOR YOU.

Let me do a very brief summary of the last couple of years for you:

  • I bought a house with my fiancee
  • I had ongoing and debilitating dramas with a former landlord which involved several court hearings
  • I got married
  • Work life got progressively worse
  • I jammed with my band, rehearsed songs, played gigs, and desperately tried to pretend I could ever afford to record an album
  • I got head-hunted for job in the private sector paying way more than my former job
  • I immediately quit my shitty job and
  • I met with Chris the Producer to plan a recording

Now, my cunning plan at the time was to bring my rhythm section in to the studio, record 12 songs over a hard-out weekend, then overdub a few guitars and BOOM! album in the bag, baby.

It didn't work out that way.

Now, I'll spare a LOT of details about the time since then, but suffice it to say I've had some real work and personal issues which have brought me down low. In particular a very sudden redundancy, and finding myself in dire financial straits severely curtailed the amount I could spend in the studio, and I felt my goal stretching further and further into the distance.

I thought my fortunes had turned when I got another full-time job, and it certainly paid enough to continue recording sessions; in truth, I had rarely been more miserable. A dead-end job with people who despised me as much as I despised myself for being in the position where I had to take their money. And yet...

As bad as it got, I had one nugget of hope inside me, one thing which gave me the mental fortitude to get up on Monday and go to the horrible day-job: I was recording an album. I was noticing improvements from week to week, and every time I got a new mix I found something else to be proud of.
[NOTE: this is some first-world bullshit. At the same time I was bemoaning my fate, I had a wife, two beautiful cats, both parents AND MY OWN HOUSE. So I really shouldn't grizzle too hard, should I? Having said that, if I couldn't find things to grizzle about, I wouldn't have written an album in the first place. But I digress..]

I'm scared, right now. Because the thing I started creating, is finally ready to be called a complete piece of work. It's easy to hide behind a work in progress and say "Fools! I'll show them! I'll show them all!" (Lightning, etc). But very soonI'll need to stand back and show what I've spent years practicing, weeks rehearsing, months recording and half my life daydreaming about.

Right now, there's hope and belief. Soon, there will need to be faith and courage that I can let others see what I've devoted all this effort to.