Studio Diary Part 1 – Tracking at the Chapel
Album Diary Part 1
2011 was a strange year for me, because it was spent, pretty much from January to December, writing the songs that will become our 9th studio release. I have never put myself through such an intense period of writing and right now I’m not sure if I can ever put myself through that again! By the end of the 2011, I had 11 songs that had made the grade (and the bar was set as high as physically possible). So, it was a nice feeling to start 2012 by getting away to the Chapel Recording Studios in Lincolnshire with the guys to actually start laying down the finished article.
I have a decent studio at home, but it doesn’t have the world class gear a place like the Chapel has. The live room here is very special Yes, it really is a chapel!
The first thing we did was track Keith playing his Pork Pie kit with a set of Sabian cymbals, fresh from his trip to their warehouse (Keith has a development deal with Sabian). As you can see from the shot below, we weren’t going for a super dry, close drum sound. We are a rock band, we want the kit to sound like a kit, full of energy and atmosphere:
The good thing for me was that while Mark was engineering all this…
I could spend the days relaxing on the Xbox (although the only game I could get to work was Lego Star Wars…) and shoot some pool. I also did a lot of cooking for the boys. Cooking is therapy for me, it’s a way to switch off from the constant mental demands of song writing.
The bass was tracked through an old Ampeg SVT stack, with Jon playing in the control room. While all this was going on, I was able to concentrate on drinking beer.
I borrowed a load of guitars from the very talented and very kind Darren Charles fromGodsticks. They supported us early in 2011 and we’ve kept in touch ever since. He was horrified at the state of my guitars and promptly drove to my house from Cardiff and insisted I used his fine collection for the tracking. You can read all about the Godsticks guitar collectionhere… I also used my trusted, modified Telecasters and Strats, even though they were not as well cared for as Darren’s, as they’ve had quite a beating on the road…
The shot below was actually taken for a picture message to ‘someone’ who was insinuating that all I was doing was playing pool and not actually doing any recording. I’m not sure why my fingers look like they belong to ET though. The guitar in the shot is a Heritage, based on the Gibson 335 design. I used this a lot for fat, distorted sounds. Don’t be fooled by it’s vintage looks, it rocks very hard indeed…
I was lucky enough to get a good deal with Boogie so I mainly used my MkV head and 4*12 cab for the tracking. Although the studio had a vintage AC30 (which must have been an old 60s model) which I used a lot too.
It was evident as the tracking came together that the sound was going to be very open and organic. Steve added to this with some Hammond and piano:
Finally, it was time to track some vocals. A lot of vocals I will keep from the original demo sessions from my home studio, but for the more acoustic tracks, we chose to record them through a classic Neuman U47 mic channelled through all the expensive gizmos The Chapel is famed for:
and complete with rock and roll slippers, there was still the matter of acoustic guitars…
Full studio nerd gear breakdown