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Thursday, August 28, 2014

LA session wrap-up

That's me, Geoff Keezer, Kirk Ross, and Larry Steen.
Last week's LA recording session was interesting, fun, and unusual. The artist was my old friend, band mate, room mate, and compatriot, the songwriter Kirk Ross. The other musicians were Geoffrey Keezer, a very famous, world-class pianist who attended Berklee with Kirk, and Larry Steen, a working LA bassist. The engineer was Dave Bianco, who has done a ton of big stuff, including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, AC/DC.

We had one long rehearsal with just Kirk, bass, and drums, on a Monday— imitating studio conditions, with drums isolated, with click, and everyone monitoring through headphones— and then recorded on Tuesday. In a fairly whirlwind session, we recorded the eight tunes for his new album in about six hours, including lunch. Kirk is also a drummer, and had my drum parts completely written out, fills and everything, and I mostly ended up just playing the ink. He was specific about not wanting more than was on the page— though a couple of times I got the feeling he did want more; with another day of rehearsing or recording, I could've sussed that out that fine line a little better. As expected, we used a click track so he could mix and match takes later, if necessary.

All in all, it was a very artificial way for me to record. With such great players in the room, I would've preferred to just play the tracks live, like good session musicians, just listening to each other and creating our own parts. But pop music is not really made out of natural ensemble performances any more, I guess. I think ideally, for this session, Kirk should've had his scratch vocals and guitar pre-recorded, which would have freed him up to just produce the session, and we could've done some partial takes punching in things that could've worked better, or played a few sections in more open ways, to give him some extra options in post-production. As it was, we were able to at least semi-blindly track the written parts, and get two usable takes of each song. We did get to do a little blowing at the end of a couple of the tunes— there's little chance of those parts making it onto the finished album, but it was fun to get to play a little bit.

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