Last year, I spent a lot of time engineering my first project largely for someone else. Leannan Sidhe’s first album, Fragile Dreams, had come out in 2011 and been well received. In 2012, she’d got the money together to put together the follow-up and counterpoint, Mine to Love, the darker opposite to the light first album.
Now, I know Shanti, Leannan Sidhe’s bandleader and songwriter, and I’d helped her a bit with her Kickstarter project. But there weren’t any plans for me to be involved in the project for real, other than occasional moral support. It was all going to be recorded and produced in Oregon, at Alec’s PhantaSea Studio, and mastered by his brother Doc, at Endless Creations.
But we’d played together a couple of times, and she’d even started her Roses and Ruin live/live-in-studio side project at my place, and I designed the album cover. So once a few Real Life Things happened – the normal sorts of budget issues, the problems of commuting 360 miles(!) round trip for recording sessions – she came to me, and asked if they could do some recording in my studio. The gas savings alone would salvage their budget.
(Will launch Bandcamp)
I didn’t own the vocal mic she had been using in Oregon, and, for that matter, my mic supply was pretty small and specialised at the time. But she was able to throw me some advance money, all of which went to MOAR MICROPHONES, all of which I’ve continued to use elsewhere. So my studio got another level up opportunity. And I’d never stepped up on a major project like this before, not one involving other people – particularly other people in large numbers. I admit it: I was pretty nervous.
Shanti’s preferred vocal mic, the Oktava MK-319
So I started learning about miking other people, and other instruments, and more other instruments, and still more other instruments. And about juggling schedules (and cats – all events involve juggling cats, but musicians are the cattest cats of them all) and getting people to agree to things and editing and pulling out tricks and making guesses and other guesses that actually work and occasionally diffusing creative differences and feeding people who are sugar-crashing and and and.
I’d always been a good editor; I became a really good editor. Alec called some of my edits phenomenal. I’ve been told I have a good ear; I got a better one, at least in some ways – Mickey told me this was the first time a recording of his guitar sounded like his guitar sounded to him. I became very well acquainted with the term “audio fatigue.” I got good at working with people hundreds of miles away and upped my Dropbox account to Pro status, because I needed to. And the Big Board (and Big Book that goes with it) became a Big Deal.
Along the way I started making suggestions. Not all of them were taken, but a lot were. I ended up on a couple of tracks, “Voiceless” and “Once More,” where in the latter case I’m everything but the voice. And I got first mix on four songs, which … it’s kind of a resume thing, where even if everything you do got redone, it still means you got to set the tone. All to the taste of the artist, of course, but nonetheless: first to set the tone.
The dual monitors got their first big workout, and it was good.
And now, here we are. The Kickstarter backers have had their copies for a while, the pre-release concert – a while ago at this point – went over well. I wish I had good photos, but I don’t, so have this bad one, gussied up with too many iPhoto effects:
Leannan Sidhe Pre-Release Concert
I’ve wanted to point people at this album for a while, on several occasions, often when talking about production tricks. Other than the core band members, of course, I probably worked as hard on this album as anyone, and while that work was technical, it was also creative. Just in a different way.
But it’s been delayed, because reasons; it simply hasn’t been available to anyone else. Now, it’s out, and I finally can do that pointing. I wish I could point people at “King of Elfland’s Daughter” in particular, because it’s great, but for copyright reasons it can’t be streamed. So go buy the thing, it’s well worth your 99¢. I’m not even on that one and all I recorded were vocals and cello so it’s not even me tooting my own horn.
I think everybody involved learned a lot on this album. Some times good, some things necessary, some things difficult, but learned nonetheless. The production was, occasionally, troubled – and not just from studio-splitting – aad the result is dark, but strong. Even though it’s not the kind of music I do myself, the skills I acquired have already been used and heard on “Kaiju Meat” and will certainly be heard further on Bone Walker. All of these are gifts for the future.
But for now, what matters is that Mine to Love is finally out to the public. Given it a listen. See what you think.