Monday, July 20, 2009
Making records in 1977 with Ben Benay and the group of people he assembled for the project was a first for me. Not only was I sober, but responsible for the whole damn thing, including paying everybody.
The sessions were produced and arranged by me and Ben, and were for the most part recorded in studio B at Wally Heider's in Hollywood. As we continued making progress in the studio, I had begin to think about what I was going to do with the recordings once they were finished.
There was no record label involved, and I doubt if anyone even knew or cared that I was recording again, outside of the people who worked on the sessions.
I spent time alone, and concentrated my thoughts on seeing the songs finished and on a label. I pictured myself hearing them on the radio and thought about how good that would feel. Although none of it was true at the time, I held fast to my vision as if it were reality.
The intensity of my goals, the responsibility for creating the finished product, staying sober, and dealing with my girlfriend and her family was incredibly stressful. I was only in my second year of sobriety, so all that I was doing took somewhat of a toll on me.
I worked overtime at trying to keep my emotional balanced and not to let things get to me. In AA it had always been something of a hard and fast rule that getting angry could get you drunk.
Being who I was, this thought made me particularly anxious, because I had a temper. For a long time I'd managed to keep it in check, but the day finally came when I completely lost it.
One afternoon in Westwood, I came apart over something that had gone wrong. I literally went ape shit. I hadn't gotten that mad in over a year, so when it happened I was completely programed by that rule to go get loaded.
I wandered around the streets of Westwood in a state of desperation, waiting to rush into a liquor store and buy a bottle of booze. But after nearly three hours of this shit, anticipating the worst, I finally said to myself, "I don't want to get drunk, this is a bunch of bullshit."
I had learned an important lesson that day; The only thing that will get you loaded is deciding to get loaded, and then blaming it on something that happened. "What a crock of shit," I thought, "I almost talked myself into it, because of that lame rule."
As a result of the experience I made up a new rule of my own called the "No matter what" rule, which means "No matter what happens I won't get loaded!"
I figured if there was anything anywhere, in the entire universe, that could get me loaded I would be headed toward it, so the rule was designed to eliminate that possibility before it ever happened, because in my life something always happened.
From then on there was nothing either too good or too bad that could happen that would get me loaded. No matter what, I wouldn't get loaded over it. I applied this to my life a day at a time, and it has never failed me.
Ben Benay was a tremendous help to me in translating my ideas to the other musicians in the studio. He and I would get together in private and talk about what I was trying to achieve with each song. He in turn would work this into the band's psyche when we were recording.
Because I was newly sober, and felt too timid at times to tell these guys I didn't like something they were doing, Ben became the go between. He could get them back into the song, when they tended to drift away or over improvise.
One of my real regrets about these sessions, is that I was not forceful enough at getting across to anybody, the exact sound I wanted on certain songs, but all in all they came out pretty well under the circumstances.
Initially, we cut four basic tracks, and then added my vocals. When that was completed we got various players back in the studio to do overdubs or add solos and fill-ins.
We would then add backup vocals and begin the process of mixing down the various components we had on tape. This was where each of the songs was made as clear as we could get them at that point.
The last thing was a final mix down and mastering, if nothing else was needed in the way of changes or additions, then we'd settle on the completed product.
Again, one of my major regrets, is that during the final mix we were still using oversize monitors for playback, which I have said before, does not give an honest representation of the sound.
When recorded music is played back on what most people listen to, which is something smaller and tighter, like a car speaker, the base tends to override the midrange and high end, because it was mixed on huge speakers in the studio which only sound good in there. That sound is not accurately translated to more basic sound systems.
I failed to apply my own experience with this during mix down, and let that detail get away from me.
The other aspect I am not satisfied with is the lack of open space in some of the songs. For example, Growin Pains Of Time, in my original demo, had far less instrumentation so each part stood out more. The studio version is somewhat over produced.
Space, with no instrumentation, gives music a depth and width that it doesn't have when cluttered with unnecessary noise. When every hole is filled with sound it is like a room filled with too much furniture.