Last night, the band, significant others and a newcomer converged on Richter Records for a "Sushi & Sake Session", intended to be a sort of tidying-up session, recording the parts remaining for disc one and listening to the mixes to get an idea of what we'd like to do with them. My first idea was to axe the awful vocal on "Down To Earth", which turned out to be the first electric moment of the evening. For me, the learning curve on this album has been huge - there's nothing like sitting alone in a recording booth with you, yourself and Jah, staring your audio likeness in the face and struggling with the concept. The existing take on "Down To Earth", in my opinion, was stale - not technically good enough and majorly lacking in emotional bells. I wanted one take to make another run at it.
Pouring my all into it, the result was a take I'm happy with, though my impassioned shriek at the end left many in the band, as Jae put it, "disconcerted." Why so? J.D. was first out of the box saying that he didn't like it, especially when I added a second track of insane screaming/moaning. The atmosphere in the room seemed to be "ew, we don't like it" (although Bunky said she dug the intensity) But, like another infamous screamer, Howard Dean, it was the passion of the moment that carried the boat. Everyone seemed to relax though, when I mentioned that the two scream tracks would be buried low in the mix, ala Roger Waters, awash with effects so that the insanity of it carried, but not the tonality. Even Randy admitted that it sounded cool, though I could see that he was desperately trying to reduce its impact in the recording. Sure, some people can't handle stuff that puts them on edge - but the passage, the experience of recording what I told the band was the best pass I'd ever had at the song, was a cathartic one, and representative of my life in general - most of my emotions repressed because the average person wouldn't be able to handle them. I'm too safe with my performances of the music sometimes, and that safety dulls whatever edge I possess. Do I want to turn Mohave into an edgy, hard-to-swallow band? Of course not. Do I want to throw in elements of aural terror to sort of keep people on alert? Only if the song calls for it - and this song (I asked J.D. if he knew what it was about, that got no answer) really calls for some thinly masked insanity. Read the lyrics here. (Hint: It may seem pretty innocent on the surface, but the subplot really has to do with drugs - the girl wants to be "on top of the world", as high as she can be, while the guy wants to be "down to earth", preferring the mellow high of pot. There, you can see where the conflict, and resultant tortured scream would come from. Our songs, as J.D. puts it, are so deep sometimes!)
We mixed through "Positive Vibes" and "Come On With Me" before Natalie Wright arrived. She was recommended as a violinist over a year ago and I had actually seen her perform with Backhouse Secrets a couple of times, so I knew she had the "Wright Stuff." (Oy-vay!) So, I wrote a classical violin part for "Cuckoo Tom" and sent it to her - two days later, she walks into the studio and plays it, just like that.
Not only did she play the part, she was filled with alternatives, offering up different approaches to the lines, a turn here, a glissando there, very professional and confident while maintaining a down-to-earth (there it is again) vibe that fit in well with the rest of us. Randy, having to get up early for work, cut out before she really got into recording, but the rest of the band, and Jeff, Bunky's husband, were all amazed at her talent, and relished each performance, every take. (Bunky's comment of the evening was "can we keep her?") We're already talking with Natalie about recording some other parts on the album and so far, having polled the band, it looks like everyone would love to work on some material with her. Since she's not currently gigging much, it's the kind of opportunity that presented itself when I first saw Bunky jamming with the Riverbottom Nightmare Band (Dave's group, and he was quick to get Natalie's contact info, with plans for her to do some fiddlin'.)
I saw in her eyes a definite passion for her music and she spoke a little bit about a desire to be challenged, a hunger to expand her horizons. We like that.
Bunky, by the way, wrassled up an amazing buffet for us, making homemade sushi, egg rolls (meaty and non-meaty, for yours truly), carting along a sake kettle to keep libations hot and providing sinfully good choco cream pufferies that had everyone saying "no no no no okay one more." Many thanks to the Bunkster for taking care of us, because after all "food is love!"
We've still got a while to go before the first record is done, but David is confident that it will be all zippy from here. I had mentioned that it would be great to have the album finished by May 28th, when we appear at the Hernando Arts Fest, in front of thousands of people. It would be a great place to start selling the CD. Jae thought that was ambitious, David could swing either way, Randy felt we could definitely pull it off, I'm prepared to work double time to help fund it. It's really, really shaping up to be an incredible record and we're only halfway through the journey. Feels good.