Social Gravy Part Two — Are We Ready Yet!?

By in Music Creation, Pro Mixing

Read the first part (From Composition to Recording) of this Avid Blogs series here.

So we had a dozen or so tracks mixed and mastered and 2 music videos in production; it looked like everything was going well. The project had developed a unique consideration for me, in that having been made the front person it had evolved from a production job into a more “personal project”. Vee and I now had a good understanding of each others working processes and so I explained to him how tracks like Master Of Your Mind, Something Fun & Change embodied his quirky, Beatle-esque and at times bluesy sentiment but didn’t stack up in terms of finished songs / recordings to the artists we were referencing – Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, Pink Floyd etc.

As such I suggested we go into the studio again with the intention of creating music more focused toward the indie rock vibe we were listening to, that could be licensed in absence of label support and that filled in the gaps toward making a strong album – which was one of Vee’s ambitions. I didn’t want to endlessly tinker with what we had (computers have made that a very real potential pitfall) and it was unlikely we were going to have the funds to go into the studio a third time so it was important to me that this session raised the overall impact / standing of the material, at least in my eyes.

We started writing and came up with some of our strongest material to date. Tracks like “My Love”, “Stone Cold” and “Sunrise In LA” all came out of these later writing sessions. I booked additional time at East West and as it happened Studio 3 received a booking for a month or so over the same period, so we were moved to Studio 1.

Phil Simmonds had just moved to the US, from the UK and was staying with me at the time, so I brought him in on bass. I remember driving us to the studio, the hood down on my car and instruments spilling out of it. After years of knowing each other it seemed slightly surreal to be doing our first proper session together in sunny California; we mused while driving down Hollywood Boulevard. Jake and Erik made up drums and guitar and Jake suggested Steve Maggiora for Hammond (on the tracks where I was playing other instruments and singing – remember we were tracking live). Steve and Phil were both awesome and brought a great vibe.

Around that time, Josh our engineer, had started his own band and was turning down engineering gigs to focus on it. I asked Candace (from East West) if she could recommend someone to take his place and she suggested an Australian fellow named Jared Scott. Jared is a character! He looks like a rock star, talk’s a million miles a minute, has an opinion on everything (though he’s 69% discerning as to when to voice it) and is a fellow ninja. Between him, Phil and Steve and the change in studio we had a fresh new energy and a great dynamic in the studio.

I remember starting with what was probably the most challenging track, “Stone Cold”. It was challenging because I hadn’t mapped out a drum groove but was very particular about what I felt worked and what didn’t. I also prefer to record without click tracks. Especially on a track like this, it just feels better. I wanted the song to be intense but keep a lot of space. We got there and I think my insistence paid off. I love what Jake did with it, especially at the end. About half way though working it all out my friend and mentor Seymour Stein (VP or Warner Music) came by the studios with his friend Eric Ramos. They loved the track and only had good things to say about it. I remember being in the control room just after they left, totally vibing out with Vee and Jared while Erik put down his epic slide solo. It was an awesome feeling.

I’m pretty sure we recorded “Sunrise In LA” next as those were the two tracks Steve played on. The rest of the Hammond parts I tracked myself later at Pacifique studios, just after Beyonce had finished mixing her Lemonade album there. This song came together pretty effortlessly and led us confidently into “Make It Rain” – a somewhat cryptic song (lyrically) with some great guitar tones, the overdubs of which were recorded at The Village Recorder (studio D). We all left the studio that first day feeling pumped and looking forward to coming back the following morning.

The next day we came in ready to rock. I think we started with “My Love” which went down first take. It just had a vibe and really set the tone for the day. Also that day we recorded “Why Wait” and “Fools”. The reference for “Why Wait” was a modern Chili Peppers vibe. Though a bit of diversion from the main references for the record we thought it was a cool sound and liked the aesthetic. Jake nailed the drum sound, Erik the guitar tones and Phil the bass. Again it came together without too much effort. “Fools” was a song Vee and I felt compelled to write given the presidential campaign and all the nonsense that surrounded it. History will bear the results of what happened there…

Videos shot and produced by Daniel Lir from Dreamteam Directors – www.dreamteamdirectors.com @dreamteamdirectors

Seymour was so excited about what he heard he asked me to get him rough mixes within a few days of the session so I was working on the material pretty diligently.

Two of the tracks kept the live vocals from the studio. The rest of the Vocals we overdubbed back at my place along with some extra guitar parts.

Sharlotte Gibson and I had met years prior at a filming of the Jay Leno show, she used to sing in his band, but we had never worked together. I reached out to her while finishing the tracks and she came and sang on My Love. A beautiful friendship has since formed. I love how into it she is and really appreciate all her love and support.

I mixed the tracks on my Pro Tools rig back in West Hollywood. Vee would usually join me for the mix sessions and give his feedback on the work.

I’d like to mention and thank Gibson and on the digital side Universal Audio, and Slate Digital, all of whom have been supporters of mine over the years and whom along with Avid at the heart of all these recordings, are fundamental to my working processes. I love the way Pro Tools brings all these ideas, people, energy and gear together. I know Jared is a massive fan also. On opening the Pro Tools sessions for mix, after balancing the levels the tracks sounded 80% mixed. This was truly testament to Jared’s skill and in addition to his speed and vibe in the sessions, illustrated just how well he had recorded things.

Since finishing the album I have launched the publishing / music licensing company – Creative Ninja Publishing which is syncing the music to film, TV and adverts. I feel marketing non top 40 music this way makes the most sense. The model I have devised is very artist friendly (as I’ve been on the receiving end of numerous licensing deals where I felt I was being asked to give away too much of the pie) and has already gained interest from a number of high profile artists. If you’re interested in doing the same with your music please reach out to me – creativeninja@me.com I’m keen to hear what people are up to and see if I can help. You can expect from kind but honest feedback.

My Love, Beautiful and Freedom – a song I recorded years ago in my London studio with Matt Devilers (Drums), Emmanuel Kayode Adeniran (Bass) and Paul “Asti” Bond (Guitar) – all got independently voted to No 1 on the new music discovery app “Top Track”. You can now download them as ringtones via the app Zedge.

Overall I’m pleased with how things have come out. If I can share some advice of one of the things that went seriously wrong for us it was in not getting a work contract from our first video director. She started making things difficult for us in the edit stage and because we didn’t have a written contract with her, changed the agreement we had spoken about and held us ransom for the files. We are now in legal proceedings to resolve it!

So with growing momentum online a handful of tracks in reserve and a killer band lined up we are launching the album on April’s full moon (Tuesday the 11th) at No Name on. Are we ready?? We’re just getting started.

Though we had a Kemper on hand, all the guitar tones came from Erik’s Fender Twin which was baffelled off behind him.

The stunning Neve console in East West Studio 1

Erik tracked his guitar overdubs for “Fools” at Pacifique where they have Neve, API and Decca consoles all running together. Pretty cool…

Some Teletronix gear porn from East West Studio 1 and me noting settings to later replicate on the UAD.

East West has some of the best sounding rooms and gear in LA. A great place to record with tones of vibe!

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The Founder of Home Farm Studios in London—I am a multi-platinum awarded singer-songwriter, producer and engineer in LA—producing and performing music and investing in startup ventures.