Wednesday, 18 March 2015

In Search Of The Whoop Woo Moment

Making albums isn't for the faint hearted. I set myself a deadline to finish - the end of February - that old pop scene immediacy is a thing of the past. It takes months to get a record out now. Planning, a degree of hype, the orchestrated campaign...
I haven't met deadline of course, but I'm pleased to have one: without it things tend to drag on, perspectives change, the sound changes - you lose focus, confidence, cohesion. If I was a guitar, bass and drums three piece it might be easier. If I could write twelve songs, demo them, bundle them all together and assemble a team of players who would learn them before we got together in a great studio under the care of a more than competent recording engineer... things would be a whole lot easier. But it might be boring, and anyway, it's not what I do. I want the adventure to happen in the studio, for the process to be the thing. I don't want to conceptualise. The way some people make records the actual playing of the tunes might as well be a formality.
Not always, but it's not my approach - it's not where I'm at. I quite often start recording before I've even finished writing the song. I like to be out of my depth, to not know what I'm doing, to be adrift, insecure, puzzled and perplexed. Though like isn't really the word for it. Sometimes I hate it in the same way that a mountaineer might get to hate the north face of the Matterhorn, but it's how it is.
My friend Brian Dewan says I approach recording the same way that other people approach gardening - I get out there and see what has to be done. Brian is a keyboard genius and co-inventor with his cousin of the Dewanatron, a strange series of custom built instruments for creating electronic music. Brian is crazy enough to get along with it and the two of us have had some great studio adventures together.
I'm getting quite a collection of finished tracks together - ten at the last count and another two or three on the way. I also have a load of tracks that didn't work for one reason or another, songs, sketches, electronic meanderings, loops, jams... I keep going back to them trying to find some purpose in them, some way I can incorporate them or build on them. I've always been like that - I've thrown away more songs than other people could ever dream of writing.
There's a mountain of lost songs too, stuff that never got finished, cassette, mini-disc and tape demos, blatherings in notebooks, backs of envelopes and A4 paper, the jottings of an idiot. Going through all this stuff is disheartening but occasionally something comes out of it.
I've learned to try not to discount an idea too quickly - stick with it, work on it, change it... The best lesson in this for me is The Stones recording Sympathy For The Devil in the Jean Luc Goddard film, One Plus One. When they run the basic idea it really isn't very good and I find myself waiting for the disembodied voice in the talkback: drop it - what else you got?
But they stick with it and end in triumph with the whoop woo thing. I've been waiting for that whoop woo moment ever since I first started recording back in the mid seventies.