Part Three: changes in the recording process.
About halfway through the development of the album, Null Device finally assembled a live act. I’ve always thought it was a conceit of the pretentious musician to say that performing their material live affected how they write, but…dang, performing materia live affected how I wrote. “Easier” is the most audible example of this – the guitar parts on the song replaced some synth solos and were derived directly from the the improv Dan “Mr. Guitar Hero” Clark was doing onstage. Pretty much any song written after we began to perform had at least some passing thoght given to “how would this work live” and “how would a live version help this song.”
Writing and recording also took place n more instroments than a keyboard this time around too. “Electrified” was written almost entirely on guitar (even though no guitar ended up in the final recorded version). “Sevgilim” an “Someone Else” began as simple duduk melodies. “Destinies & Symmetries” started with the violin parts and built around that. “Prevailing Winds” was…well, that was some simple noodling that I let Dan Clark blitz all over. His guitar parts altered the song’s feel so much (in a positive way) I pretty much rewrote most of the rest of it after getting the parts back.
Loosening up my “control freak” attitude and allowing extra musicians to participate also helped immensely. I also began to allow more musical interaction between myself and Dr. G – previously we’d had somewhat more
segregated roles of musician and lyricist – but experience has shown I cannot deny his nearly infallible ear for a good pop hook. We’d experimented a little bit towards the end of “Sublimation” with having him send me sketch melodies, and during AMDM this became more common. The vocal melody for Hourglass was based on his sketches, for example. Bringing Dan into the recording process was also enlightening, since here was a gig-hardened musician with lots of experience and a different take on the process. Also added was Heather O’Brien, who I’d recorded before but always in an acoustic folk-guitar context. Adding her backing vocals and the occasional acoustic strum really added depth to a few songs.
Finally, I began to master our own material. I’ve always been told this was a bad thing to do – fresh set of ears and all that – but I wanted to learn and hadn’t been satisfied with the output of a few of the other “genre” masterers and wanted to figure out why. So I dug in with some books, some better tools, and tried to learn. My output wasn’t perfect, but it was closer to what I wanted than I think I would’ve gotten in the hands of a third party (or at least, a 3rd party I could afford). One of the main benefits of this was that I quickly learned just what mastering does to a track, and began to rethink my approaches to EQ and compression in mixdown. Going back and tweaking tracks after hearing what a mastering “gloss” would do to the track provided me with much cleaner overall
output. It’s been revelatory overall, and it’s also helped me develop some mastering chops I can use for other acts.
So that’s it – between two albums several major changes were made in how,
what and why we recorded, and it made notable changes in sound. Already,
post AMDM, more changes have been made as I acquire gear. I’ve switched
sequencer packages from Cubase to Logic, switched from OS9 to OSX, acquired some new programming techniques…what this will all yield remains to be seen but it at least is an interesting ride.