A Hobo Bluesman talks about playin’ in the studio………….

This blog goes along with the recent blog that covered some important first concepts of making a great record. In that blog, which you can find elsewhere on my blog site, I stated that one of the most important influence in making a record is attitude. I then went on to shoot down the concept of click tracks. If you would like to read that blog, as an intro to recording, here is a link back to it.

A few years ago I produced an album for a Hobo Bluesman named Pinecone Fletcher. He dropped in this week to smoke camels, drink 3x coffee and jam on a couple of cigarbox guitars. Boy does a slide sing on a cigar box guitar through a dirty old amp. Years ago he called me and asked me to produce his record.  He had plenty of studio access. He had all the songs. He had a great set of players but he couldn’t seem to get anything magical on tape. ( He was using actual tape. He is, after all, a bluesman and the old way is the best way for guys like that) After a few weeks of hanging out with him in his small backwoods town I realized where his problems lay.  I suggested that he had to loosen up and start havin’ more fun in order to make the record work out right.  This week when Pinecone visited I asked him to write something explaining how we worked out the problems in the studio. What follows is his letter. Try to ignore all the nice stuff he says about me and read it for the meat and potatoes advice it gives. This is a guy that has been recording for a long time and he still found out he had something to learn. Also if you follow the link I posted for him above you can listen to some of the tracks from that session.  

—————————————–Pinecone writes ———————————————————————————————————–

Pinecone Fletcher March 7 at 8:30pm
I can’t say I ever really enjoyed the recording process before I met Brad Morrison. There seemed to be an endless queue of bad “engineers” telling me how to make a great record. Despite all their claimed insight and know how, I always ended up with some lackluster, boring, extremely forced & flat sounding recording instead of the record of my dreams as they had promised. Working with Brad I learned how to record a truly inspired record. The most important lessons had absolutely NOTHING to do with the gear, knobs, instruments or microphones. It was always about your attitude while recording.

I loved that any time anything started to get too serious we would take a break and walk away from it. The tracks always came out better when I felt great and was having fun, so we’d leave and come back when things felt less serious. Your attitude really does show up on tape. If your feeling serious your gonna sound pretty boring and serious on playback.

I also loved meeting someone who finally told me we didn’t need to use a click track. I can’t think of anything that can kill some mojo faster than that evil click track. Maybe some people are inspired while focusing on that intrusive beeping noise instead of thinking about what their song means to them as they track but I for one am not. What a beautiful thing to hear your songs ebb and flow instead of being forced into some kinda invisible time grid prison.

These two simple concepts really changed my thoughts on recording. Their was so much more I learned from working with Brad and I could write for hours about it but these two very simple concepts made such a huge difference I felt they are what I should mention to you all.

So kill your click track and stop being so serious. You’ll be much happier with the results.

Your friend ,

Pinecone

————————————————————————————————————————–

Well that’s it for tonight’s post. I am working on a longer intro to basic studio gear and the proper use of that gear. This is gonna take some time to write. I hope to have that post up by Saturday, 13th……As usual feel free to post comments and questions…………….

Copyright Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010

4 thoughts on “A Hobo Bluesman talks about playin’ in the studio………….

  1. I’ve been looking around rockmanager.wordpress.com and really am impressed by the great content material here. I work the nightshift at my job and it is so boring. I have been coming here for the past couple nights and reading. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been enjoying what I have seen and I look ahead to reading more.

  2. Another approach is to have a guy with a laptop make the baddest fucking clicktrack anyone has ever heard, but in trooth, I’d be happier without one.

    Mr. Brad, I wondered if you’d write a word or two about band names, and whether one should go to great lengths to protect them or not. I know about branding, and its importance, but eh. I know a band could take steps to stake its name the same way McDonalds does.

    Yet.

    I also know that some of the best band names ever were pulled from someone’s butthole at the last minute.

    These questions haunt you when you know your name is too good, and you’re afraid to google it for fear of finding 9jillion guys who thought it was good too.

    Should I go to the trouble of copywriting/trademarking a name if I’m still one of the great unsigned masses?

    • Dear Oddjob,
      (one of my favorite bond movies) Hmm band names. Where to start? OK, a great band name is a great thing. It is important in its own way. It should make sense to the band’s core audience. It should be cool. That being said someone recently asked me what The Buzzcocks was all about. That name has been around for 30 years and the person asking had no idea that their question made them look like a dildo.
      Now on to the legal stuff. Copyright and copyright control are basically defined by the creation of something and the use of something. When you pick a band name, in the US at least, the law says that that act gives you the copyright. Your subsequent use of the name just reinforces that right. Yes, you can file a copyright notice with the office of copyright. This will just serve to strengthen your claim in the case of a dispute. The actual ownership springs from the creative first use of it. So in purely legal terms you should write down in your diary that you thought it up and used it on that cool poster that you posted on the telephone pole down the street. Oh yeah you also mention that the date was January 3rd 2007. This is called contemporaneous confirmation. You can file, as I have said. The main argument for ownership is a summary of all the evidence that you created it, used it and are still using it commercially. That is what will be tested in a court of law if it ever gets into a court of law. You also can trademark it. This is fairly strong and has some other wrinkles in the law..

      Now we move to the real world. You decide to call yourself the Pudwhackers. You make posters. You play gigs. You put out a CD. Then Warners puts out another band called Pudwackers. You got a big problem since they own lawyers and you don’t. A fight brews. You end up losing because they sue the crap out of you and you settle for selling the name for 10k. IF you play it right you win the PR war and destroy their use of the name by making them seem corporate. The fight builds your base.

      Now real world advice. If I managed you (don’t fuckin ask ’cause I am in a real mood to shout at someone this week) I would get a good name for you. Immediately lock in all of the domain names you need or could use. ( a hundred bucks should cover every possible choice except the one that you won’t think of and will give you real trouble later) I would create some kind of commercial product like a poster with the name in use. I would document the dates of all this crap. I would then get a gig and make sure the name ends up in the paper. Then I would forget about worrying about the name and proceed to act like a rock star. From that point on the success of your career is the only surefire strategy to maintain a lock on the name…….
      Thanks for the question………………………

  3. Click tracks are interesting creatures…especially in a digital age. There’s nothing like a tight rhythm section performing live in the studio…something about the pure, raw energy that comes from that is rarely captured using a tick in the headphones.

    I’m going into the studio this weekend to work on my next album and yep, I’m doing my pre-production here at the house using pre-recorded drum tracks to keep everything in line. Once we hit the studio though, I’ll be leaning on the drummer to pull it all back together and add the vibe…

    Again, great post Brad and thanks for sharing your personal experiences with us. I always remind people that Motown’s greatest hits were mostly recorded in one take collectively in a concrete basement in Detroit – no click tracks, overdubs, etc…just pure musicianship.

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