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The Recording Of Weird Decibels 2 part 1

The making of weird decibels 2 part 1 Springfield lodge

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Weird Decibels would like to thank our nearest loved ones, our children and our friends for allowing us to be away from you for a week.

We’d also like to thank Guy Scott Plummer for the trust he put in us to take care of his cottage while we recorded.

Friday 27th of February we set off.

PATINNG went my phone. I opened up the message; Derek texted ‘Half an hour to go! Come on!!’ He was working, as was Greg, I was sitting with Lewis waiting to go and I hadn’t slept much the night before.

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An hour later two cars pull up. Its two out of three of my greatest and life long friends, Greg and Derek. A pang of guilt prods me. Stu missed the first night (in the cottage) as the date that I had booked clashed with the end of his holiday in Spain.

We ram packed the two cars full of gear, food and drink. As Greg’s suspension creaked he wandered around his WV Passat with a small air compressor and started inflating his flat tyre. He looked around to me; grinning as he knew I’d be worrying. Don’t worry Pabs slight deflation he said.

To be honest I was slightly deflated. We were heading out to have the time of our lives in separate cars and without Stu. When we left for our last album WdB1 we were all together in a fantastic camper van. This didn’t compare; however things improved when Derek brought out a walkie talkie! Banter ensued…

As we headed down the familiar roads to the borders (this is the second time we have headed south to record) I could not wait to see the cottage we had booked. We were all on good form if a little weary having just completed a week of normal work.

As we passed Lauder I was about to send Greg some more walkie talkie abuse, however the battery failed. We learned later that Greg was wondering why no one was talking to him; he had been talking to static about big plans for the bands 20th anniversary celebrations at the cottage!

The arrival

A stunning and breathtaking property
A stunning and breathtaking property

As we headed out of Kelso into the countryside I caught a first glimpse of the cottage standing alone surrounded by fields awaiting the start of spring. From here I could see we had picked the right location.

We looked for the ‘pyramids’ as described in the directions; there nestled in beside the old stone wall stood two modest ‘pyramids’ we turned into the drive of the estate unaware of how massive this land would be.

We edged along the farm road passed a grand white house that looked over its land; perhaps keeping an eye on its latest visitors. We approached what Derek thought was the cottage, we continued driving. We reached a potholed dirt track no worse than the roads in Falkirk. It seemed like an age as we crept along looking for our temporary home.

Finally as we emerged from a hedge row was saw the sign for Springfield and at the top of a small hill was the cottage standing quietly behind a large tree still bare from the colds of the winter.

As we rumbled up the wind swept dirt track towards the gate the place got bigger. I jumped out and opened the gate, the traditional sounding of the car horns beeped when we reached our new temp studios; Derek and Greg glided past with huge grins beaming from their car windows.

I approached the door and stepped inside. Instantly I was struck by the space of the modern part of the property. We went in further and saw a grand and open staircase. Further on we peeled back a curtain to reveal the main room and older part of the building. I looked down the room to the dormant fireplace then up to the high ceiling. I knew that we had picked our best recording lodge.

We headed back out to empty the car, I heard Derek simply say ‘gents’ he was holding a beer for each of us. Cracking open the cans we slammed them together and knocked back the first of our frothy refreshments, we’ve arrived. We carted all the gear into the hall and picked our rooms.

After setting up the drum kit and some general preparation Derek cooked some food, Greg got the fire going and I set up the nights music. We let Stu know how wonderful the place was.

The three of us sat around the now established fire and enjoyed the first of our nights; myself and Derek would later have a pec dance off (don’t ask) Greg was scarred. When I was a little tipsy I looked around the huge room and thought of all the people that had paid for an album or come to see us and raised my tin of Tenents to them; without them we would not be here.

Saturday 28th February

I got up early and went for a head pounding run around the countryside perhaps not appreciating the distance. While I was running I planned the day ahead; this would hopefully see us record some drums and bass.

Stu was quick to arrive and we gave him a huge ‘we’re not worthy!’ welcome. He rolled into the massive drive and headed into the house. Once he had settled the band were determined to get some tracks onto the drive

Recording the drums and the bass

The reason we picked this place was for this set up
The reason we picked this place was for this set up

I have the use of 12 tracks to simultaneously record on the humble Korg D3200. Not a lot but enough. Tracks 1 and 2 were for the Bass DI and a cab mic; for this I placed a Stagg large diaphragm condenser just a few inches from the grill in the middle of the cab. The cab was placed as far from the walls in the corridor of the modern part of the cottage

Tracks 3-10, 8 tracks to record drums. Not a lot by today’s standards but enough to capture a decent sound. The snare was captured by a SM57, the kick with the Audix D6, toms and cymbals were closed mic’d with Stagg’s, small diaphragm that Derek owns. Overhead were to Rode NT 2A’s; they were raised high thanks to the spacious ceiling. The final two tracks were for guide vocals and guitars.

All leads led to the kitchen where we placed the desk in a semi isolated position. First couple of samples sounded promising; the sound was perhaps a wee bit too bright so a couple of adjustments were made to the close mics on the kit. Overall we were very happy with the sound of the drums. The bass blend was sounding good as well; so we went for our first takes. Miss Asphyxia was recorded first to settle any nerves and it got us off to a good start.

A few hours and a few takes later we were done of the day. Six of the songs now had drums and bass. Greg was trying to record an extremely complex line for the bass on Curtsin its the Cast. We literally had to punch in nearly every part of the song. I lost it when Greg said ‘the up bit comes after an up bit which is not right it should be a down bit…’

I had been at the desk so long everything was sounding like mush; my ears were simply tired

After all his fine and energetic work on the drums Derek prepared a fine meal for the hungry band. We scoffed that and sat together listening to some cracking tunes. Eventually the moon shone through the velux window above us. It was a fantastic sight.

Sunday 1st Of March

This was used to record both the bass and the drums at the same time.
This was used to record both the bass and the drums at the same time.

This was the first of my bad hangover days… We had necked a few the night before, celebrating Stu arriving at Springfield and watching the old Riot Act video. So my heid was fragile. Not great when you want to record more drums and bass.

After a hearty breakfast we managed to lay down the remaining six tracks. It was hard work and would take us well into the afternoon to record. We left the newer songs until last; however they worked well as we had rehearsed them last. There were a couple of changes to songs that I found annoying, one being the intro to our newest song ‘Its Who You Know’. An extra bar was added to he intro which there was no need for. However apart from this it went well.

The Guitars

We headed upstairs to the newer part of the cottage. Up on the open plan area is another sitting room, the bedrooms, a table football room and the balcony that overlooks the massive main room. Having checked all the rooms we decided that the football room would be the best for the guitars. We had nice room reflections from the drums so the distorted guitars would be more direct in their sound to avoid swapping the drums.

I would have regular breaks to rest the ears. I stepped outside into the cold wind and took in the breathtaking views of the countryside

The table football room was already an arena with a history, I had soundly beaten greg 10-3. He was not to have his revenge.

Having carted the entire studio upstairs it was time to sit down to a cracking Steakpie. One of the culinary highlights of the week by Mr Menmuir. A lovely red from Stu was going down well however last night or age caught up with me and I spent the rest of the night feeling sorry for myself. I tried to watch the Quiet Act’ video but the shaky camera footage was making me feel queasy. How rock and roll is that!

So an early night for all; the earliest night in recording history!

Part 2 here..

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Music in 2014 will be…

…the year of writing Weird Decibels 2.

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Weird Decibels 1 is actually a 2012 album, 2013 was the year we promoted it. Some of the songs were written back in 2009. So our thoughts turn to the next set of songs. We started writing last year but the writing was in fits and starts. Ms Asphyxia has been played live, a few others are holding on, Kill it! Kill it! Standing on a Viewpoint but its fair to say life got in the way and writing halted.
We’ve booked a weekend break in a lodge in Oakley. We’ll take the acoustics and a load of beer and wine, the studio and a dose of hope that inspiration will take hold and some songs will be born. I can see this being the way we write our songs in the future.

….when One More Solo turns ten.

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Its hard to believe our ‘come back’ album is ten years old. This is the first album we recorded when Stu rejoined the band. The album was easy to write, we were invigorated, the 2 year break (myself, Derek and Greg joined Jon Shaw and formed the Seventeenth) helped refreshen our outlook. We recorded this album at Derek’s old flat on a Tascam 788. We had one or two mics the best of which was a Stagg condenser. We made a vocal booth from egg cups and it was mixed on my hi fi with two huge Celef speakers as monitors. I’ve learned a wee bit more about sound production. The album has been remastered, it sounds a bit better, more clarity and more dynamics and less guitar ringing! (Derek is gutted) Its a simple remaster, it will sound a lot better on its 20th anniversary when I finally work out how to use multi band compressors. The One More Solo remaster is out soon and will be free to download.

…. Weird Decibels playing live.

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Derek is injured so we won’t be playing live until at least the spring. We hope to play new venues and new cities, maybe even new countries. Playing live made 2013 special for us and we met a lot of great new friends. I’d definitely like to re visit the 13th note I love that venue. Another gig in England would be nice…

….when music videos are once again all the range.

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Wonder was great in 2013 but we left it too long to record its follow up so this year we’re going to have more content on YouTube. The Speak video will be first, then a video for Joker. We hope to have the film Making of Weird Decibels 1 finished and uploaded into episodes on YouTube. We’ll give video podcasts a shot as well.

…. a new Podcast series.

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The podcasts have been popular. Thanks for listening. This year we will reminisce. We hope to have some friends from old Falkirk bands guesting in our pods, some live performances. A look at one more solo and general silliness. Look out for the podcast from the writing weekend where we’ll hopefully have a brand new song or two for you to hear in acoustic format.

…. social networking???

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I’ve no idea where social networks are going. We’re signed up to all the major players. Updating them all is a pain in the arse. Engagement is the key… Is Facebook declining? Is MySpace back? Is reverbnation the hub? Is Bandcamp ever going to improve their search algorithm? There is a part of me that says word of mouth is best. I’m at a loss. Where is the best platform for our band? YouTube? See above.

….the solo album

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I am writing a lot of songs at the moment. I trying to write my writers block to death! ( writing as much as you can kills block ) Some are for the band others are for me, mainly the tunes that wouldn’t work with the band but I don’t want to throw away. Seriously around early December I was staring at a blank page holding the guitar and nothing was coming. That thought. Is this it? Is this me finished? I played and played the guitar, staring out into the garden. Then stuff clicked and I recorded everything onto the tablet. I took the best ideas and have laid them down but its getting harder, so I have to work harder. Hopefully my 7th solo record will be out this year. However my priority remains Weird Decibels 8th!

…. I will expand ‘Pablo’s unsigned adventure’

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Bandcamp, it was a random search and I stumbled upon the Spanish band 9M Lied. Loved their recordings and I decided to write about my favourite unsigned bands. Its not easy, there is so much content on the internet and its frustrating trying to find the hidden gems. The criteria? Unsigned. Not recommend by staff ( I don’t trust this). Not the most popular. I want the bands that are ignored or just starting out. Recommendations welcome. Hopefully I’ll get one new band a month.

…. Fail to hold back the stream

I love CD’s. Want to explore vinyl. You cannot match the sound quality of these physical formats…yet. But i cannot afford it. Bought 5 CDs last month, (still waiting for their arrival…) Cost me a small fortune. I have Spotify premium. ( another can of worms) For now its great but I feel weird using Spotify knowing how much we as artists get paid per stream. Anyway its feeding my music appetite this year as it did the last.

So enjoy your music in 2014 my big hope? Well we get signed, but seriously? A new scene, a fresh batch of new bands. Fingers crossed.

Pabs.

Pabs music musings. I prefer the early stuff?

At rehearsal we recently played through our entire first album Whapper Stormer as part of our preparations for our 20th anniversary celebrations in Feb 2015. It got me thinking about bands, their longevity and the law of diminishing returns. Is early output an artists best?
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When thinking of this subject I thought of some of my favourite artists and some others. Let me begin.

Case 1. Nirvana. 1st album Bleach. Best album In Utero 3rd studio release.
Case 2. The National. 1st album The National. Best album Trouble Will Find Me, their most recent.
Case 3. Oasis. 1st album Definitely Maybe. Best album. Definitely Maybe.
Case 4. Guns n Roses. 1st album Appetite for Destruction. Best album Appetite for Destruction.
Case 5. Radiohead. 1st album Pablo Honey. Best album. Ok Computer.

There is one band on the above list that did not achieve overnight success that the others enjoyed. The National. Slowly they have been building their music, and slowly they have been building their fan base. All the others, bar Nirvana had stratospheric success with early output and have since struggled to match this with later works. Radiohead had huge creative problems after Ok Computer and opted for Kid A which was great but not in the same league as its predecessor. They hit a high with In Rainbows, their peak lies with their difficult third though. Oasis produced one of the greatest debuts of all time then rarely recorded anything of merit thereafter. Guns n Roses had an agonising death after the wonderful Appetite.

So what has this to do with a small band like Weird Decibels I hear you scream at your tablet/laptop/mobile phone/PC and maybe, just maybe surface…

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Pabs tries a new approach to song writing.

I prefer their earlier stuff. This is an expression I had fretted over for years. When we had written Whapper Stormer we were a fresh faced young rock band with ideas pouring out of our finger tips. Whapper had found a small audience of people who really enjoyed it, including a radio DJ who loved The Rain and Vancouver. A year later we had recorded some of our follow up album, the slightly lazy drunken romp that is Firkin Outburst. We handed this DJ our new demo and in the very pub the album is name after I asked him what he thought. His answer? Well I think you know by now….
I stormed out the pub in anger, seething our new songs had not received the praise that our debut collection had mustered.
In the following years we wrote songs of varying quality, another 5 albums would be produced. The other guys would ask me what my favourite album was. Without fail I’d say Whapper Stormer, for the lyrics, the music and the youthful exuberance. Then from 2008 we started to write Weird Decibels 1.

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Our best album to date? Time will tell...:-)

Derek is quoted saying we had to do Quiet Act (our first fully acoustic album) to write Weird Decibels 1. He’s right. We had a renewed enthusiasm for writing. So many things came together. Our music, my lyrics and the gear we had to record it. A year ago I knew we had written one of our greatest albums. For months I was not sure if it was better than Whapper, a year on and several listens? Its my favourite.

So what Is the point here? I hear you ask.

We are a small band, very small. We have our little patch on the huge quilt of music. We have no pressure to make a living out of music, we can write what we want when we want. We have been together so long it was likely we would hit another creative peak.

Any band that is allowed to breath, grow within itself without the pressure of producing an even better follow up to the last will always prosper. In this new age of self released music, small artists will produce music the way they want to smaller but more enthusiastic fans. I hope these bands will glow for many years instead of burning out and fading away…

Pabs.