Recording progress

Fuzu EP on mixing desk at GPHQ

On Sunday and Monday we had the pleasure of working with Sean Carey to record 5 tracks for our next EP at GPHQ/gigpiglet.

We had an absolute blast, and managed to track all the instrumental parts for 5 tracks in under 2 full days in the studio (we even had a bit of time to experiment with some piano and glock parts).

I’ll be tracking vocals (and we’ll be doing a couple of minor guitar overdubs) with Sean in the coming weeks – so we’re not quite there yet. But given the results so far, I’m really looking forward to it!

Our time in the studio was as fun and productive as last time I worked with Sean – back when I was in a band called Glance with Barry and Dave (along with Toby who is also in Fuzu). Sean’s just getting back into recording after pretty much being on tour for the past few years – so if you are wanting to record we can thoroughly recommend him.

The studio had an awesome vibe too – and we’re really chuffed with the results. Gigpiglet founder Gareth has created an amazing place to record. The studio is climate neutral – part of gigpiglet’s sustainability policy – which is awesome, as we were unable to do that for the last EP. He’s also developed some great sustainable packaging that we’ll hopefully be using if we press CDs.

Anyways – hopefully we’ll be able to share the results before too long (we don’t intend to take as long this time ’round getting everything up and out). And if you’re in the market to do some recording, we can’t recommend highly enough both Sean and GPHQ – check ’em out…

Update: Toby has posted some great pics of the session to Flickr.

Further thoughts on “Reboot economics”

A couple of other thoughts popped into my head after writing that last post.

In no particular order:

  • I wonder if the lack of credit available is a result of foreign governments, such as China, basically decided to stop propping up the US spending spree? If so, this looks a lot like the scenario George Monbiot outlined in his book Age of Consent.
  • Given that the market has decided that these loans are too risky, why on Earth does it make sense for the public to underwrite risky investments like this?
  • I wonder if now is the time for the public (and US politicians) to get behind the Code of Corporate Citizenship – does this crisis open a window of opportunity to push this through?

Reboot economics

I was chatting to Ang the other night about the economic crisis, and I can’t help but think this is just a big “reboot” – the market correcting itself after years of abuse.

And if you’re a true believer in market economics, now is the time you should be arguing that we need to let this happen, as it is “the way of the market”.

What’s interesting is that’s not what’s happening. Instead we’re seeing what amounts to the biggest nationalisation project the western world has seen in a long, long time. (As Wade says: “So the AU govn’t is assuring all credit. Now all these private companies are publically funded. Remind me again why privatization is good?”)

We need this correction – to stem the tide of greed that has flooded the economic system over the past few decades (in this sense I agree somewhat with what Marc says on the matter – it’s not just the CEOs and banks at fault).

I’m actually fairly liberal (note the small “l”) when it comes to markets. Testament is the fact I’m starting a business as my method of achieving social change. With that in mind I say let the market do what it does best – let it balance itself.

Maybe I’m naive, but I think that such a correction would see a blossoming of sustainable businesses to fill the voids left by the unsustainable ones that toppled the market. In “sustainable self reliance as David Ransom puts it [via Wade]). Perhaps that’s part of the “balancing” process – a recognition that business does not operate in a vacuum with infinite resources and growth.

Yes there will be significant fallout that will affect a lot of people – some who can afford to “ride it out” and others who can’t. But instead of investing billions in banks (essentially supporting those who can afford it) why not funnel those dollars into support mechanisms for the people that are most directly affected, in their day to day lives, by the crisis. i.e. the ones who will need assistance with their rent and food bills, not bolstering their spouse’s trust fund.

That could take the form of state-run services – which, after all, is what the state is meant to be for (to pick up the pieces where/when the market fails). But could mean many things – I suspect many of them better than propping up corrupt executives.

The great firewall of Australia

As most folks know, I’ve long railed against the Chinese government’s internet censorship regime, commonly referred to as the “Great Firewall of China”.

Seems that the fight is about to take off in earnest to stop Australia from introducing a similar scheme.

The Australian Government has announced that they will introduce filtering for all Australians. Ostensibly this is to stop child pornography, but don’t be fooled – this is not what it’s about. Crikey explains it well:

The Government is fond of yelling kiddie p-rn every time anyone disagrees with their censorship policies, but there’s always been a problem with that line: that content is already illegal, and the AFP works with international agencies to target that content at its source, and to target Australians who view it. The real problem with the censorship regime (besides the economic burdens it will cause) is the extent to which the Government wishes to control what Australians can view online, and its chilling effects on free speech.

What the Government has proposed is a blanket censorship regime with no “official” opt-out (these measures are likely easily circumventable using TOR or similar anonymous proxy services). The censorship extends to anything deemed “illegal”.

Need we be reminded of the sedition laws that are in force currently, a result of the alarmist response of the Howard regime to the London bombings. The following excerpt from Sedition Law in Australia published on the Arts Law website:

The classic definition of sedition is that it is a political crime that punishes certain communications critical of the established order. Sedition crimes have been enshrined in state and territory based Australian laws since before federation and inserted into the Commonwealth Crimes Act in 1920. Under the Commonwealth Act, seditious behaviour that intended to: (i) bring the government into hatred or contempt; (ii) excite disaffection against the government, constitution, UK parliament and Kings Dominions; and (iii) bring about change to those institutions unlawfully, was criminalised.

One reading of this suggests that content on this blog, and many others, could be considered “seditious”. Some may argue that this is absurd and that it would never happen.

Supposedly we’re meant to set aside the fact that the “absurdity” of other anti-terrorism laws being used for political purposes was also claimed. Need we mention Hanneef?

The fact is, there should not even be the possibility of free speech being curtailed in such a fashion.

Even if we concede (which I clearly don’t) that we need a filtering mechanism in place, the best place for this is in the home – in a decentralised manner, and by educating parents on how best to protect their kids. The choice is a parental one, not one for the state.

Update: just came across the No Clean Feed site that provides some actions (and a sample letter) if you oppose this legislation.

Sustainable investments in the “credit crunch”

Strangely enough I’ve been thinking about my financial situation given the apparent impending collapse of the global economic system… (Or has it already collapsed? I can’t quite work that bit out.)

Although the tanking Aussie dollar is a little bit of a concern, I have a suspicion it’s going to bounce back a bit in the coming months. (Besides, if it wasn’t for the recent buoyancy of the dollar we probably wouldn’t be too concerned – it’s not like the first time the dollar has been hovering around $0.70).

And despite all the ups and downs of the interest rates, I’ve only actually seen one small increase in my mortgage in the past 12 months, so there’s not much to concern myself with there either.

Most of my “net worth”, though, is in my superannuation – so I’ve been thinking about that a bit.

I recently shifted my super across to a more aggressive fund option that includes international shares. This has increased my exposure to the current volatility – though I’m not panicking and “locking in” my losses by changing strategy just yet. Allow me to explain why…

For a number of years my super has been invested with Australian Ethical Superannuation. This means that my money is invested in businesses geared towards a sustainable future.

As far as I can tell the fund has been a strong performer for some time – and one of the nice things is when there’s a downturn the fund typically doesn’t see as great a loss as the general market (unless tech stocks are particularly affected – there’s a slight bias towards bio- and medical-tech in the fund).

Additionally, I truly believe that sustainable businesses are the way of the future and that as the market recovers the sustainable stocks will recover well, especially as people reconsider their investment options and perhaps put some thought into sustainable strategies, rather than the “growth at all costs” approach that started this whole mess. (Call me naive – but that’s how I view things.)

So while I’m expecting to be a bit shocked at the level to which my super goes backwards in my next statement, I’m confident that over time the value will be restored and I’ll be better off in the long run. And I’m really glad I made the choice all those years ago to invest in a strong SRI fund…

Recording again

Just recently, my band Fuzu released our debut EP. We finished the EP last year, but it took as a while to finalise the artwork and release it, meaning that it was launched in March.

In the time between the recording process and the launch, we started working on some new material. A week or two ago we also discovered that we had a little bit of money in the bank (thanks to GST refunds and gig fees) so we’ve decided to start the process of recording our second EP.

(“Discovered” is the correct word – we get so little $$ I rarely check the bank account balance.)

This will be the fourth time I’ve gone into a recording project like this, and pretty much every time I think it would be great to blog about the process, to share what we learn and provide a bit of an insight into the process.

This time around I hope to actually achieve this goal – starting with this post…

Process

The basic process we go through when recording is:

  1. Rehearse
  2. Tracking
  3. Mixing
  4. Mastering
  5. Pressing
  6. Promotion and distribution

I hope to blog each of these stages as we pass through them, in the hope someone will find it useful/interesting to see how it all fits together.

Rehearse

Right now we’re in the rehearsal phase – we’ve shortlisted 6 songs that we want to record (that will be whittled down to 5 for the EP), and we’re rehearsing the songs collectively, and also working out how we’re going to record some of the parts.

This process is actually quite critical – especially when you’re on a budget (ours is very tight). It’s not just about getting better at playing the parts – which is important. It’s also about working out how, exactly, you’re going to track all the different parts.

You might think that recording is just about getting into a room and recording the band playing, but it’s actually quite a different experience.

When you play live, you arrange songs in such a way that you can perform them with the lineup you have. That means you often kick in effects etc. on guitars because there’s only 1 or 2 of you to create the various sounds in the song. (We do use some sequencing for keys parts as well, but you get my drift.)

To get a good result in the studio, though, you need to record each sound separately. So with guitars, for example, if the part you play live has delay in one part of the song and distortion in another, you actually record each “sound” separately so that the mix engineer can EQ and mix the sounds more effectively.

We prefer to record as much as we can live in the studio – with all 4 of us in the room playing at once – and then overdub the remaining parts (and fixing any major problems with the live parts, if necessary) after we’ve got solid tracks down. We feel this gives us a much better vibe on the recording – something that can easily get lost during the recording process.

Strangely, this requires a bit of co-ordination – both for the people playing the parts, but also for the rest of the band who are quite used to having all the sounds playing at once. For example – in one song my verse rhythm part uses one sound, but the chorus rhythm part is different – requiring me to drop out during the song, which can be quite disconcerting to the other folks in the band if they’re not expecting it.

So our process at the moment is working out what we’re going to play live in the studio and then rehearsing that so that we’re all used to it when we get into the studio.

We’re also thinking about what parts we’re actually going to record. Without the PA and loud amps the sound that’s recorded, especially for guitars and drums, can sound quite thin. So often we have to double-track (recording the same part twice to get a thicker sound) or come up with additional parts that we wouldn’t normally play live to fill out the sound.

To help in this process we record our rehearsals and test out the different parts. This also allows us to make sure that there’s no clashes between parts that we might have missed performing live. There’s nothing worse than getting into the studio and realising that a vocal and guitar part are clashing and having to decide on the spot how to change/fix it.

All of this pre-production work ensures we have a very clear plan for what we need to record when we enter the studio, which is absolutely critical given the cost of studio time.

Of course all the extra practice is also helping us get tighter and better at playing the parts, helping us to take advantage of the limited time in the studio and reduce the time it takes us to record.

That’s enough for the first installment I think. I’ll try to post more in the future about budgeting, other steps in the process, and also about some of the issues we face as independent musicians trying to get our music into the world.