Wednesday, 16 December 2009

December 2009

Met with Mark from TEDCO to discuss accessing public funding to finance my Apple Certified Logic 301 training course at the Northern School of Sound.

Also tackled the mastering of The Yummy Fur’s debut album ‘Night Club’; which featured two future members of Franz Ferdinand amongst their ranks when they were a functioning band back in 1996. Issued as a joint release between Slampt and Guided Missile Records, it was a debut album that achieved cult status amongst the Scottish indie underground, but has since gone out of print. Pete wants the thing brightened up for an American reissue through a label Slampt has worked with in the past.

On the whole, the lo-fi sound of the record is sublime – the vocals distort and the drums are often AWOL, but it works. Each song is mixed differently, with plenty of volume and tone changes between each track. The added mystique of Night Club's producer Mark Gibbons later committing suicide after battling heroin addiction only adds to the mystique. This is the sound of a band ten years ahead of its time stuck in some Glaswegian basement, shouting about housing estate youth clubs, blue movies and going roller skating with the school tart who tells you to "put lipstick on your nipples". It should be held up as an example of that most romantic of achievements: musical greatness coupled with virtual obscurity.

I’ve managed to remove some rogue frequencies, and generally make the songs louder, though I would hesitate to say they sound any better. I had quite a struggle in my head to convince myself
I wasn’t messing with something that should be better left alone, as its creators intended. Just because something isn't technically proficient doesn't mean it should be reduxed. The spectre of George Lucas hangs heavily over this project; and my dismay at the inclusion of a CGI Anakin at Vader's funeral pyre at the end of the Special Edition DVD release of Return of the Jedi.

In the end, I think the disc does sound better; and I was glad of the mastering practice. It's a dark art that needs further investigation; there's too much smoke and mirrors surrounding it.

Much of December was spent working at the Whitley Bay Playhouse as a sound tech and stage crew member on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The whole production was a friendly bunch of people at the peak of their game; doing two or three shows a day with full-on dance routines, pyrotechnics, multiple costume changes and two hours of singing in each performance. The amount of work that went into the sound, lighting, staging and wardrobe behind the scenes was astonishing: a two-day load-in with a metal rig that required twelve men to lift, a sound desk that required eight pairs of hands to get up to the back of the theater, three tons of sets and lights, and a full sized motorbike that I had to position stage left for the show's finale. I have a new found respect for theaters and the companies that tour them - the work involved in putting on such an accomplished show is staggering.

On the 10th, Luke was screening a 35mm print of The Flaming Lips' film Christmas on Mars, complete with a personalised introduction from Wayne Coyne where he namechecked The Star & Shadow Cinema before explaining how the film was made. After the credits had rolled, Luke, Nick and I ran the Zaireeka Experiment on five stereos. A crazy, four CD album that only reveals its contents when all the discs are played simultaneously after vocal instructions at the start of each track get you to sync the whole thing together.

The results were mixed: after a shaky start, some of the middle songs on the album sounded great and quite crisp. Others were more noise based and messy, especially when played back in such a large, reverberant room. The best thing was being able to walk around the room and get a different sonic experience depending on where you were standing: some corners of the room were just bass and vocals, other parts were just the reverb washes and some cymbals. Well worth doing, and we think the noise scene in Newcastle might appreciate it even more than Lips fans. Especially the bit where it sounds like you're being attacked by killer bees.