Posted by Sabretooth ·
This album has been a dream of mine since day one. From meeting Damian on the train which turned out to be a complete coincidence, to auditioning for the band, to finally playing our first show after about a year of practice & to be sitting here writing this blog about my experiences recording our first album – It’s something that’s very difficult to put into words – I remember the day that I was called in for my audition. In walked this guy who looked like a cross between Conan the Barbarian & somebody that literally fell out of an 80’s music video – That was the first time I met Charlie. As for Nikolai, I remember him being this strange yet interesting looking fellow who permanently had a cigarette hanging out of his face. Damian? Well, he’s always been the same – He’s just Damian – Let’s just say a picture is worth a thousand words. Anyways – I couldn’t play their songs to save my life but sure knew that I wanted to join their band. These guys were totally ridiculous; I mean not only in their appearance but in the way they played their instruments. I was completely fascinated & blown away to say the least. We hadn’t met Mauri & Dean at that stage. I still get ragged to this day about my audition as back then I used only one finger to pluck my strings, still do – sometimes.
So what the hell has this got to do with my recording experience, you’re probably asking yourself? Well, If I think back now, this album has been there from day one – Charlie had it all planned, each instrument down to its’ finest detail, each member being handpicked. For me personally, I can’t describe the emotions experienced & captured in our recordings – It’s something that’ll hopefully come out in the finished product. You’ll have to listen to it for yourself.
I remember the day we decided to record a full length studio album. The boys and I were at the pub for few beers – idea’s were flying around the table & next thing I know, drums are recorded, rhythm guitars tracked and I get a call to come in to the studio to start recording bass. I’ll be straight with you. Having only recorded a few quick demos with previous bands, I was a little nervous, I mean, a hell of a lot more than a little nervous – I was super amped though.
The first order of business was to restring my bass with the right gauge string for the desired tone which would be song specific. This was tricky at first but through trial and error, we came across an awesome product: Rotosounds’ Billy Shehan pro-model, kindly supplied by Paul Bothner’s, once again, Thank you guys; we really appreciate your support.
There are two reasons for my choice of strings:
The first is that the standard ‘A’ & ‘E’ (top two strings) are considerably thicker than your average set of bass strings. (Gauge 110 80 65 43)
These worked very well for me as we tune down a tone from the standard tuning to D standard. The idea behind this was to reduce any fret – buzz caused by my lower action & tuning. The standard ‘G’ & ‘D’ (two bottom strings) are considerably thinner than that of your average strings – allowing one to play those melodic runs with feel, whilst still retaining a consistent tone.
The other reason is due to the fact that they are stainless steel. Having recorded with nickel strings I can honestly say that these stainless steel strings are the way to go if you’re looking for that super fat gritty growl. It all comes down to preference, but for me, if the bass tone has no balls, I may as well be playing a banjo.
In my opinion – tone is the absolute key to making any bass recording sound decent – it’s for this reason that we chose to change to a new pack of strings after every second songs recorded. For me, tone is that sound that catches the ear & demands the listeners’ full attention – I’ve learned that it requires as much attention as the bass playing itself. Once again, this was achieved by trial & error between gear & EQ. Dean & I worked on the bass tone for quite a while before actually tracking anything as each song required a different tone – some songs a few tones.
We would constantly experiment by alternating between playing with a pick & using fingers learning more about what sound the song required, as we went along. We would also use the toilet paper & sock methods in an effort to dampen the ringing of any unused strings. On this recording I ran a Sansamp preamp which enabled us to have full control over my tone at all times. This combination of preamp & Hartke 350 watt head with aluminium 4 by 10’s worked really well for us – We cranked the hell out of it – forcing me to only be able to record on weekends. At first we thought we’d be able to re-amp the bass but felt that we would be compromising the tone if we worked that way. It took a little longer having to mike up the amp for each bass session but we’re all about quality over quantity.
The atmosphere in the studio played a very important role as to how I would perform on a particular day – Luckily for me that was never a concern as I was constantly surrounded by friends, beer & Xbox. It was really nice having the boys in studio while I recorded – for reasons beyond an explanation. I honestly believe that this process has opened everybody’s eyes to each member’s contribution & has created a sense of mutual appreciation. There were times where I wanted to literally swing my bass & end the life of a certain ‘air-drummer’ who wouldn’t stop tapping out triplets with his feet…
…For fuck sakes Damian.
Anyways, these last few Saturdays have honestly been some of the funniest most memorable days of my life. I must thank Dean for his insane passion and commitment to this band; He is an amazing engineer & always finds a solution to a problem. To Damian, Charles, Nikolai, Dean and Mauri, you boys are incredible musicians – the best a bassist could ever dream of.
- Ryan Swanich
(Photo’s by Robin Bernstein)
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