Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Tito, DJ and Alisa

We've finished tracking vocals, instruments and assorted percussion.  Excelsior!  That's apparently a catch phrase Al Gore uses for a missions accomplished and quite apropos as our engineer, Willie Samuels, informed us he recorded Mr. Gore a few days prior for an audiobook.  Sweet.  The Hipwaders are using the same engineer as Al Gore - an inconvenient truth for some.

I had more fun with this final session more than any other as I had less stuff to do than the Nick and DJ who still had some back up harmonies and vocals to perform.  Actually, the first thing we did was record (ala Al Gore) a spoken word performance by Nick's better half, Alisa Cromer.  OK, it was only 5 words but it'll be the first vocal heard on the album.

DJ & Tito desecrating George Winston's piano

The next task was to record some mouth "pops".  I remember as a kid seeing an actor named Fritz Feld who was in lots of movies, commercials and t.v. shows like "Gilligan's Island" and "Lost In Space".  His shtick was slapping his hand up against his mouth to make a "pop".  Of course, being a kid I had to learn this trick and perfect it.  Now, as an adult I give it a prominent role on our new album.  Actually, the most prominent "pop" was done by DJ.  But he did it the yucky way by putting his finger in his mouth - don't tell his mom.

Nick and DJ carried on with a few harmonies and backing vocals and I did some hand percussion bits (shaker, tambourine and afuche cabasa).  We all gathered 'round the mic and did some clapping bits that were quite fun and then... we were done.  Woo hoo!
The Hipwaders:  clap yo' hands...

Next up:  mixing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

Oh, boy.  We've never recorded so fast over such a long period of time.  This is what happens when everyone has jobs, families and life getting in the way.  We began at the end of January and so far we've only had 5&1/2 actual recording sessions.  We're so close to finishing up the tracking I can taste the sweet satisfaction of knowing there's nothing more to add.  If we were in a position to record straight through we would have been done in less than a week.   I was planning to post after we were all done with all the tracking but I figure I'd forget what the heck we did 3 weeks ago.  So I'll tell you now.

Willie muting DJ's bass strings with foam
With the drums and final guitar bits & keyboards recorded, we decided to put DJ under the (not so) harsh glare of the studio lights and record his bass lines.  Again, Willie (the engineer) astounded us with his ability to get some great tones as DJ ran his Fender Precision through an Ampeg SVT (4-10).  Willie also ran DJ's bass through a direct line and mixed the two sounds together (mostly amp with a little d.i. as needed).  As Willie had done with me during my guitar recording, he constantly "dialed" in appropriate tones with the bass tone knobs and outboard gear for each song.  Sometimes adding "grit" as needed or rolling it off depending on the song.  About half way through the recording we came across a song that needed a more old school R&B sound with deader but sharp attack.  Willie stuffed some foam under the strings at the bridge of the bass guitar and "voila" - there it was.  We even used the muted sound on several other songs.  I know DJ was happy to finish his bits as I took on the role of an armchair quarterback having him try different bass lines out on songs that he had been playing the same way for a very long time.  It's just that with some slightly different guitar and/or keyboard lines having been added, and the ability to hear "clean" recordings of the songs, I got some new ideas.  Sorry, man.  You did awesome!
As soon as DJ finished I jumped in front of 3 mics Willie had set up to record my lead vocals.  Why 3 mics?  Because Willie wanted to find the perfect mic for my vocal "timbre".  After listening to me warble for awhile, Willie decided the Neumann U67 was best suited for my voice.  Strangely, when we recorded our last album at "The Hangar" in Sacramento, the engineer found the U67 also best suited for my voice.  I guess I now have "my mic".   Again, this is where being well-prepared for recording comes in as I was able to sing 15 songs in less than 2 hours.  With good pitch and emotion (per Willie - your mileage may vary).

Brian & Tito

A couple of days later, Nick and I came in to record our backing vocals.  We brought in my old songwriting partner, Brian Boyd, whom I've known and played with since high school.  Brian is a great vocalist and vocal mimic.  He does terrific (and terrifically funny) vocal impersonations.  He sang some backing vocals on the first Hipwaders album  - doing some funny spoken dialogue and singing on "Insect Safari" , for example.  Brian also wrote a fan favorite, "Things You Want" ( I added a bridge and some additional lyrics) from our "Goodie Bag" EP


On this session, Brian did a spoken vocal bit for us and sang some backing parts.  This is where his talent as a vocal mimic came in. 
He doubled some bits we were singing and we couldn't tell what vocal was Nick, Brian or myself.  Nice.  What was also nice was how Willie truly made us work and cajoled us into trying different vocal harmonies and pushed us into doing things we never knew we were capable of doing.  Also, a special mention should be made of Nick's heretofore unknown (at least to me) ability to sing higher than huMANly possible.  Just as in the Olympics he will have to submit to a chromosome testing procedure.
Brian, Nick & Tito

Next week:  DJ joins in the singing and we clap along.  Tito does his Davy Jones imitation (maracas and tambourine), and Nick looks on perplexed.