Sunday, July 31, 2005

Fending + Matis recording session

A few weeks ago (July 14 – 17), I went out to Minneapolis for two and a half days of free studio time at Fur Seal (thanks to ACF… they're trying to develop a program to make the studio available to members).

Percussionist, Brian Fending, traveled from Buffalo to meet me out there. We had a great "rockstar" weekend – jetting in for a recording session and jetting out when it was done. Zipping around Minneapolis in the Kia subcompact rental car, and our dumpy digs at the Homestead Eden Prarie (exurbia outside of Minneapolis) really completed the rockstar effect…

Brian and I used to play together when he lived in DC, but he moved to Buffalo four years ago. We basically haven't played together since. Our last performance was at the Toronto Fringe Jazz festival in 2001. I wasn't sure what to expect since it's been so long since we played together, and I really didn't have any material prepared coming into the session.

Everything worked out beautifully. Brian and I seemed to "click" right away as soon as we started warming up. It felt like we both are a bit more interested in "rocking out" these days, as opposed to what we did four years ago, so the improvisations we came up with certainly have a different feel now, and I was so very relieved after our first evening in the studio: the set up and technical stuff went much faster than I expected, and we even had time to record a few things, with encouraging results. After the first night in the studio we went out for a beer and worked out the rest of the material we wanted to record during our visit.

On day two (our first full-day in the studio) we somehow managed to burn through everything we wanted to record plus several free improvisations. Results were good, and there was only one track that we threw out completely. I had a computer melt-down that morning, so I did the session without any fancy signal processing. That turned out for the best, I think.

Our third (and final) day was spent mixing – which also went much faster than I expected. The house engineer at Fur Seal, Joe Johnson, is brilliant. Everything went so quickly and the audio quality is terrific. He's got golden ears, and he's so fast making edits in Pro Tools my jaw literally dropped.

So, I wasn't sure what would come out of the trip, but it turned out we made a new album (approx. 45 minutes of music) in only 17 hours of studio time. Crazy. Now we have to figure out what to do with it – how or if we should release it commercially, how to promote such a thing, how can we tour and play live given certain obstacles like geography and day-jobs, etc.

Some other random notes about the trip: vegan food is plentiful in Minneapolis. The studio is near a whole strip of Vietnamese restaurants. Spyhouse coffee shop must have some kind of discriminatory employment practice but I'm not complaining. The Wedge co-op is fantastic – including delicious prepared foods to go (even has vegan cookies and baked treats). Also, an ACF staff person told us to stop by a bar over by the University of Minnesota called Triple Rock. Two thumbs up from Fending and Matis… they even have vegan bar food. Hopefully we'll play there during our next visit. The two of us don't really have enough ink in our skin to fit in there, but at least my hair was still kind of blue – so we didn't stand out too badly either.

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