When I was little, there seemed to be magic and mystery surrounding and clouding creative industries: How do ideas really get from brains to the consumer? How can you justify a massive company with thousands of employees to develop very small groups of people? Where does all the money go?
Where does my lap go when I stand up?
It turns out there's a very good reason why there's a bit of an enigmatic cloak around the process. I'm no so concerned with the reasoning behind hiding the mechanisms of manufacture, that'd be a very dry and rant-y blog. No, today, I'm going to talk about how Van Howling made our Hole in the Wall EP. It was a messy, slow, horrible process involving absolutely no sex, vast quantities of alcohol and tobacco and what can only be described as a loose affiliation with rock n' roll.
- Leech off someone else's creativity
Every band supposedly has "a different way of working." The size of the band, the inter-personal relationships, the nature of music and how much they like each other are all factors. No. That's complete horse crap. What you should say is that that every band "has a different way of ripping off one man's talent." For every song, there's is one major contributor. The primary influence need not be the singer, although they are nine out of ten times. He'll turn up to a rehearsal with a chord progression, a riff or a melody and the rest of the band add their pieces to the initial concept until it resembles something similar to a song. The best pop songs are born melody-first, the best rock songs are born riff-first and the best jazz songs don't exist because no really likes jazz
. Hole in the Wall and Schemers were based off Gabe's melodies. Plastic Faces was based off two of my bass riffs but Mark gets the credit because he wrote the melodies (life's a bitch).
- Slowly learn to hate your own music through repetition
Next comes recording your hideous beast. This involves finding someone, somewhere with a lot of expensive and esoteric equipment and sitting in one (or two if you're very lucky) rooms with no air conditioning, learning to appreciate the different vintages of your collective feet cheese. You record a standard rock/blues/pop song in this order: drum + bass, rhythm guitar, vocals, solo (and then backing vocals and synth if you're in that kind of shitpop band). If you haven't rehearsed well, it'll take many, many, many
takes to get the individual tracks (also called stems
) laid out in a satisfactory manner. This will ensure that you'll never want to play those songs ever and especially not at the EP launch party. If you have rehearsed enough before recording then, congratulations, you despise your own music already. Fortunately, our guitarist Jon is not only incredible
on guitar, he owns a lot of the right gear and is a killer sound engineer. For the unlucky ones, you'll have to pay someone upwards of £200 for the privilege.
- Pretend you know what you're doing
After you've recorded all of your music and have become familiar with the shit bits on each of the stems, it's time to put it all together. This involves levelling, equalisation and adding effects. You could pay someone more money to do this for you but if you're a normal band without access to recording equipment, you'll be eating bread sandwiches by this point anyway so a mixing engineer is out of the question. This is really a one person job unless you actively seek to loathe each other's company for all eternity. They'll take your hard work and proceed to liberally shit all over it by making it way too quiet, EQing it completely wrong and adding loads of crazy effects to it "because they were experimenting." After some harsh words, a few rounds oxing and a trip to hospital to get a whammy bar removed from a colon, you'll have the holiest of holies - a master track. Someone will accidentally lose this through stupidity or delete this in a fit of malice so you'll probably have to repeat this entire step again. In Van Howlng, Mark did the mixing despite never having done it before and he didn't do a shit job (he plays more than drums so he didn't instinctively shaft everyone else).
- Album art
Fucking hell, we're not going here.
- Emotionally blackmail your friends
You've done it. You've got this Frankenstein's monster with a cover drawn with crayon and the liner notes are unintelligible waffle which loosely cover internal band tensions ("Cover Art by Julian based on an idea by Mark" - you complete cunt, Mark). Who the hell is going to listen to it? If you haven't got any friends, now would be a good time to get some because otherwise your launch night is going to be a very peculiar and intimate show for the soundman at whatever venue has sunk low enough to allow you on stage. You're going to have to create a Facebook group early and invite everyone you know and keep reminding them every goddamn day until they're sufficiently guilt-tripped into coming along, paying the entry fee and buying disgustingly expensive drinks. Then they'll wish you luck, you'll play a really shit set because you're all bored and tired and sick of music and then they'll tell you that you're wonderful. And you'll feel fulfilled for 30 seconds and then deeply, deeply hollow.
You can use that for inspiration for the next EP.