In life you might do 5-10 important things if your lucky, hell maybe even 20. The feeling of completing an album of 13 tracks at a length of over 40 minutes is something you can’t put your finger on. From both being an artist and engineer, I’ve seen and manipulated this feeling to make auditory gold. Last year I had the privilege to work with a young group of musicians named SSKGB (Star Spangled KGB) in my cave that I’ve dubbed On Fire. Some of the members were fresh out of high school and others about to go to college. I hoped that my work would serve as the glue to hold this group of extraneous individuals together.
Before I get into the production and meat of this post, its essential that you understand where this group was coming from. SSKGB was composed of former members of “Suicide T.V.” which also showcased some of the current members of “The Orwells”. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago was obviously an apt lifestyle for these individuals. Its easy to find your niche with the support of a strong city and culture, but sometimes you have to drift to find it.
The production started with “Jewel” and “Stargazer”. This was one of my first true impressions of SSKGB. When I initially agreed to work with them, I had a slight clue of the talent within the band, but I had no clue what I was in for. After they unpacked their gear, I set up the best live recording setup I could. They wanted to record live, I advised against it, but in the long run, it was the only good way to do it. Suffice to say, they proved my advice wrong, and both songs came out sounding girthy and sleek; SS has pure synergy when it comes to live performance. Once these tracks were finished, the deal was sealed and SS wanted to do a full-length album at On Fire, titled “Stargazer”
The recording process that followed can only be described in two words, harmonious mayhem. Even with the trials and tribulations of recording in a suburban household’s basement, we continued on through dog waste, an extremely loud air conditioning system, a combination of 8-10 different peoples schedules, living off of pizza and hot pockets (at least I did), and the chaos of this whole thing. We started off with bare prospects, but ended with a plan that had a purpose. I believe toughing these little things out, and seeing past the environment is what truly helped make “Stargazer”. Yea I had a badass recording setup, but that accompanied with the synergy, adversity, and setup of the band was what truly made the music. You can have all the technology and money in the world, but if you have no soul to your art, you can’t expect chaos to turn to harmony. This delicate balance of talent and patience was essential to the recording process. If we rushed it because of financial concerns, a deadline, or a label’s expectations, it wouldn’t of been what I know of “Stargazer” today. The album posed a major challenge to me as an engineer as well. When it came time to master it, I found I had become to heavily involved in the project to finish it the way it should sound. I decided to contact one of my good buddies and mentors, Brian Zieske of Gallery of Carpet for mastering. He told me to pack my stuff up and get on the road to Georgia.
I planned out the whole departure, and headed out with a positive attitude. I remember the sun rising the morning I left and listening to the “Blow” soundtrack on the way. The memories are unreal to me today. I left by myself half-way across the U.S. right after my girlfriend broke up with me, oh I didn’t mention that, I wonder why……
On the way there I listened to approximately 40 CDs, 1st song to last (my car had no ipod hook-up) and stopped off at some pretty neat places. Its an experience going anywhere in the South when you have been out in the Midwest as long as I have. I found it especially interesting that when I broke the bible belt, gas stations would always greet me like this, “Are you lost, has god found you?”, I’d just say something like, “yea I added jesus on facebook yesterday..”
When I arrived in Georgia, Zieske suped the recording up and showed me some cool mountain biking places in the South. Suffice to say I had an awesome time, but had to call the trip early due to an infection I got from falling at Blanket’s creek. I headed back late the last night of recording. I remember driving in the mountains in Tennesee and listening to “Stargazer”, for the first time through my car’s Fonzy like speaker system. Usually the speakers blinked from left to right, but that night, they stayed solid.
I hope you enjoy listening to the album as much as I enjoyed helping engineer and produce it.