01 December 2005

the studio strikes back...or, installment two...

boy....i take longer between installments than george friggin' lucas. ok, anyway....

the whole reason i had moved into this house was to take advantage of the basement and begin using it to record. and after the first flood, i was spooked. i worried about whether or not there'd be another flooding incident, and whether or not it would be worth the effort invested if the basement wasn't as watertight as i'd thought it was. so i left the basement in its fallow state for quite some time. i used the equipment as i'd set it up initially to finish my parts for blakes' record, and that was about it. up until i started back down the road to getting it fully operational, i'd done more actual recording at the old house than at the new one.

but this past spring, i had a brainstorm.

a dear friend of mine, george grantham of poco, suffered a stroke onstage in massachusetts. as of this writing, he still hasn't returned to the band, and has been in physical therapy ever since to regain the full use of his faculties. when something like that happens, after the initial shock wears off, your first thoughts go straight to what you can do to help.

i don't know why it took so long to occur to me, but at some point, i thought to myself - "why not record an albums' worth of poco tunes and release it to raise money?" i mean, i'm not so full of myself as to think that my name in and of itself would bring cash in hand over fist, but it's really the only thing i could think of to do...i mean, what else was there, really?

so, having settled on the thought, the next thing to do was to approach rusty about it - so when i saw the guys in new jersey this past summer, i made a point of taking rusty aside to tell him what i wanted to do and ask for his blessing, and he was actually very enthusiastic about it.

as it turned out, that was the easiest part of the process.

having this project that i'd now committed to meant that i had to rid myself of the "one of these days" mentality and actually get to work making the space a functional, working studio. and i wanted to be able to do everything - at least as close to everything as i could. i decided i was going to install some freestanding baffles in the basement so i could do drums there, i pulled a narrow table into the second room and put it against the wall where i'd be recording guitar to keep the amps up off the floor - i wanted the room to be legit...even if just as a solo operation.

the first thing i did was to rip everything apart in the control room. i'd never been terribly fond of the layout, and since the piano had moved on to greener pastures in the interim, i decided that i'd move the console and center of operations to the wall against the stairs, with the equipment racks to my right, as i sat at the console. i also wanted to get the equipment racks up off the floor, so i wouldn't have to reach right down to the carpet to adjust anything that was racked at the bottom of one of them. to do that, i bought a couple of 1 x 12's and cut them into a sandbox-type pattern and painted them black - not only because the stones said so, but because they matched the racks that way. eerily enough, with the sandbox underneath the two racks i had on the right side, they were now the same height as the patchbay rack, which was freestanding and had casters on it. it sat at a 45 degree angle to the console, between the console and the gear racks - which couldn't have been more perfect, since it had to reach both of them with equal ease, as per its function.

the only rack not in the immediate area was the rack containing the two ADATs and the PC. that rack was situated on the other side of the console, since the RAXXESS cables were long enough to reach from the patchbay rack to where they were with no problems.

i also wanted to eliminate the old means of shelving the monitors and the speakers, which needed to be over the console - but that meant finding some means of attaching the shelf to the wall itself. this was a considerable source of paranoia. the monitors themselves probably weighed close to 150 pounds - add the alesis monitor ones to that, and whatever else might end up sitting on that shelf, and you've got the potential for some 300 plus pounds. whos' crazy enough to put that much weight on a shelf?

well, that'd be.....uh, ME.

actually, i consulted one of the smartest men i know - dave eggert, the maintenance supervisor where i work during the day. he gave me some invaluable pointers on how to properly bracket them so they'd hold as much weight as i could potentially put on them, so i followed his instructions and i have to say - they haven't budged a hair since the day i put them up.

so the monitor shelf gave just enough clearance for the console to slide underneath it, which was just about perfect, as the monitor height would have been uncomfortable to look at for extended periods of time had i gone any higher. i had moved the credenza holding the tv/playstation/etc down the opposite wall from its old spot, so there wouldn't be too much human coagulation at the console, and all that remained to do was to wire it all up.

which i did in one night.

one long, sweaty, frustrating night that lasted until 5 AM, when i collapsed into bed after a wiring frenzy supplemented with diet coke and super seventies internet radio until such time as i'd done what i could and stumbled up to bed.

to answer your unspoken question, yes - it was a school night.

in the midst of all the rearranging, the moving components from place to place, the measuring and cutting....

...it happened again.

it had been raining nonstop the day before, and it rained through the night. i had went down the night before just to take a peek into the front room to see if any water had come in and none had...i had actually managed to convince myself that the previous flood might have been a one-time fluke at some point, and i had no reason to change my mind at this point. i sat down at the kitchen table and made myself a "to-do" list for the weekend and went up to bed.

the next day, i slept in - and when i got up, i ambled downstairs to take a peek and see what was going on, and sure enough - there was a small, depthless pool of water emanating from the corner of the front room.

"ok....no need to panic," i thought. "this isn't much, and it's probably all that's coming in."

well, to make a long and previously told story short, i was wrong. i ended up taking my "to do" list and crossing all the items on it off with a pen and writing in its place, "SUCK WATER".

between a lot of back bending, elbow grease, baling, and wet vac use, we managed to contain the damage this time to a small, circular area in the big room that we've taken to referring to as "the scrotum stain". in fact, when jon visited on the way out to seven springs resort in champion, PA with us this past weekend, he asked to see the Famous Scrotum Stain before we left.

this time, though, i wasn't of a mind to let something like this derail me. i had a project that i had committed to, even if only to myself, and i wasn't about to be interrupted. we got the water out, got the room ready to proceed, and proceed we did.

i had gotten a bead on some cubicle dividers that i'd planned to use to encircle the drums and absorb some of the sound from the kit, but they disappeared on me, and i had to do some improvising. i ended up buying some lightweight plywood and using some damping material to build my own. i'm actually happier with what i got than with what i'd wanted in the first place, and they do a great job of soaking up the drums. for this particular project, i wanted a seventies-style mellow, somewhat deadened drum sound. i used my old "cap tape" trick (someone, somewhere, makes a material called "cap tape" that you use to put around the bed of your pickup truck between the bed cap and the actual body of the truck. i haven't seen this stuff in decades, so i found a material that's even better in the time since that has adhesive on one side of it, but it's only a half inch wide or so...great for muting drum heads.) i put fresh heads on the drums, tuned them up, and set them up within the confines of the new baffles i'd build - from upstairs in the house, all you can really hear is the snare and the kick.

now we're ready to record, right?




tune in for our next installment. sorry.


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