Lemme tell you why Mike’s here.
Last night we launch into a track called “Loved.” Loved is the track on which the defecation might hit the oscillation, and we all know it. It’s in 12/8 time. The signature piano phrase is an endless cascade of triplets in the right hand of the piano. It’s not a slow song, the click beats 96 bpm to death.
The drums have been tweaked, guitar tones are dialed, the bass is… turned on… and we start woodshedding the tune. Something’s off. The piano at El Dorado is a stunner, but it’s gone out of tune on just one note. A. The song is in the key of A. The song repeats a technically difficult ostinato over about 60% of the song. With that A used somewhere in the chord.
It’s not good, is what I’m saying.
Erica was the first to say it. Rosy seconded. Mike agreed. I emerged from my usual bass tracking fog of “For The Love of All Things Holy Do Not Rush This Freakin’ Part” haze and agreed.
The APU nerds had united. The piano had gone out of tune. On just one note. Chris, the engineer, was unconvinced. Are you sure it’s not the guitar? Yes. Because Corey has an honorary APU music nerd degree, that’s why. ‘Cause we just switched guitars. We know. It’s out of tune. We clear out the live room and listen to the track. It’s out. No doubt. The string played by itself is phasing.
Mike hops behind the instrument and figures out which of the actual three strings that the hammer strikes is out of tune. Guys? He says. Listen. He plays the note once. Phasing. He plays the note again, this time muting the middle string. In tune. “It’s that one.”
“Can you fix it?” I ask.
Spoken response – No.
Unspoken subtext – No, and are you retarded? Yeah, I know! I’ll pull my piano tuning kit out of my man-purse and get right on that.
I don’t remember who called it, but I think Mike and I both decided that the show needed to go on. This is not a problem that is going to get fixed in the next ten minutes, and we have tracks to get. Mike jumps on the borrowed Nord Stage piano. The piano sample contained therein is a stunner. It’s one of the best I’ve ever heard. But it’s still a fakie.
Mike lays in a stunt track, meaning it’s intentionally going to get replaced later, while Corey, Rosy, and I get our parts in place. Mike makes it work. After three passes we get one that we like. We take one more. Mike is frustrated. The part’s hard, and having to play it on a synth isn’t giving him any help whatsoever.
To be fair to Chris, who rocks with unholy rokkness, he tells me later that a few weeks ago, a BIG name producer with a BIG name band and said the same thing, but they brought a piano tuner all the way out and it turned out to be the guitar. Rob, the owner, is a piano player. He’ll hear it in a heartbeat and get it fixed. We don’t need it until tomorrow, anyways…
Drums are comped, meaning the best parts are grabbed from the two passes, guitars are overdubbed where they mismatch, I replay my flubs, and all of a sudden it starts to sound quite sublime. I will have to go into another post about this, perhaps later today, or tomorrow… but the guitar tones are… just… unspeak… warm… distorrtion… getting…. aaaaahhhhhh.
Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a song. During this hour or so, Mike has taken a walk. He’s not needed, and ge gets some air. And perhaps a beverage. All I’m saying is this. Just as we’re finishing up, he comes in and goes…
Chris… can I have a go at the piano? Gimme a dreamy quarter note delay on the piano.
I’m (Chad here) exhausted and ear-fried, and decide I’m gonna let him get his idea out. I return a few minutes later to hear… it. The piano part, revoiced to avoid that note… with a glorious ambient delay washing over us. Mike’s killing the part. It ducks and weaves… it pushes and pulls.
Now it’s really a song.
See… I play piano, I really do. I’ve done it every week for seven years. I could, with enough time and clever editing, I could have figured out that part. And it would have been… ok. Adequate.
But Mike really really plays the piano. Mike knows all the ins and outs. He knows where the cracks and the canyons are. It’s just not a hobby.
That’s why Mike is here.