Tag Archives: recording

Round Midnight

I was tracking some piano last night for a beautiful song that Chad put together, it was late and the lights were down and everyone was asleep, so I took a few minutes afterward to play through one of the greatest jazz ballads every written.

This is what the Steinway sounds like with a pair of Neumann TLM 170s on it.

Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk

Boudicca

For those of you who missed the 2010 New Music Concert at APU (and heavens, what else could you possibly have been doing that’s more important than driving 7 hours to hear a 6 minute piece I wrote?), here is the recording of the piece I wrote. You’ll have to excuse the quality of the recording, especially when the speech comes in.

Boudicca
by Michael A. Lee

And for those who want to totally geek out, here’s the score.
Boudicca – Score (this doesn’t include pencil edits made in the final rehearsal)

Beat It

It’s the end of the year, time again for student projects. This was done by my Production Techniques class. Everything you hear, all of the instruments, the recording, the mix, everything was done by our students. It was arranged and produced by Sean Beck.

VOLUME UP!

Beat It

This is what we do!

And That, Son, Is What We Call “Pro”

I had one of the most satisfying recording sessions ever yesterday. We were recording keyboards and drums for a handful of song demos, all part of a new musical being written by the lovely and talented Abby Miller.

It was me and three other very talented people, including a drummer, Aaron Sterling who is part of the new LA Wrecking Crew – he plays on every record coming out these days, it seems like. He and Abby wrote some of the songs, Abby and I wrote some of the songs, everybody there had a different stake in the project.

What blew me away was how seamlessly everyone moved between their different roles, from arranger to producer to sideman. On some songs, Aaron was producing the session, it was his tune, and I got to be just a keyboardist (I love that). On the next tune, it was mine, and I was telling him what to do. The engineer (our very own Mr. Chris Steffen) and Abby moved through the cycle too, from engineering to arranging, from writing to tracking vocals.

The only thing that nobody did, all day long, was bust out an ego. Chris and I talked for a few minutes after the session, and we agreed that it would be impossible to try and do something like that if anybody had brought a rock-star vibe along with them.

There is a beautiful balance between having deep pride in your work, and no ego about what you do. I want to learn how to live in that place. I believe it’s called being “Pro”.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Okay, let’s get one things straight. Addison Road isn’t going anywhere. All this awesome has permanent staying power, and no upstart rag of a 10 billion dollar social network site is gonna shut this party down.

Let’s get another thing straight. Don’t text me at 2 am to ask me when I’m going to start writing again. The answer is the same as it’s always been. Whenever the hell I feel like it, Dan!

Let’s get a third thing straight. I missed you all this summer. Well, not you, Dan. But the rest of you. So, in fine back-to-school tradition, here’s how I spent my summer vacation.

May

All of this obscene wealth and technical progress has conspired to gift us, the blessed generation, with something of inestimable value: time. We luxuriate in an excess of time. No previous generation has had to devote so little of their time to acquiring the basic necessities of life, and yet we squander this gift like it’s gutter trash. These were my thoughts in May, when my wife and my University conspired together to give me the gift of three days. I spent them on a mountaintop in Malibu, at a Catholic retreat center, writing music. The result was a new composition for trumpet, piano, and laptop titled “Serra”.

I also played keyboards on a trashy j-pop album for Sony Records, which was actually much more fun than it sounds.

June

Not the artist, the month. Although the artist did visit. June and Stick and the munchkins made the trip down to LA to stay with us at our new house, which has plenty of room for guests. Plenty of room. Except that a few days before they showed up, Gretchen’s sister also made the trip out to LA to stay with us at our new house, which has plenty of room for guests. With her 3 kids. Our house does not sleep 5 adults and 7 kids comfortably. Also, it was that weekend that we decided to throw a Princess Party to celebrate Sophia’s 4th birthday. All in all, it was 3 day of unmitigated chaos. It got to be so much that Stick even had to drown his sorrows in 1/3 of a glass of wine!

Also in June, I got commissioned by an amazing photographer in New York to compose a piano piece for the gallery opening of his next show. His manager somehow heard “The Science Project” from The Dailies record (I know, crazy, right?) and wanted something similar. (We think we know how this happened. If you google “The Dailies”, our band is the first hit, and this photographer is the second)

July

Ah, July. July, July, July. I learned so much from you, July. I learned that I can punch my liver 16 times in a night without passing out. I learned that the women who are hitting on you at the Hard Rock Casino are not amateurs (to all my bosses and my students and my wife, I know this only from observation, not from experience). I learned that disposable income tends to get disposed of. I learned that a good steak is improved by excellent company. I learned that Zack is a very quick study. I learned that the occasional 3-day fling of bachelor excess is fantastic, but that I am very glad to come home to my life.

At the end of July, the APU small group came back off the road, and we stepped into the studio. I was utterly, marvelously blown away. I can’t wait for you all to hear this album. It’s the best thing, by far, that has come out of that school. And yes, I am a little biased, but still. You gotta hear it.

August

On Thursday, at 3:15 in the morning, we got up, broke camp, strapped on our packs, and hiked 2 hours up and out of the wilderness in the dark. We had spent the week backpacking through the southern range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, some of the most beautiful wilderness anywhere. It was me, my father-in-law Phil, my brother-in-law Brian, and 4 other guys that were friends of Brian. I can’t really explain what a life changing experience this trip was for me. It was the first time in 10 years that I left my cellphone behind, had no email connection, nothing to distract me from being present in the moment. I spent long hours talking with Phil about life, work, family, priorities, and had some extended times of solitude to reassess the things I value in my life. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the next scene of The Michael Lee Experience: An Unauthorized Autobiography started that week.

We hiked out of the wilderness and got to the cars just as dawn was starting to break, and we drove to the trail-head of Redcloud, a 14,000 foot peak. We hiked up above the treeline, then above the scrub meadows, and finally got up above all vegetation. At about 13,000 feet, the air is so thin that you can only take one or two steps at a time before gasping for breath. Unless, of course, you are my inhuman stud of a 68-year-old father-in-law, in which case you just sort of jog your way up the trail, stopping every once in a while to make sure we’re still following. A thousand feet from the summit, we stood on the saddle between two peaks with the mountain range spread out before us like a painting. As we watched, thunder clouds started rolling over the peak, and a dozen people came pouring down the trail warning us off the peak.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was to turn around that close to the summit, and head back down. The reality of Colorado weather is pretty brutal though, and you just can’t be the tallest thing standing on top of a bare granite mountain when lighting comes crashing down out of the sky.

The next day, I got on a plane and flew back to my family. On Saturday, we celebrated the marriage of Zack and Sara. On Sunday, I threw up twice.

On Monday, Gretchen and I left the kids with Linda (my birth-mom) and Thom, and headed to Napa to celebrated 10 years of wedded bliss! We drank wine, ate food, drank more wine (I threw up zero times), stayed at the best little inn anywhere, stayed at another place that smelled like cinnamon, drank more wine, and just generally luxuriated in each other’s company. We rediscovered our marriage, not just as a business partnership, or a baby-raising club, or as roommates, but as husband and wife. It was fantastic.

We ended the week by heading to Sharolyn and Jason’s house (they picked up our kids from Linda midway through the week), drank some more wine, and then home.

Also, in August, I started writing a musical with one of the artists I play for, who has an uncanny ability to make things happen. Think Stephen Sondheim meets Jon Brion.

August was a good month.

This was a good summer. Great, even.

We are a blessed generation, and I am a blessed man.

Our Father, Vindicate – Finished!

On May 28th, 2008, I jotted down the first few notes of Our Father, Vindicate. I stared with the melodic theme (E – D#, F# – D#), and the sound of that flat 6 suspension in bar 26. One year and one month ago today.

A few minutes ago, I just finished the final mix of the recording. It’s such a huge feeling of accomplishment to see this thing come together, and to have something solid in hand, something people can hear and respond to. I’ve loved writing this piece, I’ve hated it at times, I’ve put more hours into it than anything I’ve ever done, and I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a musician because of doing it. I’m glad it’s behind me, but I’m very glad to have done it.

So, here it is.

Our Father, Vindicate
By Michael A. Lee
our-father-vindicate.mp3

Downlod the chart: Our Father, Vindicate.

The vocalists are, in order of part from top to bottom:
Anthony Maglione
Brent Froelich
David Loucks
Jessie Bullock
Kyle Campbell
David Kress
Lucas Short
Phil Nash

Additional vocals by Michael Lee, and Harold Clousing.

Musical Journal

About 6 months ago, I bought a Moleskine notebook, and started using it as a kind of professional journal. I use it for setlists when I play live, for rehearsal notes, on sessions I sketch out quick charts, and on every page I note the date, the location, and the artist. It’s kind of cool to look back and have a record of what I’ve been doing, in a way that makes a lot of sense.

I’ve never been a journaler (expect for the time my court-mandated psychologist insisted), but this serves the function pretty well. It’s also awesome to have instant recall of charts and notes from things 6 months ago, when the client calls again.

By the way, kids, forget everything Daniel is teaching you in Arranging 1. This is what real charts look like.

moleskine-chart

Our Father Session Clips

Not yet mixed, not even really edited, but here are the long-demanded rough clips from the recording session on Friday. And by long-demanded, I mean I casually mentioned that I would post them, and nobody has really said “No no, please don’t.” I take that to be a consensus for demand.

Here are 3 clips from the song. When the final mix is completed, I’ll post the whole thing in sequence, including videos of my laughably bad conducting. Joy!

our_father_vindicate_clip1.mp3 our_father_vindicate_clip2.mp3 our_father_vindicate_clip3.mp3

Our Father, Vindicate This!

Well, it’s finally happening.

About a year ago, I started working on a choral piece based on the text of The Lord’s Prayer. I posted some early examples here and here. In November, I thought it was finished. Then, I did a composer workshop where actual people sang through it, and ended up throwing out the entire ending, rewriting it from middle section on out.

In January, with the help of Aly and Phil, I wrote a grant proposal to do a demo of the piece, and to use that same recording session to record a tutorial video on how to record this particular kind of composer demo. It got pushed back, and further back, but finally, at last, the day has come.

On Friday, I get to go into a huge studio with a world-class group of singers, the kind who can sight-sing awkard and atonal lines with the same fluidity and accuracy that you’d expect of a real musician (instrumentalists), and we get to record the demo for this thing.

I am more than a little nervous. The singers on the session are guys from the LA Master Chorale, LA Opera, heavy hitters. I am not a conductor, not in anyone’s imagination, but there it is, I’m the only one there to do it.

In large part my anxiety stems from the fact that I care about this piece so much. I’ve invested a year into it, countless hours writing and re-writing, more time than I’ve spent on any piece of music. I think it’s the best work I’ve done as a musician, and for me it represents a way forward from being a gigging keyboard guy to being a legit composer, with commissions and everything. I am deeply invested in the piece, personally and professionally.

The night before the session, I have a 3 hour rehearsal until the wee hours of the morning for yet another LA singer songwriter doing yet another hollywood scenester gig, and the sheer exhausting will probably prevent me from being anywhere close to competent for the actual session. The irony is not lost on me.

For those of you who are into such things, here is the final version of the score.

Our Father, Vindicate

Wiki Wiki Waaa?

So, I’m in a quandary.

For the past 6 years, I’ve used this book as the textbook for my Intro to Music Tech. It’s over 10 years old, which is an eternity in music technology, but nobody has really written anything that’s as clear and usable since.

loudspeakersThis morning, I stumbled across the Wikipedia article on loudspeakers. It’s … fantastic. Clear, concise, well organized, contains everything it should. It is, in fact, much better than the chapter on speakers from the textbook I’ve been using. That led me to the entries on microphones, MIDI, digital recording. Some are great, others are written by engineers using inscrutable symbols and mostly made up vocabulary.

But even the one’s that aren’t great are still pretty good. Which really has me considering why I make my students buy a $25 book every semester.

So, I’m considering a switch for the fall. Instead of having a required textbook, I think I might just have a page of assigned links instead, some from Wikipedia, some from other sites that cover the material well. The content is there, I think I can organize it in a way that has some continuity and logical progression. Maybe I’ll put together a few pages of my own on my academic site to cover the gaps.

Anybody think that’s an awful idea? Phil?

Stepping It Up

I teach a studio recording class at APU. The students produce an EP, I oversee (hang out and drink coffee). Every semester I push the students to go get real players to play the session. Go get the best people you can find, and ask them to help you out. If you’re not getting told “No” at least a couple of times, you’re not asking players at the right level.

This year, one of the teams took that to heart. They pulled together the following players for rhythm section tracking:

Oskar Cartaya (bass)
Chad Wright (drums)
Darrell Crooks (guitar)

This might be the most fun I’ve had in the class.

Do It First, Then We’ll Talk

This semester marks a pretty radical shift in my teaching. I’m adopting two new philosophies for each of my courses, rearranging lecture content and schedules, changing project parameters, all around two new principles.

The first is simple. I’ve made it a goal to never “lecture” for more than 20 minutes at a time. At the 20 minute mark, I stop, and we do something else. Either a class discussion, or a small project, or a break, something else. I’ve been on a steady diet of TED talks for the past 12 months, and I’ve been trying to capture the power of that strict time limit, the intensity of a well-crafted 20 minutes. I think it represents the upper limit of my students’ attention span, and rather than fighting it, I’ve decided to embrace it and use it to my advantage.

The second principle is more fundamental, and for me much more difficult. Most of the time, my thinking moves from principle to extrapolation. Once I learn the structure of MIDI messages, I can then move on to figure out how you might use them to deliver different kinds of musical information, how you might edit or filter them, a whole host of ideas can follow out of understanding that underlying principle. I organized my classes along similar lines, first teaching all of the core principles of a field of study, and then putting them into practice in the back half of the semester with projects. The result was that I bored my students to death in the first 6 weeks of the semester, bombarding with stuff that I knew was important, but that they really didn’t care much about.

I’m flipping that around this semester. I’m following a “do first, understand later” plan. In music technology, that means getting students to record and mix something the very first week, before they have any clue what they’re doing, and waiting until November before we even start getting into vocabulary, graphing, any of the more technical parts of the course. In Music & Ethics, it means pushing case studies to the front, and systematic moral philosophy to the back end.

I’m hoping that two things happen. First, I’m hoping to make some students more comfortable with unstructured progress, the ability to learn how to function with uncertainty. I’m coming to believe more and more that this is a critical skill to success in life, and something that they have not learned well to this point in their schooling. The skill used to figure out how to record a song with a piece of software without knowing “how it works” is the same skill set that they will later use to plan a semester of music classes, or produce a recording, the same skill set that will let them survive their first year of professional life, when they don’t know how anything works. The ability to jump into something with only a vague sense of how it works, and to emerge successful, is on the top tier of necessary skills for the professional musician.

My second hope is that it will spark a series of questions, that it will ignite curiosity in the students, and that the back half of the course, the systematic, academic, vocabulary and principles part of the course will become a series of answers to questions that they actually want to know the answer to. Instead of saying “this is a continuous controller message, here’s how it’s structured, memorize this, it’ll be on the test,” it will become “on those projects you’ve been working on, you kept using the mod wheel to change the sounds in interesting ways, here’s what you did, this is why it worked, here’s how you can use it to do other cool things, because it’s structured in this way.”

Basically, I’m trying to trick my students into being curious about the things that I think they should know.

I’m interested to hear from those of you who are teachers, in any capacity. What do you think about these ideas? Any of you go through big upheavals in how you view learning, based on your own experiences? Am I being hopelessly optimistic that these changes will make a difference in how my students learn?

Mr. Stick Goes To University

So, our very own Mr. Stick has accepted a teaching gig. Once a week, he trucks down from his mountain retreat to mold the young minds of the flailing music students at William Jessup University. Apparently, they’re so desperate for teachers that they overlooked his obvious character flaws and total lack of competence, and let him loose on the topic of “Audio Recording.” Pfffft. Like Stick has any experience to bring to that class. He’ll probably just lecture straight from the book, with no practical application at all. Probably.

So, anyway, congratulations Stick. I believe classes start this week. I thought we could use this post to give the new professor some really, really bad advice to get him started off right! I’ll start:

Most students mistake weird for smart. If you can’t inspire through overwhelming mastery of the subject, inspire through eccentricity. The end result is the same. Mostly.

Best of luck, Stick. Advise on, my fearless roadsters.

The Real Thing

I love it when a plan comes together. I had a session today, and I had to drag the client kicking and screaming into a real studio. The producer really wanted to just use piano samples. We sat down, mic’d up the piano, Engineer Chris hit record, and the lush awesomeness of the Eldorado piano won over a whole new set of fans.

Stay tuned, those of you who have projects brewing. Chris and I are cooking up a way for you to get real keyboards (piano, B3, wurlie, rhodes) dropped in at a ridiculously low rate. More details to follow …

Eldorado Recording Studio

Eldorado Recording Studio

The Dailies Tracking Week

Hey howdy.  

So, Erica and I are taking the week, having shipped off our kids, and are trying to finish up the vocals on this record.  I’ve been sorta live-blogging all day, and I’m about to upload a little of the fruit of our labor.  

Here’s a link!  www.thedailiesmusic.com

P.S.  Oh and comment you stingy lurkers!  :)

Cheers!

New Music Tuesday

For a diversion while we are all waiting patiently for Chad to finish up The Dailies project, I have a little something to share with the Roadhouse… my band has been holed up in a studio for the last 6 months or so (if you count pre-production) working on our latest project. We just finished final mixes on Sunday, and we have the first mastered tunes in-hand (they’re going back of course, not perfect yet). But I couldn’t wait to share it with you guys…

Salient - Dawn Follows Dark

I’m looking forward to getting back on a normal sleep schedule – we did most of the recording between 9pm-3am. There was a night last week that we were working on mixes and I got home as the sun was coming up… I didn’t bother going to bed. I did feel myself falling asleep at work and realized as it was happening there was nothing I could do to stop it. I don’t recommend it… remember – we’re professionals! I’m about 80% done with the album artwork too… the plan was to farm it out but nobody was ecstatic about the preliminary comps so I got elected.

A short sampler of the songs is available at salientband.com. All y’all’s expert feedback is highly anticipated! Come check us out this weekend if you happen to be in Iowa or Wisconsin!

Student Projects

This is the first of a two-parter (updated below). Last week my students turned in their final projects for the class “Production Techniques”. It’s a group-based independent study kind of course. They work together, over the course of a semester, to go from song-writing demos all the way to final mixes. They manage everything; budget, timeline, contracting the players, producing the session, engineering (mostly), mix, the whole shebang. We toss them the keys to the ProTools HD room for a few nights, and they go nuts. For most of them, this is the first time they’ve walked through the whole processes, from beginning to end.

So, here are the 3 songs done by the first team (Paul Stephens, Cindy Hayward, Julia Dedmon). Paul is the vocalist, and the primary songwriter on all three.

“All I Want to Know”
All%20I%20Want%20To%20Know.mp3

“Free”
Free.mp3

“Just Walk Away”
Just%20Walk%20Away.mp3

(updated: decided to add the 2nd team to this same post)

Here are the 3 songs done by the second team (Elizabeth Rickman, Jocelyn Danque, Scott Ryan Ingersoll, Mike Rains).

“Buried” by Scott Ryan Ingersoll
Buried.mp3

“Leaves” by Elizabeth Rickman
Leaves.mp3

“Don’t Leave Me Behind” by Scott Ryan Ingersoll
Dont%20Leave%20Me%20Behind.mp3

A note to my young songwriting friends

Do me a favor. Take that heart-felt emotional ballad you’ve just written, and place it in the hands of a trusted friend. Ask them to read the lyrics, and circle any metaphors they’ve heard before.

Then, cut them out. Do it now. Show no mercy. Think of a different way to say whatever it is you want to say. You’ll thank me 6 hours into the recording session.

Sincerely,

The guy

beth orton
photo by Neil Wykes

Demo-lition Derby

I need a little help from my friends. Remember this class that I’m teaching?

It’s the one where the students produce a short album over the course of a semester.

Well, I’m meeting with the students for the first time on Monday night, to talk through the details of the class, and to get them headed in the right direction on the project. I’m going to hand them a sample packet of what a final project should look like, to give them something to shoot for, and I decided to use a song from The Dailies’ record as the model (totally violating the sanctity of Chad and Erica’s intellectual property of course. Suck it up. It’s for the children). I’ll put together a microphone input list, a budget, a timeline, a recording schedule, everything they need to do for the course, around that one song. The cool thing about this is that I have actual demos tracking the progress of all of these songs from The Dailies record, so the students will get to hear everything from first demos all the way through to final masters.

So, here’s what I need from you – which song should I use? Picture yourself as a 21-year-old music student. Then, go here and listen to the 30-second clips (or better yet, buy the album!). Then, tell me which song you think would most capture the interest and creative attention of the students in the class.

The Dailies Wrap-Up: Awards Show

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Academy of Indie Recording Arts and Sciences, Burbank Division, is proud to announce the winners of this year’s “Billy Preston Awards for Excellence In Custom Recording”. Our congratulations to all of the nominees, and remember, even if you didn’t win, it’s an honor just to be nominated.

The award for Best Opening Lyric goes to “We flipped the switch” from the song Unplug. It drops right with the band, and drags you into the tune. Like, immediately.

The award for Heroic Accommodation of the Recording Process by a Musician goes to Rosy. Midway through the first day, Chris pulled Rosy into the control room to listen to a serious problem with the drum sound – the snare microphone was picking up a ton of hi-hat. This was going to be a problem in the mix, because it meant that you couldn’t raise the level of the snare without also raising the volume of the hat. The solution? They raised up the hi-hat stand by about 6 inches, to get more distance between the snare and the hat. This is a heroic sort of accommodation by a drummer – everything they do when they play the drums is about repetitive mechanics, and those mechanics are aimed at fixed positions. The snare always goes here, the ride always goes here, the hi hat always goes here. Changing one of those things has the potential to throw the whole groove seriously out of whack. It would be the equivalent of saying to a keyboardist, “Look, to make this thing work, we’re going to raise all of the black keys by 2 inches – other than that, everything should be kosher.” The result of the change was a massive drum sound with great isolation, and Rosy managed to still make the groove grind. Very pro.

The Exxon-Valdez Award for Mid-course Correction goes to Chad for the song As I Am. On Friday, Corey started tracking this song as an acoustic guitar piece. There were two problems with this: the first is that this was actually a piano song. When we first heard it, it was on piano, Chad has performed it a half-dozen times on piano, the chords and arrangement were written on piano. It just soars on piano. So, of course, Corey was doing his best (which is a very, very good best) to wrestle the piece to the ground on acoustic guitar, and it just wasn’t working. The second problem was this – the piece breathes in and out, the tempo pushes and pulls, and there are pauses and starts that all have to feel right. Chad had all of the details of how this should go locked away in his head, with no good way to communicate all of it to Corey, or anyone else. The result was a frustrating process, and when they finally put the cap on it Friday evening, we all sort of shrugged and said, “Good enough”. You have to realize how defeated that feeling was. On every other song, when we finished, the whole band vibe was, “Yes! Dude – that’s a song!” For us to finish with a “good enough” was a massive failure. So, Saturday morning, Chad walked in and said, “Here’s the deal – we’re going to redo the tune, it’s going to be a piano song, and I’m going to play the piano part.” And we all said, “Took you long enough.” You’ll get to hear the final product on the record. Good call, Chad.

The “Almost Famous” Award for Best Homage to 70’s Anthem Rock goes to Wake Us, which would have been at home on any Queen record. 1st Runner-Up goes to Everything Must Go for it’s copious borrowing of Led Zepplin-esque guitar lines. The only reason it didn’t win is because 6/8 is a better time signature for anthem rock.

Special Recognition in the category of The Right Gear is The Right Gear goes to Rob Strickland’s Alembic Bass. No frontin’ on the P Bass, but man, you can really hear what the extra 2k buys.

As part of our on-going effort to reach out to our fundamentalist brethren, this year features a new award, Best Use of Orthodox Theology in a Song That Still Manages to Be Relevant. It goes, unequivocally, to As I Am, which makes it a surprise triple-category winner: in addition to this award, and the afore-mentioned “Exxon-Valdez” award, it also takes home The Steven Curtis Chapman “I Will Be There” Award for Song You Will Hear At Every Wedding For The Next 20 Years. This award comes with a cash prize.

The award for Song That Fell Into Place So Quickly We Almost Feel Guilty For Taking Your Money To Play It, But We’ll Get Over It And Cash The Check Anyway goes to Run. Seriously. This tune could not have gone down more easily. From the first time we heard the demo, Corey and I just looked at each other and said, “Oh dude, I know how to do this.” It makes me think that, on the next record, Chad should wait to let us hear each demo 20 minutes before we go to push record on the tune.

The Elizabeth Taylor Award For Prima-Donna Hissy Fit Over An Easily Fixable Part goes to Michael Lee, for his temper tantrum over his own inability to play 8th notes in time on Loved. Dude, get over yourself. Stick’s just gonna find the best 4 bar phrase and loop it anyway.

We are proud to announce that the winner of this year’s MTV2 “Headbanger’s Ball” Award for Extreme Rock is Corey Witt for his work on Everything Must Go. Two clips from that piece were submitted to the judges for consideration – the arena rock lead line from the chorus, and the “If you shut your eyes and listen, Dan Huff sounds like Lenny Kravitz looks” solo from the last pre-chorus. Chad, what’s the official band position on leather pants?

Every year, the judges try to make their best guess as to which songs will be commercially successful. We are proud to announce that our pick for this year’s Point of Grace Memorial Award for Direct to Radio Release is the song God Of My Future. This song also picks up the coveted DC Talk “Between You And Me” Fan Outrage Award For Song That Makes People Buy The Record, Then They Realize That The Record Sounds Nothing Like The Single. This song comes with a cash prize, which must be returned within 30 days for store credit only.

As always, the award for Best B3 Sample That Was Left On The Final Track, Because We Ran Out Of Time with the Real B3 will not be publicly announced, but you are more than welcome to take your best guess.

It gives us all great pleasure to present Chris Steffen with the FXpansion BFD Sample Replacer Empty Threat Award. There is a piece of software called BFD that is essentially a drum sampler. It sounds amazing, and in a great little coincidence, all of the samples were recorded at El Dorado, where we tracked the record. We spoke very highly of the flexibility and accuracy of the sampler, which Chris took as something of a challenge. He wanted to make sure that we had no reason to replace any of his drum sounds with samples from the software, so he proceeded to do his best imitation of a drum mic’ing savant for the entire week. The result was a sound that was beefy, articulated, deep, and punchy, which are words that we all throw around because language has no good words for sound. Basically, he rocked our socks off. Chris wins all technical awards for this record. He was smoking. Get it? (hint: he smokes (i.e. cigarettes)).

The “Rookie Of The Year” Most Improved Award goes to Chad Reisser, who at the beginning of the week, did a very convincing imitation of a bass player, and by the end of the week, was an actual bass player. Of course, I would hesitate to call him for actual gigs until he gets his rig up to a pro level. And by that I mean, “buys an Alembic bass that plays like Rob’s”.

Erica Reisser wins the coveted Terminator 2 Super Morphing Vocal Performance. Listen to Loved. Then listen to Wake Us. It’s the same person, I swear.

In order to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, I recused myself from the voting for the next award. Nonetheless, the committee choose to award The Michael Lee “Fake It ‘Til You Make It” Award to … Michael Lee. I have a dirty little confession to make. I am not a B3 player. I love the whirly dervish in all of her majestic beauty, I know the history, the lore, I’m a devotee of the mythos, and Lord knows I’ve played tons of synth B3, B3 virtual instruments, modeled reissues, and all manner of imitations. My time behind the wheel of the Queen herself though has been, shall we say, limited. Almost non-existent. This caused me some unspoken anxiety as the week progressed, and it became apparent that the week was going to finish up with an extended 4 hour session of me sitting at the console of the mighty B, going from tune to tune, playing all of the parts, with the rest of the band sitting in the control room paying very close attention to what I was laying down. I even had a kid on the line waiting by the phone who is an actual B3 player, in case I had to tap out and let him cover the parts. However, the Michael Lee Career Motto has always been “fake it ‘til you make it”. By the time the Saturday tracking session ended, I was in my element. Everything settled into place. The thing I thought I could do, but had never really done (at least not under that kind of pressure), I ended up delivering on. I am now a B3 player. I survived the gauntlet. Corey, I’m going to need some new business cards.

Finally, the award committee thought it would be appropriate to create a new category this year, for Best Imitation of a Second Engineer by an Intern. It was a tight race, but we finally decided to give the award to Sterling. I would highly recommend that Sterling log on here and give some love to the engineering school that he’s going to right now, because they set him up to win. He has that rarest, and most useful of traits in a person working their way into this industry – a teachable attitude. He noticed that Chris was using Empirical Labs Distressors to compress a wide range of different signals, and didn’t know a lot about them. On his break, he grabbed the manual, and setup his own little study hall. He was taking down notes on the B3 mic’ing that Christ had setup, and couldn’t remember the name of the room mics that were hoisted up in the corner, so he asked me if I knew (AKG C12s). It was more important to him to learn the answer than to risk being embarrassed by not knowing the answer. Dude. All I can say is hang on to that. It will take you very, very far. Also, Chris knows his stuff. You should get to know his stuff.

Congratulations to all of the winners, and thanks to the Academy for their ongoing support of Indie Custom Recording in Burbank. As Billy Preston always says, “So long, and thanks for all the memories.”