Monday, April 23, 2007

Serge on the recording of the new record...

Serge Bielanko had a number of great posts on the bands official message board about the recording of the new album in Brooklyn. So I thought it would be a good idea to collect them all here.

April 14, 2007. "RECORD"

After cigarette number 23 yesterday, my lungs and stuff just stopped clockin the smoke. My veins stopped trying to dilate and keep up with the action. My nose stopped trying to smell stuff. Except smoke. And the room was filled with it. Smoke, smoke, smoke,....the killer, the devil's mist, the whisping sky-snake of death. Smoke that many cigarettes before 3pm and they oughta send ya' a skull ring in the mail. You're tough. Nervous. Jittery and raw. If the smokes ran out, at times like this, people like us would knaw through the softer underside of our arms, gash at a main vein with our teeth, and slurp the nicotine right out of our own blood, as if it were the candy'd syrup in a wax straw....old school penny candy never dies. So, yesterday's fog slipped out of Christine's lips, rumbled through Petey's cymabl chain, wove itself through Kirk's soft curls and down into my ashtray, through my strings, and then over to tease Adam with a very seducing shimmy in his face, only to finally wither out in the face of the much grander and over powering smoke stirred up fiercely by the Army of Dave.

And that is the scene. Simply add a TGIF's worth of Christmas lights and wall flair, some persistent amp hum, occasional creepy silences after final notes ring off....and you've pretty much dropped right in on Marah getting ready to make a new record. There are songs galore. So many fucking songs/ too many! The wonders of sobriety have led my bro to new writing heights. And to heights nearly as towering as Kirk's simmering quads: as far as an actual stack of paper goes. I have a few numbers too. The band is savage now; greased and raw like a sad whore's lottery. I wish some of you could experience a bit of when new music is getting born. It's so bizzare. Nothing really makes sense as little new track slips outta Mama. And by this stage in our lives we understand enough about the process to accept that, and to never expect to translate what was written at a coffee table or in a lonesome corner of a sideroom, some time ago, to absolute music right away. Band people need to feel it out first. They don't really hear what it is you heard when you wrote it and produced it perfectly and mastered it and opened the door for the UPS guy (Doug Heffernan!) so he could deliver you the Platinum Record that you immediately hung on the wall of the Mind Studio down on Pipedream Avenue where you do your best work...

Still.It is all so brillant at the end of the long day, when I can't get it out of my head, ya know? That chorus that I wrote or the bridge Dave wrote or this part or piece that Adam is riffin out....whatever it is, whoever is laying it's spankin new and foreign and scary and so loud and slightly familiar yet not at all and sexy in dirty ways because its a stranger diggin on me with a wild little hot breath beam blown right into my ear. And that, people, is why I love the rock and roll and new record making and the headaches from volume and the fussing over a stupid verse and the promise of yet another shot at never-ending life, which is what they give you if you write the best song ever wrote....


(We will be recording our next record at a studio in Brooklyn NYC this coming week.I will try and post to you from there with an update or whatever the hell this is called. The record will be out the first week of September, give or take a Tuesday. We have a title in mind but not certain yet. If I have told you the title idea in person, keep it to yourself: ok Bozo the chatty clown???!!!! There is no soundtrack; we fucked it off; we took the $53,000 they gave us and bought a cigarette boat....only to find that it wasn't shaped or decorated like a cigarette, or even close. That sucked.)

April 17, 2007. "RECORD, DAY 2"

Day one went like this: coffee, coffee, cigarette, Adam arrives, it snowed in Philly, Chinatown bus trouble on the turnpike, Petey arrives, coffee, chatter, studio is tremendously cool...big open tracking room, band can play live, old record covers tacked to the wall in a front garage that is cluttered with old amps: dead and living, I notice a record called the Ballad of Johnny Bench on the wall and that makes me smile even though it has to be bizzare, coffee, cigs, coffee, cigs, its raining out, a few hours to get drums up and amps too. Songs are cut in one take, maybe two. News reaches us of a tragedy in Virginia and Christine mentions the story of The Boomtown Rats and "I Don't Like Mondays", coffee, cigarette, Greek Salad at diner, coffee pot seems nuclear reactor hot, music sounds sensational, this band can leaarn a song and have it recorded in an hour: which is all band dude's wet dream. No one is happier than me even though I could never really explain it. Day ends at 11pm after 12 hours of tracking. Good day, indeed.


April 19, 2007. "MAKIN' RECORD, DAY 3 AND 4"

Funny that the sun would come out today in the Big Apple. Just as we begin to be able to listen to all we've done the past few days. I am exhausted, can't sleep well for the 6 hours I get to try. I have eaten nothing but pizza for 3 days. And coffee. And some beer after we close shop. I am even having trouble stringing coherent thoughts together. But it's all badass, because last night I got to stand in the middle of about nine people in a fantastic room and sing live to a most insanely wild sound. Pipes, guitars, drums, tambourines, organ, clav, orgy of hill-country hell-conjuring music. It was one of the greatest moments in my life. Ever.

And we taped it.

Today, we are a bit more settled. This studio is fabulous, the guys who work here are too, and we are all now just loping in and out of the control room as we start to do rough mixes of the 12 or 13 songs we cut here since Monday. It's relaxed and energized here. Exciting. And promising. We have our own little world, where coffee streams run through meadows of Marlboro Lights. And I like that alot. No one tells us what to do. There are no ugly distractions. There is a fellow called Willie from Kentucky here, who sits in a chair and smiles and taps his brown Reebok sometimes, to the beat of the song pumping back through the speakers...and that is calming to have around, you know? Every little magic world needs a guy called Willie from Kentucky in it. At least I think so.

I miss my wife alot. And my dog. I miss eating our tacos and watching the King of Queens. But, Its all worth it for sure. This could end up being a double-record of gargantuan status and I need to prepare myself for this kind of being away, for music. I am probably gonna end up being a very popular rock star now, against my better judgement...and that is just the fucking way the world goes round, yo.

Adam Garbinski has just brought me another cup of gourmet coffee from the shop up the street. I am a golden god.


PS: Here are some titles of the new songs:
-Gaylord Perry
-Phil Neikro
-Bruce Sutter
-What The Hell Are You Wearing?

April 20, 2007. RECORD, DAY 5

Sunny Brooklyn afternoon for our last day in the studio. After today, it'll be up to a week of seclusion somewhere, maybe upstate Pennnsylvania; to lay down vocals, bells and whistles, and stuff. Listening to a few tracks in the van this morning was glorious. Bro Dave seems almost astonished by what we've accomplished in just a short time. But, looking at it hard, it's easy to see why we've been able to make some magic occur.

Simply put, you couldnn't ask for a better band in this world. Dave P, Adam, Kirk, Christine....we look at them as our friends, people we love. They are quirky and sometimes huffy. Just like me and Dave. They eat nachos without grace and let sour cream dots hang to the corners of their lips too long. They get tired and distant at can see in their eyes the longing to just walk away for awhile, catch a movie maybe. It ain't easy, in fact, it's a mindfuck. Yet, I am in utter awe of them, both as the massive talent each one is, but maybe even moreso in regards to what very cool souls they posses.

Musicians come and go on this Earth, and for what it's worth I say: good. I make music, Marah music, and by far it is the only music that I really love. I also love things like Motown and Springsteen and old bluegrass and some vintage jazz and stuff, but overall I could give two flying squirrel turds about the comings and goings of the rest of it. When Dylan dies, so will a indescribable thing, something even he had no idea was happening. I guess what I am saying is that so much of being a musician and songwriter and being in a band is the inside shit. The experiences that occur amidst a whirl of chaos and money problems and lonliness, with a few select people who either have you in their heart or don't. That's what Marah is these days: a collective of bizzarely connected hearts; doing shit we don't even realize in the present perspective. It'll take years for that, and even then, the record will be long ago, with other peoples deciding its particular fate.

What I'm talking about is the here and the now. 6 people with burrito breath and caffeinated hearts, pumping out the most awesome music ever recorded or even imagined. You don't plan that shit and you don't get to really dictate it to the posterity canon either. The truth is you simply stand there, beside your amp, surrounded by a swamp of cables and guitars and lummy sticks, and you look left or right at the other person playing next to ya, and you close your eyes and listen to the song begin and you just choose to believe it. And with all becomes very very true. The greatest music ever gave. Because that, my friend, is the way it really seriously goes.


April 25, 2007. RECORD, DAY 6.

Today finds us in Kirk's home studio on phase two of the record making process. Or Phase IXV...however you wish to see it, I guess. Kirk lives in a vast loft with a gargantuan kitchen by NYC standards and a smaller open area by a 70's couch that we use as our project base. That doesn't mean that vocals won't be cut in the fine sounding elevated bathroom or the defunct dryer. They will. And guitars will probably be tracked standing by the kitchen table too. It's loose and cool, this place, but also has everything we need sonically. Sometimes we take spoons and pots from the cabinets and record them on the songs. This time'll be no different, I guess.
As for what we have here songwise, well its a pickle. Do we concentrate on just 12 or so or do we tackle the batch...maybe 25, that we have amassed between last week and two other sessions we did in Nashville and NYC, respectively? We're leaning toward the whole thing; do 'em all and let God sort 'em out, you know? Then we'll record, two, three...

The double-album is an exciting prospect even though people's attention spans are about the size of a Chicklet these days. For us, the songs have taken on a sort of thematic and musical attachment to one another in that: it's pretty tough to list 11 or 12 of them without all of the sudden realizing that you've stripped away 6 others that really worked fantastic in the mix as well. And maybe that's how double records are born, huh? More these soldiers don't seem to march far without ALL of their commrades beside them.

Of course, we've had a thousand conversations about the pros and cons of a double record, too. Does it scare certain music fans away? Is it pompous and bloated? What if it all works so well you still chop it in half, put out two seperate records? There are a lot of questions, indeed. But they're rivoting arty questions to deal with, huh? It's all just fun and games in the end. Not like asking the important questions in, say,

"I wonder if I have a kid and name him Bronco Bielanko, if other kids will make fun of him?"


April 26, 2007. RECORD, DAY 7.

Arrived at Kirk's after a fitful night's sleep in which a helicopter held a holding pattern directly above the room I was in for 15 minutes steady at 5:30am before swooping in with an amazing sonic blast, just outside the sole window that hangs at the foot of my air mattress, before choppering away over toward Manhattan.
First thing I did upon my arrival here was to eat a cold slice of pizza from the fridge. Nice. A distinct lack of vegetables over the past two plus weeks has led me to feel a bit scurvy-ish, which is probably not much of turn-on to you the reader, yet must be presented in the narrative in the spirit of Naturalism.

Yesterday found us working long and hard on one song for 10 hours, which pretty much collapsed my brain like a pin-popped water balloon by 11pm. The work was worth it though, and so we have moved on to a new song. Dave is singing vocals in the loo because the sound in there is deadened and plus there is a nice shower curtain featuring schooners which is a nice touch when standing alone at a microphone with the weight of the proverbial world on your damn slagging shoulders; trying to sing what you hear in your head can be tough at times, and frustrating. Schooners on the horizon? The edge is suddenly taken away...ahhh ships, the ocean, the gentle lapping waves. A little imagination and there you are: cutting vocals in a seaside recording studio, staring out at the big drink, gulls calming your nerves. But alas, then Kirk is hollering from outside the door..."Are you ready to try that again...C'mon, let's get this...people need to piss in there!"...and reality settles back in. You are in a Brooklyn bathroom, two feet from a john, and you are singing for a record. Life is a gas!

As for me personally, I miss my new home in Utah more than I though I would after really only being there a week. Me and my wife walking in the mountains with my dog, Max, as he scares up a sage grouse and chews on a dried deer foot....I never had that before in my life. And really really love it and miss it now. But, I know I will go back home soon. As soon as we get this music all done. Then I will eat some vegetables and climb up foothills and play with my wife's hair and tell Max that he is allowed to eat mud if he wants. Ahh, the little things. Something to look forward to...


April 27, 2007. RECORD, DAY 8.

It is rainy and blue again here in Brooklyn. There was thunder roaring as I went to sleep last night though so I guess that means that despite the dreary weather, spring and then summer are indeed just a few storms away. I never believed in winter thunder; it doesn't make any sense so I just choose to ignore it and chalk it up to imagination. Thunder belongs to the middle seasons, the warm ones. I take solace in that on this crappy day.

Not that it makes much difference . I am inside again. We've worked our way forth to maybe song 5 or 6 now. Not bad, I suppose. All the music we are making is just so crazy to me in how it reveals itself. Each song my brother Dave and I write is steeped in the folk mentality I think, mostly because we write exclusively on acoutic guitar, alone, with whole orchestras playing alongside us in our heads. But, in the end it's just really the guitar and the words we come up with and then eventually: a trillion melody ideas stampeding all over the dust of the idea like a herd of whistling wild horses. It's quite difficult for a long long time to often realize that what you might pull out of all that mess could turn into something like what we are working on now; a song, with body and sequence and beat and other people playing wonderful things in it.

It seems a million miles and a billion years ago that I first hesitated and klutzed around the first few notes of some of these things. But the truth tells a different tale.

And it is hard for me to adjust to the fact sometimes that just three weeks ago, in a basement in Utah, I stared at my coffee cup and poked my pen at my paper, and started some songs. With a word here and a chord there and a massive self-consious battery on my shoulder that talks and tells me that everything I'm doing is wrong, terrible, laughable and trite. But what can I do? I plunge forward anyway, uncertain and irritable, playing the damn thing over and over and over again to myself in the most self-involved solo show any bastard ever dreamed up. Most of the ideas fall flat. I leave them behind in the basement, the musical equivalent of old VHS tapes I'll never watch again but can't throw away. But a few survive, though I get all terribly unsure of them, then like them again, then hate them. Then I play them for Dave, the band. And now, here we are and I'll be damned if a couple didn't make it all the way to the Big Apple. Now,they're songs, by God. That part of all this making music, that's my favorite.

Steve Earle once told me and Dave something, and in the same spirit I recently read a line from Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. It's a wise old-school kind of saying and pretty true too. It goes like this:

"If you have a song but you can't really play it on just the guitar, then it isn't REALLY a song."

Of course, we could all argue that with a few favorite examples. But then again, I can't really come up with any myself. And that makes me feel good. At least it would seem then that I'm on the right/write path in one department.


No comments: