It was a long and winding road from beginning to end to create our first album, Traumatized. Long and winding and repetitive... and excruciating... did I mention long? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
|Hound Sound Studio (aka, j's studio over the welding shop) ¡ª Campbell, CA
June to August, 1995
The original group of songs recorded was 'Cenotaph', 'In The Heart of Man', 'Marathon', 'The Ring of Truth', and 'Relativity'. However, 'As Ye Hath Sown' was not part of the original set of songs and was recorded much later (see below).
Intending to record good-quality demos, the band set up to perform the songs live without click tracks, with only partial separation of the instruments... the best we could do under the circumstances. J's recording rig consisted of a Tascam DA-88 digital 8-track SMPTE-synched to a Tascam 1/2-inch analog 8-track reel-to-reel, giving us 16 tracks to work with, half of them digital.
Out of this came the final drum tracks, and scratch tracks for all of the other instruments.
Drums were miked for use as final tracks (cheap vocal mic on kick... SM38 or 48?, snare mic, and two Realistic PZMs for overheads, that's it). The bass scratch track was recorded in live room along with the drums. The guitar amp was placed in the hallway outside the live room above a stairwell - the guitar scratch tracks were recorded this way. Keyboard and lead vocal scratch tracks recorded in control room, direct to the mixer. Each song was played through twice, and the best take of each was used for final drum tracks.
The final drums tracks came from these live takes. Very few of these first scratch tracks for the other instruments ever made it to final mix, all of which were guitar tracks. Most notably, some of the solos in 'In The Heart Of Man', and most of the atmospheric 'leaf blower' drone in the center section of 'Relativity'.
We then moved on to completing the final tracks of all the instruments other than drums. The end seemed in sight... oh how wrong we were.
Within a couple of weeks, 2 more sessions were spent on recording what were then believed to be final bass tracks with a very buzzy, very cheap-o Washburn 5-string bass. The buzzing unfortunately couldn't be easily compensated for in miking/mixing, and all of these tracks were eventually completely re-recorded (see below).
Many sessions (5 or 6 maybe?) were spent on recording 'final' guitar tracks... mostly with j's Gibson Les Paul, Marshall stack, and acoustics, but some tracks with Chris' rig. These sessions tended to be very long and during the late hours (7pm to 5am, etc.). Unfortunately many of the resulting tracks were very 'crunchy' and overdriven, and lacked much definition (j was a grunge guitar fan). These tracks differed greatly from Chris' live sound, and proved extremely difficult to incorporate into the final mixes, and many had to eventually be re-recorded.
Much of what were expected to be final vocals were recorded in additional sessions here, but only the takes for 'In The Heart of Man' were retained - the rest were later re-recorded (see below).
During one of these late night sessions, Chris fell asleep out in the hall, snoring amazingly loudly. j suggested recording it, and Sean took the mic out to the hall, razzing & poking Chris. This is the segue between 'As Ye Hath Sown' and 'Marathon' that made it to the final CD. However, the snoring audio was at the end of a tape, and by the time came to mix down the album, the delay effect that had been used that same track in an earlier mixdown had been permanently applied to the snoring section... which is how it eventually appeared on the album.
|Mike's bedroom ¡ª Redwood City, CA
October to November, 1995
A rough mix of the drum, bass, guitar & vocal tracks was bounced to a single track on new DA-88 tape, leaving 7 empty tracks. SMPTE synching information would allow the tracks on this new tape to be integrated back with the other tracks.
Keyboards were recorded to the empty tracks in time with the rough mixes. Synth tracks (Roland D-5, Korg DW8000, and Emu Emax) were recorded direct and Hammond C3 tracks miked (used 2 SM57's on the Leslie 147, 1 for the upper rotor and 1 for the lower) during approx. 4 recording sessions of various length.
j was accompanied by his beer-drinking assistant engineer/dog Mariah on most occasions.
Mike & j hoofed it over to friend of the band John Thomas' project studio, set up in his business, who graciously made available his collection of vintage analog synths. Additional tracks on classic synths (MemoryMoog, Oberhiem TVS) recorded in one 4-hour session direct to the same DA-88 tape as used at Mike's place (above).
Sometime in 1995
Mike & Craig made a trip to Boomeria to record a potential intro piece on The Boom's Baroque pipe organ. The organ was recorded via tiny stereo mics direct to a DAT recorder. Mike had worked up a little section of music and recorded a few takes. This became, with a little added reverb, the album's opening track, "The King Always Wins", which is one of The Boom's signature phrases.
January to June, 1996
A SMPTE sync track was recorded onto two 2" 24-track analog tapes, then the 2 DA-88 digital tapes and the 1 reel-to-reel 1/2-inch analog tape were transferred to the new 2-inch master tapes.
All lead & back-up vocals were recorded here (except for the lead for ¡®In the Heart of Man¡¯) were recorded here, replacing the tracks from the Hound Sound sessions. Some acoustic guitar 'clean-up' tracks and two grand piano takes (the intro to ¡®Relativity¡¯, and the middle section of ¡®The Ring of Truth¡¯) were recorded during several late-night sessions on the weekends (usually about 10pm to 3 or 4am).
around March, 1996
Sometime during the sessions at the Music Annex, Craig had gotten a job and begun working at Digidesign, giving him access to ProTools recording equipment and knowledge of how to use it.
Digidesign, at it's old location in Menlo Park, had a fairly complete studio set up which was available for employees to use. For some reason the studio was seeing almost no use during this time, so Craig booked 2 or 3 sessions to record something with Puppet Show, to learn on the equipment and to possibly produce a decent demo to send to 'record labels' (or whatever they're called now). Basically, it just seemed like a good idea to take advantage of the opportunity to get a decent recording for free.
The band came in for two evenings to lay down the tracks for 'As Ye Hath Sown', which hadn't been considered album material for a couple of reasons, and was not in the original tracks recorded at Hound Sound.
There were several problems with getting the recording gear in the seldom-used studio functional. However once up and running, Matt laid down the drum tracks in a single take (after one warm-up) while listening to a rough recording of the song on Mike's portable DAT player in headphones. He clicked his sticks through the quiet sections for timing.
The drums were miked with assortment random mics found in the studio. Craig was basically producing these sessions... and not being especially knowledgeable about microphones, did his best to mic the kit in as short a time as possible. One unfortunate short-coming was that there weren't enough mic stands to get Matt's whole kit *and* two overhead mics. As this was 'just a demo', it was decided to just go with the single overhead mic, which caused some problems down the line in the CD's final mixing phase.
Craig recorded another buzzy bass line with his Washburn direct in the control room.
Chris had a cold at the time, but managed to record through his guitar lines. The ending solo was somewhat uninspired, but all things considered it was decided to call it a night. It was just a demo, right?
The next session (possibly the next night?) started in with Sean's vocals, which he mostly nailed 1st time through. They were recorded using a mid-priced AKG mic. There were a few overdubs, including a slur that turned the lyric "And the traits in you...", which occurs near the end, into "And the traits-eee-wooo". All of the overdubs were fixed to everyone's satisfaction.
Then the keys were tracked mainly on an Emu Emax & Korg DW8000. Matt hung around with Mike and Craig for the rest of this session.
'As Ye Hath Sown' predated Mike in the band (actually, the lyrics even predate the band itself) and Mike was interested in making the song more his own - bringing more of his influence into it. He suggested adding a keyboard solo after the three part vocal harmony towards the beginning of the song. He fiddled about with ideas, and with feedback from Craig & Matt composed the solo directly 'to tape'. The flute section during the first quiet vocal passage was composed the same way.
By the end of the night, we had what we thought was a pretty decent demo, but would later prove to be a pinch-hitter for 'Cenotaph' during the mixing phase of the CD.
May to June, 1996Digidesign's offices moved to a new location a little before May 1996, and the new location did not have a studio, thus eliminating any further access to that resource. However, at the new location, Craig had a private office, containing his test gear and providing a good location for tracking to ProTools. This was also convenient as the hard drives containing the original tracks of what would become the Traumatized sessions lived in Craig's office.
Craig had bought a new Tobais Killer B 5-string bass around May, so decided to re-record most of the bass tracks (all songs except 'Cenotaph') to eliminate the buzzing in the original tracks. Bass was recorded direct to ProTools through a tube pre-amp pedal, over the course of 4 or 5 evenings after work.
Also during this period, Mike had purchased a Studio Electronics SE-1 (monophonic lead synth strongly in the mold of the MiniMoog), so several unfinished keyboard solos and mono synth parts were recorded here too. The SE-1 also tracked the ¡®bass pedal¡¯ parts in ¡®Marathon¡¯ and ¡®In the Heart of Man.¡¯ He re-recorded some existing tracks with sampled Mellotron parts from the Emax, as well as recorded other 'clean-up' parts and 'ornaments' (including the first thunder clap in 'Relativity'). All keys were recorded direct to ProTools (888 interface, pre-amped via a Mackie 1202 mixer, same as for the bass tracks).
Also during this period, Craig was using some of the Puppet Show sound files ('The Ring Of Truth' specifically) to perform tests on the latest Digidesign software and hardware. He happened to reverse some of the instrumental section one afternoon, and on a whim dropped in some of Sean's vocal track (recorded at the Annex) where he was complaining to j that his levels were jumping in and out in his headphones. The band approved the little tribute to Sgt. Pepper and it eventually became to closing section of 'The Ring Of Truth'.
Back at The Annex, the tracks recorded at Craig's office were integrated (digital to analog) from ProTools to the 2" 24-track reel-to-reel master, which around this time, concluded tracking for the CD... or at least we thought. Oh how wrong we were.
Some initial mixes were attempted with varying results (mostly unsatisfactory, it was turning out to be the Puppet Show/Grunge sound, with keys mixed towards the back).
Due to the realization that the mixes would take forever and/or bankrupt us at The Music Annex (not to mention our growing distaste for all-night weekend sessions), a decision was made to have Paul Elliott do the mixes on his 32-track ProTools system at his home project studio, Paragon Park Productions. This required the 24-Track analog tapes to be transferred to ProTools.
With only a single 888 ProTools interface (8 channels of output) available to do the transfers with, each song took 3 passes transferring 8 tracks on per pass (taking up a total of approx. 6 gigabytes of hard disk space). The first pass was recorded in the ProTools session file with SMPTE sync, and the subsequent two passes had ProTools and the 24-track reel-to-reel synched
Due to this transfer, a significant number of the tracks, including the drum tracks, were in their third incarnation, having been transferred twice between recording rigs. Some of those tracks, went from digital, to analog, to digital again.
During the sessions for transferring the dual 2-inch tapes to ProTools, the second thunderclap was selected from a sound library at the Music Annex and added directly into ProTools (and later placed in the track).
June to November, 1996
Mixing began at Paul's project studio.
Initially, Paul was to put together partial mixes to be presented for band approval. However, due to miscommunications about the material's condition and unforeseen complications that took up much of Paul's time, mixes proceeded extremely slowly, even with Mike making several trips to Paragon to help Paul with the unfamiliar material.
Eventually it was agreed that the mixes would be completed with Mike and Craig (and sometimes Sean) in attendance while Paul edited the mix.
Mixing activities occurred off and on during this period, with final mixes of 'Relativity', 'In the Heart or Man', and 'Marathon' (in that order) being completed.
Over the course of the mixing, Craig and Mike more or less assumed the primary job of setting track levels, with Paul providing feedback.
At the end of this period, Craig managed to buy a ProTools system of his own, so the last two mixes were to be finished on this system, and sessions at Paragon were discontinued.
around October, 1996
It became apparent that a couple of guitar lines would simply not work due to original recording quality or limitations at Paragon, so, the opening swells from 'Relativity' and a line from 'In The Heart of Man' were re-recorded in Chris' garage near a fairly busy urban throughway.
The guitar amp was miked with a SM57 connected to Mackie 1202 mixer, which fed an output to Mike's ESI-32 sampler (which he had acquired by this time).
The guitar lines were recorded into Mike's sampler on two different occasions before band practice, then were transferred through an Eventide H-3000 into the ProTools session files at Paragon.
It is somewhat ironic (and depressing) to note that these are some of the best-sounding guitar lines on the entire CD.
November 1996 to June 1997 (?)
The progress at Paragon Park was extremely slow, so it became clear the album wouldn't be finished with Paul at Paragon. Craig had his own ProTools setup by this time, so the decision was to finish the last mixes at his house.
Unfortunately, this also meant doing the mixes in headphones, as Craig didn't have any suitable mixing monitors.
As Mike had by this time acquired his new Emu ESI-32 sampler with *much* improved Mellotron samples, the string and choir tracks in 'The Ring of Truth' were re-recorded direct to ProTools. The strings were additionally preprocessed with a Lexicon Vortex for a somewhat 'phased' sound. While at it, the piano lines and the etherial synth pad during the bass break in the instrumental section were re-recorded for this same song (the original piano take recorded at the Music Annex having suffered a 'technical difficulty' at Paragon Park Productions).
It became apparent, as the final mixes were being slowly assembled in headphones, that 'Cenotaph' just wasn't working out for to a number of reasons, the main ones being the 'grunginess' of the guitar parts, and that it was a very busy song written at a time when the band didn't include keyboards... and the keys were never really integrated in properly.
The decision was made that 'As Ye Hath Sown' would stand in for 'Cenotaph'.
This required that the bass line be re-recorded to eliminate the original buzzy Washburn track. Craig had by this time replaced the Tobias with a 5-string Rickenbacker, and it was used to redo the bass track (which had also been somewhat revised in the ensuing months). Mike now also possesed the superior Mellotron samples, so the flute parts during the first quiet vocals were re-recorded. A new ending guitar solo was recorded, but Craig somehow lost the new track, so the original late-night solo had to be put into service.
Also somehow lost was the overdub of the "traits-eee-wooo" flub mentioned above. Such an obvious mistake needed correction.
Lacking a proper studio environment for doing any quality vocal tracking, it was decided that since we couldn't approach the audio quality of the vocal tracks recorded at the Annex, we should try for effect-oriented tracks.
Sean recorded three overdubs of the closing verse, the first recorded with an SM58 in one of Craig's spare bedrooms. The other two were recorded with Sean in the spare bedroom singing into a cordless phone, and a SM57 recording the voice on another phone in the living room. On one of the phone tracks, Sean spontaneously ad-libs during the closing late-night guitar solo to add a little fun and interest to the section.
There was still the recorded segment of Sean ribbing the snoring Chris recorded at j's studio, which we had intended to use somewhere. Since 'As Ye Hath Sown' song didn't have as much 'fade-out quality' as we wished, even with Sean's bantering, we wound up just letting the song play out longer than it should, somewhat disintegrating with the playing becoming more sloppy and bass dropping out, then cut in directly with a section of the Chris snoring episode (which had acquired a fair amount of processing during a session at Paragon Productions, as the original 3 or 4 minutes of snoring resided on the lead vocal track of Marathon after the end of the song). Unfortunately, the abrupt cut into the snoring got softened a fair amount during the mastering process.
The bass and vocal tracks were recorded to ProTools via a Mackie 1604vlz mixer & 888 Interface.
The final mixes were done in mid summer (maybe early June?) then sent to several music labels for listening, and a deal was struck with Kinesis around July 1997. The mastering was done in October 1997. The artwork was also done sometime in the fall and the entire completed package sent to Kinesis in November or December 1997, when the entire package was sent to the CD replication house. It took a couple of months there before the final thing was completed and released in March 1998.