THUS II Terminal Journal: The final sessions
I've spent the last week tweaking THUS II track by track, rerecording some elements, and streamlining overall production.
After releasing the 'Unlimited (Gapless) Edition' in April 2011, I felt content...but not fulfilled. So I opened that door back up, sprucing a few tiny things up here and there, beginning with a few minor volume issues. I remember adjusting the volume on the guitar solo for 'A Brighter Future', deciding to bring it up front as a proper lead part, as opposed to simply a texture/mood element. As weeks passed, I continued to adjust details and clip any loose ends. Feeling somewhat comfortable with my results, I put it behind me and began recording demos for the next album. As I sold more copies of THUS II, however, I wondered why I still felt a sinking feeling handing them to buyers. After an extended break from the songs, I listened to the whole thing while driving. It was official: I was still unhappy with my result. After sinking so much of myself into this work the previous couple years, I was unable to settle for a job that didn't feel perfectly complete. I improved the drum pattern in the chorus of 'Killing the Beautiful', laying it down the way I'd heard it in my head for so long. Listened back to the result, I instantly knew i wasnt't needlessly obsessing over trivialities. I felt 'Crime Scene' needed a completely new recording so I sat down and banged out all the instruments, then vocals, all in a single session. I even added in a couple new lyrics. The recording was superior to the original...but something was still off...
In October money problems that started in August got worse and session work waned a bit. I also got wrapped up in a holiday musical parody project which helped break up the THUS work. After the holidays, money began rolling in again, the parody project was done, and I felt ready to see the project through to completion. in the last week, I've been separating drum MIDI tracks into Kick, Snare, Hat, Toms, and Cymbals, setting dedicated equalizers to each - which made an INSANE difference in clarity. Originally I avoided this to save CPU power...but separating the tracks hasn't taxed the playback engine at all. Oops. I'm realizing this was one of the heaviest drawbacks marring my THUS II experience. I could have saved myself months of creative agony by simply separating & EQing the kit, but no would have could haves. I'm just happy ve finally broke down and done it. So far, I've done this to 'Killing the Beautiful', 'Clones', 'Leave Me', 'A Brighter Future', 'Low Life', 'Lease on Life' and 'Dead End' (tonight). This of course involved remixing the overall gain and eq of the songs. Along the way, I've done extensive rerecording (all new bass parts with an Ibanez Sound Gear 5 string bass with active pickups and achieving a lot more natural sounds I was aiming at originally, numerous new guitar rerecordings with a borrowed digitech RP 250 which shit the bed two days ago, and many new vocal takes, benefitting from the fact that it is no longer subjected to the wear and tear of working with the public 6 days a week, resulting in more controlled, clean vocal tones and accuracy of pitch without the strain of the previous recordings). It has been qn enlightening, encouraging week and I feel freer than I've felt in 6 years as far as THUS is concerned. I will continue to perfect this work until I feel it is ready for a final release. More to follow...
ENTRY 2: Sat 3/10/2012
Sunk 5 more hours into polishing up 'Dead End' which, if you've listened to it you understand, is quite a handful of production. There are around 14 vocal tracks which I dedicated 6 Eq's to before bussing them. In the process, I recorded cleaner vocals in the pre-chorus sections where the apocalyptic church choirs come in. Nice improvement, especially with the Eq's.
Last night I rerecorded the entire bass track, aiming to improve sound fidelity and performance. You'll hear a big difference. Both my fastest and most intricate bass playing yet. I had a little trouble making the bass guitar intelligible through all the instruments and vocals, but turned out with a pretty audible mix on it. I may return to improve it. Time will tell.
As with all the songs, I did as much subtractive mixing as possible. All the music on THUS II was simply too noisy. Gain has been the most significant issue through this whole process, and it's easily avoided. So the overall level of Dead End has come down, but where there was ear stabbing gain, now there is air and clarity, making this track much easier to absorb. I had to bounce the song and give it the home stereo test about 3 times before I felt good about it today. Totally worth it! All that's left to do is rerecord the guitar tracks at some point in the near future. I plan to fix up 'A Brighter Future' next. I've already separated the drum midi patterns and all thats left to do is mix the thing down. This is another tune I've already gone and rerecorded guitars on with 1/2 the gain on the drive, or amp distortion to keep the notes intelligible. Afterall, ANYBODY can write music that's just heavy as fuck. But who wants to just do that...? Talk to you after the next session.
ENTRY 3: Mon 3/12/12
Yesterday evening I located and purchased the Line 6 Pod HD 300 from a guy out in Worcester MA. Totally worth the $250 I got for trading in my Hoffner B-Bass guitar...(it usually goes for $350, so either way...) This multi effects unit sounds so genuine, I don't think I'll need another modeling board for a very long time! There is a lot of fresh tech in it so Ive read. I spent some serious time today getting to know how to make optimal use of the HD300, and then proceeded to record a couple new guitar tracks for 'Killing the Beautiful'. Joyous over the upgrade, I laid down some patch up tracks on the lead vocal and recorded all new harmonies in the chorus, then Eq'd them, noticing that I'd never Eq'd them before...but that's it. I'm not heading back into anymore of the songs I finished last week. They're cut off and done - with the open possibility of select vocal redubbing.
Anyhow, I returned equipment lent to me for this THUS post production project this morning. Unfortunately, I'm now missing a suitable bass guitar for my sonic needs. I'd like to pick up the model I borrowed to round out the rest of the songs, but I've got my hands full for now with guitar & vocal tracking, and drum midi Eq'ing. Finally, tomorrow or the next day I'll revise 'A Brighter Future' and finish it up. Generally, these songs have required 2 sessions each to get polished up to my liking so that's where I stand with that tune. Likely 2 sessions. After that, id like to get going on guitars 'Dead End' which will complete that song...but one step at a time. This is SO much work!! Wish I was going to get paid a ton of $$$ to complete it. For now, THUS II is just a labor of love. At least FINALLY there's more love than labor happening...and you're gonna feel it!!
ENTRY 4: TUE 3/20/12
After a week of thorough experimentation with some new equipment, I carried on cleaning up 'Dead End', retracking the main guitars, and a few lead parts. I activated a compressor on the vocal harmony Aux track, and brought it up in the mix which made the harmonies much more intelligible. The kick received a little more 'slap' around 1.4 khz and cleared a little eq space in this range in the left main guitar part, tightening up the Q, and gingerly adjusting the emphasized frequency...now it thumps AND slaps. Thats what she said.
I'd attempted polishing up 'A Brighter Future' earlier last week but the results were unsatisfactory so I've left it alone. Plans are to go back to it when the mood strikes. That's what she said.
Still to be considered are 'Surface Depth' (where I will probably only adjust the overall gain) 'The Way We Want' (which may receive a considerable overhaul), 'A Brighter Future', 'Between the Lines' (where, again, I will likely only adjust the gain, but perhaps rerecord the guitars), 'The Line', and 'Crime Scene' (minimal quick cleanup issues), and finally 'Lease on Life' which barely needs any work. I can't say exactly when I will be done but id say it's about six or seven full days of work til it's ready to be heard. Thanks for being patient~(Thats what she said)