Saturday, September 19, 2015

Rockin' Out at Rockin' Horse

Drums? Check.
Harmonica? Check.
Totally rad and wildly inappropriate Iron Maiden t-shirt? Check, baby.
Let's rock.

Today I got to spend the day at Rockinghorse Studios slapping down some fat beats for my buddy, Steve Blunt. Yeah, baby. I was droppin' them like they were hot.

Every year, Steve records a new song for the library summer reading program.

Steve at the studio. He is obviously not ready to rock, as he is NOT wearing a rad Iron Maiden shirt.

 I feel obligated to whine a bit about how hard it is to be a drummer.

1. Lots of stuff to schlep around.
2. Very hard to whip out your drum set at a party and impress the ladies with your smooth music.
3. Lots of stuff to schlep around.
4. That stuff is heavy.
5. And there's a lot of it. Did I mention that?

To help with the schlepping, I conscripted my charming 14-year-old daughter, Tori, to give up her entire Saturday so she could come to the studio with me and help me schlep equipment.

"Plus," I explained, to sweeten the deal, "You'll get to see me in my totally rad Iron Maiden shirt."

Tori rolled her eyes so hard I could hear it.

She packed 2 books to bring with her because she has been to the studio before and knows firsthand that creating masterpieces of rock and roll basically involves playing the same song over and over and over and over until you want to claw chunks of your brain out just to get the song out of your head.
I swear this is true - these are the two books that Tori chose to bring with her. Anne of Green Gables and the Special Forces Survival Guide. She is one strange little cookie. But don't tell her I said that because now that she has read that survival guide, she can probably kill me and make it look like an accident.

We arrived at the studio and were met by Brian and Josh, the evil masterminds behind the mixing panels.

Brian setting up the drums. I refuse to touch microphones at his studio as most of them cost more than my house. Plus, Brian doesn't let drummers touch anything. Ever.
Brian indicates that he is through by throwing up devil horns, the universal signal for "I am through setting up microphones around these drums. Do not touch any of them, you filthy drummer, as they cost more than your house."

Joe, the fabulous bass player arrived and the party really got rolling.

Whoa, whoa, whoa... calm down there, Mr. Joe, you crazy man. This is a recording studio, not a kegger. And where is your rad Iron Maiden shirt? Doesn't anyone read my emails?

Here's how making a song works:

1. Steve writes a song
2. Steve sends us a demo version of the song that he recorded at his house.
3. We listen to the song and come up with some cool parts to go along with it.
4. We practice and practice along with the demo.
5. Two days before entering the studio to do it for real, Steve sends us a new version of the demo that he recorded at the studio. This is called a "scratch track".
 6. We realize that the "scratch track" is completely different than the song we have been practicing with.
7. We cry a little.
8. We go to the studio and completely make it up as we go along.

(Please note that when I say "We", what I actually mean is "I", because Joe is actually a really good, professional studio musician. He can fake it like a boss. I cannot.)

Before we started playing, Brian made sure that I, as a drummer and therefor prone to drooling and sweating and dragging my knuckles across the floor, was properly insulated from the rest of his studio.

Brian closing me into "The Drummer Box".

Brian closes me in even more tightly to assure that none of my drummer fumes can contaminate the studio. Please note my totally rad Iron Maiden shirt.

Once I was securely in my padded enclosure, I took careful note of my surroundings.

Tissues, conveniently located within reach for the inevitable weepy breakdown when I find out that we have to play the song "Just one more time."
Personal sound mixer so I can "unintentionally" turn the click track off and Brian won't know.
The view from behind the drums. Please note the protective glass between the studio and the booth, where the producers and engineers sit in luxurious comfort, far from the reeking drummers and their rad Iron Maiden shirts.
Little jellies stuck to drum heads to prevent ringing sounds. Brian hooked me up with one that looked like a little man and I was distracted throughout the entire recording session watching the man jump around every time I hit this drum.
Steve brings beer and tells us that we can't have any until we play the song perfectly. He cracks it open, takes a long pull off it, licks his lips and walks out of the studio and into the booth where he proceeds to smoke giant Cuban cigars, drink fine, imported beer, sit in a hot tub, and get a massage by the in-house Swedish masseuse. At least, this is what I assume is happening. I can't actually see out of my drummer cave.
Tori did manage to snap this candid picture of Brian hard at work during the recording session. I can't see the masseuse, but she's there somewhere. I know it. I just know it.

After we're all settled in, we play the song two or three thousand times and we're done!


"How about playing some harmonica?" Steve says, waving a beer in front of my sweat be-dewed face.

I knew this was coming. I was ready for it. I even went out and bought a brand-new harmonica, just for this moment.

A few weeks earlier, Steve had hinted that I might want to check out the harmonica solo in the song "What I Like About You" by The Romantics. He thought something like that might fit well into his song.

So I learned it. I played it over and over and over and over. If you have never played a harmonica, you should know that they can be played by inhaling or exhaling, each direction producing a distinctive sound. The solo Steve had asked me to play had almost no place for exhaling. But I played and played and played, risking debilitating pulmonary damage each time.

But I learned it.

I told Steve about it and suggested that he might want to start saving up for the iron lung (NOT the Iron Maiden shirt) that I was going to make him buy for me when my lungs exploded.

"Oh," he laughed lightly," I didn't mean that you should memorize the solo. I just meant something like that."

"Ha, ha," I wheezed from my perforated, tattered lungs.

But when harmonica time, I nailed that solo.

This is the view from behind a shiny gold harmonica microphone that probably costs more than all our houses combined.

Inhale more.
Carpet on the floor for when I pass out.
"Ha! Ha! We're not even recording this! Where is that masseuse? Steve, pass me another beer!"
"Sure thing, Brian! You can have Marty's beer because he's coughing up blood from his hemorrhaged lungs. Ha! Ha! Ha! That's so funny. Hey, masseuse, you want a beer, too?"
Still playing! Must be the super powers I've developed because of my rad Iron Maiden t-shirt.

When we were finally through, I staggered from the studio, gasping for air and dripping with sweat.

"Hey, man. Don't sweat on my carpets," Brian said as the masseuse massaged his feet.

I collapsed in a quivering heap on the floor, but fortunately for me, Tori had her Special Forces Survival Guide. She whacked me on the head with it a few times to revive me. That thing really works!

Then we headed home so we could start schlepping equipment back into the house.

I can't wait until it's time to record next year's song!

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