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Notes from Underground

October 14, 2011, 15:09 -05 by chris
Filed Under: Blog, Randomosity, Studio [0] Comments

Have we really not updated this thing since…Janua…really? Well then. Time for another rudely sporadic update.

Settling in to new digs – we’ve both moved house again over the past year (from Ballard to Ballard and from West Seattle to West Seattle, with such attendant benefits as no longer living directly above a noisy pub, or blowing much less money for much more square footage in a much nicer neighborhood), which always means more downtime than anticipated. Much, much more. I always seem to grossly underestimate how long it takes to move even a relatively modest ‘home studio’ setup, and this time I seem to have set a new personal record. Going from ‘home office’ to ‘bonus room’ (gotta love those real estate agent bullshi…uh, ‘euphemisms’, no?) to spare bedroom the past few moves was one thing – you’re essentially shlepping the same stuff from one rectangular-shaped room to another.

Now we’re (back, like we were in the early 2000s) in a basement, and along with the too-easy jokes about being ‘underground’ musicians came days-turned-into-weeks-into-months of patching concrete, sealing noise ordinance and heating bill unfriendly holes in walls, attempting to make a basement look – and sound – slightly less like a basement (if you stand here, face North, and squint your eyes just so, anyway), a certain amount of superficial electrical, duct, and plumbing work (“Laundry Room Studios” was already taken, so the washer and dryer had to go), two minor floods (so far), two vanloads (so far) of ASC Tube Traps to keep the existing OC 703 panels from getting lonely, demo-ing and/or moving a ‘workshop’ workbench and shelves (which were built in-place, as no way were they making it through any doorway in the place), and on and on.

Then it was time to move in the gear, get gear out of storage there wasn’t room for before, and work the ‘sunburned sound dude on the outdoor summer festival’ circuit for Monopoly money to buy still more gear, until everything’s just as cramped and elbow-to-elbow as it was before. “If you turn around too quickly, you’ll smack into something and snap the headstock off a guitar”? Ah, feels just like home.

Then it was time to wire everything back up, with actual patchbays, like real motherf*cking adults (hook up ALL the things!). Which somehow always requires more cables than you have, which cost more than you want to spend, even if you’re standing next to a floor-to-ceiling stack of banker’s boxes full of cables, which itself is in front of a wall of shelves of bins of still more cables.

Then I decided I absolutely needed to squeeze a bastardized drum kit into both of the remaining square feet of floor space. This was followed by the “could have had a V8” forehead-slapping realization that if you run a bunch of XLRs back and forth across even a very modestly sized room for headphone amps, three sets of monitors plus subwoofer, tie lines, DIs, mic cables going from the basement to the attic (don’t ask), and the like, you are left with a significantly larger number of microphones than you have mic cables, particularly if you want the drum microphones to be on the opposite side of the room from the sorts of things that microphones get plugged into. And you’ll need more mic stands, too.

More guitar-bass-drums and other instrument and gear aquisitions, more software and hardware updates and upgrades, we’ve currently got a Minimoog on loan courtesy of Glenn from The Walkabouts (Quick! Redo all the synth bass parts!), another small human was brought into the world, and…oh yeah, we really have actually been working on music, and it really will actually be (almost certainly self-) released at some point.

You know how musicians and recording engineer/producer types are always carrying on in magazine interviews about how songwriting, recording, releasing an album, or performing is “like having a baby”? I wonder if any of those people have kids, because trying to put together something album-like and hopefully convince some strangers to listen to it is nothing like having a baby. Curiously, I’ve not yet noticed any kind of significant contingent of female musicians saying that inflicting “music” on innocent bystanders is “like having a baby”.

“Sorry, honey, I know you could probably use some help with the kids right now, but the dudes in the band are trying to have a baby here!”