Sunday, February 7, 2010

recording diary: a history

music and sound recording has been an interest to me for years. i remember sitting in an empty church listening to jeremy playing u2 songs on the piano. as jeremy went through these self-discovered arrangements, the songs took new life in my very keen relationship with the irish band. the thought kept going through my head that this is the music i wanted to listen to: relevant, personal versions of songs i was familiar with. sooner than later jeremy would play for me original songs, put together a band and started playing shows. i caught the dream when jeremy gave me the first cassette he recorded in his bedroom on an already outdated boom box. i gave my girlfriend's little brother twenty bucks for an old stella harmony acoustic guitar that he found at a yard sale and i tried to teach myself how to play. jeremy and i would get together playing originals and covers for each other and it became inevitable that we would begin a series of home recordings that would last for years to come.

bob, the bassist in jeremy's band, spent three months out of state at 'the recording workshop' and soon after we had pooled our money to get a tascam porta-studio four-track (the porta07). within no time, following suggestions and tips from bob and our own trial and error, deep end records... was born and homemade tapes came with astonishing frequency. jeremy and i would take turns with the equipment and usually when we made the handoff from one to the other we would write and record some tracks together. one such project was all original holiday music, songs written for christmas, thanksgiving, etc. i remember even having a labor day song. each song was certainly meant for our own amusement rather than mass consumption but that never deterred us from laying the tape. we always named our projects. the collaborations with jeremy were named something so completely strange and tossed off that i can't even remember what it was. i think it had something to do with clouds or pillows, maybe pillow cloud. whatever it was, it was goofy but that was just the beginning of the goofiness. jeremy, jamie and i recorded a couple of songs live with drums and keys (to this date, my favorite recordings) that we called the dakota bug factory, we even named the sessions "panana beel." like i said, goofy as all get out.

during this time eric was writing lyrics at a steady pace and mailing them to me to arrange into songs. we got together as theodore and played a couple shows, one of which we were able to sell copies of a cassette that our friend zac recorded for us. years later, on the first day of work at a new store, i was introduced to dunlap whose first statement to me was "weren't you in theodore? i still have that tape i bought at one of the shows you played." at that time i hadn't even realized that anyone would remember theodore nor that i had met dunlap while he was in high school and even had photos of him taken while we hung out with mutual friends.

eventually i moved to new hampshire and for the first year or so recording on the porta07 had become my connection to the friends i left back home. i sent down a couple of my north dakota tapes while getting tapes from eric (eightball), jamie (ladybug) and jeremy (xy and panic strikes a chord) as well as local (wv) bands; falooda, richard's anger, and the urban renewal project. it was a good time.

while in new hampshire i started a fourteen year stint with a retail corporation and found my songwriting and recordings curtailed considerably. i recorded some things with melinda (clary sage), madelynn (maddy & the evil five), barbara, chris press (crispy), the beloved jay jungles (lost blues), matt (tin foil star), and others that i'm sad to say i can't even remember. eric and jeremy came up to visit once and we recorded some stuff together. i remember sending jeremy tapes with unfinished tracks of song sketches and jeremy would finish the songs and send them back.

during this time i became much more serious about my faith and concluded that it was pointless to write and record songs about trivial subjects. i wanted to focus on the personal and practical exercise of my faith. my wife, susen, calls it God-music. justified sunshine became the new moniker of my own recording projects, leaving behind the name north dakota.

eventually, eric moved up to new hampshire completing our church band, damascus road, as well as drumming with a band called crimson bridge. i recorded some of their songs with mixed results. it was new to me to multi-track a full band and the sessions presented challenges that i hadn't encountered before. i had always recorded to satisfy my own muse, so missed notes or random feedback often made their way onto my recordings. recording the band caused me to use the input and preferences of a separate group of artists. i had to get on tape what they desired to sound like. it was a wonderful experience that gave me the dream of recording bands as a full-time gig. unfortunately, i never really pursued that as a career goal. my retail life consumed me and i was never disciplined enough to pursue it on the side.

that retail life gave me the opportunity to move back to wv and start a family. i'm not sure what happened to that porta07, i assume that jeremy kept it but maybe it just bit the dust. it had served us well for more years than we could have expected. i didn't really do anything musically for a short time but soon i discovered the recording possibilities of the personal computer. while in a band with bob (shakespeare), i was involved with some recordings on marcus's computer. they both knew what was going on with the software applications and the equipment used so i just soaked it all in while the wheels turned in my head for a new recording outlet. almost immediately i purchased a small mixing board, a versatile soundcard, and a copy of syntrillium's cool edit pro (v.2). my love for recording was rekindled and i recorded a few things as time allowed. at one point a band that dunlap was playing with (sarasota) asked me to record some of their songs. just like the crimson bridge sessions, i encountered challenges that excited me about the possibilities. and, just like the previous several years, my retail life took over and i never really pursued those possibilities.

now here we are in 2010, close to twenty years away from that afternoon in an empty church. my retail life is over and i'm open to new possibilities. i purchased a new (to me) digital four-track that combines the porta07's simplicity with the versatility of the pc. my new equipment is the tascam dp-004. i'm looking forward to a new paragraph in the story of my recording life.

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