Tracking and Transmitting in 11 Days - Day 4-7 (8/29-9/1)

The next few days are condensed into a single posting.  We faced two major tasks.  The first was to finish the album and submit it for mastering.  The second was to promote the release show and make sure enough people showed up so we'd actually achieve our goal of raising money for MusiCares.  

Finishing the Album:  I received some great advise from Ken on this subject.  He said to put it into the order you'd naturally put it, and then listen to it relentlessly on shuffle and move things around so they feel natural.  i had already selected an order of the songs, but this guidance caused some important but subtle tweaks.  I couldn't tell you exactly what those tweaks were but i can say that i feel really good about the flow and order of the songs.  In order to make the CD release, i negotiated a date for mastering of 12:00 am on 9/1 with Panic Studios.  I realized during this process why Panic Studios was such a great name for a mastering facility.  I also had an intensive process for creating a physical copy of the CD.  I never intended to create a physical CD but several experts suggested that i do this, and in hind-sight this was a good call.  Kevin Veatch who i met through some business contacts created a beautiful 6 panel CD that presented the value of the music and the cause and beautifully showcased the artists.

Promoting the Show:  This was where Ken came back into the mix.  Ken had a really important show at Bumbershoot.  He played a major role in organizing and performing at the Big Star Third show on Sunday, 9/1.  It was an amazing line-up featuring Jody Stephens, Mike Mills, Peter Buck, Mike McCready, Jon Auer, Mike Musburger and other rock luminaries (e.g. Scott McCaughey) who graced the stage..  It was truly the who's who of this genre of rock and Ken played a massive role both on and off stage.  For me, the importance of this (besides being able witness this historical event) was that, ostensibly, there were a lot of Ken Stringfellow fans within the mob of fans.  I had two highly targeted promotional opportunities.  The first at the KEXP music lounge private show and the second at the Big Star Third show itself on the Mural Stage.  My daughter in tow,  I worked the crowds in both places and told them about our music, the cause and the show.  Not sure what my ultimate hit rate was in terms of "getting out the vote," (i.e. getting people to come to the show) but it was a heck of a lot of fun talking to all of the fans and hearing their connection to Ken, Big Star and the Posies.  

At the end of a very long day which started with We Are Scientists and ended with The Head and the Heart with a couple of Big Star shows sandwiched in the middle (and let's not forget the Replacements), I felt my music gas tank was overflowing.   I couldn't help but note the ironic twist of fate that I had seen the Posies for the first time live over twenty years ago in Key Arena at Bumbershoot and Hey Marseilles on the Fisher Green Stage four years ago.  Both of these shows played a pivotal role in where i was musically on that day.

Also i had a great feeling for Ken having pulled off a heroic and epic show with Big Star's Third. And when i got home i uploaded my CD for mastering right on time at 12:00 am on 9/1.

Big Star's Third featuring Ken Stringfellow with friends Mike Mills, Peter Buck, Jon Auer and others.  Amazing show.  Fans in LA should try to check out the upcoming show in that city.  it should be equally amazing with additional guests including Aimee Mann.

Big Star's Third featuring Ken Stringfellow with friends Mike Mills, Peter Buck, Jon Auer and others.  Amazing show.  Fans in LA should try to check out the upcoming show in that city.  it should be equally amazing with additional guests including Aimee Mann.

Mike LuceroComment
Tracking and Transmitting in 11 Days - Day 3 (8/28)

This is the day it all came together.  

Most of the day was low key.  No morning coffee ritual.  No commute to a recording facility or mixing studio.  In fact i had a full day at the office.  

The day actually began a week or two earlier. Ken had asked me to find a studio where we could finish mixing. One of my Collective members, Ira, had told me about Orbital Audio a few weeks before and introduced me to Joe Reineke, the owner.  As a matter of fact,  we shot a music video there for Waltz #2 (I'll be editing this over the next month or so, so you'll have something to look forward to).  I shared the details of the facility with Ken and it was a no-brainer that we would finish the mix at Orbital.  

Ken spent most of the day hunkered down in his abode preparing the final mix on his PC and he Uber-ed to Orbital around 9 pm.  I actually had a rehearsal that evening in Auburn at Peter Benjamin's and got to Orbital around 10.  It turns out that Joe and Ken had toured before so they did a little reminiscing .  Alex Willson also joined us, although Joe, Alex and i spent a good amount of time hanging in the 60's styled lounge as Ken was in the thick of it pushing the SSL to the limit.  We were there for about 5 hours (till 2 am) and i spent at least three of those hours with Ken in the main room as he was finishing the song.

It was like watching an alchemist doing his craft.  This was a high quality room and Ken took advantage of every nuance and piece of equipment in the room.  At about 1:30 am we ended up with our release candidate.  It embodied the energy, the theme and the power of the concept that was originally conceived.  We were both completely satisfied with the final product.

There is a truly special feeling that i had for the first time that night.  It's a true high that any creator must experience.  I can see why people keep creating and creating as there is no more special feeling when a vision comes to life.  A song, an album, a painting, a poem, a film.  I can see how all of these would conjure up the feeling.  

That night we drove back Ken's abode around 3 am.  We were exhausted but elated.  Ken was going to Bellingham the next day and i was going back to work.  Regardless, we had completed a three day odyssey that yielded an artistic achievement.   What was also amazing was that we had done this all in three days.  This was the fastest any of the songs on the album had been recorded and finished, and it was in large part driven by Ken's musical and engineering mastery and our combined instincts on what would be right for the song.  You can find a link to the song in the "Listen" tab.

We would have several more amazing experiences upon Ken's return from Bellingham that would happen on subsequent days.

Mike and Ken after a first listen to the Release Candidate of "The One That Matters"

Mike and Ken after a first listen to the Release Candidate of "The One That Matters"

Mike LuceroComment
Tracking and Transmitting in 11 Days - Day 2 (8/27)

Today was a totally different day but started the same with a pick-up in Seattle, followed by a coffee pick-up at the Ballard Market.  Today was even more thrilling than Tuesday, as the composition began to take real shape.  Colin Richey had set us up with Jupiter Studios (a pretty famous Seattle Studio in Wallingford).  Jonas was our sound-engineer and took good care of us (the legendary Martin Feverear was on vacation, which was why we got a killer deal at the studio). As it turned out this was where the Posies had recorded Dear 23 (the first Posies album i was exposed to), and Ken was a bit sentimental about the location and the room.

We had a fascinating drum tracking session with Colin.  Ken wanted Colin to go with what he felt rather than provide him specific direction.  Ken provided Colin with a number of clues but remained somewhat evasive about the direction he was giving him.  Given Colin's instinctive approach and style, he was able to go down some pretty interesting rabbitholes.  Colin asked for a vocal scratch track about a half a dozen times and Ken kept "forgetting" to do so.  Finally Ken admitted that he kind of liked not giving Colin direction.  The end result was an insanely cool relatively free-form drum part that worked perfectly with the environment and the narrative that the song was trying to convey.

The amazing part of the day was when we tracked vocals.  I'd first felt the special quality of the melody and lyrics when we did the demo, but seeing it all come together live was larger than life. i also went in the actual room where the recording occurred to shoot video and it was even more awe inspiring.  You will be seeing this over the next few weeks as i edit together the music video.  We wrapped the session with some background vocals and bass.  it was a great session, with lots of sentimentality due to the location.  

After we wrapped we went back to Ballard and listened to some cool projects that Ken had recently worked on in Belgium.  This was a very long day but felt very satisfying.  i knew we had the raw material to create something great.

Mike LuceroComment
Tracking to Transmitting in 11 Days Day 1 (8/26)

Today, i begin blogging for FM Collective.  I will soon also vlog, but i need to get my video act straightened out first, so stay tuned.  I'm super stoked about my first series of blog posts.  I'm actually going to go back in time three weeks from tomorrow, when Ken Stringfellow and i began our creative odyssey that resulted in an amazing song being recorded, finished and then released on-air on KEXP before our launch show which happened this past Friday.  As this seems relatively unusual for this to happen, i thought it was worth memorializing.  I will also be posting some photos in the photo gallery when i get that up and running.

The odyssey actually began late last year (approximately 11 months ago) on October 14th when we agreed to write a song together.  It took us another few months to get started in earnest although we were riffing via email and Skype on the point of the view of the song and a more precise thematic approach.  One of my inspirations was Benjamin Britton's War Requiem which celebrated it's 50th year anniversary in November.  I heard about this on an NPR story as i was driving to a tracking session at the "Barn" in Four Corners when i heard the story.  This helped clarify a number of thoughts on the song that ended up in the final piece as well as some of the sonically dramatic moments.    After a mobile phone recording that I sent to Ken and him doing some basic ProTools tweaking (taking it from an indulgent 7 minutes to a radio friendly 4 minutes) we locked on structure and lyrics.  We knew we were going to be in Seattle in late August around Bumbershoot and some Posies show, so picked our first date for tracking. 

AUGUST 26, 2014

Day 1 of tracking was scheduled at our house.  I picked up Ken from his abode in Seattle and we did the obligatory caffeination en route.  I had arranged some equipment from the legendary Steve Smith from Creatio at Northwest University in Kirkland that we picked up on our way to the house.  Ken set up the gear and we began tracking piano by mid-afternoon.  It took us a number of takes at different speeds to find the pocket and the exact arrangement but we eventually nailed it.  Ken was adept at helping me find that pocket and gaining the confidence to "nail" it.  Nailing it, of course involved an hour of Ken cleaning up my performances but the end results sounded very nice indeed.  We took a break for a family dinner (Ken is an incredibly gracious and likable guest and charmed the family with his wit and kids are now huge Ken fans even though his music harkens from a different era than Katy Perry).   After dinner, i got a glimpse into the magic when we started adding in a few textural layers.  Some guitar noises and acoustic guitar as well as some digital cello gave me a hint of where we were going, and the energy of the song was palpable.  After i sent Ken home in an Uber, i  had a hard time sleeping, with the piano and the textural noises rattling in my brain.  Fortunately the stress of the piano tracking sapped enough energy out of me to let me fade into a slumber.

DAY 1:  Ken and Mike Tracking at Mike's house

Mike Lucero Comment