Recording Diary

Diary

We set up camp slightly north of Avalon
Nestled between the hills and the beach
Bryan Ferry was continually crooning in my mind the whole time I was there
When the samba takes you out of nowhere
And the background’s fading
 out of focus
Yes the picture’s changing every moment
And your destination 
you don’t know it
Avalon
Actually this was the ideal place for our grand experiment
The weather was perfect
Lazy north shore clouds drift across the sky
And we broke the peaceful quiet
Loading an enormous amount of gear into a small guesthouse
This album is predestined to be different from anything I’ve done before
Not a computer in sight
No timetable
Minimal overdubbing
Recording completely live to a 1” reel to reel TASCAM tape machine
In fact we had 6 days in which we plan to get 12 songs recorded
With a 5 piece band
And one engineer
Here’s the line up: Me on acoustic guitars and vocals


Jamie Hutchings
(who many will know from his recent solo outings
Or from his long history with Bluebottle Kiss)
Jamie played electric guitar and percussion

In fact Jamie recorded his wonderful last solo outing
Avalon Cassettes here in this very same guesthouse

Scott Hutchings on drums and percussion

Reuben Wills on double bass

Adam Lang on banjo, lap slide and pedal steel

Chris Colquhoun was our tireless/long suffering engineer


Jamie also fulfilled production duties
Adding his customary sandpaper, grit and spit to the tunes
Reuben and I set up camp in the lounge room
A bookcase was the only thing between us
To help prevent too much spill into each others microphones
Jamie and Scott set up their percussion in two separate bedrooms
And Adam played his banjo parts
Sitting outside on the balcony
His microphone picking up birds, street noise, barking dogs
And all kinds of other suburban sounds
That will infuse their way into the musical blend of the finished mixes


For the first time I had to nail my guitar parts and vocals in the same take
I was a little nervous about that to say the least
But we’d been rehearsing hard and the band was in fine form
Making my job so much easier
Copious amounts of green tea was consumed in the mornings
Chris’ special blend – 5 or six green buds per cup blended with jasmine


After lunch tea was replaced with Coopers
We moved quickly from one song to the next
Making snap decisions
Jumping from a 1920’s style dixie to a calypso
A folk song followed by an old-fashioned country waltz
Jamie tells me when I’m rushing my parts
I’m always rushing my parts
I sit ahead of everything in the groove nearly all the time
He tells Scott when he’s playing too far behind
He’s usually still playing the end of the previous song
When we start a new one (in joke)
His behind the beat drum style
Is just like his laconic speaking style and laid back temperament
Between the two of us we create a lot of musical push and pull
Reuben is unshakeable
He takes up the double bass a few months before the recording
And plays it like a pro from day 1
Adam only ever seems to need one take on the banjo
The usual question at the end of every take is
“Was that OK?”
Adam always says, “Yes!”
As the rest of us mumble dubiously about our bad notes and missed cues
Jamie played the electric guitar on this album
In his own unique and individual style
This was the first time I had relinquished my guitar role
And I agonized over not playing the guitar parts myself
But in keeping with things remaining as “live” as possible
I let it go…
(…And loved his parts)

Lots of guitars were used on the album
(For the gear heads:)
I played my somewhere between 1900-1910 Lion & Healy parlour guitar, painstakingly restored by The Guitar Repairers:

1957 Hofner arch top:

Maton EBG808 Artist
A 6-string ganjo
And Jamie’s Martin Acoustic:

Jamie played his Jazzmaster:

And my 1957 Gibson ES225:


Thru my Swart AST Pro amplifier
And pedals used: Malekko Echo, TIM, ZVex SHO and a Boss Blues Driver

Chris used to play in a Sydney band called Browning
And he may have been dying to pick up a instrument most of time
Especially when listening to me cause six false starts
Or rush my gan-jo tracks
But he managed instead to have marathon-ic concentration
Never missing anything and constantly keeping us focused
A true master of the mixing board

Aside from the obvious work of getting the songs recorded
We started our studio book group
Surf magazine, Smith Journal (required reading) and a Cormac McCarthy book were being read
Adam created memes on his phone
Jamie organized his upcoming interstate tour
Chris anxiously googles “align the tape”


Reub and I discuss the vagaries of the term “my grandfathers axe”
(Can an axe still be called “my grandfathers axe”
If the handle and head have been replaced dozens of times – Does the axe remain the same?)
Angus and Julia Stone’s father pays a visit
(He lives close by)
And invites us to a beachside jam session
Scott quietly creates his own kitchen workbench
On a plank of wood balanced across 2 pillars
And proceeds to bring out bread, tuna and olive oil
Much to Adam’s astonishment/amusement as he downs a burger and fries


We all discuss being weirded out about the fact
That the toilet/bathroom currently has no door
This discussion becomes more interesting after we all go out for Indian
We work through til about 11 each night
And crash out in the guesthouse doubling as a studio
At the end of the first 3 days the bulk of 10 songs have been laid down
Adam, Scott and Reub head home
And Jamie, Chris and I remain to record some more
I record 2 more songs
One on my own
And another with Jamie
These two will most likely end up as bonus tracks
As I’m hoping to make a succinct, shorter album this time around 10 tracks in total
And next up the horn players arrive
Gregory Bennett – a young student
Turns up with a tuba ($10,000 tuba!!) and trombone
He manages to decipher my scrawled charts And gets his parts down quick


Lee Hutchings arrives in a whirlwind of sound
And completes the Hutchings family trifecta
He gets out his (very loud) clarinet
And fills the room with Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman licks
Assuring me that he will get a couple of the licks down in his take
And quickly tells us where we’re going wrong with our note choices
In the arrangements and manages to make things Sound “more Dixie” in seconds
Having listened to Lee play Sax, clarinet and flute since I was a kid
Finally getting him on one or two of my recordings
Was a truly unforgettable moment
His natural soulfulness and ability to swing hard on a multitude of instruments
Make him a pleasure to listen to


Next up was Jochen Gutsch
A soundscapist running a one-man musical art fest in his project HINTERLANDT
Jochen is a multi instrumentalist who I played a show with a year or so ago
My jaw hit the floor watching him in action
And it was brilliant having him stop on by to lay down trumpet on a few tracks


His jazz trumpet was smashed on a flight and was still in repair
So he brought a very old classical styled trumpet for the parts


He also laid down his parts super fast
Then he too was gone
On the last day Scott and Reuben returned

And we
Stomped
Clapped hands
Shook things
Dropped things
Thigh slapped
And drank the last of the brandy and gin

Scott sang in his low baritone

We all sang together in sailor’s voices
Then as Austrians swinging their beer steins in ¾ time
Or as a chain gang
And when Reub and Scott left
Jamie and I continued overdubbing a few barbershop quartet style parts
A little melodica, some six string ganjo
And suddenly our 6 days in our north shore paradise were over
Gear was packed up and loaded into cars
The studio returned to looking like a guesthouse
We said goodbye to our gracious hosts Charlie and Leanne
And we all hoped that what we’ve captured on two spools of one-inch tape
Contains just a little Avalon magic
PS I’ll be posting all our photos to my tumblr if you’d like to see more

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