Archives for category: Studio

Recording this album has been a rollercoaster ride! So much going on, It’s easy to forget what you were doing and what you had planned to do. Case in point: I almost forgot to post this particular blog. It was just sitting there, doing nothing, on my hard-drive. Fortunately, I get nostalgic from time to time and browse through some old folders,… So sit back and enjoy another great tale of studio bloggey goodness!

20-03-2013
So today we returned to the studio for recording of all the doubles, backings, triples, quadruples ect. I hope this will go faster than the initial recordings, because frankly I’m just dying to get this record out there. Today we started with two songs “Breathe to Aspire” and “Smother the Sun”. The plan is to move work ahead with these two tracks and finish them up completely so our booker/manager/pimp Wietze can go ahead and use these tracks for booking and promotion.
I must say it was surprisingly fun and relaxed revisiting the songs and I think I might have done a better job than the first time over. That’s fine. In that case the lead will become the double and the double will become the lead,… if that makes any kind of sense. Anyway, we didn’t have a lot of time today, but still I managed to complete everything we intended to record. So now we only have to record Mark, Mike and John’s vocals and then these two songs are completely finished,…. Awesome!

26-3-2013
Today is my father’s birthday (congrats, dad!) but that won’t stop me from starting the day of with some vocal recordings. I have not mentioned this before, but do you know how a lot of cool studios are built inside converted farm houses and barns? Well,… Stef lives in an actual barn. Together with a bunch of horses, goats and chickens. So if some of our songs remind you of the famous ‘Goats yelling like humans’ Youtube video, then that is why. Stef also receives special affection from one particular chicken. Stef said he only fed her once, but now she comes running every time Stef opens the door of his house. The guy is a chick magnet. Anyway, we didn’t do any screams or growls today, but just stuck to the clean parts and wrapped up two songs. It wasn’t long before I was back on the train. I had a birthday to attend, after all…

01-04-2013
I met up with Stef in my hometown of Amstelveen earlier in the day so we could pick up a bunch of cabs at my studio for re-amping. Over the years a whole bunch of my friends and former bandmates kept their stuff in my art studio, because I have a lot of space there. I never charged them any rent or anything, and in return they allowed me to use their stuff for the Selfmachine album. This meant that we had a lot of awesome gear to choose from.
Before I forget: today was the birthday of our very own drummer Ben! While he was indulging in presents, cake and lemonade, the rest of the band got together at Stef’s place to record backing vocals. All the guys needed some time getting used to the recording process and I was happy to provide them with some vocal coaching. Actually, I was kind of surprised that my suggestions were of any help at all. I’ve been a vocalist for a couple of years now, but being able to do something and being able to explain it to someone else are two different thing entirely. So a big win there! In the end, Mark decided to take a mic home with him so he could record in his own time, while Mike and John just nailed it right there and then. After all their obligatory parts were recorded, I decided to experiment a bit and try to add some vocal harmonies for the last chorus of ‘Smother The Sun’. I laid down the basics and then John and Mark just improvised some extra lines over it add some thickness. It turned out pretty sweet!
This means that (apart from Mark’s parts), ‘Breathe to Aspire’ and ‘Smother The Sun’ are now ready to be mixed so that our guy at Armada Agency can get to work on scouting labels. Yes, yes,… exciting stuff indeed.

01-04-13 Re-amp-machine

03-04-2013
Two days after the group vocals I was back again to continue my doubles and backings. As always, upon arriving at the barn I was greeted by the Love Chicken. We did two songs in clean vocals and then got back to doing some low pitched growls for backing vocals. So far every round of singing doubles for the clean parts have been a considerable improvement upon the initial leads. It feels great that the stuff that I was already quite happy with, is only getting better. I’m singing with more ease and confidence than ever. I even recorded some high pitched backing vocals that were way out of my reach the first time around. I don’t know why or how, but I guess I’ve made some kind of breakthrough, vocal wise. Awesome!

09-04-2013/16-04-2013
I’m running behind on this blog. It’s been a while since I wrote stuff for it and I can’t really remember the particulars. Vocals were done. Album proceeding as planned. Move along,…

Johnfukoff

11-05-2013
It’s been a while since we recorded vocals. We had the whole Oddland Tour (check out the other blog to know what happened there!) and just after that, Stef had to get surgery done on his shoulder. As soon as was possible (and perhaps a bit sooner) Mike, John and me went over to his place again to continue the backing vocals. It’s cool to be there with the three of us (not counting Stef), because this way, while one of us is screaming his nuts off, the other two can just joke around and have fun. Afterwards we all went out to dinner to a nearby snackbar called “De Bunker”. There I made the unfortunate decision to order the local specialty the “Bunkerburger”. This bizarre contraption made for one memorable meal.

Bunkerburger

28-05-2013
Today we recorded one of the hardest vocal parts of the album: Our ballad. Last time recording this song I did alright, in spite of having some problems with the highest parts. This time I really wanted to nail it down perfectly. I have recently started taking singing lessons and the little bits of vocal technique I got out of this really came in handy recording those tricky parts. Now a part of me just wants to go back to the first song and just record everything all over again. But if we wound do that, I will have learned even more stuff and have to record everything over and over and over again. I guess that’s just the way it works. This album is going to be killer. But the next one,… will be unbelievable!!

11-06-2013
When Stef picked me up from the train station he had the latest mix for ‘Miles Away’ blasting from his car stereo. The mix sounded great, although Stef said that he still had a lot of stuff to work on. We recently decided on a mastering studio, Split Second Sound, and this selection process shed some new light on what we want this album to sound like en how to achieve this. What really caught my ear was that there were some new vocal harmonies by Mark that I never heard before. They sounded awesome!! He really did a great job and his parts totally augment the song. Mark records his vocals at home and we really don’t have the time to go over every little detail together. But that’s fine really. This way I get to be surprised from time to time.
We recorded the doubles and backings for ‘iSybian’. I then went ahead and did some handclaps to be put over the second verse of the song. This is an idea I took from Quincy Jones’ work on Michael Jackson records. It might not be your typical sound for a metal album, but boy, that song sure sounds groovy now! After that we did a couple of verses for ‘Closing Statement’, the last song of the album. This means that next week could very well be my last day of recording…

20130511_173208

18-06-2013
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand,…. We’re DONE! First up I redid some of the bridge parts in Smother the Sun. After hearing some of the early mixes for this song I was a little annoyed by the nasal bass sound in my vocals, so this time I tried to make it sound a bit lighter and smaller. We also used a different mic to accentuate this. After that was done we did an extra ad lid in Void, that Mark came up with. Then we went back to work on Closing Statement. Man, this song is INTENSE! We are really pulling out all the stops to end this album with a bang. I tend to change my mind around quite a bit, but this song might very well be my favorite. I know for a fact that it is Stef’s favorite, since he had trouble applying his usual dose of sarcasm to the song. Now all this baby needs are some huge sounding gang vocals and we’re good for the final mixing stage!

-Steven

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So instead of writing one big blog on the entire process of recording, I decided to make a journal and keep you posted as things are progressing.

November 6th 2012
Today was the day we started the vocal recordings for “Broadcast your identity”. I was really excited about it. Not just because I was eager to get started, but also because this was the first glimpse that I got of the fully recorded (though unmixed) versions of the Selfmachine songs. All the other guys recorded at home, sharing Reaper projects and thus being constantly up to date on the progress. I on the other hand, were left completely in the dark. So these unmixed tracks,… They already sound killer! The finished product must really be huge!

First Stef (Hartog, our producer) and I discussed some stuff on how we wanted to go about this. Stef wanted to record all the lead tracks of the album first, then edit those, and then after that come back to do all the backing vocals, overdubs, choirs, gang vocals and so on. This kind of forces me to put a lid on my creative brain, dreaming up all these cool extra vocal lines on the spot. But he is right and the end result will sound better and tighter because of it.
I explained to him that I really wanted to record al my growls and screams using a hand held microphone. This way I can emulate the same movements I make with my head when I sing live. Having a mic in a fixed position has always felt uncomfortable to me and I have always felt that on previous recordings a lot of my screams sounded rather forced. Stef wanted to use his Shure SM-7 for all the screaming parts. This is not a hand held mic, so he came up with this cool construction using the top part of a mic stand for me to hold on to. This worked out great and I’ve never felt more comfortable while screaming my guts out.
We ended up recording the clean parts for 3 of the 11 tracks and doing the growls and screams for 2. After that we decided to call it a day. I suppose I could have continued a while longer, and in the past I have always pushed beyond that point due to deadlines. But this is the Selfmachine album, and anything less than my best is just not good enough. So,… stoked about going at it again next week!

SelfmachineVocalsDay1Blogpic

November 13th, November 14th 2012
Stef took an extra day off from work so we could get some serious work done in these two days. My voice was in better shape than the week before, already getting some routine in the recording process. We did some of the more intense clean parts, including our ballad song “Becoming the lie”. That song took a lot out of my voice, making the session a bit shorter than planned. But that’s okay. I think the results were worth it.
Stef also took the opportunity to shoot some pictures for this blog, Facebook ect. I was jokingly singing the words to “We are the world” and when we posted the picture on Facebook later on, Michael posted a reply asking what song I was singing,… He must have thought Stef was joking when he told him.
So,… 3 days into recording I tracked the leads for 6,5 songs. We’re halfway through the first phase. Not bad right?

November 28th 2012
We had some technical difficulties today. Stef’s mouse kept acting up due to static electricity. It made the signal of a single click get misinterpreted as a double click. A small inconvenience maybe, but a very annoying one nonetheless.
Fortunately, Stef and I found a great way of ventilating our frustrations: We blame Mark. Mark is the one who started this band, so technically everything, both good and bad, is his fault. Also, Mark continuously forgot to deactivate the record modus on his bass tracks. So there were many times where I was ready to do a take and I had to be interrupted because we weren’t recording.
At the end of the day we recorded 1,5 songs and made up a wonderful new fictional character: Mark The F@#&ing Mouse.

December 5th 2012
While everybody was preparing for the national festivities, I once again locked myself in Stef’s closet. As it turned out, Mark The Mouse was not so fictional after all! A real live mouse was running around in my vocal booth, trying to find the courage to run past me and into the hole in the wall that leads to freedom. Personally I enjoyed the company.
So close to finishing up the first phase of our recording I feel a growing need to overachieve. Also, the song we recorded today “Smother The Sun” is one that is very personal to Mark (the Bass Player, not the mouse), which also puts the pressure on me to produce my best stuff. In the end, I think I did. Now we only have one final song to go,… No wait! We forgot to record an entire bridge and a single long stretched growl… Whoops. Oh well, we’ll finish it up next time.

December 12, 2012
Today we tracked the last of the lead vocal parts. Also, tonight Stef will receive a feline house guest to once and for all get rid of Mark the Mouse. We have mixed feeling about this. We have gotten attached to the little fella’ rather quickly. But let’s get back to the vocals. First we finished up the final parts for Smother The Sun, then we got to work on the final task: Closing Statement. This is a really long and epic song that will be the last song on the album. Because of this, I also wanted to record it last. Just to get that feeling of closure, even though we still have tons of doubles and backings to record later on. Closing Statement is also the only song the band has never played in the rehearsal room. So I had never sang the lyrics  out loud before this day. They turned out be  pretty intense on the vocal chords, with a lot of high pitched rock singing and a bunch of really long sentences! When we finished recording all the parts Stef played the whole thing back to me and apart from two little things, I liked the track a lot! So we redid those last parts and I was back on the train to Amsterdam before I knew it! Stef is now going to edit all the tracks and select the best takes. After that I’ll be back there to double the entire thing up. Pffffff,… patience, patience…

To be continued next blog!

Cheerio!

Steven.

Hey there. John here to talk a bit about laying down some of the guitar tracks for our first album.

Before the actual recording, Michael and I divided the songs between us to get a more coherent sound in each of the individual tracks. We both have a somewhat different approach to some parts of the songs in terms of picking, which works perfectly live but could cause some inconsistencies in the guitar parts on the album. So after a talk with our sound-engineer Stef, we chose this approach.

Like Mark and Michael, I plug directly into my computer with a Lexicon Lambda. I usually warm up first with some exercises and after that I play through the segments that I want to record, before laying down the guitar parts. Mark had already recorded  his tracks, so I just had to play along with both Ben and Mark’s recordings. In the songs there are a few places where I only had to play the melodies live, so having the bass to follow groove wise when recording the rhythm parts was a big help. Like Mark already said in his blog: There is al lot going on in those riffs.

After recording most of the rhythm parts, there was still a lot of work ahead. In most of the songs there are a lot of lead parts and there were quite a few solos.

I also had to come up with solos for ‘Becoming the Lie’ and ‘Closing Statement’. There was never a real necessity to come up with solos for these songs before. This was because we planned on never playing them live, which was our first priority when the band came together.

While writing solos I like a hands-on approach, with a guitar in my lap. But instead of instantly just jamming, I like to take some time and get a melody in my head, sing it and then start playing it. Usually when I come up with a melody I really like, I start playing around with it. Do some quicker passages between important notes, sometimes a really long lick to accentuate the tonal center and sometimes superimpose some chords as well as the occasional outside playing. But I always keep the melody in mind.

For the rhythm, leads and solos I used my Bo-El MC-7. I’ve been playing this guitar for almost 5 years now and haven’t come across a better guitar for the things I want to do!
For the odd clean parts I used a Michael Kelly Archtop guitar. Even though I really wanted to use my Bo-El for everything, you really can’t beat the big clean sound of an Archtop.

Recording the album was really enjoyable. It took quite a bit longer than I expected it to, but it was time well spent. All the rhythm parts are quad tracked and all the solos and leads triple. Especially nailing the solos 3 times took quite a bit of effort, but it was a really fun challenge.

That’s about it. Cya at one of our gigs!

-John

John Recording

What’s up everybody? Ben here, drummer for Selfmachine. It’s time to back up and break down the drumbeat with a brand new big and bulky blog broadcast. (CCC-combo breaker!)

The drum tracks for our debut album have been making all kinds of gains and are now finished! It’s the first time I’ve written drums for a full album. Before Selfmachine came along, I’d written drums for various internet music forum projects and the band Alison Stereo, but I’ve left them for a band in which there’s much more room to broadcast my own identity! I like to write inspiring and experimental beats and fills, while still laying down a solid foundation for the track. Three years back I would not have been able to write the drums for Selfmachine’s debut album. It would’ve been too chaotic and unstructured. After ten years of maturing as a drummer, last year was the perfect time for me to join a new band and finally write my first album. The writing proces and freedom I get in Selfmachine exactly suits my needs and I’m very satisfied with the results.

Our debut album has very much been home-written. This is how I’ve written al my previous drumtracks as well. Mark writes most of the songs in GuitarPro with general guidelines for my drums. The parts are sent to all members and the first task is for me: laying down the beat. Instead of improvising behind my drumkit with the song in my earphones, I sit behind my PC and program the drums in Reaper and Addictive Drums. That way, I can instantly make changes and evaluate, which makes the writing fast and easy.

Behind the desk, I write in a phased manner. The first phase is ‘song support mode’, where I don’t let myself do MY thing. In my mind, I let master Mark enslave me as his puppet that only follows his steps. Ninety percent of this drumtrack will consist of quarter notes on the hihat/crash with bassdrum and snare hits on the accents of the bass guitar. This is the quick fix, no-risk way of writing what actually works fine most of the time, yet I often find it to sound rather boring and generic. Now that the foundation for the drums are laid down, it’s time for phase two: the visionary phase. I decide what kind of drumtheme fits the song best, in other words: What kind of defining beat and/or fills will set the tone and repeat itself in slight variations throughout the song.

After this ‘mature part’, I’m hungry for the dirty bulking phase. Here I write whatever I want, steal whatever’s available, create my own alternative and program drums I could not have thought of behind my drumkit. I don’t even care if I’m able to play what I write for the drums. The only limits I take into account while programming are the tempo and the fact I only have four limbs. For half the songs on this album, I’ve written drumparts that took me at least a couple sessions to master, mostly coördination wise. The drumintro for Caught in a Loop is a good example. By this way, I push myself to learn and grow as a drummer and to keep it interesting for myself and hopefully, others. At last, when the song is all ripped, shredded, mauled and torn apart with usually just too many drums, the fourth and final phase starts. This is where I get all serious and stuff. I let the song rest for an hour up to a couple of days, then listen back to it and evaluate. I decide if the drums unwantedly steal the attention, if the drumtheme is represented strong enough, if the groove parts actually groove and if the buildup of tension in the drums fits the song structure. I change the drums ’till I think the song is jacked, pumped and buffed up to maximum potential.

When my own evaluation is applied, I send the song with my drumtracks to the rest of the band for evaluation. These drumtracks sound quite realistic with Addictive Drums, making it much easier to evaluate. The critique I get, usually only consists of details, hardly ever about whole parts that need to be rewritten. I think it’s a combination of the freedom we all get to broadcast our identity and my writing style that flows with the rest of the band.

Finally, after all parts are set in stone, we record the final album. Since we’re called Selfmachine it would be logical to keep the programmed drums as they sound perfectly tight like a machine. However, in Selfmachine, a big factor is the groove. The only way to really get the groove going, to make it spicy and crispy like Dorito’s Sensational Salsa and to get it oily, sexy, lazy and laid back like melting dark chocolate, is to play the drums myself. With my semi-selfmade electonic kit made out of a Pearl Rhythm Traveler with mesh heads, DDrum triggers, Yamaha cymbal pads and an Alesis Trigger iO, I record the drums in the form of midi files. These are sent to our mixer Stef Hartog who creates the best sounding drums we can think of. When you compare the effort all musicians have to put in to record their work, I clearly have the easiest job. I only have to deliver a bunch of midi files, but that saves me time to write big bulky blogs like these!

I wanna thank Mark for giving me the freedom to go loose on eleven awesome tracks, Steven for lending me his cymbal pads and the sexy lyrics, Mike for instrumentally writing the most juicy song on the album: iSybian, John for the tight solo’s and Stef for the fat, yet clear sound. Can’t wait to let you guys hear the end result!

– Ben

Hey everybody! Here is Mark, bassist for Selfmachine, and it is my turn to broadcast my identity!

Of course we have been spending a lot of time recording our debut album. I luckily have the luxury to be able to record all the bass tracks at home because we are going to re-amp everything later on. So I just plug into my Focusrite and play some bass. Ben recorded his drum tracks first and I recorded with only those tracks blasting out of my speakers. So no guitars or guide tracks, just drums and bass. I did this because Selfmachine songs rely heavily on the groove and therefore heavily on the bass guitar. With Ben’s recordings already done (he did a freaking amazing job by the way!) I could just lay down the groove better if I didn’t have any other tracks distracting me.

When the album is done you can hear that the riffs differ a lot in timing. Some are laidback, some are fast and some are exactly on the count. These changes even happen within riffs. This creates some awesome grooves!

The recording process itself was heavy and long. All bass riffs are recorded in 3 layers so we can fatten the bass in the mix when we need to. This means that all bass tracks on every song are recorded 3 times. All the added bass lines are also done 3 times but are also doubled one octave above, again 3 times. I also recorded a lot of extra parts like double tap stuff and all kind af parts to extra fatten the accents of the riffs. To top that off I also used my fretless bass for some additional lines, mostly for the soft parts in our ballad and epic closing song of the album. These are two songs we haven’t played live yet, and I promise you we are going to surprise you with these! The recording process obviously took a long time and liters of coffee, but the result is awesome!

Without going into every song on the album I have to say that the recording experience was awesome. The bass parts on this album vary from basic stuff to two hand tapping parts, from 100bpm to 220 bpm and from simple bass lines to wildly progressive stuff I really had to practice for. A song like ‘Smother the Sun’ is fast and heavy but has the beautiful bridge that has the double handed taps in the middle which are a joy to play. A song like Massive Luxury Overdose is a mid tempo song with a great groove and an awesome chorus on the bass guitar. All songs really have their own character making them very cool to play.

For you gearheads out there, I played 3 different basses on the recording, all of them made by Mayones. It’s my privilege that I’m endorsed by my favorite bass builder. Lucky me! I used a Mayones Comodous six string with Bartolini pickups and Aguilar electronics, a custom Mayones Caledonius six string with Bartolini pickups and Taurus electronics and my beautiful fretless custom Mayones Comodous six string with Nordstrand humbuckers and Aguilar electronics. Give Mayones a visit at their website!

– Mark

Hey folks,

Here’s an update from Michael Hansen, rhythm guitarist for Selfmachine.

We have begun recording for our first album: Broadcast Your Identity. I find it very exciting and educational to be part of this band while creating this awesome product.

My guitar is plugged directly into my computer through my Scarlett 2i2. Instead of rocking out with a thick layer of distortion I will record all the parts completely clean and dry. Afterwards I will check them with FX or loop it through my Koch Supernova using a DI to get a good impression. Recording with this dry sound gives me a better insight into what I am doing right or wrong. The sound does take some getting used to, since all these metal riffs of course sound a lot better with the gain cranked open.

Every song I recorded had new surprises and challenges in store for me. Parts that I thought would be easy turned out to have much more variations in timing and feel, while some of the more technically complex riffs came flowing out surprisingly  easy.

Some personal experiences while recording these songs:

Caught in a Loop
This was the first song I recorded. A nice up-tempo and catchy song. The reason I started with this song is because this is one that comes easy to me. During the pre-productions this was also my strongest song. However, this time things did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. I recorded with some wrong settings in my computer. This resulted in me having to start all over again when I was halfway done. So I got off to a pretty bad start.
This song has a cool post-verse/pre-chorus (depending on your outlook on life -SL) with some nice layed back timing. I got the job done, but it took some time to get it right. The bridge of the song is straight up metal. No laybacking here. Just old school metal riffing.

Void
This song is kind of the odd one out of the bunch. Transitions from major to minor chords out of the same root. Up until the bridge the song mostly consists out of chords with some triplet-based licks. The bridge contains some of the first riffs I wrote when I first joined the band. All in all it was a pleasure recording this song.

Breathe To Aspire
This song I consider the essence of Selfmachine. It is the song we used as a demo track to form this band and we have played this song more than any of the others. Because of this, the recording went quite rapidly. It was fun for me to record this song again and try to make it even tighter and groovier than before

Massive Luxury Overdose.

This song took a lot out of me. After I recorded the entire thing, I deleted everything and started all over the next day. It just didn’t feel right. There are so many subtleties in timing in this song, having to play ahead of the time and then switch to layed back, sometimes even within the same riff. This took a lot of concentration, precision and a whole new approach for me to get it right. Anything for the groove.

iSybian

This is our groovy fun song. It contains a lot of notes, licks and tricks. It is paced at 212 BPM, but you can’t play the riffs to stiffly because you’ll lose the groove. When recording this song I made the same mistake with the settings as with the first song, so I could start again from scratch. It was my own damn fault, but still it sucked big time when I found out. After this I just felt too frustrated and couldn’t concentrate on recording anymore. So I took a day off and started fresh the next day.

The next big challenge ahead of me will be the last song of the album. It is the long and epic ‘Closing Statement’.

– Michael.