The Making of 'The Truth of Stories'
1.) What happened?
It all started when my good friend Daniel, who also plays bass in ADT, said he might be able to get us some free studio time. It worked out; and on an oppressively hot summer day in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a couple of guys schlepped their equipment into one of the nicest recording studios in New York to document the music they were making.
Converse, yeah the sneaker people, are well aware of the fact that no one has associated their shoes with anything athletic for at least 50 years. They are well aware that the majority of people wearing their shoes, and continuing their legacy, are musicians. And their way of giving back to that community is helping artists get free studio time. So in we went.
2.) Why these tunes?
My first challenge was picking the material. At the time of writing this, I have close to 100 original songs. All styles of music, all 12 keys, and lots of different time signatures. I wanted to pick songs that featured everyone's strengths: "the carnival sounds of Brett Ginter", Ted and Dan's uncanny ability to harmonize on the spot, on accessible songs I have written, with a fairly liberal amount of (what a good friend of mine, Kevin Reilly, once referred to as “guitar heroics'“.
3.) How do you make sure your band is tight?
The next challenge was making sure we didn't screw the pooch with so much on the line. I've seen situations where bands get vibed out by the pressure of having someone push the record button. I would never doubt my guys' abilities, but they can and will attest to the fact that I like to go into situations overly prepared.
So in addition to our usual rehearsal schedule, I booked a gig the night before the recording session. And we rehearsed the night before the gig. And we rehearsed on Monday, as usual. In short: rehearse Monday, rehearse Wednesday, gig on Thursday, record on Friday. We played the same 8 songs all week. Repertoire comes from the French verb repeter-- to repeat. I think you'll hear, when you listen to the album, that the band was (as my good friend Mike Pandiscio would say) firing on all cylinders. We knew (and still know) that repertoire backwards and forward.
I knew that going into that situation expecting 8 finished songs was unrealistic, but I knew if we went in there and killed it that it was possible. Given ADT's performance record, even plausible. Playing those 8 tunes on 4 of the 5 days of that stretch was the best approach for this group.
4.) Guitar nerd stuff
I used a maple neck Fender Strat the entire session, with Fat 50s pickups. They had a fairly standard Fender Twin reissue with no modifications to my knowledge. The effects chain was a Maxon AF-9 (though I never wound up using it that day), Fulltone FB-3, Keeley Oxblood, Keeley Katana Blues Drive, Keeley Magnetic Echo.
I've used Keeley pedals since '02 or so, he brought a tube screamer back to life that I've had since high school but had been beaten to death from years of gigging without a pedalboard. In addition to the reincarnation, he did what was called the 'more/less' mod to the pedal. From 9:00 to 3:00 were the standard tube screamer parameters, but the knobs go from 7:00 to 5:00. So you get that much more, and that much less drive. In addition to the wider parameters, it brought the tone to life. It gained a permanent place on my pedalboard, and I've been a devoted fan of his work ever since.
I weaned myself off of tube screamers but stuck with Keeley's overdrives. I thought for sure the Oxblood would be my high gain pedal, but on the session it was low gain; and has been working it's way to becoming a clean boost.
It's funny, because of the mix in the headphones, I couldn't really hear too clearly whether or not the amp was doing a thing or not. Sounded fine, but it wasn't until the end of the session that I really heard those overdrives kick that Twin into high gear-- when we listened to the tunes to pick which take we would use. The guitar solo on “Chasm”, and the melody at the end of “All the Lies”are where I think the most notable guitar tones are.
5.) Vocals, mixing and mastering
Dan and I recorded our vocal tracks in his Brooklyn apartment, and set up the microphone in the bathroom. The natural reverb from the tile has been a trick in home studios for years. We also used a unidirectional Shure SM-57 microphone, which is a microphone more commonly used for guitar amps in live settings. It has been said that Michael Jackson used this mic to record the Thriller album, but the internet is in an uproar over whether or not that's actually true.
I told my friend Dave, who did the mixing, that I wanted an overall 'wet' sound; lots of reverb to the record. Overall, Dark Side of the Moon is a good reference point for the overall vibe I wanted to get.
Due to some kind of bouncing snafu, he had take all the vocal tracks and line them up manually. It was a tedious process, especially for someone not familiar with the songs. He would send the mixes via Dropbox, and within the first or second round, we had it very close to the way it is as you hear it now. Dave lives in Orlando, and I'm based in New York City, but luckily he wound up in the city just as we needed to put the final touches on the album.
I've said it a million times about this whole project-- you want something done fast, you want it done well, and you want it done cheap. We did not have a big budget for this album, so we obviously went with done well and done cheap. But given those circumstances, I don't think that it could've come out any better. To do so would have required the budget of a deep pocketed organization willing to let us sit in that studio for a month and make sure everything was perfect. Eight hours sufficed, and I think the overall product is something you'll enjoy listening to.
Listen to the single “Hypnotized”!
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Adam Douglass has been playing guitar for 25 years and teaching for a good 20. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York where he is an instructor; and plays with his band doing his original music, jazz standards, or whatever other gigs might come his way. His guitar of choice is the Fender Stratocaster, though if money were no object he'd have 3 or 4 of everything. He prefers tube screamer-like overdrives and clean boosts, with touch of analog delay. Hit him up at email@example.com, as he is always happy to discuss interesting topics.