Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
Real engineering.

Real engineering.

Spent a great weekend doing preproduction recording for the band in preparation for recording our next CD, a 5-song EP we’ll be recording at Assembly Line Studios in Vienna. An abbreviated journal:

Friday, August 5

Kisses and hugs for the whole family as I leave for what Eleya suspects is actually a weekend of nothing but bacchanalian debauchery. She is, of course, incorrect, as this journal will indicate. (We actually did a lot of recording too.) Stop at Wawa for a coffee, since they have the only drinkable stuff I’ve found at any convenience store. Make great time on I-95, the Beltway, and the Dulles toll road, since I left the house at about 8:45 a.m.

Arrive at Rich’s house at almost precisely 10:00 a.m., cementing my reputation as freakishly punctual, especially for a musician. Load in the mountains of gear and then start refamiliarizing myself with Rich’s equipment. Our collection is not awe-inspiring, but it’s also not shabby. The console was a simple Alesis Studio32, the recording software Sony Vegas 5, monitored on a pair of Hafler M5 passive speakers powered by a Samson studio amp. There was the usual mishmosh of drum microphones, large condensers, and simple dynamic mics for scratch tracks.

Leah arrives at 3-ish and we set up her digital piano, and are pleasantly surprised at the quality of its sound. We’ve never heard it through decent studio speakers, but only through bizarrely configured stage monitors or on our very small practice PA. We take a small break for the next door neighbors’ sake, since they have naptime for their small young’un. They are apparently the kind of people who wring their hands constantly about waking the baby; my wife and I watched loud war movies after bedtime to ensure they would learn to sleep through actual warfare in our backyard. There could be a Second Battle of Fredericksburg and they would probably happily sleep through it.

Rich’s wife Kate makes a great chili, into which we dig with gusto while having a great time laughing and chatting. Whenever the conversation has a lull, Rich’s four-month old daughter Audrey gives us something to smile and talk about. We do manage to track a song before calling it a night at about 9. Rich and I said goodnight to Leah at 10, agreed to meet again by 9:30 or so the next morning, and proceed to work our way through a bottle of Port Royal rum while watching a Peter Gabriel concert video. I don’t realize the speed at which Rich is pursuing the bottom of the bottle until he stands up (or makes an attempt to do so) and complains about being “hammahed.” This will figure heavily into the next morning’s activities. Bedtime: 3:00 a.m.

Saturday, August 6

The alarm I set like an idiot the night before wakes me up at 8:10 a.m. My head’s pounding a bit and I feel a little bleary, but a shower makes me feel a little better, as does the French toast and coffee provided by sympathetic (if bemused) Kate. The first I see of Rich, he looks awful. I ask, “Hey man, how are you doing?” He says, “Awful,” goes into the bathroom, and vomits loudly and repeatedly. When he comes out he says, “I feel a little better now.” I think, “Well, I’d hate to think you suffered through that for nothing.” Realizing that discretion is the better part of valor, I phone Leah and push call time to 11.

Despite the fact that he probably still feels terrible, Rich does a great job drumming and we get a song tracked before a late but great lunch of sandwiches during the next-door naptime. Rich’s appetite is back, and he makes a monster deli gutbuster that has us all laughing, but he eats the whole darn thing so we shut up. This is apparently what Rich needed to recharge up to full capacity, since the rest of the day he is his normal good-natured self. All tracking finished for bass, drums, and piano, we move on to acoustic guitar overdubs and lead vocals. Kate makes a fabulous spaghetti and Italian sausage, and we finish on time at 9 again. Tom, our guitarist, will arrive tomorrow at around noon, Leah a bit later after a church choir gig.

Rich and I go out to meet Arch, a great guitarist whom we met and are trying to romance into a side project. We finally get to Bowl America after several wrong turns and have a great time with Arch and some friends from another band and their respective significant others. I never bowl — literally, never — but manage to eke out a 108 and a 110, so I’m happy not to be a total embarrassment. Hey, I bowled better than, like, two girls, even though one of them looked like she weighed less than one of my amps. We get very little time to talk to Arch so we head to the Silver Diner, where we hang out and find a lot of musical common ground before heading back to collapse at Rich’s house again. Bedtime: 4:00 a.m.

Sunday, August 7

Wake at 10, but not before waking at 7, 7:30, 8, and 9, thanks to Rich’s young son and the unfamiliar sounds of their house. Nevertheless, Rich makes omelets, so there’s that, then. Tom is there on time and busts such superlative musical moves that we are all dumb-founded. We decide not to cut on him so much at rehearsal, at least for the next couple of weeks until he does something else that really, really deserves it. We work through lunch and I do a very rough mix for everyone to take home.

Dinner is chili dogs, and after a fond farewell and mutual congratulations, I hit the road to come home at last. It was all worth it!


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