Sunday, November 21, 2010

Studio Stories, part 5

"I'd now like to quote the great American poet, Jamie Jasta.

'I can justify your suffering, can you justify theirs?'"

Chuckles rippled through the crowd. The guitars, bass, and drums tore into Hatebreed's* song "Filth" and laughter fell into pure fucking chaos. Multicolored confetti flew through the air, so much, and so thick, that I had to wipe my eyes every few seconds to rid them of the build up. Kids punched out ceiling tiles and smashed them on the ground releasing fiberglass into the air and our throats stung and skin itched instantly. People hit walls, did flips, circle pitted, stage dove, crowd punched, beat the stage- it was absolute mosh mayhem. I ran back and forth, partly singing and partly laughing, and then, before I knew what was happening, completely puking.

Big unchewed chunks of stew and soggy bread spewed from me all over some dude's arm. Thankfully, he was looking back at the venue getting destroyed** and missed it. With puke caught in my nose and myself caught in a total gross-out, I thought, "God damn it, I knew I shouldn't eaten before we played!", and skipped to other side of the stage before anyone noticed what'd happened.

It was my tendency to puke while singing that I was thinking about the morning we recorded vocals. How to give myself enough sustenance to make it through the day so I didn't carpet Mike's garage in vomit. Early eating. That was the key. James, Dave, and I woke up and went to Harrison St for (vegan- duh) french toast and biscuits and gravy. Bleary eyed I drank coffee and watched Richmond's cornucopia of sub-culturals filter into the cafe. I was finally getting to make my contribution to the new songs, and while the coffee didn't do much to help me cope with the morning (I see very few mornings), that energized me. I was ready to record.

At Mike's, I grabbed a mug out of his parent's kitchen and microwaved the first of my zillion cups of hot water that day. Warm water helps keep your throat loose (that's what she said), and when you're going to spend 5+ hours screaming, you reaaaaally want to make sure you don't do any damage.

A side note for vocalists: It's very easy to damage your throat while singing for a hardcore band. It's very easy to lose your voice as well, and when you're say, on TOUR, that's mega bogus. So let me share a few tips with you:

1. Always, ALWAYS warm up before you play (shows, practice, records, whatever.) I start by humming up and down scales for a couple of minutes, then I sing scales. Up and down, I belt it out- going as high and as low (and loud) as I can. This warms up the ol' chords, and just like warming up before lifting at the gym, it helps prevent injuries. You'll feel really dumb while you're doing it, but it will save your voice, so suck it up and do it (... and, that's what she said.)

2. Drink room temp/hot water before you play, if possible. (A literal warm up.)

3. Drink as much as possible during playing.

(for more info here's something Greg Bennick wrote on the subject and those zen of screaming dvds that everyone raves about)

We started with the song that was the hardest for me to do. In the new record, I tried some new things- and in that song in particular, I sang. Not like, sang sang, more like screamed in key. More Rancid than Crowbar, if you get what I mean. Anyway, it was challenging.

After that song was finished, Mike and I were in the kitchen getting drinks and he turned to me and gingerly said, "Soooo... Davin, that song took 2 hours to track- I'm not saying that that's bad, it's just... well, if they all take that long..."

I assured him that the rest would go quickly, and they did.

"Yo, lemme do that 'blahp' again, that one wasn't hard enough..."

Recording hardcore is ridiculous. It's especially ridiculous when you're recording "uhhhs" and "yeahhs" and noises that sound like hocking loogies. Let me try to paint this picture for you.

You're standing in the middle of a garage with a dude you only kind of know. In front of you is a mic stand with a giant spit guard/noise dampener which is so... clunky... and stationary... that you kind of feel like you're in Aerosmith. You have gigantic headphones on that block all noise but what comes through them, and what comes through them are your songs, and you have to pretend they're being played live and then scream in that big quiet room, in front of a dude you hardly know, who does not hear what you're hearing- he only hears you yelling. And since you're probably passionate about your subject matter, you're worked up, huffing and puffing, dripping sweat while he's kicked back in his chair drinking a soda. It's a very unnatural environment for hardcore. How do you whip up energy standing in a room with only 1 other person it in, and he's sitting half asleep in a chair? How do you make your songs feel live when they're recorded in bits and pieces over days and days?

But forget that, and imagine that scene again, only instead of shouting your oh-so important words, you're belting out, "BLAHP!" (or "huuuahhh!" or "bwllleaaahhp!") And of course you can't stay still when you do that, so you move a little. In front of the big Aerosmith-y mic stand. And how do you move when you're blahping, Mr. Tyler? Probably like an idiot. I know I do. Robby Red Cheeks' cheeks ain't got shit on those of a vocalist recording grunts.

Despite that, when all is said and done and you've thrown an echo effect here and there, you're glad that you did it. In fact it's the greatest thing you've ever heard. The "blahp" is a fantastic and unexplainable phenomenon, hardcore's version of rock and roll's pointless "la la la"s, existing to serve no purpose other than to please the ear. But why, I wonder, instead of a melodic vocal tune do we prefer a mucousy sounding expectorant cough?


Hours passed and the dudes ate a couple of times, but I didn't. The sun fell and the garage grew dark and I sang empty-bellied. It had all gone well, in fact I wasn't even hungry, theeeeeen at some point in recording song 6, the puking started. But because I hadn't eaten since the early morning I didn't really puke, I frothed. I'd scream a few lines, then my mouth would fill with white froth. Another few, froth. Yelling, frothing. It was gross. But in the name of song 6, I pushed through.

Then, without warning, the room spun around and I saw spots. "Ineedtoeat... right.... nooooowwwwww." Thus ended day 1 of vocals for me.

After some Chinese food Dave recorded his back ups. I laid on the couch, my entire body feeling like it was shutting down. My head spun. My muscles ached. My temples pounded. When Dave and Mike were done, we loaded into the car and, in tired silence, went back to the warehouse and went to sleep.

*Covering Hatebreed is debatably lame. We know this. It's not as unforgivable as covering, say, Guns Up or Down To Nothing (both of which we've seen- and I'm sure you have too- numerous times), but it's still not really all that cool. But you know what it IS? Fun. So much fun. And you know what's lamer than covering Hatebreed? Getting so caught up in what's cool and what's not that you become so self conscious and cautious that you forget how to let loose and have a good time. If what we have in our hearts is what we take to our graves, I sincerely hope I don't take myself too seriously even 6 feet underground. That ain't no way to live or die.

**This venue was getting bulldozed the following day, it's not like we encourage the ruining of show spaces- we don't!

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