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worst recording studio sessions

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Kurt Foster, Feb 14, 2003.

  1. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Tell us about your nightmare sessions! Discuss....
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    Tannoy, Dynaudio, Blue Sky, JBL, Earthworks, Westlake, NS 10's :D , Genelec, Hafler, KRK, and PMC
    Those are good. …………………….. Pick one.
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  2. route909

    route909 Guest

    No hell sessions yet, but I´ve had singers do literally hundreds of takes on the same thing, without even nailing a single phrase correctly. One particular singer showed up an hour and a half late once, and I just told her to go back home again (I made music for her and she didn´t pay for anything anyway). :td:


    Mats
     
  3. BattleAngel

    BattleAngel Guest

    Though not my worst war story, this is the one that prompted me to start getting into production and engineering.

    I was feeling claustrophobic in my own project studio, which at the time was not stocked with great equipment, and I wasn't saavy enough to learn how to really extract the juice out of my rig (mackie board, motu 2408 mk 1, shures, etc - all stuff one can definitely make due with).

    So when I met a producer/engineer in a nearby state who had a great live room, superb 2" machines, and a ton of nice vintage tube stuff, I looked in to tracking there. He had a good track record- some CD's I thought I'd actually heard of, and he seemed to really dig my stuff.

    He called me up a week later and told me he really dug the tunes and wanted to do my record. He said he'd do every aspect, tracking, mixing, bringing in studio musicians (we had originally talked about orchestral sections, etc.), and mastering for only $10k! I didn't know much, but I knew that unless you're Boston, or Godsmack, or another band like that, a great record usually runs over $10k. Hell, my prog rock band's debut album ran about $6k by the time the 1,000 CDs were printed (and I challenge you to find a worse sounding record).

    But I somehow said "yeah, I think I could get that kind of money together." To which my new producer replied "Great uh... I need half now. 5000 in at most two months." Terrific. Immediately, I started to smell a fish somewhere... or maybe it was just the aerobic bacteria on the days old pizza that was by my phone... but in any case, I called him back and said that there was no way I was about to dish out 5,000 for this right off the bat. To come up with the 10,000 I was going to need to liquidate a lot of gear (I had a bunch of fancy guitar crap), borrow from family, and basically just scrape together whatever I could. This would take a while, and there was simply no time for me to come up with that much money (nevermind the fact that it would have been stupid to do anyway).

    So, being a reasonable guy, I think we settled on $2500 in two months, only to be payed after our first preproduction meeting. We had two preproduction meetings. Absolutely no preproduction occured. To this day, we never discussed arrangements, the flow of the track, instruments we were going to use in certain spots, how to strengthen the melody, or even PERFORMING the songs with any degree of flare or tightness. We did talk about time signatures, and click tracks, but in a very abstract way.

    Crunch time comes, the new producer needs the money for "booking the studio." Whatever, I'm getting antsy and I want to have something on tape (why are artists always so hasty to just be able to hear themselves, even if it's crap??), so I send him a check for $2500.

    After that, things actually started to look good! Extremely relieved to have my 2.5 g's to "book the studio," super-producer announces we have a solid 16 days-in-a-row in June to start tracking! I figure, I know my material pretty well. I'll have my bassist there with me, who also is very familiar with it. He had promised us lodging, so I figured we could hang around in the studio and spend a solid 5 days coming up with the final arrangements for the 5 songs we were set to record.

    Not that my plan was a good one by any stretch of the imagination, but even that didn't work out. Super producer announces that he's got a client on a label (more $) that he needs to track in june. He suggests breaking up our 16 days into chunks. Totally unusable chunks of like "2 days here, 2 days there" etc. I explain to him that I need at least 10 days in a row. God knows why, but we compromise on 6 or 7.

    We get there. Our producer, whose recreational habits I won't describe, is excited to start working, and so are we. Supa-Pradussa decided that we're going to use his analog stuff, and simultaneously use a lap top/sonar/motu rig for stuff. To what end, I don't exactly know, but whatever, I think, this is technical stuff I don't understand and will leave up to my bassist.

    (more coming)
     
  4. BattleAngel

    BattleAngel Guest

    All I knew then was that "it wasn't working." All I could understand was that we were trying to slave my machine to his tape machines, and the lock wasn't working. For freaking three days "we" work on this (mostly SP and Bass Player, I am usually walking about like a zombie, or sleeping on Supa's couch), amidst brown outs and furious heat. And oh yeah. The lodging we were promised was a couple blankets on an exposed hardwood floor in a storage room upstairs in the maddening heat of the studio. I might have actually slept there, but from the looks of it, I was afraid of waking up stuck by... I don't know. Let's just say it didn't look right, that the smell of human sweat was thick. So bass player and I crash in a hotel for the nights that were there.

    It turns out the problem was merely having the driver software on the screen while trying to operate sonar. This is a suggestion I made late on day one, but basically wasn't heeded. Admittedly, I only offered the suggestion very sheepishly. But whatever. Our first three day chunk (working 7-8 hour days tops maybe??) has been wasted. $300 bucks on hotels, probably $80 bucks on food.

    Whatever. Our 7 day block is coming up... two weeks into July. Supa says we'll track drums and bass. I'll get to actually HEAR some of my own music. My drummer is slated to come up 2 days after BP and I arrive. We do, with all of our drum, bass, and guitar equipment. Supa looks at it with disbelief- he doesn't anticipate that we'll be tracking bass. Greaaat. Whatever. Most of those two days, I figure, will be spent on fixing the studio. Supa assures me that we'll have time to get drum sounds, etc. BP and I set up the drums immediately, just so there is no excuse to start at least tuning them.

    Drummer boy (who is hilarious, and one of my best friends) will come and provide some much needed relief. The events of his arrival are foggy. I think that Supa insisted that he come with me to pick him up from the ferry instead of... I don't know. Setting up some mics, tuning the drums (which he promised he'd do- he was a drum tech for a few years after all!...sure), or ANYTHING productive. I figure that he came to assure our drummer that everything was running smoothly- to get him in the 'mood' so to speak. More than anything, I start to really suspect (at this point, there's no REAL evidence) that this album is never going to be made at this studio, and that Supa is starting to suspect (and there probably was evidence to suggest this), that I was starting to wise up and didn't want me talking to the drummer on the way up to the studio.

    (more in a bit)
     
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Wow, this is starting to sound like another famous thread on a different site but "from the other side of the glass". I can't wait for the next installment. I only hope that this one has an ending. That other one went for weeks and then was just left hanging...drag! Psst! no names please. Fats
     
  6. DigitalDon

    DigitalDon Member

    Two short ones:
    Band #1 - The drummer couldn't keep tempo if his life depended on it. He was trying things his "experience" (1 year as a drummer) couldn't support. We spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday trying to get it right. Finally ended up with a nightmare cut and paste session. The audio display on the DAW looked like a damn spreadsheet. Did I mention the lead singer arrived on painkillers after a visit the night before to the emergency room? The band promptly imploded permanently a week later.

    Band #2
    Lead singer shows up (actually someone had to go pick him up) 7 hours late after a late night of partying and abusing his central nervous system. Need I say more?
     
  7. BattleAngel

    BattleAngel Guest

    Cedar- Love Mixerman's thread! I didn't even think of it until my second post... I'd love to see Bitch Slap's take on that event... especially the bass player's ride in a hi-jacked limo lol... so I guess I'll write this as more of a MM type diary thing, but it's short, and the ending of this particular chapter is pretty definite.

    Okay so, without further interuption (and, of course, no names):

    Part III

    So right. The drummer arrives. Supa knows that our drummer, who we'll call Fats McFatbody, is a fan of eating. Not that Fats is really that fat, he just is constantly consuming horribly greasy and disgusting food. He was once the most athletic person I knew, but an injury to his ACL took him out of soccer forever. His raging appetite then went unchecked by exersize, and soon he lost all passion for anything in life besides eating. In fact, another nickname for McFatbody was "Passion for Eating" or "Passion" for short.

    Anyway, so the circa 40 minute drive back to the studio consists mostly of Supa describing the different food that we can eat here in H*******, *t., in an instinctive attempt to lure Passion on to his side. PFE likes Supa right away. He is also impressed, as I initially was, by the dazzling display of lights, the racks full of cool gear ("This was pulled out of a NASA [trails off without being too specific]").

    Now it is important to tell you a bit about PFE. First of all, he's a great drummer in terms of listening to other players and playing what the track 'needs.' He's got great instinct, is technically very able, and most importantly, has his own distinguishable style. However... he's mostly into Knights and Castles fantasy rock. Rhapsody, Dream Theater, Symphony X, etc.

    He, BP, and I had been the rhythm section of a prog rock band who's maniac leader had driven us like slaves for almost 6 years and had personally cost me a lot of money and emotional damage. The band dynamic that was once great and friendly had mutated into BP hating just about everybody in the band except for me, Passion hating everything except for food, and me having a bitter taste for anything fantasy.

    We were using Passion because I knew his style, because he knew how to listen very well, and because I loved his company. PFE's far from a seasoned pro, but I still felt like he was doing me a favor. My particular brand of rock isn't exactly his cup of tea. But he happily took off work for the alloted days and came up to record.

    The main problem, and this (and much of the story) was entirely my fault, was that with the exception of about a week of rehearsal, PFE had never played any of this material and we were far from having a lot of stuff worked out. Additionally, Supa-Pradussa's preproduction was a joke. With the exception of some totally theoretical click tracks and undeveloped arrangement ideas, we had no skeleton for any of the songs. Had we the 16 day block, we could have worked as a team and really hammered this stuff out (I know, because we have since then done that). But that was far from the case, and because our schedule was so sporadic, the days inbetween our first meeting w/ Supa and this block was mostly spent dwelling on how little we got done.

    So basically, we were ^#$%ed when it came time to record Passion because I only could only order him about in a fruity way like Bjork saying "I want clouds and rainbows crickle crash cram!" to her baffled studio musicians.

    Not that we would be recording him for quite some time. Even though BP had set the drums up the first day, Supa hadn't thought to tune the drums, or set up mics. During preproduction, Supa had assured me that he had my artistic vision in mind. He had said "Every song will have a very different drum sound. If it all has the same sound, this will sound like a demo." So I figured that the only reason he hadn't done this is because we would be... I don't know... adjusting the drums for each song.

    As soon as we arrive back at the studio, I expect that we'll begin setting up to do takes of 'Given', a song that was pretty well organized and that Passion really liked because it had a sort of majestic chord progression. But I was wrong. Supa needed to eat. And Passion had no complaints. We "broke" for lunch. Passion suggested ordering in Chinese. Supa said "that $*^t will kill you!" From the looks of Supa's gut, I thought he knew from experience. So we drive to some sushi restraunt and sit there for an hour and a half.

    When we return, I finally bug Supa into getting started on the album I was spending 10 Thousand Dollars on. I excitedly wait in the control room to start working on drum sounds. Supa, who had promised to get unique and 'out of the box' sounds for the kit goes into his live room... and gives drum tuning a sort of half assed going over. He then throws Zero Rings on every drum. He then does what BP and I had done in our own studio about a thousand times: he throws an AKG D112 into the bass drum, uses my earthworks mic on the snare, sennheiser 421s on the toms, and some skinny pencil mic's on the overheads- which seem to really only aim at the cymbals.

    He looked like a tired guy who had done this a million times. And when he told Passion to get on the kit, that he would play our scratches and Passion would start doing takes, I nearly had a heart attack. First of all- we hadn't even listened to the drum sound. There are only two reasons that he could have overlooked this: 1) he was a dumbass, and/or 2) he had done this so many times that he felt like he didn't even need to check.

    I asked him about his signal path and he gave me some BS about the board's mic pres. I asked him why he wasn't using his crazy NASA contraption, or at least the rack of summit audio gear that we never toucuhed. He didn't give me an answer that I can remember now. But I do remember that whenever Passion hit the drums, the only rack gear reacting was a series of cheap behringer units- heavy compression and a lot of noise reduction from the looks of it.

    I was mortified that Supa wouldn't at least go through the motions of "Play the whole kit... good...now hit the snare...good...now the kick" for my benefit. And that we were going to just start doing takes for a song Supa had never heard Passion play? Yikes. Supa had never even heard us play this song together. He has never once to this day heard us play together, live, in his or any room.

    (more to come)
     
  8. BattleAngel

    BattleAngel Guest

    Fear sank in.

    Immediately, I realized that putting out a great record was not Supa's first, second, or third priority. I had been paying for most of our meals, footing the bill for the hotel, and all he had been giving me was 7 hours a day of barely going through the motions. I saw then and there that this 6 day block was going to be the only amount of time we spent recording in this studio, under this "producer's" guidance.

    Fortunately, Passion For Eating is a genius. He felt the parts out instantly and came out with some very good stuff. Passion isn't very good at actually playing to the sound of the room, and he never has been. He's a very "mental" drummer- and he'll listen to the song so much that he doesn't realize when he's hitting the cymbals like a wuss. I have to say that his "performance" wasn't immediately all there. But we got down some great stuff- he played a passage with brushes that was just awesome. The song was barely fnished. So after probably three hours (including set up time), PFE is called in so we can all listen to what is going on.

    I spent the rest of the day trying to silence the fear which had only been solidified after listening to the very bland, very "yeah I guess that's better than our prog rock album" drum sounds. This is the drum sound you've all heard a million times from every small studio doing a "rock song."

    Everyone seemed excited by the drum sounds except for me, which added tremendously to my depression. My biggest fear is that though I was the one most usually drooling on the couch, the three people I was working with had their heads in magic land. These were not great sounding drums. This was a good drummer playing creatively to a song he didn't know, and being recorded decently. And after listening a couple of times, we filed out into the lobby area while Supa and PFE did punches on the song. The only credit to Supa is that he was able to do punches very seemlessly, and that you wouldn't be able to tell that PFE had played a bunch of passes on the final track. Then again, I've never worked with 2" tape before- and I would assume that anyone who uses 2" tape solely would be competant at punching in. After the punch session, Supa insisted that we wrap up for the day. Another maybe six hour day and all we had to show for it was a great drum take that sounded like ass.

    That night, I had to sleep in the same bed as PFE. PFE wore nothing except tighty whities to bed. Needless to say, I "slept" with one eye open the entire night. In the morning, we were going to go through the routine again. Supa would meet us for breakfast in our hotel, hit on the waitress, drink about a thousand cups of coffee, and then chain smoking joints on the way back to the studio.

    Round two of sucky drum takes. Hooray. The songs we were working on now were even more foreign to PFE- and at least one of them he had never heard before (again, I do take the blame for not being better prepared- in fact, that was the chief downfall of the entire session). We broke again quite early for lunch, which took another hour and a half, and then came back to start work on song II. As I had suspected, there would be no changing of the drum mics. We were going to have that "demo" sound on every single song.

    Supa noticed how depressed I seemed. Which doesn't mean he's a psychologist- I think fury and disgust radiated off me in gamma waves. But all he could do was say "I bet if Tony Visconti was producing this album, you wouldn't be questioning him."

    Supa took pains to degrade himself all over the place. I don't want to get into it- but he was just emotionally very weird and at every time breeched lines that I think just about everybody would consider are pretty well defined. In fact, this would turn into the most strange encounter I've had with a professional in any field. And yes, the loveable Supa *will* resort to "I thought we were friends!" on more than one occasion. Keep in mind that he is 40 and I'm 18, and that he doesn't live in the Neverland ranch.
     
  9. Linwood

    Linwood Member

    This isn't a war story , more of a whore story. I get a call from a gal who works here in Nevada at one of the "ranches" outside of Vegas. She wants to record some of her origonal tunes. I'm a keyboard player/producer and she got my number from who knows who. Anyway, she asks me if I can come out to the ranch, since there's a piano there, and we can work on her tunes there. My wife wont let me go.....................
     
  10. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Damn, you should INVITE your wife.

    I am sure that she would not mind meeting a few professional women. Well maybe her morals may be a bit on the tame side.

    Nothing like having your woman meet some professionals and them swap war storys. You will get laid like never before.......

    (Missed that oppurtunity..and most of those women, even though they are whores, are richer than most of us, classy when they want to be and well versed with the World.

    Not all whores are road whores, some are real pros. Especially there.
     
  11. Linwood

    Linwood Member

    You might have something there, Bill. I could produce a CD for her and now my wife can suck start the space shuttle. I'm in! This was a strange gig though. This lady sent me a demo cassette of her tunes and along with it she sent a VHS tape that was a homemade tour of the ranch. It sounded like fun, but can you see me playing the piano in the parlor of a whore house, having a few beers, trying to act like I give a $*^t about this chick's songs. Too funny.
     
  12. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    I would love a copy of each, I will pay!
     
  13. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    OH MY God!!!!!!!!!
    Another diary!!!!!!!!!
     
  14. BattleAngel

    BattleAngel Guest

    not a fan?
     
  15. SonOfSmawg

    SonOfSmawg Well-Known Member

    DUDE! I live in Pahrump! Whore-house capital of the USA. If I were you, I'd give that a second thought. Those "girls" make a TON of money! And, seriously, bring your wife with you. I doubt that it will be the uncomfortable situation that you might be imagining. If you want, you can swing-by and take me with you for "immoral support"!
     

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