Just lately, I've had sickness hanging around me like a heavy weight – I have to keep blowing my nose, I feel weak, and sometimes there's pain in my eyes and ears. And the worst thing is, I have this cough that keeps me awake late at night. People say that when you're sick, the best thing to do is stay in bed. But this sickness was not serious enough for that. So I kept going to band rehearsals as usual, nearly every weekday, and to the Speakers Forum in the city on Sunday. It's been a busy week.
The band that I'm in, The Boris Pink, is active again. Since our last gig, the bass-player was dismissed and we've got ourselves a new bass-player. So we've been practising with him and teaching him the songs. I don't mind a bit of practice, usually, but when I'm sick it's very hard work and I just wish for it to end. Last Monday I spent a lot of time sitting down on my sampler-case and just reaching for the keyboard now and then to play a token chord or two. And whenever I tried to sing backup vocals very loudly, the effort would make me dizzy.
On Tuesday I had a practice with the other band, the Pink Floyd tribute band. We are developing an impressive list of popular Pink Floyd tunes, but it's coming along very slowly and we're not sure if we'll be ready in time. So the leader of the band decided to cancel our first gig on November 21st. Now our first gig will be on the 19th of December, but we'll probably find some other small practice gig to do before then. Also, we decided to record a demo CD. But in the week before our scheduled recording session, our backing-singer decided she didn't want to be in the band anymore. It was okay, though – we found a new backing-singer to replace her straight away.
It was a bit of a disappointment, because I really liked the old backing-singer and I never got the chance to say goodbye. But when I heard how skilled and competent the new singer is, that wasn't disappointing at all. Musically, our new backing-singer feels like a piece that was missing before. We only had to practise with her once in the rehearsal studio before we knew that she would be a fine vocalist with whom to record our demo CD.
four members of the band
So, very next day, we went to the recording studio with our equipment. This band is very poor so we can't afford a lot of studio time – everything had to be done in six hours and there were four songs to record. The first thing to do was record all the instruments without the vocals, and each instrument was on a different track on the big reel-to-reel tape, but they were all recorded at the same time.
Normally when you record a whole band like that, each musician wears a pair of headphones so that they can hear the other members clearly, and that way there's no need for any loud amplification, and this eliminates problems with the sound-sources leaking into the wrong microphones. But we didn't bother with that – it was too complicated to organise and the sound engineer said we didn't have time.
Even with the lack of headphones, we were hard-pressed to finish recording our music within the time-limits. You see, when we were performing that song "Time", our guitarist kept making mistakes and playing wrong chords, and when he did that it sometime sounded so bad that we had to start again. The sound engineer said we didn't have to worry about small mistakes in our performance – "It's only a demo so it doesn't have to be perfect," he said. But he knew that we would be showing this demo to booking agents and people who might give us work, and if it had really bad mistakes on it then they would not like us.
I myself played fairly well, but I made a mistake in the song "Money" when I played an F sharp minor chord where there should have been an E minor. People later said that they didn't notice, or that they sensed something wrong with that bit of the music but they couldn't tell it was me. Anyway, after that, we packed up all the instruments and set the room up to record vocals. The first person to record vocals was the lead singer, Vincent.
The second person to record vocals was the backing singer, Leah. I sat in the studio on the other side of the sound-proof glass window with Vincent and the others, and the sound engineer pressed buttons to rewind and fast-forward the multi-track tape. I looked at my watch and realised that we wouldn't have time to finish mixing the demo tonight – both the singers were frequently making mistakes and having to re-record parts, and Vincent didn't help matters by arguing incorrectly with Leah about the harmony parts that she was singing. The third person to record vocals was me. At this point my sickness had mostly worn off so I was not feeling nauseous, but I still had a cough so I was afraid that might be a problem.
Flash animation – click on the head and drag it around the room.
It's strange to be in a recording booth, with an ultra-sensitive microphone, wearing headphones – every sound that I made was amplified in my own ears, even when I was standing a long way from the mic. I hadn't had a proper chance to warm my voice up. And I wasn't even sure of which harmony parts to sing. So I figured they'd probably have to do a lot of back-and-forth corrections with me. But it wasn't too bad – I sang mostly the right notes into the mic. I was surprised by some of the vocal irregularities that they didn't correct. And as for the cough, I managed to hold it back and not cough when the record button was pressed.
At the end, the demo was not completely finished. So I didn't hear the finished product. But what I did hear was very encouraging and I think people will be impressed with our Pink Floyd imitation skills when they hear it. When we left the studio, it was too late to catch a train so Vincent offered to give me a lift home, and he was also driving Leah home. He seemed very intoxicated. Leah said maybe she should drive the car. But Vincent said, "No. No one drives this car but me." Leah seemed a little scared that Vincent would have a crash because of his intoxicated state. But we drove home without incident.
(not my photo)
I went out to the cinema tonight and saw a movie called Punch Drunk Love – it's about this guy who's a bit lonely so he calls one of those chat-lines where you can talk with a woman, and everything's fine at first but then the woman starts asking him for a large sum of money and threatening him, saying she knows his address and his credit-card details. And when he refuses to pay, a bunch of guys come and beat him up. And in the midst of all this, he meets this other woman who is nice, and he falls in love with her. So it's funny, 'cause of the weird situations and the way the guy is always getting into a frenzy and having angry violent outbursts.
There's something about this film that I really like. The best thing about it is not the plot, but the way it's filmed and the cinematic techniques. Like, right at the start, we see these two cars coming along the road, and everything seems really calm, and normal, and suddenly, blam! one of the cars crashes, and the other one comes to a sudden stop, places a little piano-style instrument on the pavement, and then keeps going, without explanation. And then there's that scene where the leading couple meet up in a public place and we see their silhouettes kissing, while all around them silhouettes of other people are passing this way and that without paying attention – that's so symbolic. Seeing a film like this makes me want to see other films by the same director.
It was a "double feature" night at the Astor Cinema, so I stayed for a second movie – it was called Auto Focus. It's not nearly as good as Punch Drunk Love – it's a true story about this guy who becomes a famous star in a television sitcom, and after the series ends his career takes a nose-dive because he has an image problem. He's constantly thinking about sex, going to strip-clubs, and making pornographic video tapes, and we see him turning into a sleazy loser-guy with a twisted view of women. He seems cheerful enough, but towards the end of the film there's this depressing undertone with continuous slow disaster-music for about twenty minutes and the camera is all shaky, and then someone kills him.
It's not the sort of movie I'd want to see again, but it made me think. I guess the moral of the story is, you shouldn't talk or think about sex all the time, because if you do, it stops being cool and it just gets sad. You shouldn't have a secret life that you hide away, because eventually it comes out and ruins your reputation. And sometimes, even when something is normal and healthy, you shouldn't talk about it to your friends either out loud or on a web-site, because people form opinions about you depending on what you talk about, so you need to keep the "focus" on things that aren't socially awkward.
What with sickness and too many band practices this week, I didn't have time to work much on my painting. But I did put a couple of hours into it tonight, still in the early stages of getting the broad areas of colour in the correct places.
Just recently, they started showing the very early episodes of Doctor Who on TV. This is a science-fiction series about an alien man who travels to different planets and time-periods and has adventures with British people – it ran for more than twenty-five years, starting in 1963. It's a pretty interesting show. I mean I'm not one of these enthusiastic Doctor Who fans who know all the details of the long and complicated plot, but I watched it and read some of the books when I was a child. So it's good to see some of those very early episodes that I haven't seen before, even though the show didn't become excellent until much later.
I have more than three hundred CDs in my collection. I get about one per week on average. The last one I bought was by Jodi Phillis. But that was almost four weeks ago, so it looks like I'm having a break from CD buying. And that's good because it means I'm saving money. I wonder how long I can go without giving in to the temptation to buy more music. I've decided I'm not going to buy any more CDs unless it's something really important. So, to keep limits on myself, I'm only going to buy ten CDs in the next fifteen months, and that's a new rule.