New Music – “Lines and Powerlines” – Board of Transportation

A Long Time Coming

So this song had been kicking around for quite a few years now, 5 to be exact, and I only got around to using it and finishing it in the last 6 months thanks to the Board of Transportation project.

I had the first guitar piece way back in ‘05 and most of the lyrics then but I just couldn’t get the song to “float”. It was going to be a song for Lout but it never really got finished at rehearsals either. Fast forward to ‘09 and I’ve completed one song for Board of Transportation with Dave and we’re keen to try out something else.

Taken about the time I started writing the song. Actually could have been the same afternoon.

Making a Start

I started by recording the guitar arpeggio part into Logic at half speed and then to give that electro-organic feel cut those arpeggios into full speed. I then doubled a synth harp under that, added some tape delay etc and we had a happening guitar thing.

Writing the chorus was like an epiphany in some ways as I had this drum loop going and I just sort of “jammed” against it and the chorus sort of wrote itself. It’s a little odd in it’s structure by being uneven bar lengths 10 then 8 but that really adds to the round-and-round hypnotic thing which is augmented by the incessant drum loop.

So I hobbled together this basic structure together so Dave could take a listen to the track and tell me whether he was keen to work on it as the next BOT (Board of Transportation) song. He was over at the studio working on some other recordings that we had going on and he heard what I had and jumped on the drums to put something down – the verse drums. When we got to the chorus I already had a bit of an idea what I wanted as far as the kick pattern went but he essentially wrote the signature off-beat hi-hat motif to create this great loop for the chorus.

Now we had some structure and some drums so I went away with the track and started tinkering and tightening things up and adding in extra production. The “guitar solo” at the end (if you can call it that) was sort of a natural extension of the song but I was second guessing myself about having it in there but once Dave came in and did his vocal parts over the last section I was convinced that it all worked. I also avoided a bridge with an obvious chord deviation because things were just moving along so well using the chords for the chorus and I didn’t want to take it else where. By adding in the “because your hope finds me” which was originally part of the chorus way back when it was written on ‘05, I got the same effect of a bridge. Adding in the “stringy synth” part with some different chordal extensions also gave that variation and layering to build the track and keep the interest.

The Mix

Mixing wise I did a few new things: I used up all 32 channels of Liquid Mix compression and EQ, tried out the Massey Tape Head Plugin and summed the whole thing through a new addition to my kit – my Tascam M-312.

I had the Liquid Mix so pegged out because of all the vocal tracks. Mainly using Universal Audio 1176 and LA-2a as far as compressors went and the Avalon Vt 737sp eq section. Mostly slammed the drum mics with the LA-2a’s. Only had 4 mics up Kick, snare, room and one over-head from memory. Liberal doses of 1176 on the vocals. Loved the 737, being a fixed frequency unit and broad Q it really makes you listen and mold the sound much more naturally rather than getting in a cutting huge chunks out of the frequencies.

I like what the Massey does to a track. I tried to keep the volume of the track the same by trimming back the output and really listen for what the tape emulation was adding rather than being fooled by the loudness when you plug it across a track. Once I got a feel for what it was doing I was able to be a bit more liberal with it.

The most exciting thing for me was summing the track through the new console. I sent out 4 stereo stems to eight channels of the desk. Kept the Drums, bass and percussion on 1 &2, Guitars, Synths etc on 3 &4, Vocals on 5 & 6 and effects on 7 & 8. I found that it was easier to nudge out frequencies to tidy up the mix on the desk. A subtle bit of EQ to push the vocals through, a cut of some low-mids to clean up some mud on the guitars and synths, highs for the effects to bring out a little more depth etc.

Radio Ready

To finish up I pushed the mix fairly hard into the SSL FX G384 mix buss compressor – auto release, 4:1, upto 4dB of gain reduction and found the sweet spot for the attack a-la Andy Wallace. I also ran the mix through the Massive Passive and then did some fine tuning with Logic’s linear phase EQ – I got a little over eager with the tops on the desk. If we get enough tracks together for the BOT project I will look at getting them all mastered by someone else as I really dislike the record, mix, master all by the same person thing.

Sorry to all those non-techy peeps out there who really don’t care about compression ratios and EQ’s that get me excited. Hopefully for you the track is something you like and enjoy regardless of the technicalities of how it was made.

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