Can You Hear the Thunder

A happy fail. Man plans, God laughs and points. Whadayagonnado? This is the story of the 4x4x4 sessions that turned out to be a 5x1x9 event.
(There is a video at the bottom you can listen to while you wade through this if you want. It's a fun read.)

Can You Hear the Thunder

A while back I met a guitar player in one of those facebook groups that neither one of us belongs to anymore. His wife has to travel a lot for her job and he, a master chef, tags along to eat food in all these cool locations. Food is a passion of his.

I'm sure he is also there to support her as she speaks in front of thousands of people about life-changing Native American situations... but... come on. Have you met Doran? Anyway, they met in like kindergarten or something. It's adorable.

Can You Hear the Thunder

So, she was coming out to California for a few days and Doran and I made a plan to play some music. While he wasn't looking I decided to create what I called the 4x4x4 sessions. The plan was 4 guys, 4 songs, 4 hours. Four guys that met on facebook, four original songs from some seeds I had laying around with no lyrics, four hours for all the basic tracks and then we would each add our solos from our home studios after the premix. Then I would mix in the solos and master and release a 4 song set. Sounds great right?

I needed a studio, an engineer, a drummer, a bass player and a compatible time slot. There's a great studio in L.A., TomorrowLabs Studio, we've used before. It has a small live room that has great sound without mics. I swear, you somehow sound smarter when simply talking quietly in there. Conveniently, it is downstairs in the same building as our apartment in the city. I kinda like it that, with the commercial noise ordinances in play, I can jam in my practice room there all night long and it sounds like it's them. No complaints!

My guitar all by itself sounds so rich and deep in the studio's live room it is inspiring. My biggest deepest vocals ring with no overtones. I wish I could practice in there all the time. The analytics that went into designing a soundspace to fit the actual room were impressive. It doesn't matter where you stand and perform it sounds like you. You as a professional. Brian Wilson records and rehearses his crew there if I may name drop a little for them. The whole place has such a chill vibe and cool equipment to play with. Also I got a homie discount which helped a lot for my passion project.

The design analytics that went into my practice space two doors down went something like... "Well I could put a recliner in the corner. Then adjust the seat position til it soaks up those overtones. Hey it's worth a shot." (It kinda works.)

Can You Hear the Thunder

It so happens that one of the engineers there is a drummer. He also happens to be "Keeper of Precious Things" at the GRAMMY Museum. So I got a twofur there: an engineer and a percussionist. We had fun talking about and experimenting with mics and placement.

I put out a call on facebook for a bass player and at the last minute the guy had to cancel. Not too long ago I was looking to hire a bass player for a tour that got canceled. The guy I found then seemed a great fit for this. I called and left last-minute voicemail the morning of recording day asking if he could meet me there. Luckily he was available and soon showed up at the door. He brought a very cool bass and an electric upright. A co-founder and producer at symphonicplanet.com

Can You Hear the Thunder

He is one of those soon-to-be-legendary L.A. kids so high on music and life. It's invigorating, musically, just to be around him. He is always involved in some great project or an other and I'm really sad our tour didn't work out. Once again I made a plan, I didn't plan on Grave's disease. God laughs and points. 

So I had a crew, I had studio time and I was stoked to get in there. Finally the day arrives and Doran, hits L.A. we go in and Jerry is there setting up. Noor shows up and we start plugging in and I am just itching to hear the sound in there.

Can You Hear the Thunder

I have to say, for a change, it was so nice not being the engineer on this project. When anything went wrong, I went out and had a smoke while Jerry and Noor and wakitu fiddled with the tech. Bliss. 

There we were, a Facebook blind date with 4 musicians all ready to try to find something new. It was exciting to be a part of it and we learned a lot. I'm gonna do this again until we get it right. Turns out cancer, Grave's and a pandemic are all counter-productive to making music. Who knew?

Oh, my friends, I had so much fun. We fiddled with tech but we celloed with sound. We experimented with live room mic placement, we (they, while I smoked) conquered the boss demon on protools level 11 or some shit that nerds do, only one of us had a clicktrack (it wasn't me) and it all worked half the time at various times, sort of never at the same time.

Can You Hear the Thunder

We played for hours and giggled a lot, everyone contributing a "hey what if we..." or two, live streaming the whole thing on youtube to the delight of several of my fans. All 8 according to youtube who says that they each, on average, watched 06:23 minutes of the 7:49:21 hour stream and I lost one subscriber.
(I gotta go easy I only have 2422 left :)

When all was said and done we got some great stuff that we're gonna use and some great stuff that we're not. To be honest I was a little disappointed with a couple of my tracks but I really learned a lot and things will get better because we tried what we tried. We had to experiment with the sound a little and there is where a few things went south. On a few tracks the 12-string just gets buried as the only acoustic in the room. (When you can't hear the guy who paid for everything on a track, generally speaking, it doesn't get used.) I have to say I was thrilled with what we got and it provides a roadmap for the next one on what to do right. I was a little disappointed in myself for not being a little more organized about the process. I love freewheeling musical things, however there is a time - and I had plenty of time - to map everything out a bit, make a plan for the "experimental stuff" with a plan B. That would make it easier on recording day. Also, we bought an encoder so we can use our spiffy news camera for a better stream, maybe outside, in 4k or something next time.

Can You Hear the Thunder

My life was a mess for a bit, no time to do anything for a while. On Doran's next trip to town he swung by and we recorded his solo for one of the tracks. We had a picnic on the floor of an empty office with a portable setup upstairs from the studio.

Can You Hear the Thunder

We had so much fun listening to the tracks and catching up. While I engineered and listened to him do his takes I finalized the lyrics to fit and wrote a last verse. Then, never even hearing a decent pre-mix, he headed home hoping for the best. I took those tracks and the studio tracks home and went to work little by little around all my crazy life things and before I knew it I had a mix.

Then Doran, breaking the 4 guys rule, hit up another guy he never met from Facebook. All I know is he's a trucker from Ohio. Roger added some keyboard tracks to use. He fits right in musically, I must say. He plays a bunch of instruments and, judging by my creeping through all his photos, he has a cool setup at home. I understand his wife is quite talented too and we are making plans for her and I and recording some acoustic stuff.

A few weeks at home slicing and dicing and obsessing over seconds. Running it by trusted ears now and then and tweaking some more. The mix and master went well, I think. Easy peasy. I went with version thunder_final_final_this is it_final_#016.wav and I've put it to the timelapse below for a sneak preview. We'll release it wide and downloadable next week. Enjoy!

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