Studio Update #4

Sorry for the lack of updates. Things have been crazy lately.

So, on Friday Chris finished up his tracks. It was a long day, but he got them done. Jon came up that night and hung out for a bit while Chris tracked. Jon started on Saturday. There are two songs out of 11 that don't have vocals, so he only had nine to do. He was able to finish three songs his first day. After about 6 hours of yelling he was getting pretty tired, so we left a little early in order for him to rest up and be ready for the next day. On Sunday he tracked four more. He wasn't too familiar with three of the songs, so we kind of wrote most of the patterns and arranged the lyrics while recording. We got one of them down that night, but he took Sunday night to really arrange the other two and get a better idea for them before coming in Monday morning. We all pitched in and helped where we could. Monday we got the last two finished and began to kind of pack things up.

Mixing began Tuesday. Chris C. mixes on the console at the studio, not in Pro Tools. It sounds better because of some really expensive converters he has and he has a ton of really nice outboard gear that he just can't recreate in a computer. The only downside to this method is that once a song is mixed, it's mixed. He can't really go back and make changes to one song without having to completely remix it.
Mixing is a really cool process because the songs really take shape and become so much more than a bunch of random sounds. One of the best parts is you finally get to listen to the songs WITHOUT the click tracks! It gets really old, really fast. Anyway, mixing on Tuesday and we dropped in a little later after Chris C. started getting things the way he wanted them. From there on we gave our input and added all the flashy extras that make it that much cooler to listen to. Delays, weird effects, interesting reverbs, that sort of thing. Each day we'd come in and listen to songs over and over and critique them making tiny adjustments and bouncing the tracks in multiple versions - a vocal up mix, a vocal down mix, and an instrumental mix. If we go through and figure out find out vocals are just too quiet on a track, we can resort to the vocal up track without having to mix the song over again. The instrumental tracks are for possibilities of other things down the road. We mixed about three songs a day. It ended up going a lot faster than he expected because with our style all of the mixes are pretty consistent. In other genres you have to mix a song from the ground up each time because there are more dynamics and other things need to stick out more or less depending on the feel of the song. While that's also true for these songs, there's one pretty distinct sound we're going for so it's easy to start with the same mix each time and tweak very minor things along the way.

Today we finished mixing. It's pretty surreal right now. This huge project was not even conceived three months ago and now it's done. All the songs are mixed, all the songs have titles. I'm kind of at a loss of what to think. I'm extremely proud of it and really feel like it's my baby right now. Everyone put a lot of hard work into it and it has turned out even better than I imagined. Chris Common added some really incredible parts and effects that we wouldn't have come up with otherwise and I really feel like he made the album just that extra bit special. I couldn't have asked for a cooler dude to work with either. He's an awesome guy with some real talent. This has been quite a long two weeks and I'm actually pretty bummed it has come to an end. Only good things are in our future though. We will be back in the studio listening to the final mixes tomorrow before we pack up and leave.


Studio Update #3

With Ryan finishing a little later than we had hoped, Brent had to smoke through his tracks...which he did, no problem. We took some time to set up the bass but Chris C. dialed in a tone really quickly that sounds just massive. Brent got to use the studio's bass cab which was an old cab for Minus The Bear and was used for the bass on Mastodon's Leviathan, one of my all-time favorite albums. He got a pretty thick and dirty tone out of Brent's gear that I'm stoked to hear live. He ran through most of his stuff really quickly. We used a bass distortion pedal on a couple of parts of a few songs where the bass is just by itself. It sounds so disgusting, I love it. Totally reminds me of the bass part on "Where Strides The Behemoth" on Mastodon's Remission (which, coincidentally Matt Bayles also produced). Anyway, Brent knocked out all 11 of his tracks in about six hours. I was looking at Thursday or Friday to start, but that quickly turned into Wednesday.

Wednesday began with us setting up the guitar sounds. We used my Peavey 6505+ and my Mesa cab along with the studio's Diezel head and Marshall cab. The Diezel is this monster of a head that runs around $4,500. The Marshall cab that we used was given to Mastodon when they were recording Blood Mountain. Apparently Marshall just shipped a bunch of cabs to them so they would use them on the album and when they were done with them, Mastodon gave one of them to The Red Room. The one they kept was the one that was used on all of the guitar tracks on that album. I'm really stoked to have some of that gear on our record too!

We got going at around 1 or so. I wanted to knock out as many as I could but we had a bit of limited time. I ended up getting seven finished in the first day. I never really got too frustrated. I want this to be as good as I can make it so I did things over and over until I was happy. Chris C. is really good with the click and timing, so he stopped me whenever he heard a bit of lag or rush with the click. It was such a long and draining day, and the next day would prove to be as well. Here's the board after day 6:

When I got there on Thursday a few minutes late, but we got right into it and I began to finish the last four songs. They were definitely the more challenging songs for me so these four took just about as much time as the other seven. There were certain small parts that I just couldn't lock down for some reason and I'd be redoing them again and again. A lot of work for just a few seconds. As soon as I was finished with the basic tracks we moved onto the lead parts. Most of the leads are really short and easy to do, so I got most of them too. Chris showed up around 6 to get started on his parts. He started tuning his guitar and something was just wrong. Chris C. decided to try to intonate it himself, but he discovered the neck on the guitar was slightly bowed, keeping it out of tune no matter what he does. If he tunes it to one spot on the neck, another part goes out of tune. After a while of trying to get it set up we just decided to use my guitar again. Chris isn't used to the thinner strings that I use, but he was just going to have to deal with it to avoid the tuning issues his guitar has. Once he got rolling with my guitar he knocked out three songs before we went home.

I'm having problems getting some video editing software installed on my computer so I apologize for the lack of promised video updates. As soon as I can get something working I will get to work on them!


Studio Update #2

The past couple of days have been interesting. Yesterday Ryan overslept and didn't get to the studio until about a half hour late. I just hung out and talked with Chris for a bit. Once Ryan showed up we were all ready to get going on "Webster's Room." Chris opened the file up and the scratch guitars weren't showing up. He needed to pull them off of my hard drive but for some reason my hard drive wouldn't turn on. He had to take a hard drive out of its case, replace it with mine, then put everything back together. That took a good chunk of time. I don't think we got rolling until around 1. He did "Webster's Room" then went to "Big Al" and "BYF". They were giving him a bit of trouble, but nothing a few takes each couldn't fix. It was getting late and he thought he was done, but Chris asked him to try to do one more. He made a few attempts at "New Age" before giving up. He was just too tired from the day and we were changing things and hearing things we hadn't noticed that he wasn't doing before. Changing his habits was proving to be extremely difficult. We hung out for a bit while he worked on some of the sound replacement. We left around 9 since there wasn't really much else we could do for the day.

Of course, on the night before I have to go back to work, I couldn't sleep for unknown reasons. I went to bed after 1 and had to be up at 5 for work. I went to work for 4 hours before leaving and heading back to the studio by 10:30. We got to the studio and worked on more of the sound replacement for a bit before Ryan started. He worked on "New Age" and it was giving him some serious trouble. He did take after take and it took much longer than I thought it would. He pulled it all out though. While Chris was editing drums, we went over to American Music down the street to pick up a cable to finish up my new rig. When we got back we hung out a bit more and a few friends dropped in to hang out. Next was "Black Taco". I didn't think this one would give him as much trouble as it did, but this one was just as difficult as "New Age". He finally got it nailed down and the drum editing began.
I crashed on the couch. In the mixing room. While Chris was editing drums. I'm so burnt out lately. Besides Thanksgiving, I haven't had a day to do absolutely nothing since the end of October. I've been running around and getting stuff with the studio and other things set up, driving back and forth to practice every day, working, writing...non-stop. After we're done recording I'm hoping we'll take the rest of December off for a little break from the band to chill out. I need it.
We're just finishing up the last bits of drum editing on "Black Taco" and Brent will start on bass tomorrow. I'm thinking I might start Thursday or Friday. I'm ready.


Studio Update #1

Yesterday was our first day in the studio. We're recording at The Red Room in Seattle with Chris Common. He plays drums in a band called These Arms Are Snakes and co-owns the studio with Matt Bayles. They have done work with bands like Mastodon and Minus The Bear.

We got there at 10:00am to start getting the drums set up. Ryan set up his drums in the back of the room by the kitchen. It took a few hours to get his drums tuned up and mic'd up.

There are 14 tracks total for the drums. He's using some really cool old Rode tube mics for the overheads. They're gigantic and have their own power supply and sound amazing. We actually started recording around 2 or 3. Ryan knocked out the intro, Extermination Process, and the Doom song. In between songs, Chris would edit the drums and get everything locked to the grid. This took some time, but it's better than editing all of the songs at once. It becomes a tedious process really quickly. We headed home feeling really good about the day and Ryan was off to get some rest. He had been playing all day and would be again tomorrow.

Today we got there around 10:30. We didn't think Chris was there yet so we waited outside, but it turned out he was downstairs and didn't hear us knocking. We got in and Ryan warmed up for a little bit before we got started around noon. Chris brought in his awesome beagle Cici (Cece? I don't know) and she's been keeping me company all day.

More sitting around and waiting. I brought in a little project that unfortunately didn't take more than 15 minutes. I put some velcro on the bottom of my pedals to put in my new rack/head case. Pretty exciting! Ryan's parents dropped by with their dogs and the dogs had so much fun running around and playing in the live room. Ryan finished FDA, the instrumental, and finished off with Duggada. The drum editing took a lot longer today because there's so much more to these songs than the other ones. The next five will also be pretty intense. I hope he can knock out at least four tomorrow, but we'll see how it goes. Here's the album's progress at the end of today:

Hopefully it'll only be another day and a half for drums and we can start Brent on Monday. I've been filming Ryan on each song as well as some random in-between stuff, so hopefully once he's done I'll get a studio video up covering the drums in a few days. The tracks are already sounding heavy even with just the scratch guitars, so I'm beyond stoked to get the real guitars going!


2 days before the studio

Luckily we finished writing on Saturday. We've been tweaking things since then, but the basics were done Saturday night. We finished "Big Al" and spent time with a song Brent wrote, bringing us to a total of 11 songs. At first I was very skeptical of Brent's song because it didn't really fit with the rest of the songs. After we worked on it I found that all it really needed was time to sit and input from everyone before it started sounding more like IDW. We got all of the tempos down and got the click tracks made. On Sunday Chris and I began recording the scratch tracks for Ryan. We spent a bit of time on each one going over the riffs and adding/changing notes and harmonies. I put all of the songs together and it's looking like the album will clock in right around 40 minutes. Not too short, not too long.

Here's the tentative tracklisting for the album. Of course most of these titles will change and you probably haven't heard 9 of these songs, so this will mean nothing to you anyway! I've also blocked out the album title...not quite ready to release that yet:
Last night was the final night of practice at our practice space in the Jam Box. It's great that we won't be spending $300/month there anymore, but I'm really going to miss it. I've spent the entire time I've been in Seattle there and we wrote both of our albums there. It's a few blocks from the Key Arena in Queen Anne and right by some restaurants, including our Taco Bell, Pagliacci, Taco Del Mar, and the occasional Subway. The room was tiny and it was totally nasty and run-down, but it was definitely our home. As we packed up, Brent wrote on the wall "The heaviest band ever once practiced here!" Kind of a bold statement, but I guarantee there won't be any bands heavier in there, considering some indie girls came by to look at it while we were jamming one night. The Jam Box definitely fueled IDW for the past 4.5 years, even before Jon and I were in the band.

Next update will be from the studio! Pictures and videos to come!


8 Days To Go

Just as I had suspected, time flew by and we're getting down to the wire. We have 8 days until we begin recording, but only 6 to finish the songs. Sunday we'll begin doing the pre-production scratch guitar tracks on the songs that are done. On Wednesday we're going to see Whitechapel at the Showbox for various reasons and Thursday is of course Thanksgiving. Recording begins Friday.
We may be practicing every day until Tuesday. We need to finish one more song. We finished "Webster's Room" the other night and I love how it turned out. I was really skeptical about it at first because it was a little different, but after we finished it up (by Chris and I jamming together alone for about 15 minutes) it really came together. Ryan has some really awesome drum parts and it ended up being really heavy too. I'd really like to try to bust one more out considering I timed all of our songs last night and the whole thing will clock in around 35 minutes.
I still have some of the transition stuff to work on and get ready as well. Chris and I found an amazing sample that we're able to use for one of them and I'm soooooooo excited to hear how it's going to turn out. It's so eerie and dark sounding. If it works as perfectly as I'm envisioning it, it is going to be one of the coolest parts of the album. Here's what I've been looking at almost daily for the past couple of weeks when I get home from work:
Lots of tracks of little random noises. Lots of taking things out and putting things in, moving things around.
Hopefully things go smoothly and we won't be rushed to finish the last song on the last day. Maybe.


Still preparing

15 days til the studio.

We started practicing to a click track. It makes it sound great but it's a bit of a chore. If someone messes up it makes it harder for everyone to jump back and and still be in the right spot. No slowing down for anyone. Lots of starting over. Chris and I are going to record scratch guitar tracks (quick, imperfect guitar tracks just for Ryan to play along to) to the click before we enter the studio so that way everything is laid out for the songs before hand. We'll also get a chance to go over last minute riff changes and lock everything down for ourselves. It's also good because we won't have to stand there and play the songs with him every time. That's what we did last time and it makes things difficult and much more tiring.
On Sunday I took a couple of Chris' riffs and strung them together with a couple of mine as well as a little bit of transition-type parts and put together a good chunk of a song I called "Webster's Room." Not sure where that one came from. Regardless, it's a lot like "Big Al" in the sense that it's a little different from what we usually do, but it still sounds like us. I'm really excited to get these ideas recorded to hear them all together.
Jon finally got a chance to come up to practice last night. It's one thing to be playing these songs over and over, but adding the vocals in changes the songs completely. It's interesting to see how he interprets the songs...where he places vocals and how he paces the lyrics. A couple of the songs we've been playing for a while really came together after he got some vocals on them and made me even more excited about them. For a while the songs were getting kind of stagnant and I wasn't sure about certain parts or how they were laid out; adding the vocals in really makes the songs entirely new again, so it's been a breath of fresh air to hear them complete.

Aside from writing I've been working on some transitional pieces that will go between the songs. I had a concept for the intro to the album a few months back and put together a quick idea of it in Pro Tools before we went on tour. Then I had the idea to transition from song to song using similar sounds and I just expanded off of what I had in the intro for the transitions. It's a way to tie the whole album together and create a start-to-finish listening experience as opposed to just listening to a song at a time. I've got three done right now and I'll probably do about three more. We may use all of them, we may only use a couple...just depends on how it feels. Another issue is placement and overlapping. If we choose to overlap the transitions with part of a song, you'll HAVE to listen to the transition every time or else it will cut off weird when you skip a track or when a new track starts. It's a lot to consider. I'm having a lot of fun making these pieces though. It's definitely a sound design project and I'm getting to record all kinds of random sounds (pennies in a glass bottle, my shower curtain, an empty soda can, etc.) and alter them with pitch shifting, reversing, time compression/expansion and adding reverb, delays, modulation...it's fun. I hope it all works out and everything flows together like I'm envisioning it to.

In response to carbon14c - yes, it's a good thing Jon has begun writing more thought-provoking lyrics and is straying from the gore/shock value stuff. While I feel like I'm not into that anymore, our last album is what it is and it's how he got his anger out at the time. I don't feel embarrassed or anything by it, but it is nice to have a more relevant and meaningful message.



3 weeks until we hit the studio. 3 weeks to finish two more songs. Pressure can be good for writing but it can also be bad. I get frustrated a lot when writing. I'm feeling rather tapped out lately since I've written/co-written eight, going on nine songs for the new album. I just want things to go smoothly and for everyone to have their head in a positive space. It's tough sometimes though. I'll be the first to admit I'm not always in that space myself.

The song we were working on tonight is referred to as "Big Al." It's got a lot of parts we've never really touched on before, so I'm interested to see how it fits in with the rest of the songs as well as how it's received by people who like our other stuff. I'm hoping we can get "Big Al" and one more song done by the 20th, that way we'll have time to get the pre-production stuff knocked out the days before we enter the studio. Here's what we have so far:

New Age Holocaust
Extermination Process
Big Al

Most of these are obviously not the final titles...songs are usually referred to by the name of the PowerTab file I save them as. "New Age" used to be called "LOST" and "Extermination Process" used to be called "karen." I just name them after whatever's going on around me at the time. The title track is going to be either the intro or the instrumental. I'm really digging the title we came up with. We were going to call the album "Extermination Process" but we were told we could probably find a stronger title, so we brainstormed for a while and Jon came up with what we're settling on. I'll probably spend a good portion of the weekend messing around with tabs and working on some stuff to bring to practice on Monday.


My new IDW blog!

Hi. As you know, I'm Evan and I play guitar in I Declare War. I love reading about bands and what goes on in their lives and I love writing about what's going on in mine. I've written tour blogs in the past but now I'm tackling a much more comprehensive project.
I'm going to blog about what's going on in the band in general. I'm going to talk about writing, recording, touring, and everything in between. If it involves the band, I'm probably going to write about it. It's also a good way for me to keep everyone informed in one central spot. Bookmark this page if you're interested in the behind the scenes type of stuff and want to read up on what's going on with the band. As much as I love to write, I also I love to read what you have to say about it, so please comment the posts and ask me questions. I'll reply in the following post.