Friday, January 11, 2013

And now....the conclusion - Part one.

Yes, I didn´t have time to update this blog while at the studio. And after that, I had some stuff to take care of. And then it was Yule. And then something. But here I am now, rocking like a hurricane. And I thought you´d like to hear how the rest of the studio went? Read on, then!
This is quite a story, so I suggest you have a good 15 minutes with you and a mug of something. 
 And tissues, if you´re sensitive sort.

(Just to recap you guys- we had now recorded everything and already started pre- mixing a bit as well. This particular upcoming monday was the first "official" mix- day. We would have exactly seven days left for the mix now, so we´d have to hurry up if we wanted this to be finished before the next client will take up the studio and we´d have to leave- whether we´d be finished or not.)

Monday, day 18.

The process in the mixing phase is really simple.

1. You do a couple of songs per day.
2. Check them out at various stereo equipments when you think they´re ready.
3. Use your primary (which you´ve used to) sound setup to listen to the balances.
4. Make list what needs to be changed. E.g. "the second horn- part is too loud".
5. Next day you fix it, export a final version with the needed tweaks and start at #1 again.

But before that, you have to make the first one to get to phase #1. This means that the first one will be the song which defines how the sound will be on every song. After you´ve done that, the show gets much easier and faster and it´s then only balancing and polishing. (At least in a perfect world, hehe).

So, I got to the studio again at 13- ish to check out Marilyn´s vocals, which sounded nice indeed. The idea of doing the quick guidelines on one track really helped Vreth and the performance was top- of- the- notch. Thus we entered the mixing booth and started to lay the shit down together. Starting with Halkodisko, as it was the most "basic" song to start molding the overall sound- no weird surprises or blastbeats, enough of double- kickdrums and choppy beats, you know. Something that contains "everything" enough to start the overall mix with.
I wasn´t particularly worried about the sound, as it sounded very cool even without keys and vocals. Just what we were looking for- aggressive, distorted, pumpy, heavy and certainly black. We spent the day checking out vocal takes and compressors, replacing plugins and switching muted channels on one by one. It was some serious task to make the keyboads to be audible and "fit in" to the distorted black´n´roll mess but after hours I got it finally sound like it should with lots of EQ and other stuff. Then we unmuted the vocals and tweaked the sound quite a bit to be audible. And then we tweaked it some more. Then it "ate" all the keyboards so we had to raise them. Which made the vocals disappear again. After several hours, I had to leave the studio to pick up my son from school, but I thought I got the sound somehow ok- ish. We could at least hear everything, even though it was a bit messy.

Back home it didn´t sound good at all. A complete un- aggressive mess of distortion with demo- ish too loud and "outpopping" keyboard melodies, and vocals either too loud or too low, depending on the part. I thought it will get better later and went to sleep with a rather unfunny feeling in my stomach.

Tuesday, day 19.

I got to the studio 8:30 in the morning to tweak Halkodisko. Got a bit better version out of it, but I still wasn´t particularly jumping around with it. It still sounded like a mess...not like a bad balance but rather like.....unrepairable. You know, like problems lying so "deep" that no keyboard EQ would ever save it. I realized it must be because of the drum ambience is very loud and the guitars have quite much of very thick middle in them. So I polished the mix a bit, bounced it into harddisk and went to the office to do a couple of hours of work.
I took a listen of Halkodisko mix 2 at the office,  and thought it even if it was better than the first one,"maybe mastering will fix it to be perfect". "Maybe it´s just in my head", I thought and went to pick up my son again while the guys were already starting to import channel settings for the next song which would be Rivfader.
I got to the studio with my son about 18 in the evening. While he was playing some soccer game with the studio´s XboX, I was continuing with Rivfader. The more I tweaked it, I started to realize that the problem with the sound is not in my head. This sound is bad to the core. Period. And the more I tried to mix the keyboards and other stuff in, every minute I got more desperate and nervously conscious that this is not going to sound good no matter how I tweak.
Something is FUBAR for good here, and I noticed myself actually thinking of canceling the mix and postponing it to February when the studio is free again. I felt so disappointed after months of hard work that I left the studio with the feeling I will either start crying or start some heavy solution- finding. And I´m so tired of finding solutions. The guys left to bounce Rivfader to hard disk and I could see from their faces that they weren´t happy with the sound either.

It´s a hard feeling to describe (after everything we´ve gone through lately) how bad I felt when I left the studio. Frustrated, disappointed and so tired.

Wednesday, day 20.

I didn´t sleep much the last night. At 2 AM it struck me and I SMS´d Vreth.
(And yes, this is one SMS. :D)

"Fuck, is it the guitar?" Maybe with that amount of keyboards we´re using too much of the Orange amp and the thickness of it? Maybe if that´s the main problem we could just mute the other Orange channel or fiddle some room for the synths with an EQ? The sound is just too thick and we can´t get any other synth out than the most hi-pitched melodies...We gotta test that tomorrow. Fuck I´m losing my sleep here. I was listening to Rivfader and even it was semi-ok, I still think the same- I gotta test that tomorrow for sure."

For my surprise he was awake, so we discussed more about the sound and what´s wrong with it. I used the example that we´re trying to "mix the first Anaal Nathrakh album with Nightwish"
(Seriously- that Anaal Nathrakh isn´t actually even that far from the truth!)
Of course then I realized that this is exactly the problem. How the HELL could I possibly think these could work together??? Our "basic" sound has been done so goddamn raw and distorted without thinking the rest of the palette at all. And guess who was to blame? Me, the self- proclaimed producer. My call, my bad. My mistake. And now it´s all coming back to me.
I called Nino right in the morning while driving to work. "Dude, I´ve made a fucking horrible misjudgement and we gotta start the mix again". We had a long talk and he understood my point. And promised to tweak the drums and guitar way more cleaner while I´m at work, as I couldn´t come to do it myself. He sent me a new version later in the afternoon, and I called him right after and said I could kiss him. At least I was now confirmed that even though "I broke it" I knew how to repair it. I went to the studio in the evening with my son, tweaked the sound a bit more and made another mix from Halkodisko. Drove home with my son, read him a while, tucked him into the bed and went back to the studio to mix Rivfader.

Next morning at home the mixes were sounding like a different band. I was extremely relieved. Not the best possible supersound I could imagine, but at least not that fucking horrible shit. I could live with this, being 85% satisfied. After all, there´s no such a thing as "universally perfect mix".

Thursday, day 21.

Finnish independence day = public vacation. For some, not for me.
I did some more polishing to the guitar and drum sound in the morning and made new versions out of Halkodisko and Rivfader. Mind you, I don´t want to hear Halkodisko ever in my life again.
Otherwise- more songs done, general tweaking, choosing the best keyboard sounds (We did a ton of layers in order to pick the best- serving ones in the mix) ....and I think we did three songs overall. Got home in the evening to go to sauna and having a nice evening with my family.
Not that I´ve seen them much lately, and "we have time now as the mix is good. Half of the songs are done already!" Yes, well....more on that later.

Read on to chapter two, if you will! Still four exitement- fulfilled days left.
What could possibly go wrong?

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