Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Solo Album 2: Blog #4 (Shredding in Berlin)

I've always had a slightly romanticised fascination with Berlin, despite only ever having visited once before (for a 48 hour period, which was spent almost entirely indoors - filming a band)... It largely stems from having read so many articles about David Bowie's time there in the late 70's and my love of the music that came out of that 'new wave' period, (both from Bowie himself and numerous other associated artists). The city is steeped in so much history, much of which is still in (my) living memory, thus adding to the allure.

So when my friend and frequent musical collaborator Markus Reuter recently relocated his base to the city it seemed only natural that I would record his contributions to my in-progress solo album out there. It also presented an opportunity for us both to explore Berlin a little and catch up with a few pals. All of this took place just over a week ago.

It was always a given that Markus would appear on the album. He is one of the most unique and visionary musicians I've ever heard, and we have an extremely good / intuitive working relationship. Each understands how the other works and consequently we get a lot of material out of our recording sessions. For this record (as mentioned in recent blogs) I created more detailed demos than I have in the past, so many of the key guitar parts were already written, nonetheless having them written and having them played with personality are two equally important parts of the desired whole. Furthermore, despite preparing a ton of lines and phrases for him to learn and play I had also earmarked numerous sections for Markus to add soundscapes (loop-based improvised guitar textures) and/or solos, so we had plenty to occupy our time!

There's a mutual trust there, and consequently Markus will generally play whatever (and however) I envisage for a piece, but equally I'm always open to his instinct which often dovetails neatly into the sound world I'm painting - He knows that I like options too, so even if we record multiple takes of a written part there'll often be variations thrown in for good measure. It means more work in terms of sifting and editing, but I'm a sucker for not taking the 'easy' route ;-) Markus also used this project as an opportunity to try out several new pedals and treatments, so there are some unique sounds in there... I tend to record his parts 'clean' where I'm likely to want more flexibility in post-production, but also balance the sessions out with more 'coloured' sounds which I know are more fun for him as a player - It all depends on the context.

During these sessions Markus played U8 (Touch Guitar) on ten songs, which is currently where I'm at with the album. (There are one or two additional song ideas that may be added, in which case we'll do overdubs via the web). Though the U8 is principally designed with touch-style / tapping techniques in mind it's also a "universal" instrument (hence the "U") and on these recordings he taps, strums, picks (with a plectrum), and employs a whole bunch of other guitar playing techniques. I really like that fact that when playing on my material Markus sometimes steps into territory he's less known for, thus highlighting his versatility.

Btw, I brought home a 'guest' with me at the end of this trip - A beautiful white Touch Guitars U8 Deluxe :-) I'll be playing most of the bass parts (aside from one guest spot - more on that later) with this instrument having already written and demoed lines that occupy a slightly lower range than my standard four string bass can easily handle. I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with the instrument and techniques after last summer's TGC course in Austria.

Whilst out walking during a break on Day 2 Markus and I spotted a poster (the first of many) for the V & A David Bowie exhibition (currently 'touring' the world) which was due to open in Berlin the day before my flight home. When first exhibited in London last year I hadn't felt compelled to make the trip despite being a lifelong fan of his work, but the coincidental timing of this Berlin opening felt like a good omen and we decided to end our week by attending... I wasn't prepared for the effect it would have on me - Once inside I was in a permanent (but contained) state of excitement! So much adrenaline, and so much material to take in. I'm not normally that affected by 'stuff', but experiencing this exhibition in Berlin where much of (for me) the most interesting content had a strong connection was something very special. On exiting the museum I felt rejuvenated in a way that I can't easily explain - I just knew that the creative energy I had absorbed would feed into this album project in some way.

Once the album sessions were complete I engineered Markus's final overdubs for Fabio's upcoming Moonbound record. We used the same mobile setup (namely my audio interface, hard drive and MacBook running Logic Pro 9) that had served us well all week. On the other side of the Atlantic Pat Mastelotto completed his drum sessions and sent them over to my Dropbox while Markus and I worked...

All in all a productive, fun and positive week in which Markus and I also made plans and "to do" lists for Unsung Productions (our audio production cooperative), his forthcoming projects, and mine. The city had a great vibe and didn't disappoint - I only had one minor gripe: it's near impossible to use a credit (or debit) card anywhere! ;-) Strange (though perhaps refreshing in an equally strange way) in these 'virtual money' times. I'll know for next time... There's now a huge stack of material for me to work through, which will take at least four times as long as it did to record it ;-) Plus I have Pat's latest contributions to tie-in, and Troy (Jones) is currently laying down further overdubs, so the next couple of weeks are going to be busy. Further album sessions are being scheduled for June - More on who / what / where in the next blog 'instalment'.

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As a footnote - while we're talking about Markus - I should mention that his acclaimed classical piece 'Todmorden 513 (Concerto for Orchestra)' is officially released on the 17th June. I mastered the CD, and lots of great people were involved in its creation, not least Thomas Blomster who orchestrated the work. The accompanying 70 minute documentary (as featured on the deluxe CD/DVD edition) is available to stream for free here: http://breaking513.com

Until next time... x


PS - There are a few additional photos from the Berlin trip over on my Facebook artist page: https://www.facebook.com/leefletcher.official...

[All pics by moi - © copyright 2014 - except the shot of me which was taken by Markus]

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