Twin Cities, MN (Part II)

Gentlemen and ladies, the rest of my time in the twins (being the twin Cities). These were exceptionally busy days.

Friday, July 4th

Friday the 4th started off with a rehearsal.

“Rehearsal?” asks A.G. “Shouldn’t you rather be recording?”

Well, yes, but somehow I managed to land about four gigs while I was up here, three on drums and one on organ/synth. I played for two bands for the Taste of Minnesota, as well as two churches on each Sunday I was here. It was nice actually making some money when I’d expected only to spend it.

This rehearsal was my personal run-through with Peter for the gigs on Saturday and Sunday, since I had to learn roughly 20 new songs in two days.

After rehearsal, I was off to meet my next host, a very fun girl named Daneen. We went to a fairly crazy party, which at least two people thought was “weird.” But we managed to have good times all. I played some game where you have to flip cups over (after emptying them of course) and also had some fun drum and guitar jam sessions on the porch.

It was not a good night for pets though. Partway through the party, someone’s dog was hit by a car and he had to take it to an emergency animal hospital. Also, Daneen got a call from her mother informing her that the cat that she grew up with had died. A sad night for pet owners. If there were such thing as a musician that didn’t care about other people’s pets, it would have been a good night for that person, though.

Here we are catching some Saturday morning pizza the next day at Green Mill.

Red things.

Saturday, July 5th

Speaking of the next day, it’s Saturday now in this post. What happens on Saturday? Answer: crazy amounts of music. After the aforementioned morning pizza, I was off to rehearse with the full band for a group called the Global Worship Movement.

Rehearsal getting started

They’re all about unifying dance and song in worship music, using a lot of world rhythms and such. Peter’s wife Danelle is a dancer and instructs people in various movements between songs so we get everybody moving. Quite fun. Their regular drummer was out of town for the holiday weekend, so I had the fun job of rhythmically leading a band in songs that they knew well and I had just learned. Exciting!

Singers and perc Some people who are cool despite no A/C.

Following the rehearsal it was off to Taste of MN to drum for the Heart of the City band.

Headed toward the Taste of Minnesota.

The HotC band doesn’t rehearse, relying instead on high-caliber musicians who learn the tunes well beforehand. These were not simple tunes so I was more than a little nervous to drum for this group, since drums plays such a leadership role, and I just learned the songs.

We had a while to hang in the Tent and grab some food before the gig. I was craving a gyro, but settled on a falafel sandwich instead.

Peter, on the other hand, ate the very gyro that I had been craving.

The drumming actually went fine. It was a loud stage, we hadn’t played together before, and the singers kept pushing and pulling me rhythmically (I was on a click, or at least trying to be)… but in spite of all this, the music was fun and sounded pretty awesome. Dan Adler (the founder of HotC) threw some totally new songs at me at the end which was even more fun. I watched Peter for the hits.

Afterwards I got to chill with some dudes in the band at a nice Italian place in St. Paul.

Fun conversations about Trinidad and Korea!

Then I headed to the home of the aforementioned Matt Riley, since I was playing at his church the next morning and he lived nearby.

The Couch of the Rileys.

Sunday, July 6th

Sunday was another busy day of playing out. Started off playing B3/synth for two services at New Hope Church, where Mr. Riley is the instrumental music director. Man, I love a real B3. So much fun. Plus, Peter had given me a crash course in adjusting the drawbars, so I was able to make it sound like I wanted to instead of relying on the previous settings.

After lunch with Matt at Arby’s, it was off to Taste of MN again! Peter drove last time, and I hadn’t paid close attention, so this time it took me roughly 1.5 hours to drive there and find parking. My GPS did a fine job of helping me get to the address I had, but it turned out that address was not correct, so then I was lost.

Finally I was there, this time playing for a group I had actually rehearsed with, so I was definitely less nervous. Things went quite well, other than the fact that I was taking a shower in my shirt the whole time. I don’t know whose bright idea it was that the whole band wear black and denim…

I need more Peter in my monitor! I need more bass in my monitor! View from the VIP loft. Sing, sing, sing the songs. Justin looks supercool in this shot. Ja vohl, mein -- wait, what's over there? What you can't see is the hundreds of people doing these same actions. Danelle did a great job of making it fun for everyone. Busy drumming and sweating.  About equal parts of both. An intense moment. OK Taste, Let's Rock! Groovin' like a grooveback tortoise. Holding down the mad grooves. Shawn adding the sweet, sweet perc. What's next, Peter? More photographers should use tents as backdrops.

We finished around 4:30 or so, then I headed over to the home of my songwriting partner-in-crime, Jeremy Wilson. Every time I hear this man’s music I want to write songs.

Jeremy and his charming wife Gina have recently popped out some twins (not the Cities this time), who are now toddling around enthusiastically, and thankfully going to bed early so as not to interfere with recording.

Jeremy instructing the male twin in nerdy ways.

Jeremy put down lots of fun vocal tracks. I am a really big fan of his singing (and songwriting for that matter… check his myspace), so I was happy to get his voice on some of these tracks.

And this is where I keep my guns...

After that it was off to Anoka to meet my next hosts, Alex and Syneva (the ‘e’ is long) Barrett. They are a super welcoming couple with an awesome dog and an extensive collection of amazing independent music. I got quite a list of artists from them that I definitely need to check out, but unfortunately didn’t get a picture of them. I did however get a picture of “The Cabin”, which was the cabinesque annex in which I stayed.

The Cabin

Monday, July 7th

Today is Aaron Fabbrini day! We did a 10-to-5 day of recording and got a fair bit of stuff done, including a break for lunch at Taste of Scandinavia (where oddly enough I finally had that gyro… turns out their chef is Greek).

Aaron laying down grooves as tasty as Scandinavia and Greece combined.

Aaron is a fantastic player with a heaping helping of bassistic part ideas, and an uncanny ability to respond instantly to drummers. Matt Tobias is not exactly Mr. Expectable when it comes to drum fills, but Aaron was all over it, in fact more often than not he matched up on his first time playing through. I was thoroughly impressed.

We recorded a lot of hollow-body bass and a good bit of fretless before calling it a day. I was pretty sad we didn’t have time to get to the upright stuff, but I guess that will have to wait for another player. My challenge now is to find a player good enough to make me not have to come back to Minneapolis to record Aaron again.

First try Second try

Then I met up with my old friend Darla Potter and a person who I knew of but never officially met before, Pamela Breit. Darla was sometimes mistaken for my girlfriend at NCU simply because she is Korean, and NCU is, oh… 96% white. Seriously, someone came up to her and asked how I was doing and she didn’t even know me yet. Very amusing to me. Also amusing is my memory of her coming over to our apartment once and eating all of our bread. On that note, here they are after eating.

My old friend Darla and my new friend Pamela

After a really funny excursion which perhaps I will recount later if someone asks me to in the comments, it was off to Dan Lawonn’s apartment to set things up and get a start on tomorrow’s recording.

Tuesday, July 8th

Today I recorded amazing musician Dan Lawonn, a terrific cellist, guitarist, songwriter, and arranger. He was super into the spirit of the project and contributed some excellent cello tracks. I believe we have reason to expect further contributions from him down the road as well, via the marvels of modern communication.

Play, play, play the breathtakingly lovely cello parts.

Also, I haven’t gotten any mic stands yet.

Cleaning supplies make great mic stands!

Then, it was off to Madison!

NEXT: Madison.

Ask Not For Whom Matt Drums; He Drums for Me

I have had the great pleasure of spending the last several weeks recording drums with my longtime friend and excellent drummer Matthew Tobias over at Empty House Studio. Perhaps the name was originally accurate, but it’s not so much now:

Some Rack Gear in the now misnamed Empty House Studio

Anyway, I’m even more excited about the project after getting Matt’s tasty drumming goodness all over my songs. We ended up doing 18 songs of drum tracks, which leaves a few for drummers on the road, but mostly covers it.

“Why do drums in Omaha?” whines a nearby naysayer. “Doesn’t recording stuff locally conflict with your vision of a roadtrip album?” With that naysayer I must patiently disagree. These are intended to be Pan-US albums. Last I checked, Omaha is in the US. Also, this is Matt Tobias we’re talking about here. I’m quite familiar with his playing and trust him to play what the song wants. He handled the odd meters and other craziness with aplomb, as I knew he would.

The main reason I did drums first is so everyone else that I record will have a solid foundation to build on. Matt’s drumming has a way of making rhythms persistent and alive in a way that no loop or click could possibly produce. So, it will theoretically be much easier for all the other players to add their parts now, as opposed to recording with a loop or a click.

Caution: Drummer at Work Through the Looking Glass

“Well, okay,” says the converted naysayer (now yaysayer). “Tell me more about this ‘Matt.'” I’ve known Matt for quite a long time — I was always pleased when he would play at our church with some band or another, then later we played in church bands together for probably several years. Matt played drums for my performance prep* concert up at NCU, and through the years has been a consistent influence on me with his professionalism and thoughtful playing. It is inspiring the level of detail he brings to drumming. From time to time I would get some drum lessons from him.

Matt was very easy to work with. You don’t have to tell him anything twice. He is adept at building songs and devising consistent and interesting drum parts. Of course I already knew this going in, but they say in recording you’re only as good as your last project. Well Matt, breathe a sigh of relief: this project = also good. The bar has not been lowered.

I only wish I could work with musicians like Matt all the time. But, it’s also good for people to have something to aspire to. With that, I leave you with an action shot of Matt VIGOROUSLY MIXING:

Sometimes Mixing is Intense

* Performance Preparation is a two-semester class, at the end of which every student is responsible for producing and performing a half-hour concert.