Part II. Job done
Here I am, a week later than promised, but this blog never beat any records for punctuality and reliability – a bit like its writer! Still working on that. However, if you can have a reasonable excuse, here it is. The album is finished! Over the past two weeks, Tom Hughes, our brilliant producer and I have been killing ourselves to add the final touches and last Thursday, finally, he sent me the last track. The past couple of days have been a flurry of uploading to our aggregator, Tunecore, and to the CD manufacturer. Release date for the album is 30 November and the single is the 24th. Recently Rob said it felt like giving birth and I advised him never to say that to a mother! But certainly it’s been long, excruciatingly frustrating and really tough. And painful, not in a physical way although sometimes my fingertips were shredded and my vocal chords raw. Choosing which songs to leave off the final running order was really difficult. But it’s not as if this is anything new. Hundreds of thousands of musicians go through this process every year. We’ve done it on our own and we’ve had to learn a lot of new skills, some musical, some administrative. I’ve given up on PhotoShop but luckily with my mate Alex Horwood, probably the best photographer, videographer and editor ever to have walked on this earth (admittedly I’m just a little biased!) I have a fantastic collaborator who can produce the most brilliant result with the sparsest of resources.
But if we are at the end we couldn’t have done it without our friends. Dom Harvey, the unimaginably talented guitarist of Dead Before Mourning who has been coaching and teaching me on and off for the past five years, who gave me the idea for ‘What Did You Do?’ one of the songs on the album, gave me the intro to start it off, and then in September sat down with me at Barnstorm Studios to record the most spine-tingling, mesmerising solo – a flawless diamond of guitar playing that leaves me awe-struck every time I hear it. Dom introduced us to Chantelle Bartlett, who has the voice of an angel yet she can rap with menace. She really has transformed three of the songs on the album. If anyone wonders how important a backing vocalist can be, listen to a track called ‘Electra’. She sings just one word and illuminates it in a way I can’t explain. Sometimes it’s better to just accept miracles and not waste any more time wondering how it’s done. And let’s not forget Jan’s backing vocals on ‘Dancing in Silence’, She’s there for the album version. And most important, Tom Hughes, our producer. He has just been the integral part of this whole project. I always think, what’s the point of hiring a producer if you’re just going to give them instructions? You might as well just get an engineer to to run the board and do the rest yourself. With a producer you get an objective view. Sometimes they tell you things that are hard to accept but they’re not doing it because they like the sound of their own voice. They want the album to be as good as it can be and they have far more experience in getting it that way than a band who are only going into the studio once a year at the most. We’re the exception, with plans to record our follow-up starting February next year.
If I ever thought recording an album consisted solely of going into the studio, recording 15 songs or so then sitting back and waiting for critical acclaim and hourly airplay I was sadly disabused. Although most of us have thrown our CDs away you still have to produce one. For promotional purposes, for potential collectors, and for us, a tangible record. Lucky for us, we have two very talented photographers. Not only Alex (see above) but also my own long-suffering Jan. She has a great voice but she is also a fantastic photographer. On several of the photographs she and Alex collaborated to produce some really special images. As an example, here is the front cover.
Wouldn’t it be good to say that’s the end of the story? All we need to do now is sit back and wait for the royalties. Not in this life. Now for promotion . That’s OK. We have a great album. How to go about it is another story. If there is a book on publicising your album I’d be delighted to have one. You can Google to your heart’s content and pull out some do’s and don’ts from bands and artists who have done it with varying degrees of success but you’re on your own. You have to compile a list of media – music critics and radio stations who might want to listen to an unknown band’s offering. One big stumbling block is a question all online A&R websites ask? “What band are you like?” If you think about it, how banal a question can that be? The reason we play originals is so we can be unique. Not wanting to be pigeon-holed we write our own material and play it our own way. I guess the answer has to be; wait until the album is released then you can make your own mind up. It is an uphill struggle as we found out when we released ‘Dancing in Silence’. We learned from that and over the next month we will produce a couple of videos. Unknown, unsigned bands have to work really hard, not just on their music but on those tasks you could never imagine like writing to music journalists and bloggers, to radio stations and any other influencers who might persuade just a few more people to play our songs, try to get playlisted, really looking for marginal gains to increase our profile. Still, we signed up for this….didn’t we?