League of Rock – From the Inside Vol. 7
Immediately after the week 7 Live workshop our attention turned to which song we would be recording when we entered Phase One Studios. Many times the choice of which song to record is an easy one. The song that the band plays the best is usually the one that bubbles to the top for obvious reasons. Coaches, staff and even outsiders will give their recommendations but at the end of the day it is the band that must make the decision which song gets immortalized onto the League of Rock CD.
For [SIC] this decision was quite a process. Way back on the second night of rehearsals we put together the parts of the Amy Winehouse song “Back to Black”. I must give props to my incredible band-mates Bill and Tamara as they had spent an afternoon literally re-writing the musical parts into an all new and very different version of this song. That night it came together very quickly and someone suggested that very night, that this would be the song that we should record. Thus was it written, or was it?
The League of Rock is always a journey and we probably jumped the gun a little by declaring “Back to Black” as the chosen one quite so early on in the process. We hadn’t performed it live yet, hell we hadn’t even started to work on our third song selection. Fast forward five weeks, two live workshops, three rehearsals, unknown amounts of pizza and beer and I personally was no longer convinced that Back to Black was the song to record. At least from my vantage point.
I had a number of personal reasons for feeling this way but thus far I had kept them to myself. I felt that certain members of the band, most notably Tamara had her heart sort of set on recording Back to Black. The song obviously had an emotional connection with her and I felt almost bad that the song was just not resonating with me. Personally I felt both of our other song selections were more exciting and for me at least, more fun.
To add complexity to the decision, most of the feedback from our coaches felt that our best performed song was our first song, the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb”. I love the raw punk rock vibe of this song and being a fairly easy and straightforward arrangement we indeed had become very tight with this number. In the words of one of the coaches, “when you play that song it feels effortless and it comes across that you are having a great time”. Being the first song we worked on, it certainly had the longest amount of time to be worked and fixed and tightened so it made a lot of sense why it sounded this way.
In case you have not been following along with my previous blogs, my favourite song in our small set is far and away Def Leppard’s “Let it Go”. I was an 80’s metal kid and it doesn’t get any better than Leppard’s 1981, High and Dry album. Personal tastes aside, I was ecstatic that we were able to even put this song together. On week three when we finally got down to putting this song together we were told that it might just be too “ambitious” for a LOR song. To my surprise and pleasure, those words seemed to inspire the stubbornness that is [SIC] and we soldiered on even booking extra rehearsal time to work out and tighten all the parts. Although it is my live favourite, I was fearful to suggest this one knowing we would only have a 4 hour recording window. Not a lot of time to record a complex rock anthem.
So that was the situation when the email came 5 days before our final rehearsal, asking us to reveal our song choice to record. I decided to put my cards on the table and let the band know I was not inspired with the early “Back to Black” choice and I put my vote with “Cherry Bomb” loving the high energy and confident we could kill it in the studio. It was then that Barry chimed in and suggested we record “Let it Go”, he felt it was our strongest number and would make a great trophy knowing how hard we had worked on that song. It was agreed that the song deemed “too ambitious” was going to be the one captured forever more. [SIC]’s crowning achievement.
Once again I sat dumbfounded about what had transpired with this song. Way back at the JAB night when Bill suggested it, I almost fell off my chair. I was so excited that I had to contain myself as I was completely expecting for the idea to be shot down or worse, that we would actually try it out and then be discarded. So the fact that we not only kept the song but now were going to record it, I was thrilled and our final rehearsal was spent polishing and tightening this song to get as ready as we could for a Saturday morning date at Phase One Studios.
Walking into Phase One Recording Studios is surreal to say the least. It is pretty much rock and roll sacred ground and for a music geek like myself it is akin to letting a 5 year old loose in a candy store. Walking the halls and counting all the gold and platinum album awards of recordings that proudly take space in my music collection. Rush, Triumph, Lee Aaron, Helix, Brighton Rock, Max Webster, Sass Jordin, Alice Cooper, Keith Richards, Kiss, Tragically Hip and countless others all hang proudly on the walls.
Getting the chance to play my bass in the same room that all these great albums were created is beyond goosebumps. Sitting in the control room with the Neve board, overlooking the big room is like sitting in the rock and roll Starship Enterprise. A thank you to the League of Rock for creating this entire experience, how many people can say they have recorded at Phase One?
Unlike the way in which many of today’s records are created. This is old school, live off the floor 70’s rock style recording. Although we are no longer using tape, the band is actually playing live, together in the same room and feeding off of one another. Our producer, the incredible Mark Ganetakos and his fine engineers directed us, encouraged us, instructed us, coached us, threatened us (ok maybe not but it adds to Marc’s street cred lol), pushed us and most importantly cheered for us as the production team worked their magic. My favourite quote of the day came when Marc told the engineers “I want this track sounding like a big guitar driven 70’s rock song!” FUCK YEAH!, you are my hero Marc.
There are so many amazing memories I will take with me from the session. Watching Bill lay down his guitar solo from the control room and the band applauding when he nailed an extremely tasty take. Singing the gang style backup vocals, something I had never experienced before. Watching Tamara belting it out in the vocal booth, and another favourite quote of the day…
Marc (producer) -“let’s try this part again, this time I am thinking big 70’s rock vocal, like Paul Rodgers of Bad Company”
Tamara – “I don’t know who you are talking about.”
Classic! The perfect line to show the diversity of our band. Once again kudos to Tammie for being incredibly open minded and agreeing to lay down an obscure 80’s hair metal tune. Obviously not her genre of choice but you wouldn’t know it, she dug in and made it her own.
Unfortunately, I had to leave early to attend a work function (oh to be a care free rock star) so I missed out hearing the final mix of the music we had captured. Hearing snippets of the song in the headphones however, made me so happy that we recorded this song. [SIC] forever immortalized on the League of Rock’s 10th Anniversary session CD playing my favourite Def Leppard song. Pretty [SIC]!
Next up: Vol. 8 – Live Rock n Roll Glory on the Big Stage…