Surviving the Worst of Times: Recording an Album

It was one of these days when all your worst nightmares come true. You arrive at work to find that the boss has other plans for you; you’ve been made redundant !  So you go home to find a phone message saying that the tenants are moving out of the flat you’ve been renting out. Meanwhile pest control experts have appeared at your door, ready to strip out most of the floors and ceilings to get rid of dry rot… not a  good combination !

House2

The “House of Horrors”

I’ve always believed that adversity (and not necessity) is the mother of all invention and so its a good idea, where possible, to turn a crises into an opportunity. After a few days of shock and a heavy dose of dry rot treatment chemicals I decided it was time to come up with a plan; I would record an Album !

To most people, this might sound like a reckless and flawed scheme; to me though, the idea didn’t seem so crazy. I’d been writing songs and playing guitar for a long time and several years before (in Aberdeen) I’d recorded a six track CD which, much to my surprise, sounded ok. Now, thanks to my benevolent ex-boss, I had time on my hands (though not the finance) to take forward a creative project. With trepidation I phoned up Clearwater studios in Perth and booked the first session.

Mark -ant

Mark at the mixing desk

The guys at Clearwater were a cool bunch with alternative ideas about life and different ways of working from most people you’ll normally come across. Most helpful of all was Mark McClymont, a young sound engineer and would-be producer who helped me pull together all the tracks from rough concepts in my head to something with a life of their own.

Making an album is not the quite the glamorous task its made out to be; it’s actually incredibly draining and hard work. Usually we’d start around 4pm and work till well after midnight doing endless retakes, editing and mixing, stopping only to gobble down some junk food. Like true musicians we had long and bitter arguments about how the tracks should sound; Mark wanted a hard rock and grunge sound whilst I favoured a more rootsy, blues type approach. As ever compromise prevailed resulting in a fairly eclectic final product.

Me - guitar

Me looking pensive after the 10th retake

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Mark doing the mystical stuff

Despite creative tensions, no challenge was too great for Mark; as well as doing the sound engineering and mixing he’d happily grab a bass guitar or leap behind the drum kit to make sure we achieve an authentic “live” sound. Other passing musicians were also effectively nobbled and roped in to contribute impromptu guitar solos, relying purely on improvisation.

And so we prevailed; the idea was to make a twelve track CD at the start but we had to scale things down due to time and money constraints. Two months later I was back in a job and the window of opportunity had closed. A year or two later, as life events unfolded, I’d almost completely forgotten about the recordings until, one day, I rediscovered them in a drawer and decided it was time to design a cover. The final CD was called “Heartbeat”. Needless to say it never made it to the big time but then, who knows; one day it might still just get to No. 1 in the album charts.

Since then, life has got no less stranger and I hadn’t expected a few years later that I would be a father of 2 and heading off to live in Germany (not speaking a word of German); perhaps being “Off the Beaten Track” is as much about a state of mind as it is about physically travelling anywhere. I think it’s about being open to change and to the opportunities that come your way; as well as  having the recklessness the pursue these…

Seascape-ant

Me trying to look “otherwordly” by the sea

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