Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm talkin' 'bout the tape, the tape of love...

Well, other than the show I blogged about below, life has been pretty slow in the summer months here in Atlanta. Not that it’s been bad, just relatively uneventful. The respite has helped me discover the swimming pool in my back yard that I’ve been paying to fix for the last year. I’ve been cursing the damn thing since we moved in, but the gods have elected to ease up on me for now, and it’s been pretty sweet to hang out and goof off with my kid I have to say.

Last week I had a young bass player in the studio who wanted to work up a couple of racks to send to a song writing partner of his. It went really well and I’m hoping my offer to record his band works out. While I was duping CD copies of the sessions for him, I looked to the tape shelf and pulled out a sixteen track analog master tape of a recording session myself and good friend of mine did back in 1989. He was writing a bunch of killer tunes and playing some great guitar. Recording them seemed to be the right thing to do. With my income tax refund in hand, I booked a three day after work hours session up in a Warwick NY studio. My old studio partner made the trip up from Georgia to play drums on the tunes and a guy who ended up playing bass in a band that resulted from these recordings filled that spot.

Since I’ve not heard any of the tunes in a long time, I have to work from memory with regard to the project, but a few things come to mind: I remember that the experience we had under our belts based on four years of messing around in our own studio paid off in spades. We got more done than what we originally set out to do on account of not having to go through what I call the “awe” period of studio work. It was a feeling of great accomplishment to “produce” the session as well. My buddy and I had very good ideas for how we wanted the songs to come out and we’re able to work with the engineer to achieve that. Familiarity with the process hindered us a bit since we also forgot that this was not our studio we were working in, and we were actually on the clock. Perhaps we could have got more done if we’d have kept a better pace. In hindsight, we should have invested in more takes I’d say.

I also remember discovering the importance of rehearsal, especially between bass player and drummer. My buddy and I had been working on his tunes for awhile, but the drummer and bass player had never played together before and if my recollection serves me you can hear it in the results. Both drummer and bassist were very competent players, but nothing makes things stick together like a bass player and drummer who can lock into each other. Lesson learned.

The guy that owned the place liked our stuff so much that he wanted to put a band together with us and it was shortly after this juncture we discovered what a dingus he was when all of a sudden when we suggested we build a set list based on original material and old blues work ups we were doing, he emphatically insisted we start learning some classic rock standards. It was a long ass drive out to Warwick anyway, and while it was fun to rehearse in the guys amazing studio and tape the sessions even, we were done with him that quick.

Which brings us back to today. See, I’ve got a Tascam MS-16, the same machine we did the session on back in 1980 in my studio. It doesn’t get much of a work out these days, but it’s in tip top shape (I’d LOVE to do a session with it if anybody is interested. Free of charge of course). I decided to rack that tape up to check it out and see what was there. I was hoping for better, but as I suspected was going to be the case (based on previously having to deal with the same problem a few years back), the tape suffers from “hydrolysis”, or in laymans terms "Tape Shedding". Years ago while making my first attempts at analog to digital conversion, I was distraught by these 15 year old 1/2" tapes I was working with grinding to a halt during playback and leaving copious amounts of goo all over the tape guides and heads. Turns out that in the early 70’s the green lobby began hammering the tape manufacturers with allegations of using carcinogenic chemicals in the glue that binds oxide to tape. As a result, tape manufacturers had to react quickly with a remedy and rush replacement glue out that was never age tested. It was almost twenty years before the catastrophe was discovered as tapes were being retrieved from archives for CD digital re-master and corrective measures could be developed. Most of the tape manufactured between 1972 and the mid 80’s is affected by this.

Fortunately, the big brains have come up with a remedy if not a temporary one. Apparently, slow baking an afflicted tape can temporarily stabilize and rebind the oxide for about 30 days before the old symptoms eventually begin to reoccur. So that’s what I’m doing with this tape: I’m sending it off to a restoration guy (the guy who wrote the article I linked to above) who is going to bake it and hotshot it back to me to transfer to digital. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to see how it comes out since I elected not to bake the tapes I attempted to transfer years ago. I’ll let you know how it goes and if there are any decent tunes on the tape, I’ll mix them out and post them here.

Wish me luck.

And for those that have stuck with this post to this point, did I mention that a friend called me last night and offered me a spare front floor section ticket to Rush tonight?

Oh how sweet it is!!!


At 1:17 PM, July 23, 2008, Blogger Dave Cavalier said...

So true about rehearsing before going into the studio. I suspect one reason so many bands are disappointed by the results they get on tape is that they grew up listening to records by bands that were playing 200 shows a year together. That's what allows you to get that magic live take.

Rush floor seats? God help you.

At 9:22 PM, July 25, 2008, Blogger Jackson said...

Any special reason you decline to mention your 'buddy' by name.

Concur on the rehearsal prior to recording bit, unless you enjoy wasting time and money.

At 12:24 PM, July 26, 2008, Blogger Tony Alva said...

No reason other than respect for privacy really...


Post a Comment

<< Home