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03-30-16

I normally pride myself on my turnaround, but this song took me five years to mix. When I was living in Brockley, in my attic bedroom, in the middle of a bunch of projects, a band facebooked me to ask if I’d record them. I think I initially thought their press shot was lame, or was just too busy to listen to their demo, but one night, trawling my inbox, stoned, I found the email again. This song, Black Rainbow, jumped out at me. So dramatic, so bleak, and yet quite funny (you have to understand the use of the word ‘nightmare’ in British vernacular). An odd song structure eschewing recognizable verses, choruses or bridges with two guitarists doing very different things, but then coming together with the same power chords when necessary. And when the singing descends into dismal screams, the guitar picks up the melody instead and keeps it interesting.
But by the time I’d actually booked them to record, their singer, Olly had quit. We went ahead anyway since they had someone new lined up, and I’d just driven down to the west country with all my gear.
We recorded drums in a horrible room at the office where Rob, the guitarist worked. It was totally square and full of semi reflective surfaces like printers and year planners, but with some of those cubicle style partitions we managed to get a passable drum sound. We tracked the guitars at Rob’s house, using his Adam A7s to monitor on (I was dragging my Genelec 8020s around the country at the time) and we fucking nailed it on getting the gain right, if I may say so myself.
But when it came to vocals, the new guy, who had stuck his head in very briefly once, maybe twice, said he wanted to track them on his own, since he wanted to do something different from Olly’s parts and take his time with it. He assured us that it’d be top notch stuff, since his friend was an audio engineering student, and they had access to some great gear. So I drove home to London.
Eventually, about a month after the session, the new guy started dropboxing me vocal files. Everything was so compressed that the breaths were as loud as the singing itself, and every file was clipping to the point of having no waveform at all. It was all just square wave. I didn’t really like what he was doing with the songs anyway so I threw in the towel and gave Rob the stems to mix elsewhere. But recently, trawling through an old hard disc, I found the instrumental mixes again and started lamenting the loss of that one great song. I had the stems from their original demo, albeit 15bpm slower than we’d retracked it, so I cut them up and made them fit. With the laziness of the old tempo over the new, Olly almost sounds drunk. A song is reborn, and since the band broke up, I’m not at the mercy of their mix opinions, so I do wha I wan. Turns out the song is about Raoul Moat.

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