6 p.m. to 12 a.m.
It’s been three weeks since Lodhi got diagnosed with jaundice. I have to admit it got us all pretty down. Smack in the middle of Ramzan, we were all pretty pumped about finishing the songs early and then using the rest of the month for mixing. This way we would release the album on New Years and become rockstars. (Random hilarious fact: if you type “rockstars” in Word, the spell-check corrects it as “jockstraps”…wtf?)
And then we could make unreasonable demands on the public. Such as these.
1) Chocolate covered dancing midgets, provided at all times.
2) These midgets must serve us further midgets. However these must be plain. Or with nuts.
Anyway, having clearly forgotten to take my pills, I tried to salvage some resemblance of getting back to work by asking Yasir to book us for an evening shift. I was unaware that Yasir was smoking unreasonable amounts of crack at the time and had in fact booked us for an all day session on a weekday from noon to 9 p.m. So we had to call Ashfaq Bhai (Studio Owner) and tell him our session began at 6. In the meantime I had attached electrodes to Yasirs’ nipples and was generously shocking him when he blurted out that OK would not be coming either because he was having his hourlies (IBA monthly exams). Shit.
Anyway the two of us decided to brave the odds and go it alone. I was so confused about what we were going to record today, I loaded every instrument I could think of. Here is the list
1) 12-String Acoustic (here's a picture of my baby...)
2) Nylon String Spanish guitar
4) Bass guitar
5) 2 Darbukas
6) 1 tambourine, 2 Marocas (Shakers)
7) 2 Harmonicas
These weren’t our main instruments but I basically wanted to use them for overdubs and just adding some color to the basic tracks, add a bit of ethnicity, like final dabs on a palette. But I realized that this was all just an excuse so that I wouldn’t have to start vocals. I was terrified of doing vocals and was trying to avoid doing them as long as I could.
Well basically here’s the deal. Vocals are the most important part of a rock/pop song. Basically it’s the first thing everybody hears. And criticizes. On stage, I could just sing loud and belt out on top of a loud song like “Sultanat” and it would sound find. But here, in the confines of a single, extremely sensitive mic and a dark soundproof vocal booth, I was terrified of a) singing badly and b) not being able to replicate the same emotion and energy I have when singing live.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, we got to the studio in pitch darkness. After 3 weeks of absolutely perfect behavior the electricity had gone. (Incidentally the last time it went was when WE were trying to do darbuka). We sat and prayed.
It wasn’t all that bad, we met a pair of charming young gentlemen who were mixing a live performance of Humera Channa (famous Pakistani singer from the 80’s 90’s, please refer to picture).
Turned out they were also sound engineers, so I happily exchanged information with them, you never know when we need an extra sound guy. They in turn, were fascinated by these two burger boys who walked in with their garish instruments and constant whining.
Luckily we decided to stay for awhile and the electricity did come back, albeit 90 minutes later. It was then decided that I should stop being such a pussy and then go ahead and do my first vocal recording of “Sultanat”
I stepped into the vocal booth nervous as hell. Raza seemed pretty calm. I would have to just rely on his Yasir and my judgement to get it right. Luckily Raza, our amazing sound engineer was an absolute pro. The guy could hear a mistake in pitch and tempo from a mile away. He heard everything. We couldn’t even bitch about him safely.
I ran through the song once and then twice and it was ready to belt it out take by take. Hmm, this seemed do-able. Wrong.
It took us TWO hours to record “Sultanat” vocals. I didn’t think I was singing particularly badly, but Raza was a perfectionist and he made me do every verse, and every line again and again till it was solid. However, around the 35th take or so I started to fatigue and needed a chai boost. Two hours later when we finally got it right and heard the playback, I was overjoyed. There were still slight mistakes in the singing but they glossed over and I managed an emotional delivery.
Riding the crest of excitement, we decided to go in and quickly slap on some backing vocals. I needed a single, high pitched voice to provide a counter melody for the chorus and Yasir had the perfect voice for it. Just for some extra flava, I replicated his very high pitched vocal line with and identical one of mine which was extremely deep and bassy (my friends refer to this as my ‘picking up chicks’ voice).
The song was complete. Yasir and me were hopping around the studio playing air guitar and air drums. It was an awesome feeling! I had tears in my eyes. Finally we had a product. I knew there would still be some time before it got out since we had to mix it properly. But I knew that it sounded shockingly good and I couldn’t wait to have people hear it.
I thought I’d be exhausted once we finished the song but we figured we were on such a high, we might as well record “Nazar” as well.
As I mentioned earlier, we recorded all our songs without a metronome (a beat keeping device for those who don’t know). I guess we were trying to capture as close a “live” feel to the music as possible. But it made recording overdubs extremely difficult as the tempos would keep shifting ever so slightly throughout the songs. With “Nazar”, Raza thought I should record the song completely “live”, the way I perform it with me playing guitar and singing at the same time. However when I tried, my fingerpicking on the guitar was getting a little jumbled, and it needed to be precise. So I ended up using a metronome and dubbing the vocals and Spanish guitar.
The result was a completely different feel. While in concert when I did “Nazar” with and electric guitar, it was smooth and I guess I was trying to channel Jeff Buckley. With the acoustic, it took on a different vibe, being more Spanish influenced and I loved it. This is another song very close to my heart (See the story of “Nazar”)
Tonight was difficult but extremely rewarding. We were so excited we called up Lodhi and some of our other friends to make them hear the mixes. Poor Lodhi, I knew he was happy but I knew he was wishing he was there. Inshallah, he’ll be back soon…
“It’s been a hard days’ night, and I’ve been working like a dog” – The Beatles “A Hard Days’ Night”
Labels: Studio Sessions