All has been quiet on the Luke Jackson music front for too long, but 2007 has been the most exciting year in as long as I can remember, with work beginning in earnest on that "difficult" third album. There has been nothing difficult about it in actual fact. I decided that the days of producing and engineering my own albums are over. I wanted a new experience this time and I have been lucky enough to be recording with Christoffer Lundqvist at his fantastic recording studio The Aerosol Grey Machine in a converted barn in the heart of the countryside about an hour outside Malmo in Southern Sweden.
Outside The Aerosol Grey Machine
Christoffer is, in my humblest of opinions, Sweden's answer to Jon Brion. He's a multi instrumentalist with a mindboggling musical palette and the most discerning ear, nurtured over years of songwriting, performing, arranging, recording and mixing. He's built the studio from the ground up in such a manner that every bit of gear is like an extension of his body. To watch this man record and mix an album is to witness a beautiful synthesis of creativity and technology. I mostly sat in a chair in the corner of the control room, giggling.
The live room
Aside from Christoffer I have been blessed on these sessions with the rhythm section of my dreams in drummer Jens Jansson (Christoffer's Brainpool bandmate) and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Magnus Borjeson who was behind two of my all-time favourite bands: Beagle and Favorita, and currently fronts Metro Jets when he's not touring with other acts like The Cardigans or Per Gessle.
Jens, Me, Christoffer and Magnus
The AGM is an analogue studio in the truest sense of the word. There are mountains of vintage gear in every corner of the place. Name the most obscure recording device you can think of and Christoffer probably has two of it!
Have you seen my keys?
Magnus, Jens and I recorded all the bed tracks live off the floor through the Trident Series B, a monster of a mixing desk, onto either the Studer or Otari 2" tape machines. Occasionally if Christoffer was inspired he'd grab an instrument in the control room while we were recording and add his own track of minimoog, lap steele, celesta, vibraphones or flute as he saw fit. This was the organic recording experience that my protools-addled mind had been craving all these years.
Recording with Magnus and Jens has been great. Between us we found the arrangements that suited each song and then we'd play them through until we got into the "take zone" of quality performances. We largely eschewed the bigger "live room" in favour of the smaller drum room where we could capture the energy of the band.
Recording in the drum room
When all the bed tracks were done we would bid Magnus and Jens farewell and get to work on the vocals and overdubs. Christoffer always knows which combination of guitar and amplifier is going to give us the best result for each song. Occasionally he would indulge some of my kookier ideas like in the picture below...
One string, one hand, no kidding!
After a couple of days of vocals and overdubs, Magnus would come back up from Malmo for an evening of overdubs. Some of the best fun we had was recording backing vocals. We'd work out three-part harmonies at the piano and then record them with the three of us singing into one microphone in the control room. We recorded every part three times so there would be nine of us on the song.
Recording backing vocals
There they are on the tracks!
Backing vocal tracks
Once the overdubs were done, we had everything we needed to begin mixing. For those of you who are unaccustomed to music jargon, let me explain it in cooking terms. Writing and arranging a song is like coming up with a recipe. You decide what you're going to need and what goes in when. Recording the song is like going shopping for the ingredients. You make sure you only pick the finest quality and freshest ingredients you can find. Then when you have all your food laid out on the counter, it's time to put it all together and make it work. This is the mixing process.
In most modern studios, mixing means programming the computer to add effects and echo to each track at certain points, make the tracks louder, quieter, wet, dry, left, right. At AGM Christoffer does all this as he goes along, literally "performing" the song from the tracks on the 2" tape machine as the song plays. He doesn't use any outboard reverb units...he has two purpose-built echo chambers in the studio...if he wants to manipulate the amount of echo on a track, he moves the microphone around the echo chamber, or opens the door to the chamber a little more. After hours of careful manipulation, Christoffer is ready for the ultimate performance of the song, the finished mix which gets recorded directly to the two-track Studer 1/4" tape machine. Each mix is always unique and when we think he's got the perfect one, we listen to it several times to make sure we're happy with it. Sometimes when it's almost perfect, it's easier to edit the finished mix by cutting and "splicing" the 1/4" tape than trying to recreate the perfect mix again.
Christoffer splicing tape
At the end of this last trip to Sweden, we have almost all the tracks recorded and two songs are completely mixed. The next sessions are not until October since Christoffer is busy touring with Per Gessle (along with Magnus and Jens). However, the October session is perhaps the most exciting of all, since we will be recording string arrangements for half of the songs which are being written by another of my musical heroes, Robert Kirby.
In the meantime I will be busy trying to find the best way to bring this album to discerning ears around the world. I'm not quite ready to post any of the new songs on my myspace page but I can't wait to play them for you all soon.
Thanks for stopping by...more from me later!