Anchor Blog Series: Entry #10
This was the first track we made while working on Anchor. Sean Dixon and I recorded the drums on New Years Eve nearly 2 years ago. 2012 was a tremendous year for the new band as we played more than 100 shows and really bonded over the trials and tribulations of covering all those miles. Sean and I had a lot of ideas we’d tossed around while on the road together. I wanted more space and through-lines on Anchor so we focused on very groove oriented drum patterns with a lot of subtle detail in our sessions. It was recorded with 6 microphones (as described before) and as Sean played I moved various implements around the kit to change the sound in subtle ways. For example, we put a splash cymbal on the snare drum (both right side up and upside down) for the first section of the track, and I moved a spring drum around on the top of the hi-hat as he played. There was also a large tangle of little wooden nut shells resting on the floor-tom which you can hear moving around a bit. I post processed the drums through the Kush Electra, and then added more and more stage reverb on an aux as the track developed, using the PCM81.
Next came the electric guitar, which defined the form of the track. The tuning on my Strat is DADDAD with unison strings in the middle and very thick strings to maintain definition at drop tunings. This tuning is very strange, I know, but it is great for big stacked fifths and huge barred ninths and tenths which are the majority of chords in this track. Once again I was going after a ‘partly cloudy’ kind of feel, where subtle key shifts change the attitude of the song in hard to define ways… similar to what I often hear in Phillip Glass’s music (listen to Einstein on the Beach and watch Koyaanisqatsi if you never have). I used an auto-volume swell patch from the Pod-HD500 that feeds delay and distortion and recorded it through my little Fender Blues Jr. amp with a bit of spring reverb. Turning up the gain created incredible feedback even at low volumes. I recorded everything twice (with an Audix I5 mic) and put one take hard left and the other hard right.
The bass in this track is a Moog Slim Phatty patch with a slow attack. I manually adjusted the cutoff frequency,drive and resonance as the track progressed to make it more and more gnarly. Once again I recorded everything twice with slightly different performances and panned hard right and left.
The vocals were recorded dry and then re-recorded through the Blues Jr. amp. Sending vocals through a guitar amp is a great way to add grit and texture (just watch the sibilants). I also discovered a great trick for getting beautiful long reverb tails with a lot of dark character. I digitally sped up the entire vocal take by an octave, so that it sounded like a ‘chipmunk’ and recorded it through the amp with heavy spring reverb. Then I took the resulting recording and slowed it back down again by the same amount, which meant that the vocals were back to normal but the reverb tail was twice as long. Then I used the same process except I went two octaves up and down, so the reverb tails we’re four times longer. I also sent the lyrics in reverse through the process and got a really sweet reverse reverb that swells into the first word of every line. Since I lost some of the high end (above 5k) or so with this process’ I took the high end of the vocals (using a steep high pass filter) to replace it.
I named the track ‘Sinker’ early on because of the repeated sinking melody that was stuck in my head while working on the chords. The vocal melody is simply a pattern of descending notes that end in different places… like leaves falling out of a tree from different heights. It was a useful way to unify the lyrical flow while writing non-rhyming prose.
When you’re home, just wind on water
just do your job and let it go
you made your feelings known
and what else can you do or say
when you call
we’ll talk about your pets
a play of light and shadow fair and generous
it underplays, it overplays
keep it simple
you’ve fallen down this hole before
you always want a thousand more
we all become our opposites in time
you’re the anchor
the sinker on my line
you hold me to the river bed
a time to wait expressionless
don’t care anymore
there is no sleep there is no pleasure
I always want a thousand more
when your home
don’t blame the lack of oxygen
don’t blame the sugar
don’t blame the yeast
It’s hard to talk about these lyrics. They are very important to me and I want to leave them open to interpretation so I won’t say much about them. Except, there is a deep satisfaction that comes from a long term relationship that has withstood bumps and bruises through the years. Such a relationship requires a conscious resignation to be contained by it, and this makes truly wonderful things possible in the long run. The best things in life, really.
Tomorrow is the final track on the record, Your Time. (Then a weird little bonus track after that)