Tuesday, June 9, 2009

In The Studio - Part 3

Yesterday I wrote briefly about how the Hollywood sign was determined to remain elusive despite each of its letters being 45 feet high. Today, before going into the studio, we went on a trek to see the Hollywood sign. Actually our real mission was to sit on the Hollywood sign.

Straight off I'll say that the sign looks deceptively small and deceptively close. In fact it's massive and really far away. So Kevin took us to the base of the hills in his awesome car and then the five of us began the trek. I will say at this point that there are roads that you can walk on but being adventurous we decided to take the more rustic trails that wind up the hill. I guess at some point we sort of lost perspective of where we were in relation to the sign itself but worked out the basic direction we had to head in. As we were walking (sorry, hiking) Kevin casually mentioned that we had to go off road (as in off the already kind of off road track) and that if any rangers found us we should do all the talking because we obviously sound like we're not from around here and that we could act dumb. At that point it became clear we weren't actually allowed to go near the sign. But there weren't actually any signs saying we couldn't go off the track so we figured that was their bad not ours.

I'll reiterate that the sign looks deceptively small and deceptively close. We thought that if we traversed a gully and climbed the ridge adjacent to the one we were on we would emerge from the scrub to be greeted by the glorious view of the 9 white letters. Wrong!! Also, we figured that despite there being no track we could quite easily find our own way. That was also incorrect. When we made it out of the gully to the top of the ridge bleeding, bruised and pretty buggered, we found that there were two more gullies and ridges to traverse and climb before we'd get to the sign. When we reached the top of the second of those ridges we realised there were about three more after that. Despite this setback we persevered and finally found ourselves at the base of the iconic Hollywood sign (which by the way used to say "Hollywoodland"). Greg and Kevin were at the front of the group and managed to set off some sort of alarm and then a voice came over a loudspeaker saying, "Stop hiking now!" So we did. We stayed put and climbed the letters. The voice didn't say anything more specific than that so we technically didn't do anything wrong. Then a ranger came out of nowhere and shouted at us that we were trespassing so we bolted down the hill only to find at ground level fences and many signs saying that it was illegal to climb up to the sign.

Get this. By getting lost and taking the most roundabout, off the beaten path route to the sign we avoided all the "Do Not Enter" signs and fences and slipped under the radar of the rangers long enough to get to the sign and climb it. How good! So worth the bleeding arms and legs and quite an eventful start to the morning. Then, driving on our way to the studio, to add to the excitement, a car in front of us (a Prius, quite small) ran a red light (as you do) and got collected by a massive truck (I use the American term "truck" here to describe what Aussies would call a "ute" so don't go picturing semi-trailers or anything like that). But it was a pretty full on crash - three cars. Everyone seemed alright though.

And then we were back in the studio. Unlike the other three tracks, we came to LA with the fourth song being left completely bare. We wanted to shape it in the studio and capture that spontaneity on record. We hadn't actually played the song as a band so this was real experimentation territory for us. We chatted a bit about what we were going for, set up the mics and then John started playing drums to a scratch track. Kevin actually set up the drums in the entrance way to the studio for a really different sound. It was cool. Anyway John played one take, the first he'd ever played of the song, and that was him done. We loved it. Andrew jumped on the piano and played a take and then overdubbed a Rhodes solo and that was him finished as well. Then it came to Greg's vocal take. He nailed it in one in a really emotional, bare everything take. It was actually really beautiful to watch. So that was the song, pretty much finished. And it was a really great feeling to have captured the energy we were looking for straightaway, just as we'd hoped for.

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