Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I’m still jamming on Sundays at the Sox house, where I’ve been bashing away for at least 15 years now. The jam room is the same as ever, a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling tangle of patch cables, pedal boards, mike stands and cobwebs presided over by brittle posters of Geddy, Ozzy and Lemmy. Only the refreshments have changed. The days of homebrew and homegrown are over. Instead we’re downing Chai and bottled water and fresh fruit and cheese strings, all supplied by mother Sox, whom I’m sure is delighted by the straight-edge Sunday philosophy. We’re like friggin’ Aerosmith these days. Last time I was over, we had the Monk/Coltrane live album playing on the stereo as we passed the teapot around, and I heard Scum mutter, “God, what a bunch of nellies.”

We still play bloody loud, though, and, in the grand Sox tradition, we record everything. Getting a good room mix onto tape (or hard drive) wasn’t so difficult when we were a trio-plus-vocalist, but now that twin guitars have become such a big part of our “sound,” the huge swirl of frequencies has really muddied the recordings. I think turning down would help, but the guys love their Marshall stacks too much to do that. We’ve been using noise gates on the drum mikes to stop the guitars bleeding through. They definitely help, but I really dislike the resulting sound. Not only is every drum hit clipped a tiny bit, but the elements of the kit that don’t pack a huge wallop—like the high hat and ride cymbal—end up not triggering the gates and are inaudible on the recordings. Forget about playing grace notes or cross-sticking on the snare…it simply won’t register. Kick, snare, toms—boom-boom-tap—are about all that makes it through the gates.

So I worry, I complain, I bear with it. It’s not my room, it’s not my equipment, and I’m just the guy who gets to hang around with musicians…you know the joke. But as of last week, I feel better about the situation. Each issue of Decibel magazine features a lengthy piece about a “Hall of Fame” album, an extensive revisitation of some classic record that rounds up fresh interviews with band members talking about the good old days and how they really had no idea they were making a classic at the time, etc.

The Decibel folks have displayed good taste in their picks thus far, and I’m all over each issue like white on rice. In the latest issue, they consecrate Cathedral’s Forest of Equilibrium, a fantastically miserable album made by, it turns out, fantastically miserable young men. And what did Mike Smail, an American drummer who went to England to play on Cathedral’s legendary debut album, think of the end result?

“Well, I was kinda disappointed that there were absolutely no cymbals on that recording…”

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