Audio Visual Recording Sessions, New York City
I landed in the US on the 28th of February to start the next phase of the production, a month of audio visual recording sessions with a collection unsigned New York musicians!
After sifting through the many emailed replies from artists to the call out that was posted on various web sites, New York's huge pool of diverse musical talent became very apparent. Excited by the prospect of this quite random creative collision, as well as the prospect of working with my brother, Ben Allen AKA Loop Professor, I settled into a month of cat sitting in a appartment in Brooklyn Heights kindly on loan from our production coordindator Sarah Pace, while she was out of town. Sarah had worked on sourcing a space to work from for the duration of this leg of the project and had scored this amazing basement in DUMBO, down-under-the-Manhattan-Bridge.
On the junction of Pearl and Front street, the space run by Marching Records was to be the base camp for the next month. After a brief period of adjustment to the New York ways, namely, bagels, coffee and a distinct lack of cat flaps, we started to get things organised. After the first few days in the space sorting out some of the technical issues, we began to realise that we were going to have a major issue with sound spill from the neighbours. It now seemed apparent that the place we had hire was a rehearsal space and a random section of different rock and hipster bands would be thrashing it out next door on a regular basis.
After the initial panic and a frantic search for an alternative space, we decided to stay put and work around this by holding sessions early in the morning and very late at night. This factor also meant we had to slim down the list of artists a little, which was a shame. I didn't want to cherry pick people too much as I wanted to let things happen organically and I tried to involve everyone who had responded to the initial call out. However, with limited funds and tricky session times, the list of prospective musical collaborators was cut down significantly.
We picked up a few choice characters through word of mouth and personal connections but the final tally ended up at a total of 28 artists:
Robbie Seahag - Bass & Electric Guitar
Rev Mofo - Acoustic & Electronic Percussion
Pat "Rock" Woods - Drums
Melanie Moser - Vocals & Electric Guitar
Mavrothi Kontanis - Oud
Martha Hyde - Soprano Saxophone
Marie Mascari - Vocals
Luke Cissell - Fiddle
Laurent Medelgi - Acoustic & Electric Guitar
Kendra Flowers - Vocals
Joseph Jarman - Saxophone & Effects
Jo Williamson - Acoustic Guitar & Vocals
Isabel Pupo-Walker - Percussion
Chris Chalfant - Grand Piano
Chanda Rule - Vocals
Brian Fishler –Drums
Adrienne Hecker - Vocals
Brent Arnold - Cello
Welf Dorr - Saxophone
Travis - Theromin
Tom Mayer - Double Bass
The other artists that aren't pictured above (because i didn't get any snaps of them) included:
Scotty "Imp" Lehman - Drums
Jason Deiso - Bass Guitar
Valerie Opielski - Percussion & Electric Guitar
Emskee - MC
Dell Wells - MC
Dezmatic - MC
Atypical - MC
Nobs - MC
Just to add to the general confusion of these sessions all the recording was done in total darkness! I decided that in order to preserve some continuity with lighting as well as the overall look and feel of the footage, I would shoot all the video material using Infra-red night vision cameras.
To do this I used two cameras, one Sony A1E, HDV camera set on night shot mode and a small security camera attached to a Sony PD150, this camera had a set of infra-red LED's which acted as a light source for the other camera. I also used a hand held infra-red light for extra illumination here and there.
This approach proved to be a bit of a tricky task when negotiating cables and equipment in the dark but it did allow each musician to immerse themselves in the music and not get too conscious of the camera.
Audio was recorded onto each DV camera as a headphone mix and then directly into a laptop running Logic through a 24 channel desk.
To create a conversation between these solo musicians, each artist was given a set of headphones and was played a series of takes from an earlier session. This was done as a total improvisation as none of these artists had worked together or knew of each other beforehand. We tried to stick to a principle of each recorded take being "passed on" to influence the next, in the vain of Chinese whispers, or if you're an American, the telephone game. The concept was to create a sort of musical form of rumour or myth.
The process was started by recording drums, bass and percussion to a series of click tracks and a few cheeky samples which were then removed as each track grew. We also played some of the narrative interview material to the vocalists to seed their ideas. Along the way, we created new tracks by sampling elements of the takes and looping them up to create new audio "beds" to develop into tracks.
The results have been amazing! Trust me.. but you will be able to judge for yourselves, I will be posting video and audio previews in the coming months so stay tuned.