The Making of “The Beast,” Part One - 6.25.04
Greetings from CT! Hope this column finds your and yours happy and healthy!
There sure has been a lot happening since we last visited, so pull up a chair, grab a beverage of your choice (Junior SMFs, that better be something NON alcoholic), and join me while I recount the happenings of the past month or so.
Seems that ever since I was nominated by Mr. French to write this column (and seconded by my fellow SMFs, thanks!!!!), I’ve found myself in situations that I never even dreamed of in my entire life.
For instance one day not too long ago, I was at work when I got a message on my cell phone. Much to my surprise, it was none other the Grand High Exalted Master of all bass players himself, Mark the Animal Mendoza. Mark wanted me to come to the studio, so that I could report back to you first hand what I heard and saw from a fan’s perspective. I’m like “Huh?”, I mean completely dumbfounded. He’s like “Yup.” Man of few words. Needless to say I gratefully obeyed and showed up at the studio that night. Should have known I was about to be completely blown away when it started hailing the size of golf balls. Good omen, I guess.
For those of you that are interested at all in decorating, the place is beautiful. My guess is it has to be that way since most folks who are recording spend a heck of a lot of time in there! Clean as a whistle, beautiful woodwork, which I imagine, is chosen for its acoustic properties. OK, enough with the decorating drivel.
There were only a few people there, M.A.M, myself, Dylan - the nice young man who runs the place, knows the ins and outs of every piece of equipment in the place, and is also an engineer. Denny, the sound engineer who endures relentless, ruthless attacks from Mark (all in fun, but relentless none the less!), let me tell you this man should be nominated for sainthood! There were also a few interns who were about to learn lessons of a lifetime from the Master himself.
I was escorted into the control room area of the studio. I thought I died and went to heaven! This is where it all comes together! It was amazing to see the enormous mixing board, and the computers they use to create and compile the songs. What an opportunity! Who would have ever thought 25 years ago I would be in the studio with my favorite bass player of all time hearing the raw takes of what is soon to be a CD that will absolutely blow away the original recording? I have to admit to being nervous as hell. It was overwhelming. You may ask why TS decided to rerecord an old album instead of putting out new material. Let me tell you, when you hear this, your question will be answered. For example, that night Mark was laying down background vocals for “Captain Howdy”. When you hear this song, tell me if you are not as creeped out as I was. The original recording didn’t do that for me. What I heard made me want to turn on all the lights in the house and hide in the friggin’ closet. Frightening. And I’d venture to guess this was the original intent of the song.
Part of the goal for this session was to put together or “comp” the vocals for “The Beast”. The process is as such: Dee will sing a line four or five times. Each take is then run through the mixing board and sent to a computer that has a program that allows you to listen to each take one a time. The things you can do with the recording software are amazing! You can slow down or speed up the vocals, change the pitch of the vocals, shorten or lengthen anything…all with the click of a mouse.
Next, you pick the line that fits best in the song. You literally copy and paste it into the song, almost like creating a word document, but you are creating music!! You can take the whole line, or just a word, or even just a syllable of a word and build the line syllable by syllable. How cool is that?!?!
Mark gave us all the opportunity to “vote” if you will, on which line we thought was the best of them. What truly impressed me was how patient MAM is through this, and what a great teacher he is to the interns. As the interns picked which take they liked the best, he would ask each of them why, and make them explain why they thought that one would fit in best with the rest of the song. If Mark agreed, he would impart his reasoning to them. If he disagreed, he would tell them why and how important it would be for them in the future to train their ear to pick up on little things that none of us with an untrained ear would ever catch. Things like timing, cadence, clarity, or just whether the line works with the feel of the song. There is so much that goes into putting a song together. I have an entirely new appreciation for producers and engineers, and the countless hours they spend making a final music product for us to take home and crank up the volume!
I have to tell you that there’s no glamour to this part of the process. It is clearly painstaking and tedious. It took close to two hours to put together about three lines of the song. Imagine then that this process is repeated with every song, with every LINE of every SONG! And the same for the guitar parts, drums, background vocals. I fully understand now why it can take so long for a recording to be released. Not to mention that in this case, Mark is working a full time job, touring, playing bass for the recording, singing background for the recording, editing the DVD and spending the rest of the 30 hours he manages to have in his day in the studio. He truly is amazing. But I digress.
When vocal compiling was completed, I thought that was it. The next thing I knew, Mark invited me sit at the controls and use the mixing table! I was thrilled. He showed me the channels, which is equivalent to a giant equalizer where each instrument and vocals have their own volume control. I got to pick which song I wanted to mix, and was told what instrument was on which channel. He had me pick from the songs where most of the tracks were complete. I don’t think I can accurately convey how exciting this was for me. Being somewhat of a control freak in real life, I was beside myself.
Being that my two equally favorite TS songs are included as part of the bonus tracks, I picked “Come Back “as the song to mix to my ear’s delight. Still nervous as hell, Mark explained that I wasn’t going to hurt anything and to go for it! And I did! Channel 21 had Jay Jay’s guitar solo and parts on it. You guys can probably guess what channel was up the loudest throughout the song! It sounded awesome. Some of the best work ever by the Boyz. And I’m not just saying that. TS have matured as a band and as musicians throughout the years, and it shows. It was almost as if it weren’t even recorded in the studio. The whole CD has a great live feel to it. And we all know there is nothing, no other band ever that compares to Twisted Sister live.
Mark has managed to capture that live feel on a studio recording. I am so grateful that we will be able to enjoy this CD as it was meant to be…raw, pure, unadulterated TS at their very best. I cannot wait for the release, which according to Demolition Records is August 23rd. Can’t be soon enough!
So ends Part 1 of the studio segment of the column…next the Twistettes and Twistenaires sing our hearts out…or else!
“Come Back” for more to be published very soon! In the meantime…
Blast it Fast and Loud!!
Still Hungry CD-DVD Update - 5.20.04
The Making of 'The Beast,' Part One - 6.25.04
A Thank-You Letter To Twisted Sister, 8.18.04
When The House Starts Rockin'... 9.29.04
Another DVD Update - 3.30.05
Yet Another DVD Update - 4.26.05