Washboard wizard, Ronn Benway takes a selfie with me in the background at the recording studio.
Shane Speal Recording Blog
Monday, March 31
Monday was one of those sessions where I simply went back thru the past few sessions and tweaked any tracks that needed fixed. It was also the first time I had another member of the Snake Oil Band in the studio with me. Washtub bassist, Farmer Jon hung out with me and the producers.
We decided that the chain gang percussion on "Swing the Hammer" just wasn't full enough. In the song, I used my railroad spike foot stomper that was built by Pete Regan (see earlier blogs). It gave a convincing clang, but lacked a bottom end THUD sound. To remedy that, I laid a 5 foot section of chain on top of a huge plank of wood and slammed a hammer on it in time with the music. The mixture of the hammer-against-wood thud and the rattling chain provided the perfect addition to the sound we were looking for.
After a couple takes, the studio floor was covered in splinters...
Along with fixing the percussion, I added a few extra rhythm guitar tracks to a few songs, including a lush 6-string cigar box guitar (double coursed...like a 12 string guitar) on Purple Rain.
But the most amazing part of the entire day happened just in the final hour of recording. We had a little extra time, so I asked Farmer Jon to bring in his washtub bass. I figured we'd get a good sound level on it for the next day's sessions.
Setting it up was easier than expected because we simply plugged it direct into the sound board. (Farmer Jon's washtub bass is electrified with a piezo rod pickup attached to the eyebolt that in the center of the tub.) Once set up, I told Don, the engineer to pull up the tracks from "How Long Will You Make Me Suffer" and let Jon add his bass parts to it. Farmer Jon is pictured below.
It only took Jon two takes to nail the part. His bass came out clear and beautiful... but then, I asked Don to do one more thing: have the computer double the octave of the bass ONE OCTAVE LOWER. The resulting tone can only be described as "the voice of God!" It's huge. It's massive. The thumping, growling washtub bass mixes with my pounding foot stomper for a bombastic sound that will blow out car speakers from here to Australia!
As I listened to the mix, one thought came to my mind: WE'VE CREATED AN ENTIRELY NEW GENRE OF MUSIC!
It's the sound I have always been searching for in my bands. It's the "Black Sabbath as a jug band" sound. Stomp Rock. Pure blues destruction.
Tuesday, April 1st
FIRST SESSION WITH THE ENTIRE SNAKE OIL BAND IN THE STUDIO.
After a couple weeks of me recording foundational tracks by myself, I finally brought the rest of the band in to start adding their parts... however, there were two songs that still needed to be tracked, "Holler" and "Six Feet in the Hole." We decided to do them both live, with all members mic'd up and playing off of each other. I had fully expected to do 5 or 10 takes of each song to really get the right performance.
We nailed "Holler" on the first damn take!
One take. Bam! Done! When we finished playing the song, we all looked at each other in disbelief, each one knowing that it was played just the way we do in concert and it was TIGHT! We added few background vocal tracks on the song and it was done.
Then the news film crew showed up...
I had been contacted by ABC27 News in Harrisburg PA with an inquiry to do a feature on Shane Speal's Snake Oil Band and our new recording contract with C. B. Gitty Records. "Sure," I said and invited them into the recording studio.
Veteran newscaster, Chuck Rhodes came out with Michael, his cameraman and proceeded to film, interview and get to know us. We decided to get the whole band back in the recording room and fire off a live version of "Six Feet in the Hole." The cameraman asked if we could do a couple takes of the song so he could get different camera angles. We had no problem with this and asked Don the engineer to let the tape keep rolling. We nailed the song on the second take, but then they asked if we could do one more for more camera angles.
Right before we started take #3, Chuck Rhodes came in the studio with one of Ronn Benway's washboards hung around his neck as a joke. We laughed our asses off...and then I yelled to the guys, "Chuck's in the band now! Let's record." Chuck is a jazz drummer as well, and he synch'd up perfectly with Benway for a dual washboard version of "Six Feet in the Hole." The take was so good, we're probably going to use it for the album!
The news feature will air Monday, April 7 at 6pm on ABC27 in Harrisburg, PA. I'll post vid links when they go up.
After the film crew left, we got back to business and worked on some backing vocals and a few other parts.
I'd better wrap this up. I'm about to leave for another recording session today. We're blowing thru this album like madmen. It feels so good be part of such a fierce band!
Shane Speal Signature Guitar Tuners
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