Note: this was actually written on Feb. 20.
For my birthday (which is actually tomorrow), Sarah booked me flights to go jam and record with the excellent and insane band Halaka this past weekend. My plan was to take just Friday afternoon off work to go, but I didn’t get much sleep and woke up late on Friday. I ended up just taking the whole day instead, which is what I probably should’ve planned to do in the first place.
On my first flight, I was forced to check my carry-on bag due to a lack of room in the overhead compartments. When I arrived at my row, there was a very fat man sitting in my assigned window seat. Normally, I would ask him to move, but I realized that if I did that, I’d be stuck between him and the window, and I really didn’t want that. So I sat in the middle seat, leaning over toward the aisle quite a bit. Fortunately, there was a small man sitting next to me, so I was able to lean into his space without much trouble. By the end of the flight, my spine was nicely curved.
I headed toward the baggage claim area, and saw a man, who pointed at me. He introduced himself as Kingo, and said that the guys with him were the other guys. This nebulous introduction left me initially thinking that Fanch was Madhog and that, in turn, Madhog was indeed Fanch. I quickly realized that I had them reversed, but it took me a couple of hours to overcome my initial misconception and really know intuitively which was which without having to think about it.
We went to Arby’s for some food, and then headed to Sacky’s house and started setting up equipment in his garage. I was informed that we were not allowed in the house until a floor was cleaned or somesuch, and that the sink doubled as urinal. Pooping was to be done at Arby’s, where we’d just come from, so that wasn’t too helpful.
It was pretty funny setting up, because I just had this one small thing to set up, and Kingo and Madhog each had piles of equipment with dozens of cables, samplers, keyboards, tape decks, effects units, and god only knows what else. Fanch had a turntable.
I brought my synth (which is very small), and Sacky had a MIDI keyboard there which I could use. It didn’t have pitch bend or modwheels, which was a bit disconcerting, but he also had a midi controller with some sliders that we hooked up. It wasn’t quite the same, but it worked.
Sacky was in charge of setting up the computer for recording, and he did most of the cable routing and crap to get everything hooked up to the computer. I was impressed with his ingenuity, drilling a hole in the wall to pass a 30-foot firewire cable to the other side of the garage, allowing him to put an audio interface in there since there weren’t enough long 1/4″ cables available. He also had a lot of nice gear, tons of available channels, mics, guitars, amps, drums, etc.
We were up really late Friday night setting things up and doing the first jam/recording session. It went a bit over 50 minutes. Kingo and Madhog played with their samplers and other stuff and sang, Fanch played on the turntable, and sang, and Sacky was on guitar and also sang. Fanch might’ve had a guitar at some point, I really don’t know anymore. There were a lot of cool noise parts in this session, but the highlight for me was the “Welcome to my house, I’m afraid you’ll have to shit at the Arby’s” section.
Unfortunately, Madhog’s pile and vocals didn’t get recorded somehow. The computer recorded a few seconds of that stuff and then it just stopped on those tracks. Nobody knows why. So the whole session is missing a whole musician.
After that, we pretty much went to the hotel right away, had trouble parking because they didn’t even try to plow the snow and the lot was filled with wood chippers and trucks with extensions for trimming trees or working on power lines. Once in our rooms, we crashed pretty quickly, although I had trouble getting to sleep for some reason.
Saturday morning came, and we slept in until maybe 10ish. We acquired breakfast at the Plum Crazy Diner and headed to Sacky’s. Some errands were run, such as picking up cables at a music shop and a Radio Shack. Most things that were sought were not found.
The first recording we did on Saturday was recorded to only four tracks and included (to the best of my recollection) Kingo on pile and vocals, Fanch on bass, Sacky on guitar, Madhog on drums, and me on violin. This went on for approximately an hour and included some real greatness. Some people played horns they didn’t know how to play. All tracks recorded successfully this time, and of note was the mic that was used on my violin was a Peavey PVM480 and did a great job of isolating the violin from all the other instruments, which were louder.
I hadn’t played violin in years, basically, so at first I was rusty, but eventually got in a groove even though I had never improvised before, although by the end of the hour, my hands were sweating and my fingers were sliding around a bit on the fingerboard. So my playing started out relatively crappy, got better, and then got worse. I also played without rosin, which was disconcerting but worked better than you’d think.
At some point, many bricks of margarine were found in the fridge in Sacky’s garage, which were used for throwing in the road and as baseballs, hockey pucks, and other kinds of projectiles. Some Halakans used cardboard boxes as sleds, indeed racing said sleds, and Kingo attempted to use some cardboards as skis, which pretty much failed.
Another piece of thing was recorded involving everyone playing things they had no idea about, the Halakans playing horns and me playing the bass. Probably other things were played as well. That only went on for about 7 minutes. Everyone who played a horn had a sore face for at least the rest of the day.
Some pizzas were acquired, Madhog made many vegetables, and preparations made for the next session, for which guests were expected in the form of a drummer and Mrs. Mackerel’s brother, who played saxophone and other similarly-reeded instruments. Mrs. Mackerel is Sacky’s wife; apparently, Sacky’s full name is Sacky Mackerel.
Setup took a long time for this huge group of participants, and was almost complete when the computer crashed and had to be restarted. Eventually, the festivities were under way.
The guest drummer played drums. Sacky played guitar, as did Fanch and Madhog had a guitar going through his pile, I believe, and he also sang. Kingo played pile and sang. I am not sure about Madhog and Kingo exactly as they were in the other garage. Mrs. Mackerel played viola and oboe — even though she does not play oboe, she practiced for a while and picked it up impressively quickly. Mrs. Mackerel’s brother played some saxophones. Someone played a piccolo at some time, and I know other instruments were played as well. I played the smiley face guitar run through my synth and also the synth itself.
It was a beautiful mess. Nobody could hear everyone else. Everyone could hear different participants, so for instance, Fanch would play off of Madhog, who would play off Sacky, as would I, and the horn would play off Kingo and Mrs. Mackerel, and the drummer laid a bed for all of it. I couldn’t hear the guitars, Kingo couldn’t hear the drums. I couldn’t hear my own self much of the time. A wide variety of styles were eclipsed, some real heaviness, a few mellow moments, some cock rock, and death metal about throwing margarine in the road and riding boxes through the snow. This session went on for over an hour and a half, and the whole thing was listened to afterwards.
That would be the last of the music for the trip, everyone returned to the hotel, Fanch and Madhog I believe crashed, and Kingo and I watched a Louis CK HBO comedy special that us laughing so hard that tears were streaming down our faces and we couldn’t even breathe. It was too late when we finally went to bed.
Sunday morning found all the Halakas, plus Mrs. Mackerel and a baby and me all crammed into a booth for breakfast, again at Plum Crazy. We returned to Sacky’s to pack things, and Kingo dropped me at the airport.
My flight was delayed, at first they said by just 25 minutes, but it ended up being over an hour late. This made me late for my connecting flight in Detroit. Upon arriving there at the precise moment my other flight left, I deplaned just in time to wait 2 hours for the next flight. A meal voucher was provided, so I ate airport enchiladas and cheesecake and caught my flight. I didn’t arrive at home until 12:30am and had to be at work at 9 on Monday and was a zombie, but still managed to be productive somehow.