My project studio lives in the second bedroom (office) of my apartment. It’s a perfect little setup that’s great for writing and tracking keyboards, bass, and guitar. As mentioned in an earlier post, it’s very difficult for me to play / record real drums in the apartments I’ve lived in, which is why I use primarily samples, drum machines, and loops. The last two songs to feature a live drum set were “Simple Song” and “You Put Me Under” from the Romance of the Spaceways album, “Grow Crazy” and “Healing No. Four” from Roadstar, and most of Letters Never Sent.
The same goes for vocals. While it’s fine for me to sing a little bit here, I’ve never been comfortable singing at full volume for extended periods of time. I find myself rushing through the vocal tracks, singing at half-strength, then settling for mediocre performances. There is a noticeable difference between my vocal approach on Roadstar through Love and Armageddon albums, because I’m doing this breathy, low-key vocal style thing. That’s actually a product of having to keep quiet. Mind you, it’s not my neighbors complaining. One neighbor actually said he found my singing ‘inspirational’. I’m just so sensitive about people hearing my voice unaccompanied, or melodies before they’ve been fully developed.
Recently, I bartered a small flock of sheep for a remote underground bunker where I’ve installed a second, smaller workstation for the sole purpose of tracking vocals. Located somewhere between the Aurora Borealis and the Mariana Trench, the bunker allows me to scream as long as I want at any hour of the day or night, without anybody being able to hear me.
It’s for this reason the vocal performances on much of the soon-to-be-released Kid Ghosts album are top-notch. I’ve been able to get my air going, and I don’t stop singing until the take is spot on. Some of the time, I’m starting with only bits of lyric and melody, and wait til I get in front of the mic before I’m able to sculpt out the remainder. The process is entirely personal and involves a lot of humming and made-up words before I’m able to settle on a finished set of words and notes that work well together. Because I’m so sensitive about the process, I much prefer to do it in isolation.
There’s no telling how long I’ll have access to the underground bunker (or when I might need my sheep back), but hopefully it won’t be for awhile. I’d really like to get back to some real drumming on my next album, and obviously, keep the vocal performances as strong as possible.