The 70’s era wood panelling stretches across the perimeter of the room. Carpets are laid out on the floor as far as the eye can see, each looking like potential props for an Aladdin musical. A 3-foot by 3-foot double paned glass case takes centre stage just above an old, but reliable, Macintosh Computer. Black and Grey metal boxes with buttons and knobs to the right, millions of patch cords, and stress-driven cigarette butts to the left. This room is dressed to impress, ready and prepared to host a group of people over the next month. This room will accommodate their highs and lows, their trials and tribulations, their thoughts of giving up and making it big all at once. This room will house moments of frustration followed by moments of brilliance, while moments of seemingly perfection will be erased by the harsh realities of mechanized recordings. This room is where your biggest Angels and Demons will make a guest appearance on your shoulder at some point or another. Ah yes, I’m in a recording studio.
Finally, the big day is here. We are officially starting work on our brand-new album and I cannot wait. We begin the day by clearing and cleaning up the drum room (by we, I mean me) and start setting up the drums. Mic’ing drums is a delicate balance so I don’t mess with it. I leave it to the professional who uses his very high tech measuring device known as an orange extension cord, measured from the centre of my Chad Smith Signature Pearl Snare.
This 10-foot by 10-foot room will be my sanctuary for the next 30 days and it will be filled with highs and lows, of 1-take-jakes and 5-take… Well I don’t want to go there. It’s going to be a mental grind and a very humble experience; the studio always humbles me. The days and nights in front of us will consist of relentless work, defending our parts, careful negotiating, trading and bartering to the point where cigarettes, even though I don’t smoke, are now the currency for promoting ideas. We have spent many moons working on the new material and we want to make sure the songs really shine, so sometimes, we must swallow our pride and take one for the team. Super-duper drum roll in the 3rd measure of the bridge: deleted.
We’ve written and practiced most of our songs but a couple are still works in progress, as well as “open to interpretation” (a.k.a. Producer, Robert, what do you think?). Personally, I don’t think there’s a tried and true way to write songs for a new album. Some songs and riffs come together almost effortlessly; others are almost a Franken-song of riffs, head scratching and late-night Facebook debates while other songs that end up making the final cut aren’t even finished (!) until the second last day of the studio.
Yes. It happened.
I find the studio has a way of bringing out the best and worst in a person, especially when they are confronted with stressful or high pressure situations. We tend to revert to our old tried, tested and true personalities when the heat rises. Much like my late father, my mother would always tell me to ask my dad something then wait him out 5 minutes. “Dad, can I take the car over to Boydey’s to play Golden Eye?” “Absolutely Not!”. 5 minutes later: “Yeah, okay”.
I am no different.
Robert, our producer, who knows me very well by now, has also learned this in our time together. “Hey Tobe, what if you went Dun dun dun, instead of dun dun dun dun dun dun dun do do do de de de da?” “Absolutely Not!” However, once I listen back, take it all in, and 5 minutes’ pass, I realize Robert is right: “Yeah, okay”. Tobe – 0, Robert – 1.
Taking one for the team is a very humbling experience; it can also knock you down a peg mentally, if you let it. It’s gotten to me in the past and put me in some dark places, but now, I feel like after all those years of growing up under my Hockey-Coach Father and Hockey-Volunteer-of-the-Year Mother, the lessons bestowed upon me are finally making sense: Always be a team player and do what’s best for the team.
Now that I think about it, being in a band and being on a team aren’t that much different from one another. You work together to achieve a greater goal, we all have a role to play, and the best team isn’t necessarily the team with the best players, but rather the team with the best team players. To be honest, I actually feel good about cutting out my drum fill. Besides, I’m not the star player. I’ve always been the 3rd line grinder that bangs home 20 garbage goals a year around the net, and fires up the team with some profanity-laced pump up sentence, followed by a primitive, testosterone-laden “WOO!”.
We are a couple of weeks into the new album and it is really taking shape. Most of my drum parts are done, with the guitars, bass and vocals following suit, but we’ve hit a snag: the structure for that last song wasn’t correct. Damn. Back into the 10-foot by 10-foot box I go. There’s two ways that this can go: 1, this is my fault and I’ve wasted a couple of hours in the studio and everyone’s time, or 2, that’s all I can do, so roll up my sleeves and get back to work. Luckily, I choose the latter. Tobe – 1, Negativity – 0.
There’s a famous motto in the boxing world that the fight is won or lost before the fighter even steps into the ring and, if you’re not careful, your musical parts will suffer the same fate. But hey, they say you learn something from everything you do (well you should, otherwise, what’s the point?) and the last album was no different. With the last album, I learned how to fight off the Demons trying to bring me into darkness and not let the Angels lift me too high off the ground. I learned how to become more subservient to the band and not to my own aspirations of having a Phil Collins-esque album filled with drum fills, solos and maybe the occasional vocals (one can dream). I learned to take constructive criticism as just that and nothing more, parked the ego and learned to do what I’m meant to do: The best I can for the band in front of me. And, no matter what happens, I will get up the next day and carry on.
I’m really excited for the product we’ve worked so hard on and I can’t wait to show it off. I’m proud of the guys for stepping up and delivering their parts while serving the album. I’m happy with how the album is sounding and the hard work put in by all. And, I’m especially glad we had as much fun as we did all while doing it. The jokes, the laughs, the fun, the stories, the funny stories, the late-night heroics, and of course, the one-take jakes.
To which all of this I say: “F**king Right Boys! WOO!”.