9 August 2016

Camel in Japan - May 2016

Camel in Japan - May 2016

It was touch-and-go - like this blog. It almost didn't happen, but thankfully it did. A short tour of Japan. Flagged up to us in late 2015, we immediately fell to discussing the practicalities, the most significant being: who would be the keyboard player? Our dear friend Ton Scherpenzeel, with whom we always have a wonderful time working, is a long-time committed non-flyer and, though he vouchsafed that he would seriously consider a long and arduous journey on the Trans-Siberian railway route, we felt had to look for someone else to take on the task. Thus, through a fortuitous suggestion from a friend of Andrew, we arrived at the virtual doorstep of one Mr Peter Jones.

Peter Jones in Tokyo (photo:Lenya Alec Bass)
Although he lost his sight at a very early age, the universe has compensated him by endowing him with a generous array of musical talents (as well as an irrepressible sense of humour), allowing him to impress us all with his soulfully expressive playing on keyboards, saxophone and guitar (played horizontally). Some may already know Pete through his Tiger Moth Tales project or even his time as a finalist on the TV talent show, X-Factor. A man of many parts!

From our first rehearsal it was obvious that this was going to be fun and a refreshing throwback to the good old days of real live four-piece interplay. And with Pete so quick on the uptake we were able to condense our usual pre-tour rehearsal time. An initial 5 days in the interesting city of Nottingham about a month before the off and a three-day wash and brush-up in a convenient studio near Heathrow before heading off into the blue yonder, destination Tokyo, where they had obviously already been warned of our arrival.

1 May 2016

Recording Maija Kauhanen in Helsinki

Earlier this year I enjoyed a one-week visit to Helsinki wearing my producer's hat (furry with ear-muffs), working with the remarkable Maija Kauhanen - expert player of the kantele (Finland's national instrument, British types might call it some kind of zither), singer, percussionist and composer/songwriter of artfully undulating soundscapes, generating sparse skeins of silvery sonority, glittering as snow-dripped pine trees in a Nordic forest in the long sunlight, rising to intense rhythmic blocks of deep texture, channeling the wordless, nature-communing joiking tradition or unflinchingly delineating dark tales of abuse and murder, a lullaby laden with foreboding as well as, of course, a story of the mystery of young love.
Maija at her kantele surrounded by interesting microphones

Recording took place at the excellent Ambient Studios, discreetly located above an auto-mechanics' workshop in an industrial area, and a veritable storehouse of vintage gear including a fine old Neve analogue desk and an exciting stock of microphones including some elderly but still proudly functioning RCA ribbon mics.

Master recording technician Joonas Saikkonen at the Neve desk.

As Maija writes and performs her songs best in organic fashion - singing, playing kantele and percussion at the same time - that was how we recorded her, without (except for one song) the aid of click-tracks. So each song is a performance. There are some with additional overdubs, but everything you hear is sung and played by Maija.

Vintage RCA ribbon microphone used on all vocals

 Mixing is currently drawing to a close between North Wales and Finland. Watch this space for more news!!

The team

3 January 2016

What Happened Next...

...or What Ever Happened to my Blog?

the rock'n'roll bus

Having left my reader(s) hanging off a cliff whilst trundling back to the UK on the rock'n'roll bus, I then proceeded to do nothing in the way of a Blog post up until now. Irresponsible I know but life is what happens when you're busy not writing about it, after all. My apologies to anyone who missed me. I love you too.

Anyway, I awoke early at the end of the gargantuan drive across Europe and stumbled out of the bus to find myself at the place they call The Junction in Cambridge. I wandered in backstage and spent some time contemplating the instructions in the shower.

life is like that sometimes

There were just four more shows on the Camel summer tour, culminating in our appearance challenging The Scorpions in a loudness contest (they won) at the Ramblin' Man Fair. In-between our numbers we were hoping we'd get a chance to whistle along with 'Wind of Change' or something like that. But as it happens the schedule was tight and we had to cut our set to accommodate the local authorities, so we kept up the pace. Was all much fun and it was lovely to see the lovely audience and a great big lovely moon in the sky.

nice photo by Noné Easter

And then it was a bit of convivial celebrating in the pleasant backstage glade before our band of merry travellers began to go their separate ways. Goodbyes were said, hugs were exchanged and undying fealty to each other was sworn. Some were whisked off to airports, others set off to their homes and families until the rock'n'roll bus finally pulled out of the festival site in the early hours with a reduced mannschaft of myself, Andrew, Steve the merchman, dear soundman Bunny and just as dear (but worth every penny) back-line tech supremo, Del. We were heading back to the place from where we started to know it for the umpteenth time (apologies to T S Eliot), namely, Real World Studios, where Del had left his magic van and I was going to get a lift home and this last small company of the road would finally be parted...until the next time.

I'll finish with a couple of random snaps from the road.

just a selfie at sound-check

Andrew's amp

and then there was the night on the bus when Denis got out his excellent collection of false moustaches.

I'll leave you with a portrait of Wing Commander Derek 'Where Del?' Haggar, TCP and Mars Bar.

Roger Wilco, over and out.