Remember live records? Cheap Trick Live at Budokan, KISS Alive II, The Who Live at Leads, Frampton Comes Alive, so many classics were part of the musical landscape back in the day. I always loved hearing my favorite bands tearing it up; new arrangements, more energy, maybe even a mistake or two (gasp!). It seems like they just don’t make em’ like they used to (with a few exceptions of course, I LOVED Rush’s Clockwork Angels Live record last year). So with that in mind, what should any self-respecting rock band who: 1) hasn’t played a gig in fifteen years, 2) just put out a new studio record and 3) finally got back to the stage at a recent record release show do? Record it and release it as a live record, of course! So that’s what we decided to do. No warm-up shows, no second-guessing, no room for error and no fear dammit. We dove in headfirst and it’s about to be released to the world.
What’s in a Name?
It finally came to us on a road trip. Paul, Jason and myself were driving out into the desert just east of San Diego, listening to the live tracks and spit-balling ideas for an album title. When the chorus to the song “Come to Your Senses” came on (a track we all agreed had taken on a more muscular, driving feel in the live performance) I think it was Jason who said “How about ‘Turn the Lights On’?” Immediately it stuck – On the one hand we were turning the lights on in a dark room. The band had been holed up for the better part of a decade and a half, mostly dormant, but eventually working on the tracks that became our recent release Concerning Time. We were also turning the lights on in a more literal sense: Paul (with some contributions from the rest of us) had pieced together a really bad ass light show and worked tirelessly to coordinate a computerized, midi-driven, fog-machine-infused, holy-shit-look-at- that, visual feast of a light/video show that was a HUGE part of our preparation for the release show. Every song had serious production value, and the lights were a huge part of it. We tweaked, twerked and retweaked the show again through several months of rehearsals till it felt right. And finally, “Turn the Lights On” was a lyric from the chorus of a song we all felt had taken a step for the better in the live arrangement. The metaphorical, literal, and musical lights had all flipped on simultaneously.
The release show went amazingly well – better than we could have hoped. 150 of our closest friends and fans in attendance, great food and drink for all (including some really cool commemorative “Wish” beer glasses and Geoff’s Obvious Wish Homebrew which was a big hit) and a killer sounding room at our disposal at Third Encore in Burbank. We spent two days setting up the stage and dialing everything up. Our Front of House engineer Steve was a force of nature, working tirelessly until things sounded loud, clear, and dangerous. He recorded our sound check and ran all the recorded signals back through his rig so he could pre-mix the show. Pretty cool, right? At some point we started hearing the playback and the light bulbs went on (there’s that theme again); “These sound really, really good. We could release this if we don’t screw it up too bad.” The stakes had suddenly gone up, maybe this wasn’t just a party to celebrate the completion of Concerning Time. Maybe this could be a show that would live on. Maybe.
So, like I said, the show left an impression. There were a couple little glitches here and there of course, but nothing that slowed us down. We felt great, people seemed to really dig it. My phone immediately blew up with complimentary texts, calls, emails and thoughts from those in attendance. Best of all, we had it all locked down for posterity on Engineer Steve’s Pro Tools rig. Bam.
Mix and Match
That was June. There’s been a lot of work done since. As I recall, the mixing started mid-July, and Engineer Steve insisted on being involved in the post-production process. After several weeks of tireless work and a couple rounds of notes and revisions, he delivered some incredible mixes. With Paul’s help putting on the finishing touches and getting the mastering done, we had ourselves a record we were all extremely proud of. It sounded punchy, rowdy and best of all live. I love that there are a handful of mistakes in there. My favorite is towards the beginning of the song “Wallsharks”: I totally missed an odd-metered turnaround and came in with the bass part at the wrong time (I managed to slide up to the right note like a pro though :)) In “Come to Your Senses” there is a riff at the very, very end of the song that is supposed to come in after a six-count build, but all of us – except Geoff – came in after just 4 counts. Geoff changed course and jumped on board with us, delivering a pretty hectic fill that camouflaged the error in a chaotic and interesting way. The moment is a little sloppy but to my ears it’s fantastic. There are a few others I look forward to hearing every time, it reminds me that this recording represents an actual moment in time when a band took to a stage and rocked it up for a house full of rowdies. Still, those tricky moments aside, we sound damn tight, we definitely delivered the goods (if I do say so myself).
Signed, Sealed, Delivered
With the music ready to roll, we needed to wrap this thing up. Paul put on his graphic design hat and got to work on the layout, which we agreed would be kept relatively simple this time around – a limited CD run, probably 300 discs to give to fans, friends and family, plus a digital release. The emails flew, photos, fonts and layout designs got worked out, dozens of details were settled. As I type this, at 11:22 AM on Monday, December 15th, 2014, everything is done. Paul is uploading the files to iTunes/CD Baby, the order for the CD print run is placed, I’ve got the final mastered files in my headphones (“Avon Ladies on the Amazon” is playing, “soft smooth hands, with immaculate nails, knock on flimsy straw doors”). I think we’re all really proud of this release – how it sounds and what it stands for. Hopefully it will make its way into your ears at some point in the near future. If you were at the show, you can probably listen closely and hear yourself in there somewhere
While all that was happening, we’ve been working on pre-production for our next studio record. After January 1st we’ll switch into performance mode again, the lights will come back out of storage and we’re gonna work up a new set. Some new stuff, some old favorites, and a surprise or two for sure. The idea is to hit the stage in mid-to-late February, we’ll keep you posted I promise No plans to jump through the Live Record hoops this time around, but stranger things have happened. We don’t seem to be able to do anything these days without diving in all the way, so who knows? Either way, hope to see you in February, thanks for all the great support we’ve received from so many of you!
-Steve, December 2014
“Somebody turn the lights on, somebody turn the lights on, somebody come to your senses”
-Come to Your Senses