Producing Stoneflies: Pre-Production
‘Stoneflies’ is a London-based grunge three-piece I joined in January this year as a bass player shortly after my move to England. Although band-leader Valentino Forgione (‘Val’) would insist on the band being pre and fore mostly rooted in the grunge domain, our sound also explores certain rather (heavy) metal-related influences. With Val being the main songwriter of the band, most of our songs are born by him presenting new chord, melody and lyrical material during rehearsals which is then developed in conjunction with me and drummer Timothy Amatah., especially in terms of arrangement and song structure.
With one EP already out and a sophomore EP mastered and on the verge of being released, quite a large number of new songs came into being during spring this year, which is why we decided to go for an full-length album production as a next milestone with the plan of recording three of the tunes at Bankstock in London during my second trimester and the rest at my studio in Germany in the second half of 2018. As to one of the songs selected for recording in London being longer than five, and another shorter than three minutes, I was left with the decision on which song to be chosen for my music production assignment already having been taken for me. ‘Song Zero’ is a slow tempo rock anthem with a huge, hooky chorus contrasted by smaller sounding verses.
In the course of the week before our first recording session we rehearsed almost every day bringing the three songs to shape and coming up with the final arrangements only one day before tracking which we ‘documented’ by making rehearsal videos of each song.
I spent the night before tracking making lead sheets of each of the tunes for myself which I used as a ‘score’ throughout tracking and also as a basis of taking notes and giving feedback after takes. In addition to that, I prepared a recording template in Pro Tools the night before tracking, with all Ins and Outs already set up, as well as click tracks, tempos etc. to ensure not having to mess with the organisational Pro Tools tasks on the day of recording.
Considering ‘Stoneflies’ to be a grunge band and ‘Song Zero’ to be a rather classic sounding rock anthem in a trio-setup and given the fact Valentino regards Nirvana as his main influence, choosing a Nirvana song as a reference was pretty obvious. I chose ‘In Bloom’, because it is very similar in terms of mood, tempo, instrumentation and even lyrical content to ‘Song Zero’. Also, I wanted to go for a song of the album ‘Nevermind’, because I adore Andy Wallace as a mix engineer and Butch Big as a producer and just wanted to try out how close one could get to their work in the given context.
The second reference song, ‘Loaded Dice & Buried Money’ was chosen as a reference by me, because the song itself is again very comparable to the song we wanted to record in terms of tempo, feel and instrumentation. Moreover, in my opinion, there are a few very interesting and cool sounding production techniques being brought into place on this particular tune by Vance Powell, an engineer whose work I’ve been following for a long time as well, that I simply wanted to try out and anticipated to be applicable to ‘Song Zero’. In particular, I wanted to try out using distorted trash miking on the drums with mono mics being a few steps away from the kit facing the centre of it, and also the concept of having two distorted rhythm guitar parts being hard panned, which complement each other sonically in a way that they sound like one part/ sound when being played back in mono.