Several songs had been swimming in my head as instrumentals. Before contacting Ray Montford, I had been putting down scratch tracks. Because we run a business I mostly get to play music on weekends and holidays. Tim Skaggs and his son, Luke, and I had been trying a few of the instrumentals…playing music, working on the arrangements and general ideas. Dancing Days was actually an instrumental song suggestion made by Luke. Jason Gray, another good friend, also helped me by playing along as I worked through ideas, tempos, tones, etc. Hearing a new arrangement or new styling of an old song is always interesting to me. Creating a new arrangement for an existing song is even more fun.
Recording guitars seems relatively straightforward. My own personal process is: Practice, dial in a guitar tone, set levels, push record….rinse and repeat until satisfied. I find recording guitars fun and rewarding. However, it has never been easy for me to get great sounding recorded drum tracks. I have tried several approaches but I was just never 100% satisfied with any of my own drum recordings. As I started putting down my scratch guitar tracks in early 2012, I reached out to a studio owner/drummer in NY. He said he was interested. It sounded promising but…..he just kinda disappeared. “Other projects, very busy,” slow or no reply…….no follow-through. I was disappointed but only mildly discouraged.
In early May of 2012, I first saw a thread titled “Post a youtube link to a beautiful song” on http://www.thegearpage.net. The second post featured an artist named Ray Montford playing Blind to Beauty. Both the video and audio quality were outstanding. You may want to listen as you read:
In researching more about Ray’s music, I found his studio website and eventually called him to see if he would consider collaborating. Ray’s part of the project would include recording the drums for my own DIY instrumental trio album. He offered that he thought the technology was sufficient to support an internet collaboration and said he had actually been thinking of offering this studio service on his webpage. In the next few days, I emailed him with a song list and directed him to private tracks on Soundcloud that were basic sketches of what I wanted. We discussed the kind of drum sounds that I wanted. He asked me to forward the song sketches to Ben Riley, the drummer he had chosen for the project. I asked for something between Kenny Wollesen on East/West and Levon Helm on Big Pink. It is worth noting that Ray always promptly returned my phone calls and emails. I was impressed with his attention to these details.
On May 28, 2012, Ray and Ben recorded drums tracks. Several times during the day, we used Facetime so that I could listen and provide input. My recollection is that they recorded 3 versions of each song: The Wind Cries Mary, Don’t Let Me Down, When I’m 64, The Last Date, and Dancing Days. It was a Monday holiday here, so, I alternated between listening to drum tracks and hanging out by the pool with my wife and daughters as they enjoyed the sunshine. The Facetime link was surprisingly good considering I was in Arkansas and they were in Ontario. After each of the songs was recorded, Ray would Facetime and play the complete track for me to listen. I spoke to Ray and Ben live on my computer screen as I listened to the tracks over my studio monitors. It was not high def but it worked. It worked very well for answering questions, communicating what I did like and what I would like to change. It was also a lot of fun. Ray and Ben are both extremely considerate and courteous. They made the experience relaxed and enjoyable.
On May 30, 2012, Ray advised that his computer hard drive crashed and he spent hours and hours doing a recovery. Fortunately, all of the recordings were recovered. He said he then crashed for 11-12 hours. In the following days, I sent him a USB stick so that he could load the drum tracks to it. We discussed using an upload/download site but neither of us were comfortable that we would be able to do this easily and transfer the same quality we would get by using snail-mail and a USB stick. He mailed the files back to me with high quality drum tracks organized and labeled very specifically. Again, I was impressed with his organizational skills and his consideration. At this point, it’s up to me to upload them into Logic on my side.