NASVHILLE, TN--In the studio tracking some demos for the album--which reminds me of a story from our first studio experience in Nashville, just a couple of years ago...
NASHVILLE, TN--So we hit the studio in the a.m. for basic tracks on a new tune. Because we've done a fair amount of preproduction rehearsal we can usually get a lot of nuts and bolts stuff out of the way before the producers show up.
We actually finish up the basic tracks on the first song in short order, at which point we decide to record a mock version to play for our invigilators when they came in. The key of course was to do something ridiculous but plausible.
The idiom is highly rock-inflected country, the song is something of a ballad. So naturally we have the keyboardist start out with some tinkly rainfall type parts on the intro. Meanwhile, the acoustic guitar player embarks on some aimless triadic movement, with the drummer tagging along with a bit of random cymbal lashing. Come the verse, the drummer begins comping with an almost-absurd tom-tom figure, somewhat reminiscent of Cream's Sunshine of Your Love.
So far, so good.
When we get to the prechorus the keyboardist starts bashing out big, lounge-ready add-9 chords in the style of the pulsing thrusts of Le Sacre du Printemps (sans sforzandi, of course--think Manilow meets Stravinsky). Naturally, I respond on my Telecaster with some hackneyed-as-can-be stock blues licks.
The drummer leads us in to the Chorus with a fill straight out of Marilyn Manson, and I transition into an off-beat figure playing 6-note sus 2 power chords. I don't know what the hell the other guys are doing, but the result is pretty much a tune sounding right out of Spinal Tap.
So now right about now you're saying to yourself, "I thought he said plausible," and, well, you're right--we may have lost sight of that criterion. At all events, it worked. We assembled in the control booth and took care of other housekeeping until the first producer showed up, at which point we played the mock track for him for about a minute, and then asked the engineer stop it right after the first chorus (we hadn't recorded much more than that). I then asked the drummer if he didn't think the fill coming out of the chorus might not be a bit more "active" (as if that nit was the most conspicuous problem with the track). The drummer acted as if he was going to go back in and punch the fill and we all just cracked up.
At which point the producer became noticeably more . . .relaxed.
. . .
I'm pretty sure the only reason the ruse worked is because the producer was trying to avoid looking at us during playback as much as we were trying to avoid looking at him. (None of us could hold it together the whole time, and I myself was weeping with suppressed laughter.) I assume much the same reasoning explains why it worked on the other two producers as well. Whatever the case, we have their reactions on video. Maybe some day I'll be able to share them.
Incidentally, all those minutes of studio time are recoupable. As the studio recording imperative goes, waste absolutely no time, or else waste all of it.