Making of A Beautiful Catastrophe

Making A Beautiful Catastrophe

Less is way more.   I love the little things: little hooks, catchy phrases, and artistic flourishes.   The make the world go around for me.   Most of the time, they are simple tropes that stick with you, like that hook in Macklemore’s Thrift Shop.    These are the earworms that wrestle with you for the rest of the day or well into the night.   I love them and what’s not to love? They are catchy and often eponymous bits that help you identify the work and make it unique.  So, what is better than a good thing?  A whole lot more of a good thing, right? You can now catch a glimpse of the album here.

Working with seasoned professionals is such a great treat.   On the album, we have Ben Smith playing drums and percussion, Andy Stoller on bass, and the indominable Kathy Moore on guitar.  Ben and Andy have spent considerable time playing together. They are bandmates in Heart and on many studio sessions and side projects.   They understand each other musically in a way that is truly amazing to watch. Frankly, they are a hell of a lot of fun.  Kathy brings a kind of raw energy to the mix that is infectious to watch and listen to.   This trifecta of awesome is staggering and emotional.  Their precision does not get in the way of their presence, which is rare in modern music.  The beat is too often mixed down to millisecond monotony. They are danceable drones that lack personality and passion.

Making A Beautiful Catastrophe Beautiful

Simplicity the biggest lesson that I have taken away from our studio time at London Bridge Studios this week.   The studio time has been amazing. I have been sitting and absorbing the tracks where so many great artists have listened to their modern masterpieces unfold.   I found myself saying over and over “I love that, can we do more of that?”   The answer often was that less is more – less flair, less frivolity, and more passion.   While the trifecta could have filled up every 32nd note space with more, more, and more awesomeness, they often just let the space be space.   As a result, the tracks can breathe and have a lot more room to waft around in your brain. We are avoiding cramming it full of so many notes that you cannot think by the end of the tune.   

Amazing musicians from all genres enthrall me.   I filled my music library with everything from the art rock of the 70’s thorough modern jazz. There is nothing like hearing amazing musicians rip through a phrase that seems utterly inhuman.   However, the art of space is far more nuanced and often unnoticed.  Think of Pink Floyd’s Us and Them and Tom Waits Hold On. It’s the space that gives them life – without it, they could become something so unmusical and unlovable.   I kept hearing “let’s take that out” or “lets save that for the outro.” My hyperactive mind kept saying, “but that’s exciting!” Meanwhile, my heart threw in a more cautious “but it’s more exciting to hear it for the first time towards the end.” 

Astral Jukebox Session Players
Andy Stoller, Kathy Moore, Ben Smith, Brett Heron, and Jenny.

Work Continues

The team at London Bridge was truly awesome for our first week in the studio.  Julian Anderson is a fantastic engineer with an ear that surpasses anything I am accustomed to.    I found myself frequently asking “how in the world did you hear that?”  I thought that especially profound with so much going on.   So, while I was chomping at the bit more of Ben’s fills, Kathy’s solos, or Andy’s glissando, they held back.  The result was a beautiful punctuation of every phrase and a little kiss of magic.  Less is way more and, in the end, it is everything.  A Beautiful Catastrophe is coming along beautifully.   I know that it will be artful, tasteful, and have plenty of space to rattle around in your head. Thanks to the amazing musicianship of these artists and their willingness to paint with just the right brushstroke on every measure of the song.