Long Distance Runaround

We’re (virtually) putting the band back together

Soon after college I moved into a small house in Des Plaines, IL with a couple of friends. The rhythm guitarist for the band I was in moved with his girlfriend to an apartment a few miles away, but the bass player and drummer settled in Ann Arbor, MI and Milwaukee, WI respectively. Needless to say, this created a huge challenge as far as rehearsing, songwriting and recording was concerned, and when piled atop personality clashes and creative differences the geographical separation caused the band to eventually disintegrate.

Years later, I formed an experimental music project called Donny Who Loved Bowling with my friend Chris. At the time he lived near me in Chicago, and we put together about half of our first CD by getting together in my studio once a week or so. But then he moved to Austin, Texas and things got decidedly more difficult. We finished the CD by renting a dedicated studio space for a week, taking vacation time and flying Chris to Chicago. And while that was a hell of a lot of fun, we knew that constantly taking vacations and flying across the country was not going to be financially feasible for long. Nor would it be artistically satisfying; we wanted to be able to make music without having to spend months planning and scheduling, and without going broke on plane tickets. Without some sort of practical solution this band may have folded as well.

Of course, as Donny Who Loved Bowling is an experimental/studio-only band, rehearsing for (and performing) live shows is not something we’re concerned about. We just need to be able to record. So we decided to figure out a way to collaborate on recordings over the internet. Chris set up a .mac account with a publicly-accessible folder so that we could upload tracks whenever we had something new to share. And since both of us have home recording setups, we only rarely had to spend money to go into a commercial studio.

What happens now is that Chris will put together a track on his Apple Garageband rig, and then upload an .aif of the rough mix and “splits,” which are the individual tracks –guitar, bass, drum machine, and so forth—to his .mac account’s public folder. I download the files, throw them into my Pro Tools system and add my own tracks. I spit out a reference mix and upload it back to the public folder so he can hear what I’ve done. Then he’ll add some more stuff, or send me an email telling me what he thinks of where the song is at, and we repeat the back-and-forth process. Once we’ve done all of the overdubbing we want, we use this same procedure to mix the song—I upload each successive mix and wait for feedback from him via email.

To tweak and perfect this workflow, we spent the last 18 months recording a full album’s worth of cover songs entitled Butcher Covers, which we put out as a download-only release earlier this year.

Butcher Covers

Butcher Covers

The next step is to apply this process to an album of original material, and we’re already well into that.

Of course it helps that we don’t have the interpersonal sturm und drang that the old band had. But it’s fantastic that we’ve managed to find a simple and inexpensive way to continue to create music despite a thousand-mile separation.

About toxicbag

Toxic Bag Productions, Inc. provides sound effects and music for independent films, animated shorts, theatrical productions, dance performances, podcasts and video games. They work out of their studio on the north side of Chicago.

Posted on March 30, 2009, in Behind the Scenes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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