ONE – The pleasure of patience. Patience is not one of my virtues. But I am learning. Things take as long as they take, and delays are usually for the best. The long process of making an album was completely new to me. I knew about shows; you gear up, give it all you’ve got, the pleasure is instant, there’s a lasting buzz, a little comedown, and you do it all again. Studio time is so different. You can go days feeling frustrated, weeks before something really comes together – but when it does the satisfaction is much longer lasting.
Maybe it’s like the difference between a one-night stand and a relationship. One is very physical, a little hit and miss, always exciting, very much in the moment. The other demands a lot more caution, investment, negotiation. But when you reach the right place, it’s love!
TWO – Voices. I like the contrasts between my songs, I get bored if everything sounds the same. Alongside this though, I was concerned that these different songs would become one coherent album. I soon realised that this was happening naturally because of the people involved.
I can hear the voice of Roi Erez, the musician I’ve been working with for a few years – the way his guitar lines or organ riffs influence the music and take the songs somewhere else. I can hear the voice of Guy Katsav the producer – the clarity of his mixing, the kick of the rock’n’roll beats. And I can hear my own voice – the voice itself, and my voice as a writer. If you trust yourself and the people you work with everything comes together.
THREE – The night shift. My name means ‘night’ in Hebrew, but I’ve always been a morning person. If I were left to gravitate towards my internal clock with no gigs or parties in the way I’d fall asleep around 10:30pm and wake up at 6:30am. The early hours are so peaceful, before the working world wakes up. But Guy and Roi are both night owls. Guy likes the idea of having a normal schedule, but then can’t help working until 5am. Roi is a grump until after lunch. They flourish around 8pm. And actually so does my singing. So I discovered the joys of working at night. The studio was in a basement and had no windows so we lost all conception of time anyway. Now I’m torn ’cause I like the day and the night… but I like my sleep too!
FOUR – Instruments. When we started bringing in musicians for sessions, my ears began to open. One day we listened to Joni Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, which is the first song I ever performed in public, a song I must have heard one million times…and for the first time I noticed the very predominant triangle tinkling in the background!
I learnt about an instrument called mellotron and another called theremin. I learnt that electric guitars turn me on; I thought I hated electric guitars. I learnt that tampura is an Indian instrument, not Japanese food. I learnt that when I write basslines they mostly sound like ‘Batman’. I also learnt I’m pretty good at doing instrument impressions.
FIVE – Tofu. This was a gradual discovery of trial and error at the Planet Organic hot food counter, our daily lunch stop (though as I said our schedule was a little off-kilter so lunch was somewhere in the afternoon). I was always wary of tofu, placing it in the same category as horoscopes and acupuncture; I didn’t believe in tofu. But around the same time I realised that the mystery flower-shaped vegetables in the stir fry were in fact broccoli stems, I also realised that the very tasty, not-quite-halloumi substance was the mythical tofu itself. Maybe I should start seeing a psychic.
SIX – Boho Soho. Central London was a destination of frustrating shopping trips or nights out where you know you’ll hate the place but it’s friends you haven’t seen for ages so you feel you really should go, and then it’s even worse than expected because you forgot it’s a Friday, and what’s worse than a Friday night out in the West End? But the studio was near Goodge Street, and it’s such a lovely area! Sweet cafés, fruit stalls, secondhand shops, rollerbladers, beautiful squares with chunky buildings, and a short walk from Soho proper where we discovered so many fun bars, cheap and real places; hidden gems. And much easier for me to get home from than East London!
SEVEN – People have different body temperatures. Soon after we started working in the studio I realised that the air conditioner was going to be a constant battle. I wanted it off. The boys wanted it on. About a week into recording, after turning it up down up down up down up down, the poor thing got very confused, didn’t know what the hell we wanted from it, and broke. I was so happy! They were so hot!! Eventually someone came in to fix it and we settled on 25ºC. This sounds pretty high. But you’ve got to consider the wind factor of that darned machine whooshing down at us from above. In general I found myself constantly turning things down: temperature, volume, ideas…
EIGHT – Computers are magic. Guy navigated around the computer screen so fast it made me feel dizzy. He also stitched up different takes with such ease that it felt morally wrong. Like cheating. All my one-take instincts were belittled and laughed at. This was the real world. A couple weeks in, Roi and I were getting the hang of it. This basically meant we started saying things like “Well there’s no point in doing this again right? Because you can just cut it from the other take, right Guy?”
Guy was our magician. “Guy, can you quantise and then humanise my piano part please?” – I still can’t believe I said it. No autotune though, I stand by that!
NINE – The mastering masters. We went to pick up the final masters at Metropolis Studios where they did the tricks, a strange palace of studios in the middle of nowhere. I know I’ll never hear the album on such good quality speakers again. But besides that, the mastering suddenly made everything melt together. If a song is a salad and the mixing decides just how much of each ingredient to throw in, the mastering is the dressing. I don’t know how much of it was psychosomatic, but suddenly the songs sounded like real tracks that could be played on the radio. Even on my computer speakers at home, and I think that’s the point.
TEN – I didn’t know much about much. Before I made the album, I wrote songs. I wasn’t writing for an album. Songs were born, songs were killed off, it was a natural evolution. When the time came to record I picked the best ones. I didn’t know how they would fit together. We were three months in the studio living with those songs until they made sense as one project. And now, since the album was finished and I began to let go of it a little, I’ve started writing again. But I’m far too aware of the process of making an album! I keep thinking about all that can happen to the songs in the studio, which direction they might take. I’m far more critical. I want to go back to the naïve songwriter I was before, just for a little while!
Here’s an early version of ‘Winter’ from Someone New, filmed little more than a week after it was written back in 2007.
Tagged lail arad