I just got back from 10 days in residence at Leeds Metropolitan Uni, making music with a brilliant group of (mainly final year) student musicians and technicians, all of whom showed up outside term time to get involved.
I took the ‘in residence’ bit quite seriously, spending the entire visit in their (world class) Studio 3. This was helped by nine inches of snow dumped on the campus as soon as I arrived. It’s three miles out of town, in parkland and term hadn’t started; so the place was pretty deserted, especially when the snow got rid of the buses.
Although I had a core team of musicians and engineers from the start (thank-yous below) I aimed to run as open a studio as possible; any student (or staffer) who popped in was welcome to give opinion, throw in ideas or even add parts to tape if they wanted. So it was important to pick the right songs to work on: relevent enough to be useful to my current music making, yet not such important tracks that I’d be over-precious – or even dictatorial – about precisely how they should sound. The plan was to let go of decisions and performances as much as I could; let students make as many decisions as possible. (I’d initially planned to work on the Clarkson songs – yes, that EP is still ongoing despite having taken forever – but one or two staff members were uncomfortable about the content, so I had a rethink).
Overall, I think this approach was successful: students played and recorded everything on three tracks (apart from my vocal and some acoustic guitar) and I came out with a pile of inspiring music, much of which will find use. For example, I’ve rediscovered my old song ‘Idris Lung’, done a complete overhaul from scratch and it’s very groovy. I will take this arrangement to Hoodrats, see if we can work it onto the album. I taped three more songs (using the weekend and evenings) where I played everything. In total we got seven tracks through to mix stage, with good mixes of four. I also recorded and filmed three live tracks (songs from Love Is Not Rescue) as part of a Pop Up Studio Session project that was running parallel to mine (here’s ‘Open & Shut’ on Youtube which I love). Finally, I did some individual instrument tracking (especially on piano and keys) that I’ll be adding to album tracks we’re working on down at One Cat.
So a hugely productive trip and I badly want to get up to Leeds again before the end of this academic year. I have a couple of follow-up blog entries about specific aspects of this artist residency, so look out for those over the next few weeks.
Massive thankyous to Yorkshire legend Whiskas for hooking me up and Carl Flattery, who got me sorted despite running a million other projects at the same time. Engineer Phil Stuttard was with me virtually the whole time and recorded everything, with help from Stacey Fawcett (StackersMusic), who also recorded and mixed the Pop Up Session (which she was running all week down the corridor) and found time to play drums. Kent duo Ian & The Bear (Nicholas Grant and Darren Haley) formed the core of the house band: Nick played piano, drums, percussion, sang and piled in with production and arrangement ideas, while Darren oversaw all the mixing and played guitars. Thiago Correia played bass and one stunning bit of disco keyboard. There were several other contributors; in particular a first year called Josh who ended up singing; Sarah Stead who sang and played clarinet; and a couple of the post-grad students (whose names I didn’t get) who gave crucial mix advice.
Without blowing too much smoke up everyone’s arses (there’s a ‘report’ going to their tutors that does that) it’s worth saying that their musical and technical contributions were easily of a professional standard, they bonded as a team pretty much instantly, put in a ton of effort and came across as far more experienced than the ‘student’ tag implies. Thankyou guys so much.