Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Covered in grease and dressed from head to toe in black leather - The Fulminators head for the Ace Café on "Hell for Leather"

Our new French neighbours have a monster of a silver motorbike parked outside their house, at which I cast longing glances every time I pass. I haven't been on a motorbike for 44 years, and that was an Ariel 250, which could do a ton (just), but took a while to get there. I suspect our neighbours' bike would reach a hundred before you could say "Johnny Halliday", and that, were I to ride it, I'd kill myself before I reached the end of the street. It pays to know one's limitations. Anyway, the presence of this magnificent machine probably explains why motorbikes kept popping unbidden into my head while I was putting together "Hell for Leather".

The song may sound like several of my other rock 'n' roll instros, but I'm not sure I've ever been quite this painstaking. I've been watching YouTube videos about how to get one's songs louder and to prevent distortion appearing when they're exported from Apple's Garageband sequencer to iTunes (i.e. an MPEG-4 file is converted into a lower-grade MP3 file). The first recommendation was to try switching off the handy gizmo that evens out high and low sounds, and which should, in theory, make everything as loud as possible. The problem is that if you fade a song out at the end (which I invariably do) it evens everything out to a whisper.

As for distortion (as with old blokes riding motorbikes), you've just got to learn the limitations. My ears aren't what they were, so I tend to boost the higher and lower registers in any case. Add to that my penchant for a trebly rockabilly guitar sound with lots of reverb and digital delay and echo (you name it) and the result is often a nasty  crackling noise accompanying each note. The same unpleasantness occurs when any instrument - real or digital - is set too high or too loud or if there's too much bass: the high-pitched organ at the start of "Hell for Leather" was a real problem. So, this time, I took care. One of the guitars in the middle section is distorted - but that's deliberate (it's the GarageBand "Glam Rock" preset). As for the other guitars, I fiddled around for ages to eliminate unnecessary crackle, and think I just about managed it.

My favourite piece of advice from one of the videos was to hire a professional mixer to finish off your recording. Hmm.

I tried downloading a photograph of Sir Ralph Richardson on his motorbike from The Guardian for your amusement, but their wizzard new website crashes my browser every time I try to access it. In  many ways, of course, this is a blessing.

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