Session 1 - Smoking Popes

 

The first Rock Room session with Smoking Popes...what are we doing?  

From the very first jam session in The Rock Room, it struck me that this room was special.  It sounded and felt so great playing in there compared to anywhere I've rehearsed before.  I recall when The Bigger Empty finished the very first song played in the room I said something like, "ya know, we could record live in here!"  I'm pretty sure Jim and Reuben just laughed and kicked into the next song.  I wasn't kidding though.  Since the first notes were played in the space, I had it in my head that we needed to be doing something here.

I've always had a passion for sharing the bands and music I love with as many people as possible.  I've been playing in bands since I was 13 and eventually ran my own record company, Double Zero Records (R.I.P.) in the late 90's through early 2000's.  Creating, performing, and sharing music is my life.  It always has been and always will be.  Now I have this magical room and the technology to be able to share awesome music and bands with the world!

Before the first session, Ken Nowka and I conducted a couple of "test" sessions.  I handled the audio and Ken did video.  I'm not a "pro" engineer, but have been recording music for years...since I got my first Tascam 4 track when I was a young teenager.  Ken isn't a pro video guy, but he knows his way around a camera.  He actively shot and edited skate videos in our little scene in the days before HD.  

Our test sessions turned out really well and we were ready for a band.  At this point, we reached out to Dan Wallach from Artistic Integrity Records to be our host and conduct interviews with the bands.  I wanted Dan on the show because he's very knowledgeable about Punk music and, like me and Ken, he's passionate about this stuff.

We chose Smoking Popes for the first session primarily because I'm in the band, so if we were to screw something up really bad on the shoot, it would be among friends to save a potential embarrassment.  After all, we've never done this before!  Armed with some recording gear, a couple DSLR cameras, and a few phones, we got the first shoot underway.

We got all the mics and cameras set up and the Brothers Caterer arrived sometime around 3:00pm.  I didn't explain to them in detail what we were going to do.  In fact, I'm pretty sure Matt's first words when he came in and saw all the cameras and lights setup were, "so what exactly are we doing today anyway?"  At this point, I wasn't completely sure what we were doing.  "We're going to record a few songs and an interview and put it up on YouTube."  "Cool."

We did a brief soundcheck (I had to eyeball the levels on the computer monitor from behind the drum kit) and shot a few tunes.  Then a short break to set up for the interview.  Dan had prepared some insightful questions and the interview has a good flow to it.  It's a really nice balance of humor and some more serious topics.  I think we wrapped up the session around 6:30pm.  

Later that evening, I began mixing down the audio.  For this session I had 8 channels total running through my Steinberg UR824.  The DAW I'm using is Cubase 7.  When mixing The Rock Room sessions, I'm using a very light touch.  I want the band to sound exactly as they sound here in the room.  There are NO overdubs or samples, NO pitch correction, and NO re-amping guitars.  Everything is 100% real!

My first impression while mixing this session was, "Wow! This sounds great!" and being totally amazed by Josh's vocal performance.  He just doesn't miss a note!  I finished off the mixes and sent them over to Ken for video editing.  A few days later, Ken had a rough cut of Valentine.  It looked amazing.  It works!  We can do this!  What a relief, because we already had Turnspit booked for a session in a couple weeks.

-Mike

 

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Josh Caterer - vocals, guitar; Eli Caterer - guitar; Matt Caterer - bass; Mike Felumlee - drums

Songs played:

  • Gotta Know Right Now
  • Valentine
  • No More Smiles
  • Megan 
  • Off My Mind.

 

What We Learned

  • We need more than 8 audio inputs
  • This is fun!

 

Next up...Turnspit