Ade's Blog

Blurry month

Wednesday, 02 May 2012 20:02


Where did the last month go?

Hard to believe I haven't posted an update since mid-March, the weeks have just flown by in a blur recently. A lot has been happening since the last update and the album has taken a massive leap forward. We are still aiming for a summer release if all goes well, but we are up against it to hit that self imposed deadline. Keep your fingers crossed for August!

So what has been going on? Firstly let's talk about the drum sessions. After Pieter came on board we discussed the drums and also our respective availability in order to get things recorded. We soon found out that we only really had March in which to get the recording done due to Pieter's commitments with Knight Area and their upcoming European and US tour dates. Pieter worked incredibly hard to fit this into the tight timelines including the hours spent rehearsing and creating the drum parts as well as organising the recording engineer to record the sessions at Pieter's home rehearsal studio near Arnhem.

The first drum session took place on the 19th March. We set up the portable studio and mic'd up the drums on the Sunday evening in order to make an early start on the Monday. Paul van Zeeland, the studio engineer, set everything up and we tested the equipment on the Sunday evening to make sure we could get the sound we wanted. Everything went pretty smoothly despite a bit of a fight with a dodgy firewire cable. On Monday morning we made a reasonably early start and worked our way through the tracks. Pieter was incredibly well prepared and professional (either that or my songs are really easy to play) and things went pretty smoothly with only a few minor changes and suggestions here and there. We did have a bit of a discussion about one section of one of the new tracks; the original rhythm I had in mind didn't really sound right with the snare hit as I had it on the demo version and with Paul and I giving input Pieter tried it by replacing the snare with tom hits and everything sounded much better. It was a pretty complex part of the track so it was good to hear it back and realize that it worked well. In all, we made it through 4 of the six tracks requiring drums during this first session. After listening back to them through the week it was clear to hear how much life the new drums added to the compositions, even in their unmixed state. We called it a day with 2 more tracks left to work on the following week. You can see Pieter in action on the clip below ... mind the beard!

ArtCreative Design and Custom coding

So, the next drum recording session took place on the 25th of March. Unfortunately on the 24th of March I decided to cook some Thai food for some friends .... one thing led to another ... far too much beer .. very late night, around 2am, and of course it was the weekend when the clocks went forward and I had to be up at 6am to get the train to Arnhem. Not exactly sensible behaviour ... oh well. To make matters worse I manually changed the time on my phone, which then, during the night was automatically updated to add an extra hour so I arrived at the station in the morning an hour early, cold and massively hung over, before I realised my mistake. Fortunately the coffee place was open and a huge coffee helped things ... a bit.

I arrived at Pieter's house still a little worse for wear and within 30 minutes we were in the studio with mugs of coffee discussing where to start. The first track was fairly sedate and my head survived. The second cretaed a small drumquake which seemed to shake the entire neighbourhood, the mugs of coffee were bouncing. My head was imploding. Boy this guy hits the drums HARD! :) After a couple more takes we decided that we were finished and had a quick listen back to make sure we were happy with the takes before packing away the portable studio and mic's and heading over to Paul's home studio to listen back edit the drum tracks properly. It was a long session, especially for me having to follow the conversation in Dutch much of the time, but after about 10 hours we finished some time after midnight with the final tracks for me to take away and import into my studio. Finally we finished the night with a beer and then a much needed sleep.

In early April I made a date with Paul van Zeeland to come over to my studio to start mixing the drum tracks to get the sound right for the album. We spent a full day getting a basic mix on which to build. It was a great experience for me to watch an expert at work with the mixes. I learned a lot in one day! After that session Michel and I created a basic set of track mixes to work with and then spent some time eating and drinking wine, which we thought was well deserved. Having listened back to the running order a few times I am pretty settled on how things should run, but that is always subject to last minute change of course. I am already thinking of adding another small instrumental piece to the end of the album to bookend the whole thing, I think it will complete the flow. I am also working on a special guest guitarist appearance on one track, more news soon if that works out.

I am still struggling with the lyrics for the last 2 tracks, and concentrating on the drums and mixes meant I didn't have them ready in time for Marc to start work on the the last 2 vocals. I aim to have them done in the next week though so that Marc can get the guide vocals done and we can work towards getting a final set of vocals for the album by the end of May.

Marc and Brendan are very busy with the launch of the Riversea - Out Of An Ancient World album at the moment, so Brendan in particular has had very little time to work on the remaining keyboard parts for the album. Hoepfully once the launch is complete things will go a little faster and we can stay on track for the summer release. You can find out more about the Riversea album on the link below, be sure to give the guys your support, it's a great album featuring some fabulous musicians and I am honoured to have been involved in the project.

The second weekend in April was the record fair in Utrecht so I spent a weekend with my best buddy, Rod, in Utrecht shopping for vinyl. What a fantastic weekend it was. We also managed to pack in a gig on the Saturday night in Utrecht. The fabulous Motorpsycho. What a gig, absolutely stunning! If you haven't bought or heard The Death Defying Unicorn yet, I suggest you get the hell out of the web site and check it out!! My album of the year so far and I can't see it being beaten, to be honest.

Pieter, Paul and I next arranged to meet at my studio on the 26th opf April, which was also my birthday. We spent a full day tweaking the drum sound for each track, trying to get closer to the sound we are aiming for. We did a pretty good job I think and will only need to make some more final adjustments once all of the keyboard, bass and vocal parts are also added. Generally it's sounding great already!! I really can't wait to get this thing released so you can all hear it.

The following evening I went to see Pieter in action live with Knight Area at the Boerderij in Zoetermeer. It was really great to him play live with his band, great stuff indeed and they played a great set. Karmakanic were headlining and were also enjoyable. Fabulous musicians. Beer was drunk and suddenly here I am a few days later after a bout of illness and Queens Day finally finishing this blog entry!

Anyway, I think that's enough for this update, I am sure I have missed loads of things, more news in the next few weeks as we move closer to finishing the album. In the meantime check out the sale in the web shop and grab a bargain, help us to fund the next album release! Take care everyone .... more news soon!

Oh yes, and finally ... this new album has to be released on vinyl, it's been decided!

Beer count: massive...  Leffe, Maredsous, La Chouffe, Affligem, Carolus, Westmalle

Vinyl count: Bought some fabulous vinyl at the record fair, including some great Zappa and Zeppelin bootlegs

G&T Count : Heading for rehab methinks



Overworked and underpaid

Tuesday, 13 March 2012 23:01


Overworked and underpaid

Things have been so crazy since the last blog update that I have completely lost track of what has been going on! So, forgive me if I ramble and jump around the timeline of the last couple of weeks, it's been exhausting, exhilarating and .... well ... manic!

So,. what's been happening? Well, I guess by now you have read the news about Pieter joining Nine Stones Close for the new album, if not you can read about it here. As you can imagine, I am very excited about this, it's fantastic news for us all and I can't wait to hear the results. Over the last few weeks we have been discussing how things might work, talking through the demo tracks and also meeting for the first time. Logistics are a little tricky and we have to move fast to fit everything into our respective schedules so Pieter has been working hard on the demos and I have been finalising the album to a point where we can record the drums. This has involved a fair amount of swearing and general frustration in the studio as I found that exporting a metronome track to audio was not possible. This meant building my own midi click tracks for each track .... time consuming and ultimately tedious, not the glamorous side of the recording process. Luckily my trusty studio engineer was on hand to help things along. Just as well as I cannot work with midi and am a self confessed midiot. The end result is that I think we are pretty much ready to go for the drum sessions which are starting the coming weekend. Wish us luck! Obviously a full report will follow from those sessions. It's exciting for me to see how this will be done and how it will all come together.

On the vocal front I managed to get some more lyrics finished and off to Marc. Marc has spent a couple of sessions in his studio now working on the new album tracks and they are starting to come together. Tracks with working titles of 'new song again', 'angrybirds' and 'epic monster' (I kid you not) now all have lyrics, vocals and proper titles. So far we have the following tracks with vocals, two of which are final vocals:

The Distance

A Secret

One Eye On The Sunrise

The vocals are sounding really great already and I am hoping to have the final 2 sets of lyrics completed in the next week or so for in time for Marc's next studio session.

On the Keyboard front, no news yet other than technical issues, the keys so far on A Secret and 3 other tracks are sounding absolutely fabulous!

Some guide bass lines have also been laid down and will be finalised at a later date .... things are moving fast!

Last weekend Michel joined me in the studio again for 2 full days. It's been a real slog to get all of these ideas out and recorded and ready for the rest of the guys to work on, thank goodness Michel has been there to help or this album would be WAY behind schedule. He keeps me productive and on track..... as well as making sure that I get the best takes. Sometimes a look is enough to let me know it wasn't up to scratch, sometimes the delete key has been hit before I even get 'the look' :)

After the midi click tracks had been created on Saturday we spent the rest of the day working on the last few guitar solos. The solo for One Eye On The Sunrise was a bit of a challenge as I struggled to avoid the old cliche licks, finally I nailed the end of the solo that had been causing the problems and its sounds .... odd ... but great, at least I think it does. After that the last few solos for the albums flowed pretty well, everything was sounding good and my finger tips were slightly shredded from fighting with the guitar. It was time to call it a day.... recording wise.

I cooked Hainanese Chicken for dinner, which is always a treat, and washed it down with vast quantities of Belgian beer. far too much actually, as me and my drinking buddy, who had joined us for dinner, washed down loads of bottles of fabulous Belgian beer. The beer count this week was off the scale!

Sunday began with the inevitable hangover and fuzzy head, which was soon cured by a walk in the sunny morning to the supermarket to re-stock the beer fridge. Priority 1 of course. I think we also bought some food.

The sole purpose of the Sunday was to record some cello for two of the album tracks. In the afternoon we were joined by the lovely and talented Katy Bell. Katy is a friend of a friend and a wonderfully talented concert cellist. It was the first time we had ever met and it was incredibly kind of her to give up her time for free to have a go at the songs. Having never recorded cello before I was worried that the results might not be that great, but after we had made a test recording we realised we were on to a winner! The sound was wonderful. A superb instrument, plus a great player, plus a decent microphone equals success! The intrument was a 19th Century English cello made in Oxford in around 1840. Beautiful. It sounded incredible too. I can't believe how lucky I am to have been able to record it. Hopefully what we did record was enough and we don't have to re-do anything, I guess I will know when I create a rough mix later this week.

The cello on One Eye On The Sunrise was a bit of an adventure for us all as Katy improvised and we tried different approaches. Luckily Marc's guide vocal arrived in the evening and we were able to listen to how things fitted together. One of the sections where we multitracked some cello parts really sounds brilliant, I can't wait for everyone to hear it.

Finally a late finish in the studio, followed by a few glasses of wine, slow cooked harissa lamb, home made red pepper hummus and roasted mediterranean vegetables was enough to finish off a busy but successful weekend.

Onwards and upwards .... watch this space for mmore updates mext week!

Beer Count: La Chouffe, Mc Chouffe, Maredsuous Bruin, Leffe Blond, Karmeliet Tripel  .... in various quantities.

Wine Count: Enough

Later ....



Sing Sing Sing!

Sunday, 26 February 2012 22:04



... now it's time to sing, sing, sing!

I didn't get time to update my blog last week so loads of things have happened since the last update. I spent the whole of the last 2 weekends in the studio with help from Michel again at the controls. Last weekend we started the day working on a piece that Brendan had written a while ago. I was intending to use it as a kind of instrumental interlude but was suddenly struck by an idea for a song arrangement after listening back to it and noodling around on the guitar. After a little more noodling the composition started to come together very quickly. I wrote a verse and chorus and arranged the song structure. I often work like this ... writing on the fly. By the middle of the afternoon the entire track was done ... choruses, verses, all electric, ebow  and acoustic guitars, including harmony parts. In fact, everything but the guitar solo. After a quick tea break it was time to tackle that tricky beast ... the guitar solo. What is it about guitar solos? What makes a great guitar solo, well; .... great? For me it's all about the feeling, the touch, the way it fits with the melody and arrangement of the song, the sound, and some other, indefinable quality. I often find that an early take is the best solo, when you are in the song, writing it, living it. It's not always the case though. Coming back to a song weeks later to record a solo can often be very difficult. I find that if I do that I have to play the song through a number of times, play the chords, the rhythm parts and get into the groove of the song completely before I start trying to record a solo. That way I get into the whole mood and feeling of the song and I am in the right zone to play a solo. On the other hand, sometimes you have to really fight with a solo to get what you want. This was one of those fights. The solo for this new track took me about an hour and a half of constant playing, changing ideas, deleting and re-recording, to finally get what I wanted. Poor old Michel must have been about to quit from the pain of it all. For a while both of us thought that it wasn't happening, then suddenly a different approach to the start of the solo opened up the whole flow and finally I got what I wanted. In the end it was worth the battle! At least I believe it was.

After weeks of my wife cooking for us on these recording weekends I had offered to cook some Thai food for Michel. Anyone who knows me will know that Thai food cannot happen without the intake of Belgian beer. So, the cooking process was started with some Maredsous. On the menu was Larb (a Northern Thai warm pork salad dish) and a red chicken curry. The beers continued to flow as we enjoyed the spicy feast. A quick break from drinking and eating gave us enough time to do a quick mix down of the new track and then we were back to the table for dessert. Home made creme brulee and mango ice cream, courtesy of my better half. The rest of the evening was spent drinking gin and tonic, watching the Opeth Roundhouse DVD and laughing our asses off watching Jinsy! Great stuff.

Sunday was spent creating mixes for the rest of the guys to work on and completing a set of lyrics ready for Marc to do his stuff in his studio on the Monday. Finally, I managed to get a set finished and off to Marc after a chat on Skype. By Wednesday I had the demo vocal back plus another demo vocal for the track I finished on Saturday. They are sounding great already, just a few tweaks here and there required. The first complete song is now tentatively entitled 'Distance'.



Soon the weekend was here again and Saturday was booked in for recording again. I started the day with the customary cornflakes and coffee and before I knew it Michel was here and we were back in the studio again. Initially we started work on a piano piece written by Brendan. The original idea was to have classical guitar on it, but it just wasn't working. I tried everything after that on acoustic, 12 string, ebow, electric, but nothing was adding to the piece. Musically it's so strong that the guitars were detracting from it. I am now sticking with my original thought that it needs a cello. Back to the drawing board on that one.

Bacon and egg butties arrived at the right time and gave us a tasty interlude. After that we patched a few guitars and then worked on a solo for another track. I think we nailed that one! Then ... the pain ... I started work on a guitar solo for another track from a few weeks ago. It was painful. I had one of those sessions wherre I just couldn't come up with anything that worked, just couldn't get inside the song and play. After a couple of hours of frustration we decided to call it a day, especially as the food smells from the kitchen were very enticing, and I heard the pop of a cork!

After a hearty and tasty meal, wine was swapped for gin and tonic again. I played the new Motorpsycho album (The Death Defying Unicorn) for Michel at great volume. If you haven't heard that one yet, then do your ears a favour and get it; Michel was converted after side one! It's absolutely bloody fantastic, my album of the year so far, and it will take some beating, I can tell you. After that, more gin and tonic was required, more Opeth, some IT Crowd, more gin and tonic, and finally, sleep.


The current status is that all of the album is written and arranged! The only thing now is to get the rest of the guitar solos done, the keyboards, the lyrics and vocals, the bass re-recorded, the drums re-recorded, artwork arranged, mixing, mastering, pressing etc.... so .... almost there!!

Beer count: Maredsous Blond, Leffe Bruin, La Chouffe, Affligem Dubbel (not sure how many of each though)

Gin and Tonic count: lost count



Working Weekend

Monday, 13 February 2012 21:08


Food and wine included ...

Well, where to start? Last weekend was a very busy and very productive one for Nine Stones Close. While all of the residents of my adopted home town (Leiden, NL) were out on the frozen rivers and canals skating, drinking gluhwein, and generally being very Dutch, my friend Michel and I were hard at it in the studio.... 'it' being the new Nine Stones Close album. We hit the ground running, and despite distractions from outside, progress on a brand new track was quickly being made. The previous session I had come up with a half idea for a song by jamming around between edits. We listened back and started to build on the short demo, and the ideas were coming thick and fast. Suddenly, I was writing and recording additional sections and guitar parts like crazy! In between the obligatory BLT's and copious cups of tea provided by my lovely wife, guitar parts and sounds were sought out and recorded and the track pieced togther quickly.  By the end of the day a 13+ minute monster of a track had been created, including all of the guitar parts recorded apart from the solo. I have to say, IT ROCKS! I am really loving this one and can't wait for you all to hear it :)

With the basic track done the call for dinner arrived. I quickly threw together my special garlic bread to go with the home made lasagne and tucked into a nice large glass of merlot. After that came the fabulous dessert, a black forest pavlova, and more wine. Needless to say, after that lot recording was done for the day, apart from a quick playback of the new track so we could sit and smugly enjoy it with another glass of wine. After that we retired for the evening with a few drinks and some good music on the hifi. Mastodon - Crack The Skye, which was my album of the year in 2010, and a few Motorpsycho albums (great Norwegian band that you should check out). All on vinyl, of course.

Sunday started a little bit blurry around the edges, which was soon sorted out with bit of walk in the icy cold followed by a full English and a mug of tea. Breakfast of champions. The rest of the day was spent recording some additional 12 string guitars on a couple of tracks as well as putting down some guide bass lines for the guys to work with. Everything is sounding great so far and I can't wait to hear what the other guys add to the songs.

I spent some time last year worrying about what people might think of the new album material compared to Traces, especially as Traces has been so well received. The new album is definitely not Traces part 2, I can't write to formula or to style, whatever comes out is from the heart and soul, and that's what really matters isn't it? It is what it is; a statement of my current state of mind and musical direction. All I can say is, it sounds like Nine Stones Close to me. The good news is that all the material is now written apart from the lyrics, and those are constantly in flux. Hopefully the first set will be final this week ready for Marc to start recording his parts. Next week I hope to post a few video clips and sound clips (if all goes well). Michel and I will be back in the studio working on the final few guitar parts for the last 2 tracks. Beer may also be involved. Watch this space.... still a long way to go .... but we are getting there!!

Beer Count: 0 (shock horror!!)

Gin and Tonic count : off the scale





Let them eat cake

Monday, 23 January 2012 20:40


Oh, and bacon butties!

Well, Saturday was another good day in the studio working on the new album. With Michel Simons at the controls again we were soon headed for the heart of the sun. After a sticky start fighting with the studio software and my crap early morning playing, a bacon butty and tea break came at just the right time. After resuming our efforts things started to really flow. In the afternoon we managed to get all of the guitars done for one new track, including the first time I have used classical guitar on a Nine Stones Close track. It's a little different but it's sounding really great. I also laid down some 12-string using my new Faith guitar, sounds beautiful.

Late in the day I started jamming around and came up with a new song idea. As I stomped around the studio like some demented metal thrash maniac, Michel commented that this tune 'might not be very Nine Stones Close'. Either way it rocked so we started to record it anyway, after playing around with a couple of ideas for the verses, I had the insane idea of changing the time signature every few bars. It worked! ... well ... to a degree... I actually made it too difficult for me to play along with the drums any more. After Michel had finished laughing his ass off at my incompetence ... for quite some time, I might add, it was time for dinner ... a rather nice home made duck and Toulouse sausage cassoulet followed by a sumptuous chocolate and ginger cake (courtesy of my talented and long suffering wife). DELICIOUS!

After washing everything down with a few glasses of wine we decided to hit the studio again for one last go at that guitar part. Strangely enough the wine seemed to have kicked my brain into gear, and a few takes later we were getting somewhere. Finally we entered battle with a new chorus riff, which just didn't seem to work no matter how many guitar god faces I tried to pull while playing it. Oh well, one to pick up in the next session. It was getting late so we called it a day. I poured myself a massive gin and tonic and we retired to listen to some music and chill out. All in all, a busy but fun session. I have a break from recording next weekend, then it's back to it the following weekend. I am hoping to work on some editing and lyrics in the meantime though. I might post a few vids and sound clips in the coming weeks so watch this space! Cheers!

Beer count: 1 x Maredsous Bruin

Wine Count: Several glasses of a rather nice Rioja

Gin Count: 1 x Monster XL size


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