I was in a band in the nineties, but I think most of my friends and family don’t understand how important the experience was to me: Ten to Nine was a time of great change and turmoil in most of our personal lives. Rehearsal was hard work, a battle to get ourselves to sound better and also a battle against distractions; we were having a great time! Craig and I were the band’s songwriters, and we wanted to get our work out there for people to hear. At the same time, we knew it couldn’t last all that long.
I can’t speak for Jenn, Jackie, and Craig, but looking back, there was a bit of desperation on my part to eke out as much as I could from the experience. I’ve been pulling together the studio album tapes we recorded in the late 90’s, trying to assemble an album out of the four boxes of tapes and discs, while being selective about what’s worthy and what’s crap. I’m happy to report that there’s a lot of good material to choose from buried under rehearsal tapes and unfinished experimental jams.
I’m now mating the stuff we recorded in 1994 (onto dusty cassette tapes) with tunes laid down to shiny minidiscs in the late 90’s. Even though the digital multitracker we had was hard to use and noisy, this first hint of the digital revolution in recording technology was intoxicating. Years later, I had an awful lot of good memories and unfinished recordings.
in 2006, the Beatles released the track “Blackbird/Yesterday”, bringing the two classic songs together seamlessly. This simple-sounding piece drove home to me that it was possible to take music from different sources — recorded at different times, different keys, and different tempos, in this case — and make a single, seamless piece of music out of it. The transition from “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” into “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” impressed me with a powerful contrast, but a feeling of appropriate contrast; why didn’t they do it this way in the first place? To this day, I can’t hear the component songs of “Drive My Car/The Word/What You’re Doing” without wanting to hear the mashup version. Before hearing this, I would have derided piecing together the band’s tapes as cheating.
A few years later, I finally had both a free week as well as the technology to start transferring some of the music to my Mac. when searching through the tapes of our live shows, I was able to use them to fill in some of the blanks in the “real” versions. It would be far too easy for me to take a badly recorded part and overdub a Phil-Spector-like wall of sound to distract the listener from the bad parts. Strings and horns are great, but they would move this away from being a 10 to 9 album and towards being studio cleverness.
The album has, so far, a dozen songs, down from perhaps 17 or 18 possibles. Each of those has material on two or three studio takes, with a lot of live material recorded on the few gigs when we brought a multitracker along. The earlier material I’m remixing and piecing together is starting to sound a lot like the later “sound” we had. It’s my wildest hope that this means this album will end up sounding like, well, an album. It’s the story of a decade of our lives, and I want it to make sense as a piece. Closing this chapter of my life is important to me.
I’ve been restricting myself to staying within the spirit of what we had in mind at the time, and to what noises we could make (even if we didn’t have enough tracks to record them all). The last recordings were done by Craig and I alone, when computers were a little more advanced; so I fudged that a little, but kept my additions subtle. Also, those violins on my wedding song sound great, and I’m a romantic, nostalgic fool.
Restarting neilfein.com as Magnificent Nose has been a lot of work, but also fun. Everyone, I hope you’ve had a great holiday season, and I’ll see you all in twenty-eleven.