Monday 17th October 2005
2.00 am and I’m still in the taxi en route to Exeter. Check into the hotel at 3.00 a.m. The ‘alarm’ goes off (sorry!!!) at 6.15 a.m. and at 6.55 we are on a train bound for London Paddington station. 9.15 a.m. and and a taxi takes us to Abbey Road. The session isn’t due to start until 10.00 a.m. so we grab some breakfast in the cafe which is already full of classical musicians who are in for a recording session in studio 1. 10.00 a.m. and we are in the mastering suite with Sean Magee who is going to work on the final sound of our new Alarm album. ‘Mastering’ is the final piece in the art of making records. It is here that all the levels of the tracks are balanced so that they all sound as loud as each other in the final sequence. A lot can still be done to a record at this stage as EQ and compression can make a big difference to a recorded song’s dynamics. Present are myself, James Stevenson, Steve Grantley and Liam Feekery. There are still a few decisions to be made at this point. Sometimes when a record is being mixed there are a few things that you cannot commit to at that point. Sometimes, something is added to a track late on and you need time to live with it, like extra backing vocals or an extra bit of guitar. Today two of the tracks have things in them that we have to make a decision on. Both ‘My Town’ and ‘Without A Fight’ have backing vocals that we are not sure whether to include or leave out. We have mixes of the tracks both with and without. After some deliberation it is decided to go with the mixes without backing vocals. Hearing the tracks with Eq and compression makes them sound really exciting and there is no need for these extra vocal parts. Tougher to decide on, is which is the best mix of ‘My Town’; the mix done at the Doghouse by George Williams during the recording sessions or the mix commissioned by Pete Walsh. Both mixes are really good but in the event the Doghouse mix wins out as it works best in the context of the final album. The Pete Walsh mix sounds great on it’s own and will be used elsewhere in the promotion of the album. By 6.00 p.m. we are all satisfied with the finished record, having decided on the final sequence and also deciding to use all thirteen recorded tracks (There had been some debate about a finished album of only 11 tracks but the final sequence makes all thirteen tracks work together really well). Sean Magee does some final work on the volume of the record while we have a pint in the studio bar. At 7.00 p.m. I am on my way to Euston station with a (white label) finished copy of the album. The train to North Wales leaves on time and I can sit back and listen to the album on my headphones. I listen through to it twice in succession and It sounds great to me. This will probably be the last time I ever listen to this album in full. For me, this is the point where work begins on the next one. It’s over to you listeners now. By 10.10 p.m. I am in the car and heading for home.