The Hitman Blues Band

 

 

Making Blues Enough

 

Welcome back!

This is a look behind the scenes of what we've done, how we got there, and various issues we faced. It's not about what we've had for breakfast, or ramblings. If you have an interest in the REAL story of a struggling band, trying to break through, then read on.

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It's been three years since the disastrous 2008 tour. It's now 2011 (well, it's actually 2017, but pretend it's 2011, ok?)

The 2008 tour was the last nail in a financial coffin. By 2010, I had to declare bankruptcy. What fun! But things keep moving on, and it was time - past time, really - to do a new album.

So, I gathered everyone together - our new drummer, Guy LaFountaine, Kevin Rymer (keys), Mike Porter (bass), Michael Snyder (tenor), Eric Altarac (trumpet), my brother Neil (harp), and a fellow named Victor for trombone. Victor was pretty unsure of himself, and I kept saying "don't worry, you can do it!"

I was wrong.

We had a live rehearsal at a local studio, towards the end of which I got a phone call - my father in law was in the hospital. My wife left to go there, I finished the rehearsal and went an hour later.

He passed three days later.

Not happy times, but we had to do the album. So, the next week, we trudged off to Brooklyn to record at Hot Sound Studios. It was about 25 degrees out, with snow on the ground and few places to park. My plan was - let's just do the whole thing live, with as much separation as possible, and then do the overdubs later. Why not just record EVERYTHING at once? Well, sometimes you can. But it's often better to do a "scratch" vocal track, using vocals as an example, and then re-do the final vocal tracks in a soundproof booth. That way, you can isolate the vocals, redo any parts that really bug you, and not have other instruments leaking into the track. If, for example, you find that a guitar part works against the vocal track, you can figure out a way to make it work without the old parts playing in the background.

At any rate, we got there and - there was no heat. It was a big place, high ceilings, and almost as cold inside as it was outside. The equipment kept breaking down, maybe because of the cold or maybe because it wasn't maintained properly, whatever. We had space heaters, but they didn't do much. The horns had to keep retuning, because the cold throws them out of whack. We were there for 12 hours, and only managed to record three songs.

After much pleading and threatening on my part, I got the band to go back a couple of weeks later and we laid down the basic tracks for the rest of the album. At least everything worked. Oh, right, except the bathroom.

Don't ask.

At this point, the band pretty much said "we are NEVER going back there. Ever. Never." So, I went back by myself to do the vocals, planning on just singing a couple of songs and doing some overdubs. Surprise! The bathroom still wasn't fixed, there wasn't any running water. And instead of singing a couple of songs, I ended up singing the whole album. All eleven songs, and no, there was still no heat, and yes, it was still friggin' below freezing. Hey, he kept yelling "Great take! Let's do the next one!" I would have killed for a sip of muddy water, I would have double killed for a beer.

Anyway, we still had overdubs to do. My guitar tracks, for one. They didn't really come out due to the equipment failure. So, we set up a recording session in Mike Porter's house and had the engineer from Hot Sound run it. It actually worked really well, as you can hear. Unfortunately, NONE of the trombone tracks were usable. Victor just didn't have what we needed - the intonation was bad, the notes were played without feeling, and it just didn't work out. Especially the intonation, it was just plain out of tune. Fortunately (very fortunately), our good friend Al Alpert came down from Boston. Al plays trombone and bass, and is excellent on both. So he did the sessions and everything got done.

So, I brought everything back to Hot Sound (Cold Sound?) for the mixdown. A couple of weeks later, after about five remixes, we had the album. Then it got mastered, again by Hot Sound. Not good. Mastered again. Not good. Mastered again.

Passable. And by now, we had a UK tour planned, where for the first time, I was bringing the whole band. Yup, all seven pieces. Plus assorted wives and significant others. Victor was still playing with us, because for live gigs he was ok.

Just as I was about to buy the tickets, he informed us he couldn't go. All the promo was already done, and we had sold the tour with, specifically, a three piece horn section.

And fate wasn't done playing around with us yet.

To be continued...

– Hitman

 

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The Hitman Blues Band

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