As I am learning about how to podcast using all of these amazing electronic gizmos and software, it is easy to loose sight of why you want to podcast while you struggle with the issue of how to podcast. Much the same can be the said of musicians who have such a wide variety of home recording gear and software that it is so easy to get caught up in the virtual trees that they tend to lose sight of the musical forest. I just read an article from almost a year ago about musician Kelley Stoltz who is attempting to recreate the analog sound of rock and roll in the privacy of his apartment and it struck a chord with me.
Until the widespread use of digital technology in the late ‘90s most home recording was done on either a portastudio cassette-based unit or on analog ¼ inch tape with 8-track being the norm. Obviously it wasn’t as flexible as today’s 128 virtual-track software products but it forced bands to really pay attention to the craft of recording their music without getting side-tracked by the endless options that digital technology provided. The key to recording on analog 8-track was to ensure that you had the proper placement of your microphones and that you really thought out what instruments would go where and how you would record them on which tracks. This element of pre-production was not an option, it was a necessity based on the limited options you had available but it forced bands to really think out what they wanted to do and how.
Kelley Stoltz knew that some of his favourite rock and roll from the likes of the Beatles and Pink Floyd were recorded analog and he wanted to recapture that for his record Below the Branches so he enlisted the trusty aid of the venerable Tascam 388. I myself have had some great experiences with this beast which is essentially a giant portastudio marrying an 8 input mixer with a ¼ inch reel-to-reel recorder and dbx noise reduction. Why did he essentially go retro, with the sometimes added headaches that analog entails? According to the article:
“I just enjoy the ritual of the tape machine: cleaning the heads, waiting for the tape to rewind. A lot of the music I love — the Beatles, Pink Floyd — they were using 2-inch rather than ¼-inch, but they still had to wait for tape to rewind. It just feels more like it used to be. I feel as though I’m partaking in the same process.”
This to me is very important these days because the ease of recording music in 2007 sometimes takes away from the art of creating music which is a very important difference in my rock and roll book. While not everyone will pine for the days of editing tape with razor blades, I think that the craftsmanship of recording music is getting a bit lost these days. Do I advocate going back to analog tape? Well that all depends on the musician but it is nice to hear a rock and roller interested in the process of making a record and not just in the end result of burning a CD. It gives me hope that the soul of rock and roll lives on in the sound of people like Kelley Stoltz and that is pretty cool.