It’s a Long Way to the Top – Diary of a 21st Century Rock n Roll Band

Kurt Dahl leads a double life. First and foremost, he is the drummer of Saskatoon rock band One Bad Son ( Second, he is writing his Master’s of Law thesis on the future of the music industry, and how artists will continue to make money in a digital world.

The Rock and Roll Report contacted him to write a diary for his latest venture: driving to Vancouver to record new songs with Default drummer Danny Craig as producer. Below are his entries…

Sunday Feb. 1st – Drums, drums, drums

My day to shine. Recording drums all day @ Greenhouse Studios in Vancouver, one of the most revered studios in the country. On the wall beside me are a bunch of signatures of those who have recorded there – I keep looking at Steven Tyler’s for inspiration.

I want to get a Bonham/Moon kind of sound…raw, powerful, but tight. I wasn’t happy with the drum sound on our last album – too much production and not enough feel – so I am a bit worried about a repeat occurrence.

However, that is NOT an issue this time around – in fact, the drums sound huge and savage, just the way I like ‘em. We’re recording in one of the best drum rooms in the country, and apparently we lucked out getting it – it is almost always booked out to producer Brian Howes, who has made a name for Hinder, Hedley, Daughtry, etc. The room is huge, and so is the sound.

The day turns out to be the best recording day of my career – a success by all accounts. It’s also the longest – the session goes from 10am til 12:30 that night. We only have the studio for one day, so we gotta make it happen for these 3 songs.

After we wrap up, I’m feeling celebratory, so drum tech Jay Deachman (who has played with everyone from Copyright to Theory of a Deadman) suggests we head to the Roxy downtown, where Jay pulls strings at the door and gets us past the sizeable lineup and in sans cover. The festivities continue until the wee hours. I’m exhausted, a bit sore, but on top of the world. Now I can sit back and critique my band mates for 10 days, as my job is done here!

Wed. Feb. 4th – Bass in your Face

Bass day today. Our bass player Granny steps up and delivers on the 3 tracks. The guys from Default stop by and offer up their gear to be used on the recording, which is pretty cool. The bass and drums together sound wicked – these songs are turning into something special already. The drums did turn out great – a definite Bonham feel, with enough Moon0esque fills to satisfy yours truly.

The first song, ‘Works and Days’, has a sort of Chili Peppers groove. The second, ‘Rustbucket’, is balls out rock in the vein of Soundgarden meets Zeppelin. The last, ‘Retribution Blues’, is a big AC/DC-meets-the-Stones kind of anthem – which my money is on to be our breakthrough hit. However, Danny from Default thinks ‘Rustbucket’ is the one. Then Default’s A&R guy in New York thinks ‘Works and Days’ is the hit. And so it begins… 😉

Thurs. Feb. 5th – I’m feeling rough, I’m feeling raw, I’m in the prime of my life.

Getting guitar tones all day. We collectively come close to losing our minds as things keep malfunctioning and we don’t get to lay anything down all day. Just part of the process, but it still feels like a setback, and our time here is limited.

To kill time, I go for a run and listen to some tunes. It’s an amazing day in Vancouver – sunny and plus 10!! A far cry from the -40 we came from in Saskatoon. On my iPod, my favorite songs of the moment are:

‘Red River Shore’ – Bob Dylan: from my most played album of 2008, Tell Tale Signs. Its Dylan’s 8th album of b-sides and throwaways, and it’s leaps and bounds above what most modern acts release as A-sides. Humility is endless.

‘Effigy’ – CCR: I heard this song for the first time last week, and it may become my favorite CCR song of all time. It’s the last song on their killer album Willy and the Poor Boys, which I just got on vinyl for my birthday from Granny. It has the same melody and feel as Jimi’s Hey Joe, but with its own CCR vibe. Check it on iTunes, it’s worth every penny. “Who is burning…who is burning…the effigy?” No wonder the Dude loves him some Creedence!

‘Time to Pretend’ – MGMT: perhaps my favorite song of the last 6 months (its older than that though). The lyrics are my life story:

I’m feeling rough, I’m feeling raw, I’m in the prime of my life.
Let’s make some music, make some money, find some models for wives.
I’ll move to Paris, shoot some heroin, and fuck with the stars.
You man the island and the cocaine and the elegant cars.

This is our decision, to live fast and die young.
We’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun.
Yeah, it’s overwhelming, but what else can we do.
Get jobs in offices, and wake up for the morning commute.

Kurt Dahl

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