Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Chesterfield Jam Report

Well the first Chesterfield Jam is all over now and was definitely a fun and interesting, though quite intense and often tiring experience. I think we both learned a lot from working with someone else and hopefully some of the stuff we produced will be worth releasing at some point.

Day One: I packed all my gear on Sunday night and printed off maps and directions. On Monday morning I was up nice and early to load the gear into the car and have some breakfast. I left my house at about 9:15 for the drive to Chesterfield to meet up with Steve at Digital Image Studios. Chesterfield is an easy journey for me as it's just 3 junctions up the M1, but I gave myself plenty of time, as you can never predict what will happen on the motorway. A good job too, as traffic completely ground to a halt for the last 10 miles, making a 30-minute journey into a 45-minute one. Still, I arrived just on time to find Steve had got there just before me. I parked the car and went in to find him chatting with Glen (the owner of the studio).

The Studio: The studio was a new building at the end of his back garden. Before unpacking, we decided to go down to have a look around and plan how we were going to set-up our equipment. We were expecting a room somewhat bigger than what we actually found. In my telephone conversations with Glen he'd said the room would be about 10' by 10' but it actually turned out to be more like 8' by 6'. It was really difficult to tell whether we'd actually be able to get all our stuff in. As we'd both invested a fair bit of time and effort getting our equipment out of our respective studios and were really itching to play together, we decide to give it a go. So then we started on the hardest part, unpacking and setting everything up, which entailed trailing to and fro through Glen's house and up and down the garden path, a job which wasn't helped much by the fact that Glen was in the middle of a major refurbishment/ re-decoration project, with piles of stuff dotted here and there to trip the unwary.

Setting Up: We decided to set Steve's gear up first, as he wanted to be in the farthest corner. As previously stated setting up wasn't much fun and it definitely wasn't helped by a particularly obstinate keyboard stand and an accident that left Steve's Prophecy slightly damaged. What a start! Luckily the Prophecy should be easy enough to fix and a spare part is on its way as I write.

We finally managed to get everything set-up in roughly 3 hours and finished just before lunch, we had a quick jam then went out to Pizza Hut for lunch. After lunch we nipped over to the B&B to pick up our keys, as we'd be finishing quite late.

Recording: We came back after lunch at about 2:30 and then played through 'til about 10 pm, recording 2 80-minute minidiscs worth of material. For most pieces we used a mixture of Steve's pre-prepared sequences (from Reason) and my improvised sequences (generated by MAQ 16/3 and Nord modular). We would usually jam for 10-15 minutes so that we could get some sounds and keyboard parts that worked together, then once happy we had an idea we'd hit the record button and just go for it. We tried to avoid falling into the trap of every piece having the usual structure of ambient bit followed by sequencer bit followed by ambient bit, though we found that we needed transitions between our different sequencer parts. We even worked on a shorter song that may make a good live encore one day.

At the end of the day... We went out for a curry, via the local supermarket to get out some cash to pay for the B&B and studio costs. During the meal we had a chance to discuss the day's events and decide on a plan for the next. After the most excellent curry we headed off to our B&B for some well-earned sleep. Alarms were set for an early start.

Day Two: Up early for a nice cooked breakfast then off to the studio. Got there to find Glen still having his breakfast.

Recording: Headed down to the studio, fired up all the gear and set to work, recording another 2 and a bit minidiscs worth of material. We even managed to get our sequencers to synchronise to each other, though this caused Steve problems as Reason insisted on jumping back to the first pattern set-up in it's sequencers, which unfortunately weren't the ones Steve wanted to use. Hopefully we will be able to avoid this next time we work together.

Packing Up: Finished at about 6:30 for a quick bite to eat and then started packing up at 7, which went altogether much more smoothly than the previous day's setting up. Managed to get everything packed in about an hour, then with help from Glen we got everything out to the cars and packed up ready to leave by about 8:30.

In conclusion: It has to be said that whilst the room was a bit smaller than we had expected and it wasn't that easy to get stuff in and out, Glen was extremely helpful and patient with our seemingly endless traipsing back and forth with piles of gear and said that next time we came we'd be able to use the larger control room, as he intended to swap the contents of the two rooms around.

The Music: From my point of view it was great playing and improvising music with someone else and though it was our first attempt I think that our styles complemented each other. We definitely had some inspired moments where it all came together, though there were also other pieces which were harder work. It was all good experience and hopefully with more practice we will be able to work together even better. It was something we'd both like to repeat, probably early next year. We each took a day's worth of recordings home to transfer to cd and exchange, prior to editing for compilation of the best bits into an album (or two)