I’ve done some remote collaboration over recent years with mixed results. I’ll record a song and send it to a drummer or guitarist I used to play with, and sometimes the person will be all jazzed about it and record a part right away, or sometimes the process will drag on for months, or the part I get back isn’t usable, etc. I’ve gotten plenty of good parts out my old MayTricks bandmate Steve Petrinko, but had not stood in the same room with the guy, much less recorded, for something like seven years, since I stopped having to travel regularly to Michigan to see my wife’s relatives (who have all since moved, died, etc.).
We finally arranged a trip for Steve to come drive up by himself last August for a weekend, and it so happened that my wife and kids were traveling without me and I was even between pets at the time, so we dedicated most of our time to collaborating on some new material, which went really effortlessly and egolessly. My computer had just died two days before the visit, so I had a new one built which I picked up right as Steve arrived, meaning that our effort was delayed by things like trying to figure out how to hook up my monitor to the new video card that didn’t have the right inputs, get a new recording program and the drivers for my new audio interface all up to speed. We didn’t even have effects installed at the time of recording, and I consequently didn’t get around to finishing the mixes on these until now.
So, here they are, two new, fully collaborative tunes, the first of which, “Freeway” (featured at the end of our Pirsig episode) was initiated based on Steve’s frustration in driving through the Chicago area to get to me. That one was very much he-wrote-a-line, I-wrote-a-line, whereas our second tune “Stories,” initiated when Steve came up with a piano riff, was more of an I-wrote-a-whole-verse, then he-wrote-a-verse affair. As with all of our collaborations, though ideas came from both of us, the on-the-spot quality control was more important: we had to both like every line, every riff, every idea, though we were pretty relaxed about it, really; no fighting went into these. The second tune, “Stories,” I initiated as a sort of drunken lament, but he turned it all hopeful.
Though we’re satisfied with the results, we pretty much just ran out of time in actually recording these, so the final bits of “Freeway,” i.e. the percussion and harmonica at the end, were just me putting something on to fill it out while Steve started to nod off. I did most of the engineering, including solving the “how do we get piano on the recording when all the equipment is in the basement and the piano is in the living room” problem that generally prevents me from putting piano on anything. I played rhythm guitar and bass, while he played drums and lead guitar (sans amp: I used an amp simulator after his departure to make them not sound so stark), and of course we both sang. A very fun, sentimental kind of experience that I hope to repeat this summer.