Saturday, September 29, 2012

Behind the Scenes with TILES: "Off the Floor"-- Released September 4th, 2012 Worldwide

Part One

‘Off the Floor’ is a studio term for recording music with all performers playing simultaneously – as opposed to the modern method of typically overdubbing instruments one at a time. Early recordings were captured off the floor because that was the method required by the fledgling technology. But as recording equipment advanced a piecemeal process for building (especially) rock and pop arrangements became (mostly) standard operating procedure.

Of course, this is not really new information. We only mention it to give people not familiar with recording lingo some insight into why we titled our new live CD ‘Off the Floor’ (OtF) since it captures “how” we recorded plus offers an amusing “tiles” play on words. It seemed especially important to convey the true origin of these recordings as live-in-the studio performances; but also emphasize these aren't studio creations either.

 ‘Fly Paper’ was released in 2008. Since then we have written and rehearsed the bulk of what we hope will become our sixth studio album. However, as multiple personal and professional challenges continued to work against our musical activities a lot of time eventually passed. After our Midwest mini-tour to support ‘Fly Paper,’ we stayed rehearsed and kept playing occasional shows around the Detroit area trying out new songs and keeping active; but this was getting a bit tedious. One day Jeff suggested we do something to breathe a bit of excitement into Tiles and offered up the live recording idea. We all liked this suggestion and jumped on board for a few different reasons. We could consider it a celebration of our impending 20th anniversary, it could serve as a pseudo “best of,” and every band should release a live recording anyway. So although our ‘Presence in Europe ’ CD (recorded on tour with Dream Theater in 1999) sounds very good, it’s still just a soundboard (or semi-bootleg) recording. Stretching out on a proper multi-track live CD sounded like fun.

 Some people consider efficiency as creative laziness. If so, then we’re guilty as charged! For us to set up in a club and deal with all the variables of promotion, live sound, recording equipment, potential bad weather, business, and everything else seemed unnecessary considering our goal of simply recording the music (yes, we know…, today’s marketplace wants live DVD’s; but our resources clearly told us “live CD” – sorry!). We really just needed to go to a soundstage and eliminate distractions.

The right side
Bob, behind his control desk
Jeff happened to have a friend with exactly the kind of studio we needed. It’s a recording /rehearsal studio with a full PA with recording equipment. After explaining to Bob (Phillips) what we wanted to do he seemed a bit nervous because he had never done anything like this before; but was definitely up for a new adventure.

The Left side
Since releasing "Flypaper" we had developed two set lists we could alternate. We would interchange these as we played around town so fans would (hopefully) come out to hear us more often. We dusted off “Set A” and headed to Sound Escape. Bob did double duty as he set us up for live sound through the PA, plus dialed in the actual recording levels. We ran through our standard test tune "Remember to Forget" (from Window Dressing), made another bunch of adjustments and we were off. It really did feel like we were more at a club and less in a studio.
Paul, Banished to the "Utility Room."
 Concerns about generating enough excitement or energy were immediately gone. The sound coming from the PA was powerful and concert-like; but it also meant we had to banish Paul around the corner in a utility room 10 feet away to prevent feedback from his microphone. Still, after the first tune he popped his head out and gave everything a big thumbs-up. We kept us all together by running the PA mix into Paul's headphones (the rest of us didn’t use headphones) and he’d poke his head out for critical cues.

 We spent the day playing and recording – enjoying the sound and feeding off the energy in the room. The scrutiny from our small but critical audience kept us on our toes and also kept us from lapsing into a too-casual environment! We fixed a few gimpy spots – mostly Chris not switching between amp settings and effects in time – and made sure we knew which versions were keepers (since we did multiple takes of a couple surprise troublesome tunes). We didn’t have any train wrecks though…

 We had approached the “live in the studio” concept cautiously but ended the session feeling like the recordings would offer something genuinely new and interesting for Tiles fans.

 **End of Part One, next up: some dirt on why Chris couldn’t start Dress Rehearsal (more than once); why we couldn’t figure out how to start Checkerboards; and why we made Jeff write interludes…

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