The Making of Live From the inSync Asylum: Volume 1
In May of 2018 I did my first Live From the inSync Asylum (LFTIA) podcast. By August of that year, I realized it was not sustainable, and did not do another podcast for nearly a year. I’ve been doing an episode here and there ever since, but still knew I needed to do something to make it not only more interesting for me, but sustainable. In February 2020 I finally did a live performance video of Sign of the Times. At that time, the corona virus was somewhere off in the distance. A month later we were starting to ‘shelter at home’ across the U.S. Not long after that, many musicians were performing live from home – and I had finally found what the podcast needed. As of this writing, I’ve done 17 LFTIA videos. When I released the ‘In Trouble’ double single in late March of this year, I said it was from my upcoming album. This is not that album. It wasn’t until a few weeks back that it dawned on me I had another new album if I wanted one, sitting right there on my hard drive. After spending a little time remixing and mastering it, I think Volume 1 is a pretty special collection of songs, and a definite sign of the times. It’s also the first collection of songs I’ve ever done where you can watch the whole thing on YouTube. Without the unfortunate Covid-19 outbreak (which is still in full force in much of the world), this album would not exist.
If you have listened to the podcast, you’ve heard me speaking of my Trip Note project – a 40 year retrospective of mostly unreleased songs spanning 1978-2018. It’s currently sitting on my hard drive – a four album set of approximately 50 songs. I figure if I released it, it would sink immediately out of site, so I don’t feel much pressure to let it out of my possession just yet, but you will continue to hear some of it on the podcast from time to time. At the same time, I have been taking some of those old tracks that were recorded on 8 track reel-to-reel and bringing them into my current studio setup, and messing around with them – detecting the tempo, removing parts, adding new parts etc. I’ve done the same thing with tracks like ‘I’m Still in Love With You’ that were recorded in Logic Audio on the PC 20 years ago. I call these tracks Retreads. Several tracks from my most recent album Magic Moon are such tracks. This retread process came in handy during the lockdown. I decided I wanted to use backing tracks on some of the live videos – most of them actually; and pulling up an old basic track and bringing it into the present wasn’t so hard to do. And it created some interesting concoctions – ‘I’m Still in Love With You’ for example has tracks recorded in 1984, 1999 and 2020. It’s pretty cool playing along to something you recorded 36 years ago…
As for rules, I had none really. For this album I wanted the tracks to be what was on the video, with no new overdubs. I did edit a bit to clean up the squeaks and squawks etc., but no overdubs. Some of the performances are comps of multiple back-to-back takes however, and sometimes quite visible – hair down, hair tied back, etc. On ‘When You Tell Me You Love Me’, I think I did two takes with the melody maker, before switching to the Taylor in one final take, which is what you see in the video.
The last time I played live with a band – even if just in the studio, was around 1989. In general, I overdub parts and don’t play and sing at the same time. This was itself a bit of a challenge initially – coordination, breathing, the words and chords etc. Hopefully that trauma isn’t visible in the videos, but it was there – believe me. Despite that, it resulted in something kind of relaxed and focused sounding to me, so I seemed to settle in, whether I knew it or not at the time.
Another odd thing happened early on. You may notice that ‘Sign of the Times’ is the only video where you see me wearing headphones. Since the beginning, I’ve worn headphones on pretty much every vocal I’ve ever recorded. Same goes for mic’d amps and acoustics too. But when I wear headphones a lot nowadays, it stirs up some ear issues – Tinnitus for one. But this time around I had vertigo a couple of times as well, and decided well that’s the end of that. I researched recording without headphones – letting it bleed like Elvis did, and found that the Shure SM7B that I use for vocals didn’t pickup that much background stuff, so I started to doing that and it worked fine. I just monitored the guitars (which for the most part were direct), and just listened to my vocals in the room – no monitoring. Worked out OK, though there are a couple spots you can hear hints of some parts that are no longer on the record, after I later muted them in the mix. Oh well… Here is some detail on each song…
Recorded 6-2-2020. I wrote this song in the fall of 1981. I was 23 years old. It was originally recorded in ’81 on a collection of songs called ‘Metallic Scorn’. The backing track for this live version is from around August 1986, and from what I can tell never finished. I added drums and strat the day before the live take, but kept the synth bass and jangly electric parts from ’86. I was 28 years old at the time.
Recorded 7-9-2020. The 17th date on my ‘No Rhyme or Reason Tour’. I wrote the song Crazy Wind 38 years ago. It was included on an early collection of songs of mine titled ‘Silent Tears’, which I finished in July of 1982. It took me a bit of time to figure out how to play this song now. The recordings from back then are in tune with themselves hopefully, but not so much my digital tuner today. If you want to hear the earlier recording, check out Episode 11 of my Podcast. For the backing track for this, there was nothing from the 1982 recording I could use, so I recorded Guitars, Keys, Drums and Percussion for this prior to doing the live take. It’s a quirky catchy tune – be sure you want it in your head before listening…
Recorded 5-1-2020. I wrote this song in 1984, and it’s the title track from the album of the same name. Last time I played it was around 1988. It was inspired by Carlos Castaneda, but it sounds like a Buddhist take on the ego to me now. Interesting.
Recorded 7-1-2020 I wrote I’m Still in Love With You in 1984. It was originally on a collection of songs called ‘Petty Tyrant’. In 1999 I attempted another version of the song, intended for my ‘A Matter of Time’ album, but for whatever reason didn’t include it. At that time, I was using Logic Audio on the PC. I’ve only recently figured out how to piece those tracks back together, and get them into my current day DAW Cubase. For the backing track of this live version, I used mostly the ’99 track, but tweaked, stripped, added beats, drums, guitar and keys. I then imported the Prophet 600 synth bass track from the ’84 version. I did four takes of the song adding live vocal and strat – two of which broke down halfway thru. This is a comp of take 2 and 4 – the complete takes.
Recorded 5-14-2020. I wrote this song in 1985. It was originally from a collection of songs called ‘Vital Sines’, and i later recorded it on ‘A Matter of Time’. The lead guitar/vocal at the end is from another take.
Recorded 5-20-2020. I wrote this song in 1992. It was originally released in ’93 on my ‘And We Dream’ album. There’s a 2007 version on my YouTube page you may want to check out too. I first attempted this acoustic version in 2014, and tweaked that to use for the backing track. It’s one of the few songs I’ve played Cajón on.
Recorded 6-6-2020. I wrote this song summer of 1987. I was 29 years old. It was originally recorded in ’87 on a collection of songs called ‘No Poetry Allowed’ (unreleased, but remains one of my favorites). The backing track for this live version is from that time frame, and recorded on a Tascam 38 on half inch tape. Very little remains in this live version – a little bit of one keyboard track. Other than that, I added drums; guitars, bass, b vox and a little keys a couple days before the performance.
Recorded 2-23-2020. I had been messing around with the idea of adding live video performances to my Podcast. Rough around the edges, but a start. Check out the podcast!
Recorded 4-24-2020. With lockdown in force, this song popped into my mind and I had to do it. I took the basic ‘Living with Fiction’ track and stripped it down a bit – I think I changed the drum kit – not the beat.
Recorded 6-19-2020. The 15th date on my ‘No Rhyme or Reason Tour’. Running down This Road is from my 2015 album ‘Living with Fiction’, released on my 58th birthday. It’s one of the only songs from my long dry spell, and actually was started in 2009 I think. I found my way out of a dark stretch, and ‘Living with Fiction’ was the vehicle. For the backing track, I took the album track and stripped it down, changed the drum kit and added a couple new loops at the end. Live vocal and guitar on 6-19…
Recorded 4-9-2020. This is a special song to me. I had just recorded the Inner Light, in response to a challenge by Dhani Harrison and Olivia Harrison on Instagram, to benefit the Material World Foundation. I did it seated at the PC, so tried the same approach with ‘Kind to Myself’. I used my baby Martin guitar – probably should have used the Taylor, but it turned out OK.
Recorded 6-13-2020. The 14th date on my ‘No Rhyme or Reason Tour’. This was the lead off track to my most recent album of original music, 2018’s ‘Blue Tattoo‘. It was a pretty dark album, as it was recorded as I turned 60. You can read more about it here. The backing track for this was from the stripped mix released in 2019, and stripped even further. I added new percussion loops at the end, plus the live vocal and acoustic.