shepherds delight

28 May 2006 13:16 by The Hyphens

Chris, John and David in the main tracking room at Appleman
(More photos from this session at Flickr.)

When we were invited to contribute a track to Jimmy Guterman’s Sandinista Project, there were only 2 tracks unspoken for, and only a few weeks to deliver a finished pre-master recording. We chose “Shepherds Delight,” the dub version of “Police and Thieves” that closes side 6.

We rehearsed the tune for a about a week, and came up with an approach to the song that we thought suited us — we were going to play the first half more-or-less like the record, and after the chorus we were going to rock it up more. As it happened, the session seemed to have a mind of its own. We wound up producing something that we’re all pretty happy with, but that sounds like nothing else this band has ever attempted.

We worked again with our friend/mentor/producer/engineer extraordinaire Chris Cugini at Appleman studios. We did all the tracking in a single marathon session on April 17th, with people coming and going through the day. John got to Appleman first and unpacked his gear. David, David’s son/guest percussionist Andrew Zev (AZ), and Doug arrived shortly thereafter.

We started the day by laying guide piano and bass parts down to a click. (John’s piano take had such a nice feel that we kept it in the final mix instead of replacing it later.) With guide tracks done, we moved on to drums and percussion. David has an impressive collection of quirky percussion instruments, and they don’t always fit the vibe of The Hyphens’s original material. The strange little groove of “Shepherds Delight” provided a perfect place to spotlight the talking drum and some other oddments. Andrew Zev, in his recording debut, played solid shaker and wielded the bizarre instrument that we chose to emulate the jet engine noises that end The Clash’s version of the track.

Next, John astounded us all by laying down a mix of both lyrical sax lines and crazy free-jazz sheep bleats and bird squawks. We did the “real” bass parts next, then moved on to John’s guitar.

It was now early evening. David and AZ had left, but Dave, who had to work a full day before he could escape to the studio, hadn’t yet shown up. As darkness fell, we added a few more percussion takes to thicken the mix a bit more.

Dave arrived and we did some takes of him playing guitar to close the day.

Chris sent us all home with rough mixes to listen to. We gave him a handful of comments and he delivered a mix to us about a week later. We were delighted with it and sent it directly on to Jimmy.

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