...Still here? Let´s continue, aye. Part two of the Epic Saga Of Finntroll´s Mixing Adventures (tm) awaits! Grab your seats, ladies and gentlemen...and prepare to exhaust yourself with yours truly!
Friday, day 22.
My son was having holiday from school- I wasn´t. And after seeing him swallowing tears when I told him I´ll be again away tomorrow for the whole day, I decided to take him with me.
So I took him to my office to play games and hang around while I was playing all the missing guitar leads (if my boss asks, I was playing the guitar for an upcoming game trailer instead) in less than two hours. Making the sound, playing, editing, exporting, uploading the guitar leads, in less than two hours, that is, as I was supposed to be somewhere else at certain time. All this while answering ten times to questions like "dad, why can´t we go and buy some soda from the vending machine downstairs?" and "can I play games with your work computer instead of this laptop"? I decided to go with my demo guitar solo with "Mitävittua" instead of playing it again. It was actually rather good, so I didn´t see the point of just playing the same shit again.
I succeeded with the guitars in time, picked up my wife from the city, drove home with the family and continued straight to the studio. Came home to spend some time, continued buiding our snow-castle with my son and went again to the studio with the guys after everyone else had gone to sleep. We noticed that the kick drum, snare and bass tracks are having some problems with a thing called "being out of phase", so we had to check out all the songs again and fix those which had some issues.
Saturday, day 23.
Holy fuck, a day that started at 9:30 and ended at 17:00. With everything going on schedule, succeeding and me having a proper lunch. I had to do some more backing vocals for Piraatti and we played some extra keys with Virta for a couple of songs. It´s good to have a quick setup there in case you realize that "this keyboard sound isn´t working in this part when the vocals are on top", etc, so it´s easy to replace or double stuff if needed. Three more songs for tomorrow, fuck yeah.
Sunday, day 24.
Last proper day. Today we make the two songs into their "phase #1", tomorrow we polish them into finals and do all the backups/ possible last- minute tweaks. So we started in the morning tweaking yesterday´s songs into final. In the afternoon, it was time for Soutu. Fast- forward about three hours and we started to mix Lolbster.
If you ever listened to the demo preview which we posted online, Lolbster was that folky tune that ended that preview. So there´s quite a much layered stuff happening which gave me some proper trouble. The chorus of the song has 6 tracks of stringed acoustic instruments, the "basic band", keyboard melodies in three layers, pads, piano, and vocals. Making everything "sit" nicely in the mix while still audible seemed to be a living nightmare. Until I realized something.
Everyone always utilizes EQ to make room for other instruments. Well, if you´re having some heavy trouble still giving everything the room they need, how about thinking outside the box? You got more than one dimension in sound. Use that possibility! Spread the living bejesus out of stuff. If you only need acoustic rythm guitars to give that "sparkle", you don´t even want to them to be in the middle- you always hard pan them. Well, hard pan them MORE. With a spreader. There´s no information in the center anyway you´d want to be there to mess up the mix. So be creative, and when you can´t make anymore room with EQ, don´t be afraid to experiment with stereo windth settings with sounds that are meant to widen the sound anyway. The more you got stuff in the center, the more you want to pan stuff, right? But what it you can´t pan stuff like pads? OVERSPREAD THEM. And prepare to be amazed.
However, remember that just like in hammering shit down with limiters, also in this- with great power comes great responsibility. Be aware that too much stereo spreading WILL ruin your mix and you have to be very careful not to be "fooled" by the instant super- stereo sound to overuse it. Use phase meters with your ears and you should be all good. Also keep in mind that the more stuff is spreaded out, the more it will take sheer power away from the middle and your mix sounds like it´s coming from "back of your head" and totally ruined and weird. Use with extreme caution!
And that was to first EQ all the keyboard layers separately and using a "trick" to make them more wide instead of being in the center. A bit like that "stereo surround" everyone love to overuse when listening to music from a digital source. :D And THAT really hit the spot. Everyone was dropping their jaws basically- "what the hell....holy fuck the sound started to breathe". Remember me writing earlier that...
Apparently, there is. And apparently, judging from my and everyone other´s grin while checking them out in different stereos at the studio (there´s a fine line with this stereo windth experimenting -read the jargon if you want- so wanted to be sure we´re not overdoing anything) we realized that this was the last missing piece of the puzzle. The keyboard pads had to be spread out to the sides in the mix in order to give room for everything else, and now it finally sounded the way it was supposed to sound. Now there was just one little problem- there´s no way we would use the old versions if we could do THIS to every song. We´d have to start again from the beginning while having roughly 36 hours left. Hey, at least Kyyppari was still untouched so it´s not that everything had to be done again, right? :D"I could live with this, being 85% satisfied. After all, there´s no such a thing as "universally perfect mix"?
We finished Lolbster and used the same approach with Rivfader and Piraatti and went home 3 AM....dreading for tomorrow.
Monday, day 25. Studiotime left: 24 hrs. Songs to be mixed: 8.
I got to the studio with Virta and Vreth at 11 AM. Everyone´s good morning´s greetings were like "dude, I was listening the new mixes at home in the morning and holy fuck they sounded good" so we laughed that we´re definitely on the right track....better late than never. So, sleeves up and to work!
We did minor balance tweaks with those three songs we finished yesterday, and about 13 we started to give the facelift to the missing eight songs.
Some keyboard doubling was done (see earlier day) and overall we were very satisfied with the sound when applying the tweaks. It took roughly 2 hours per song so at 10 PM we were still lacking four. And this is where the FUN begins. If you haven´t read the blog earlier (or missed that part), I mentioned that my wife was heavily pregnant at this point with the estimated "delivery date" being only four days away. Well, you never guess how this story goes...
Long story short- at 22:30 with 12 hours and four songs left, my wife informed me that her water broke. Being the person who she is, she was laughing that this wasn´t probably something I wished to hear at this very moment, which I had to agree laughing. She told me that we have to go to the hospital in the morning if nothing happens before that, so "finish the stuff and come home but try to get some sleep if possible for tomorrow". So, there I was, mixing my ass off with a phone 20 centimeters from me in case it rings while my wife is getting ready to give birth.
(Disclaimer: This is a matter of trust here- my wife knows that the moment she says we have to go, we go. And I know that she will say it when that time comes, no earlier. She is a healthy and sensible woman, and I was only 10 kilometers away from home and I have a car. So we weren´t exactly risking anyone´s health here. Besides, there were no such symptoms which would indicate on going to the hospital yet. She also knew how important this particular studio day was, and showed me her support with this for which I am eternally grateful for her.)
"How the fuck can you manage continue mixing with attitude that calm", were the guys laughing. "Well, do I really have much choice here", I snickered. "I either start panicking and stressing and mix badly or then I go home, but in both options I am no use to anyone. So I guess I finish what I have to do, do it well and then go home. But of course I am in full alert-mode all the time, and if I need to go, I need to go. Let´s just hope I won´t have to go before we´re ready."
And we mixed. And mixed. And ran downstairs to smoke cigarettes, had coffee, pizza and more coffee, mixing, tweaking and editing. Every second my phone could ring that "we have to go now" so this was some serious race with time. I was in touch with my wife with calls and SMS´s, her providing me info she got from the hospital and me asking her condition, possible pains, etc. Then she went to sleep about midnight and I continued mixing like a madman. At 3:30 AM she called me that she woke up and "I guess you should start hurrying up with the mix if you have much of that left". Now this was getting interesting. Could we pull this off or not? The atmosphere started to get hysterical already, with everyone laughing and cracking up all the possible jokes concerning what will happen if our time runs out.
At 5 AM we had the final mixes ready. But we still had to spin them through in order to find any possible major fuck- ups, like "accidentally muted vocal lines" or "flanger in snare" and "rodents on left speaker"- kinda things. Because if something is fucked up at that point, it can technically never be fixed again. We´d have to mix the whole album basically again as we´re using that kind of setup which can´t be done again quite easily.
I called my wife that we´re technically finished, and she said that I can stay for the listening, but being prepared that we have to go soon and she calls me when... and then it´s a rush. At 5:50 AM while the album had just finished and the couple of things had been noted to be fixed, I got a phonecall that we have to go. Vreth and Virta stayed to make the final tweaks for those two songs that demanded attention, I dropped Tundra home and drove WAY over the speed limit to home and went to the hospital with my wife from there.
While the album got born technically 5:00 AM, our wrinkly, healthy and small baby girl got born only less than five hours later. This is something I´d call rather efficient timing, don´t you think?
I also want to make a special note here- not even mentioning the actual bravery of her tuesday- night at home here- this album would had never completed with the massive help of my wife, who was taking care of everything I couldn´t, while I was away doing the album. I love you.
More into grim and evil stuff again, I´ve been now bouncing the mastered takes back and forth with Mika from Finnvox in order to find the perfect sound. Thus far they sound incredible. We´re still doing some extra keyboards and some vocals to some of the songs, and the final mastering session is at next wednesday. Expect more info then.
This album will fucking kill. It tried it´s best with us, but we were tougher. Are you....prepared?
Signing out for now, it was a pleasure to spend this year with you.