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How do you make your first CD? We Don't Know! Blog Home
Posted by Maroon the Shantyman
Oct. 07, 2014 11:50 AM  

After all this work getting the Bail Money CD out for the world to hear, it got me thinking about the stories about our earlier albums, so I thought I´d share some of the fun bits of trivia from the making of We Don´t Know, our first CD.

The Bilge Pumps started getting together as a group and rehearsing back in late 1999 and, after terrorizing the tenants of my former apartment complex, we managed to put together a handful of songs that we could more or less get through together. Mostly taken from the songs we used to sing wandering the lanes of Hawkwood, these songs were ones that we all knew from various other performers around the circuit and from our CD´s, so we got together to come up with a blend of them that suited our voices. We were taking our time, trying to get them to sound right before adding more to the mix.

Then, the unthinkable happened... we landed a gig. This particular gig was Mardi Gras Galveston, which drew 200,000 or so people over its 2 weekends at the time. That made us a bit nervous, but also a bit greedy as well. You see, it would be our first gig, one with a huge potential audience, and we had no music to try to sell to them. How can you not have something to sell to a large audience like that? We had put together some terrible demo recordings early on, but they weren´t something one would try to get people to buy. We figured we needed to make a CD. After doing some looking around, we settled on a studio called Mother Dubbers (since defunct) and scheduled some time to get to work. Here´s what we ran into, though, a little thing call time constraint. (Something we ran into with Broadside Buddies as well, but I´ll get into that later) This recording needed to be out in a hurry to possibly have it in time for Mardi Gras. So, factoring in the time it would take the duplication done, we needed to get the album produced as soon as possible. So, we selected twelve songs that we felt fairly comfortable with and that we could record quickly. We hit the studio in January 2000 on a Thursday night (typical rehearsal night) and recorded the album in 8 hours. Looking back at that number, it seems almost hideous, as it takes us forever to do one now. We made some interesting choices and mistakes that night in our haste.

These days I don´t even remember why, but some of the songs we normally played guitar on ended up being a Capella. "Holy Ground" and "Leaving of Liverpool", specifically. In retrospect, they would have sounded much better with the instrumentation, but hey, we were so good in vocals, who needs guitars, right? Right? Anyone?

We also made the decision to have everyone sing on every song, except for the lead parts. We discovered (mostly during the mix-down, which took 8 hours the following Thursday) that not everyone typically sang on every song during the show or even rehearsals. For instance, Evan never sang during "Johnny Jump Up" as he was always focused on the drums. Turns out, he didn´t really know how to do it right and the rest of us were all focused on not screwing up our own vocals to notice his occasional sour notes during the recording. There were also a handful of songs that John didn´t sing on either and we ended up with the same result in the mix-down. There wasn´t anything we could do about it as, in the interest of speed, we recorded all of our vocals in the same room on the same mics. That meant there was no fading back bad notes or off-key sections out of the mix. If the singers screwed up, it was there for the whole world to hear. Granted, that´s the way our show is, but you want a recording to be the ideal situation, not a typical one.

We also just gathered all of our happy, stinky asses in the same room for 6 of those 8 hours and sang into each other´s faces. Lemme tell you, there was some halitosis going around that place. Not to mention the nervous sweat reeking from everyone´s armpits, coupled with general pirate stank. That meant there were frequent breaks taken for both the smokers and to air the room out with a big-ass fan. I was faintly surprised that the finished CD´s didn´t smell like that sound room when we opened up their shrink-wrap upon delivery.

Then, after all of that, we found out that the duplication house wouldn´t be able to get out our CD´s in time for the first weekend of Mardi Gras, when we were performing on stage. However, Mother Dubbers also happened to be a duplication house, so they managed to get some cassettes of the "We Don´t Know" album cranked out for our second weekend of the festival where we were performing in the lanes. They had a temporary covers (J-cards) on them, but worked fine for people back in 2000 who still had cassette players in their cars... which most of us did... some still do... you know who you are.

Now, for all of the grief us Bilge Pumps like to give this album, there were many of our fans that claimed this was their favorite CD of ours, and I think there were definitely some magical tracks on the recording. Foremost of these was "The Sailor´s Prayer". It was obviously the one song we worked the hardest on in rehearsal and it held a special place in our hearts. There´s a reason we never tried to re-do it in the studio on later albums. We felt we nailed it the first time. Still do.

Many people have asked what the deal was with the first track on the CD, "Gull skeet"? That was basically us making fun of all of the bands we´ve heard that liked to start albums with serene sounds of the ocean for 20 seconds or so with the soothing background of waves crashing and seagulls squawking. We figured we´d just shoot the seagull on our album. Granted, most people didn´t get the joke. It just seemed strange to them without the backstory. Also, the surprise snoring at the end of the album is something we had recorded doing our demos in ´99. Somewhere during that recording session, John passed out from too much beer and Vicodin and was snoring loudly in my living room. We decided to record it for fun, then we decided to add it to the album for even more fun.

OK, one more story to tell. After receiving our first finished cassettes, we all left rehearsal stoked to listen to our new album on the drive back. Well, Evan had the longest drive (Irving to Azle) and got through the entire album during his trip home. Well, he forgot about the bonus stuff at the end. After hearing our lovely rendition of "The Sailor´s Prayer" which soothed him on his journey, the 30 seconds of silence at the end lulled him even more into a road trance, then the super loud sound of Mitch laughing at John´s snoring startled him to the point that he nearly wrecked his car in a ditch in the middle of nowhere, TX. Luckily he survived and continued to drum for us. I don´t know if he ever viewed his road home the same again, though.

Because it's all for me blog. Me jolly jolly blog.
....Maroon




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