Zen of Recording

The War of Will, Part 5


I struck out in search of my true home when I was barely 18 and until I was 32, I had called a great many places that. San Diego, El Cajon, Santee, La Mesa, Pacific Beach, and Spring Valley… Garden apartments, spare rooms, couches, lofts, garages, and all types of houses big and small… Los Angeles, too, from the bungalows of Silver Lake to a guest house in Glendale and, even further out there, from bunk beds in Bend, Oregon to a repurposed auto parts store in Detroit. I called them all “Home” for a short time.

Then, my restless roaming stopped.

For the next 20 years, I dug in and stayed in exactly one place. The small but vibrant community of Allied Gardens, in a house I lovingly referred to as the Wonderment of Wires.

I treated it like a recording laboratory, endlessly exploring and experimenting within its every nook and cranny, like a sort of sonic playground with hundreds of musicians as my willing crash testers. The results of these efforts produced a canon that has ranged from modest successes to glorious disasters, but from it all an education has been gleaned, as well as the confidence that I can handle just about anything that comes my way…

That last part was definitely put to the test once I started moving again. Not so much in Mountain Green, Utah (where pretty much nothing was coming my way), but definitely upon my return to sunny San Diego. I was immediately swept up into a resumption of my duties as record producer and recording engineer, but with one significant caveat: I was essentially homeless.

With my deepest respect to the thousands of souls who honestly have no shelter, I do not mean it in the extreme, sleeping on the sidewalk sense. My dear friend Wolfgang had generously offered his studio space to me for the sake of having a space to work and sleep, whilst I awaited word on the room I had hoped to set up shop in, which included a new life, a new love, and a whole new perspective on just what it was I had been and would be doing.

This new space was being open-heartedly arranged for and extended to me by said new love, who was in the process of designing and building an addition onto her modestly-sized but beautifully appointed house, which resided among the quaintly gaslamp-lined suburban avenues of Rolando Village. Once she was settled into her new quarters, I would move all of my mics, preamps, guitars, keyboards, and computers into the house’s newly vacated area and a new chapter would subsequently begin.

Only the addition and remodeling wasn’t finished on the contractor’s deadline. Or by the next cutoff date. Or the next.

This led to several small complications, like the fact that virtually all of my belongings had been temporarily crammed into a small adjacent room there and I mean from floor to ceiling. I was still living out of my small suitcase in between trips to the doctor to treat my broken ankle. Still, I was spending more and more time there and I eventually just straight-up asked if I could stay with her. After some serious thought, she graciously agreed and I showed up with my toothbrush, towel, and my leg in a cast.

Throughout my “careen” in music, there has been one rule I have single-mindedly held to: never turn down a chance to work.

Thus, when the opportunity to produce an album for Josh Taylor arose I took it, even though it meant that I would be setting a finish date that was concurrent with that of the 22 Kings record already underway. Of course, I had been previously able to rely upon my intimate knowledge of my room and my intuitive and immediate access to whatever tool was required in the moment (see 20 years above), so I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, exactly.

First, I needed to find another room to track in. Wherever it was, it was going to have to be available for a few contiguous days and, frustratingly, I would be requesting that time on very short notice. I chose Brad Lee’s studio, SDRL, because, frankly, he’s family. Not a blood relation, but as integral to the development of my vocation as anyone through my professional alliance with his label Loud and Clear Records. Since the early 2000s, I had worked with many of his artists, including Goodbye Blue Monday, John Meeks, Manuok, and my even son Drew Andrews’ band, Via Satellite.

Brad not only made the space available to me, but also walked me through its facilities, showed me the all the gear available, provided insights as to which signal chains worked best for what particular uses in his experience, showed me how to navigate it all, AND had it all set up and ready to track on Day One! He even had a set of keys made for me. Like I said: family.

Meanwhile, I was still editing, overdubbing and mixing the 22 Kings record in my new home, which was still somewhat woefully unfinished.

Picture this: the dining room was currently being extended out a few feet and a temporary plywood wall had been constructed to seal out dust and the elements. On the outside of that wall workers were busily engaged in sawing, hammering, grinding, and god-knows-what other high decibel activities. On the other side of that wall and just inches away, I had set up my computer, monitor, mixer, and speakers… all on the dining room table. “Home recording,” indeed!

Sven-Erik Seaholm is an award-winning producer of over 455 recording projects (www.kaspro.com). He is also a singer, songwriter, and performer. He wishes you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016.