So, today was the first rehearsal with Steve Watts, Lee Hudson and myself. It was great to get into the rehearsal room and hear this stuff played by humans, instead of the sequenced riffs that Steve had been sending me in preparation.
Leading up to this rehearsal I have been practicing everything that Steve has been sending me. The music is complex, constant counting in 13/8, trying out different fingerings in the left hand to make the riffs easier to play, making sure that each note is hit, on time, with the same velocity. These are things that we usually take for granted when we’re playing easier material, but it is something I needed to get right for this. Maybe it was nervous energy, but in my experience, you can never be too prepared.
A handy tip for all you musicians out there, learn your stuff. Get in the practice room and practice. It sounds silly, but I think we’ve all been in a practice room, playing something else rather than the material we need to learn. You’re maybe an accomplished player, but if you haven’t practiced the material, it will show. Practicing will pay dividends when you come to rehearse with a band or record the material.
I met up with Steve and Lee at the train station. In my eagerness, I arrived way too early. So early in fact that an older couple went into a pub across from the station, had a drink, maybe a meal. Finished, and came out of the pub asking “You alright?” There is keen and eager and there is misjudging public transport timetables.
So, Steve and Lee picked me up in a taxi and we all headed down to Robinwood Studios. Robinwood Studios is housed in what seems like a former industrial factory. It has a real old world vibe, from that of the Victorian era, but I could be wrong. Robinwood Studios takes a complete floor of this building and my first impressions is… Impressive. It is a great, huge space with recording, rehearsal and video editing spaces. Although, parts of it are still under construction the place is still fantastic. The studio just has an essence, a vibe about it. I have been to quite a few studios that don’t have a vibe, they’re new and modern and all chrome, glass and granite reception desks. Which looks great, but in my opinion, stifles creativity, or at least my creativity. (For more information about Robinwood Studios visit their website here http://www.nbynw.com/)
So we get into the rehearsal rooms with Billy Glew, the studio manager, and I’m already the odd one out. Steve, Lee and Billy all know each other, it seems they’ve worked together musically before, and I am the newbie, the fourth wheel.
I don’t know if it is just me, or if this is with all musicians. But it feels like you introduce yourself as a bass player, guitarist, drummer, whatever and it’s completely dismissed like “I’ve heard it all before”. Until you start playing, showing what you can do, that’s when you get accepted into the muso circle and then invited into their discourse. That’s what happened here, I kept my mouth shut and let my playing do all the talking. That sounds really big headed, I know. But, I had a right to be confident; I put all the practice time in I needed. I know this material.
Lee didn’t. He is a amazing drummer. We did some blues riffs to warm up with and Lee’s advanced techniques were on full display. When Steve went for a break we played some excellent drum and bass grooves together. But, he lacked practice with this complex material. He found it difficult with the odd time signatures at first. And as fatigue was settling in, it seemed like both Steve and myself were waiting for Lee to catch up. However, as the session wore on Lee grew into it, he is a great drummer, but I do have my concerns.
We had a talk, during one of the breaks and Lee was saying how difficult it is to find practice time because he doesn’t have a drum kit at home. I completely empathise with this, as it must be difficult to find the time to practice, when you have to book a rehearsal room in a studio each time. I can practice at the drop of a hat. Wherever I take a guitar I can practice. They don’t take up much room and I can plug my headphones into my amp for silent practice, which doesn’t annoy the people I live with, or the neighbours.
The message from Steve was practice; we got to practice this stuff when we are away from the studio.
Steve threw me a curveball, giving me a complex riff to learn there and then. Again this was in a weird additive time signature, which completely threw me. After being so confident about my playing, this is where I would have to dig in and get this quickly. Lee had been working on this with Steve in a session I couldn’t make due to illness. So it was my turn to play catch up.
I learned the riff an octave higher. I always do, for me it cuts through so I can hear if I am making a mistake. We broke the riff down a few times so I could jam along and then Steve and Lee put the whole thing together. Within half and hour, I was at speed, playing an octave lower and even asking to speed it up further. I was so impressed with myself.
I was worried; I think Steve could see the worry in my face. Not having that safety blanket, that limitless time practicing on my own refining these complex parts was a challenge; one I can proudly say I conquered.