Almost always, recording a song is a monumental task. From the moment that inspiration hits you, and an embryo of a song is conceived, to the moment that, after all of your care and grooming, you've finally decided that it's ready to be released into the world, years can pass (at least, this seems to be especially true in the universe of Rainbow Fresh). The idea that all of those countless hours of hard work, energy, and unconditional love may never amount to anything at all - it's just mind-boggling, not to mention unfair. This is why you may have heard an artist refer to their songs as their 'babies'. It's cliche' and egocentric, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. So, when all is said and done, when your day of reckoning comes, when that dreaded moment finally descends upon you like a dark omen, you will be forced to deal with the most base, cruel and terrifying of all questions - is this any good, or does this song suck? Should I just abort this mission, or do I have too much invested in this to stop? Ultimately, other people will tell you if it's good or not. Friends and family can't be trusted. Usually, you will know, after playing the song out in public a few times, whether it is good or not. That first gig when you debut the song... it's like Judgement Day.
So, what's the purpose of that manifesto in the paragraph above? Simply this - I have no idea whether or not this is a good song. I'm in way too deep, babe. Sometimes, you get a feeling about a tune, and you just know it's gonna be awesome, and it is. Other times, you just love it, and you're gonna love it no matter what anyone else says. I feel this way about 'I Only Wanna' and 'The Things That We Do', for example. Even if a panel of songwriting experts and A&R people told me that those songs sucked, I'd still be proud of them. I honestly can't say the same about 'It Don't Mean That Much To Me'. I'm at a loss with this one. Although every recording presents certain obstacles and provides some unpleasant moments, this one was particularly brutal. I think I feel this way because it took so long to complete, and it shouldn't have. There's not a ton of overdubs, and this is the first song we've done in a long time that doesn't have a superabundance of vocal harmonies. It has your basic Rock & Roll instrumentation- bass, vocals, guitars and drums. Yet, it really sapped the life out of me. Maybe it's because, stylistically, it's a departure for us. If I could create my own genre, I would put it in the 'Mellow Metal' or 'Groovy Metal' category. Somewhat of an oxymoron, isn't it?
One final note on this song before I start going through the history of it's writing and recording sessions. There's some mention of my father in here, which, to say the least, doesn't exactly portray him as a candidate for father-of-the-year. Although, up into my teen years, my father was very tough for me to deal with, he never abused me in the sense that is implied in this song. It's not an actual experience that I've had. This is another unique aspect of this song, since most of them are based on personal history or viewpoints. But I've always been amazed at how people stay in abusive relationships; the explantion being that people seek familiarity over happiness; that they take refuge in the abuse, because it is all they know from when they were very young, and that this will serve as a blueprint for all of their future relationships. And so the cycle repeats. So, it takes hard work to break these habits. And therefore, being happy takes hard work! Who would've thought? You gotta work hard if you wanna be happy! This was an epiphany for me, so maybe that's why I struggled so hard to get through this song, rather than give up the Ghost. Because, maybe, the story behind the song warranted finishing it. Does it carry through into the song? Will it be enough to make it a good one? You tell me.
This song was born out of some jams that I had with the Brothers Purcell (Martin and John), that took place in the basement of a house I was renting in Verona, NJ. Before moving into that house, I was living with my future wife, Lauren, and my son, Elliot, in Union City, NJ. We moved to Verona because it was a nice place for families; there was way more room in that house and we finally had our own driveway! In order to afford the move there, I had to give up the studio that I had been renting in Passaic, NJ, for 15 years. That place was my sanctuary and I absolutely loved it! I spent countless hours in there, jamming, recording, and writing. I spent almost my whole adult life there up to that point. It was sad to leave, but it was time. I had a family now, and with that came responsibilites. But we embraced the new joint, and it wasn't long after we moved in, in September of 2009, that the band set up shop in the basement. That room had absolutely the worst acoustics! We never could get a good sound in there. I was in that house for only a year and-a-half (my daughter, Claire, was born there), so the song was probably written in 2010. I remember we all liked the song. It was kind of unique for us, and it had these creepy-sounding chords in the chorus. It had a Kiss Dynasty-era-like feel to it, too.
All of the recording and mixing was done at Sound Over Sound Studios in West Caldwell, NJ, most of it during the Fall and Winter of 2012, and finished up in early 2013.
The drums, played by John Purcell, were actually recorded on January 3rd, 2011. On that day, John also recorded the drum tracks for 'You Should Know' and 'You Make Me High'. 'It Don't Mean That Much To Me' was the last song recorded at that session.
On April 11th, 2011, I went to the studio in order to perform edits on some of the bass tracks. In the studio log, it says that Jon (owner of Sound Over Sound Studios) and I decided to keep the existing bass track for 'It Don't Mean That Much To Me', although it listed the orgin of the track as 'unknown'. For this reason, I'm not sure if we kept the scratch track that was done while we recorded the drums, or if Martin later tried to play a different take sometime between 1/3/11 and 4/11/11. My best guess is that we did not keep the scratch track, but that he did redo the take on that same day.
On April 16th, 2011, I played the rhythm guitars. I was pretty satisfied with the results on that day.
I did some more guitars the next day, on April 17th, 2011. I believe that I played the arpeggiated leads that happen in two different sections in the song. The 1st is in the bridge section after the 2nd chorus, and the 2nd is in the last chorus/altro of the song.
Almost a year-and-a-half would pass before anything else was done to the song! It's seems that, during the course of recording, we always encounter these humoungous periods of time that seem to get sucked into a black hole, never to be seen again. It's our style, I guess. Anyway, on September 12th, 2012, we started to record vocal takes. I remember not being to impressed with my performance. On this day, I had a revelation; it might be a good idea to start writing songs that are within my vocal range.
I'm no Ozzy, but I find that the vocals that I recorded earlier sound better than I thought, after revisiting them on September 24th, 2012. I'm doubling my vocals, a technique use by many artists in order to enhance the fullness of their voice. It's a double-edged sword- it can cover up small flaws in pitch, however, it can also degrade the clarity and energy of the vocal. For this song, it seems to help.
On September 25th, 2012, I try to do some guitar leads, and although I had some good ideas and attempts, I don't get anything that I can keep.
On October 2nd, 2012, I play a pretty good guitar solo at the end of the song. Scott Bross (Jon's older brother and extremely talented bassist and singer/songwriter) and Martin are there for moral support. I had some rough ideas on what the solo should sound like, but I did a lot of writing on the spot.
On October 17th, 2012, I keep plugging away at the solo at the end, and change a few things. I definitely feel that the changes I made improve the solo. I also start to play other leads throughout the song, specifically between the 1st chorus and the 2nd verse, and in the bridge. It's a good session, but I'm still not done.
On October 22nd, 2012, I do more lead work, and I feel like I've finished. I also decide to fix the wording of one of the vocal lines, so I re-cut it. This session happened during the day, which is very rare. It was my 1st wedding anniversary, so I took the day off from my day gig. My wife's gift to me was a studio day! What a woman...
Over three weeks went by before any work was done on the song again. And this time, on November 15th, 2012, I worked alone. Jon had stuff to do that night, but he set up the room for me, and allowed me to work in his studio by myself. So, I really tried to get the leads perfect. I corrected some stuff, but I went a little crazy doing it. It was a case of obsessing over small details, and I'm sure I would've been talked out of doing it if someone else had been working with me.
Am I finally done with these bloody leads? That is the question of the day on November 23rd, 2012. Jon took some of the leads that I cut on the previous session and tried to work them into the existing solos. This process is called 'comping' (which probably comes from the word 'composing'). I left the studio thinking that I might finally be done with the guitars.
On November 29, 2012, Jon, a groovy shaker player, laid down four different shaker tracks. We tried different fast and slow rhythms, to see what would work best with the song.
What a surprise, I still wasn't satisfied with the leads! So, on December 4th, 2012, much to the chagrin of Jon, I re-visited certain lead parts. After re-cutting a few small parts to my satisfaction, all the tracking for the song was done, and now we could enter into the next phase of the recording- mixing the song! Before the lead guitar imbroglio, we had edited Jon's shaker takes from the previous session.
On December 11th, 2012, Martin, Jon, and I did some mixing. Usually, when we mix, we let Jon do his thing and we comment on what we would like changed. He knows what we like, so usually, changes in the mix are very minor. The biggest argument we have usually involves how much reverb/delay is put on the lead vocal. Jon is a big fan of it, while Martin and I usually want it to have a more subtle effect.
On December 13th, 2012, Jon does some mixing on his own. He knows how to get great sounds, and has a great ear for EQ'ing, so this is work that doesn't require us to be present. Plus, as I mentioned before, he knows what we like.
On January 15th, 2013, Jon completes 2 mixes of the song. One of the mixes is a shorter one, and cuts out the end solo that I had worked on so painstakingly. But you've got to do what's best for the song, and that means that if some stuff has to be left on the cutting room floor, then so be it. It doesn't just happen in the movies. I'm still not sure what version I like best, and I've gotten different opinions; in fact, most people we've played the song for don't know which one they like better. So, we won't decide for now. But the longer one is on our player as of this date.
On February 5th, Jon chopped some of the beginning off, so that the vocals start sooner. We all felt that the vocals took too long to come in. Again, we did this on the long and short mixes. The longer mix, with the guitar solo at the end, is the one we have on our player right now.
On February 14th (Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!), I wrote this story. It's all true! I hope you enjoyed reading about it.