As 2003 wound on I made up my mind to commit my songs to CD. I was very aware of my limitations as a music producer and as aware that I wasn’t getting the best possible results from Cubase because of my lack of knowledge of the program. But even so I had come up with something and this time I wasn’t just going to sit on it, as I had so often in the past.
I settled on eleven songs I was reasonably happy with, some more than others, and decided that I would put them together in an album called All In My Mind. Not only was All In My Mind the title of one of the songs on the CD it also summed up where my music had overwhelmingly been for the bulk of my life.
Christine and I had been on a superb holiday to Mauritius earlier that year courtesy of the company we worked for and one stunning image from that holiday provided the front cover for the album. The image looked as if someone had set fire to the sea at night.
The songs themselves spanned my life, some were very old and some were very new. What they all had was my first concerted attempt to commit to posterity. I decided I wasn’t going to attempt to sell the CD or even try and get any wider recognition for it than giving to my family as a Christmas present. How much of a Christmas present it was was their decision to make, but my youngest brother and his family bursting through the door on Christmas morning singing the lead track was both one of the most cringe inducing and happiest moments of my musical life.
Not since the days back in Yorkshire and of the band had I seriously put my musical foot forward and made a statement. Now I had again, only this time there was something tangible to see for my efforts, an actual CD.
However, because I didn’t understand Cubase to any great degree and because I had no experience of music production the CD had some serious flaws. It was too quiet for example because I didn’t know how to boost the signal. The mix was very hit and miss because I didn’t know how to balance, and so on. I was all too aware of it’s limitations but I was also thrilled at finally having some of my songs in tangible form.
Here, at long last, was a musical statement. This was some hint of what I could do.
Of course no-one in the family was going to come out and say they thought it was a pile of crap, they were going to issue soothing words even if they didn’t like it. So I never expected constructive feedback and I deliberately didn’t seek it. I knew what I had produced, I knew it’s plus points and I felt I knew it’s flaws and although it was impossible for me to truly stand back and critique the album I felt it was a decent first stab at recording my songs.
I had written all the songs, arranged them, played all the instruments and sung all the vocals. I hadn’t used any MIDI because I still couldn’t get my head around it, I hadn’t even used a click track, but I had recorded eleven of my own songs and put them on a CD.
All In My Mind was, overall, a collection of good songs with some good arrangements played reasonably competently. The production was poor due to my technical limitations but taken as a whole it wasn’t a bad first stab at seriously recording my songs.
The question was what was I going to do next? What, if anything, was the follow up?
I decided to try and repeat the process, largely hoping that by continuing to use Cubase I could learn more about how to maximise the potential contained within the program and end with better produced songs. That was the plan. What happened was that life, as always, got in the way and although I tried to put serious time and effort into my music the following year I never managed to get the requisite amount of studio time I needed. I ended up with just four completed tracks and I produced an EP called Ghosts Of Your Past of those four songs and again gave that to my family as another Christmas CD.
The reality though was that it had been a slog to produce those four songs and it hadn’t been nearly as enjoyable as the recordings I’d done the previous year. I began to doubt what I was doing with my music and why. I was squeezing it in around work and family life in general and having already done one album the impetus to produce a second simply wasn’t there.
My working knowledge of Cubase suffered because I was leaving too long gaps between one session and the next and it was like learning everything afresh each time I fired up the computer.
After Ghosts Of Your Past I basically mothballed the music computer. I continued strumming away at my guitar from time to time but my playing was slowly deteriorating and I was forgetting everything I once knew about Cubase. I even stopped writing new songs. In the back of my head was the conflict between knowing I’d made an album and doing another, between properly learning how to produce an album and accepting that I wasn’t really that interested in the production side of recording. I needed an excuse to start recording again and I needed someone to help me with the technical side.
It took years for those particular stars to align but in the end they did, both for the better and tragically for the worse.
Picture – the cover to my private album All In My Mind