day seven, a chorus of solitude (nathaniel rateliff & the wheel records in chicago)
Chicago December 21, Mon 11:22 pm
Day Seven. We’ve finally neared the end of our session, and we’ve not ceased to learn new things each day. I love being in this cocoon of a place, learning, working, and frankly, being lazy, all at the same time it seems. With all things considered and with all humility intact, I feel that I’ve become a better session player and am looking forward to taking this session, along with other sessions prior, under the belt-straps with a bit more confidence in this surreal world, where time is manipulated in such a way as it is in this surreal, strange world. It feels like ages since I’ve been on a stage performing, and I find myself missing it. I also find myself missing home once again, and I look forward to being back in Denver working on my other more exploratory project called ‘Recess.’ Yes, Denver calls as we approach our final day at Engine Studios. Julie has finished her parts, Ben’s been done and back in Denver, although we expect him back in Chicago within minutes from now so that he can catch his originally slated trip from Chi town to his hometown in Jersey. This may call for a late poker game, of course. Joseph has finished all his parts with the exception of vocal parts to be done on Tuesday. Nathaniel’s done with all his parts with minor things here and there, and Carrie has flown back to Denver as of yesterday morning. I’ve just a couple more parts and fixes that I hope to get to on Tuesday, and that’s that. End of story. What will be done tomorrow is what will be, and with that, I grow more anxious and excited of what may be or what may not be. One thing is for sure. Not to talk this moment up any more than it should, but I must say that The Wheel hasn’t ever created anything of this magnitude nor anything of this quality, and I foresee movement after this recording is released. How much is yet to be determined, and the success of this project will surely have much to do with everyone’s follow-through, if you will. This business is most assuredly precarious, fickle, and larger than life to say the least. I love being in it nonetheless, although I realize it is all of these things and more. What can a poor boy do but to yet dive deeper, and hustle the fuck out of this business? I’m learning to make this work somehow, and I haven’t yet completely sunk. Wish me luck, and be with me the gods and purveyors of this magnanimous thing we call music.
How neatly a cat sleeps,
Sleeps with its paws and its posture,
Sleeps with its wicked claws,
And with its unfeeling blood,
Sleeps with ALL the rings a series
Of burnt circles which have formed
The odd geology of its sand-colored tail.
I should like to sleep like a cat,
With all the fur of time,
With a tongue rough as flint,
With the dry sex of fire and
After speaking to no one,
Stretch myself over the world,
Over roofs and landscapes,
With a passionate desire
To hunt the rats in my dreams.
I have seen how the cat asleep
Would undulate, how the night flowed
Through it like dark water and at times,
It was going to fall or possibly
Plunge into the bare deserted snowdrifts.
Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
Like a tiger’s great-grandfather,
And would leap in the darkness over
Rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.
Sleep, sleep cat of the night with
Episcopal ceremony and your stone-carved moustache.
Take care of all our dreams
Control the obscurity
Of our slumbering prowess
With your relentless HEART
And the great ruff of your tail.
day five duck fat duplah effect (nathaniel rateliff & the wheel records in chicago)
Chicago December 19, Sat 10:36 pm
Day Five… I’ve just about completed all my piano and organ parts since my fourth day here and since then, it’s been smooth sailing for my lazy ass… yep, not much activity except for watching the rest of the episodes of Season 5 of Lost. By the way, W-T-F? This show is fucking cwayzy shite fo sho! I digress. Today, my job has been to offer some moral support in the studio, and to fetch some sausage sandwiches and duck fat fries from Hot Doug’s. By the way, the hour long wait outside in the wet snow that Chicago’s been experiencing was barely, just barely, worth savoring the duck fat fried fries and sausages from the legendary hot dog shop. Oh, and what’s with the wet snow in one of the coldest parts of the continental U.S. of fucking A. in fucking late December? I’d so much rather walk around this town in the dry powder that Denver is guaranteed to get this time of year. I digress yet again, The Wheel has been working on one particular song called “Happy Just To Be,” a piano ballad played and sung by Nathaniel. Carrie has been laying down some beautiful string arrangements to the song, and I dare say this is a sure-fire winner. At least I’m almost completely sure of it, until my hunch is completely contradicted by others who aren’t so biased as I am. We shall see, we shall see. I must say, there is so much more work to do, and we haven’t been slam dunking it, but more like striking a bowling ball with a putter. Things have been tedious, and as I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy that we’ve kept our standards high. Thanks again Brian for laying down the law. Hopefully we will be out the door with everything we need to make gold records (baby) before our voyage back to Denver.
not once, not nevah. day tree, no, day three (nathaniel rateliff and the wheel records in chicago)
Chicago December 17, Thurs 11:40
Oh day three… day tree, day tree, not one, not nevah. I wake up and look down on the floor to see that Julie Davis, bassist and supporting vocalist has arrived. It’s good to see her, and it’s good to see that just about the entire band is now in Chicago, sans Carrie the violinist, who arrives on Friday. We all wake up after 10:30 am and Julie volunteers to fetch us some Lamb Shawarmas and Falafel at Sultan’s Market for brunch. Mmm, greasy, cheap, dirty… and as of tonight, I admit it. I’m starting to feel it. I rub my tummy…. shit. No excercise, not much movement at all has been made, yet there have been tons of notes, tons of chords, tons of emotion, and many arrangements to work out. I feed my thoughts like a hungry lion vying for my share of nourishment. Good for the brain at least. All work is all play for me today, and it’s made Jack quite a thoughtful boy. In hindsight, I laid some good piano tracks yesterday (i think), and continued with them today, as well as played some interesting Farfisa Organ with some unique effects through a meaty Fender Super Reverb. Hopefully these tracks will have the staying power needed for a record of substance. Ben has also laid some drum tracks and is just about finished. He may be flying back to Denver sooner than expected…. lucky motherfucker… ah bless the fella, love him. Joseph’s laid a guitar track and the tone is like electrified butter. What a studio. Tons of great amps, and this producer means business. Brian Deck is working us to the core, and I’m proud that he’s pushed us as much as he has. We’ve certainly put him to the test for sure. The Wheel is a band that needs the discipline Brian’s given us, but he’s also given us the sarcasm and cynicism that The Wheel eats up so well. Nathaniel, our bandleader and songwriter, is feeling the pressure, and I love that we’ve gotten to this point. It’s good for us. Tomorrow, I should really take a long walk and explore this beautiful neighborhood. I’ll try to get some good gloves and a hat to ease the bitter windy city’s wrath.
udon day one (engine studios with nathaniel rateliff & the wheel)
Chicago December 15, Tues 11:29pm
After a long, sleepless, but surprisingly enjoyable straight-shot drive from Denver to Chicago, Joseph and I found ourselves parked in front of Engine Recording Studio in Wicker Park at 5:15am. Unable to reach our existing cohorts in the living quarters of the recording studio, we decide that we have no choice but to take a nap in the van until we hear from Nate and Ben, who are justifiably in a deep sleep at this late/early hour of twilight. A couple hours elapse, and I’m awakened by sounds of clunking and clattering just feet away from the van. Well what’ya know? It turns out to be our friend, Brantley, who has just arrived to the studio to film and photoshoot The Wheel while we record the album… a pleasant surprise for sure. After a couple more calls to our cohorts, we collectively make another resolve and invite ole’ Brantley into the van for a fireless-side chat until we have better luck at finding a way into the locked studio. Joseph, in all his splendor, decides to relentlessly barrage Nathaniel and Ben with calls until we hear from someone to let us in. After who knows how many more calls, Ben answers, and we are saved! Mind you, I place no blame on my sleepy mates. Besides, they’d worked pretty hard the night before, as they’d been in the studio a couple days prior. Anyways, we quickly settle in, and the studio is a comfort as we eventually join the guys in our modest living quarters, which consists of two full size futons, a bathroom, and a kitchenette. Brantley much appropriately has his own tiny studio just down the hall. Ah, rest at last. We sleep for a handful of hours, and I gladly take it for what it serves me until finding myself unable to sleep once the noon hour passes. Oh well, it’s time to shower, dress, and check out the studio. Oh, and time to meet the producer, Mr. Brian Deck… Nice guy, nice place. Joseph, Nathaniel, and I complete the ad hoc construction and repair of the vibraphones we brought, and it looks as if it’s going to serve its purpose after all. Phew. Other than that, t’was a quiet and uneventful day in Chicago for me. I hardly stepped foot outside the studio, except for walking a couple blocks away to retrieve a bit of cash to purchase udon noodles for lunch. No recording for me. That’s ok though. I’m acquaintancing myself with the place and the creative direction for which this project is taking. Brian Deck is frustrated today, and work is slow and tedious. I stay out of the way until it is time to order and eat pizza for dinner. A good cap to the evening includes a glass of spirits, and the movie, Bad Santa. Good night Chicago, I’m ready to eat you up just yet.