ONCE AGAIN, THE SUMMER touring season is upon us, and I’m traveling throughout Canada, Europe, and the USA. Once upon a time, it was impossible to perform live in Toronto and also do a session in Los Angeles. Session players used to say things such as, “Everything always happens when I’m gone,” or “If you want your phone to ring, leave town.” But the world has really opened up in the recording industry. No longer do you need to be near a studio to do a session, as tracks can be sent via the Internet to home studios (or production facilities) in every corner of the planet.
But just because I can now do sessions while I’m on the road doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. For one thing, my stage gear is usually on the truck heading to the next venue, and I’ll only have my “hotel room guitar” with me—not exactly the appropriate ax for recording. You’re also at the mercy of the client’s organizational skills, such as the time I was called to play on a record while I was performing in Paris. After much communication over scheduling, styles, and sounds, the band picked me up at my hotel, and drove me to a nice studio on the outskirts of the city. I proceeded to dial in a tone using a handful of unfamiliar pedals and a strange, no-name French amp, but when the guys put up the track, there was nothing on the hard drive! They had driven nine hours from Marseilles, and hadn’t bothered to check their drive before leaving. Session scrapped.
It’s also difficult knowing a recording decision is less than optimum, but when the client is also the engineer and producer, there’s not a lot I can do. For example, I recently played on two tracks at a home studio in Vancouver. The artist had guitars, amps, pedals, plug-ins, and a tuner all ready to go when I arrived. However, against my better judgment, he wanted to print my tracks with reverb and delay effects. You’re limited later if you want to make changes, and, sometimes, a wet guitar will sound way too processed against a dry drum sound.
I’ve also enjoyed doing sessions from the comfort of my home. During the six seasons of the TV show Lost, the composer’s assistant would arrive with a laptop, a mic, and charts. I’d add electric and acoustic parts to the previously recorded orchestral tracks, and as there were just a few cues that needed guitar, it saved me a trip out to the studio. We called them “field recordings.”
So I’m very familiar with this fieldrecording technique, having done a jingle from backstage in Vigo, Spain, and a record date from my hotel room in Torino, Italy. In fact, someone sent me a CD from Sweden that I don’t even remember playing on. He said I did it in Seattle. Oh yeah—now, I remember. The bass player came to my hotel, and we did the session in a conference room. What a life!
A member of Supertramp since 1985, Carl Verheyen has also logged a dazzling 25-year career as one of L.A.’s premier studio guitarists. His most recent Carl Verheyen Band release is the DVD, The Road Divides.