At the end of the day, “Interim Reports” is a collection of songs; some old – and some older. Just for interest, and because I make a note of these things, here’s the chronology of their composition: Red John (1987); The Spaniard (1986); Blah Blah Blues (1997); Entropy (1993); Apropos Of A Working Day (1991); The Tumbler (1988); A Little Bit Of Fun (1977); Mademoiselle (1991); Everybody’s Somebody (1997); The Pretender (1989); Go Down (2004).
There is a span of over 25 years from the oldest to the most recent. I didn’t realize this until I looked the chronology up for the purpose of writing this page. Nevertheless, the collection is not any kind of intended retrospective. The songs on Interim Reports are simply those that were in a state of readiness for “publication” when I was ready to commit to the production of the CD. The CD title is deliberate and, as I wrote in the booklet: “there will be further reports”.
That said, the recording and pre-production of the CD was a pretty inefficient process due to my novice-like approach to the technical aspects of the whole thing. A one-man singer-songwriter, recording engineer / producer, graphic artist and record label CEO all wrapped up in the notion of being an “independent” artist is a fantastic concept ““ but there were areas that I had to learn about from the ground up.
Recording commenced in February 2005 (judging by the timestamps on the earliest audio files I have) but it was not until late 2005 when the content of the record was starting to take shape. I guess I had always known that I wanted Red John, Everybody’s Somebody and maybe a couple of others to be on this first CD, but there were many, many other candidates floating around. I had, I suppose, about twenty, or more, songs in various stages of recording and at rough mix stage in early 2006. There were some 80 others that were previously unreleased and that I had not even started to record. Some of these recordings were pretty awful, it has to be said, and some were”¦well, marginal. In one sense, the songs that finished up on the record chose themselves in large part simply by way of their sonic quality when recorded and mixed at that time.
In the spring of 2006, once a dozen or so songs were fit for purpose, I felt I was ready to put a timeline on the CD. I was already in contact with a mastering house in Cambridge, England, who (bless them) called me regularly looking to book a date for the mastering. That was still a bit premature but it was another nudge to focus on getting the recordings right.
Well, I guess that was the part that gave me most trouble. I now had the songs and I had them recorded. All that was left was to apply a little bit of EQ and a splash of reverb and they would be good to go. Yeah, right. I burned a disproportionate number of CDRs, auditioning them in all the players and systems at my disposal in an effort to get the “mixes” to “translate” as widely as possible. I tried MP3 players, too, but after a couple of months, I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere fast. In reality, deep down, I knew my problem lay in the fact that the songs were recorded and mixed in the same room. A room that was untreated acoustically. Now, it’s not a bad room ““ in fact I consider it a good room – but like all rooms it has its resonant modes and it was fast becoming clear that it would be just not possible to get things right unless I did something about it.
In May 2006, I installed some quick and dirty acoustic treatment in the form of triangular chunks of mineral wool, stacked floor to ceiling, in each corner of the room. This took all of half a day to achieve. I wish I had done it at the outset. The results were like night and day. Suddenly I could hear what was going on and make proper judgements about the sound without futile attempts at compensating for the room’s modes. Very quickly, and with revived enthusiasm for the task, I remixed the songs and was quickly able to bring this part of the work to a close.
I had contemplated the artwork for the CD and text for the booklet from time to time and had concluded that this all was going to be an in-house effort. Only a couple of days spent with my favourite graphics program, some photographs I had taken in the hills, and I had something that I liked. (That’s the complete panoramic image at the top of this page from which the booklet artwork was prepared.)
Finally, in July, I somewhat nervously brought my songs to Sound Recording Technology, not really knowing what to expect or what reaction the output from my humble studio would receive. The mastering engineer, saying nothing at the outset, made some EQ adjustments which were like drawing a veil away from the music. I was duly impressed and the engineer was pleased, too. Four hours later it was all done and dusted and I was handed a CDR to audition at my leisure. I was content. There were no changes to make. All that remained was for the artwork to be submitted, proofs to be approved, and money to be handed over.
“Interim Reports” was released on the 31st August 2006, and although there was no big release party or anything of that kind, a milestone had been met. I had enjoyed the whole process, despite some of its frustrations, and I was deeply glad to let the songs go into the big wide world, at last. Its sales are not so numerous that each is not a little bit special to me and it’s a fantastic thrill when a customer says or writes kindly about the songs, the performances, or the recordings. “Interim Reports” has made something real and tangible. To me, the making of the CD represents an authentication, and its sales a validation, of my songs. Just as importantly, it provides enfranchisement to proceed with the next.
“Interim Reports” is available for purchase online via from CD Baby.