So… I haven’t done a blog post in a while. I’ve been super busy the past few months, but I’ve toyed with a few different topics to address here. Each idea I had wasn’t feeling quite right for different reasons: Too sappy and over-share-ish (I’m fucking sick of writing songs about people who have recently died because it’s depressing as hell, and I should tell my bandmates and friends how much I love them before somebody else croaks); too repetitive (did you ever hear about the time Exhumed played in [insert city name here] and we partied so hard that we almost [lost our shoes / got arrested / accidentally did PCP]); or too much like an advertisement (GuitarPro is amazing, I use it for EVERYTHING, you should too). So I held off until I had something I thought was worth barfing onto the proverbial page over.
Well here I am barfing so…
To bring in 2019, Exhumed is undertaking something that’s new to all of us and will provide brand new opportunities for us to fall on our collective face. We’re building a recording studio where we’re gonna track a new album by the end of March. That’s the short version. The full, unexpurgated tale as it stands so far is below.
Some background to get you up to speed… When Erik Lindmark (R.I.P.) picked up stakes and relocated Unique Leader Records from beautiful San Luis Obispo, California to the land of Orange Juice and “Florida Man,” he sold his buddy Mike Hamilton (his former bandmate in Deeds of Flesh) the label’s old screen printing press. So, for about the last year and a half, we’ve been printing a lot of our own merch. For a while, we shared a rehearsal room and had the screen printing shop set up in a warehouse space in front of it, but eventually we moved into a different rehearsal spot where we had our own room with space for our ever-expanding piles of gear and ample wall-space for me to decorate like my bedroom circa 1989. While it was a big improvement having a rehearsal room all to ourselves that had enough space for 3 full-stacks, a beer fridge and my vintage Slayer and Venom posters, it wasn’t the most practical thing paying two separate rents – one for the rehearsal room and one for the screen printing shop, not to mention trucking back and forth between both locations.
Circumstances changed at the screen printing shop, and there would no longer be enough space for us there – which was a problem. Our landlord at the shop however, presented us with a potential solution – a space in an industrial complex was opening up that would be big enough for a jam room, a screen printing shop, and band / personal storage. The whole situation appeared to be extremely serendipitous. I was on tour with Gruesome when this all went down, so I only had second-hand knowledge of what was going to happen, but it seemed great.
If you’re thinking “there’s gotta be a ‘but’ coming up here,” congratulations astute readers, there is. When came to the studio the first time, there was already the shell of a rehearsal room built, with a stairway leading up to a storage loft – so far, so good I thought. I’ve rehearsed in a few different industrial / storage type facilities throughout the years, and the general rule has always been that after a set time (usually between 5 and 6 pm) you can start making noise, but not before. After that time though, you could knock yourself out cranking amps and bashing cymbals to your heart’s content. I glibly assumed that circumstances at our new HQ would be similar. I’ve been wrong lots of times before dear reader, and this was definitely another one of those times. While we were trying to organize the new space / print merch / rehearse for our Fall tour with Revocation, it became clear that our new neighbors liked to work nights and did not like a Death Metal band making a racket in an industrial shop with a high-ceiling and a metal rolling door.
After going back and forth with the other tenants in the building and the landlord, we were put in an unenviable situation. We had moved all of our gear, screen printing equipment and personal storage stuff into a space where rehearsing was going to be impossible. Moving back to our old jam room was not an option. Finding somewhere else to rehearse, and then setting the shop up in yet another different location would be a major hassle and could take months. Soundproofing the jam room would take piles of cash that we simply didn’t have, and we would have been spending all that dough just to make the neighbors happy, which wasn’t my idea of a good use of our money.
The only way forward (or at least the only way that wouldn’t make all the money, work, and energy we’d already expended be a total waste) was to build a soundproof room that we could not only rehearse in, but record in, never mind the fact that nobody in the band is an audio engineer. We were planning on doing a new record within the first quarter of 2019 anyway, so rather than blowing our recording budget to go work with a pro (which has been working out really well for us), we decided to blow our recording budget on building a basic studio ourselves and buying the gear we’d need to make a record in the same building that we rehearse and print merch in (which is virgin territory). What could go wrong?
Thankfully, I’ve had pretty positive experiences with largely “homemade” records – Uncivilized by Pounder was recorded almost exclusively in people’s bedrooms, and Savage Land by Gruesome was recorded primarily in Gus’ rehearsal studio in Fort Lauderdale. First off, we talked our long-time Front-of-House Engineer Alejandro Corredor (and Pounder bassist, who also recorded and mixed Uncivilized) into advising us on the studio gear we’d need to create something suitably non-shitty and for some construction advice. Between his input, that of some local friends, and of course, information on the interwebs, we cobbled together a construction plan.
Thankfully, Mike and Dr. Philthy both work in construction when they’re not on tour playing blast beats and splattering people with blood respectively. I’m more of “make a spreadsheet about it” kind of guy, so it’s a damn good thing those two know how to do drywall, build decks and stairs, and all other sorts of extremely practical stuff. After assuaging our hand-wringing neighbors and getting the landlord and the record label to sign off on our dubious scheme, we set things in motion.
We’re currently about a week into the work, and despite an experience at Home Depot that could have been Kafka’s inspiration for The Trial, I’m excited about this project. Every band dreams of having all of the means of production under their direct control (that came out a little more Marxist than it sounded in my head), recording, merchandising, artwork, etc. and this is a big step for us to get as close to that goal as currently possible. Also, it’s cool that this record is gonna be a challenge, because I like the tension that comes with the possibility of failure. We’re doing something we’ve never done before and entering entirely new territory without sacrificing the core of what the band is all about – we’re way outside of our comfort zone and that makes the whole experience fresh and invigorating – also potentially nerve-wracking and stressful, but hey, you take the good with the bad. I’m also stoked on a personal level, because I’ve already learned a lot about construction in general (I still suck at it, but at least I have a grasp on what the hell it is we’re doing at this point) and I’m going to be diving head-first into learning about setting up a studio and engineering a record. Of course we’ll have adult supervision from Alejandro as we get tones and track the album, and we’ll then send it off to our buddy Joel Grind for mixing and mastering, so we won’t be letting the lunatics run the asylum just yet. Lastly, I’m very juiced about the new batch of tunes we’ve worked up and excited to get Sebastian involved in the writing and recording process of the album.
A band is like a shark, it’s gotta keep moving or it dies, and this is a new area of things for us to explore and a new challenge for us to come together and meet. One of the reasons that band-mate friendships tend to last forever (or flare out spectacularly with a lot of bitterness) is that in a band, you’re working together to achieve stuff you really care about and you have to overcome obstacles together, and that forms a really deep bond that goes way beyond “Oh hey, that’s Marlene from my fantasy football league.” As construction continues, I’ll try and keep things updated here with our trials and tribulations. So far my sore shoulders and the surprising lack of complaints I got after putting on my Janet Jackson / Jodi Watley / Paula Abdul playlist have been the most noteworthy developments. We have until the end of March to build a studio and rehearse / record a new album, so the gauntlet has been thrown down, so it’s time to put up or shut up. By the length of this missive, it should be abundantly clear that shutting up isn’t in my nature.