Tony Mckenzie & Alan Bruce
In the studio... And the making of Gravity Waves
The Gravity Waves music has taken literally years to develop. Not all of it will be for the 'masses' and some styles will be loved and some hated as is always the case on an album. But the great tracks (as you see them) really will be that and whether you like blues, rock, instrumentals or metal there is something for all. If you simply like guitars and rock bands you might well love Gravity Waves.
Spending long hours in Bigdan studios in England might sound like a nice thing to do, but in reality those sessions can go on for some time. Some of the technical issues that were right there throughout Gravity Waves sessions were hard to overcome and some of the music that had been partially recorded some time earlier had problems or issues that had to be reworked over a period of time.
The way that Tony Mckenzie works in the studio could be described as unorthodox but that is his way more than not in most things and writing and recording music is no exception. Basically Tony would develop songs from very simple things like drum beats, multi tracking guitars along the way until there is a solid core to the song that can be built on by Alan Bruce.
Typically Tony would give Alan a 'subject' that he developed the song around and Alan Bruce would write the lyrics, play bass on there and generally work until the song is completed.
But it was not all as easy as that as Alan will attest. Tracks for Gravity Waves was strewn over around seven hard disks in 24 track format and without written records dating back a number of years sometimes just finding the music was as hard as writing it and recording it in the first place.
During the recording of Gravity Waves much of Bigdan studios equipment was pressed in to service including:
Marshall, Diezel, Mesa Boogie, Bogner, Hughes & Kettner, Kemper, Line6, Fender, Ibanez, Gibson, PRS, Roland, Yamaha and many other amps, guitars, bass gear, recording equipment with some of the best microphones there is and outboard all contributed to give each track different sounds to each song.
In fact Gravity Waves ended up with 16 tracks on the album and for red book standards there was just five seconds of space left. The album in fact is at least three tracks shorter than it could have been and only after printing of the CD's did other tracks 'pop' their head above the parapet for inclusion... too late this time.
Mixing was carried out over a period of about two weeks after track completion, but like it is often the case, remixing of some tracks was necessary to achieve a 'similarity' to the songs.
Later Tony Mckenzie mastered the tracks for the album with izotope plug in's (from Sony's Sound Forge 11) for a editing suite after getting varying results from Steinberg Wavelab V9 mastering plugin which ultimately was rejected as something we could use. The original izotope mastering software was in fact a massive improvement - Wavelab even coloured the tones of the music (but we're sure they would pass the blame back to us); in any case it had to go - the decision had to be taken to use the izotope plugin.
Unfortunately the original izotope software in Bigdan studios was getting on in years and after an upgrade to izotope mastering music production bundle the change in results became immediately apparent. Izotope 7 Music production bundle was such a massive improvement over every other application available that we had in the studio it has now become the standard for Bigdan studios in the future. The ability to carry out so many mastering techniques within one package saved literally weeks of work and the results were (compared to Wavelab 9 mastering) spectacular.
Because some issues had existed in Wavelab 9 plugins it was decided not to create the CD red book master in that application, but rather fall back to older and tried and trusted software that had been used on other albums with great success. What a mistake that was!
Tony used an old Sony package called CD Architect (5.2) which used to create a perfect master CD for replication. But that was before windows 10, and the fact that Sony had not bothered to update anything, later selling off the packages to Magix software (we shall see what becomes of that) in due course. Thankfully diskfactory.co.uk found the problem (relating to isrc codes) and resolved that before pressing - thanks guys! However the studio now uses HOFA CD & DDP Software that works wonderfully in windows 10 and is very economically priced. It's scary how software can change 'at the drop of a hat' and no longer work. Strangely while the CD itself was flawed by the software, the printout was correct!
Artwork was developed over a number of weeks and some might not consider that the artwork is critical in the production of a CD but in reality it is in fact very critical and can contribute substantially in to helping Gravity Waves be a success. The artwork reflects the underlying meaning of the album and original concept from back in 2012 or prior; even Albert Einstein has a look in. But check out that artwork because there are many hidden meanings, you just have to look hard & you will find the meaning of gravity, time & life.
The CD was replicated by a company called disk factory in
( www.diskfactory.co.uk ) offering a number of services for CD replication. While the cost was not the lowest around from other CD manufacturing companies disk factory had great service and their quality is excellent we can attest to that, they provided spectacular results albeit at a price.
The choice for the CD packaging ultimately was a 'digipack' which is a far more common packaging solution these days and uses recyclable materials for the most part so no environment impact ensues.
Distribution is both by physical CD and downloads on the internet, however it has been deemed that streaming services are simply more like pirates that pay $US 0.0001 of a cent ( yes you did read that right) but charge their customers substantially more; they make a fat profit for the streaming company and little or nothing for the musicians themselves, does all of that sound familiar? You bet it is and once bitten Bigdan Studios opted to NOT stream Gravity Waves or any other CD ever again. If you are a musician then think carefully before you opt in to streaming scams.
Other problematic areas involved membership to the PRS and (maybe) MCPS - don't worry if you don't understand it - Tony will be going through just about every step there is to creating, mastering, publishing and all the other aggro that can ensue today simply to make and get a CD out there. You can do it the 'cheap way' of course and many do.. sometimes that's why they fail to maximise their efforts, but following this series of videos directly resultant from going through the procedures ourselves will undoubtedly help you if you are not familiar with most of the things you need to do.
There will be an in depth review by Tony Mckenzie of exactly what happened in bringing Gravity Waves to the internet and publishing through CDbaby which, along with other problems AND the above issues you might be very surprised how hard it all was to make work - especially if you live outside the USA. Since 2008 things have changed dramatically.
We hope this short introduction to what transpired in the studio and making of Gravity Waves is interesting... it certainly was for us.