Winds – HUGE 10 Day+ Update from Keyboardist Andy Winter

Norway’s progressive metal act WINDS ? comprised of singer Lars Eric Si (KHOLD), guitarist Carl August Tidemann (ARCTURUS), keyboardist Andy Winter (AGE OF SILENCE) and Jan Axel Von Blomberg (ARCTURUS, MAYHEM) ? were in the studio this December working on their yet untitled 4th album (out on the End Records), the follow-up to 2004′s creative The Imaginary Direction of Time.

Keyboardist Andy Winter provides a lengthy studio report for fans.

Introduction

Winds is a unique band in the sense that the four members in the band live in three different countries. This sometimes makes getting together to record a challenge, with everyone’s busy schedules, but never the less we have managed to do it with regular intervals, and our fourth album is now getting closer to being completed. Here is a recollection of the events that took place during our days in the studio.

Day I:

After having picked up Lars at the airport the evening before, we were ready to embark on the recording of the string ensemble. One would think that after having done this twice already, that it would be a walk in the park, yet out of everything we do over the course of recording a Winds album, recording the strings is without a doubt the most nerve wrecking and stressful experience throughout the whole process.

Lars and I arrived at the church around 9 in the morning or so. An old timber church from 1776 was our chosen location for doing the string recordings. Both Carl and our sound engineer Truls Birkeland had already arrived and were busy rigging up cables, microphones, equipment, etc. The string players came about an hour later, the same team as before from the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. They started warming up and looking over the notes while Truls got the last of the gear ready to go.

We used a very structured process during the recordings where everyone had a very specific task to perform. Truls was of course the engineer, and for all intensive purposes producer of this session, so his job was to make sure all the technical issues were working properly, and to engineer the sound, take care of input levels, etc, and not the least to listen to the strings that were being recorded. My place was behind the desk in the control room where I operated the record, play and stop controls. Lars would stand inside the hall of the church behind the string players listening for mistakes while they were playing and making sure the string players understood the arrangements, etc, while Carl was the link between Lars and my self, running back and forth between the recording hall and the control room so that we could communicate effectively with the string players.

We went through the tracks one by one, and I realized early on that we would be very pressed for time, as usual, but somehow we magically managed to finish, as we always do, about 10 minutes before the string players had to leave to prepare for a concert that same evening. We thought about going straight to the studio where we would do the vocal recordings after we were done with the strings, but because it was late and because everyone was tired at this point, after packing up and thanking Truls and the string players for a job well done, Lars, Carl and I headed over to Carl’s place to hang out and just relax after a long and stressful day. So we did, and that was the end of day one.

Day II

This time around we used a different studio for the vocals than before. These facilities were the same that were used for the recording of vocals for Age of Silence’s new “Complications” EP, and the studio I’m talking about is called MultiMono, which is the private studio of Asgeir Mickelson from Borknagar and Spiral Architect. It is a small but very nice and comfortable studio, perfect for our needs.

Most of the first day went by trying different gear, preamps, microphones, etc, and getting the sound set up. Thanks to Carl’s connections in the industry we had access to some really nice microphones, and to get the name dropping out of the way right here and now, thanks to Manley and SE Electronics for making some great gear. Once we had everything set up, we did some test recordings, although nothing too serious this day because most of the day went by just testing and tweaking.

Day III, IV, V and VI

For the most part, Lars, Carl and I worked together in the studio on vocal arrangements, while on occasion it was just Lars and my self because Carl also had a few other things on his schedule. The way we record vocals in Winds is that we don’t have too many vocal lines or melodies ready when we enter the studio. It is all improvised or written on the spot, and when we recorded the previous album we found that working together on vocal arrangements is a very gratifying way of working because it allows us to be as creative with it as possible. Of course, there is more room for disagreement this way as well, but usually the result also turns out better because three people have more ideas than just one, and we end up using the best suggestions from everyone, which not only makes the end result unique, but also better than it would have turned out on its own.

Since I write the lyrics for Winds, I have a lot of opinions about what parts should have vocals and not, and I also have a lot of ideas about phrasing the sentences and how the vocal lines should be performed. But since I am not the vocalist, it is mostly Lars’ job to come up with good melody lines for vocals. Sometimes I have good ideas in my head, but Lars, being the vocalist, of course takes charge a lot in this department, while Carl contributes with his ideas and adds a different perspective than what Lars and I would have just by ourselves. So this is why it adds a benefit to be three people, even though of course Lars and I got the job done on the day that Carl wasn’t able to attend.

In my opinion Lars has given the performance of his lifetime on this album, and I am extremely proud of his accomplishments this time around, let that be noted. We have in many ways reinvented the entire sound of Winds with this album, something that I would not have thought we had the ability to do only a few years ago. It goes to show that the process of change naturally, and that things reinvent themselves out of chance, not by force.

Day VII

This was our scheduled “mystery guest” day. Lars and I went to the studio early in the morning, and after going over some of the things we had recorded the day before, I went to pick up our guest at the train station. Our guest delivered a very memorable performance and worked very well together with Lars, and they ended up doing some parts together that made me very happy we decided to involve guests on this one. When it was time for our guest to leave, we noticed that there had been some freezing rain outside, and there was actually a half inch layer of thick ice covering the whole car. It took us about half an hour to scrape through it just to be able to get a clear view through the windows. Our secret mystery guest, whose identity will be revealed at a later time, then returned to the train station and I went back to the studio again to pick up Lars, and after listening through everything that had been done that day and putting down some harmony voices here and there, we called it a day.

Day VIII

Some of you might ask where Jan Axel was during all of this. The answer, on tour with Arcturus. However, day 8 was our photo session day which he had returned for just in time. The only problem was that we were not completely done with the vocals on one track, so we had to wake up very early this morning too, and we went to the studio and finished it before rushing to make the photo session.

We made it just in time. Finally the whole band was gathered and it was time to do band pictures. There is something very special about these moments where we are all there together. They don’t happen too often, so it’s even more fun when it actually happens. It was difficult to concentrate on the pictures in the beginning because we were talking and making conversation, not having seen each other for quite some time. But it ended up being great anyway, and after a while when we had gotten the greetings out of the way and everything, it was time to do individual shots for the cover booklet. As usual we were on a tight schedule, Lars’ plane was leaving in only a few hours, but we managed to get all the pictures taken, and then we went straight to the airport

After dropping Lars off at the airport, Jan Axel and I met up again for pizza and made plans to meet up again in the studio so that he could hear everything we had recorded so far. I ended up bringing the tracks to his place the next day instead, because I had my laptop with me and it was easier to do it this way rather than spend studio time for just listening to the tracks. Needless to say Jan Axel was very excited about what he heard, and we all can’t wait until this one is completed.

Day IX

During the day I picked up our second mystery guest from the train station. We went to the studio, only to find that the door was locked and there was nobody there. So we had to drive for 45 minutes in each direction to pick up the key. But we got in eventually, and we ended up spending a couple of hours recording. As with the first guest appearance, this one was also a great success. We will probably have yet another guest on this record, maybe even two, and it will be something very special.

Day X

Lars had returned to Finland, Carl and Jan Axel had gone home to each their own, and I was the only one left in the studio doing some last minute packing up and cleaning before the x-mas bells are ringing. It is the day before x-mas, and I’m exhausted. Asgeir came down and we chatted for a while. I didn’t really know him from before other than through e-mail, but none the less he was very nice to allow us to rent his “not for public use” private basement converted into a studio. Out of all the places we have recorded, I think this has to be the most convenient and hassle free place we ever did anything, so I’m guessing it won’t be the last time we go there.

Final words

Another part of the puzzle is complete and it feels great. This is without a doubt the most elaborate and complex production any of us has ever been involved in, so while we are nowhere near being done, it’s a huge step in the right direction. We still have to track bass guitar, which we have waited with due to time constraints, and Carl and I have to do our solo parts, which is no small matter either. After that, it’s the mix, and hopefully a release some time before the end of the year.

Thanks for allowing us to share our experience with you, and we hope to please many keen ears when the album is finally completed.

Regards,

Andy Winter

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