The road to Europa really did run through Dresden. It was in Dresden, at the Blue Note Jazz Club, where Europa started to come into being. But it wasn’t always a smooth or easy road. First we had to get there and then we had to figure out the logistics of where to record and where we’d stay.
Since Alex had a train pass that enabled him to travel for free within German and since Flo’s Kombi was going to be pretty packed, we had arranged to have Alex take the train while the rest of us (with Paromita) drove. So on Wednesday morning (the show was Wednesday and the recording session was Thursday), Paromita, Flo, Daniel, Fin and I met up at Fin’s rehearsal studio where his drums were. Paromita, Daniel, Fin and I were all there first (while Flo was negotiating traffic) and we dragged all of the gear out from the building to the parking lot out back. You can see in the photo that there really wasn’t much room for all of our stuff and it took several attempts to find the
optimal only configuration in which we would be able to pack five people plus a band’s gear (plus overnight bags) into the car.
Our original plan was to record at another space in Dresden on the Thursday. But that space wasn’t available for us and when we rolled into Dresden, a few hours before the show, there were still a lot of things up in the air. Fortunately, Christian Betz, our intrepid engineer was at the bar when we got there, and our minds were at ease once we met him and saw how capable he is.
What was up in the air? Primarily our location for recording and where we’d stay after recording. We were able to solve both of those issues first by recording in Blue Note on Thursday and by leaving earlier than expected to head to Prague where we’d stay with Ondrej and Halke and their kids an extra night.
I hear Dresden is beautiful and that the old city was completely restored after being firebombed by the Allies in World War II. I say that I hear it’s beautiful because we (Paromita excluded) didn’t see any more of Dresden than about a half a block of it. On Wednesday afternoon we pulled up to the bar, unloaded our gear, got ready for the show, played the show, stayed overnight at an apartment above the bar (made available for touring musicians), had breakfast across the street, recorded all day in the bar, had ice cream across the street and left for Prague. To me, Dresden is like a movie set of a city. There’s about a block’s worth of facades but nothing else.
So there wasn’t any tourist time for KlezFactor. It was all business. We arrived and set up at a bar with a weird orientation. The room is long and narrow with the bar running about halfway down starting near the door. Then, beyond the bar, there’s the stage, also long and narrow with absolutely no depth and maybe about eight feet between the edge of the stage and the far wall. Beyond the bar there’s some seating area with more width available as well as the washrooms and a storage room. Really, the band was constrained to a small space that made for difficult recording.
Christian recorded the show at Blue Note with him and Paromita filming on cameras once the audio was all set up. And to say that Christian did a phenomenal job in a very strange acoustical space is an understatement. Listen for yourself to the recording. There are two tracks (“Kolomiyka” and “The Golem of Bathurst Manor”) that were recorded live at the show in Dresden and you’d be hard pressed to distinguish them from the sound of the tracks we recorded the next day.
After a short night’s sleep in the comfortable apartment, we headed across the street for breakfast. There was a nice cafe that had a delicious spread for breakfast and we ate heartily, knowing that we’d only have time for snacks and a light lunch to go along with the long day of recording. We also had to be out by 5pm with another band coming in to set up for Thursday night’s show. Alex had the key to the bar and we met Christian while we were having breakfast and he went over to start setting up. We eventually met him and spread out throughout the Blue Note’s space a little more than we were able to the night before.
Recording for KlezFactor albums has followed a similar pattern for all three of our CDs. Day 1 is with the whole band and we record everything “live off the floor” which means that everyone is being recorded. You don’t see this in pop/rock recordings, mostly because recording one instrument at a time (even though everyone might be playing) allows the engineers to have complete separation of the tracks. One instrument won’t be heard on another’s track, making mixing and editing much easier. The way we do things is a little faster and is more convenient because it’s tougher to get all of the band members together at once.
We went through all of the songs on the album again (after performing them live twice over the past two nights) and got at least two takes of everything . . . except “Kolomiyka.” By then, Flo was having a massive allergic reaction to something and we were getting close the 5pm shut down time after squeezing out another take of “Vibrations.” Overall, I was happy with how things sounded. Christian had done a terrific job with the engineering and the instruments and raw tracks sounded great.
Then we packed up, loaded up Flo’s Kombi and Christian loaded up his van and we made arrangements to touch base back in Berlin in a few days so that I could start listening to the tracks and make sure that we had what we needed. We also planned to go back the next week to his studio in Berlin to do overdubs with Daniel and me.
We had a celebratory ice cream as a band and then squeezed into the car (we had gotten the packing down to a science by now) to head off to Prague. We caught a glimpse of the old churches and downtown area across the river as we drove to the Autobahn and the drive marked both the beginning of Europa (the album) and the beginning of the end of the Europa Tour as we headed across a border for the last show of the tour.
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Europa is released July 5, 2016! Join us at our CD release concert!
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