Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Get On The Tram!

Good People! Greetings from the couch of a very quiet Dick Tank. Less than two weeks to go to the album release, and I've spent most of the day here doing phone interviews. After, that is, I was released from the morning show on The Voice where I got to, among other things, perform my first ever weather forecast. You can check out Father Metro The Weatherman right here.

On to the really good stuff. The first shipment of cd's has arrived fresh off the press from Germany. I can, therefore, officially confirm: WE HAVE AN ALBUM! And it looks as good as it sounds! We're now waiting for the rest of the first edition to arrive by the end of the week. The albums will then immediately begin shipping out to record boutiques near and far. Mad-ness. The wheels are certainly spinning, and the hours are counting down!

The atmosphere in the Tank is bizarrely deserted. It feels absurd sitting here. The computer is off, the recording equipment all shut down, and there's a conspicuous absence of tired looking bandmates wandering around a poorly air-conditioned space, scratching their heads and contemplating takes, mixes, and the fate of the album. It's almost as if time has stopped the moment we stepped out of this place some weeks ago, and headed for the airport and NYC.

Luckily all this will soon change as we begin the intense rehearsal period for the upcoming release tour and the festival summer. The studio will once again metamorphose into a rehearsal space. With sweat flying around, a whole lotta laughter and fun, nerves being pushed to the edge... And in the end, the live set 2009 will take its initial shape. We're still waiting for confirmation for a number of gigs, but the summer definitely promises to be a busy one. With a bigger-than-ever Johnson Entourage coming to a festival near you! The list of gigs for the summer will be published here soon, so keep checking in!

AND NOW FOR THE ICING:

We are putting together a very special event next Tuesday 28 April in collaboration with Radio Helsinki. An old school tram car has been rented for a 2-3 hour tour around the city with one purpose and one purpose alone: To give a selected few of you a private sneak preview of the new album. The band will naturally be attending, and we'll even perform a little acoustic set for all of y'all. There are daily contests for tickets on Radio Helsinki, so tune in (88,6 MHz / www.radiohelsinki.fi) and book yourself a seat on the Johnson Tram! Act soon, for there are only a limited amount of tickets available for this once-in-a-lifetime event! More information here.

Hope to see you on board. Just two (2) more tiny weeks!

May the spring sun treat you all kindly,

Tommy

Saturday, April 18, 2009

New York, New York!

Back in Helsinki. There's but a few weeks until the album comes out and every day is filled with excitement now. Gigs get confirmed, lots of interviews ahead, practising and configuring sounds for the tour... Spring is definitely in the air!!

The trip to New York was fantastic, although the result is a bit surprising this time around: we mastered the album both in New York and in Helsinki and as a result of a very careful listening and comparing process decided to use the Helsinki version. This kind of thing is quite normal in the music business and our trip was a resounding success anyway: in addition to the great and instructive mastering experience with Chris Athens it was nice to hang out in New York for a week and celebrate the finished album in Nobu 57, one of the coolest Japanese restaurants in town!

The mastering session was a great experience. Right from the start Chris proved to be a very cool and funny guy with a good sense of all genres and music in general. He liked the mixes a lot and put his full attention to the album as a whole. The end result maintained the basic nature of the initial mixes by being a bit on the dark side in terms of equalization and a bit quieter than some of the modern records being done these days. Every song had many delicate eq adjustments and analog compression to strengthen and support the overall sound. Here's a short explanation of the mastering process for those interested. In addition to the great mastering experience it was fun to stumble upon the members of Green Day eating apples in the kitchen of Sterling Sound with producer Butch Vig while mastering their forthcoming album...

The version mastered by Svante Forsb├Ąck at Chartmakers in Helsinki was a bit more aggressive in terms of sound and volume. Svante also made a couple of distinct corrections to a couple of songs that he felt needed them. Some songs went through tape, some got parallel and/or multiband compression and so on.

We really enjoyed both interpretations of the source material and deciding was actually kind of difficult in the end. After long blind tests and listening we however ended up choosing Svante's version as a starting point and fine-tuned it with him for a whole day in Helsinki. When the final version was shipped to the record plant in Germany the feeling was once again TOTALLY surreal: over a year of album making had ended in a flash!

The album cover, artwork and layout were finished somewhere between New York and Helsinki, meaning a 36 hour non-stop Skype connection between our hotel room and Matti's (our graphic designer) office in Helsinki. Johannes did most of the work while me and Tommy just voiced our opinions every now and then — while our eyelids were still open, that is. The end result satisfied everybody. A white background, lots of fun photos inside and a whole new typography on the cover. Nicehh!

The rest of our trip was spent lying around in Central Park with brown paperbags in our hands during "the first day of Spring in New York!" as a local guy put it, spending some fun time with Tommy's friends living in NY, shopping a bit and of course listening to the new album in a lot of different places. For example "Time Machine" sounded great during a nighttime subway ride to Brooklyn, and "Rush" was a blastin' experience in pouring rain in the middle of Manhattan! The warm spring sunshine really augmented "Take You Home"... "Dey Don't" took wing in the bustle of a swarming crowd, and "All Hope" worked best in a dark hotel room. "Dirt" on the other hand really seemed to be in its element inside any rapidly moving vehicle with sceneries and landscapes flying by. That equals a successful country song to me. :)

Well, it must be admitted that at this point we're RIDICULOUSLY eager to receive all kinds of feedback concerning the new album. The first comments from Universal, the management, and other close acquaintances of ours have been confusingly positive without an exception! Hmmm... smells quite fishy when you think about it.

In the end, the whole album making process at times filled with exuberant perfectionism, could be best summed in a relieved quote that has been in overuse in our studio space lately, and which I clearly remember a sherry-sipping Johannes reciting in a very cozy coffee room in the corner of 9th Ave and 47th Street: "Hey, it's only music!"

Kari