This serves as tumblr blog of Tim Courtney. I have had other blogs but time will tell if this one actually sticks.
If you didn't know I spend most of my time being creative and not making an awful lot of money from it to the despair of my family.
As well as being a Musician writing Short Film scores, writing songs with Post-Rock outfit Katerwaul and doing the general SInger Songwriter bit. I also Write, Direct, Edit Films and Music Videos for my film Collective FACTOTUM FILMS and work on my Photography, Illustration and Graphic Design in any spare time I have left.
Last night thanks to one of my blog followers, a certain Mr Jilks (http://tiny-cinema.tumblr.com) we hit the £1000 mark in our bid to raise £2500 for our Short Film Budget.
Thank you to all my blog followers and Facebook friends who have donated and shared the campaign and continue to do so. I’m feeling so much love for you all right now… I promised my self I wasn’t going to cry…
We still have some way to go to reach our goal, so if you haven’t seen our campaign page yet please visit here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bherold/sunsets-and-silhouettes and find out how you can get your ears on some EXCLUSIVE unreleased KATERWAUL material from our The Dirt & The Trees Sessions recorded at 45/R. Or get your hands on Special Edition copies of The Dirt & The Trees along with Posters & Prints signed by the cast and crew and much much more!
For relaxing times…. make it Sunsets & Silhouettes time.
SYNOPSIS: Bethany is an elderly woman, slowly dying in the comfort and loneliness of her own home. Jessica struggles through a life of abuse as an ageing prostitute well past her prime. Their lives change by the arrival of Matthew a 40 something with a dark secret.
I’ve had this short film project on the go for a while now and things are starting to come to fruition. I’ve got most of the crew sewn up but a few positions left to fill. I’m still looking for an AD and a Production Designer in particular, so get in touch if you’re interested, firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve just put out a casting call this week for various characters. I won’t bore anyone with the details but if you’re an actor, male or female, between the ages of 35 and 80 then drop me a line and I’d be happy to send you more details.
Above is the casting poster I designed to generate some interest in the project. The film has strong themes of birth, death and mortality which is reflected in the sunrise/sunset.
I’m really excited by this project and hope we manage to secure the funding to get it well and truly under way.
I wanted to put my views into this video, but I’m not all that comfortable with talking to a camera as I’m normally on the other side of it. I briefly talked about the Union Terrace Gardens controversy but I felt the need to delve into it further, but in words. So above is me talking followed by a performance of Valley Under A Concrete Sea. Below is my full statement of events leading up to this week’s Referendum. A Vote To Retain UTG Is A Vote For Democracy
For almost five years now this debate has gone on, and this week promises to see the end of it… but will it?
Its been a long time coming and I’m guessing a lot of people are wondering why I haven’t blogged about it already, but here it is the gratuitous Union Terrace Gardens Referendum blog post.
Let me get this out of the way first, if you want to vote for the CGP I don’t see anything wrong with that. After all you are given the choice. However it is a well documented fact that I am a big UTG supporter and it has upset me at the amount of people I know, many of them my friends, who don’t know the full story.
I don’t want to be one of those “YOU GOTTA READ THE FACTS!” guys, because to be honest, what exactly ARE the facts anymore? This debate has gone on and each side of the argument has been diluted by the opposing side. But for those of you who don’t know the history of the debate, then this is a different story.
Aberdeen has been on the decline for years. When I moved there in 2000 I was moving from a small town up North, Inverness (at the time it wasn’t a city yet). The biggest thing that amazed me was that Aberdeen had more than one cinema, an HMV and a VIRGIN Megastore! My how times have changed. Inverness has become a city and seen all these common stores open up on the high street and in that time I’ve also watched Aberdeen sink into a decline.
What happened to the once great Union street? VIRGIN went bust, HMV is now a T-Shirt shop. E&M, a local thriving department store went into receivership leaving an iconic building empty on one end of the Silver City’s most prized street while Bruce Millers a similar institution of local business closed on the other side. Union Street was no longer in its hay day.
And what is in the middle? A beautiful Victorian Garden, sunken into the Denburn Valley threatened by the plight of what is going on some 20ft over head. Sure The Union Terrace Gardens aren’t what they once were. As Aberdeen’s Oil Industry claims to be recession proof, it seemed it was ignoring the fact that the city itself wasn’t.
It was a time for Aberdeen to assert itself with a new industry to contribute along side the Oil Industry that employs a bulk of its citizens. With Aberdeen having had a big influence over the Arts in the North East for a very long time the people at the Peacock Visual Arts Center thought it was about time it spread its wings and expanded, opening what was to be Aberdeen’s Contemporary Arts Center. For many years it tried to find a new home, the Citidel was one. All the plans fell through until the proposal to build into the Union Terrace Gardens.
This plan was approved by the Council AND the public. The design by Brisac And Gonzalez was to build into the Garden’s existing grass slope so that Garden seemed relatively untouched, yet inside was a thriving cultural hub the likes the city had been crying out for. The impact would have been like the one Dundee’s DCA had when it opened, attracting more and more Artists and Creative types to move to the city in a sector dominated by the central belt. A new Industry, creating jobs for the art school graduates, the theatre groups, dancers, film makers, print makers the list is pretty long.
Peacock Visual arts were around £1,500,000 away from meeting the target to begin building. But then Sir Ian Wood, a man made wealthy by the Oil boom stepped in and decided this was not what Aberdeen needed, instead it needed a new civic heart, a square like many squares in great cities across the globe. He put in an audacious bid to stop Peacock’s plan and instead fill in the Denburn Valley and raise the Garden to Union Street level. He was even going to pledge £50,000,000 of his own fortune into the scheme.
This was something too good for the Aberdeen City Council to ignore so asked the public to vote which scheme they wanted. So a public consultation was drawn up to ask the public what they wanted in the new square. Do you see what is wrong there? Yes that’s right, the public weren’t being asked to vote wether they wanted the Peacock Design, or wether they wanted to retain the Garden as it was or even if they wanted the Square at all, no they were being asked what they wanted to see IN the square, meaning that all votes were pretty much as YES vote.
This foul scheme didn’t stop there, the public consultation reached out to Aberdeenshire, except by invitation only! That’s right, where employees of Sir Ian Wood’s Woodgroup were invited to come along to be asked the question “What do you want to see in the new civic square”. Not really a fair game?
Well, [Edit:] I Heart UTG was set up by some members of the public and along with Peacock, argued that the ballot had to be changed for an even playing field. It was. A public debate was held at the Salvation Army Citadel, one in which I showed up to with my friends. I watched as Sir Ian Wood dodged question after question, in which was meant to be an open forum to convince the people that his vision was the right one. Peacock were also present as was an opposing alternate view of keeping the UTG as it was.
Peacock were asked if they would accept a compromise, part raised garden, part Peacock Plan, a sort of best of both worlds. It was met with approval by Ellie Rothnie, the voice of Peacock. Sir Ian was having none of it. It was his way or the high way.
Sir Ian Wood was an embarrassment that night. He claimed that this new square was going to secure Aberdeen’s future prosperity and that the square was going to be bigger than the Red Square in Moscow and create over 6500 jobs.
Now lets back up a second, next year the Olympics is being held in London, one that they’ve been preparing for for many years, a bigger job than this square, yet they only created around 3500+ jobs. Even considering the labour to build the square, 6500 seems very optimistic. And the square was going to be bigger than the red square in Moscow? Moscow has a population of around 2,500,000 people. Aberdeen has a population of 200,000… that says it all really.
So when a member of the audience asked “but how” Sir Ian started talking about renewable energy from wind turbines on the coast, this was met by a “but how?!” and he reiterated renewable energy. The whole 300 strong public audience then screamed “BUT HOW?!!” This got him in a sulk and refused to answer the question.
I remember standing up, after receiving the microphone, that day and saying; “Why do we have to lose something we all obviously love so much? If E&M is empty we need to fill it. If the council have almost bankrupt themselves by moving across the road to the Marischall College, why can’t we just knock down the eyesore that is the council building? Build your civic square there, next the the Bon Accord Centre, St Nicholas Center and Provost Skene house. It won’t cost £140M and we get to keep UTG AND have the Peacock Visual Arts Center. Everybody wins. My question to you is, why not build your civic square there?”
He smirked and said “That is not the topic of discussion today”. I can tell you that to this day it is a question that keeps cropping up and time after time he deflects the question. When will it be the topic of discussion? The council have gotten themselves into debt by moving a couple of hundred yards to a historical building for no other reason than, it’ll be cool to work there. They’ve racked up a £500,000,000 debt in the process! In by doing that they’ve left a high rise block relic of the late 70s empty in the middle of the city centre, next to another empty building that was once the E&M department store.
The night of the great debate I was interviewed by STV, as were so many other disgruntled people. This was a victory for the people, and maybe not for Peacock, but it was for UTG. However the news broadcast that night told a different story.
I watched in horror as the only clips shown were Sir Ian’s pitch and an interview with him afterward saying “The only true winners are going to be the people of Aberdeen”. The Oil influence wins again. Even the papers were full of pictures of his face, a victory for Sir Ian Wood. His campaign rumored to have invested almost a quarter of a million pounds in advertising into the media, it was no surprise that the local news was nothing but pro civic square. Only the national press seemed to balance the events correctly and unbiasedly. But votes outside Aberdeen don’t count, unfortunately.
The foul play wasn’t to stop there, when the consultation was closed they said that “Due to such high voting it would take weeks to get the results” the named a date, that conveniently fell a few days after Peacock were to lose their funding if they hadn’t gained the approval by that deadline.
Peacock were given an extension, and the public voted against the civic square. Against all the odds Peacock had succeeded by a narrow margin of a couple of percent. Seeing as the conditions were far from fair it was an amazing feat.
It was not over.
Sir Ian Wood implored the Aberdeen City Councillors to over turn the decision as the margin was too close, and that the majority of the people of Aberdeen DID want it, but were somehow bullied into silence by the vocal minority. (You can’t make this shit up)
The councillors came together to vote, many of them controversially abstaining from voting. Some councillors had the balls to stand by their voters and say NO. But the unfortunate outcome was for Sir Ian’s vision to be passed and Aberdeen was to lose out on not only an Arts Centre but a piece of its heritage. Union Terrace Gardens was to be filled with concrete.
Recently a design competition was held to design what would be built on top of the Gardens. The people seemed to vote for a “Winter Garden” but for some reason Sir Ian thought it best we had something known as “The Granite Web”. Yet another democratic poll made a mockery of.
The council have once again asked for the public to vote in a referendum to once and for all decide, does the Garden stay, or will they take a massive gamble in spending a fortune in building a huge structure on top f it, losing hundreds of years of history in the process, because that’s what it is. A gamble.
People’s head might have been turned by the grand gesture, a new impressive city centre, a beautiful one. And yes the design is a beautiful one by some of the world’s best designers. But no one can prove that this square will save Aberdeen, if won’t it may well end up killing it.
Yes Sir Ian Wood is pledging £50M but where is the rest of the £140M+ going to come from. They keep mentioning schemes and whatever but the truth of the matter is, Britain is bust. The economy is going down hill, the council is £500M in debt is building a massive concrete square for £140M really the answer? When you have multiple schools closing down, people losing their small time jobs, homes etc is a grassy knoll with a few cafe and things really going to secure Aberdeen’s financial future?
There is a risk that the people may have to make a significant contribution, even if they say we won’t. But what will happen if we need to? Council tax goes up. Aberdeen’s council tax bands are already the most expensive in Scotland. I had to move away from Aberdeen, live in Dundee and commute everyday to afford to live. That is preposterous! Aberdeen isn’t London!
Aberdeen needs to take its Oil blinkers off. It needs to stop letting the Oil Industry make all its decisions. This is a case of the industry thinking it knows what is good for you to the point where its taken your democratic right to vote away!
If this were a referendum for Scottish Independence, then the outcome was that we wanted to stay a part of the UK, but then they over ruled that decision because it wasn’t won by a big enough percentage. It would be crazy right? So what gives Sir Ian Wood the right to keep trying again and again until he finally gets the out come he craves?
If I still lived in Aberdeen I would vote RETAIN UTG. IT doesn’t make economical sense. Its morally wrong on so many levels. Edinburgh’s Prince’s Street Gardens is below street level, but it’d be ludicrous to pave it over. UTG has hundreds of healthy mature trees, only to be cut down, filled in with concrete then new one’s planted instead. It would also mean your memories of the place will be just that; memories. The days of lying on your back soaking up the sun in the arms of a loved one, all consigned to nostalgia.
Most importantly, the citizens of Aberdeen voted NO only for their democratic rights to be removed by an Oil Tycoon. A vote to retain UTG is a vote for democracy.
In my last post I explained the reasons behind recording without headphones and the science behind it. It seems amongst my peers that this is a very controversial approach. Kevin Gilday told me he didn’t understand how I could get into “the zone” (obviously used ironically) without being cut off from the rest of the world and isolating yourself in that personal space created by wearing headphones. This is true for listening to music but not for performing.
It seems there are some skeptical people out there and I don’t expect them all to understand. I spoke briefly to Dan Hopkinson of Light Parades and he shares my view and even recorded his vocals monitoring from loud speakers too, so I’m glad I’m not alone.
In this video I’m doing a take for the song February, the sound is a bit dodgy but I couldn’t monitor the sound from where I was… and it wasn’t my number one priority. In this set up we actually stuck up a 6ft Baffle in front of the mic to reduce spill even further, once we dialed down the kick and snare, added the room tone/spill track and reversed its phase the spill was basically inaudible.
I spent the whole day recording and hit my stride pretty much on the first take, I felt more comfortable pitching to the music than I am with headphones. With out the added weight and congested feeling I get from obstructing my earholes I was able to fully focus on the music and with the ambient light in the room, it also aided me to find that space in my head when I wrote the lyrics. All in all this technique has helped not only my performance and most importantly for me, my pitching. I’m still not perfect but hey, this is Katerwaul not XFactor!
***WARNING*** this is a technical blog where I explain how we’re approaching the vocals on our new record.
The time has come. That part I always fear. The part you try not to think about when you start recording an album. VOCALS.
I’m not a classically trained singer, it was only two years ago I actually learned how to breathe properly and save my vocal chords from near destruction, and over many years of recording I’ve learned one thing… I can only sing when I’m playing guitar. Why is that?
With every recording my main complaints about my voice are “I sound like I have a cold”, “I always sing flat”, “I can’t hear the emotion in that take” and “why do live recordings of my voice sound better than when we multi track.” The answer? Headphones.
I did a little research into this, and as it turns out I am not alone. I’m not the only one in the world having problems singing with headphones on. If you are like me and your engineer/producer tells you any of the following things; “It makes no difference”, “You’re just not used to the sound of your own voice” or “You just need to get used to the recording process” that’s not necessarily true. I’ve been through all this. I’ve gotten used to headphones and the initial “is that what my voice sounds like?” shock factor, but the fact of the matter is that headphones have an effect on my vocals, not just sonically but emotionally too.
I’m going to sound like a pretentious twat right now but feeling is important. If you can’t feel the emotion in what you’re singing then what is the point right? How do you do that when you’re concentrating on the extra weight on your head or how hot your ears are getting. Some people are comfortable with it but I find it hard to connect with my music if I’m not listening to the music through the ambience of my surroundings.
Ok, so that’s the arty farty pretentious reasoning out of the way there are also a few other factors that effect some singers when monitoring from headphones. The main one is breathing. Have you ever noticed that people breathe heavier when they’re listening to a personal stereo? That’s because your ears are connected to your nose and mouth, if you yawn you’ll notice that air passes through your ears. Now cover your ears and breathe, its quite disconcerting without music to distract you isn’t it. Now while covering your ears try singing, its weird huh. Now imagine your voice being fed back to you through a sound desk and into headphones without the ambient resonance of your surroundings… its a totally different ball game, right?
Alright, so now you understand that I, and many others, are not being Diva’s or just plain awkward; how do we solve this problem. Well one way would be to have one earphone on and one off (see band aid video for reference, thank you Sting and Midge Ure) this gives you a blend, another way would be to feed some artificial reverb back to your headphones. These are techniques I’ve used in the past but if I’m honest they’ve always been a compromise.
Now, I think I’ve found the solution. Just don’t use headphones. I asked Sam our engineer and producer if there was anyway we could record vocals without the use of headphones. I was only picking his brains, but this was met with a “I’ll have to research that”. A poilte way of saying “STOP BEING SO FUCKING DIFFICULT!”. However this got us thinking and we’ve found a couple of ways of doing it, and I’ll explain the method that we’re using.
Like recording anything, its not just a case of stick a mic in front of what you want to record, there are issues like phase for instance and what microphone to use in what circumstance to get the desired sound. An engineer will always want the best possible sound at all times and this normally means isolated from other sounds to make the mixing process easy and bypass any phase issues. Recording vocals and monitoring your backing track via loud speakers is not really the best way to isolate your source. But if this gets the best performance from your musician then isn’t that more important? Its a toss up but the best engineers in the world understand this and a happy medium must be found.
What Sam and I are doing is to set up a microphone in a dead room as per usual, thankfully the control room has been modified to minimise reflection. For this technique to work you need to use a microphone that best cancels out noise from behind it, like an SM58 (just go with it) set it up on a stand with your pop shield etc as normal. Now record a vocal take by monitoring sound through your loud speakers. Ok now here is the science part; NO BODY MOVE! You’re going to now record an ambient room tone, playing back the section of the song you just recorded (minus the vocal take). Once that’s done you need to invert the phase on that track. What you’ll notice is that by inverting the phase you’ve artificially created a dead spot in the room where the mic is standing. I’m not going to lie, the science of it all still goes over my head but that’s the basic theory and it works. It DOESN’T completely eradicate the spill, but what you do hear is a kin to the spill that would normally come from your headphones if you where wearing a pair.
The alternative method is to have your monitors at 90 degree angles equally distanced from each other and the microphone creating an equilateral triangle. Then invert the phase on one of your monitors. This effectively does the same thing without the need to record a room tone, but you need to keep measuring your set up to make sure that everything is equally spaced apart otherwise your null zone becomes void.
Its still a compromise though as using a condenser mic will not work as it picks up too much sound from behind the microphone. SM58s are traditionally used live because so they don’t feedback from the monitors, but they don’t have as good a dynamic range as other studio mics traditionally used for vocal recordings. This is why the picture above has 3 different microphones placed where they are. This was part of our experiment into what microphone to use on the vocals, with this technique. We recorded a few takes and it seems that the AKG set to a hypercardoid setting works the best out of all the mics at our disposal. The Beta58 and the Senheiser (whatever it is) don’t enough hi end clarity for our liking, but the AKG is something that we’ve been using for overheads on the cymbals. Thankfully it has a hypercardoid which give it a tighter area of front we need whilst making use of the microphones characteristics. If you search online you’ll notice other artists that have done this tend to elect the Sure SM7, its the tits but we can’t afford one. Maybe next time.
So there you have it. Katerwaul has been a massive pain in the arse at every turn for the boys at 45/R, but instead of beating us down with engineer high horse bullshit, they’ve embraced the challenge and found a workable solution they’re happy with to make us more comfortable enabling us to get a better performance.
If you try this yourself, let me know how you get on.
Last week saw us complete the last of our live recording sessions for the new album. Here are some pics taken by Paul from 45/R and a few by me. You’ll know my one’s because they’ve been processed to within an inch of their lives.