A secretary sits at her window in a dreary office in Burnaby, British Columbia checking her MySpace page while her boss is sidetracked in a board room meeting. It’s June 2005 and the lush green color of BC’s west coast is in it’s happiest of months. She glances out the window to take in a little of the summer she is missing and to her shock witnesses a naked shaggy haired white guy streaking down the street at top speed. It’s none other than Jonny Hetherington.
We were maybe half way through our month long session at Green House studios where we were spending 16 hours a day tirelessly making the self titled Art of Dying record with producer Darryl Romphf and engineer Alex “the condor” Aligazakas. We were not sleeping much. We were eating almost exclusively ‘bottom of the barrel’ hotdogs and we were in heaven! I can’t remember exactly how it went down, but someone dared me to run down the street naked and I was totally in. Not my finest moment, but kind of memorable now that I look back. The streaking part at top speed was a lot of fun actually, but the naked walk back was something I had not properly thought out. lol. Since we’re celebrating the 6 year anniversary of the release of our self titled album, I thought I would jot down a few memories that stand out for me.
Dog is My Co Pilot – Darryl and Condor got me set up with my acoustic in a make shift back booth of the main room. I was assuming I’d have to roll through the song about 20 times before we were all happy with a version, so we were ready for a long night. I cleared my throat and started the first take, and as I got closer to the end I decided to just let the song happen. I was experimenting with my voice and the energy of the moment. So, when Darryl asked me to come in, as he did many times during the session when he wanted changes made or had comments, I thought he was going to really critique my first take. When I entered the control room, he simply said “you’re done, that’s the record”. So the first take is what you hear on the album.
Car Crash – Making this record was an exercise in perfection. Tuning, timing, performance, dynamics, everything had to be perfect. So when Flavio (Cirillo) nailed a drum take that needed zero editing it was an amazing accomplishment. The drumming you hear on “Car Crash” was that one take.
Poker – We played a lot of late night poker games at the studio. There was a lot of whiskey involved and things usually got out of hand.
Guitars – Greg and Darryl spent so much time digging into the details of the guitars on the record. I can still picture those moments in the studio where the tracking room was filled with smoke, literally burning the midnight oil, and usually not finishing until the black night gave way to blue dawn. People generally lose their minds a little bit in those wee hours of the night and I think you can hear that on the album.
You Don’t Know Me – Originally titled “Living Like The Kings” with a completely different melody, Darryl challenged me to make this song better. I had a room full of house guests at the time, so I locked myself in a tiny closet and came out with all of the words and melodies that made that song into You Don’t Know Me on the last day of recording. I’m really proud of how it turned out.
Vocal effects – This era was back when I used to sing through guitar pedals. I had mastered a string of effects and used them a lot on the record. I also brought in a megaphone and doubled a lot of my lead vocals using it, which really helped keep the edginess strong. (You can here the megaphone “click” in the breakdown of “You Don’t Know Me”) Almost all of the interludes in-between songs are just me jamming on my pedals in the moment. I can still see the vocal tent that Condor made me. Fabric walls and ceiling with christmas lights at the top. Two mic stands and a stool with 1 bottle of red wine, a few crushed beer cans, a jesus candle and my secret weapon, a bottle of port.
Greg looks back on the making of the record:
Recording the Art of Dying self titled album really transformed us into recording artists. It was an incredible experience that landed many tour opportunities and ultimately led to signing a major recording contract.
One of my most memorable moments in the making of “Art of Dying” self-titled was when Jonny was recording his vocals for “You Don’t Know Me”. I was sitting on a couch in the control room and the vocal booth was just to the left of me. It had a door with a window so I could see Jonny while he was recording. If you know Jonny well (no pun intended), you know he has a lot of energy. When he started singing the song, he got so into the moment that I swear he was a couple inches off the ground! It was amazing to watch him deliver such a powerful performance that you can definitely hear on that recording. It’s one of my favourite tunes of the album!
I came up with the lead guitar line for “You Don’t Know Me” upstairs in Greenhouse Studios while we were recording the album. Like many studios, there are tales of them being haunted. Apparently Greenhouse Studios also had some haunted tales, we would often hear weird noises coming from the room upstairs while we were near it and nobody was in there. Needless to say, we would only go in there when necessary. Perhaps I had some spiritual help creating that line……
Coming up with guitar overdub ideas was a lot of fun during these sessions. Our producer, Darryl Romphf, had a way of inspiring unique ideas and performances from each member. He also played half the guitars on that record as well. We sat up late at night listening to tracks like “Completely” and “Get Through This” and adding colour with our guitars. I remember us just feeding off each other’s ideas and getting really excited as the ideas developed. Darryl inspired me to come up with a really cool lead line in “I Will Be There” that reminds me of something Joe Perry from Aerosmith would do. We were really proud of the ideas we were coming up with!
During the pre-production on this record, there were a couple of stand out moments. Jonny brought in “Get Through This” and “Inside It’s Raining” to the sessions and we started jamming them in our dungy little rehearsal space. They both sounded quite a bit different initially than they ended up sounding on the record. There was a moment of frustration during the pre-pro on “Get Through This” and it added an intense real energy to that song and we were able to capture that energy on the album. When we were working “Inside It’s Raining”, we slowed down the tempo and made the chorus guitars and drums sound staccato. I remember us all looking at each other when we heard the new approach with big smiles on our faces. It was so heavy and awesome!