The 11th Hour Studio Diary – #1

So here’s a special fucking treat if ever there was one. Ed motherfucking Warby (as he’s known to friends) is writing for this blog to give updates on his HIGHLY anticipated (by this Angry Metal Guy) follow up to Burden of Grief which is one of my favorite doom records ever. He’ll be periodically checking in with the written word as watching him in his studio would be about as exciting as watching Ihsahn was in his (i.e., not fucking entertaining at all; watching flies fuck; paint dry; corpses decay without time-lapse). Enjoy! – AMG

Saturday may 14th

I’ve been working on this album for about 2 months but it feels like 2 years already (which is actually true since I started writing these songs almost immediately after Burden of Grief was released in 2009). I’m still doing rhythm guitars, progress is slow partly because I’m a huge perfectionist and I’m also not the greatest guitarist in the world. I can’t pick up a guitar and do a great take just like that, I really have to work hard to get what I want to hear, which is a massive wall of guitars without too much dirtThe 11th Hour - Burden of Grief or noise (inevitable with this much gain and a low tuning) that’s mostly in tune. Not an easy mission to accomplish, I must say. For this album I decided to go even lower than my favored B tuning, so there’s 2 songs in standard A. For this I use my beloved Schecter 7 string ATX (its 6 string brother twin is used for the rest of the album) which behaves very well in A but not before I found the right string gauge… more on that later!

Like the first album it’s been a lot of trial and error, I was hoping there’d be less this time because, well, I do have a lot more experience, but there’s always a new problem around the corner. Be it Pro-tools misbehaving, or some weird flangy/chorusy effect that occurs when 2 takes are too close in timing/tuning, every day brings new and often unpleasant surprises. And since I decided to do this all on my own again I’m working my ass of as both musician and engineer/producer. But although it may seem that way I’m not complaining because whenever I listen to what I’ve done so far this is going to be one glorious album, one to be proud of for years to come. Arrogant? Not at all, I do this mainly for myself and if I like what hear, or on a good day maybe even get some goosebumps when a certain part works out as well as I hoped it’s… magic. Anything that comes later, when the album is released, be it praise or criticism, these moments are really the reason for doing something as insane as this.

So, today I was supposed to go to Dordrecht to see my 11th Hour bandmates Pim and Bram perform with their main band Officium Triste, also playing was 40 Watt Sun, the new band of doom legends Warning main man Patrick Walker. Since I had a few hours to spare before the gig I thought it would be a good idea to try my hand at some soloing. I’ve been riffing for weeks so I figured it’d be a nice change of pace. I decided to record the lead for what’s going to be the last song of the album, one in A. It’s a pretty difficult solo (for me anyway) since it involves a lot of half and whole note bending, tricky stuff. Certain sections also have a twin harmony, so it was a challenging bit to tackle. Needless to say once I got going I never got to Dordrecht, instead I played and played and played until I got it right. Like I said I’m not the greatest guitarist, but I do know when a take is the right one so the end result is rather satisfying. The very painful blister on my middle finger however, is not…

Sunday may 15th

Today is mainly for editing, I recorded quite a bit of the last song’s rhythm guitars yesterday evening but my piecemeal way of working means I spend as much time sifting through takes and tossing out crap as I do actually playing guitar. I like having a lot of excess material, kinda like a movie director if you will, piecing together the best scene from several takes. I could probably play these songs in one go if someone puts a gun to my head, but this makes for a much higher level of conviction in each riff. I do my drums the same way (oh shit, I still have to record drums for this beast…).

Just now I put together the main riff for this one and it sounds enormous, it’s most likely going to be song #2 on the finished album so it better be good! Oh yeah, string gauge and A tuning: I started out by ordering several packs of GHS 060-010 sets. I normally use Ernie Ball’s in 056-010 (for 6 string as well, I just leave out the 010) but I figured since I’ll be tuning a whole step down a thicker B (or in this case, A) string would be good. A few weeks ago I put them on, recorded the whole song and it sounded like shit. Out of tune, dry, ugly… with a lot of effort I got a halfway decent version down but once I compared it to the demo I did last year it was horrible. And I did that one with my trusty EB’s, so I put those on again and now it sounds a lot better. Because of the lower string tension I have to careful not to bend things out of tune (unless it sounds cool of course) but overall they work perfectly.

By now you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just stick with drumming… I ask myself the same thing regularly! Then again, I really enjoy playing guitar and I really, really enjoy being able to make a whole album by myself, as much work as it is.

Well, I could sit here typing all day but I have work to do! Next up is harmonies and assorted melodies for all the finished songs (there’s tons of little bits and pieces, I’ve written some rather elaborate tunes this time) which I’ll probably combine with some more lead work. Once everything’s done I’ll start recording bass (different output level, and I’m scared to death of recording guitar at the wrong level by mistake) and on june 4/5 I’m doing drums at Excess Studios. Once those are ready and in place I can finally start doing vocals, if everything goes according to plan Rogga will be doing his growls next week or the week after.

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