Three of the songs on The Will To Death were recorded and mixed in two days in December 2003. The other nine songs were completed in three days in January 2004. All the instruments were played by my friend Josh and myself. In terms of the recording, it was recorded as if it were 1971, on 16-track tape and mixed to 1/4 inch at 15 ips. We did things the way that my young engineer and myself had heard that people used to do them. No computers were used at any point in the recording or mastering.
Josh and I knew the songs well and always did the basic tracks (guitar and drums) in one or two takes. The vocals were all done in the space of a few hours. We felt that recorded performances in the 50’s and 60’s had an exciting energy to them because in many cases one or two takes were the only chances the artists got. For me, recording quickly is when music comes alive. When one doesn’t force a preconceived notion on the music, but lets the music go where it pleases. And when mistakes come along, you welcome them and let them mold your image of the song. This record was a celebration of flaws, and in the course of approaching things this way I was reminded of the Laurie Anderson story about the family who had a yearly ritual which at one point started getting invaded by tigers, who would make a mess of it. Then after a few years of this they decided to make the tigers a part of the ritual and then the tigers never came back. In the same way once I welcomed my flaws into my recordings, I ended up unable to find anything undesirable in the finished piece.
It was also very important to me for the recording to follow a flow of energy from beginning to end. This meant it was always about capturing the moment. No reconsideration or backtracking took place and the mixing immediately followed the recording. The music carried us along rather than us forcing the music to confirm to some grid of perfection. We found that when music itself is given that freedom, it is happy to carry the ball and the music and the energies around it create their own kind of perfection.
I have also become very interested in using my modular synthesizer, not so much as its own instrument, but as a way of changing the sound and atmosphere of other instruments, often in subtle ways. And where I was previously using it to get “synthesizer” sounds that are rooted in things like Kraftwerk, I am now more interested in using my synthesizer to generate distorion, static and screaming high frequencies, sounds which in the context of rock music are rooted more in The Velvet Underground. Eno has also been very influential and inspirational to me in taking this approach of making music in which the people, the instruments, the signal path, the cord, the speaker, the air and the tape recorder all play equal roles of importance. He instilled in me the idea that sound is a whole process, rather than just execution and result. This record was the beginning of my consciously taking this approach and I have done alot more with these ideas since. Doing things this way has allowed us to grow, as will be apparent in the upcomin months, when the remainder of what we have done up to this point is released. I believe that in doing things this way there is an infinite amount of room for change.
My favorite records at the time of The Will To Death were:
Talking Heads - Fear Of Music
Nico - The End
The Velvet Underground
John Cale - Fear
Cat Stevens - Mona Bone Jakon
Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff