How To Make Music (or why ProTools sucks!)

I’m in a ranty mood today. I’ve already picked on a few things today across the social mediasphere but for the blog, I’m picking on music. Or more accurately ProTools.

So Dave Grohl had a rant at the grammy’s (yes lower case g) about fake music, music made with computers, anything where the artist has to fix fuck ups and can make millions. Well dagnabbit he’s right and I have proof.

The background for this post is that we watched Pearl Jam’s PJ-20 documentary last year (and several times since) and we’ve just time travelled back to the early 90s. It’s much nicer here. I can wear plaid in a non-ironic sense. I’ve bought most of the PJ back catalogue as I only had Ten but I was also inspired to listen to Soundgarden again. I have a couple of SG albums but I didn’t have Badmotorfinger. So I bought it. Holy fucking Christ it’s good!

Don’t believe me? Go to YouTube and listen to Rusty Cage. Or how about Slaves and Bulldozers?! But most importantly, listen to Jesus Christ Pose.

But this isn’t just about how cracking Soundgarden are. No, it’s about how talent is better than computers and corner cutting. So check this out. Listen to this vocal only track of Jesus Christ Pose.

Starts at 1:27. Really impressive at 4:39.

Ok, so the fucker can sing, but what’s so special about it?! It’s not just the main vocal line, but the bits in between the lines. The bits where he inhales. The bits where he licks his lips. The silence that isn’t silence, it’s room reverb. Hell, it’s the fucking mustard!

Wait?! What?! Mustard?! What the fuck are you talking about?!

Yeah, mustard!

The missus makes this really great dish. Honey and Lemon Chicken with Cous Cous. If you follow the ingredients, it’s add some honey to some lemon juice with a bit of water, stir in some mustard, fry chicken in it, apply to cous cous. Or, if you like, get drummer, bassist, guitarist, singer, record in studio, burn to CD. How many unsigned bands do this every year? And how many of them actually go somewhere? It’s like 1%. (not accurate).

So what makes one band’s CD better than another? The recording process. I was in a band. We were tight as fuck. We were also broke and not very committed. Our singer could fucking wail! But we never went into a proper studio to record anything with a properly trained producer. It really helps to have someone who knows exactly where the mic should go. Someone who knows exactly how many guitar tracks there should be. The studio makes a difference. Each one has its own sound. Its own personality. And that can make or break a record too.

So, in an ideal world, we’ve got a band with talent and a bit of savings and a good studio and we’ve recorded an album and we’ve made bazillions and toured the world and we haven’t let anyone down with our live show because it sounds like the record.

But what if you take one of those average bands who recorded in a crap studio?! What if you took that little studio and gave it ProTools and an engineer who followed some online tutorials?! Right, studio got no personality? Add plugin, instant personality. Drummer out of time? Meh, MIDI the drum track, drag and drop beats. Done. Next! Singer can’t hold the note on the second chorus? Ok, copy and paste first chorus.

Woah woah woah! Hold up! You can’t do that!! That’s cheating. He wouldn’t do that live, why do it in the studio?!

But what you ultimately get is this fucking piece of turd spinning in your CD player that is note perfect, beat perfect, perfect, perfect, prefect. Make billions off marketing hype and pre-sales. Tour world. Contract cancelled because nobody wants your second album! As it turns out, the band aren’t in time and the singer can’t sing and it sounds fucking horrible. I’m looking at you Alter Bridge! Fuck that gig was terrible!

Which brings us back to Cornell and 4:39. He’s screaming his ass off and it’s not quite holding and it’s just about to crack. But it doesn’t matter. You leave it in. Just like you leave in the lip licking and the inhales. You can’t hear them but they’re there! And the song is better for it. Because that’s the mustard! If you take the mustard out of the missus’ dish, it’s just honey and lemon chicken. It’s ok, but it’s a bit bland. When you leave it in, it’s something else. It’s personality. It’s an error. It’s not perfection. But it is. You go see them live and it’s pretty close to the record and it feels good.

So there you go. ProTools is the anti-mustard brigade of the music industry. And on that note, I leave you with the final output of a bunch of guys in a studio playing their hearts out:

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