Monday, 29 December 2014

Assault and battery

On my way to the studio this morning, I glanced at a poster on the tube: "Does your health insurer give you the chance to win football tickets?" It asked. And every fibre of me shuddered. Not just because I can't imagine anything worse than attending a football match, let alone simply getting the "chance" to win tickets to a game, but because insurance shouldn't be something which requires incentives. Frankly, if you're wealthy enough to be able to afford health insurance, I'd have thought you could afford a ticket to a football match. Sadly, posters like this do nothing but remind me of the fact that we're moving ever closer to a world where the NHS no longer exists.

I changed from the tube to the overground at Kentish Town. There is both a bus strike and planned engineering work on the travel network today, so I had to plan my route rather carefully! Kentish Town is one of those stations where they tend plants and play classical music to stop people from having hissy fits at the staff. Today's choice was a recorder concerto, which instantly made me feel like strangling the first person I saw!

Fortunately, I emerged from the station to the most joyous scene. The world was covered in a thick layer of white frost and the orange sun was making the ice crystals shimmer like sequins in a spotlight. A gayer sentence you may never read! I found myself staring in awe at tiny details; a little weed in a sea of gravel resembling a candied jelly tot, the top of a low brick wall looking like it had been dusted with a mixture of talcum powder and glitter. Nature certainly knows how to put on a show.

The Thameslink took me to West Hampstead, where I walked to the Jubilee line tube station and instantly got on a tube heading in the wrong direction! I ended up in Finchley Road surrounded by LU staff members shouting and barking. It turns out that Finchley Road is the gateway to hell today, where Jubilee line trains stop operating and everyone panics because they simply don't know how to travel any further south. Fortunately, I was heading North to Willesden, so stayed on the train as it u-turned at and continued its journey in the opposite direction. One poor woman was trying to get to Victoria, but seemed intent on traveling ever-further North in the hope she'd find a train that would take her South! The deep lack of logic people display when they're in a panic never ceases to astonish me!

The studio we were working in is called Assault and Battery, and is the home of the legendary record producer, Flood, who has worked with almost everyone who is anyone. There was a Grammy on a shelf behind me, which Flood won for the U2 album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. No pressure there then...

There were three Bens in the studio today. Ben Holder, who played piano, Ben Varnam, who played drums, and me. Brass has always been sponsored by the name Ben, but today was ridiculous. Phrase of the day became "which Ben?"

The day was an intense experience to say the least. We recorded sixteen piano-led songs. There are fewer than thirty bars in the whole show where the piano isn't playing in some form, which put a huge weight on Ben Holder's very capable shoulders.

The drums are perhaps the next busiest instrument in the show. The songs regularly change metre, tempo and genre and the drums are always expected to lead the drama. Ben V did an astonishing job. He's a very tidy little drummer who didn't seem to want to let anything phase him. I was astonished when he announced at the end that this had been his first professional session.

I'd say about 90% of what we recorded was as good as it could have been. We timed out towards the end of the session and rushed our way through Letters and the Prologue, which I'd rather foolishly left till last. I guess you've got to do something last, but not necessarily the longest and most complicated number in the show, and the first thing people will hear on the recording! Hey ho! It'll all come out in the wash.

We were inspired in the morning by the arrival of a very charming little film, which has been posted on Facebook, showing the mechanics of the production of Brass. Unbeknownst to me, a number of cameras had been set up back stage, on stage, and in the lighting box, and a wonderful package has been edited together of the last fifteen minutes of the show featuring  the actors backstage psyching themselves up for entrances and all sorts of technical shenanigans.  Anyone who is interested can see the piece here:

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