Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is Guy Ritchie’s breakthrough film. It condensed London street culture in a great crime comedy, if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor. The reason why we begin this piece with this clip is to highlight at old lesson “Assumption is the mother of all fuckups”. It is the mistake that separates dogs from puppies, amateurs from pros, but as they also say, experience is a torch that only lights the way for those who wield it. Mistakes WILL be made, and the negatives we get from them must fuel our resolve to amend our mistakes and never let them happen again.
I’d arrived in Buenos Aires, gotten a job, leaving Austin behind for various circumstances, and found myself alone again, with my acoustic 12 string, harmonicas, and notebook. Between writing the first song and finishing preproduction, about 8 months went by. I’d met Pablo and bonded, then Hector arrived escaping Caracas, taking the songs to another musical level. Now for recording, we had decided we would record drums and bass on a live setting. This girl I’d been seeing was celebrating her birthday that Saturday night. It was Mother’s Day that Sunday, and Pablo’s mom was in town, but the session had already been scheduled. I told her I would do my best to stop by but that I would probably not be able to make it. We’d been rehearsing the whole month, getting the song forms down and locked, had set aside the money for the studio, there was just no chance I was gonna risk any situation that would imperil our state of mind for recording the next day. We cooked some food, listening to some records, listened to the demos, had some drinks, took it easy and went to bed around 3am.
My alarm went off around 830. It was a dreary Autumn morning, perfect for making music. I turned the stove on, jumped in the shower, threw on the clothes I’d laid out the night before, made some eggs, and poured the coffee for me and Hector. By 1005am we were at the studio setting up the drums, and for the next 2 hours honing in on the sound. By 2pm we had 4 of the 8 songs done, we took a lunch break, and finished off recording the main parts by 6pm. We did some minor percussion work for the mild song, and while we listened to the recording in the control room (God it was magic), I took out an instrument from the “toy rack”, a glockenspiel, and set the tiles to the scale of the song that played.
Something wasn’t right. I played A on the glockenspiel, and it was supposed to sound in unison with the song. And it’s not that it sounded out of tune, it completely didn’t match. I thought, Oh well, this old thing is banged up, maybe they lose tuning with time (which made no sense since the tiles are metal). I picked up the old ES125 I’d been drooling all day over, and strummed a chord. Again, wrong sound. I had just tuned it a moment before. I played a fret above and it sounded almost right. “Hey dude, lemme see that tuner you were using”........ Hector and I had noticed something wasn’t completely right throughout the session, things just sounded a bit different, and I suddenly had this capacity to sing all the songs on my lower register.
You would assume the studio tech would know. It’s honestly his job to know. He gave us a tuner pitched to 463Hz (vs. 440Hz, the universal standard) so all the bass lines we recorded that day we’re almost a half step above what we had planned. For a moment we told ourselves the classics “it was meant to be, it's one of those magic mistakes”, and even though we would leave the studio ecstatic that night for having such a badass and groovy recording, the next day we realized we would have to record the bass again, and lose the magic groove we’d had on that Mother’s Day session. There was just no way we could tune the guitars to that without some serious intonation problems, especially with the 12 strings. Francis, the tech, was a stand up guy and recognized his fault, so offered a couple of hours in the week to re-record the bass. Monday and Tuesday were filled with gloom. We were slightly depressed such a basic mistake had occurred to us, a “cachorro (pup)” moment, an error only inexperienced musicians would’ve made. Hector was slightly more torn up; of all of us he’s the one with the most experience, a studied, professional musician.
That Wednesday, we got together after work, had a quick meal and went back to the studio. Hector killed the recording. We might’ve lost the moment, but we went back, fixed it, and are now setting up to record the rest. We are convinced this is the best “Rock en Español” album that is coming out this year. Our country is in flames, winter is starting in the South, but we are moving forward with this music and there’s nothing anyone can do about it except hop on for the ride. I had been having trouble concentrating at work this past month cus our damn phones keep telling us a nonstop stream of news from back home, seeing our friends in civil disobedience, getting gassed & locked up by the National Guard, but when we were in that studio, nothing else existed, just that music and that moment. And if that’s not close to perfection, I don’t know what is.
Fons is from Caracas, got schooled in Austin, and live in Buenos Aires. He makes music, reads books, libates, and grills. He has an office job to afford what he likes to do. He recorded an album last year in Austin, it's coming out soon. More on him on the next installment.
Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter and Instagram handles: @conversamusic