I listen to music a lot of the time. At work it helps me drown out the background noise and focus on what needs to be done and at home it makes chores a bit more fun. Tunes can also gear me up before a night out and wind me down once back indoors. Sometimes either intentionally or by shuffle intervention I get to listen to tracks that friends have written and performed and even produced.
My ropey singing voice, my recorder abandoned more than two decades ago and my quickly evaporated basic ukulele skills are in no fit state to get me any closer to the recording process. Lucky for me a good buddy back home does this cool job for a living. He gets to play and work with known as well as up-and-coming talents in the South African music scene; the likes of Money for Bali, Crimson House and West Coast Wolves.
Catching up over some gins at a favourite local tavern during my last visit, I was telling my friend about how I’d started performing my poems. He then mentioned if there was time during my visit he could record some for me if I was interested. I’d not really considered having digital versions of my works, and I could hardly say no to such an opportunity.
Fast forward a week and we’re driving into the part of Woodstock where ‘hipsterland’ ends and the ghetto begins. On that fine line is a business park housing Soundcast Studios. I’d hung out with friend’s bands in rehearsal spaces when I was a student, and stepping into the professional space reminded me of those fun days. It was a Sunday evening so really quiet, except for the trickling sound of the indoor water feature and the snacks lying around from a crew that were shooting a music video in the upstairs space.
Taking me on a tour of the building my friend showed me all the different rehearsal rooms and the various recording booths. As well as being impressed by the guitars the owner had selected to hang on one wall with personal amusing descriptions for each, it was lovely to see a picture of The Rudimentals (a band my mate works and plays with regularly) above the doorway to the rehearsal space they use routinely. I was equally heartened and slightly saddened to see a large photo of the late local legend George Bacon (Hog Hoggidy Hog) who passed away suddenly in 2015.
Opting to stand in the same room as my friend to record instead of in a separate isolated booth, I was set up with headphones, microphone, filter and a nerve settling bottle of Black Label (another student throwback). It was so odd to speak and simultaneously hear my own voice coming through the headphones; listening to one’s own voice is always a bit unsettling.
My friend was really good at calming me down and coaching me gently through my mistakes until I found my rhythm and was able to clearly recite my words without tripping over them. Doing two takes per poem in quick succession made me really think about my tone and delivery as well as consider how my performance has begun to improve with practice. It was also fun that most the works I had with me were haikus so super-fast to get through.
Pretty quickly I was done and we began listening to all the takes and started to edit out the ones we didn’t like as much. A little cut and paste between takes of the longer works and suddenly I had a portfolio. The process was so quick and simple and my friend was so professional throughout, obviously, he has produced a track for The Rudimentals that topped the 5FM charts after all.
That evening was actually one of the highlights of my visit home. Getting to see a buddy do what he loves (like seeing my sister on breakfast telly just a few days earlier) and having some big laughs together while doing it. I’ll be forever grateful for his time and efforts, to the point of cheekily joking with him that he was lucky to work with me before I was famous; as if I could even think about getting anywhere without his help.
Anyone interested in any music production services in Cape Town can reach Antonio at V-Lab Production via the Instagram page linked here.