Anyone who believes that recording is an antiseptic mechanical process has never been inside a studio like Mohr Fire.
This weekend, Donald, Josh, and Mike, the gamboling drummers of Celtic Legacy (Kiltic), got mic’d up and sticks down with piper Ben Holmes and their guitar playing Jesus (also known as Matthew Glascoe).
Used to fueling their high energy piping, headbanging, and drum acrobatics with crowd energy, Celtic Legacy’s banter runs off in a nervous current as they prepare for the serious business of recording.
It starts slow. Donald and Mike looking inward, looking down. Josh, watching them, waiting. He and Donald make eye contact; Mike lifts his head, and the circuit closes.
They loosen up, still playing for the machines, but also playing for each other. Chief Engineer Gusty Christensen and Sound Engineer Matt McDaniel push the click track’s tempo up a little more with each take. 214 beats per minute brings out sweat and universal grins of delight as lightning pipes and drum-storm flood the control room.
Matt’s piper’s ear anticipates where Ben will want to redo his part, marking it on the track screen. The drummers take five on the control room couch. Ben plays, and Matt’s hand hovers above the keyboard, giving it a quick tap and punching in the new recording.
Before I arrived on Sunday, Glascoe had already made short work of the guitar parts, laying down track after track. Entering the studio, I hear Ben say, “Get ready for ‘Duck and Cover.'”
Matt looks at Gusty. Gusty shrugs. “Put Fritz in there.”
Mike stands behind Glascoe, Josh off to the side, and Donald crouches in front. Matt leans in Fritz, the head shaped microphone that they use to record live performances.
Then Glascoe begins tapping his fingers on the guitar’s body near the neck. Mike works the frets while the other two drummers use their mallets: Josh on the body, Donald on the strings. This strange human-drum-dulcimer moves, thumps, and rings through Fritz’s transducing ears.
Sound energy becomes electric impulse, stored in bits and bytes and displayed as wave forms on the ProTools screen. Converted again, a warm living music reaches through the speakers, sound-tracking the poised motion of concentrated grace on the other side of the glass.
The transitory moment captured, expression communes with art. As Donald said early Saturday morning, “I love this place.”