Tuesday, December 4, 2007

2x: 11. Say Goodnight

So here we are at the end already. Last song. So sad.

Track 11: Say Goodnight
Thom's songwriting journal entry for Say Goodnight

Virtual Ensemble
  • A.V.: acoustic guitar, lead vocal
  • B.B.: bass, background vocal
  • K.B.: rhythm electric guitar
  • E.G.: lead electric guitar
  • D.P.: drums
Actual Ensemble
  • Thom Barker: acoustic guitar, lead vocal
  • Ken Barker: fretted bass (BEADGC), drum programming, background vocal
  • Christian Chénier: electric guitars

It may be kind of obvious, but we always used to do "Say Goodnight" as the last song of the night when we were playing live, so that's how I always think of this song: live and last. Making it the last was easy: put it after all the other songs. Making it "live" required a few tricks. The biggest issue was trying to make it different from the other tracks but still fit with the sound of the album.
  • The most obvious "live" trick is the bar noises at the beginning and end. Even without any other tricks, this primes the listener into thinking "live".
  • Another fairly obvious trick is the extra effects on the lead vocal. I put a short echo and extra reverb to sound like a loud PA system in a closed space.
  • The drums are also quite different from the other tracks. I was out at Cedar Street one night listening to a great funk band, trying to put my finger on what made the drums sound so "live". The combination of mics, eq, amps, speakers and gobs of compression make them sound much more artificial. I tried reproducing that signal path virtually, but the Yellow Tools drums I used on the album are so acoustic sounding that it was a real struggle to color them enough. I needed to start from a more artificial source. If found some sampled drums on my Roland XP-50 keyboard that were just right. So I replaced the kick, snare and toms with the XP-50 samples. I kept the natural sounding hats, ride and cymbals from Yellow Tools -- the XP-50 metals were just too fake. I think the result sounds pretty close to a kit through a live PA.
  • There's a spot near the end where it sounds like the guitar feeds back for a second (around 5:14). I'm not sure what's causing this sonic effect, but it adds to the live sound, so I left it in.
  • The sparse applause at the end is reminiscent of some of the shows we did with... uh... "modest" attendance. I remember one show at The Pit in Ottawa during a snow storm in December. Beyond the barstaff and significant others, I'm not sure anyone else was there. Sure... we can laugh about it now.
  • Light dimmers and questionable electrical at bars is always causing something to buzz. I recorded the amp buzz at the end by running my bass amp through the system while holding the free end of the patch cord in my fingers. I had to record the amp shutting off separately because it's such a loud pop that everything downstream in the signal path has to be trimmed.
Another great electric part from Chénier here. At one point he emailed me to say he was having trouble coming up with ideas: "Say Goodnight is giving me fits. How do you add lead to a 'cowboy on a horse' country song? It can't be done I tell ya. So expect very low key stuff." I'm not sure that what he came up with could be called "very low key"... you be the judge! (And I'm not going to dignify the "cowboy on a horse" comment).

In many places on the album I already had ideas for electric parts. For those, I'd email Chris trying to "textify" my idea. Somehow, no matter how ridiculous my instructions, he'd always lay down exactly what I had in mind. Here were my instructions for Say Goodnight:
buh-Changuk... buh-ChangGannnnnnnng

The yelling in the chorus was also something we used to do live. So for the album I recorded myself about ten times yelling "I" and "SAY". But when I mixed the yells in with the music, for some reason it sounded like "Oy... Soy". When I played back the yells in isolation they were fine. So some weird interaction, frequency masking, reverb artifact, or combination of these was messing with the harmonic content. I ended up having to put on a high-pass filter, remove all the reverb and replace half of the "I... Say" parts with "Ah-ee... Sah-ee". Strange but true.

Coming Soon: 2x: Appendices


  1. Thanks, Mary Frances. That all you got to say?

    (In my defense... it was the '90s, baby! Those shoes were phat).

  2. Yeah, I remember struggling with this song, but I'm really happy with the results. That verse has stuck with me, when I pick up a guitar it's often the first thing I start playing.

    As for the 'cowboy on a horse song' comment, I can't believe you remember that. Don't you ever delete my emails?! But just listen to that bass line during the verse. C'mon.

    I remember that show at 'The pit', ha, that was fun. I think I even sang a little.

    Great job on the live sound, it's excellent.

  3. Sorry, I can't listen to the bass any more. Doctor's orders.

    I think you did sing at that show. That's got to be an indication of how few people were there. Nath and Johanne were there. And somebody else came with Nath, I think. But I can't remember who. (Dominique?). Seriously, I think that's about it.

    And didn't somebody get hurt on that stupid fire hydrant in the middle of the floor? What was up with that?

  4. Hey Kenneth

    You did some amazing production with those songs. David Foster eat your heart out! Cool stuff on your site. Nice shot of you on the piano and thanks for the praise.

    By the way, For anyone else reading this, I am Kenneth's uncle that he talked about on his site and I have been playing piano for over 30 years professionally and on that note, I have always felt intimidated in the presence of my nephew.

    One day, while I was visiting my sister BJ (Ken's Mom), at their home in Ottawa, I heard Kenneth play a piece by Tacacs, (pronounced "to catch") a composer that I'd never heard of. I was so impressed with how Kenneth played the piece, I wanted to learn it myself. He gave me the music and I went to work on it. Well, to make an already long story short, it was like trying to climb Mt. Everest in monsoon season in my underwear.
    Trust me people, a sleeping giant has awoken.

    I can't wait to hear you lil bro.

    Uncle Marty

  5. Interestingly, another band on the bill at The Pit that night was a funk/reggae act from Toronto called Random Order. I was amazed when they showed up in Houston (B.C.) a few months back.

    I still have the promo photo of The Thom Barker Band on the fire escape at Irene's. It's definitely going in the liner notes for Twice the Usual.

    Hey Kbub, you don't happen to have a photo of Bubba Algorithm in action, do you?

  6. @bigdog: Huh. I didn't remember there being another band at that show. But now that you mention it.

    I'll see if I have any Bubba Algorithm pics.