Now that the annual Hall of Fame album has been uncaged, I wanted to share a few insights about how the Class of 2013 came together.
First off, give yourselves a round of applause for the selections this year…well played.
Many of you inquire about how much behind the scenes manipulating goes on after the votes are tallied, but rest easy knowing that with the exception of ignoring a few covers (they always poll well), this year’s album is 14 of the top 15 selections. “Let’s Dance” and “Cantina Band” were left on the cutting room floor as “Rebubula” and “Debra” occupied the top two cover spots and only “Push the Booth Deeper” was left off, frankly, because we didn’t think the version was quite strong enough.
As a general starting point, I listen to all the winners on shuffle & repeat for a few weeks to get a feel for the total pile. After importing the 24bit WAV files from the archive, I launch an editing session inside Pro Tools and begin to drag songs around…experimenting with order, transitions, placement etc. The sequencing (aka “the setlist”) is always the biggest and most time consuming challenge with the Hall of Fame albums as the goal is to make a seamless show out of what clearly was not. Fortunately for me this year, most of the songs had definitive beginnings and endings (read: no segues) which always makes stitching them together a bit simpler. That said, there are always a few curveballs and this year was no exception. The key is creating an (artificial) transition that the band could have actually performed, the idea is to mirror what’s likely, not just possible.
For example, the segue that follows any lengthy “Wappy” generally occurs on the last word/downbeat after the band finishes the 2nd verse. And with very few exceptions, it almost always transitions into something that has a powerful, loud first chord. The HOF ’13 version (11/1/13) originally transitioned into “1348”, which certainly fits that bill, but here I opted for “Robot World” (6/8/13) as it serves the same master, eliciting that same overall feel. One additional interesting note (to me anyway) is I opted for a different beginning on the vinyl version as Robot is a stand alone track on the LP (no segue). I kept the original banter from Stasik on the vinyl as he introduces the tune as “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” (coming to an album near you soon). It provided for some nice color. 😉
The transition: purple waveform is the end of Wappy, green waveform above it is Robot. Note the audience track above it to help smooth the segue.
In a similar vein, “Resolution” (8/23/13) needed some caressing to make it work as it originally was sandwiched between “Made to Measure” on the front end and “Professor Wormbog” on the back end. To give it a definitive beginning as the “encore,” I took the stick click audio of Kris counting off a *different* version of “Resolution” and pasted it to the front end of this version (7/7/13 for those of you scoring at home). And I substituted the down beat of “Blue Echo” for “Prof” that occupied that place previously. Finally, “Blue Echo” really only made sense to my ears to go dead last given the vast sonic difference between this track and the other 13. Being recorded at a tiny club, with back line instruments, different microphones, alternate soundboard & altered recording chain puts it in a different world fidelity wise.
Ultimately, if you’re willing to get creative there’s almost always a way to make anything work. I certainly take some liberties in order to make it congeal but you have to play the hand you’re dealt. For example, putting three lengthy instrumentals next to each other would never happen during an actual show (Bayliss may still be losing sleep about my order) but it works on a record where improvisation trumps all.
After finalizing the sequence, it’s hours of editing in the weeds (the fun part)…experimenting with fade types & length, nudging files a few milliseconds one way or the other, and flying in additional snippets of crowd noise for cohesiveness. Finally the whole finished project gets a light mastering job. Chris Mitchell has made some phenomenal advances with his recordings the last few years so every year the mastering gets more finesse oriented as he’s already done the heavy lifting.
Hopefully that gives you a little insight into the overall production of the HOF series. Feel free to hit me up on twitter if you have any additional questions about how the Hall of Fame: Class of 2013 came together. Thanks again for supporting UM & Nothing Too Fancy Music…lots more to come.
-Kevin T Browning