The making of Turn with Matt Skacal [scots-ALL], multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer behind the new album release by Mind The Messenger.
What was your main songwriting tool?
The core components of the material were composed on piano from beginning to end, which I imagine is rather unusual for a guitar laden atmospheric rock album.
Can you describe your creative process since you also produced the album?
Well first of all, it’s no secret where my inspiration comes from. Composing to me needs to be organic and fluid, so my workflow integrates the audio engineering aspect into the overall process. The general order for recording was piano, percussion, bass guitar, rhythm and arpeggiated guitars - then synth pads, orchestral pieces and organs for mood & ambience. Those were taken care of first.
Now Jeffrey Yoho did the guitar work on the project. Your thoughts?
I can’t say enough about the job he did. First of all, he played every single guitar track except for two on a fifty minute album. Secondly, the guy just has a way of painting and evoking a mood on one hand, and then ripping away with unrestrained energy on the other. The man is all about tone, and you can hear it on the record. I couldn’t have done it without him, and he’s a great friend as well.
Tell me about the drums
Since there are a lot of movements in the music, the tricky part was matching up the original drum placeholders with the natural tempo and gradation of the piano pieces. I then requested that the studio drummer use them as an audio reference template through headphones during the performance. Kit Claytor, and then later Jay Alton shored everything up on the back end. It worked out really well, and the end result was a powerful, well recorded rhythm section.
The bass plays a prominent part in the mix, doesn’t it?
Oh yeah, no doubt about it - the bass guitar parts are an integral element of my song structure. I had the opportunity early on in life to cut my teeth around some really accomplished players. I put a lot of effort into the maturation process, and came up with a melodic style that I think really grooves in the pocket. A bit of a tonal growl at times never hurts either.
And the lead vocals?
There was a lot of trial and error in crafting the right feel and cadence to make the vocals mesh with the tunes. Just the right phrasing and nuances you know? Thankfully, I was successful in re-creating the feeling I had when I originally wrote the songs to capture the performances that were needed.
What about the final leg?
Well there was only so far I could go before I turned it over to some very talented people that could take it to the next level. Kay Harris was phenomenal cutting the harmony, backing and scat vocals.
Jay Alton is a wonderfully talented mixer, musician and producer in his own right, and literally drove this project home. We must have expended close to 60 hours modifying and encapsulating the sound into what became the final mix.
Then Brian Lucey put his mastering sheen on it, and that pretty much sealed the deal. He obviously needs no introduction, working with The Black Keys, Counting Crows, Arctic Monkeys, Beck...all those guys. I felt pretty fortunate getting him to do it here before his move to L. A.
And now what?
Well, now it’s all about getting the songs to the ears of the people who might embrace it. I believe the material is extremely well done, and will be a powerful listening experience for those who want to give a shot. Undoubtedly, I’ll appreciate each and every one of those that do, that’s for sure.