"4 Track Mind"
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Track count: 4 tracks
Instrumentation - Tascam 414 Portastudio
I've thought a lot about how the 365.52.12 Project is partly an attempt to get back to the feeling I had when I ran my DIY studio and cassette label "Land-O-Newts!" out of the living room of my rented house in Eugene in the 80s. When I wasn't working one of my 2 or 3 restaurant jobs or DJing at a bar, I was either asleep, or in that room. I recorded constantly.
I'd set up my studio after getting booted from my first rock band in 1986. I took out a loan from the credit union so I could buy a Tascam 246 Portastudio, a cheap mic, a Yamaha RX15 drum machine, and a Digitech RDS Digital Delay. I recorded a lot of stuff through my Randall practice amp, because it had reverb. I was amazed at what this stuff could do - and what I could do with it. My world expanded radically. I had a blast.
Working on this song, I was struck by how accustomed I've become, in my computer-based studio, to having virtually limitless tracks and the ability to stack, fix, tweak, pitch shift and otherwise completely dive in - visually and aurally - to everything I record. Going back to the 4-track, that's all taken away. It's just me, my ears, the instrument, the VU meters, and pressing Play and Record. And I used to feel as if that was so luxurious compared to my 2-track reel to reel!
My original Portastudio no longer works, and I can't afford to fix it right now. But someone brought me a newer Tascam Portastudio that they'd found laying on the sidewalk (and it pretty much works!) so I decided to use that to make this song. I decided to get as close as I could to the kind of instruments I had in the 80s. But damn, 4 tracks! It seems like such a limitation now!
I recorded everything using only the cassette Portastudio. I recorded the vocals using a crappy Sony ECM210M mic that I've had since the 70s. For drums, I used the "rock" setting on the Casio SK5, along with my hand claps and stomping on a wooden box. Acoustic guitar and bass went directly into the Tascam. I had to punch in with a foot-switch to fix a vocal line. The Tascam was pretty tight, but limited - and track 3's fader was very temperamental. But it worked!
I worked from a guitar idea. I had an idea for the lyrics, and wrote them down pretty quickly, with only one revision. Then I played it into the 4 track! I did quite a few takes - if I made one mistake I didn't like, I would just do the track over, erasing what I'd done before - THAT was different! I only punched in one vocal part. I'm so used to keeping alternate versions of things. This is very seat-of-the-pants, I'd forgotten how it was to just kiss an entire take goodbye because there's nowhere to save it. When I was finished - or reluctant to erase what I'd done in favor of keeping it somewhat raw and immediate - I mixed in stereo to the computer, just like the old days, when I would mix in real time from the Portastudio to a second cassette deck. But of course, my cassette deck could not make MP3s. Heck, I didn't even have a CD player back then.
Anyway, here we go - forward, into the past!
Lyrics (hey, it ain't Shakespeare)
I'm thinking about the bottom line
I'm dreaming of a nicer time
I'm in the dark while the sun is shining
I'm talking bout my 4 Track Mind
I opted out from the daily grind
I'm thinking years on down the line
I have your ear, now you have mine
Let's talk about my 4 track mind
One is for the input sign
Two is for that missing line
Three is for that box of wine
Four is for my four track mind
4 Track mind