Giraffes On Horseback Salad
Salvador Dali wrote a movie for the Marx Brothers in 1937. The movie was rejected by MGM and the screenplay got lost in the archives of Greatest Movies Never Made. Josh Frank uncovered the lost movie and adapted it into a Graphic Novel with the help of Tim Heidecker and Manuela Pertega. Josh Frank contacted Quin Arbeitman to write the music for a soundtrack, and Quin came to me and asked if I would do the recording, mixing and mastering to help bring this music to life. After working together on Starlight Serenade, the only natural response was "let's do this!" And so it began.
The process has been an amazing and intense journey of hard work, tight deadlines, last minute changes, successes, road blocks, happy accidents, creative solutions to bizarre circumstances and most of all, beautiful music. At the time of this writing, we are ten days away from when the record label needs the final mixes, and we are still waiting for a few essential vocal tracks. That type of scenario has happened several times throughout the project, but we always seem to manage to end up with a solution that was even better than before, eventually. In that way the process of making this album is in line with the Salvador Dali/Marx Brothers theme.
When the project first began, Quin wrote all of the music in a matter of two or three weeks in mid-late December 2018. He enlisted his Starlight Serenade collaborator, former Glenn Miller Orchestra and current Air Force Band arranger, Ian O'Beirne, to create the arrangements for the music. Ian wrote wonderful, intricate and colorful arrangements for around 20 instruments at lightning speed, and we were ready for our first recording session on January 20th, 2019.
The Osaka Sessions
The first session at Sanwa Studios in Osaka was to form the foundation of the tracks. We recorded drums, double bass, a Steinway grand piano (with my homemade U87 clone microphones) , accordion, cello, viola and a violin, of which we recorded two passes to create a string quartet. There was a lot to record in one day and we got it all done in one 15-hour session, thanks to the excellent players and incredibly helpful and proficient assistant engineer at Sanwa Studios. Amazingly, since Quin and Ian had still been working on the arrangements right up to the night before the recording, the players did not get the score ahead of time and had to sight-read most of it, which they did fantastically.
The Tokyo Sessions
After a second session at Sanwa to add more strings and re-take a few sections that needed something a little different, we caught a 5:30 am train and headed up to Tokyo for two days to record the rest of the instruments.
The first day was at Aobadai Studios, where we recorded a full woodwind section, saxes, trumpet, trombone and contrabass clarinet - all of which we recorded multiple layers for a full, fat sound. Then we recorded a 13-member chorus, and a live jazz piece with drums, acoustic guitar and Quin's beloved Andes. We left the studio at 1:30am, exhausted and satisfied.
The following morning we went to another studio appropriately called Sound Dali (!!) and recorded Harpo's harp. Kaoru Arai-Colucci practiced a lot to emulate Harpo's unconventional style, and she played it beautifully. We even got the support and ultimate approval of Harpo's son, Bill Marx.
It was my first time ever to record a harp. The harp is a difficult instrument to record because of its wide range, large size, sensitive resonances, enormous dynamic variation and inherent pedal noises. Also, much of the harp's sound is dependent on the room it's played in. I spent some time researching various techniques for capturing this gorgeous instrument, and together with the helpful assistant at Dali Studio, took the time at the beginning of the session to find the best microphone configuration. I will leave the impression of the result to you. If you buy the album and listen to it, I would love to hear what you think.
Then it was time to mix it all together, provide various versions for the vocalists in the USA and Finland to record to, among many other tasks. The rest of the journey was full of ups and downs, mixing everything with moving parts and missing pieces on a computer that was constantly choking under the heavy load.
The details of mixing are not very interesting for most people, so I'll save it for the geek forums, but suffice it to say that it involved a ton of work, endless hours, and not much sleep in order to make something that you can enjoy listening to over and over again. It has been thrilling to see this music coming together piece by piece, and an honor to be a part of this special project with such talented and dedicated people. It has absolutely been a labor of love.
In the end, I feel that we have made a dynamic and exciting album that we are happy with and can be proud of. Something you can listen to repeatedly and keep finding new things in it. I truly hope you will enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it.
Three songs are already available to hear for those who buy the book. The full album will be available to purchase everywhere sometime in April. Stay tuned for more details about the release.
You can find all the info about the book and the music here: https://www.horsebacksaladbook.com/the-music
Thank you for reading and your support!