Two weeks ago or so I wrote this about the imminent completion of the Luminous City album:
I feel like I lost a few people along the way and may yet lose others, and I would like to examine whether coming up with this– this album, of which I am proud– was all worth that price.
I don’t know that I could have put this record together quite this way if I had tried, or if, had I started again from the same point and with the same point of view, it would have happened exactly the same way.
My prime motivation was to realize my vision of what the music could be. My secondary motivation was not to spend a lot of money doing it, because money was, and is, in short supply.
The band began as Fulcrum in the early 90s as a cover act performing primarily Police and Genesis covers from a decade previous. To differentiate that time in our lives from the one I proposed to move the band in– writing material that owed to progressive but wasn’t itself– I renamed us Radiant City (after Le Corbusier of course, and I later discovered that there were at least two other great minds out in the world who had named their bands that as well).
After a few months of gigging and accruing a handful of fans, we took third place overall in a battle of the bands series in September 1995, thereby winning an hour’s worth of recording time at a local studio in January 1996. Gee, an hour should be enough time to record 45 minutes or so of our best material, I thought.
If I recall, it was in December that our guitarist announced that he was getting married and was in the market for a house. He would henceforth have little or no time for music. Somehow I managed to convince him to at least record the session with us, which I felt would make it a bit easier for us to find another guitarist afterward.
At the studio, we ran down the 45 minutes of music we had rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed. We had not taken time to write anything new since, oh, July, before the battle of the bands series began.
Something sounded awfully funny on playback. And not in a ha-ha funny way… we sounded flat, lifeless. It could have been that we were recording to ADAT. It could have been that we were ready to move on from the material we were recording, and had in fact been ready for that back in September. But the music, our music, just lay there and didn’t leap out at us, the way my four-track models had done when I had initially presented them to the band.
Moreover, we discovered that one of the mic cables had shorted and not been working for the entire session. As this cable was connected to an overhead mic– one of the ones the recording engineer had hung over the drum kit– the drums especially sounded like they were under pillows, with no dimension to the sound from the kit. We discussed the engineers’ blunder for just long enough for them to laugh at our suggestion that we re-track the drums on their dime at some future date.
Then… then the fatal thought presented itself in my mind, the one that would seal my fate for roughly the next decade and a half.
I can do better than this.
Never mind that I was not an audio engineer of any variety– recording, mixing, mastering. I would just learn. How hard could it be? I have good ears. Should be a wizard wheeze, a veritable piece of piss.
Not long after the session, our bassist advised me that he just did not have the patience to go through another protracted search for a suitable guitarist, so he would be leaving the project himself.
So, in February 1996, that left me and the drummer (the now-departed bassist’s girlfriend, now wife). And with me writing again and pushing the project (now once again called Fulcrum) into a more old-school-progressive direction than the post-progressive direction Radiant City had taken, she let me know in a dozen subtle ways that she wasn’t going to be terribly happy with playing parts that were scored out to even a minimal degree.
Something was going to have to give.