Jay and Tyson stand in the living room of Casey's house, staring at the small girl, Lady Endorphin herself. She's wrapped in layers of clothing, head covered in a wool cap, eyes hidden behind reflective aviator shades. She stands looking at them with her hands folded in front of her, while the smell of hash smoke gently wafts up from the basement. Rich, Lady Endorphin's guitarist, stands back to watch the event unfold.
Although Jay wasn't expecting her to be wearing the shiny stage costume from her performance at The Venture, he was expecting someone a bit more vivacious in appearance than this girl. But he puts his expectations aside and smiles at Casey. He walks over and holds out his hand. "Hi," he says. "I'm Jay."
She almost seems to shrink back, but allows him to shake her limp hand for just a second before pulling back. "Hello," she says.
Tyson stays where he is and nods to her. "I'm Tyson," he says. "Thanks for having us over."
"No problem," she says in a quiet voice. She slips past Jay and moves to a desk where her computer is set up. There's a small sound board on the desk, hooked up to the computer. Sitting down, she touches the mouse and brings the blackened screen to life. "Do you guys know what song you want to do?"
"Yeah," Tyson says. "Why? Do you know any of our songs?"
"Some of them," she says. "I've seen you guys play a couple times. You've been gigging forever."
"Sometimes it feels that way," smiles Jay.
"I don't think I've seen you at any of our shows," Tyson says.
"I've seen you play at least four times," she says, fiddling with the computer and bringing up different programs. "I tend to stay at the back."
"Right," Jay says. "Well, it's good that you've seen us. You understand what kind of sound we usually go for. We want to try to nail our live sound on the recording."
"Yeah, I've heard that before," she says. "What did you bring?"
Jay looks at her, then at the other guys. "Sorry? What did we bring?"
"Show her your guitar, man," Rich says.
"Oh, right. Stupid. Um, I've got this thing," he says, pulling out his Sears guitar. "I guess you know my Ibanez got stolen, hence the equipment benefit gig. I can't really borrow a better guitar because I don't know any other lefties, but it should be okay. I've got an old distortion pedal I'm going to use to fuzz up the rhythm parts."
"Okay," Casey says. "Rich has some effects pedals if you want to try any of them. I've got a few too, but half of them don't work. And you didn't say what song you're doing."
"We were going to do one called 'What You Call Living.' Do you know it?"
"Sure," she says, adjusting the reflective glasses. "Do-do-do-do, dit-di-it-di-da. I was hoping you were going say 'Never Any Answers.' I like the riff in that one. It has a nice pop."
"Holy shit," Jay says. "You remember that from seeing our gigs?"
"I have a good memory for sounds," she says, typing something into the keyboard. "Okay, I'm ready when you are. Maybe we can do a rhythm track, then a lead track, then a vocal track. Can you do a rhythm track by listening to a metronome?"
Jay shrugs. "Sure."
"Okay then. I'm just going to pop downstairs while you figure out what pedals you want to use. Just bang when you're ready." She gets up and walks to the basement door, closing it behind her as she descends.
"That's weird," Tyson says. "Where's she going?"
"Probably to smoke up," Rich says. "She disappears like that a lot. Don't worry. It won't affect her abilities or anything."
Jay and Tyson exchange a look while Rich starts digging out different pedals.
The two guitarists hook up a wild patchwork of cords and pedals. With the Sears axe plugged into battered old Marshall amp, they try different combinations. They try a delay effect but Jay vetoes it, not wanting to muddy the time signature. They try out chorus with a fuzz-intensive overdrive and Jay digs it, doing a quick trip up and down the scales and improvising some riffs. "What do you think of that?" he asks Tyson, who is sitting on another amp, one eye on the door to the basement.
"Heavy," he replies. "Should be good."
"I want a lot of distortion on the rhythm, then a really clean sound for the lead. I think this will work."
Tyson nods to Rich. "Is she really just sitting down there getting high?"
"I'm not sure," he says with a grin. "I know she smokes up at least a little bit when she's doing this stuff. She doesn't get out of her head or anything. Kind of like having a couple beers or a bottle of wine. I think she uses it to calm down."
"Not very cool," Tyson says. "Anyway, let's see what she can do. You're ready?"
Jay nods and Tyson walks to the basement door and gives it three sharp knocks.
A few minutes later Casey drifts out of the basement. "All right, let's do it," she says. She switches on a mixing board and brings a microphone on a stand over to the Marshall where Jay is set up, positioning the mike right in front of the amp. Then she sets up a second mike at the other end of the room.
"What's that one for?" Tyson asks.
Casey looks at him. "Space," she says. There's a pair of huge earphones with a long stretchy cord which she hands to Jay. "Monitors," she says, and sits down in front of the computer. She puts a pair of little earphone buds connected to the computer in her ears and pulls a pack of cigarettes out of a pocket in her baggy pants. After making a few clicks with the mouse, she lights a cigarette. "Can you hear the ticking?" she asks Jay.
In the bulky earphones Jay can hear the regular ticking of the computer's metronome. "Yeah. It needs to be faster."
Casey manipulates the mouse. "Say when," she says, and after some ups and downs, they find the right speed. She starts recording, and after a few head nods with the rhythm of the metronome Jay begins to play, ripping into the straightforward rocker that he and Tyson wrote years before.
The crunching, fuzz-laden sound of the guitar assaults his ears through the headphones and Jay flies over the riff, leaning forward and slashing away. He counts through the different parts of the song, head banging as he plays, clenching his teeth and sneering with unconscious rock-face. Rich and Tyson watch, Tyson mouthing the words as Jay advances through the verses and choruses. Casey sits with her feet up on her chair, smoking her cigarette, one hand one the mouse.
Jay finishes the song with a flourish, wind-milling his arm after hammering out the final note, clutching the neck of the guitar and shaking it violently in an attempt to wring more sustain out of the little instrument. After the sound dies away, they all hold their breath until they hear the tiny click of Casey's finger on the mouse, stopping the recording. Jay pulls off the heavy headphones.
"Okay," she says, taking the earphone buds out of her ears. "Ready for playback?" She flicks a switch on the sound board attached to the computer, taps the mouse again, and the recording of Jay's guitar plays back through dusty stereo amps in the corners of the cluttered room. They listen, and Rich, Tyson and Jay look very happy with it. Casey looks emotionless behind her shades. "You lose the beat," she says after the track ends.
"I didn't hear it," Jay says.
"At about two-twenty," she says. "Listen." She plays it back in the middle of the track, and although it's not immediately discernible, the rhythm slows slightly and then speeds to catch up.
"Shit," Tyson whispers. "Good ear."
"Do you want to play the whole thing over?" Casey asks. "You could just replay that part and we could cut it in. Or we could even copy and paste from earlier in the song where you play the same part."
Jay scratches the top of his head where the headphones sat. "That sounds kind of bogus," he says. "I should probably just do it over."
"Nothing bogus about it," she says. "It's you playing both times. So what if it's the same thing twice? Why do unnecessary work?"
He stands and thinks it over. "Can I hear what it would sound like?" he asks.
"Give me a minute." She flicks the sound down on the soundboard, puts the earphones back in her ears and goes to work. Jay and Tyson watch uncomprehendingly as she uses the mixing program to lift a section from early in the song and double it into the later section. They can hear nothing of what she hears, so they don't understand the precision of what she does. She blends the sounds into each other so that after only a few minutes she's able to play back a perfectly corrected track, which no listener could identify as doctored.
"I don't hear the cut," Tyson says after hearing the playback of the correction a second time.
"Good," she says. "Otherwise, you're happy with the sound? The tone, the distortion levels? It sounds good?"
"I would say so," Tyson says. "Pretty good for a first take, anyway."
"I don't know if I could beat it on a second take," Jay says. "Should we try the lead over it?"
Jay unplugs the effects and plugs straight into the Marshall. He hits the strings, tunes up, and puts the headphones back on.
The lead takes far longer to record that the straightforward rhythm track, as Jay plays it over and over again, trying different things at different times, changing the solo from take to take. After seven full play-throughs, the Hellakill guitarist is shaking loose his cramping hands and everyone is getting hungry.
"Don't sweat it," Casey says. "We've got something for Tyler to sing along with. I can fix it when I mix it."
"Tyson," says Tyson.
"My name is Tyson."
"What do you mean, fix it?" Jay asks.
Casey hangs another cigarette off her lower lip, although she doesn't light it. "You don't know much about recording, do you?"
Jay shrugs. "No, not really. We've always focused on the live show. Well, there was the four-track incident. But nothing really came out of that."
"Four-track? Like, tape?" She shakes her head and lights the cigarette. "You guys are funny. Seriously though, don't worry about the guitar. I'll clean it up. Let's get something to eat, and then we'll do the vocals."
The guys head out and pick up burgers, while Casey returns to the basement. They spend the afternoon working on the vocals, with Tyson singing the song through several times, trying to get it pitch perfect. He does it well, although it makes for a long, dull afternoon for Jay and Rich, who have to sit and watch in silence as Tyson repeats the lyrics over and over again.
It's five o'clock when they wrap up. Tyson's throat is sore and Casey looks beyond bored when she tells him she got enough to mix. "I won't be able to do anything with it tonight, because my band is coming to rehearse," she tells Jay and Tyson. "When can your drummer and bass player come around to do the rest?"
"I'm not sure," Jay says. "Hopefully sometime this week. This weekend at the latest. We've really left everything far too late."
"Let me know," she says. She gets up from the computer chair. "I'll see you in a few hours," she says to Rich. "Lock the door when you leave." With that, she does the predictable and returns to the basement, closing the door behind her as usual.
"Man, what's with her and that basement?" Tyson asks.
Rich smiles. "Don't worry about it. Come on, I'll drop you guys off."
Half an hour later Jay walks in the back door of the Warren house, trundles downstairs and drops off his guitar. When he returns upstairs, he finds his dad sitting in the kitchen eating a bowl of canned soup.
"Out looking for an apartment?" Jeff Warren asks his adult son.
"No," Jay answers.
"Looking for a job?"
"No." Jay opens the fridge and starts pulling out sandwich fixings.
"But you're on it, right?" Jeff Warren asks. "Time is ticking."
"Yeah. I know. I'm taking care of it. It's foremost on my mind." He makes a sandwich and takes it to his bedroom, not saying another word to his father.
2008 Nolan Whyte