It wasn’t that long ago that when you went into the studio you basically disappeared from the rest of the world into a place with few (or no) windows, and low light. Where time seemed to have a way of getting distorted, finding yourself rolling in late, working late, and doing it all over again the next day. Going in to the studio was truly about, “I’m going in.” Your friends from the neighborhood wouldn’t see you on your normal daily schedule, and your family or roommates might not see you at all, save for fleeting glimpses. You’d eat at weird times, and the escape from “it all” made for a more intense, focused time with bandmates, producers, and engineers. In many ways, it was like how it felt to get in the van with your band and strike off on a tour adventure. Only the people in that van had the experience. Of course, I am talking about a time that was pre-internet, pre-widespread cell phone adoption, pre-social media, and pre-live streaming of every moment for everyone to share. And trust me, your choice of lunch menu item definitely wasn’t worthy of any photo or written commentary.

What happened to having an experience, reflecting on it, and deciding whether it was worth documenting or passing along, with a journal entry or story to be told later? 

With the advent of the smart phone and its absolute invasion of every aspect of life, I make a plea to turn it off, and put it away, when you are making and recording music. Instead of everyone retreating into their own corner to be inundated by 24-hour news, pictures of people’s kids, updates from OPV (other people’s vacations), memes stoking divisiveness, cute pet memes (do they matter right now?), and more derailing trains of thought… “Wait, what was that song?” Seriously, put down the phone. I promise everything, plus a bag of chips, will be waiting there for you when you leave.

Become unreachable. Feel the sense of calm and focus overcome you. Engage in eye-to-eye conversations with your music making co-conspirators without reaching for the all-knowing palm-based oracle. I know it’s hard, so sit on your hands and take a deep breath. It feels good and it feels good to those around you. Now they have your undivided attention. 

I recently did a session where the artist (who not surprisingly carries a flip phone) brought a disposable camera with actual film in it to the studio. He was limited to 24 pictures for a week-long session. He had to think about what he was going to take a picture of, and make choices about framing and light. Then he had to wait to see the pictures he took, because he had to go drop it off at the drugstore photo processing counter and then wait some more. And, oh yeah, you can’t text on a disposable camera. Athena Chavarria, formerly an executive assistant at Facebook, was recently (in The New York Times) quoted as saying, “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones.” I know that some music benefits from a little bit of evil, but maybe think about getting it by wearing that gnarly black metal t-shirt and not from the nefarious distraction device in your pocket. 

It’s going to be hard, but nothing good ever came easy. Phone down; productivity up!

- GS

 

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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