Tambourines, Strings & Recording Things!
'Absent Friends' was the first Divine Comedy album I had the pleasure of working on. I remember we locked ourselves into RAK Studio 2 for a good few weeks. Mostly it was Neil and I systematically replacing his demo parts to build up the tracks before decamping to Abbey Road Studio 2 to record the orchestral parts. Joby Talbot made regular appearances and was great to work with.
It was fun as an engineering gig as Neil seemed to have faith and trust in me despite us never having worked together before... I loved that session, it was very rewarding. He (mostly) allowed me to experiment a bit and I remember recording tambourines in the echo-y corridors of RAK and sampling him into a little Yamaha keyboard I had for stuff like 'Laika’s Theme' and the bass on 'Freedom Road'.
I’d always wanted to record a large string section with just Neumann U67’s and Neil indulged me in that for the Abbey Road sessions and we definitely did that for 'Freedom Road' and 'Leaving Today'. These are still some of my favourite string sessions that I’ve ever done! I'm very happy with the overall sounds of all the recordings we did.
'Our Mutual Friend' is still a firm favourite. I recall Nigel Godrich popping in and listening to the roughs (as he was going to mix the record at Mayfair when it was finished), and as we listened he asked me “Do you mix?”
I really wanted to mix the album, but when we attended playbacks at Mayfair (after Neil had given everyone some really lovely art prints), I loved what he and Dan had done, the mixes sounded beautiful.
Guy Massey, November 2020.
Photo: Courtesy of Guy's website.