Your approach to recording, at least in certain instances, might in some ways be described as "adventuresome." Such a youthful exuberance for "What happens if we do.... THIS? I don't know, let's find out" is something that I admire about your work. Not only that sentiment mind you, but the fact that you have been able to both be successful as well as keep it. In a world so driven by results of a particular standard and deadlines, how do you reconcile the demands of that end result and the artistic license to continually try new and different things? Of the "new and different" things you have tried, as a whole, would you say the ideas tended to work more often than not, or the other way around?
I spoke to a musician friend yesterday who told a tale of studio woe. He and his band played shows together for years because it was fun. They had that special musician communication where no words were spoken, everything was expressed through sound. The group moved through a live set naturally like a school of fish, sensing new musical directions in real time and instinctually playing as one. There was such joy in their music, they wanted to share it, so they rehearsed for several weeks and perfected 12 songs for a CD. But when they went into the studio (not my studio) all the fun evaporated. They were isolated and couldn't see each other, stuffed into dark little rooms, had difficulty with headphones and struggled to play to a click. Tempers frayed. Ultimately every ounce of spontaneity was squeezed out of the band and the recording sounded stiff, nervous and clinical. My friend was so disappointed by the experience that he found no love in recording. He never went back into the studio again.
It is easy to see how this could happen. Recording studios, like dentist's offices, are full of strange equipment and people motivated to find problems. "When was the last time you went to the dentist?" "You should have been flossing." Like a dental assistant putting an x-ray machine up to your lower jaw, some of the recording equipment is placed up close to your body to expose what you are playing. And, like a doctor's office, you are stripped down in an examination room, waiting to show a stranger all your faults. Of course it makes a musician nervous! So if I can keep the player from feeling like a "patient", instead, creating the anticipation that "something fun is going to happen", all that panic is reduced. I try to plan for something fun in every session. From, "Hey, let's record a song in the back of a van while driving through San Francisco!" to, "Let's play the trombone underwater!" or even just, "Why don't you sing through a fan?"
If you schedule extra time to do something unconventional at the end of your recording project, you'll find that everyone looks forward to it... it becomes the reward for doing all the hard work that is necessary to make records. And knowing that it is going to be fun makes the whole recording experience better. Less over-thinking of the guitar rhythm sound. Less laboring over every minute little hi-hat part. "C'mon, let's get this done so we can blow **** up!" Suddenly even the more experienced session players rediscover that sense of wonder in making sound.
Surprisingly, most of the sound experiments do make it into the final mix. Even if for a few seconds. Last week I worked with a band called Hypnotic Vibes from Colorado. As their "adventure", we planned on recording their horn section underwater. I thought there was no way it would sound good. But as it turned out, the sound worked perfectly in the bridge breakdown! And nothing was ruined or broken in the process! See how we did it here: