Recently, I had the great fortune to be invited to the John Lennon Bus to participate in a very cool and unique recording session.
In January 2011, I checked out the bus and learned what the organization is all about at the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim. The bus is essentially a state-of-the-art recording studio that’s outfitted with all the latest and greatest equipment for recording audio and video -- and it ROLLS, baby!
It really is amazing to see how they squeezed all that gear into such a relatively small space. Pro Tools HD rigs, outboard gear, monitors, instruments and everything else you might need to do a real-deal record or video is right there!
The John Lennon Bus is a non-profit organization, and the primary focus is on education. The bus is primarily used as a learning and inspirational tool for students who have an interest in becoming an artist, engineer, producer etc. What a fantastic concept! Imagine being a kid in high school with an interest in music, but you’re not sure how you can make a career of it, and then this thing rolls up.
Inside the bus are literally hundreds of potential career paths you can take. I would bet most kids have no idea how many different opportunities there are housed within the shell of “arts and entertainment."
Anyway, I told those guys that if they’re ever in Atlanta to please hit me up because I love to be involved and see this thing in action.
Well, as luck would have it, the bus is wrapping up this year’s tour in Florida and along the way it’s making a few stops in Georgia, where I live. The Atlanta stop was at the SAE Institute, a technical school for budding producers, engineers or anyone interested in a music- or media-related career. I called Will Turpin, my bandmate in Collective Soul, and we met the bus at 9 a.m., a very unusual time for us to start a recording session!
For stops like this, the goal is to write and record an original song, along with an accompanying video, all in one workday. Of course, this would be kind of pointless if time isn’t taken to explain and educate about the recording process along the way so this really is a “fly by the seat of your pants” production at its finest. Kudos to the guys who travel on this bus around the country doing this; they really have the system down and they know how maximize the experience for everybody involved.
We met the six young guys from SAE and got acquainted with everybody’s musical background. We had several guitar players, a drummer, a keyboard guy and a DJ/producer guy. These guys are pursuing careers in audio production, but they all have a real musical experience, so that helped a lot. After brainstorming a general direction the music should take, we got out some guitars and dialed up some rock drum sounds on the Roland V-Drums. It didn’t take long before the guys came up with some cool riffs to work with and some great drum parts.
The bus has a few decent amps, but we decided to use Digidesign’s Eleven Rack for the guitar sounds. I’m always amazed at how good the modeling stuff is getting, I mean it really is unbelievable. The thing I love the most about a piece of gear like this is the instant access to so many completely different types of tones. It really comes in handy for a session like this when you’re going so fast and you’re on the look out for anything that my inspire you to come up with the next part.
When we started recording the guitar tracks, we went ahead and recorded the D.I.’d guitar as well so we could have some options later for mix-down. By lunchtime we had a pretty good framework for the song and even some bass parts. After lunch we did some more writing and tracking on the bridge of the song. It was at this point Will and I decided we were going to beat the afternoon traffic so we didn't stick around for the vocals or the video shoot. Hopefully we’ll hear the final product soon.
It sure was a blast working with these guys and being a part of this experience. Check out The John Lennon Bus!
Joel Kosche is the lead guitarist for the chart-topping band Collective Soul. Prior to joining the group in 2001, he was a fixture in the Atlanta music scene, playing in local bands and working part time as a guitar tech for various artists, including Steve Winwood. When he’s not on tour or in the studio, Joel, a self-professed "gearhead" and “tinkerer,” enjoys building and modifying guitars and tube-based amps. Outside of his duties with Collective Soul, he has appeared on numerous recordings, including the epic Shadowman from Kansas lead singer Steve Walsh. Most recently, Joel released his first solo record, Fight Years, a self-produced effort recorded mainly in his home studio (Flame Under Heel Studios) and released in June 2010.