Detroit-based Hala (Ian Ruhala) officially released his studio debut Red Herring into the world today, giving a thorough glimpse yesterday with an advance stream. (IT’S REAL GOOD.) We’re big fans of his over here, so we feel EXTRA privileged to be able to take a deep dive into three of the new tracks; he’s given us a firsthand account for “Camera”, “We Can Start Again” and “True Colors” below.
Looking back on the record as a whole, he says:
“From the beginning, I knew I wanted Red to be a concept-less concept record, in a way. I wanted it to mimic the collection of mixtape CD’s I made when I was a kid. All of those mixes were not just twelve songs of the same sandwiched together. They genre-hopped, they sonically all differed, but what they all did have in common, was that they provoked some kind of an emotion, whether it be through lyrical content or production techniques. This was my attempt at making something like that. A record where Hala is a different artist on every track from 1-12. And, for that reason, it does not really bug me that it took several years for this idea to come to fruition.
When reflecting on the production and recording sessions for Red Herring, I think part of me will always be proud of how meticulous some of the decisions were, made by Ryan Hadlock (producer), and myself, in trying to create something like a sonic journey. From concepts of un-human like edits on tracks “Nobody-Body Knows,” and “Why Do You Want Anything To Do With Me,” to unorthodox panning techniques on songs like the title track of the album, and “We Can Start Again.” I was adamant that we paid homage to a wide variety of music, trying to do anything and everything from genre-hopping, to attempting to recreate the different styles of production that mark certain decades as unique.”
It’s truly a joy to listen to all the way through, so be sure to grab a copy after you’ve peered a bit further into the mind of Hala!
This song was heavily inspired by The Kinks, and more intently the …Village Green Preservation Society record, which many consider to be their foray into more obscure writing, and production. What originally started as a country song in my mind, now has turned into something like an audio visualization, or representation, of a demented circus act.
In spending time at Bear Creek Studios, this was the last song Ryan, Taylor Carroll (engineer), and myself worked on before wrapping up our sessions. I had written out a string arrangement in MIDI, and that was sent Andrew Joslyn, (who alongside Josh Neumann, are the string players that can be heard throughout the record). Andrew, and Josh came into the studio one day, and tracked the string part, accompanied by a very minimal backing track, which solely consisted of a kick + snare pattern, bass, and samples of me making percussive sounds (in my kitchen) into a blown out cassette recorder.
The song was on the back-burner for about a week before we revisited it, and I found that I really enjoyed the minimal approach to the track. In a way it was interesting to me that for the majority of the song it was just bass and drums, and then out of the blue in the second chorus this lush string arrangement comes in.
On the last day of recording, I was well hungover from a celebratory party the night before, and we decided to layer an acoustic guitar over the song, that tried to emulate the feeling I was currently under, in a musical sense.
The vocals were not really altered in any way from how I had recorded them in the demo. It was an old scratch recording that I did in the bathroom of an old apartment. We decided to run with it.
We Can Start Again
Recording this song was somewhat of an aha moment for Ryan and I’s collaboration. It was a time when we definitely imposed something I refer to now as method recording. Much like method acting, I wanted to become the song as much as I wanted to just track it.
For this to work, the vocal was key.
And, quite frankly, this was during the early stages of my sessions in Washington. I was nervous. I had never before been in a studio of this magnitude, and here I was thousands of miles from home recording a record in a room that had been graced by the presence of real, and iconic musicians.
I wanted to capture this insecure feeling, so this was the first song we tracked vocals to. I had never really been in a proper vocal booth, so the whole experience was rather new to me. I like to think you can hear the shyness and uncertainty in my voice. And, in a song that is so much about self-reflection I think this was a crucial idea to portray.
For a song that only consists of only two instruments, baritone ukulele, and vocal, a lot of experimenting went into getting this track to where we all were satisfied.
And, basically all of that experimentation came in post-production.
I wanted the song to be the antithesis to the song that would come before it, “Red Herring.” With something as involved, and layered as that track, I wanted the follow-up, and album closer to be as sparse, and as different as possible from any other song on the record.
So first, we ran the master into an old cassette recorder that Taylor had had at his apartment. We were making several bounces until about ten o’clock in the evening, before we called it a night. We all came together again in the morning, and decided it was not exactly what we were aiming for. We all were really stressing the idea that we wanted the song to sound old, while being mindful that we didn’t want it to be too overtly obvious that this was our concept.
That morning we ran the song through an old Studer (similar to what Paul McCartney recorded McCartney II on) onto an old recycled tape reel. Yes!, this was the answer.
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