Happy New Year folks! Somewhat fittingly for the season of fresh starts and new beginnings, we’re finally installed in The Beehive. The builders have been in here for months, but last week, we got word that they were all but finished. Obviously, the band are chomping at the bit to get in and get started. So, in typical Coldplay style, the process of building a working recording environment – something that would normally take a solid few weeks – has been achieved in mere days.
Myself, my involvement has been modest. I plugged some cables in and built the Pro-Tools recording rack with Dan Green, but mainly I’ve been assembling a media headquarters on the top floor. For the first time, I have my very own office right at the heart of things (or at least above them). Pleasingly, my room is right next to the kitchen. I can’t wait ’til we get round to buying a kettle…
The top floor is also pleasing for the fact that both the stairs leading up here and the floors when you get here are superbly wonky. The fact that I’m somewhat sleep deprived at the moment combines with this to mean that any walking about up here makes me feel mildly drunk. Strangely, I feel right at home.
Downstairs, the main studio room is looking utterly wonderful. It’s all high ceilings and bright winter daylight. The walls are freshly plastered white, the floor sanded and stained. Very significantly, before me, Chris is kneeling over a whiteboard brought here from The Bakery. He’s just pulled his sleeve over his wrist and wiped the whole thing clean. Fresh starts and statements of intent all around…
The room itself has excited everyone that’s walked into it. It has a gorgeous reverb all of its own and the fellas have already been wandering around the room stamping on different sections of floorboard in search of the ultimate bass-drum sound. As ever at the beginning of recording, it’s a tangle of microphone stands and cables right now. Already, though, it has the feeling of a warm, comfortable and very inspiring space in which to create.
Despite all the freshness and “Happy New Year”, it actually feels in many ways as though we’ve not stopped. This is my first time being involved in the recording phase. I remember on tour thinking “great – nice and relaxed, sitting about watching the tape go round”. I figured that only touring happened at a blurry fast-forward pace and the studio would be more gently paced.
The creative phase, though, means ideas of all kinds can bubble up and appear at any moment. On tour, the work is in constructing and executing the massively complex show accurately day after day. Here there is little repetition nor idea of what’s coming next.
The work here is in turning a glimmer of thought into something real. Ideally, the time between an idea’s conception and its completion should be minimal. Instantly, is obviously a good starting point. I remember when I was putting together the Coldpay.com Timeline, constantly being convinced I’d got the dates mixed up. “They can’t have gone from first rehearsal to record deal that fast?” “No wait, from first gigs out of London to Manchester Apollo in HOW LONG? – no, that is actually correct…”
I’m now beginning to understand how things happen so quickly. It’s difficult to quantify the way in which an idea can go from not even existing to bulldozing your entire to-do list in a carnage of urgency. It can produce some mildly terrifying moments, especially when the word “impossible” gangs up with its older brother “deadline”. It can be tortuous, but it does give one a completely fresh education in what can be achieved.
The Exeter show before Christmas was a hilarious case in point. Spoken about for weeks as “just an acoustic show, like that thing at Capitol Records”, it all seemed pretty simple. Just days before the event, though, word came round that it was going to be the full shebang. All electric and the complete backline.
Cue massed scurrying and cursing of roadies up and down the nation, as gear and crew was pulled together at a moment’s notice. As with many things that seem like nothing but a huge pain during the lead-up, the event itself was utterly wonderful. The insanity of pulling out the gear that had last been used at Wembley Stadium in front of eighty thousand punters and ramming it into a tent for a few hundred people was the perfect way to round out a year of similar madness.
My own favourite recollection of the Exeter show came at soundcheck. Chris arrived late, having been wandering around his old town. Clocks was in full swing and he bounded up onto the stage, diving onto the piano stool to join in. As they powered into the bridge, he leaned into the mic and grinned, “We’ve still got it”. As a justification for doing this gig, I’d say that phrase pretty much covers it.
Finally, I can’t end this without mentioning the End Of Decade Clearance Sale. Charity efforts fall squarely into the bracket of things that are very difficult to talk about without sounding cheesy, so I’ll keep this brief. It was, though, an astonishing result which has blown both the band and everyone involved clean away. What an utterly incredible turnout from you folks! It was also gratifying to watch the fan forums (yes, I’m looking at you Coldplaying.com) and see that a good proportion of the gear went to truly fanatical Coldplay fans.
So then, we’re back. It’s a new building, a new decade, new recording and new songs. Judging from what I’m hearing downstairs, I’d say the best may well be yet to come…