Every day between Christmas and New Year’s Day, Cory Alan and Mr. Furious are posting to the MFR [blog], publishing year-end thoughts and items that slipped out of the regular rotation. Mr. Furious Records – Giving You Music.
One holiday tradition at my house is to make pecan tassies. These brilliant bites of pastry are like tiny pecan pies; the nuts, filling, and crust formed in mini-muffin tins. Simple. There is only one tricky bit to making them; shaping the crust.
After the dough is made, it is rolled into balls which are put in the mini-muffin tins and chilled on the back porch (we live in Nebraska). Then, to create the crust shape, you press your thumb into the center of the dough ball, and begin forming the dough to the outside of the tin, making a tiny pie crust. There are two dangers; spreading the dough too thin, and working the dough too much.
The heat of your hands affects the dough, making it hard (impossible, really) to shape. If you work the dough for too long, your tassie-crust quickly becomes thin or gets holes. You can’t patch it up; the dough is already too far gone to work in that way. The tassie-crust-shaping is truly do-or-die. An effective shaper is one who moves both decisively (doesn’t work the dough too much) and sensitively (doesn’t spread it too thin).
Mixing a song is the same for me. I have a tendency to want to over-work the song, tweaking every track’s EQ and reverb, making tiny adjustments to the mastering settings, pushing the technical aspects of the mix until I’ve lost all track of the song’s story. Like the tassie crust, my hands cause temperature-related damage that is not reversible; all you can do is start over.
Obsessive listeners will know this happened with the Fireflies sessions I did with The Shaft. Rob and I recorded together in summer 2002, and I mixed that record over and over and over. The result was thin; not a pleasant pastry. This fall, when I noticed that those mixes were still up on Rob’s MySpace, I took an afternoon off and remixed half (the punk half) of Fireflies. I was decisive (didn’t over-work) and sensitive (didn’t over-cut); the result was a big, warm, energetic sound.
Over time, I’m getting better at knowing when to quit. I think the mixing/mastering work on Be A Ska Rat will show that; you’ll have to let me know if it tastes sweet. Lesson learned, Pecan Tassie. I salute your wisdom and deliciousness.