You value true and original handmade music?

Then come and have a look into our experience of live recording a ‘cottage living room’ album. Pietro Rossi, the audio mastermind, supervised the Strainful Train recording in Ireland and shares his insights with you.

Our gratitude goes to RedStone Productions for creating such a wholesome recap video of our recording sessions with Denise and Brian.

The West Coast awaits us!

We were welcomed at the lovely home of Hendriks friends Caroline and the other Brian somewhere west of Dublin. Their living room was occupied and prepared by us for the magical moment, the first musical gathering of the whole band. Percussion and Fiddle have never seen each other before. And magical it was. Denise’s soft and fragile violin tones danced around Brian’s ecstatic Bodhrán rhythms and for a short moment there was harmony and world peace in this living room. I was amazed and you will be too, when you listen to that future album. But first, there was still much work to be done, the material had to be worked out by everybody, we needed to practise a lot.
For example in Denise’s garden, the neighbours seemed to be okay with that. We also used some live sessions at different venues to massage the new songs into our minds. Some of you may remember Lahinch, the surfer village on the west coast, where we played on every available stage two years ago. Brian lives not far from there and we made good on our promise of the German invasion. We took over his house and rearranged the complete interior into a perfectly improvised studio. Including special sound features like the dripping of a leaking cistern, the occasional barking of Molly and Silo and the rattling engines of passing tractors.
Pietro, the godfather of sound, arrived a day later with some neat microphones with the worth more than a used sports car in his backpack. From now on we had four days to record 10 tracks. Let me explain how such a recording day looked like (warning, change of time form ahead): When the first birds begin to sing, Benny opens his eyes, welcomes the beautiful day, smears a wee bit of earwax on his shoes and goes for a morning stroll. Since everybody is still asleep as he returns an hour later, he begins baking bread for the breakfast.
By now the first of his band members may have awoken and is starting his morning routine to get rid of his hangover. Benny just keeps on killing time by fixing stuff in the household until everybody is sitting at the breakfast table, the last piece of furniture we allowed in Brians house. By now it is usually around 12. After the feast everybody takes their position in the “studio” and the recording begins.
All the songs are being recorded live, which means every instrument plays at the same time, if somebody screws up, the whole take is for the trash can, like a business adminsitration degree. This puts quite a bit of pressure on the musicians. As soon as the recording starts, you can see the sweat running. And when the last tone is dying away, everybody is nervously checking the faces of the others for signs of guilt.
When nobody declares him or herself guilty of screwing up the take, the headphones are put on and the material is checked in detail for traces of screwups until the culprit is exposed. This procedure is repeated until the sun and the mood go down. A few beers and a cigarette for dinner and the day is called a day.

I do not want to hide, that there have been many difficulties in the process, but due to Brian’s immense project management skills, Hendrik’s persuasiveness and Tim’s outstanding cooking abilities, we had a full album recorded, before the week had passed. We returned to the beautiful Egan’s Bar to celebrate the outcome and have a little farewell concert. The pub was packed and even the nobility showed up, King Sean honored us with his presence. It was a wonderful night, now we had everything we wished for. 

It is time, my friends!

It began on a cold Thursday evening. Somewhere in Western Germany, we waited at a parking lot in the shadow of an ancient monastery. It was our meeting point and we were on time. Nobody said a word, we were nervous, we were not used to the Prophet being late. Did he have an epiphany that made him  change his plans? It wouldn’t surprise me, “the one who shines upon all”, as his cult following call him, always forged his own destiny. But suddenly he stepped out of the shadows. His ibex wool hat and his sturdy jacket inspired awe and deep admiration and his face was smiling warmly. He said “It is time, my friends. Let us begin our journey.” And so we did.

We were back on track again and here are the naked facts: Hendrik had reactivated all his contacts to Ireland to organize a new album recording with local musicians. The congenial percussionist Brian Fleming was willing to add his magical Bodhrán beats to our tracks. And we were elated to hear, that the lovely Denise Boyle and her fiddle were there to support us. To make everything perfect from the technical perspective, our dear friend Pietro Rossi from Redstone Productions got appointed the responsible audio engineer. The gear for the recording was professionally prepared by him, whoever is interested in technical details of his preparations can check out his vlog he did for this project:

https://www.youtube.com/redstoneproductions

We stopped over in Amsterdam to pick up the gear. And nothing else, Amsterdam is boring and not worth a visit, we spent two days there and we did absolutely nothing worth mentioning so lets skip this topic.
The old route to Ireland via Great Britain was blocked due to the dawning Brexit like the road to Fuchsia City by a sleeping Snorlax. So we decided to bypass this erratic country by ferry from Cherbourg. We weren’t able to cross France without filling up our cheese supplies. We annihilated the supplies of Neuf-Chatelle in a little French countryside supermarket. From now on, everytime the car was opened, people around randomly passed out. Hmmm, I love the smell of moldy cheese stored in a car parked in the sun.

We spent our ferry ride to Dublin rehearsing at one of the ships public areas. People seemed to like it, we were bought enough beer to have problems distinguishing between the strong swell and alcohol induced balance problems. To be honest, the swell was quite heavy, Hendrik was amazed (and I was shocked) how deep red the area of our ferry route was on his wind speed app. Even though I had cause for thought during the night, we survived the trip and reached Dublin the next morning. A few neglected rights of way later we adapted to the left-hand traffic and headed to our first gig in Newbridge. The McDonnells bar is one of the most visited bars in the area. Even on a Monday evening, there were way too many people in the audience for our small sound system. After some complaints that the loudly chatting folks on the other side of the bar couldn’t understand Benny’s poetic lyrics and we should pump up the volume, we danced on the thin line between feedback problems and unsatisfied listeners. The concert was still good and our struggle was forgotten after the show, our beloved midland friends from the last tour showed up and we got invited to an after show party in a tiny micro kitchen. People got wasted, unpacked instruments and started to sing, it was the most compressed form of Irish lifestyle I ever witnessed. Unfortunately it also led to us heading for the first rehearsal with Denise and Brian, the event we all were going nuts about for the whole week, pretty hangover.

 

Will we make it? Will this album ever be recorded? Why does Benny smell so good? Stay tuned and you’ll find out.

RSP Live Session

A cold winter night somewhere in Amsterdam. The snowy wind is blowing through the streets and everybody is snuggled in their rocking chairs, sipping hot tea and cuddling with their beloved ones. Everybody? Not everybody. The awesome trio of Strainful Train and the audio mastermind Pietro are preparing a special musical treat for you. In the RedStone Productions Studio, equipped with high end gear and genuine exaltation, they record a live session made for posterity. Lean back and enjoy the result.

“RSP Live Session”

We love cheese!

We had an appointment in Rouen, France. Le Saxo is a pub that shares the level of coziness with many Irish pubs we’ve seen on our travels. The owner, Patrice, was eager to prove the superiority of the french art of cooking and hospitality. He did’nt fail. The whole band now officially counts as Neufchâtel-cheese-addicted. Endless wines, beers, some strange Schnaps and a concert later we left Le Saxo and headed to Elbeuf, the home town of our french patron, the initiator of the whole tour. I cannot praise this man enough: Stéphane. He has a Sean-like sense of generosity. We met Stéphane on our last tour in a rough pub somewhere in England. He barely knew us but invited us to have some gigs in France. After two days we referred to him as our tour manager. And like on a professionally organized tour, he even granted us with professionally organized concerts.  The whole thing, with a stage, technician, advertisements

throughout the city and an audience that came just to listen to our music. We even have prove, it was all recorded. And on top of all that: one of the venues was a boat. ‘Nuff said.
As a proper finale of the tour, we found ourselves on stage together with Stéphane’s Band, the High Lonesomes, and the Folk Revue at a Christmas Folk Party Concert. The venue was as good as sold out and the audience was so disciplined, you could have heard a needle pin falling. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to celebrate all this properly, since we had a 16hrs drive back home ahead of us. So we stuffed our pockets with Neufchâtel and Energy Drinks and said our farewells to this beautiful country and the musically rich year of 2017.

Can’t stop the Strainful Train!

Here we are again. The folk squad assembled anew and threw their instruments into their allegiant, yet rusty, ride. Strainful Train was heading for the Netherlands, Belgium and France to massage the ears of music lovers and roots fans. Seven days of touring, but this time, much to Bennys dismay, without the chaotic/freestyle guerilla gigging here and there like during our last tour. Every day is strictly, germanly planned, structured and prepared by our organizational talent Hendrik. And there is another difference to the last tour. The new album is freshly delivered from the CD factory and ready to be spread amongst all those who care for handmade music or simply need an awesome christmas present. Unfortunately, after three hours on the motorway, we noticed that we forgot the CD’s at home. So we were out of merchandise even before the first concert, which also sounds cool.
Nevertheless, we arrived in Amsterdam. It has changed alot since the last time we were here. Temperature-wise. Equipped with long-johns and old men blankets we made it to the freshly refurbished studio of our dear friend Pietro Rossi. With a little help from his pals, we recorded a fancy live session at Red Stone Productions. We will keep you posted about the final video-& audio production.

While we were in Amsterdam, we had to give our friends in Bajesdorp, the squatted jail, a
visit. It seems like the dutch people are easily intimidated by snow, schools were closed, flights cancelled and nobody left their house to see our concert. We still had a great night though, they do not care so much for closing hours. 
There was no time to lose, a week is short, so we set over to Mechelen. We’ve also been here before, Kafee Zapoi had hosted us on our last tour. We were greeted and hosted by two loveley Belgians Joko and Jeff. It was a nice Pub Session, even our dear friend Steven Troch jumped in and performed some magic tricks on his harmonica. Also the Zapoi is not too strict about its closing hours. The next morning we left Mechelen hungover and tired but pleased and with a trunk full of Chocolate Milk (thanks for the supplies Joko&Jeff). Next stop: France!

Goodbye my love 2. Even goodbyer.

Some of you may remember: Strainful Train was lying in despair, looking for a meaning, like Sauron for his ring. We decided, that the best way of regaining the joy of life would be at the source of joy itself:
Egan’s Bar in Liscannor. We returned to Sean’s care to have another wonderful concert and subsequent excessive beer tasting. It worked, our journey had a meaning again. (Danke-Sean! And thanks to the landlord Patrick!) Head first we started touring again. The Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna, a very original pub hosted us for the next night, we had a superb concert there. First of all because Brian, the gifted percussionist, supported us. And second because Sean was cheering from the audience.

At this point I have to mention that our beloved home and ride was left horribly deserted most of our time in Ireland. We simply never had to sleep in the van. Thanks to a remarkable Irishman called Ronan. We played in his Hotel and he provided us hostel rooms in every possible location of this world. Also in Lisdoonvarna.
The next day we also transformed Brians place to a little recording studio, to take his tight rhythm vibes with us on our album.

Unfortunately, the obligations of our real lives in Germany started to manifest at the horizon, so we sadly started our journey home. Therefore we had to cross the midlands again, the wretched place everybody at the west coast warned us about. Wrongfully, as we already had found out. We headed to Newbridge, where our irish adventures began. At the west coast we already had the luck to partake in several traditional pub sessions. The one we joined that night in Newbridge with Lucy and Niecy was somehow special, it was the most euphoric and chaotic one. You barely understood, what the musicians on the other side of the table were playing, but you jumped in anyways, to contribute your solo to the sound ball.

The following night should become the complete opposite. Our dear friend and supporter Deidre organized a slot us at a concert series called “Ciúnas” (irish for Silence). A nice concept, where people really only come to listen. The audience was so disciplined; you could hear a needle pin falling. That puts quite a pressure on you, when you are used to hide your little technical difficulties behind the always present bar noise. Still an awesome concert, though. The next morning at seven, our ferry to Wales was going to leave from Dublin. We drove through the night, were able to get a 2 hour nap right in front of the check in lines and arrived early and sleep-deprived in Holyhead. We weren’t quite sure what to do with this full day ahead of us, so we climbed on a mountain.

It started raining on the top, we lost many good men up there. So now we were tired AND exhausted. Those were the perfect preconditions to fall into the strong arms of our friend and center of our Welsh comfort zone, Scott. Sadly we just stayed briefly, there was a concert in Bishopscastle we had to support. The venue, “the Vaults” is a prototype of a rough countryside pub, a place I wish I had in my hometown. The owner, Wayne the Viking, has an intimidating biker-appearance but a warm and soft heart for roots music. He instantly invited us to his Blues Festival next year, see you there, Wayne!
We spent the night at Rob’s farm. Rob is a brilliant harmonica player and his farm is one another little paradise we encountered during our tour. Fat wool sheep are strolling around his house in the Welsh mountains, and bred sprouts are swimming in the pond at the driveway.

He and his lovely partner Ingrid made us feel so welcome there, that we stayed for another day. Your own doing!
Heavy hearted we are now leaving these beautiful islands and head for the big mainland to master the last two weeks our tour.

Some bums in Bremen

To all of our many loyal followers, who consume the online adventures of Benni the journeyman on a daily base. I have failed you. I did not post anything about his madly growing facial hair or his first primate-like interactions with modern social networks, simply because of no reason. I was lazy. And I am not even sorry, since this will happen again!
Ok, here is a short update of our last two days:
In Hamburg, the “Familieneck” welcomed us with some urban electro vibes, that instantly made Benni walk backwards out of the bar again. After two persuasion beers, the rabid cutting of the setlist and the certitude of Tim’s mom in the audience, we countered the techno with full load of folk. With mediocre success, so lets not talk about Hamburg anymore.
The same night we battled the microsleep and set over to Bremen. Did you know, that Bremen is low emission area (e.g. no-go area for old diesel battleships like ours)? We didn’t. Dang. Time to travel on as a criminal.
We needed this one day off to lick our wounds and use the accumulated creative energy to make some music history (songwriting). And we found the perfect location for that. The studio of Olaf Kock. He and his pal Boris (thanks for everything!) granted us asylum in their sacred halls of creative power. Tim found some time to practice with the upright bass bow. It doesn’t emit any sound at all. Does anybody know how to use such a thing?

In the meantime a colleague of our lovely host Kathi complained about the gypsy bus in front of his house, where definitely some bums are corpulating inside. Yep, sorry, that’s us in the Strainful Train tour bus. Please come and see us in person tonight in the “Chinchilla Bar”!