Recording Is Documenting

I’m a huge fan of documentaries. The main reason I’ve held on to our Netflix account for so long is because of the documentaries that shuffle through. I’ve seen way more documentary films than any other film genre. I love a good story but when there’s a real life connection, it makes the subject much more interesting to me. 

Some of my favorite docs are produced by a British guy named Louis Theroux. Most of his repertoire comes from the late 90’s to the early 2000’s and were broadcasted by BBC. I discovered his stuff on Youtube about 4 years ago. Most of his films are based on weird and interesting cultures or sub-cultures of people. Funny enough most of his films take place in the U.S. 

Louis has such a unique way of finding some pretty strange people and integrating into their lifestyle for a week or so to show the rest of the world how these particular people live life. The best thing about his films is how awkward, creepy, and freakishly real they get. In most cases, you get introduced to a particular person or people group and by the end of the program you’ve seen everything about them. From pretty despicable moments to even times of compassion and redemption. But often times not, there’s just some ill people in this world. Either way you usually become aware of why and how this person became the way they are. Even if you don’t agree with their life choices you can at least understand something about who they are. 

As much as I’ve grown to love documentaries, it often makes me want to give up audio recording and go film some docs. Since I don’t even know how to turn a camera on this would not be a good idea. But it does make me think about how documenting plays into the audio recording process.

Sometimes we look at recording music as such a perfect, well-calculated piece of art that we miss out on some of the unique character that a recording can showcase. Many times I see bands or artists that have been playing for a few months and want to record a 12 song album. They usually don’t even have that many songs written, but they just think that a band gets together, records an album, and then goes on an international tour. This is never the case.

I think that a band or artist would be better off viewing their recording career as a documentary film. When you’re a brand new band just starting to write some songs and play at a few local bars, just record a simple demo of a few songs. This will probably sound a little messy and awkward but it’ll be a great representation of who you are and what you sound like at the time. Don’t be afraid to show your fans where you started and how you’ve grown with each new project. As you create more music and play more shows, people will start to take notice, connect with your music and ask for more. If this doesn’t happen after a year or two then that business degree you’re working on will come in real handy!  

I’m not saying to go into a studio unprepared and record a bunch of garbage, but don’t be afraid to not have everything perfectly together. If you view your band or artist aspirations as starting a business or career, then you have a span of several years to perfect things. Start slow and don’t get too ahead of yourself. Work on your craft and as appropriate through your career, document who you are in that moment. 

Documentaries show a lot of the messiness of being human. They’re filled with moments of awkwardness, confrontation, defeat, and redemption. As we approach recording in light of documenting, we shouldn’t be afraid of these elements in our music and productions. Don’t be afraid to reveal your imperfections and see how they improve and change through your recording career. 

Brandon Shattuck
The Minimalist Recordist