Taking a break from his Adventures In Software, Rich Tozzoli takes a vacation, with software.
I just got home yesterday from a “camping trip” to the Adirondacks in New York with the “boys.” When one thinks of camping, images of tents, sleeping bags and beer coolers come to mind. But this was quite a bit different; this camping trip involved good mics, preamps, laptops, drums, amps, guitars, and of course, some fine adult beverages.
The room setup at Rich Tozzoli’s snowy retreat. Each spring, a group of four good friends take over a mountain house and turn it into an instant recording studio. Online, we research comfortable homes that look like they have good acoustics up in the Adirondack Mountains, not far from Canada. Then we set a date, rent the place and pack the cars with more gear than beer.
This year, we found a great house with high ceilings, lots of windows for natural light and a large living room area that fed into an open gourmet kitchen with a granite bar area. It sat on 10 private acres and had waterfront property on the Ausable River. We made a list of all the gear we needed to get to “work.” Vinny “Mingle” Miraglia (who I’ve known since 7th grade) bought his Roland TD 20 electronic kit with sub and speakers, Avid 002 console, set of Earthworks mics, Mac laptop, headphone amp and hard drives. Dave “Hutch” Hull bought a huge selection of percussion. Brian “Bleeye” Knowles brought his vintage Fender Champ, PRS guitar and a set of NHT Pro studio monitors. I had my MacBook Pro, Focusrite ISA 428 preamp, keyboard controller, MBox, Sennheiser and beyerdynamic mics, a Tele and my ’47 Gibson BR6 amp. I ran Logic Pro, Live, Reason 5 and Pro Tools 9 at various times, depending on my needs.
We arrived at the place and like every year, took the first 15 minutes to determine how to set up. First, we photograph the original room configuration, so that we can put all the furniture back when we leave, just like nothing ever happened! Then we just get to it. Within about two hours, the whole place is wired and ready to go. We fire everything up, and start playing.
The air in the Adirondacks is amazing— it’s more than 6 million acres of protected land. The stars fill the sky from one horizon to the next, due to the fact that there is little light. We also like to cook, and the meals are not your standard camping fare of burgers and dogs. This year, we did filet mignon, champagne sauce with lobster, fresh fruit crepes and so on. We also had a fully stocked A-list bar to accompany our meals.
We take day trips to absorb as much nature as possible. We saw the frozen ice in Lake Champlain and explored trails below massive mountain peaks. We had a fresh micro- beer in Lake Placid and walked across grated bridges that were hundreds of feet above massive, icecrusted gorges.
Then we head back home and light up the switches on our equipment. There’s time for jamming, just letting ideas flow with no direction, but then we also get down to recording cues we write for TV shows. So it’s a combination of stretching out on your instrument, but also then focusing to make tight parts that fit into a 1-minute piece. After tracking an idea (we had headphones on), we’d un-mute the 002 and play it out in the room on the NHTs, which we had mounted on the mantle above the fireplace. If something sucks, we’ll just re-cut until we get a take we’re happy with. If overdubs were needed, they were cut right then and there. Then we move on to the next one.
There were no rules, no time constraints and no pressures. In fact, we watched no TV and didn’t check e-mails or return texts. I didn’t make or take a phone call for 5 days straight (when is the last time we can all say we’ve done that?). We would record and/or jam in the morning, or at any time of day or night when the spirit hit us. Sometimes we would take a break and go for a walk or sit on the big deck and stare at the stars. Although it was freezing (below zero at times), we’re used to extreme weather as we’ve all been camping since we were kids. On this trip, we got two feet of snow while we were there, and it was amazing. It’s all part of the fun, and we got a lot of cues written.
These trips are not just about getting away from the grind in which we all work. It’s about stepping out of your element, whether that be to create, recharge your depleted energy, or combine a bit of both. With fresh perspectives, we often realize what is working and what isn’t in our professional and personal lives. I’m excited to get back to work.