Risk Whalen

The birth of "Whaler's Ink" - an orchestral folk document

Katharine Whalen and I started playing together in 2010. Katharine has had a storied music career with The Squirrel Nut Zippers, but we both were interested in a more relaxed expression of music. And so we began weekly "songwriters" get-togethers, her and me, where we'd have some dinner, drink some red wine and play the latest bits of songs we were devloping.

These songs were filled with the love and optimism that seemd to be all around us from this period. I had just been married, she just got married, I had a child on the way and all of our friends, it seemed, were either getting married or having beautiful babies. By the summer of 2011 we were ready to commit these songs to form a document of that time.

I holed up in Katharine's barn and began really just thinking about these songs. The concept that emerged centered on the idea that we, and all of our friends, were doing a live performance for one person. We did a lot of things to try to give the recording the kind of consistency this idea dictated. We used one microphone to represent the "person". It was never moved, it's volume was never adjusted, and it was the sole recording device. You don't have different ears for different instruments, so why use different microphones? We controlled volume with distance from the microphone vs. track faders. The drummer was across the room and still had to play quietly. I taped off "x"s all over the floor and put the names of the choral singers on them so that they would always have the same position in the aural space.

When tracks were assembled and mixed, we played the album into an abandoned gain silo - one of many in this area of NC. This reverb was our one effect. No artificial effects, not even EQ, was applied to this recording.

Days after the album was completed, my daughter was born. I was worried I'd get "the call" while at the silo because there was not signal out there. Her birth was a miracle, but it also delayed plans for an album release... until now!

With love,

Brian Risk