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May 20, 2016
Once again, Mr Jeremy Curtis brings some of the most interesting music to the table, this time around with the kind of record that I didn’t think people made any more.
We convened at Armory Sound in Somerville (former Hi and Dry Studio) in mid-winter of 2015, know to Bostonians as the worst winter of all time. But shitty winters make for good music making.
For those of you who don’t know the studio, it is basically a one room setup, not really much in the way of isolation. This is not a detriment however, but an asset!
I really had no idea what the plan was before I got to the studio, except that there would be a band there. I’m not sure the band knew what they were getting into before they got there either, but I could be wrong about that. I do know that Jeremy, and producer Marc Pinansky had a plan and they had demos to prove it.
For basic tracks, the band, which at that point had no name, was a lineup of certifiable ringers:
Peter MacLean on drums
Jeremy Curtis on bass, guitar and upright bass
James Rohr on Keyboards
Mike Castellana on guitar
They were all tracking live in the one drum. Drums were up on the riser. To the left of the drums was bass, and left of that was the keyboard station. To the drums right was guitar land.
Input list as follows:
rack tom-Shure sm57
floor toms-either ATM25 or a large diaphragm condenser, possibly a Rode, but one mic for two floor toms
keys (organ with leslie, clavinette)-Shure KSM32s moved around as needed
synth-DI…no idea what kind
guitar 1 Fender Princeton- Beyer M380
guitar 2 Danelectro (?)-Beyer TGX50 (note: both amps used simultaneously by Mike)
room 1&2 Neumann U87
room 3 Neumann m149
As you can see from the input list, there’s not a lot there. But because all of the fellahs were playing live in the room, there was a good deal of “good bleed”. The bass got into everything, which was an asset. You could hear drums on the keyboard mics, which added some cool depth to the drum sounds. Guitar bled into numerous things. All adding up to a cohesiveness that you can’t really get with isolation.
Unfortunately, because it has been about a year and a half since we cut the basics for this record, I can’t recall too many specifics about what actually went down during the recording, but I do remember this: It was very good.
I do recall some quite joyous playbacks, with the whole band being mesmerized by hearing back what they had just played.
Russ Gershon and his excellent trumpet pal Tom (Halter? sorry Tom….can’t recall right now!) came by and played some of their unique horn parts on a few tunes. There was a flutist who played on a track as well.
Barry Rothman came in with his two turntables and crazy little amplifiers and did some of the most interesting “DJing” that I’ve ever heard….he put down space noise, spoken word stuff that both made no sense and all sense at the same time. He and James Rohr did a 15 minute long keyboard/turntable duo that was probably the most unforgettable moment of recording in my 25 year studio career. They improvised. And carried on a musical conversation. I felt like I was carried away into another world that I didn’t know existed before that moment, and I’m not sure they did either because they were just making it up.
Laurence Scudder played some of his really cool trippy viola stuff as well. In my opinion, viola is an under utilized instrument. It gives the haunting warmth of a cello, while maintaining a sort of violin feel. And Laurence always adds some cool effects to his sound, like phaser or echo that adds an extra dimension.
I feel like I’m forgetting someone and some other things, but as I mentioned, it was a while back, and memories do get pretty cloudy.
Eventually, we got to mixing, which I did much of (I haven’t actually seen the finished record yet….I’m pretty sure I did all the mixing for the stuff with the “band”, and Jeremy did some of the more Musique Concrete style stuff), and I did the mixing at my studio over the course of the next few months. Those guys did some additional overdubs at home, or back at the Armory (including getting one of everyone’s favorite people, Asa Brebner doing an incredible spoken word beat-up-poet type of thing).
The mixing process went more or less like this:
Email from Jeremy:”Dave, can you mix that stuff?”
Email to Jeremy: “You got it!”
And so it began.
My approach for most of this record was a bit like capturing a jazz ensemble; well placed mics, minimal EQ and compression, let the musicians do the “work” and try to stay the hell out of the way. As a result, much of this record was fairly straight ahead to mix, except for one tune called “Spaceman Mike”. Somehow we decided an “80’s mix” was in order. Ya know, gated reverb, chorusing, fake doubling, silly reverbs etc etc. This was the one tune that required a bit of zaniness. I used some drum samples from a collection I have going of various drummers around town, Marc sent along some really cool “Axel F” kinda drum and synth overdubs and we went to town on this one and made it pretty ridiculous in the best way possible. Once we headed in this 80s direction, it actually didn’t take too much fussing with to make the final mix happen. It was pretty quick and very fun.
Marc actually had a pretty big hand in the mixing of this stuff. Although he wasn’t with my for a moment while I was mixing, we went back and forth quite a bit via email, with him making suggestions ranging from fairly substantial stylistic suggestions to very minute things like, “is there a noise happening at 1:32 that we could get rid of”. A huge set of ears from a very thorough and thoughtful person.
This record is due to be release on June 5th, but there’s a preview here
and here’s the facebook page
check it out. It’s badass!