Whew... what a year! I never intended to go this long without a newsletter, but my life got way too full this year, work-wise and in other ways. Some of you may have noticed a dearth of updates to my website. Only now are things returning to, er, "normal".
Newsletter 4.0, from 1/1/1999, proved very educational in several ways. My "How to Overproduce a Rock Record" was circulated widely on the net in the following months -- usually with my name removed! Several non-subscriber friends forwarded it back to me, assuming I would enjoy reading it. Uh, hello? One thing I learned is that authorship is hard to prove on the web -- beware!
Some quick local news: the Tad band broke up, and Tad himself has a new band called Hog Molly, but there are two final Tad 7 inches on Amrep and on Up Records. Mudhoney aren't sure what to do now that they are Lukin-less, but sessions for a new Monkeywrench album (for Estrus) are planned for November (with yrs truly), with all the same members as on the original album from 1990 or so. I guess this leaves only the Walkabouts, Gas Huffer and Fastbacks still standing from the 80's heyday of the Seattle scene. (Hey, PJ started in '90...) And technically Love Battery still exists, and C/Z just put out a new record by them, though likely their last. There is finally a C/Z website if you are looking for it or any of the other classic C/Z releases: it is, of course, <http://www.czrecords.com>. Also, Bell just put out a new album, "A New Kind of Rome"... best album title of this decade in my opinion. It smokes, and I cut about half the tracks (Stu Hallerman did the rest), though Vanessa tearfully called me up to say they screwed up and left my name off the first pressing. I was going to demand her firstborn male child but thought, nah... Anyhow, it has "Hostages", the best song I've heard all year. Even more incestuously, the new drummer for Bell is none other than Scott "Guitar" Schickler, formerly of Swallow (!) and long one of my favorite punk rock drummers. See them on tour... right NOW.
(Oops - a subscriber pointed out after I sent this that I forgot about the mighty Girl Trouble, around since 1985 (?) or so. Their new album is pretty good too. And, heck, the Green Pajamas (of equal vintage) have just put out, in quick succession, the two best albums of their career, the newest of which is on Nick "Frond" Saloman's Woronzow label.)
Zeke did most of a new album with Stu Hallerman and Kurt Bloch. It will be called "Dirty Sanchez" and has the best cover of Stevie Nicks' "Rhiannon" that has ever existed. I've heard some of it and it smokes. Look for it early next year. (Sample titles: "Let's Get Drugs", "Horror at Red Hook")
I was too busy to do the Makers' new disc so they did it with the very capable Johnny Sangster, who has done a ton of stuff at Egg studios and elsewhere. Word is that it is even more ambitious than the last one, and that it might come out on Sub>Pop. The Catheters are an up-and-coming band here, and have a new CD out on eMpTy Records, recorded by Pat Gray at Private Radio, a decent little 16-track where I like to work when people have no money. I have a couple great live shots of these guys to put up onsite. Have wanted to work with 'em but never was able to schedule it. Another one to look out for is the Spitfires from Vancouver, Canada... excellent punk stuff, I give 'em two thumbs up.
Of course there's a million other great new bands around here now but I have been so busy the past nine months I haven't seen any of 'em!
Sub>Pop was planning a ten-year anniversary reissue of Bleach for this month, with possible bonus cuts, but their and Nirvana's lawyers had a little hissy fit so the whole thing has been delayed indefinitely. As far as I'm concerned, the sooner they do it, the sooner they can put my name back on the damned record... anyone notice it dissappeared from the US copies a couple years back? They re-did the cover layout when Warners bought 'em, and mistakenly left it off. I was sorely vexed. At least they don't need a proofreader as badly as a certain other famous stoner-rock indy label I know of does. (No Jadd, not you.)
Quick recap of my year to date: January, blizzard in Chicago... and recording the Nerves album ("New Animal") at Uber Studio, for Thrilljockey. Fun was had by all. See 'em on tour this month, great band. February: to Lisbon, Portugal for an indy job with a band called More Republica Masonica. I just mastered it last week (it took them a while to close some deals and decide the sequence) and it sounds great... even though the studio there was a blackface-ADAT nightmare of hardwood floors, parallel cement walls and standing bass waves, easily one of my worst acoustic nightmares. After last year's equally successful Guillotina record (Mexico City), I am no longer afraid of ADATs, period. It's what you put in 'em that counts. (More next newsletter.) March and April? What the hell did I do in March? Right, some Bell and Mona Diesel tracking, and then Nebula, for a record that is now coming out on S>P as "To The Center". Buy or Die. Also, the very slammin' WATTS record for Estrus. Over the summer I also had the enormous privilege of recording the S>P debut of Zen Guerrilla ("Two R's, two L's please"), an amazing live unit if there ever was one. We worked at Stone's Studio Litho. Then a quick jaunt up to Bellingham for GarageShock, and back home to record the Quadrajets with Tim Kerr co-producing, which record will appear on Estrus in January as "The Whole World's on Fire". Sample song titles: "John Lee Hooker Is My Heavy Metal", "If You Ain't Down with Ronnie V, Then You Ain't Down with Me". Southern rawk, or what? (Also includes a "damn fine" cover of Blue Cheer's "Next Time Around")
In June, Titas came up from Brazil (all 7 of 'em!) and I got to work with them for a third time, this time on a "covers" album of famous Brazilian songs by other people! I keep learning more and more about this amazing country. In July Titas flew back home to do some gigs, and Burning Heads came over from France. We made a kickass punk rock album, which Epitaph will release on both sides of the pond. Then in August, Titas came back and we mixed in the SSL-equipped Studio X here in Seattle with full automation - not something I usually do, but we had strings, horns, the whole kitchen sink on this record, because that's what Titas is used to doing and it was appropriate for this material! (Considering my January newsletter, the irony did not escape me for even a millisecond.) This job was technically so involved that the band was joking that Endino himself got a software upgrade on this one... and they were right! (Details next newsletter!) For the umpteenth time, another of the best records of my career (sure to earn me a third Brazilian gold disc) and YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO HEAR IT IN THIS COUNTRY! Reminds me, gotta renew my passport this month...
Finished off August by flying to NYC to observe George Marino mastering the Titas record, using a room full of amazing high-grade nosebleed-type digital gear and a Sonic Solutions system... running on a Mac Quadra!! And he did a superlative job. (Everyone else at Sterling Sound - the users of the other 6 mastering rooms - has upgraded to blue/white G3s except George, who hasn't been able to get the time off to do it yet!) By the way, did you know that the Apogee AD-8000 D/A converter puts out so much heat that you can cook breakfast on it? I swear.
Most recently, spent some time working with Seattle's Speed Twin on some very Cheap-Trick-esque rock/pop. (Good stuff, too. I don't work with crappy bands.) Then went to NYC to record a single for the Hellacopters featuring Scott Morgan (Sonics Rendezvous Band) on vocals. (And John Robinson, ex-Fluid, came down to the studio and sang some backups!) The 'Copters sat me down and said "Daniel Rey played a guitar solo on our last single, so you've got to do one on this one." (Gulp. Not worthy! Not worthy!) Since there were plenty of solos to go around, I got a little two-measure one at the start of one song, and my damn finger got a blister because I haven't picked up a guitar in 8 MONTHS. (Disclaimer: they were touring with reissue Orange amps. These things look great, yet sounded - to me - kind of thin and shrill, no "meat"; but since we had one day to do this I was stuck. I should have a word with those guys. They rocked as dependably as ever though, and I pulled it together in the mix.)
Finally, this week, recording some new Hot Rod Lunatics. In the future sometime: new Mona Diesel (the ex-Gruntruck guys... they are Gruntruck, for all practical purposes.
Check 'em out now at <http://www.monadiesel.com>, they have an EP for sale!). And next month, the reunited Monkeywrench, who are going to record, among other things, a Groundhogs cover. This had particular resonance for me because I have been babbling about the Groundhogs since 1978, and starting with my college roommate that year and continuing almost to the present, everyone thought I was nuts. In 1989 I gave Mark Arm a Groundhogs comp tape, since I always thought the first Mudhoney stuff sounded very Groundhoggish. I think he lost the tape. Meanwhile, I played the "Split" album (1971) for the Trees' Gary Lee Conner, and he was quite taken with Tony McPhee's waves of wah-wah guitar, and ultimately Mark Lanegan became a fan also. Finally, in 1994 I took Steve and Mark aside in the studio and said, guys, you've got to check this out, this band changed my life. (My single biggest influence as a guitarist, BTW.) They were ready and are now fans... and damned if the guy from Pavement wasn't talking about them recently! When Mark told me that Queens Of The Stone Age played a 'Hogs cover at a Seattle show last month, I felt like the axes of the universe were finally shifting. So if no one else is going to do it I might have to do a Groundhogs fan website, since I've been tracking their stuff down (over a dozen albums) for about, er, 20 years now, and it is not easy stuff to find. (Essential: "Thank Christ for the Bomb" 1970; "Split", 1971; "Who will save the World?", 1972; "Hogwash", 1974.) "Best-Kept-Secret" doesn't even begin to describe this band. Listen to those first two and see if you think Tony McPhee isn't the REAL Godfather of Grunge. OK, enough fan drool.
Was listening to my car radio the other day. Anyone notice that the main riff of Buck Cherry's hit, "Lit Up", is almost a note-for-note retread of Kiss' "Shock Me"? The rock-and-roll perpetual-motion machine defies entropy once more!
Seen the new WIRED, with a big article on do-it-yourself moviemaking, thanks to the digital revolution? Much of the article is about... Seattle! Hanzsek Audio here (where I usually hang) has two rooms: an audio room, with Pro Tools and an Otari MX-80 (one of my fave analog multitracks); and a video room, where Chris Hanzsek has set up a Media 100 video editing suite, with the most serious-looking hard-drive array I have ever seen. In the wee hours I have been running into two local indy film-makers, Dave Larson and Matt Matsuoka, cranking away in the other room. Looking over their shoulders I noticed various of my music clients as actors! Dave Larson is known for his connections with the straight-edge scene here (yeah, there is one for sure) and runs a record label called Excursion. Dave's film, "The Edge of Quarrel" (yes that's an in-joke), is a low-budget epic about rival gangs of straight-edge and not-so-straight edge punks, starring, among others, the Murder City Devils as a gang. They almost don't have to act. Awesome! Matt's film is called "For the Cash", and caught my attention right away because it has Matt Wright from Gas Huffer as a professional assassin, and the other Gas Huffer guys (and John Bigley from the U-Men!) as his henchmen!! If you know Matt Wright, you know how hilarious this sounds, but guess what, he makes a really convincing bad guy. Some of the Devils are also in this one, as well as William Goldsmith and Jeremy Enigk.
Of course, since low-budget indy films are EXACTLY equivalent to low-budget indy records, probably none of us will ever be able to see these films or buy/rent them in our local store. Let's hope the internet will help.
I finally woke up to what was going on around me and started taking pictures of some of my cooler sessions. (It helps that I finally got a good camera after, what, 15 years? Duh.) It still bums me out that I have not one solitary photo from my five years of working at Reciprocal Recording (1986-1991), much less any video footage. (I still remember when some nice MTV folks came out here looking for Nirvana footage to use on some special program they were working on. When they finally breathlessly popped the question to me "Is there any video footage of Nirvana in the studio with you?" and I told them the sad truth, their faces, in unison, just FELL.) (I even have perhaps the most obscenely huge client T-shirt collection ever, but not even one Nirvana, Soundgarden or Green River T-shirt! Where's the justice?) So, I have tons of photos from the last year, and recently got the best ones scanned, so I have a big project ahead of me to get these up on the site. Some are pretty great. Also working on some Skin Yard sound clips, plus some of my solo stuff. (The world waits with baited breath, no doubt.)
Lastly I need to spew a Microsoft rant, because I recently got a threatening-sounding letter in the (snail-) mail from these robber barons. Content: "Protect yourself from the risks of illegal software with Microsoft Open License." The only one I want protection from is Microsoft! "Is software piracy putting your organization at risk? Beware of the Consequences. Pay attention to how software is used in your organization. If you don't, it could cost you." Included is a huge list of companies MS is suing for illegal copying/distributing of MS software... and there are more in the local papers every day. I am also seeing huge billboards of the above message. Behold, the stick. The carrot: If you buy their "open license" software plan, you are "protected". In the gangster days, you paid the local "gang" for "protection" so they wouldn't torch your place or beat you up. I find this language disturbingly similar... all legal, of course. This company has so much (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) money that they could take anyone (in fact, practically everyone in the US) into court for pretty much anything at all, legally valid or not, and win or lose, make the defendants go broke from the legal fees. EXCUSE me, I use a GODDAMN MAC, thank you very much, and everything on it is goddamn FREEWARE and the only MS product I have is Internet Explorer, and I did not "register" it. So how did these people get my address? Did they in fact just send this to everyone in the entire United States?
Yes, I have my wife's old Win95 computer right here. It used to freeze and crash constantly. I got it to work fine as a stripped-down web browsing computer, by having an EXPERT FRIEND go in and DELETE/DEACTIVATE/TURN OFF a whole bunch of MS bells and whistles. Wonder what everyone else does? I got a whole bunch of books like "UNDOCUMENTED DOS", "IRQ, DMA AND I/O: SOLVING PC SYSTEM CONFLICTS" and "WINDOWS 95 IS DRIVING ME CRAZY", then I dug into the file system and was totally appalled. What's up with these millions of little cryptically-named files strewn all over the hard disk with no perceptible heirarchical organization whatever? Gimme a goddamn break. Now I know why the head of Sun called Windows a "hairball". I can't believe this thing, and I can't believe anyone puts up with it. I was a programmer in the 70's, thank you very much, and I stopped (bad move, I suppose) because, while fun, there wasn't a damn thing you could do with it in your everyday life that was of any practical use. (It took another 15 years for the "killer apps" to appear: email and the web.) This damned Windows OS is exactly what we used to derisively call "spaghetti-code". OK, enough, I have to admit that it, uh, works, or can be made to. Please don't flame me. You Windows users all have my mega-sympathy.
For the record, we Mac people generally do not have to solve every problem by reinstalling the operating system. Thank God. I'll give 'em this though: IE 4.01 works pretty swell on my Mac.
Digidesign, makers of Pro Tools, the predominant hard-disk-audio system in pro recording studios, last year finally ported their system from Mac over to Windowns NT. For a good laugh, go to their website (www.digidesign.com) and compare the troubleshooting areas. What a can of worms they opened up, the poor suckers. (BTW, I like PT but I'm looking hard at the MOTU 2408 system for myself...)
OK, really no more. I'd like to describe my personal mental-software upgrade courtesy of the Titas project (hint: synchronizing two reels of analog tape, plus eight tracks of hard disk, plus ADATs, with SMPTE time code all over the place) but I'll save it for another time. Thanks to all my subscribers for sticking with me during this long dry spell.