DAVE SLOMIN w/ WAITING FOR HENRY

SlominPunchInWhat earlier Mr. Henry record has the most in common with your new project Waiting For Henry, Ghosts & Compromise?

Man, I hope it’s not a cop out to pick two… but I think Ghosts falls somewhere between the first couple of Mr. Henry albums.  It has the grit and new-band-energy of As Good as the Ground, but I feel like it also has the song strength of Jackhammer.

You took a brief-to-longer-than-expected hiatus from playing live, recording and touring until now: does the material and lyrics on the disc tell any part of that story?

Yeah I did and yeah it does.  Story’s in the title song…  “Let’s raise a toast, to everybody’s ghost.”  For me, so much of this album is about coming to terms with the reality that a lot my life is now to be looked back on.  But it’s also about not being scared of the related ghosts – in my case, musical – that won’t disappear.  Doing the ‘band-thing’ once more is really like a born-again experience.  Like I had this phantom muse, packed into the closet with all the backup guitars and broken amps… and somehow it came back to life.  Musicians are like wolfmen… once you’re bitten it’s in you.

Elevator pitch, in one sentence: what’s your favorite thing about how the disc it turned out?

I always feel like a it’s a success if I come up with a recording that sounds like something I would buy myself… and I think I’d buy this one.  Or at least bootleg it.

Why did you record down in Freehold, NJ when you live so close to so many great studio’s in New York? 

Definitely the food.  They have awesome take-out Chinese in Freehold.  No, actually it’s kind of a cool story… for me at least.  We set out trying to work with Josh Jakubowski, who recorded the first Gaslight Anthem album “Sink or Swim”.  It’s the best and best sounding punk album of the past decade.  The tracks are beautiful, but bombastic.  Kinda like The Replacements’ “Tim.”  Anyway, our schedules couldn’t connect, but through the Josh search, we connected with one of his old partners in crime, Joe Dell’Aquila at Exeter Recording in Freehold.  First off, we were blown away by Joe’s sounds and mixes on his website samples.  We knew, even before seeing the studio that he was the guy.  Went in sight unseen and Joe rocked it.  Then, to ice the cake, we thought the whole ‘ghost’ thing of recording in the same town where Springsteen grew up, couldn’t hurt the vibe.  And it didn’t.  Was great.

Man, Hurricane Sandy …..what a nightmare.  Jersey’s known for bad hair and really bad McMansions, but not  hurricanes.  And it wasn’t just Sandy, in the 18 months we were recording down by the Shore we also got hit with Irene.  Thankfully, the studio – and our tracks – survived.  My house just lost some roof, although I have friend whose roof lost its house!

Anyway, a coupla weeks ago, I was with a group doing volunteer clean up work in Lavallette, a town that got mauled, and came up with the idea of turning “Here Comes the Rain” into a video fundraiser.  Working on that now.  We’re gonna donate all the proceeds from related downloads of “Here Comes the Rain” to Restore the Shore related charities.  Hope to have it up on the website this summer.  There’s a lot of folks who still need help and will for a long time.

You have amassed a nice guitar and amp collection over the years, what did you play on the new record?

Yeah, a nice collection of beaters from the guitar shop on the Island of the Misfit Toys.  Main electrics were a ’67 Epiphone Riviera 12-string, run as a six and an old Gibson SG Junior.  They’re always my go-tos, gritty but super warm.  Acoustic was a rebuilt Gibson dinosaur from the 50’s that I adopted from Texas.  Sounds amazing.  Ampwise, the main criminals were an ’82 JCM800, ’65 Fender Vibrolux, a Goodsell and a Samamp.  The Marshall saw the most action, since we were trying to put a big Buffalo Tom guitar sound into an Americana setting.  I think it worked.

Any rules you try to follow when writing a song or are they all ‘works in progress’?

Main rule is, when it comes grab it.  Otherwise you’ll be haunted for years.  Most of the songs on the album were one-shot deals.  Something sparks at 11pm and by 3am there’s a song.  Then there was Here Comes the Rain, which I started 15 years ago and never grabbed it.  Took a recession and Hurricane Irene to reignite the muse and find the lyric on that one.

Is a return to the road or the drive to play events like SXSW again on your radar or ‘in the rear view’? 

Would love to, but you’ll have to talk to my wife about that.

What is your fondest single memory from touring with Mr. Henry?

Too many to pick one.  But up there would be opening for Iggy Pop at Birmingham, AL’s City Stages, playing with Counting Crows at the Beacon in NYC, our first SXSW and of course all those nights humping gear into a motel room at 4am.  Then there was the day we couldn’t get out of the motel parking lot in Jackson, MS, cuz the innkeepers were cooking nan bread on the hot asphalt.

What’s the first record you ever bought and what’s the best cut on it? 

Elton John’s Greatest Hits.  Best cut, definitely “Border Song.”  “Holy Moses, I have been removed.”  It’s the song no one knows.  Have no idea how it made it to his Greatest Hits album, but thank God it did.

What’s the best concert you ever attended and what strikes you most about it now? 

There’s two.  As a kid I got into see The Clash at one of the famous Bond’s Casino shows in NYC.  One of the dates was an all-ages matinée.  Me and my friend Dan pushed our way to the front and were getting crushed against the stage.  The roadies pulled us up before we got killed, and rather than throwing us out, they left us onstage and we got to sing into the mic with Joe Strummer.  Even have one of Joe’s broken guitar strings from that gig.  Was magic.  The other was The Replacements at the old Ritz in NYC in ’85.  Was one of Bob Stinson’s last shows.  I never heard them before that show, but my buddy got tix.  Was totally awestruck.  Left knowing I had just seen the greatest rock band ever.

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JOE DELL’AQUILA

1.0 It must be an exciting time to now have your own studio in Exeter Recording, how is it going?

It’s been going really great.  It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come.  Just to think I started out with a Tascam 4 track at my house to this is just insane. Been having a lot of great young bands coming into the studio, and the 7inch wall is still growing! I’m really happy with the sounds I’m getting here and the place has such a comfortable atmosphere. I’m always updating my equipment and always figuring out ways to improve everything I do.  Just ask any band that comes in here about how insane I go when mixing!  I have the gray hairs to prove it.

2.0  Would you be able to produce as well if you hadn’t been in bands yourself?

I always think about how hard it would have been if I didn’t grow up being in a band (With Resistance). I can relate to bands on a lot of different levels.  Whether a band is just starting out recording the first songs they’ve ever written, or recording a debut full length and are about to hit the road for a month, I feel I know exactly what they are going through having been in the situation myself.  One of the great things about being a producer is feeling like you’re apart of every band that enters the studio.  No matter how you feel about the band’s music, you become apart of that band’s history, and are working as hard as they are to put out something awesome.

3.0  When did you realize producing was what you wanted to do?

I think as soon as I hit the realization that high school was ending, that’s when I decided I had to figure out something to do that wasn’t going to make me miserable for the rest of my life! I remember feeling like it was such a make or break decision, and figured, whatever it was, that it was going to start there and then, and that I wasn’t going to give up on the decision unless I hated it. Music was the obvious choice for me, and I was so amazed by the recording experience every time my band had to record that I said “screw this crappy supermarket job”…. I want to do this! Then I went to school and nabbed an associates degree, but that’s not where I felt it started.  Once I started to get hands on experience just figuring out how to record on my own, that’s where I got sucked in and knew I could only get better from there.

4.0  What is your favorite part about the process?

It’s to hard to pick a favorite. I love mixing because it really is amazing to hear the transformation from raw recorded sounds with no set levels, to something that sounds so together, with everything having its own space and being brought more upfront.  And even though I’m not a drummer, I loooooove recording drums.  Nothing feels more awesome than great drum tones.

5.0  What records and producers would you say you have been most influenced by?

I feel like I remember liking the sound of a record rather than who recorded it, which is horrible because I should be hoping people do the opposite when listening to my recordings! But annnnyways….I was definitely influenced by Chris Badami at Portrait Recording Studios.  My band went to him when he was recording out of a garage.  We had such a good experience that we never went to anyone else, going to him the next four times we had to record, and watching his studio grow into the amazing place that it is today.  It was really inspiring because he was just a genuine, nice dude, that was cool to work with for 10 hours a day, and I saw him do exactly what he set out to do. Another guy is Dan Korneff at House of Loud, the guy is a damn genius!  His mixes are enormous, and I think the guy knows more about Nuendo than Steinberg does!  He has indirectly taught me so much, and its awesome to be in contact with him to shoot the shit about recording.  Which leads me to the last guy, my buddyJosh Jakubowski.  He let me use his home studio for years to start my business while he worked in north Jersey at another facility.  Basically my mentor, he taught me things he learned on a daily basis, and we were able to put together an amazing studio for a couple years.  As for records, I love the sound of Small Brown Bikes’s records, Elliot – False Cathedrals, Cave In’srecords, Propagandhi’s records, Jimmy Eat World’s records, I think Days Away; “Mapping An Invisible World” still has my favorite kick drum sound ever! And when my father breaks out his Beatles vinyl, I still get amazed at how good they sound.

6.0 Do you see yourself first as a producer or a musician?

Well about 8 years ago, I would have said musician without even thinking, considering I was in a touring hardcore band at the time.  But since the band broke up, being a producer has completely taken over.  The time I used to spend writing songs is now replaced by figuring out ways to better my recordings and better myself as an engineer.  I feel like there will always be room to improve and that’s what makes recording so addicting.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to play shows again and I have a bunch of songs I’ve written over the years but right now, the studio is the number one priority in my life.

7.0  Was producing records something you had to work hard at or was it something that came naturally to you?

Engineering is something that takes a lot of work to get used to, but Producing is definitely something that comes more naturally to me. Having written so many songs myself, and now having worked with so many bands, I feel I can easily get a grasp on what a band is going for, and from there the ideas start to flow. I always like to throw in my input when something pops up in my head. I’m not scared of getting turned down, because I know bands have a certain idea of how they want their songs to sound, so that makes me an easy person to work with and also keeps a creative atmosphere. I want nothing more than to make the band happy and to make their songs bigger than what they even imagined.

8.0  Can you offer any advice to young bands who are thinking about entering a studio to record for the first time?

Preproduction and practice!!!!  There are so many basic ways of recording available now a days, that young bands with a small budget can do preproduction on their own and be prepared to focus mainly on their performance in the studio.  A lot of bands like to jump the gun on recording, and then you get the, “that’s what you’ve been playing there?” line. So unless you have the time to break down songs in the
studio, it’s something that’s really important to do beforehand.  It just leaves so much more open to focus on performance and to sprout
ideas to make the songs even better.

9.0  Do you have a philosophy about producing?

It’s usually whatever comes in my fortune cookies from the Chinese food I eat every day here! “What’s the deal with fortune cookies being
just statements now a days, I want a fortune damn it!” But seriously, it’s just about working with the artist that came up with the song and realizing the direction they are trying to take. Be open to any ideas they have, and build off them and your own together.

10.0  Is it really true that “every room is different sound?”

I think it’s true, but in the same sense, it doesn’t mean that you can record in one room and not in another. I feel like I could take my set up anywhere and get the sound I need.  It’s all about knowing your equipment, knowing your mic placements, and trusting your ear. On the other hand, getting used to your Monitors and control room is a different story. I feel like that is something that takes a little more getting used to, but its all about comparing and testing the room with different things you and other people have done.

Exeter Recording Studio is located in Freehold, New Jersey