>>>>>> How do you get in the right head-space to perform? do you have a ritual at this point? Alcohol… kidding. I try not to over think it, because it’s when I do that it causes me to second guess things. I have so much to think about while I perform – between playing guitar, singing, pedals, live looping etc. It’s hard to not get in my head.
What was the first album you ever bought and how do you rate it today?
It was either:
a) Steely Dan, Can’t Buy a Thrill
b) Kiss, Alive!
c) Thin Lizzy, Nightlife
I was a very mixed up boy. As for the rating part…
a) Aaa (Moody’s doesn’t go any higher, or I would, too.)
b) C (Moody’s doesn’t go any lower…)
What does your 8-track collection look like?
It looks like a poltergeist taking a polygraph (as observed by seven blind pygmies from Paducah). The only time I ever saw 8-track tapes in person was when we went to visit some distant cousins in Wisconsin – Sonny & Cher Live, Bobby Sherman, that kind of thing.
Was bass your first instrument or an evolution?
It happened all at once. I awoke one morning to find myself transformed in my bed into a giant, grotesque, bass fiddle. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. My family and all the neighbors shunned me as the sickening vermin I’d become. Those snooty violinists and cellists wouldn’t play with me. All I could do was lay there, staring at the ceiling while sawing away on pithy quotes from Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben. Very weird.
Bass is my only real instrument, actually. I often do “play” other instruments on my recordings, however the word “bad” has to be appended to the front (Badguitar, Badkeyboards, Badmelodica, etc.) to get an accurate description of the kinds of sounds I tend to make.
Does being the guy holding down the low end frequencies inform your personality in any way outside of music?
Hello, cowgirls. I like being on the bottom.
What came easiest to you early on, playing or writing?
The only writing I did when I was young was in the sand traps of certain North Shore country clubs I won’t name. We used to jump the fence late at night, run around wild on the fairways, throw all the patio furniture into the deep end of the pool and steal all eighteen flags from those immaculately manicured greens – but not before using them to write “ZZ TOP” really, really BIG in all the sand traps. That’ll show ‘em, eh?
So…I guess the answer would be: Playing.
What’s Brahms’ 3rd Racket all about and is it true you have an affinity for concepts?
Brahms’ 3rd Rocket is all about the concept of having an affinity for calling all God’s creatures (inanimate or otherwise) by the name of which they truly, in fact, are, and should forever be, including (but not limited to) calling kettles Kettles, calling pots Pots, and calling my band by its correct name, which is Brahms’ 3rd Racket.
(Editors note: David was kind enough to catch my error…. “It’s RACKET not ROCKET!! But don’t sweat it. I hear even Yoko was in the habit of repeatedly referring to her husband’s band as “Beatles” (“Beatles this, Beatles that”- errantly omitting the “The” every time). So “Rocket” I can understand. Hell, I used to know this one guy who kept calling it “Brahms’ 3rd Reich.” I’ll take “Rocket” any day”)
What’s more enjoyable for you, writing a good pop song or developing the picture music you create for tv n’ film?
I like it all. I don’t distinguish. Do I write pop songs?
Sometimes just a simple twist in the arrangement of a song can make a huge difference, is that tinkering part of why you enjoy the role of producer or is it a more technical fascination for you?
I’m an arranger, basically, a collage artist, making sound mosaics. This inevitably encompasses many different sub-disciplines: composing, performing, scoring music, recording, setting up mics, pushing “Record,” buying beer, asking very nicely for the drummer to hit harder, etc., etc., etc.
That said, I couldn’t give a shit about “technique,” “technical”-anything, or any other derivation of that cold and lifeless word. Ever try kissing a dead fish? It’s a means to an end. I’m not infatuated with methods or systems or techniques. And I really don’t think of myself as a “Producer,” either. I used to think it was cool to call myself that (“Yo, bro, didya check out that one young chick that I produced? Man, did I produce her!”) I used to like it. Not anymore. “Producer?” Yuk. Let Bob Rock have it. Sounds like a guy with nice hair who sells insurance.
Since you aren’t famous drummer David Kemper, do you think this is a good time to challenge him to bass n’ drum throw down to stop all of the chatter between camps?
I don’t want to stop the chatter between camps. Perish the thought. I just sent off a four-page letter in response to some lawyer dude in San Francisco who mistakenly emailed me some kind of artist agreement (complete with royalty breakdowns) for the “live” Jerry Garcia Band album they’re going to be putting out soon. Four pages. Arguing for a better % (the drummer plays four times as many notes than the bass player, etc.)…PowerPoint charts and graphs in support of this theory…bogus legalese…more prissy rock star demands than Van Halen in the dressing room…in short, pure balderdash! I had that lawyer dude doing figure eights around the page, revealing only in the last paragraph that he had sent his little agreement to the wrong David Kemper. Stop the chatter? Hell no! If all the chatter were to suddenly stop – and I no longer had a reason to write goofy letters like that – whatever would I do with all the empty hours?
If you could be the first artist to perform a song on the moon, on behalf of mankind, what song would you choose?
I wouldn’t perform it myself. Assuming – since I’d been selected for this great honor on behalf of all mankind – that I would then have the full financial and technical resources of Planet Earth at my disposal, I would graciously defer and instead use those combined resources to have Andrea True exhumed and resurrected so the Andrea True Connection could do “More, More, More” on the edge of the Aitken Basin while Evel Knievel (since money is no object, right?) jumps back and forth over it riding a giant neon dildo.
Get the action going…get the cameras rolling…holy, shit, can you imagine that on the fucking moon? But…hey…realistically…if the resurrections didn’t work out? In that case I’d just get Carl Douglas to do “Kung Fu Fighting” and be done with it.
3.0 – When did you realize you could do music for a living? 1985.
4.0 – Is Darwin Records looking for new artists? Always.
5.0 – Is the Chicago music scene a focus for you? Absolutely.
6.0 – Turnstyles; Live In The Studio is a cool concept, were you happy with how it turned out? Very, have gone through 4 pressings!!! yay!
7.0 – Are you working on any new material right now? Finishing new Turnstyles CD called Youthful Wisdom features nearly every great Chicago musician I’ve known –Matt Walker, Scott Bennett, Steve Gerlach, Tom Gerlach, Warren Beck, Chris Tomek, Dan Ponosky, John Schulte, Paul Mertens, Todd Sucherman, Clark Sommers and about 20 more! As the title suggests, maybe in some ways we’re smarter when we’re young and our priorities are more than money and world domination.
8.0 – What advice would you give to a young artist entering the studio for the first time? Work out everything you want to do beforehand, practice with a metronome, but be flexible to the creative nature of recording so you can morph and grow with the process.
9.0 – How long do you think it will be before everything we do is broadcast 24/7 as standard artist branding? Less than 10 years, maybe 5?
10.0 – You bump into Paul McCartney at The Lantern and he’s up for a late night jam, what Beatles song do you guys play together? “Blackbird”, “One After 909”, “Silly Love Songs” (but I get to play Bass :-) )
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.
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