day one - friday, january 16, 2004
I wake up groggily at about 10:30 AM and go to hose off; I had been up till four in the morning working on a Hammond C2 that this cat had given me - it was a mess as it had flew off the back of a pickup doing sixty on the freeway and it was basically just a pile of parts when I picked it up. I immediately set to work on it and soon I will have a new custom gig organ. Tom from vancouver, who has come to personally witness the recording of "the secondman's middle stand" and is crashing at my pad, is already up and chowing some cereal. I mumble a quick "good morning" and duck into the head to start shaving. no sooner had I lathered up than jer calls to tell me he'll be over in five minutes - I must have misunderstood things the night before at prac as I thought that only jer had to be at the studio by noon, but watt had meant so I ran to tell tom to stall jer when he showed and tore into the shower. Jer showed up and waited while I did my quick (but necessary) primp.
we had originally been scheduled to start the recording a week before but mike had taken a nasty tumble on his bike and hurt his forearm and jer was being plagued by a flu virus. we had been going over the material for the last couple of weeks and it was slow going as mike was really hurting and the songs weren't coming to me and jer too easily, but we had it along sufficient enough to start laying down tracks and we had to get a move on as we have gigs and a tour coming up. we got down to the studio (Karma, in pedro) and start setting up the gear- mike wants to keep the drums isolated so we take some time isolating our own equipment so there's no bleed-thru on the drum mics. Mike had rented some nice tube mics for overheads but they were not a matched stereo pair and the levels were way off. Michael, the knob man, makes a few calls to the rental place to score some reeps but it's NAMM show weekend in LA and there's nary a soul to be found that isn't in attendance. we decide that we'll start laying tracks the next day so we spend the rest of the day just getting good sounds in preparation for the recording. Jer borrowed a real nice kick from a friend and it's got a good woof to it - mike's recording w/ his tele' bass while I'm using my road B3 w/ a modified 145 Leslie (michael miked it up w/ 2 C414's on the top and a neumann U47 on the bottom ). After we had finished up tweaking the sounds as best we could, Jer gave me a ride to my DUI class and dropped off tom at my pad. Not an extremely productive day but that's how the cards fall sometimes. saturday, the real fun would start.
outside karma studio in san pedro owner/knobman michael rich
Got up today around ten leaving rilei and kelly sleeping. Needing to chow before I began work on reheading the drums the waffle shop was a good choice. I got a bowl of cream of wheat and a large glass of oj. We're starting at noon today and I expect to spend some time setting up. Out at my garage I get the head work done in a half an hour and see kel before I go. With everything packed I drive the half mile to karma recording in downtown pedro. I go to the front door and notice the gate locked. I call the number on the window and a nice lady named sally answered. She came to the front and said I could park in back. Watt just arrived and we began to throw gear.
I dig the room here. Good for drums, a live sound. Michael, the owner guy and 1st at the board, greets us and shows us the set up for the room. They got an iso booth at the far end where the leslie will reside. I'm gonna place the drums in their sweet spot near the back door. Already standing are partitions in what will be my backside. Mike decides to tent up the bass speaker box towards the control room opposite me. At this time I question mike as to where our organist will set up and most important. Where is he? He'll be to my right facing watt across the room. Watt asks if I'd get him since he can't drive so easy. A quick call finds him home and clueless. I start the car and proceed to retrieve. After gathering pete and tom (writer from b.c. Canada doing a book on watt) we return to karma for some work. Already having the drums together, ecept the tuning, we just go ahead and check the mics. Everything fine except the overheads. Seems one has a weak signal. These mics were rented by watt to get a nice cymbal sound. Michael calls the gear company and asks for help. In the meantime, studio guy mike (another mike) finds a wire on the mic disconnected. Another call to the gear place and they arrange for a next day delivery of two more. So ends day one. No tracks today. I go ahead w/some tuning on the kit. w/watt helping me, we're able to get the notes needed for "boilin' blazes." See everyone tomorrow.
helperman mike helperman jess
time for watt to make a new record. fianlly. I have never gone this long w/out making a record since I started making them back w/the minutemen - whew! I'm calling it "the secondman's middle stand" and I'm recording it w/my secondmen band which has pete mazich on organ and jerry trebotic on drums. we're doing it here in pedro, at karma studio on sixth street downtown. so righteous to be able to make a record in my own town! first time ever - no hellrides to and from every day like usual - I can really dig that!
I popped this morning at my usual around four am time and drove the boat to land's end here in town (pacific avenue's most southern part, where it ends at the cliffs) and caught the sunrise like I've done each morning since I got thrown over my bicycle's handlebars after hitting a giant bump on gaffey (at eighteenth street) the day before my fortysixth birthday, three weeks ago. I've recoverd from all my wounds except a hurt left forearm which is still weak and feeble as hell so working the bass is pretty tough. however, I can't hold out any longer and must get to making this piece so I'm making do w/where I'm at w/that... hobbled but not all the way scissored. I haven't pedaled or paddled (I usually am in the kayak on tuesdays, thursdays and saturdays while on the bike the other four mornings each week) since that crash and man, am I jonesing for it bad. I know though if that if I don't hold out and let myself heal up all the way, I'll be just making things worse. it is hard for me though, big time. oh well, such is life. I've always considered my record's snapshots of where I'm at in the moment anyway so why should it be any different this time? a hurt watt makes a record about a sickness that almost killed him, makes some sense - especially if you consider that sickness probablly got it's start from maybe a "saddlesore" I got from the seat of my bike! good thing I found a seat where there's just two pads to hold you up by the cheeks of your ass w/no middle part to fuck w/the johnson area. anyway, trippy how things connect up in a life, huh?
I had fish this morning, some bocourti w/green beans, asparagus and artichoke hearts that I cooked up in a pan w/olive oil, stir-fry style. it was good. I get to karma at noon and meet jer there. we load in our stuff w/assistance from studio helpermen mike (I know, three "mikes" involved here - I'll use "michael" for knobman michael rich, "mike" for helper man mike and "watt" for myself) and jess. michael owns karma studio here, which he started after working up in hollywood at the record plant and getting tired of that hustle. he's a great cat and a pleasure to work along side. where's pete though? after about an hour, jer rings him up and pete's oblivious to when the start time was supposed to be - I must've not been clear last night at prac when I told everyone. jer gets him and tom scholte - tom's come from vancouver (bc, canada) to "witness" our efforts and we start setting up. cuz of my lame condition, I know I'm gonna have to fix clams w/the bass parts so I want the bass where it won't get all over the drum mics so first we build a little "house" for the bass amp out of baffles and blankies. not good enough though so we move it to the utility room, blankie it up there and shut its hatch - that's better. we do the same w/pete's hammond b-3 organ's leslie speaker amp w/the vocal iso-room. it's got a sliding glass door that's not too soundproof so we lean baffles up against it and seal all openings w/pillows and blankies from the boat (from tour life). it's not totally silent but very manageable. michael cracks up at our work - says he needs a picture of it so I snap one w/the little digicamera (minolta dimage xt).
I'm using my "thelecaster" bass for this record cuz it records good and the action is low to make it easier for my hurtness. it's got a long-scale neck but I can handle it sitting down, the way I usually record. tim thelen made this for me out in iowa - thanks, tim. I'm going straight into an avalon compressor michale has and then from his board, running a low-z line to my qsc power amp (no preamp or eq involved) in the utility room to drive one of my eden 410xlt speaker boxes so I'll have a mic-on-a-speaker signal and a direct one. this bass has a p-bass style lane poor pickup in the front and a lane poor stingray style pickup in the back - I'm using the back pickup only in humbuck mode w/everything wide open (tone/volume) and bypassing the on-board preamp, just the picup in passive mode. I'm set up closest to the glass between the recording and control room so I can have easy eye contact w/michael and also w/pete and jer, who are set up next to each other, facing me. I think it's important to have good eye contact w/recording... man, how many times have I had to record in a room w/out seeing anyone and just hearing them on the headphones? a nightmare! what's really righteous here is that michael is all the way open to my ideas and doesn't try to force any heavy-handedness which is such a blessing - much respect to michael.
pete's hammond b-3 leslie sealed in booth
we set mics up on the drums and discover there's a huge mismatch in the overhead mics we rented from some place in the valley. tries a repair after finding a broken wire in the weak one but it's still wack w/the other one so michale calls these people up and cuz of the namm show, nothing can be done about 'till tomorrow. that's the way it goes - I'm used to all kinds of foul-ups w/recording so it doesn't bother me much... damn, I've been stressed so much coming up on these dates that I'm not gonna let some hurdles get me more crazy - have to float over the rough spots and keep calm. I go get two carnitas tacos up the block and they're great - love that pork. I get back after a few minutes and work w/jer tuning his drums for the first tune. my plan is to record this piece in order. it has nine songs in three groups of threes. so tomorrow we'll start w/the first one of the first group, "boiling blazes." someone might notices the "ulysses" reference maybe?! we first tune the floor tom to b, the rack tom to c#, the snare to d and the kick to b. first time jer's ever done this but he does great. he's borrowing the kick and snare drum from a friend named tim. by the way, pete's using the same organ he's used on the last two tours. I like this snare that jer's using, it's got some girth - the one he owns is pretty flacid-sounding.
we're ready to go. 5:30 pm and all done for today but it was all good stuff, even w/out a note getting recorded. everyone's in good spirits and I'm feeling much better now that things are underway, like a ton of bricks have been yanked off of my chest after being pinned on the deck by them - that's how stress is w/me, brutal.
busted mic - note broken yellow wire
day two - saturday, january 17, 2004
this morning I was prepared and ready to go when jer showed up to pick us up - I was really anxious to start recording this piece finally but I was worried about mike's hurt arm a little he hadn't given it proper time to heal and I could tell it was taking a mental and physical toll on him - me and jer would have to really help him out and play strong. we got to the studio and the reep mikes had been delivered (a welcome sign), so after some preliminary once-overs and adjustments we began tracking "boilin' blazes." we must've done at least fifteen takes of the tune; I blew some clams but we wailed on thru and got three good takes (studio gigs are not like live gigs in that every little nuance is noticeable and you really have to concentrate on details much more). we then moved on to "puked to high heaven" and nailed that in three takes, followed by "burstedman" which was a little trickier but we laid down some solid groove on it. we called it a day at about eight o' clock as we were all a little tired and mike's arm was hurting. I was happy about the day's work and the whole atmosphere of the recording- I couldn't wait to get in there again.
watt in the studio witness tom schlote
got a good nights sleep and woke up refreshed. feels great not having the pressure of working the docks this week. kel's mom judy spent the night and invites all of us to breakfast at the waffle shop. I leave early and get my chow first. no time to waste. chorizo and eggs w/fresh fruit + flour tortillas. kel, rilei, and judy arrive and I have to bail. judy is kind enough to pick up my check and w/a kiss from rilei I'm off. I go grab pete and drive to the studio. we show up to studio guys mike and jess doing some final adjustments for the recording. the replacement mics were delivered and already checked out on the kit. I do some fine tuning to the drums and were ready to start the record.
"boilin' blazes" is the first tune on the record. were doing the songs in the order they are to appear on the actual release, which is similar to the live show. we get rolling w/about eight takes on this one til' we get a keeper track. after a listen and agreement w/the last take we move on to the next song "puked to high heaven." this track has more of a pocket groove and not heavy on drum fill lines. I work w/mike again on the tuning for the kit. I change snares and use the piccolo. it doesn't have the best tone, but when played lightly it has a good attack. I cut down the head ring by taping the edges w/duct tape. I think we end up doing about 7 takes before one good enough to keep is played. we break for dinner. I walk up the street w/pete and tom to jolly buritto. I order a fish taco plate and bring it back to karma.
michael puts on a dvd of c.c. kale (I think?) jamming w/leon russell in 1979. sounds like some claptonesque licks, or clapton picked up some kaleage. he mixed this project for the people at paradise studio(russell's pad). mike returns and we go for "bursted man." I tune the kit for this one at little quicker this time. it seems to get easier doing the set up for each song as I get used to it. I can tell by looking at mike that his arm is really bothering him now. the injury he suffered in december on his bike hasn't healed yet and he's showing some strength playing through it. were able to nail the tune in about 8 takes and thatis enough for watt. we call it an evening and mike indicates that maybe we'll take the day off from tracking tomorrow to rest the arm. I'll talk to him in the morning. so far so good.
pete and jer set up in the studio, across from watt
alright, we get to lay down some tracks today! after witnessing a fogged-in sunrise here in pedro from land's end - l.a. harbor to the port and santa catalina island to the starboard (though both barely visible), I get shit together at my apt 'till noon (pan-cook up a chicken breast w/olive oil and green beans for chow), when I go down to karma. I'm happy to learn from knobman michael that two match ed mics arrived and we're now ready to record. great. jer went and got pete (w/tom from 'couv w/him) and we're ready to roll.
I've decided to record this whole piece in the order it's meant to be heard in. that means the first tune is "boilin' blazes." I paralleled my flow in ways to a favorite book of mine as teenager, dante's "comedia" so these first three tunes are the inferno part, the pummeling of me by that illness. this piece is also an allegory for a man in his forties so things shouldn't be taken too literal. that's what music's for, right? I mean, john fogerty wasn't born on the bayou? this tune is kind of tough, lots of drums going wild and none of us hardly ever playing unison - everyone in their own spot in relation to time. also being the first tune of the whole dealio, there's some jitters. we go for like fifteen takes and keep three of them. I think the last one we did was best. what's tough for me w/my arm in this condition are the glisses, where I slide my left hand either up or down the neck, sluring the notes on the way. ouch. one thing good about recording to hard disk is that there's no waiting for tape rewind so we can go right into another try and that's happening. the crew here is very competent too so there's no dillution of focus on that level either. grazie molto. the pressure's kind on jer cuz that's where we really gotta get a good performance cuz me and pete can overdub later and fix clams. I'm gonna have pete double his parts anyway, to give me more option come the mix. it doesn't me and pete can just wang it and play lame cuz jer's gotta have something good to play to so really, the pressure's on all of us. like I said, we finally get some good ones and I sure am proud of my guys.
next up is "puked to high heaven" and we have a much easier time, getting a good one in only a couple of takes. we switched snare drums - jer's piccolo for his friend tim's wooden one and I ask him to loose up the snare wires and play it soft cuz these kind of snares overload easy and the ring from them can rival a hungry seal barking for chow. don't need that. we talk a little about those great snare sounds you hear on those records from the 70s, like the ones on "the slider" by t-rex. good stuff. we tune the drums around the key of c. this is the shortest tune on the record. I was going to put a bass solo on it ('pert-near every tune here has one) but thinking about it more (there are no solos from anyone really in this hell part) and considering my hurt, I nix that notion. pete and jer go to chow and I drive on over to get tacos carnitas again but this time at el taco (I know, corny name but the chow is great and familia tasting) instead of jolly burrito (what's w/the names of these pads?) like yesterday. mmmm, good.
I get back to find my guys ready to go for round three. we tune the drums around f which is not too much different from c. this one's "burstedman" and it's kind of tough like the first one if not more so. I tell michael at the knobs that I gave this a little bit of a prog thing cuz that's a great metaphor for hell in my head. I'm reminded of what tom said when he found this tolkien book on the coffee table in lounge - "'lord of the rings' is the prog bible." ha! too much. he's probably right. I read that stuff in high school and even got into writing "dwarvish runes" for a bit, an embarrassing early life phase. now when I look back at that stuff - oh man, what a pile of corn! anyway, back to the now: jer's flailing so wild he's gotta tape his headphones to his hat cuz they're flying all about. I've seen this done many times - I remember zander schloss duct taping his right to the skull (he had a very short haircut)! we were doing "piss bottle man" for the wrestling record (damn, that was almost ten years ago now!)
man, my arm is really starting to hurt. we've played for about six hours, whew. hillarious of life to bring me this situation, I have to admit. my playing is getting more and more feeble but a least I can hold time and that helps jer. so good we had some tour time to do something like this one cuz it would intense to try and learn it in the studio - lots of parts w/sixes. jer does great. pete blows some clams but he can fix them later. me... you know what I think. we get three good takes w/the last one again being the best in my mind. I can't tell you how relieved I am when we do - not cuz of my guys but cuz of my pathetic conditon. I'd go as long as it takes though cuz I very much believe in this piece and want to do my best. I'm very inspired, especially when I hit an e note or better yet, a chord centered around e. d too. there's lots of stuff beyond words for me to try and relate... I tell pete about this great documentary on elvin jones, "different drummer." I had jer watch it last week. in it, elvin tells about how when playing w/john coltrane, there wasn't a lot conversing cuz things were so telepathic. that's righteous. I have my john coltrane pin on for good luck.
eight pm and we're done. ok. the first third of the basics are done. we move to the purgatorio world next session. great. wow, to be able to be in your pad minutes after a session?!?!? all these years and I've never had it like this - righteous. a real pedro record for watt from a real pedro band. not even the minutemen got to do that! lucky watt.
pete contemplates this mission jer w/headphones taped to hat
day three - monday, january 19, 2004
woke up again around ten and discovered that my right ear was completely plugged...fuck! (not good when you're recording) Time for an ear wash! I quickly ran and got some carbamide peroxide and a plastic hypo the size of a turkey basterthat I have for such situations;laying out on the couch on my left side, I squirted about ten drops of theperoxide crap in my ear and waited... it started to foam up in a few seconds and I started to get the feeling that there was a family of roaches crawling around inside my ear. after about twenty-five minutes of this wonderful sensation, I ran to the sink and ran some warm water to fill up the hypo and proceeded to blast myinner ear w/ it. within a few minutes I had blown the plug out and I was hearing in stereo again. what a relief... it would've been fucked to have to record like that but my doc actually told me that all that wax buildup is saving my hearing somewhat, so it's a double-edged sword in a way.
we had decided to take the previous day off as watt's arm was really hurting him and he wanted to rest it for a day so he could play better and not do himself any serious damage (the constant repetition during the recording was really weakening his arm). jer picked me up around noon and we headed on over to the studio - watt was already there ready to go and he told me to go turn on the B3 and leslie to warm it up. Jer and watt tuned up the drums for the next tune we were doing, "a reed 'round my waist," after which we went over it a couple of times before we rolled tape (hard drive). we got thru the song (after many starts and stops) in about three or four hours; getting good drum tracks was imperative, so any clam on jer's part (or any clam that me or mike made that would cause jer to clam), would bring everything to a grinding halt and we would have to start from the top again. nowhere was this more prevalent than in the next song we recorded, "pissbags and tubing"- that tune for some reason took us most of the day to do but we did end up getting it in the end after taking a dinner break at 6:00 and coming back to it (when we started up w/it after the break it still gaveus grief). it got pretty brutal for me at one point there as the riff I was playing was starting to grind on my nerves and for just an instant, I felt sanity start to slip..... anyways, I was relieved when we finally got the track down. The next tune we attempted was one of the new ones,"beltsanded man" and we got a half-assed take of it down but we were all tired and mike was hurting badly after the bearing of the "pissbags and tubing" cross. It was decided that when we were all back in the studio together on thursday we would try and lay down something better - tomorrow it would just be me and watt doing overdubs. it was a long day and I was tired....but happy.
pete w/watt's thelecaster bass (he can play it probably better than watt can right now!)
Got up, fed myself and made tracks to pete's for the daily pick up. w/pete loaded I stopped quick at the grounds for a hot cocoa. Mike's in a ready to proceed. Our first tune is "a reed 'round my waist." Hoping for a smooth set up and tracking I take my place behind the kit. Of course it ends up taking about 2 to 3 hours to get it. Still I feel no rush 'cept for watt who's arm is aching. This repetitive do over work takes it's toll on the boss. After setting the next tuning for "pissbags and tubing" we start on a very long repete session. I think it took about 5 hours to get this one down. I play constantly through the tune that is in 5 time. I must have fucked up 50 times. I could've been more diligent in hammering this one down. It just seems that I over think playing the parts as more takes are attempted. Like at total brain fart. In the end we try a half-ass version of "beltsandedman," but it's a wash. At this point watt is hurting too much to continue and it's decided to resume basic tracking work on wed.. chow 'til then.
pop at five am, chow some oatmeal and head on down to land's end in the boat to catch the sunrise. damn, too foggy for any sun but get to see a few big can boats ("cans" is slang for the containers used to ship good, these are hooked up as trailers for semi-trucks or put on railroad "gondola" cars). one time I was paddling in the harbor w/my kayak and up came the biggest one I ever saw: a 1,056 foot one called the oocl long beach - it could hold eight thousand twenty foot cans, whoa! you think I felt tiny or what? my kayak (which I named "zaby" from a character in thomas pynchon's "mason & dixon" - it's a "sky" model made by a candaian company called necky) is a full nine and half feet long! I just gotta get out the morning, even if I can't pedal or paddle 'till my forearm heals up better cuz it helps me start my day right. early mornings are the most righteous part of a watt day.
I get back and try to get as much done as I can before bailing for the studio at noon. I cook up three little calamari steaks along w/green beans and broccoli in a frying pan w/olive oil. I get to karma to find jer but where's pete? we gotta get the organ and leslie turned on so they can warm up (old tube stuff, you know). jer went and got him but I guess he went up the street for coff. a couple hollers up the block and pete's coming so we're under way - the second day of takes for this record. oh boy. the three tunes that make up this purgatorio part shouldn't be that tough but I should hold my breath before saying anything cuz the studio is an intense thing - way different than a gig. hope my arm holds up. we were supposed to be doing this yesterday but all that playing saturday wore on me so hard that I had to take yesterday off and rest it big time so I told the guys to come in today instead. "a man's gotta know his limitations" someone once said in movie - well, it was probably said more than once but it's wise words anyways.
everyone to their positions, though there's no helperman jess today - just helperman mike and knobman michael. I help jer tune up his drums around d major. this first one we're doing is the record's fourth tune, "a reed 'round my waist" and moves us into the
healing part of that illness hellride - actually, it kind of relates to right after the "pop," that shit bursting through me and the subsequent ambulance ride and surgery at l.a. county hospital. what a fucking nightmare... anyway, we start going over the tune and maybe after about an hour, we get two good takes. pretty clean too, no major clams on the first one and only a couple on the second one from me and pete - easliy fixable. the drums during the verses have kind of a tough pattern for jer but he did great, even w/some "stumblebum" at first. I really am proud of my guys - both pete and jer, for playing like champs.
"pissbags and tubing" turns out to be a different story though - whoa. we spend about four hours on it and still can't get through all the way. it's not cuz we don't know the parts or haven't played it tons of times but rather the interplay and is kind of involved and when you're hearing every little nuance, damn! we tuned the drums around e major (love that chord, by the way - same w/d major. d7 is real good too cuz it's got both d and e, it was the main key of my "contemplating the engine room" opera). during this time, a nice cat named eric from a zine called kitty magik comes by to take shots of us clamming it up. he's great about being totally invisible and not distracting in the least. much respect to him. it should be very obvious what this tune's about - recovering from the surgery and healing up so maybe it's not so bad this is a struggle cuz that's what I'm trying to relate anyway! if you understand dant's poem, than you know that inferno is a inverted cone, going down to the center of the earth. that's why lots of the figures in the part are descending pitch-wise. now his purgatorio part was a mountain, directly opposite on the other side of the world and you work off your fuckups by climbing up it so what I got musically going on is ascending riffs here. it was a hard go for me but at least there was hope of getting better and not like before the "pop" and I was getting worse and worse w/fever, shakes, vomiting, weakness and that fucking thing growin inside me - down in the 'taint. like I was saying, about fours of this struggling and then I ask us to stop so jer can chow. me and pete don't - well, pete has some of this ziti that michael's wife sally cooked up but not much. I just eat some fruit and a couple of these cookies they got around here. why do studios always have sugar crud in bowls laying around for the hands to get a hold of? I'm sure glad ethan james never had that going at radio tokyo back in the old days. sort of like soft lighting, candles and incesne - I guess it's de riguer for most studios but I don't see it as something vital really. michael and sally are great folks though and it's the other things they do - like being good people - that help out the most. same w/helperman mike, who's an intern for them from las vegas. he's great peeps w/no slack.
jer gets done stuffing his face and gets back after an hour. we go at it again and finally get a good take after maybe eighty tries for the day - I'm not kidding. it's ok - I'm not disappointed, like I was saying, I think it even helps w/the vibe I'm trying to relate. the only negative thing is my fucking arm is about to fall off and when we attempt the third tune for today, my playing is fucking pathetic - terrible. I think this was a problem for the whole day... how can I expect pete and jer to play good w/the cat who's supposed to be leading them is way sub-par on his machine? luckily, michael is very patient as is helperman mike and they don't add to what's already a little bit of stress. I try to keep pete and jer w/lots of jokes so they know I'm not trying to load up any pressure - we'll get it when get it. two tries w/this "beltsandedman" tune and I'm out of gas. not a very hard tune even - kind of psychedelic in a way and pete's biggest solo w/the organ on the record. it's nine pm and I tell the cats we've had enough - let's get to this one first thing wednesday. that's not tomorrow cuz I want the day off to recover some so I'll be here w/pete so he can start w/his overdubs. I think even w/all the stuggle, today was good though. I leave immedately after thank eveyone - jer wants to listen to these last two takes but I am certain they stink and don't want to get bummed - we'll do this bettter wednesday.
day four - tuesday, january 20, 2004
woke up around ten as usual, made some coffee and glanced at the previous day's LA times - today I would be doing the first of my organ overdubs in the studio and I knew it wasn't going to be easy but I felt up for the challenge. The vibe at the recording pad has been very cool to say the least and michael, mike and jess have been a pleasure to work with.
watt arrived at noon topick me and tom up at my pad and I loaded my tall no. 3 leslie into the back of the boat (I wanted to record the overdubs w/this particular one to get a different sound), and we headed off towards the studio. upon arrival I loaded out and began to set it up w/the B3. Since jer wasn't going to be with us, we put the leslie in the center of the room and michael miked it up top w/two AKG C12's and a neumann U47 on the bottom - it would sound good.
we started off w/"boiling blazes" and I doubled up most of my parts; it was pretty challenging getting all the pieces in the right places in allthe right timing. luckily, pro tools came to the rescue a couple of times to fit in some tricky parts. the song was beginning to take a little shape and the mixture of the two organ sounds (plus a direct) really added a warmth to it. I went thru "puked to high heaven" pretty quick as it is probably the easiest of the songs to do , then we moved on to "bursted man" which was a little more challenging due to all the starts and stops. at some points it was really hard to come in at just the right time so I would crank watt's track up in my cans and listen for fret noise and that way I could anticipate where I was coming in. it could be a little nerve-racking at times; each time you do a pass the results are displayed via a graphic waveform in pro tools so it shows you exactly whether or not you're playing "time" (there were takes where I would've swore I was right on but the machine said different). we took a little break after the song and me and watt discussed the next one, "pissbags and tubing," which seemed like it would be a straight shot. after coming back I went thru pissbags' relatively easy but again there were some timing issues which tired me out a bit. having finished w/this one we moved on to the last of the day, "beltsandedman." I tried to no avail to get this tune down but I was having trouble concentrating and the parts were not coming out as they should. watt opted to call it a day and said we would continue on first thing the next day w/jer as I was getting tired and there was no point in recording something we would probably erase anyway. me and watt got in the boat and headed off towards my pad - I was tired and a little frustrated w/myself for not being able to do more but I was happy about the stuff that I had completed. tomorrow was another day...
Pete and mike are in the studio today to get overdubs for the first 5 tunes. So I sleep in and get rilei for the morning. I rise w/a playful pal next to me. I fix up some break chow and p/u some 'round the house. The plan today is hopefully to get a dock job today. Chances are that I'll be shooting a blank tonight and flopping tomorrow (missing work when it's available). If that's the case I'll be at the shitar center tonight getting some helper gear. At the hall (work place for jer and pete) the work ain't enough and I bail back to pedro. I stop at the studio to hear what pete was working on. I park in the back and cut through tommy's yacht club as not to disturb the tracking going on. I'm stopped in tommy's by steve bono. A local surfer character and fellow casual. He just got off work and is totally hammer already. I sit for a drink and quickly decide to flee. I gulp up the s-driver and make for the door. I maybe stay a half hour at karma before slippin' away. Pete's organ sounds great and I'm digging our progress. Tomorrow is another full tracking day and I head home to an early sleep.
pop at four-thirty am and get my morning thing going: oatmeal (not that bullshit instant kind) and coff (same thing) and then drive the boat down to land's end to catch any sunrise that might show itself. no go though, not today - just gray. by ten or eleven, this all burns off (like most so cal summer days, ie "june gloom") but what I really dig is the rays coming up from the great fiery orb on the horizon. oh well. I go back and get news about these stooges gigs coming up in march - three of them in japan so I gotta get five pastport picutures taken and send them along w/photocopies of my passport to tourhelper eric fischer for the work visa that's required. I get that happening and then head on over to the studio at noon. so great recording in my own town! I get a chorizo and bean burrito on the way to pete's (gotta get him first) - not so healthy but really good and I only eat maybe one of these a month anyway.
no jer today and neither is there helperman jess - jer's not need cuz pete's doing organ overdubs and I guess jess was just there on the first day to help w/load in and setup. knobman michael and helperman mike are here though and we're ready to go. when I got pete, we picked up his "tall-boy" leslie speaker - he wants to use that today. it's got four 6v6 tubes rather than two 6550 tubes like the black-painted "shorty" in the iso-booth w/used for tracking and a biger speaker box. trippy cuz it's acutally half the power - twenty watts versus forty. still, it getting set up in the middle of the room makes things fucking loud and I gotta stay in the control room. no playing for watt today so I can rest my sore forearm but that doesn't mean I'm able to kick back cuz I gotta be 100% engaged to help pete w/direction. pete's a great cat to work w/as is michael and mike (knobman and helperman). I'm frustrated w/the little talkback button on the board so they hook me up a foot switch - great! communicating w/pete w/the least hassle is very key here... much respect to our studio folks here.
we start w/"boilin' blazes" and I have to listen to the three takes we got and pick one. I pick take three cuz it's where I think jer's most together. my shit's weak all over and has to be re-done big time when it's my turn but it's jer's takes that are most important in these first days. I then have pete first double his old part (fixing any clams) and then I have him do a seperate run w/just glisses going into the choruses and coming out of them. it's a little intenese, trying to match w/stuff already recorded but pete sticks w/it and keeps from getting frustrated which is so great. some w/our studio folks, people giving you 'tude cuz you don't get it right the very first time really chaff on me and I don't need it. if you ain't got the patience, get out of this line of work!
"puked to high heaven" is up next and there's only one take to choose from and it's a good one. not much for pete to add either except to ramp up going into the choruses. I have to admit that the "shorty" sounds way better than this "tall-boy" leslie and knobman michael thinks the same. pete admits it too but the combination of both adds to some interesting textures. michael (yep, yet another mike!), a writer for that kitty magik zine who sent eric the photographer yesterday shows up and does an hour-long spiel w/me. he asks some great stuff, a good cat. we talk about making the new record, some of my philosophy (!) and of course, pedro - my town. this gives pete a break.
when I'm done spieling, we start on "burstedman," which has many pete clams and has to be totally replaced. again I have to listen to three takes and decide on number two cuz again, it's the one w/jer at his most together. no matter what take, pete had clams and we gotta fix them - this is tough cuz of all the interaction between the instruments and lots of start/stop shit. actually, fixing would be a pain in the ass (also, the different leslie) so we just parallel what he did yesterday. one thing about pro tools is that visual representations of the recorded waveforms are up on the screen so it's really easy to tell if you're early, late or right fucking on. it's a few hours on this tune but pete holds up well and never snaps - much respect to him. I am truly blessed to have good cats like him to play w/and the same w/jer too - I love these guys much. so many pricesses out there flinting and prancing about w/music and lifestyle but my guys are hardchargers and are always there for me.
there's two takes of "a 'reed round my waist" and they're both good, the first has no clams from either pete and (more miraculously) even watt... I dig the sound pete got here originally so why fuck w/it? if I do decide to use the second take, I'll have him fix it later w/the "shorty" cuz the mics are here on this "tall-boy" right now for the overdubs. ok then, "pissbags and tubing" follows and there's only one take - and what a motherfucker it was getting that! sounds good though except it's got a clammed organ track (as is lots of the bass) so I have pete double what he did yesterday but in a clammless fashion. this takes quite a while too but is well worth it - him and jer sound great together. knobman michael is righteous to work w/here - a true test of someone's studio charachter is doing overdubs w/them and find where the frustration limit is and michael's pretty even keel which is mana in my book. we even have our first pro tools crash of the whole recording but it doesn't phase him and him being smart about saving and backups insures we lost 'pert-near nothing. grazie molto.
eight pm and fuck these lame takes we did on "beltsandedman" cuz we'll do better w/jer tomorrow so why waste energy? I take pete and witnessman tom to the mazich abode - funny comments from tom about how some parts kind of sound like some of genesis' "the lamb lies down on broadway" tunes - alright (as watt gags)!
man, I'm beat and didn't even play a note! I was just so caught up w/keeping total focus on the moment all day and that's intense! I get home, make some oatmeal, hit the deck, cover w/blankies, talk to my pool man friend tony on the phone for a little bit and then konk about nine. out.
pete and jer during a take
day five - wednesday, january 21, 2004
jer came to p/u me and tom around noon as usual and we headed on down to the studio. mike was already there when we arrived and he wanted to move the number 3 leslie to the side lines and do the tracks w/number 2, the "dead" leslie which is basically a stock 145. we were going for a gritty sound and the other one despite sounding warm just didn't sound nasty enough (we would still use it on overdubs). mike and jer tuned up jer's drums individually to the key of the song and we launched into "beltsandedman" for a quick prac. after some starts and stops the drums had to be tuned again and this took up a good part of the day as there were some annoying resonances in the floor tom and it wouldn't stay too much in tune (I was conked on the studio sofa the whole time). having finished w/the drums we launched into the song again and eventually got a keeper track downbut I still opted to leave out my solo in the song until I did overdubs. watt's hand was starting to hurt him real bad so we went right into the next one, "angels gate," which was an uptempo one. we again tried to lay down a usable track to no avail so it was decided to take a chow break aroundsix andwe all munched on some salad and pita bread that michael's wife sally had graciously brought. after the break we stumbled thru about five more takes of the song and managed to get something almost usable down, but again watt's arm was hurting from the repetition and jer was starting to cramp up so it was decided that we would call it a day again and jer would have to come in again in the morning so we could cut it fresh. I would then continue w/my overdubs. we had much work left to do but I was having a blast and the challenge was welcome. manana...
I awake to another great day w/the morning child in rilei at full tilt. She's a great kid and I'm so happy to have her in my life along w/kel. They help ease the thought of being one year older today. Damn! Already 37! Time is a constant. Kel had to attend her winter session class today and I'll have to drop off riri w/her grandfather. My dad just moved to Torrance about 5 months ago after living in the same house since 1956. seems strange not visiting him here in pedro. I get riri dressed and drive to dad's brand new condo. I'm not a huge fan of the condo concept, but it's what my dad and maggy (his wife) wanted. Rilei's been doing great w/my dad, as well he w/her. It's great having him bond more w/her. I leave her in good hands and make for pete's pad. After gathering pete and tom we make for karma. Today were starting on beltsandedman. This is one of the more resent learned tunes(the other five have been toured).
work w/watt on the tuning of the kit. A good sound is found and it's tracking time. I'd say about 15 or 20 takes and we get a couple good one's. I check the drums for the next tune angel's gate and were back on it. This one is a bit more challenging for me. Lots of fast rolls and a 2/4 beat. I also have a drum solo in the middle that has a 3 feel. I tried before to write something, but it didn't fit. So a rewrite is needed. I work one out and we try a few more takes. We get close to a good one when my hunger overwhelms me. I chow some salad and flat bread then go back to the kit. At this point I think the groove is lost for the day. Four hours w/no good takes. Mike calls it and decides to try again tomorrow. This means less rest for his arm, but we've gotta get it done. I take pete and tom home and head back to mine.
watt "feeling it"
pop at four am and do my morning stuff, then head out for land's end. another gray dawn so no bathing in orange/yellow sun but I do get to witness something else righteous: a group of dolphins swimming around the point. man, does it make me want to join them, paddling in my kayak - I am jonesing so bad for that! they are so inspiring for me, like the pelicans and the sea lions - love 'em. I get back to the pad, chimp some recording diary and fix me up the rest of that ground pork and veggies. a montreal friend named jesse emailed to enlighten me to the possibility olive oil might be slightly carcinogenic when it gets too hot so I cook today w/canola oil.
even though we started "beltsandedman" last night and I didn't stay to hear the two takes we did, I'd been thinking about all morning. I want to different sounds coming out of jer's kit so I have him take the front head off his kick drum and ask him to stuff his flannel inside it, then put on the backup kick drum head we keep in the boat instead of the one we've been using - it's one w/a hole in it for a mic and this one from the boat has no holes - the style steve hodges likes to use (old school). this'll give us more "dome" ("foom" or "moof") and less "face" (slap). we get a problem though w/this much "foom" coming out now - the bottom heads of the toms are ringing away so I have jer take them off - 70s "concert tom" style. hey, it works and we get a trippy kind of psychedelic-groove thing going - just what I think is needed for this tune. for "beltsandedman," think of a ken doll w/the pants pulled down - all smoothed out. including the tuning, this drum prep took a couple of hours but I think it was worth it. what takes even longer is getting a good take. my forearm gets progressively weaker and it really gets tough for me. such a simple bass part but lots of glisses and this seems like some of the hardest moves for me to make - that and trying to play w/my thumb behind the neck so that's why I've been playing the "cheat" way - wrapping it over the neck. any pulling on the tendons just gives me the greatest hell. too hard for pete to keep track of where he is in his solo (his biggest one on the record) so I'll tell him we'll do it later in an overdub. finally we get a take I like and start tearing down the special setup for the drums to return it to it's regular state.
ok, now done w/the purgatorio part, we move on to the paradiso one (for me, getting to once again pluck my bass and pedal my bike was definitely paradise!), the first song of this final set of three is "angels gate" - named for the opening in the breakwater to our harbor. it's the fastest tune of the record. we tune the drums around the key of e and use jer's friend tim's wooden snare. the first takes are almost pretty ok except for getting a little lost in the form but then jer kind of whines for some chow so I relent and we take a break. big mistake cuz when we come back, all the focus is lost and we can't do this song worth shit. I'm not blaming jer, just stating what's pretty obvious, we've lost our handle on this one. digesting chow takes energy, just like laming you for a gig if you eat too close to when you have to play. it's ok cuz life's a teacher, right? and we're all still learners, right? and if you stop learning, you stop living - right? right. much repect to both jer and pete for their dedication and to the michael/mike cats in the control room for their pateince. I have witnessman tom scholte take pictures of us while we're playing w/the little digicamera. at leasat this playing is good prac for tomorrow, huh? the only bad thing is my arm is fucking ready to fall off - I start refering to myself as "little wing" even. gotta keep your sense of humor - always cuz it helps much. I show michael and mike this place on the web that pays tribute to one of the most truly gentle band leaders ever, buddy rich (see the "my buddy" - a four act passion play site) - noting the special techniques buddy used to "connect" w/his band and keep them inspired. at seven pm, I call it a night and tell jer to come in tomorrow and we'll get this tune one way or another. it was supposed to be a pete overdub day but we'll get to that once we get this cuz I really want all the drum kit stuff done by friday but still spreading things out as much as we can so I can go easy on this weak forearm. I thank everyone for all their help and then bail quick.
man, was today a test! not an intense as either saturday or monday so maybe I am healing up a little. it was still a fucking stuggle. I even changed one of the main turn-around riffs in that last tune so I could play it w/my ring finger and pinky instead of using the index and middle ones cuz I could keep the bass neck deep into my palm and not have to stress my arm otherwise. where there's a will, there's gotta be a way - whatever works to get this happening. I still gotta laugh at this situation - life is a hoot, huh? still, I feel lucky big time I get to do music - period. I have some oatmeal and then konk right out cuz this wattster is really beat.
los angeles harbor's angels gate
day six - thursday, january 22, 2004
I was awakened by tom around 11:20 AM; I had been up till four the previous evening working on my new hammond rig and the time just flew by before I knew it. it's a major amount of work but will be well worth the effort once I am finished - I may bring it for the next tour if it's completed by then (many thanks to my guitar playing friend chris hanlon for the gracious donate-it has a good home now). anyways, I ran into the head and quickly washed my face then flew into the kitchen to get some coffee going. I had no sooner put the coffee mug to my lips when I heard jer honking out in the driveway; I downed the hot liquid in one extended gulp, yelled out a quick "bye" and ran out w/tom in tow (but not before jer honked another four times).
we got down to karma and watt was not there yet so I turned on the organ and leslie to warm them up for a bit. I was pretty confident that we were going to lay down a decent version of "angels gate" today as we were starting fresh and there was no chow to weigh us down. we launched into it and had some great tracks down in a few hours - jer left and then I went and did some overdubs on "beltsandedman"; I knocked them off relatively fast (cleaned up all my clams), but I still didn't do the long solo on it as I was having problems concentrating on the timing and the body of the solo at the same time so we decided to move on to the dubs for "angels gate". I had a blast doing these as watt had me do these long glisses into certain sections and some really fast arpeggios over the top of the verses; after awhile the arpeggios began to drive everyone insane from the constant repetition and it was burning out my ears and concentration so watt said he would pick me up on friday an hour earlier so I could finish up my dubs on the tune before jer arrived. much, much respect to knobman michael, helperman mike and watt for having a great deal of patience w/me.
... and knobman michael giving him the go!
pete "the arpeggiator" ready for an overdub...
I wake late and get over to pete's. we have only to lay down angel's gate and then pete will work on his overdubs. Everything is set up from yesterday on this one. We began going for takes and run into more obstacles w/the drum licks. I finally after about 3 hours get a good take. This song is the toughest for me to play. Lots of interchanging parts that the drums tie together. Sometimes I over think some of these jams. I need to be more in the whole and less in the moment. Still it's a good take and we can move on tomorrow to the next one. I quickly gather my stuff and leave for the day. I decide to use the off time to get some gear at the shitar center. The 13i tom head is flapping and we'll replace that one. Also, the snare I borrowed from tim bender needs a little help w/it's tuning lugs. I can't get eem to stop detuning during single takes. So I buy some nylon washers that might help w/the problem.
pop at five am and do mostly what I've been describing every early morning. the gray has lifted some and I get a great sunrise display, righteous. I cook myself up some chicken breast and veggies and then head on downtown to the studio. michael's wife sally's there and wants to know about this buddy rich stuff so I show her another site on their 'puter (a graphical interpretation this time, the "buddy's habits," the buddy rich unofficial comic book site) that further illustrates the gentle and nurturing ways buddy would lavish on his band members. she is amazed.
jer shows up but no pete. whoops, I thought he was going to go get him when I didn't get a call from him this morning (he said he might be late cuz he had to watch his daughter while his wife was at school). he gets pete and witnessman tom, then it's back to trying to get this "angels gate" tune down. first I say "happy birthday, jer" (it's number thirtyseven for him, two years younger than pete) and then I have him change the way he goes into these drum fills, having him jump in earlier so it works better w/the bass lick. about four hours later, we get two takes worth saving and listen up. a tough tune for jer but I commend him on his dedication. not only was I hurting but he was cramping up himself. another thing tough about the tune is that he's got a drum solo in the middle of it and that flusters him a little. he does good enough though.
I go get a carnitas taco at jolly burrito and get back to direct pete w/some organ overdubs. first I have him do a simple two-chord pad part, sort of like a thick rhythm guitar under the whole tune. then taking a cue from that old english punk band, the stranglers, I have him do arpeggios between the verses. what I want to convery w/this tune is an urgency, a hankering to really get the fuck out of bed after being laid up so long and these arppegios help w/that big time. amazing how pete's fingers can fly - all those piano lessons when he was a kid is paying now, huh? many thanks to his ma and pop. some of these punches are pretty tedious cuz he has to come in after vocal breaks w/nothing to cue him but michael is great, stepping him patiently through this hell. we 'pert-near get it all done but all the intense focusing is starting to take it's toll on pete so I tell him and michael we'll quit for tonight and come in an hour early tomorrow to get the rest done before jer gets in.
seven-thirty pm when I say bye/thanks and take pete (helperman mike calls him "the arpeggiator" as we bail - right on!) up to his pad. we talk about what's going down - I love his enthusiasm for the project, it's invigorating. I couldn't ask for a more happening comrade to collaborate w/on something like this. watt's a lucky man. I get back to my pad, talk to my old friend pool man tony for a little bit from the deck on the phone and then konk like that. I am worn out.
day seven - friday, january 23, 2004
my trusty old bulova alarm clockroused me out of slumber around nine am; I felt light-headed and nauseous and I immediately had to run to the bathroom for a blow out - this did not feel like a flu virus, but rather like food poisoning - tho' I could not imagine what I had eaten that would've triggered this deluge. I felt a little better after the expulsion but my head was throbbing and I felt weak. shit! I woke up lil as we had some errands to do and then she would schlep me over to karma for the recording. I called up watt and left him a message that I already had a ride, then me and lil went to do our errands. she tried talking to me to cheer me up but I was feeling bad and not much in the mood for talking, so she just rubbed my hand reassuringly and we drove the rest of the way in silence. we pulled up in front of karma and promised to come back later and bring me some chicken soup (lil always takes good care of me). I went in and watt was already there and I explained my situation to me; he was concerned but I told him I would pull thru and give him one-hundred percent.
I ambled my way to the B3, put the cans on, and got to work recordingthe arpeggio dubs for "angels gate" and even tho' I nearly hurled all over the keyboard several times, I soldiered on and nailed the takes (running to the head a few times in between). jer showed up and I napped on the couchwhile he and watt tuned up the drums for "pluckin', pedalin' and paddlin' " - the second to the last song that we had to do the basic tracks for. I was overcome by chills and I snagged a blankie from near the leslie iso' room and wrapped myself up in it. knobman michael graciously offered me a sweater of his which I put on immediately. ppp was a medium shuffle and we got some good takes down by mid-afternoon (albeit w/a few clams on my part), then we took a short break. I took this opportunity to run to the head a few more times and then took another nap on the sofa. helperman mike woke me up as we were ready to do the last track, "pelicanman" and I lumbered back to the B3. lil showed up w/some chicken soup, fresh strawberries, and a jacket god bless her, and watched the proceedings for a little while. watt started the song out and me and jer drew a total blank on it; the only part that I could remember was the bridge section and vaguely at that. watt became a little frustrated w/us because we had to get some good drum tracks down by today because the rental overhead mics had to be returned by saturday. watt kept playing the opening lick for me and slowly the song started coming back (I had written some of it down on paper so it wasn't a total mind fuck). knobman michael informed us that the rental mooks weren't picking up the mics 'till monday, whew! a big relief for all of us. we kept going over the song andafter about an hour - we had it down good enough to where we laid down a reference track and then decided to call it a day as I had to go to my regular friday dui class. it'd been an intense day for me feeling sick and all, but everything had turned out great. one more song to go...
I get up late once again. I kinda feels good not having the stress of the dock job during the days. I chow some food and head to pete's for the daily p/u. I get there and start honking. Nobody comes out. So I honk some more then phone the pad. No answer. What's up? My best guess is that he's already gone. I jam to the studio and finds him there working on organ. I ask why he didn't tell me he had a ride. It slipped his mind. There done w/the o-dubs and I start w/the reheading and tuning. Today were doing pluckin', paddlin', pedalin' first. This song has a shuffle feel to it. I suck at shuffle's year's ago I played part time in a blues bands just to work out the shuffle technique. I never prac this style.
w/everybody ready we begin. Pete's seems to have a brain fuck on this tune. Many times he forgets the count of the parts. Can't blame him though. We do much counting on these songs and I get confused too. Still we stick to it and get a couple keeper tracks in about 3 hours. Pete's feeling kinda lame as well from a food poisoning. That shit sucks, as I should know from the case I had a week and a half ago. He gets a break as I start to tune the kit for the final song on the record. Pelicanman has a more rounded feel compared to the rest of the record. I as well as pete soon find we'd forgotten most of the arrangement since last week. Only a couple days were spent on learning it. Looks like we'll use the rest of the time today relearning then tune. After an hour or so we pack it up as me and pete both have meeting to attend. I p/u kel and rilei and drop pete at his meeting.
I pop at four and find my forearm feeling a little better. not all healed by a long shot but a little stronger and not hurting as much. it being friday, I get some fresh salmon on the way home from catching the sunrise - another bright one. there's also boneless chicken breasts for ninetynine cents a pound so I get four packs. hate to sound a little domestic but that's a fucking good price! what I do is individually wrap each piece and put them in the freezer so I can chow them as needed. I cook the salmon up w/broccoli and green beans to make for some righteous eats.
pete's wife ljil brings him to the studio today and we talk a bit about chow and stuff like that. she's gonna bring pete some chicken soup later cuz he puked his brains out last night, maybe food poisoning. damn, brother matt got tha last week and jer the week before - what's up?
pete finishes up his "arpeggiator" stuff and then I have him do one more pass where he sort of doubles jer's kick drum in the bridge parts (where me and pete trade off this spiel: "to get to pedro - to get from pedro") and that helps smooth things further. alright - all done just in time for jer... he shows up confused - whoops, forgot to tell him ljil took him today. sorry, jer. we tune up the drums for the "pluckin', pedalin' and paddlin'" tune. this one's sort of a shuffle and shouldn't be too tough but I should be still about that, huh? we use jer's piccolo snare and tune the drums up around d. he puts a new head on his rack tom. we go at this song nice and easy cuz that's kind of the feel I want for it, sort of a grateful feeling, somewhat relaxed. we get some good takes after about an hour and a half, great. we get another crash w/the pro tools but michael gets us back happening quick.
we tune the drums up for this last tune, "pelicanman" but my ears are having trouble hearing the pitch right. hmm... wonder what's up? what's even more frustrating is finding out both pete and jer have totally forgotten what I showed them to play in this song! aaaaaarrrrggggghhhhhh!!! it's totally understandable though cuz we've been focusing so much on a tune by tune basis and this was the last one I taught them. looks like the rest of the night is going to be a prac session though cuz we gotta refresh the minds on this one. as the inferno tunes had mostly descending riffs and the purgatory ones ascending, this paradiso section has little loops or what pete and jer call "wheels" - symbolizing infinity. this song is kind of trippy cuz it all seems like such a mystery to me how everything, well, "works" (kind of). I don't know, I'm in awe of the whole deal, really. no answers from watt, only forever wondering. I know love is somehow a big part but that's such a BIG idea in what it means in any kind of certain sense. all I know for sure is I that went through one crazy-ass journey. a bunch of prac runs through the number and we gotta call it quits at five cuz pete's got his class. I feel kind of stupid for getting a little angry at my guys cuz they're quite righteous and I'm blessed to have them aboard here w/me. I dearly hope they know I think nothing but the best of them.
day eight - saturday, january 24, 2004
woke up at 11:15 after a really good nite's rest and I felt so much better and stronger. today we would lay down the last track of the album, "pelicanman" and I was really excited about it - the songs were really coming together and I was much proud of the work we had done so far - I also really love working w/watt and jer in the studio as we make a great band together.
jer honked the horn around noon and me and tom went out to the front - only to see him drive away. what the fuck!? I ran back into my pad and rang him up on his walkie-talkie; evidently he had called minutes before and my little man tony had intercepted the call and told him that I had left already so jer thought that we had gone. he swung back over, picked us up and we sped down to karma.
watt was already there and after warming all the gear up we launched into the tune. there was some clammage present but we got down a very good take of it (after about 30 or 40 trys). I know this all makes us sound like incompetent fucks but the studio sitch is way different than the live gig; this shit is going down for posterity and you have to be very cognizant of every nuance and how it fits in w/the whole. the music is very demanding band-wise also. after we had put the track down, jer went do some overdubs on the tune while I conked out on the sofa (it seems to beckon me). jer wakes me up when he's finished and I go in to do my overdubs on the song; I complete them w/o much hassle altho' knobman michael had to set up a click track in one of the parts as it was in a really awkward place and there was nothing to reference any timing to. the click helped out a lot and Igot the track down quick after that. Ithen moved on to overdub a short solo on "angels gate". after doing about five or six takes I got one that watt really liked but I still wasn't satisfied; watt and tom were already walking out the door but I had helperman mike let me do another pass. The last one sounded like the keeper to me but we would listen to it again on monday w/fresh ears. today was a good day.
jer doing a drum overdub for "pelicanman"
pop at four again. plenty of overcast makes for a no-show w/the sunrise but it's neat being outside so early anyway - I can just imagine pedaling or paddling my busted-up self through my town. time we will heal me - I just gotta be patient. sure am jonesing bad though. I get back, chimp some diary and then head on down to karma.
ok, last tune... here we go. about two hours of takes and we get a good one. well, pretty much. there's an intense section for jer where he has to really double up on his rolls so I ask michael if we can punch in drums (!) and he says it's a go - one of the neat things about pro tools. I go into the room w/jer and snap pictures of him while he's making his passes. it takes him a bunch but finally he comes through. good job. I wanted to try and get things sort of "seemless" for this tom-pounding part so I have him overdub the crashes next (you might not know it but grant hart overdubbed 'pert-near all his cymbal parts on the husker du records - he very much like his drums "seemless" w/cymbal wash). during the take w/me and pete, jer played only cymbals in the parts where I'm gonna have him overdub tympani when I borrow one perk has in a few days. some gong too! you can try trippy stuff out in a studio, huh? imagine trying to fit a timp and a gong in the boat for tour, whoa!
now it's time for pete's overdubs for this one. he's gotta fix some clams plus I want him to do another pass in parts to heighten the "drama" we've got going in this one. I go get a carnitas taco at jolly burrito again - third day in a row! good thing I have only one cuz they really pile the pork up high. they got some really good jalapeno and garlic clove condiments too and I smother my chow up big time w/them. I only take a few minutes to do this - mostly we work straight through our days cuz I run out of gas quick come nightime. I head back to direct pete and he does really good. there's a part where he's gotta come in blind - like w/the "angels gate" tune so I think there must be a better way to get him in than just having him constantly guess and just make a stab at it. I have michael set up a four count click and back it off so it's four hits the one of our punch. pete nails it, good man.
we put up the "pluckin', pedalin' and paddlin'" tune and I realize there's four takes. I go for the first one cuz it's got the most life. one danger of playing a tune too much is like james jamerson (who was a HUGE influence on my bass wrestling) said, "rigor mortis gets in the groove." shit gets too careful and the playing tepid. I have pete fix his clams here. then we move on to his solo in "angels gate" and after three keepers we call it quits at 7:30. I really liked the first one cuz it was just about to skitter over on its side but he wanted to do two more to "get it right." I think they were too careful though and a little "too regular" but I didn't want him to feel stifled.
on the way to pete's pad to drop him and tom off, we stop at the prac pad to pick up my amp - both of them helping me in my hurt state is very much appreciated. I have a gig hellride gig w/perk and peter tonight in santa monica. the gigs where we're playing are really late so it's good I'm having us take tomorrow off from the studio. heap big thanks to mike and michael and we'll seem again monday.
day nine - monday, january 26, 2004
popped out of bed at around 10:30AM and splashed some cold water on my face then went to go get the coffee machine going for a little blast before I took off to karma. today I would be more than likely doing the last of my organ overdubs but they would be some heavy ones for me; my main solo on "beltsandedman" and a little mini one on "a reed 'round my waist". I was feeling not a little nervous about the BSM solo; not because I felt it was beyond me, but due moreto the fact that it was very much out of the scope of what I was accustomed to doing - me being classically trained on the piano where thinking out of the box is strongly discouraged and nothaving been exposed to jazz early on (I had only gotten a taste of it in my later years), this was an entirely unique experience for me - watt wanted a modal type solo (based around a single chord) w/ascending spiral figures formed around individual notes of the chord -to add to my confusion, the solo was divided into seven sections of three figures each w/a gradual buildup toward the ultimate peak ( and it couldn't clash w/the bass). also, as an added bonus, there would be a cameraman there shooting the whole proceeding. bottom line, I was afraid of coming across as a musical retard on what should be a shining musical moment on my part. fuck it, I figured. it's a challenge and I felt fairlyconfident that I could pull it off and learn something in the process - after all, when you stop learning, you stop living.as Idrank my coffee and pondered the job ahead, I looked around and didn't see tom, then sheepishly remembered he had left the night before to crash at his friend's pad in culver city as he was leaving back to vancouvertoday. too bad, I had enjoyed rapping w/him much - he's a very articulate catand I hoped I would see him again soon. I also hope he wasn't too put off by the general nuttiness around my pad. much respect.
jer called me around noon to inform me that watt was still in transit to steve perkins' house cause' he had to borrow his gong, tympani, and bongos for some overdubs that jer had to do and it looked like he was going to be a little late. he said he would call back as soon as he found out what was going on. I went and checked my email and puttered around in the garage for awhile - jer called me back soon after to inform me that watt was already down at karma waiting for us and that he (jer) would be over to pick me up in a few minutes. as soon as I hung up w/jer, watt called to ask where we were and I informed him that we were on our way. jer honked outside a little while later and we rolled down to karma. we arrived in a few minutes and watt was there listening to "a reed 'round my waist" trying to decide which track would be a keeper. there was only one cameraman present, a cat by the name of cal, and I introduced myself to him. watt informed me that I was doing the "beltsandedman" solo first so I went to go turn on the B3 and leslie for the shaming. watt set up the talkback mic right next to me and leaned on the hammond and we went thru a few passes so I could get a feel for the parts (he voiced out the different chord sections for me so I could concentrate more on the actual body of the solo). I initially did a whole lot of stumble-fuck in the beginning but watt was (extremely) patient w/me and we joked the whole time so I felt very comfortable. at about the twentieth take we took a short break and wentoutside for a little spiel. in the course of our conversation he explained to me a few things that were bothering me about my execution and I suddenly had an epiphany and clued in to what he wanted (it was like he had opened a locked door in my mind). we went back in and started back up again and despite some bad starts and stumbles I managed to put down a decent take. watt was very encouraging the entire time and even tho' he felt that the take was a good one, he allowed me the opportunity to give it another shot in a couple of days (we'll decide after listening w/fresh ears). strangely enough, even tho' cal the cameraman had been there the whole timefilming, I had been so focused on the track that I hadn't really noticed him (to his credit, he did a wonderful job of hovering in the background). jer was up next w/some percussion overdubs and I went to go rest my head and ears on the comfy studio sofa. jer had finished his dubs when watt suddenly remembered that I still had to do the solo on "a reed 'round my waist" - I went back in and knocked it of pretty quick - a strange, funky little solo but I was really happy w/it-and it fit in well (albeit knobman michael had to do a little pro tools chop-chop at the end due to my lead hand). jer went back in to finish his overdubs and I laid out on the couch, happy as a clam reading the stacks of "mix", "eq", and pro audio mags. at around 6:45 PM, watt decided to call it a night; knobman michael had graciously donated all of his old audio mags to me - I grabbed as many as I could fit under one wing and me and jer headed for home. I was in much good spirits and looked forward to tomorrow.
jer gonging it up (as in "al eingang" - do a google search of that name)
pop at four once more and head down to land's end in the boat to catch the sun like a big red meatball coming up the a gray haze band on the horizon. trippy. come back to find a couple of johnny jump-ups have blossomed in my little flower box in front of my pad's hatch that I planted, great cuz I love 'em. I cook up some chicken w/veggies and then roll on down to karma.
no witnessman tom today cuz he's leaving back for canada today at one. it was nice of him to come visit/help out. saturday night I took him to the gig - man, was that a tough one for me but a little easier to do than the banyan one a week and a half before that. also really late! I mean late for watt - I didn't get to konk 'till like three am and then I had breakfast w/my ma early sunday morning. one thing neat about the gig was getting to see shawn london again - it's been quite a while. shawn was a helperman on those porno for pyros tours I helped those guys w/in 1995-6. what's great too was josh bagel singing "I got a right" w/us near the end of the gig as well as texas terri helping us out w/her pipes as well. great to see those folks again. of course, I love perk and peter much too. after I chowed w/my ma, I took tom on a tour of pedro, showing him places significant to me and d. boon's early music stuff - like the apartment where d. boon was living where we started the minutemen, the prac pad in the shed at the back of george's house by the high school, the navy housing I moved to from virginia, the park western part of pedro where me and d. boon lived as teenagers, the tree in peck park where I met d. boon - where he jumped on top of me! - stuff like that. he's got a tape recorder and asks me a lot of questions. he never really knew the minutemen - he was too young for that and rather knows a lot more about fIREHOSE stuff but has worked his way backward to learn more about d. boon, george and myself. he gives me a book by david orchard called "the fight for canada" as a goodbye gift. thank you, tom.
anyway, first thing to do here in the studio is get going on pete's "beltsandedman" solo. now what I want here is to convey the sense of going slowly up a mountain, like in cornices cuz that's how dante envisioned his purgatorio so I'm having pete go up from a d to c over twentyone bars (seven intervals at three bars each). it's hard for him to keep his place so I coach him by standing in front of his organ and pointing to him while saying the interval at the right time (d to f# to b to e to g to a to c). I want him to keep in dminor7 the whole time, like it kind of represents the mountain and each interval is the ascending cornice. it's not like he stays on each interval but does ascending motifs centered around them, keeping to the dminor7. pete's not used to this kind of thinking but gets what I mean better when I leave the "music talk" behind and describe in a literary sense, like w/explaining dante's vision. there's a nice cat named cal who was sent by fletch at columbia (my product manager and good friend since I've been at the label - thirteen years now, come next month) to film some studio going-ons for some promo regarding the record when it comes out and he's really good about being "invisible" though maybe that's cuz I'm pretty used to that stuff... pete on the other hand seems like he feels a little "on the spot" but I reassure him that nothing matters but us and the tune here, in this moment. pete's great about not putting on a hissy-fit or any kind of shit like that and does the do, I dig much his stoic strength - it's quite admirable and he soldiers on solid. much respect to pete.
a couple hours later, I'm ready for jer to do his big gong hit. I go get a taco carnitas at jolly burrito, come back and he does good. I'm gonna use this all over the piece, especially in the first and last tunes. I actually have him do the coda part of the last song ("pelicanman"), playing like rolling waves of slight thunder. then I recall him missing a kick drum in the start of a bass solo I got in "tied a reed 'round my waist" so I have him hit that. done. then there's a bongos solo (bongos borrowed from perk) I want jer to do in "pissbags and tubing" but one w/sticks instead of hands (jer's not too up on the hand technique w/these). a few tries and he does good. then I have pete do his little solo in the same tune (all three of us trade them off in this song). it's a good weird one, pretty off-kilter and that's a big reason I dig it. good job, guys. we try and try to get a good sound from the tympani but no luck, damn. too much rattle off that head and won't tune. perk's used this on many tours so it's very understandable. oh well, we tried. almost seven so bye-bye time - big grazie moltos to both mikes for helping us so.
day ten - tuesday, january 27, 2004
woke up at the usual hour and made some coffee, then went to go peruse my email; within minutes jer was honking in the driveway and we made our way down to karma. there wasn't really much for me to do today, just listen and watch, so this is what I did (in addition to reading countless back issues of audio mags) while jer did tymp overdubs on "beltsandedman." lensman cal was present once again to video the proceedings and I rapped w/him for awhile - very nice cat. once jer was done w/his parts he took off, while me and watt stuck around as hehad to lay down some bass tracks to replace the ones he felt were weak. we spent a good amount of time setting up the bass amp and several effects that he would be using on the tracks however once the sounds were up in the board, watt could not seem to get a noiseless feed or a tone that was to his liking. knobsman michael suggested that he rent or purchase an aguilar bass preamp, and after some searching on the internet, a pad in the valley was found that had one in stock. not having much of the day left we opted to go up there and purchase the piece and watt would commence w/the recording of the bass tracks the following day. mike asked me if I wanted to tag along and not having much else to do I said yes and helped him load up perk's tympani, bongos, and gong so we could return them (perk lives up in the valley near where we were going). once we got up there we went and picked up the aguilar and took off towards perks', but the traffic was bad and mike opted to go back up himself the next day for the return. we made our way back to pedro - didn't get much done today, but that's the way it goes sometimes...
four again as pop comes to launch me into my day. oatmeal, coff, then to the boat for land's end to greet senor/senora sunrise. there's lots of clouds on the horizon but not the haze so it's not a fireball sunrise but rather a "light show behind the clouds" kind of thing. pretty righteous. I get back and mail a cd-r I made of me reading some of my tour spiel during the three days of that stooges reunion at the coachella festival, back in april of last year. there's a dvd of last august's stooges detroit gig that just came out and the folks putting it out (mvd) had me write the liner notes and wanted for promo me spiel that tour stuff I chimped. I fucked up the mailing address so it came back and I gotta mail it again! aaarrrgggghhhhh! so many things on my mind these days!!! still no excuse cuz what an honor to get to do that for those cats!
I grab this little m-audio oxygen8 midi controller I use sometimes to get drum parts going at my little studio thunderpants I got going here at my pad (pro tools digi002 through my mac g4 agp sawtooth - where me and kira are doing the next dos album) and bring it down to the studio. michael's got some sample of tympani and I'm gonna have jer play it via the oxygen8 device. it's like a little three octae keyboard. he can fire off the sample w/the note we need and play it just like an instrument, using fingers though instead of mallets. I have him put his parts in "pelicanman" and though it takes him a few tries to get the hang of it, he does good. thanks jer. his done w/all his bits so he packs up his drums and bails.
my turn now. I have to replace all the clammed-up shit I blew when we tracked these tunes, mainly to get good drum takes. well, the bass playing was pretty weak except for "puked to high heaven" and "tied a reed 'round my waist" but what's really noticiable is the weak tone throughout not to mention a lot of noise. oh boy. I've used this eden navigator preamp on a lot of tours - it's beat up and shows it. nothing seems to help. it's served me well through all the hell but it's obvious she's hosed. I've had one side of it gone out for a while now (it's stereo). damn... I have to stop for a bit and think this out... michael suggests the aguilar db-680 preamp and I've played through one of those before and dug it. I go to the company web site and find the closest pad they got listed that sells it is in the val, sherman oaks. well... three pm - just a few hours of work in the studio today but I'm have to weigh the fact that putting any more time into this setup I got going now would be a wash, especially if I do want to use a new preamp so why not call it a day and get up to the val as quick as we can (the fucking traffic is coming up on major plug-time now, shit). michael agrees and so I ask pete to come w/me for two reasons: one, he's righteous to talk to and two, I can use the car pool lane and weather some of that sucking tail pipe hell in the river of metal, glass and rubber. pete's a dear and agrees to come.
we get the preamp at a pad called the amp shop (also called "bass exchange") off a guy from georgia (the country, not the u.s. state) who let's me fire it up and make sure it's kosh. sure enough is - great! only an hour and half to get up here and I was going to try and drop perk's stuff off (he's further west but still in the val here - in tarzana) but the plug is fucking big time. two more hours to get back to pedro and I'm beat. I drop pete off and thank him much. david yow and his friend deb come by to visit but I'm pretty subdued and probably was lame conversation. so great to see him again though - he's just moved near santa monica here in cali from the midwest. loved his bands scratch acid and the jesus lizard - good stuff. thank you much for visiting me in pedro!
watt ready to re-do his takes w/his moon bass
day eleven - wednesday, january 28, 2004
pop at four and hear rain outside. I go through my crack of dawn paces and then head out to land's end in the boat. barely any rain out here but everyhting wet and gray haze hemming in the sun show. neat way everything's lit up silver-blue though. get some good shots of big can boats (container ships) coming in through the angels gate and into the harbor. I'm in a weird introspective mood this morning but in the long run, I think that's kind of healthy as long as one is good enough shape to take some blows. facing facts is cathartic!
today is the first day w/out any of my secondmen - just me, michael and mike. I know, that sounds bizarre. cal comes by to film some more stuff too. the mission for the next few days is to put good bass on the tracks. we hook up the new aguilar preamp and it sounds great. I run a line from the unbalanced out of it to my qsc plx3002 amp which is hooked up to one of my 4x10 eden d410xlt speaker speaker boxes. michael mics that up w/a sennheiser 421. there's an amp-through output on the aguilar that I run to some stomp boxes, a few of which I borrowed from dear old friend, pool man tony platon (danelectro "french toast" and "chilidog" ones, a russian made "big muff") and my own electro-harmonix "bass balls" and then to my little music man 112b one-twentycombo amp w/the neumann U47 mic on it. since it's in the main room w/the eden box, I build a little "house" out of blankies around the music man amp after michael mics it up so it won't bleed its "dirty" sound (processed by the stomp boxes) into the "clean" sound (straight from the amp). for a third bass signal, we take the direct right out of the aguilar and go straight to pro tools, bypassing the micpreamps.
the aguilar db-680 preamp the eden d410xlt speaker box
the music man 112b one-twenty and the "little house" it lives in
there's a problem when I hook up the thelecaster - she's got noise we can't get rid of, damn. michale asks if we can try another bass. I get in the boat and go back to my pad to grab my 1997 moon jj-4-240b (larry graham model) and 1967 gibson thunderbird II (the one I played at the stooges reunion at the coachella festival last april) basses. the moon sounds the most quiet and has a good fat tone so we go w/that. it's a little easier to play for me (as far as long-scale basses) than the thelecaster though not as much so as the t-bird. michael helps me decide on going w/the moon so that's the verdict: we'll re-do all the bass tracks w/this thud staff and the new amp/direct set up, replacing all I've done before. I was so weak when we started recording that my performances were pretty bad too so it goes w/out saying that the original full-of-clams shit should go.
I want to go in order to keep the sense of the story's flow so we start w/the first tune, "boilin' blazes." whoa, this takes a while cuz of all the stops and then blind starts - lots of the cuing was done w/jer's "monkey face" and it's a pity we couldn't video that cuz besides the comic value, it would've helped big time w/cuing me but whatever, I soldier on and feel quite blessed that michael is so patient and quite a joy to be working w/on this - he's the best. I don't think I've ever felt this comfortable before - the whole scene has always shook me up, especially when that "record" light comes on but he coaxes the best I got out of me. I really dig getting to sit right here w/him in the control room and not have to be somewhere else using headphones - I learned this from working w/ethan (I should say he was another very happening cat to record w/and maybe this time here w/michael reminds me of those days much). I'm more together than the beginning, like I said, but I'm still pretty weak so it takes some tries. we get through the song though - one down. this was a tough one and the others should come quicker. well, I shouldn't say that too loud cuz "burstedman" has some gnarly moves too. we'll tackle 'em as they come. my goal is to get all this bass done before I leave for detroit. oh, there's a "sickness phrase" after the first two choruses and I use tony's "big muff" and michael's "small stone" for the "dirty" channel sound there.
big thanks to michael and then it's back in the boat up to my pad. amazing it's only five minutes - I've never had a recording situation like this! love it. I make some oatmeal and chow it up. then I konk quick after getting the deck ready and my self blankied. noches.
day twelve - thursday, january 29, 2004
pop and proceed through my morning ritual, get out to the boat to find my town totally socked in w/fog. barely a sunrise visible today. it'll burn off though by the time I get to the studio. in the meantime, I make some chicken w/veggies but get so caught up in chimping this recording diary that I space a bit and it's gets a little burned (idiot watt). I shovel it down anyway, then drive down to karma.
just me and michael again today. helperman mike is in the lounge part, konked. we start on "puked to high heaven" - not too tough of a tune cuz the original was played pretty ok if not for the noise and stuff. there's one little middle part I use tony's "french toast" and "chili dog" stomp boxes in the music man amp "dirty" chain to relate some sickness feeling. I'm getting used to playing the moon now and really dig it. michael comments on how weird it is to have a painted neck (it's white, just like it's body and headstock) but I remind him all necks have some sort of finish on it or the oils from your fingers would wreck them up quick. does look weird though, sort of like a pimped-out caddy or something, especially w/the gold hardware. funny.
next up is "burstedman" and this is gonna take some work cuz there's some fast moves and my hurt lets me do only so much. michael is patient and helps me much w/the takes. he builds some comps out of some good ones I manage to pull off. much respect, knobmeister michael! cal was going to come by again but I don't blame him for missing out watching this kind of stuff, it can tedious as a motherfucker. has to get done though so me and michael are focused up tight. I wrote some tough music for this piece, listening back to it now. I must give big time credit to pete and jer for doing as good as they did, even w/some slips in the time, it's happening and I just want to be in there w/them anyway - unlike buddy rich, who cares about "straight" (read: mechanical) time anyways? this ain't the fucking army and we're not a march band! what I'm trying to realte is a story of hurt and healing anyway so to hell w/getting the yard stick out. my guys did real good and I'm proud of them. still wish we could've somehow video taped the session so I could read jer doing his "monkey face" when the cues come up, that coudl've been a little help.
like in the days back w/ethan james at radio tokyo, you end up telling the knobman a lot about yourself, maybe cuz it's a little bit of a self-conscious situation, sitting here next to your engineer and trying to do your best but maybe it's also cuz they make you feel a little relaxed and willing to open up. it is a stressful deal, pulling overdub shifts. things come up too in context to the piece, I feel I want to explain things about this "sort-of opera" so he'll understand more what I'm trying to do. it seems as the years have come up on me, I want to explain things w/my music w/a larger breadth than just song to song and hence another big "piece" like w/"...engine room." I brought him that cd yesterday so it might help too - to maybe know where I'm going, it'd be nice for him to know where I've been. as each part of each song goes by, I explain reasons why I did certain things - relating to him the sickness and healing parts. cal picked up on this yesterday and said I should do a spiel w/him at the end "explaining the whole piece." I'm wondering if that's a good idea for the listeners - I think it's important for the cats working w/me (michael here now and before w/pete and jer as I was teaching them it) but it might make the listening experience to narrow for listeners cuz afterall, it's trippy when folks can read their own meanings into art stuff they experience and maybe it to "tell them how it is" might stifle some of that. I have to think about this.
whoa, my forearm is wore out and we're 'pert-near finsihed w/this tune except for a go-off seciton in the middle. time to "put my hands in my pockets and call it a day" (as jer would say). man, we worked straight through w/no chow but it seemed to time just flew by, like when you're young and taking a really hard calculus test or something. I thank michael and head for my pad, tuckered out big time so I konk swift and hard.
day thirteen - friday, january 30, 2004
pop at four and do my usual. my forearm's a little sore and damn, I left the massager dealio at the studio so it's handrubs for watt this morning. good greets from the sun when we meet at land's end, even w/the gray blankie making it kind of subdued, backlighting the clouds. I watch several can boats make the angels gate, both coming and going like the thoughts in my head.
another day at the studio w/just me and knobman michael continuing w/bass re-dos. helperman mike is at the doctor's cuz of a lump on the bone just below and behind the knee - some kind of cyst that might be cancerous, damn. I'm wishing him wellness vibes, he's a very nice cat. first thing for me to do when we start at noon is to do this sickness part in the middle of "burstedman," the one we almost got done last night. there's three go-rounds in this part w/me in the middle one wiping out w/a weird solo, bookended by two of the same by pete on his organ. I first put the bass parts to these, kind of tough for me to do these 'pert-near whole neck glisses w/my hurt but it's gotta get done so I do my best. luckily the massager can help me between takes. then I go for my solo bit, using this trippy device called a "whammy pedal" by digitech. it can do some pretty extreme things, sampling the bass and producing a tone up to two octaves up or down and many intervals in between w/an up or down stroke of the pedal, sort of like a car's accelerator one. I use the sixth interval to get some pretty sick sounds. oh, like the rest of the song, I got the "dirty" track chained w/the "big muff" and "bass balls" pedal too - the "whammy pedal" is in front of those. it is sort of a mindblow for me to try and convey what I felt as I was so beat up by that sickness shit cuz the memories of those feelings come up and 'pert-near consume me w/remembering them - such scars they left on my mind, let alone the body. better maybe to face it than run though, huh? I get a take I like and we're done w/this one. a relief to both my forearm and pysche.
time now purgatorio bass, the healing part of the piece. I liked the bass I played w/my guys for this first one of the section, "tied a reed 'round my waist" but the tones aren't the best and there's much noise. ok, the moon bass to the rescue. in the "dirty" chain, we use the russian-made "small stone" phase shifter and it gives some buoyancy to my sound. I wrote kind of a bagpipe part for pete's organ and I follow his every other riff-slur w/a little two note figure that pumps it back up. this tune ain't too hard and I get it done 'pert-near quick which is alright w/me, probably for michael too.
I have some phone talk w/my product manager, fletch and we confirm technichal details on how to deliver the piece. different these days w/hard drives instead of tape. the sled/hd sally ordered for me to put my project on arrives and michael installs that into the system. it's a fast 15,000 rpm scsi one that should do much better that the kind of "rickety one" (michael's words) that we've been using. I also call my old friend john golden, who I've mastered records w/since the early 80s to set up a day when we'll master this. he's out of town but I set up february 24th w/his daughter april. he's always jammed up w/projects cuz he does righteous work - so much so that it was very sad for me to have to use someone else w/the "...engine room" opera and april says it was the same for him also. that was in the only time in over twenty years I didn't get to work w/him. this time we got it together though and that makes me happy.
back to bass world. helperman mike gets back from the doc's and shows us x-rays of his cyst. whoa, way bigger than we imagined. the doc says maybe it's mri time and I tell mike I think that would be smart. my good friend nanny got one after very heavy headaches and they found an egg-sized tumor in her head and had to pluck it out immediately - it would've killed he had it been there much longer. damn, is it weird how much we can't tell what's happening inside us? michael puts up "pissbags and tubing" and I hook the "dirty" track up w/just the "bass balls" pedal. there's some "blind" entrances for me on the bass so it takes some tries to get through these. I also have a solo where I try to represent the first little "geisha boy" steps I took on my healing path so the intervals are really small. there's lots of starts and stops w/this tune, kind of jumpy but that's how I was feeling, especially w/the nerve endings knitting together where I was cut open - like lightning flashes constantly. please know I never had any deep sleep for 'pert-near five months and it maybe a little crazy(er). even though this healing stuff hurt a lot, it was still different than before when I was going down - before the surgery. at least I had hope and it gave me a sense of going up - the hurt "made more sense" (does that make sense?) knowing it was working to make me better rather than not knowing what the fuck was wrong and just getting worse and worse. man, to even write about it here stirs up all kinds of hurt in me - damn. the choruses have parts where I give tribute to my sister melinda who helped me much w/the healing of the surgical wounds. twice a day she would pull the fucked-up gauze shit (I had to heal from the inside out so I wouldn't become infected) and pack up w/a fresh batch, needing less and less as I slowly healed. I represent this w/long up and down glisses that each go over five counts. where the last tune was about threes, this one's about fives which is kind of tough when so much "rock" we've learned is in fours. not just timing but the amounts of each part too. there's a dramatic 'pert-near "prog" part I use for the bladder infection I suffered cuz of the tubes letting bugs into me (weird how there was even a fitting for the tube - it was just fed through a tiny slit in my abdomen during the surgery!). "prog" music is a great analogy for sickness, huh? for eight days, it was like trying to piss out fishhooks, damn. we get to the coda and it's s a little tough for me - I start thinking it's sounding a little too mechanical so I re-write the part a bit and we get done at seven which is plenty enough for me today. don't want to wear this fucking arm out too much.
I have to bring perk's stuff back up to him at his pad in the val so I make the hellride w/it in the boat. even after eight at night, there's still much plug on these freeways, aaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh. good to see him and cindy though and I thank him much for the loan of the stuff. I then see bob lee at this club at the other end of the val (the east one), thunderbird and my dear old friend greg "the pope" is there and it's sure great to see him - big, big hugs. bob lee's w/jonathan and heath in backbiter and they're really good but I have to bail soon cuz of tiredness. he was gonna do his last gig w/the rotters but I couldn't hold out. I did get to see some band miss koko was in (she was great!) before backbiter - I also got to rap w/dirty ed, who was doing sound and falling james who has a great band in the leaving trains and also blows minds w/good rock write. I don't go to many gigs these days and I very much miss the friends I used to see at them. I just have to ration my energy out more carefully in the more middle-aged days. it's midnight when I'm on my pedro deck and ready to konk and find my mustache kind of sticky... I got an ice cream cone on the way home - haven't had one of those in a long time. fuck it. I'll get it clean in the morning when I hose off. maybe it's trying to tell me it needs to get cut down some anyway. I'm afraid I'm quite crude w/the grooming shit. whatever, I got other priorities...
day fourteen - saturday, january 31, 2004
pop later today, like around six cuz of my "late night" excursion - man, is my mustache filled-up w/dried-out ice cream, yech... all hard and requiring significant soak in the tub, holding my breath as I keep my face submerged. I roll when I konk and so it also got in my hair (the ones on my head) and the back of my neck. I hurry cuz I want to catch the sun-up and get some veiled action cuz of the clouds. pretty though, lots of magentas instead yellows but still some oranges. before I head to the studio, I chow some of the marinated chicken I froze earlier in the week and then took out this mornig when I popped. w/veggies, it went done good.
I got one more day to get this bass stuff done cuz I gotta fly to michigan early tomorrow morning and work w/the stooges. we got four songs to go so this means I gotta move but these ones left are pretty much easier than most the last batch so I'm confidant I can do it w/michael's ace help. we start off w/"beltsandedman" and right away, listening to what I put on w/pete and jer during the basic tracking, I know I'm gonna need a smoother sound. what I'm getting at is trying to sound like a belt-sander, sort of. it's kind of a hypnotic beat too w/pete playing a line I wrote for him that's 'pert-near a bass part so if I'm in an a-typical bass world w/this one, it's alright. I use my pool man freind tony's danelectro "french toast" distortion pedal. it's way fuzzy... happening. I chain it into the "small stone" phase shifter. I pretty much get the whole song in two passes. there's a bass solo part in the middle so I give a couple more tries w/that - still hard playing w/this fucked-up forearm but at least it's miles beyond from when we began. just the glisses were killing me then. still is hard but at least doable. funny how this record is so challenged w/hurts - sort of like my life was w/that sickness shit (what the record's about!).
done now w/the inferno and purgatorio bass stuff, first up of the paradiso part is "angels gate" and this is probably the toughest of the ones I'm doing today. it's pretty aggressive and there's lots of moves from up on the neck to way down by the nut so I'm in a tough spot. I want a good growl but not the same fuzz that the last tune has. helperman mike gets his friend's "rat pedal" distortion box and I put that in front of the "bass balls" envelope filter. we'd tried every distortion unit in the studio but this combo here gives the best for what's needed here. there's some quick moves needed in the turn-around on each riff so I re-wrote it to use more pinky and less pointer finger cuz it's easier not to be playing w/your thumb behind the neck that way. having it sit deep inside the palm keeps the hurtin' away so much better. michael does some good scissors/glue moves on pete's organ, seems pete was way too roarin' to go and it made it impossible for me to come in on time w/jer. it takes a bit but I get the bass down for this. I used only the front pickup on the moon bass - none of the bridge one.
w/my hand beat up from the last tune, I'm sure glad "pluckin', pedalin' and paddlin'" is next. no effects either, just the direct from the aguilar and mic from the eden/qsc combination. easy to do too, even w/the little bass solo cuz this is what I wanted to convey in this tune: some soft sailing after the hellride - my idea of one side of what part of paradise for me might be: getting to work my bass, ride my bike and journey in my kayak. michael doesn't know how I do the bass under this heavily arpegiated part pete does but it's easy for me cuz that's how I wrote it. smooth seas - if you work it right, almost anything can go over three of something else. that's the point I was trying to make - even nine over three. each in its own way too, not so lock-step in rigid linear lines. too military. I kind of like the way jer's timing is sort of all over the place. it was good w/him and pete doing that in the last song cuz of the urgency but in this one it's good too cuz it calms the shit up even more.
one more to go... "pelicanman" and it's a little tough. I use the "small stone" phase shifter through most of it and for the intense part, just before the coda, I add in the "big muff" gurgling way up there. huge glisses for that part and it's painful big time. I get through it though. even the little intros w/all the delicate stuff were nothing next to that part. there's lots of starts and stops in the verses, almost clock-like (that was the idea in writing it that way) so it took me some tries and w/a full day of playing behind me, tender was too kind of word for my forearm's condition but I got through it somehow. much thanks to michael for his patience and expertise, much respect.
can't believe I got through all four but I did and bail for home at six-thirty, using the starboard hand to drive cuz "little wing" is pretty beat up. tomorrow I fly to frozen parts but it'll be mostly a travel day and my arm can rest. can't wait to see the asheton's and ig again, that's wild. I get my blankies and prepare my konk space on the deck next to couch w/minutes of getting in the hatch. I am beat. no chow, just konk - that's what I need now.
watt belting out some spiel
day fifteen - saturday, february 7, 2004
pop at four, still weirded-out some from the three hour ahead time thing from my five day michigan stay. it was righteous being a guest of mister ron asheton at his pad there in ann arbor, what an interesting gentleman and excellent host he proved to be, not that I had any doubts. even w/such a contrast of climate from my pedro town here (versus 24 degrees farenheit there the first day), he made things great for my stay. what a happening collection of friends too living there w/him: the cats henry, henrietta, patches, otto and baby plus a neighborhood squirrel and skunk that come up to the back sliding-glass door for chow. I got to meet them all. we practiced w/his bro scott and iggy in the basement of the pad niagara and the colonel share in deerborn heights, about a half-hour away from ron's. we got that junior kimbrough tune, "you better run" ready for inclusion on a fat possum tribute record to him, which we recorded wendnesday at thrillpark studio in clawson, a 'burb just north of detroit. we also practiced the set we're gonna do for those japanese stooges gigs coming in march. even though it came smack in the middle of making this record, I'm glad I went and did it. kind of tough on my hurt forearm but I soldiered on and did the best I could. actually, I can feel it getting slowly better.
I get to the studio and we start w/the spiel I have to do, last thing to go before mixing. we start w/"boilin' blazes" and michael tries three mics w/me, settling on the groove tube one we used to mic the music man amp w/when I was re-doing the bass. I have to admit it's pretty weird singing these words I wrote about such an intense hellride I had from that sickness - it's like the memories of it want to rise up and drown me in remembering all that hurt. oh well, it was like this when I was first playing it in front of folks too, on tour w/pete and jer. I notice that the bass I re-did after the choruses now lines up different w/pete's organ so I call him to come on down - I want him to sing his chorus parts anyway cuz I want to mix this album as we go along so I don't have to work my voice too hard but singing it all in one shot. pete brings his hammond b-3 organ and the black "shorty" leslie cabinet which is great too cuz he overdubbed w/that "tall boy" one that doesn't sound nearly as good. I have him re-do the entire organ overdub he did before and then sing his part. whoa, we find out he was singing kind of the wrong intervals a little bit all those gigs live we did! funny how you notice things like that when you're capturing them to a piece of media and not letting the sound just fly out towards the rest of the universe. we all have a good laugh on this.
done w/that tune, we move on to "puked to high heaven" but there's a problem. I didn't bring written copies of the lyrics on purpose cuz I hate the way it sounds - you know, like you're reading it (!) but when it comes time for me to do the second verse, I can't think of the line for the life of me. damn, what a fucking idiot! of course when I ask pete, he doesn't know cuz he never could understand what I was saying at any of our shows. so, here we are and what to do? well it's almost seven anyway so what the fuck - might as we'll put our hands in our pockets and call it a day, right?
driving the boat home, that line I had spaced on comes to me - aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh! I call back to the studio but only answering machine answers me. oh well. I'll bring in the words for michael to have, just in case. weird, I got a stuffy feeling all of the sudden up in my head. hmm... I konk quick after getting, hoping it's not what I think it might be.
petra singing to high heaven
day sixteen - monday, february 9, 2004
oh man, I woke up yesterday w/a head full of congestion - damn. I had the worst nightmares too, total delirium - the kind I usually get when sickness is on me, shit. now I've usually noticed that three days before symptoms come on is where I probably was infected and that puts me at that studio in clawson, mi - where I did the stooges session. aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggggghhhhh. being w/the ashetons and iggy all before that means I would've been sick earlier if it was them so I'm pretty sure it was there. damn. how many things are going are going to try and sandbag this record? guess it all makes sense if you think about what the whole things about anyways, huh? life is a trip. anyway, I went to the studio and told michael about my condition (it was 'pert-near impossible not to notice anyway) and we decided to can the session and continue the next day, monday. oh well. I went back to my pad and konked for the rest of the day big time. never leaving the deck and blankies except to take on soup and piss.
I popped at 3:30 this morning and feel weak but much better than yesterday. I make myself oatmeal and go down to catch the sunrise at land's end. I'm bundled up good, even though it might seem crazy to do this in such a state, I still need my inspiration. yesterday I told michael we were recording today no matter what - if this is the hand life has dealt me then so be it. I come in at twelve and I do fourteen takes of "puked to high heaven" - prettty intense hot flashes and head rushes, especially in the choruses. then I deal w/this delivery guy who's brought the stuff michael wanted to rent to help us w/the mix - reverbs and such. I have to go home and get a check cuz these clowns did not have it together for me beforehand. oh brother, it'd be a total waste to expend any energy writing about this outfit so I won't except to say no referals or repeat business from this goof on bass regarding them ever! life continues to bring me butt-loads of laughs.
I'm wondering where pete is cuz I wanted him to do his parts. I call him and he says he's sick too! aahhh! well, come on down pete - this is our fate. he comes and starts to do his parts but I gotta bail cuz petra haden is going to sing w/us too and I have to get her. she passed the written part of the exam but she doesn't have a driver's license yet. I know, trippy - especially in l.a. but that just way things worked out for her. she's a righteous lady though and will help me much w/her great voice. I drive up and get her in the boat at her sister tanya's in downton l.a. and get us both back to the studio by 3:30 pm.
I listen to what pete recorded and it's all wrong! well, not all but the second line for sure - he missing the interval I did. I'll have him "learn" it by hearing petra do it - her ear is so good, it's like a hot knife through butter to show her anything cuz singing is just so natural to her. what I need is her singing "puked to high heaven" twentyseven times. not like they're in a row but that's the total amount of what she has to do for the tune. michael decides to use the blueberry mic on her. she sounds great. it's easy for pete to re-do his part, he only has to just follow along.
then we do the choruses for "boilin' blazes" and I have her try two different harmonies, one a third and one an octave down from the fifth. she does great. I have her do "puked to high heaven" again, trying to get her to push a little more air so it kind of has that feel of holy rollers at a revival meeting. again, she does great. we chow some at jolly burrito while michael and helperman mike set up for "pissbags and tubing," the one I want to get next. I get a taco carnitas while petra has a burrito. she thinks the chili sauce will help her singing. it helps me and I also fish out the garlic cloves from the sauce bowl to intesify it.
we get back and I have petra in the booth and pete out in the studio room w/myself in the control room w/michael. my spiel is just to keep everyone in time. I have pete doing the third and petra doing the fifth. we have a good time nailing these and by the time we're done, it's 'pert-near seven. jer shows up to see how things are, been more than a week since I last seen him so that's neat. I thank everyone and then roll back up to downtown l.a. a drop petra off at her sister's. she's like pete in the way she's asking me about how to write songs, how to write lyrics - trippy how these talented people haven't done as much in these areas as someone as crude as myself. I have much respect for them and know if they have encouragement, they'll do great. this is one of the goals of why I play anyway - to help uplift people and make them feel good about creating too, right along w/me. I think we all have the potential, just life puts in trippy places at trippy times and it's a mindblow how it all gets connected. I think about this much on my way back to pedro but have to konk quick after reaching my pad cuz there is still sickness weighing on me and I must relent. I try to call pete but get only machine. I do get a hold of jer and say it was good to see him. then a quick talk w/my pool man friend tony and soon I'm out.
february 10 - 16, 2004
this week I mixed everything w/michael - I'll explain this a little better when I can... anyway, here's the lyrics:
mike watt "the secondman's middle stand"
it started right after a gig - a benefit for puppets protesting politics. I threw up my guts, boilin' blazes! fever flamed right up, burned up the pages of my mental book... seconds turned to ages. abandon all hope? no! relinquish all hope? no! surrender all hope? no - I'm gonna make it through this hellride! boilin' blazes, knocked me to the deck while the fever rages, I feel my body wretch... eyeballs poppin', every limb stretched. pain never stoppin', praying for something soft to let me drop in... a dream came: fingers through my fever-drenched hair. said, "be calm, watt. be strong, watt. hold on, watt." nightmare delirium, cooked up in the heat - searing me in. white as winding sheet when I looked in the mirror: sweat pouring out of me. the dark wood of error had me lost and spaced... this pilgrim endeavor! surrender all hope? no! relinquish all hope? no! abandon all hope? no - I'm gonna hold on to my life!
puked to high heaven
oh man, this state I'm in... burned-up w/this fever heat and I'm hurtin'. confused really deep - why won't it bail and let me shake free? for god's sake, please. oh, the feeling when you're just done reeling. I puked to high heaven, puked to high heaven, I puked to high heaven. convulse and twist up, watt - rattle this deck dance onward shot - way beyonder ever contemplating this ever. the seconds slip... where? the seconds hold me now, captive to the moment they bow and trip across the stage - in my head, a tightly packed flame... the moment has me seized.
a life in the moment, is this what you've always wanted, watt? well, here it is w/you tied to it, chained to it, bound to it... no past, no future - just one forever now. oh... down I go, into this pit - tossing and flailing in it... twisting and roiling, blistered and broiling - now way up! pile yet another blankie on cuz you got a bitter chill in your bones, watt. that's the way this works: in your mind: arctic waste... meanwhile, your body blazes! now see that thermometer in your mouth? well, it looks more like a fuse! send that mercury to the top, split the glass and splatter these bulkheads... pop! burstedman. round two: 'round and 'round w/you - mercy seems only a word now as inner keeps becoming outer, the deck continually showered! hold on, another eruption... bone-shook, every tissue thumping as you dance this insane dance w/each spasm. see those photos on the bulkhead, watt? your pop, d. boon, the man... look good cuz you might be joining them real quick. looks like a steaming bath is the only thing that's gonna bring you any relief, watt. lie there languid, blessed mother of fathers... hours and hours... long as that hotwater heater holds out... when a man's tied to a wheel and that wheel turns, he turns. reason forsakes him? faith forsakes him? virgil! beatrice! I know there's stars up there - I can't see them down here but I know they're up there somewhere. the third round: nowhere to go but down. 'round and 'round, thirtyeight days of fever now - what's gonna give? feel that growing in your 'taint, watt? bearing ball to medicine ball, mocking you like you were w/child - ready to punch right through your own bulkhead! and those priests in their white coats, shoving communion pills right down your throat - it won't do you a bit a good now, not here...
tied a reed 'round my waist
the hurt burst, split me open wide... the emergency room doc said I ain't got much time. eyes wide for the ambulance ride, real still watt riding there inside. ears cleared by the siren's sigh - mister paramedic, get me there in time. tied a reed 'round my, reed 'round my, he tied a reed 'round my waist. a tense sense in the county waiting room light, expecting whatever on this crazy hellride. he asked for my anchor - sure, it's alright... take it off my neck if it'll save my life. gassed then passed out for the surgeon's knife, doc hopkins said he's gonna get me fixed up right. and when the cuttin' was done, I laid naked on a table. doc hopkins did good, he did all he was able and as the machine alarms kept going off, all buzzin' and screaming, in my mind I felt all froze yet my body was steamin'. my tongue, all swolled up - like a sack made for sleepin'. words from my cracked lips were somehow still seepin', prayin' "please help me, please help me - god help me, please!" a scripture of pictures, righteous on my eyes - pettibon's art proving to me I'm alive. words heard, traveling through my mind... poet raymond, write me out those rhymes. here, near - always by your side... raymond, my virgil, my 'beyonder' guide.
pissbags and tubing
different now - oh and how what a little hope can shift your bow. afraid to sneak even a peek under the bandages at what I got to keep. whatever, hey - a pittance to pay - if I'm a few parts short... well, I'm alive anyway! healin' hurts but before was worse... it teaches me patience - healthy to learn. an inch at a time as I climb up this mountain, penance-wise. like starting a lawnmower and then stuffing a turkey, "saint melinda!" yankin' it out... then shovin' it in - pissbags and tubing! pride and shame - only a game when you're this helpless, thank god there's grace. folks help me here, simply and clear - they look me in the eye and we wrestle fear. all kinds of cats from all kinds of pasts, here in the moment, hands to grab. and help me help me learn to wash me, start circulating fluids inside me. the rein, the whip - the hospital trip - so good doc hopkins said it's time to split. back in pedro even w/no sueno - so different these days than w/that inferno. brother mark pitched in an ark, a bed of angles for my ass to park. unpack then pack these open gaps - twice a day, melinda helped her brother w/that. hosp again for whirlpool spins: the sea cures all, stimulating. knittin', stitchin' - even a bladder infection but nothing as nightmare as where I had been.
pisstube yanked, dicktube yanked out too. how I laughed when that golf ball bead came through - free at last from tethered by them tubes. balance challenged, gettin' my sea legs... oh, to crack that hatch and take in a deep breath! a sip from the lethe to let my mind forget... sounds of theatre drifted into my head. beltsanded... beltsanded... beltsandedman - smooth man. outside, sunsoaked I was bathed - instead of bulkhead, the harbor filled my gaze... savored the breeze kissing on my face. the oldest boneyard in pedro is where I went, took an hour of many geisha boy steps to make the couple of blocks from my pad. purple flowers growing where I sat. the sky of illimitableness filled my eyes... me, laying there w/a view way too wide to take it whole and hold it in my mind. grabbin' on, I reached and clutched the grass. pinned, the spin of this world held me fast - wordless meaning breathing symbols vast... a mystery play, riddles for its cast.
the angels gate
I've been bassless way too long, hankerin' bad to strap one on - jonesing just to jam out a song! tubes kept me bound up from playing, wounds healing while I was laying but tunes in my head were still wailing! itchin' so to grab on them cables, yank 'em hard as much as I'm able - let 'em ride me the hell out of this stable! the angels gate, the angels gate - gotta reach the angels gate! heave-ho the weight, grab hold the bass and make the angels gate! the angels gate, the angels gate - gotta reach the angels gate! never ever had to stop bassin' since d. boon's ma got me playin' - thirty straight years of flailing! fear seized me by the throat, discovering I couldn't play any notes - atrophied and weak to the bone. my fingers, they could barely move - impossible to get any groove but maybe if I played like a stooge... to get from pedro - to get to pedro, to get from pedro - to get to pedro, to get from pedro - to get to pedro, to get from pedro, to get to pedro, to get from pedro... the angels gate, the angels gate - gotta reach the angels gate! "little doll" over and over, trying to get these fingers bolder - huggin' on this bass to hold her! worried that I'd really lost it, worried that the hellride tossed it - frettin' that the cake was frosted! gotta give respect to dave - his bass lines saved the day, reaching out past the grave!
pluckin', pedalin' and paddlin'
sun in my face, breeze at my back, it's easy to see where heaven's at. to think some think it's a pile of bones or something material like a load of gold. sure, that's fine but in my mind... note for note, each thought a vote: plucked strings singing how much I don't know. stating thus w/this little bass then evaporating in the air w/hardly a trace permanently temporarily... tangents, I imagine kept me confused but being a hellride hostage gave me a clue. complicated thinking can sure wear you out - out at sea paddling or pedaling my route... spinning, simply spinning my wheels 'round. pluckin', pedalin' and paddlin'. pluckin', pedalin' and paddlin'. pluckin', pedalin' and paddlin'. there before the mirror, cross-examinatin' - what use is blaming others and situations? thinkin', linkin' responsibility has helped me open possibilities. still, I find myself hollerin' for help. manifesting watt by learning from others? what a mechanism I've discovered! philosophical a la carte... what works, works: parts is parts. a humbler bumbler, a slow learner... the knowing's in the doing if your sights are such, the hamster wheel turning though drives some folks nuts. but wherever I put myself, there I am - what can you do w/a ridiculous man? put foot to pedal and hand to paddle... man, it's funny how things get organized to make them comprehendible, systematized. a stalag, a gulag or a berlin wall - stuck in the head to strain it all and strangle tight out all the life. structure punctured, hey what gives? here in the sphere of contemplatives. up jacob's ladder, flaming sparks - dancing, glancing - igniting up the dark... a top self-spun, climbing up each rung. cornball ways to express stuff profound, 'pert-near the only thing out my mouth. if I had to relate this experience, a wordless breath would be my closest guess - I think that'd sum it up the best.
twirlin' and swirlin', my thoughts float... infinite circles for this boat, anchored fast w/hope. a wonderin', wanderin's what I am: a pelicanman. leave the tomb for the wisdom of the womb. sure, you can seek her but know you'll never reach her. trippy, how this boat gets tugged in sync somehow w/the stars above which in turn are moved by love. blending, bending - never ending...
(all lyrics by mike watt)
[Columbia Records Mike Watt Bio - July, 2004 - written by Tim Holmes]
"I'm a person who's influenced a lot by what I read," says bassist/spielmeister/indie rock godfather and spinner of fateful musical yarns Mike Watt, a normally voracious devourer of literature who found himself with even more time than usual to spend both reading and contemplating big questions when, in 2000, he became critically ill with a fever lasting 38 days, its climax an abscess bursting in his perineum. During his recuperation, Watt poured over all kinds of books ranging from Manly P. Hall's "Twelve World Teachers" to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to Margaret Cheney's "Tesla: Man Out of Time," a biography of the eccentric enigmatic 19th century inventor, probably best-known for discovering the rotating magnetic field that gives rise to alternating currents, who favored numbers divisible by three.
Watt also used his recovery period to re-read Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy," (he first read it as a teenager) which is divided into three sections: "Inferno," "Purgatorio," and "Paradiso." Both "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso" are divided into 33 cantos ("Inferno" has 34) with each section divided into groups of 3 lines called tercets.
"The Secondman's Middle Stand" is Mike Watt's third solo album and the first to be recorded San Pedro, California, Watt's home-base since childhood (he was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on December 20, 1957), and first to be recorded with a bass (Watt), organ (Pete Mazich), and drums (Jerry Trebotic) line-up. (Mazich and Petra Haden both contribute back-up singing to Watt's salty growl). There are nine (three times three) songs on The Secondman's Middle Stand and, like the "Divine Comedy," Watt's new album is the saga of a pilgrim going through his own inferno ("boilin' blazes," "puked to high heaven," "burstedman") and purgatory ("tied a reed 'round my waist," "pissbags and tubing," "beltsandedman") before experiencing a reconnect to paradise ("the angels gate," "pluckin', pedalin' and paddlin'," "pelicanman").
"That sickness hellride was definitely memorable - it was profound on me," Watt confesses. "It took so much from me, I figured I could take a record from it. It's a journey, like being on the raft with Jim (from "Huckleberry Finn"), going down the river, or Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus walking through Dublin (from James Joyce's "Ulysses") or being with Virgil (author of 'The Aeneid') and Beatrice (Dante's dead love) and going through those crazy things. There's something to be said for being a pilgrim, you keep moving. I'm in the middle of my life. I'm definitely not a beginner and, hopefully, I'm not at the end of the road. The cliche is 'last stand,' but I just couldn't see it being my 'last stand.' Another reason I took to paralleling Dante's 'Comedy,' he wrote that in the middle of his life too. When I read it again, after the sickness, in my 40s, I saw it as a kind of vehicle for him to talk about the intense stuff in his life."
And while, the "Middle Stand" refers to Watt's mid-life journey, the "Secondman" in the album's title pays punning tribute to the Minutemen, the groundbreaking post-punk band formed in January 1980 by Watt and his best friend and comrade in arms, the late D. Boon (they began playing guitar with each other nine years before - a year into that, Boon's mother Marge had Watt switch to bass). While the Minutemen's moniker made a radical reclamation of the term from reactionary right-wing extremists who'd co-opted its original meaning, the "Secondman" refers to both an ordinal position in life's unfolding stages and a specific unit of time. "There's a huge joke that the sickness played on me," Watt allows. "Be careful of what you wish for because, in the sickness, you're totally in the moment. Every thing stretches out because you're hurting and hurting. I never slept because every second took days."
From his earliest years performing with D. Boon and the Minutemen while helping to establish the American indie rock scene through the then-fledgling SST scene, Mike Watt has had a deep sense of purpose although, as he admits, "It's hard to describe the mission, what makes me put almost everything else secondary. When I tour, I conk at people's pads. I play every day. I'm not using it as a means to a lifestyle. I don't really know what the mission is exactly except to do this as intense as I can. It's like being a sailor or something. Sometimes, it does feel as if I've been given orders, a bizarre spin on the minstrel or troubadour scenario, the town crier, the guy that goes between the towns to let the other towns know about each other."
An inveterate road dog (not unlike Saint Bernard in the Paradise section of the "Divine Comedy"), Mike Watt has spent an incalculable percentage of the past quarter century touring in numerous ensembles and configurations. Beginning with the Minutemen in the early 1980s, Watt helped define the "econo-tour," a road warrior-style approach to touring that involved performing the most gigs possible in the fewest days with the lowest possible overhead. Sharing a van with SST labelmates Black Flag, the Minutemen unknowingly created the roadmap of national club routes that the budding Punk Rock Nation would later adopt as its own. Finally, after four years of watching the tour van odometer flip over to zeros, the Minutemen came to an end on December 23, 1985 when a tragic van accident took D. Boon's life.
Watt retreated from music after the loss, though not for long. An avid Ohio-based Minutemen fan named Ed "fROMOHIO" Crawford found Watt's number in the phone book and announced that he was moving to San Pedro to start a new band with Watt and drummer George Hurley. Ever the enthusiast of the path-less-traveled, Watt conceded, and the trio launched fIREHOSE in June 1986 going on to create five studio albums and a live EP, indulging in seven-and-a-half years of non-stop econo-touring (without ever taking label tour support). fIREHOSE signed to Columbia Records, who released the group's final three records before they dissolved in January 1994.
In the spring of 1995, Columbia Records released the first Mike Watt solo album, "Ball-Hog or Tugboat?" The album enlisted no less than 48 different participants including members of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, the Beastie Boys, Soul Asylum, the Lemonheads, and the Screaming Trees. In fact, the tour line-up for Watt's first solo outing included Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder on vocals, the Germ's Pat Smear on guitar, and Nirvana's David Grohl on drums, with Grohl's then-new group, the Foo Fighters, delivering their very first live performances in the support slot. After this tour, he did two more with Nels Cline and two drummers as the Crew Of The Flying Saucer. He then toured for a year as a sideman on bass for Perry Farrell's Porno for Pyros and recorded two songs for their second album. Then Watt trimmed his caravan back to a three-man team and recorded his 1997 follow-up, the punk opera "Contemplating The Engine Room." The thematic effort revolved around three seamen in the engine room of a naval vessel, in sum creating a powerful metaphor for the Minutemen and their road lives in "the boat" (Watt's name for the van he tours in). He brought this around the towns for fourteen months with the Black Gang, a trio that had the album's Nels Cline and Stephen Hodges at different times along with Bob Lee and Joe Baiza.
In addition to his primary efforts, Watt's yearnings for creative output have resulted in numerous side projects beginning with the double bass duo Dos with ex-Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler. In the time since "...Engine Room," Watt has played bass and toured with J Mascis + the Fog and recorded three albums with Banyan, an experimental alt-jazz project with Pyro/Jane's Addiction member Stephen Perkins. Watt also was part of the Wylde Rattz with the Stooges' Ron Asheton, Mudhoney's Mark Arm, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley to cover the Stooges' classic "TV Eye" for the soundtrack to the Todd Haynes film "Velvet Goldmine." In 2003, Watt was invited by Iggy Pop to fill in on bass for the late Dave Alexander on a series of Stooges reunion concert dates with the other two original members, Ron and Scott Asheton, throughout North America, Asia and Europe in which he continues with today as the youngest member of the band.
Watt's list of side bands includes Watts' Material Girl tribute band the Madonnabes, Hellride, Li'l Pit, Pair Of Pliers, the Jom & Terry Show, Crimony, Bootstrappers and the original Punk Rock Karaoke with Eric Melvin of NOFX and Greg Hetson of Bad Religion. He's recently even done some gigs with old friend drummer George Hurley as a duet doing songs they did together in the early Minutemen days. Our man in Pedro also stays busy with a weekly web radio program, The Watt From Pedro Show (twfps.com), and his own site, hootpage.com, both of which provide outlets for his many political interests, including the fight against FFC regulations on low power FM stations and web radio channels. He also loves pedaling his bike around his town four days a week while paddling his kayak the other three - all at the crack of dawn.
But there is a thread that connects all of Watt's concerns. "Art and music mirrors nature in a lot of ways," Watt says. "Nature's a lot about resonances and cycles and rhythms. Nature has no ethics or morality. Neither does music. It operates on a level where words aren't. There's always going to be a hankering to get connections on a non-word level. Can we have ideas that don't have words for them? You can't know anything, you can only believe. The way you describe what you believe is a prison. Music is a way to get around that. In the comedy, Dante is talking about free will and all these things, bizarre things, big big questions. The mind's going to float, the mind's going to wander. The whole idea of journeys and stuff is such a metaphor for the way the mind is in life. The whole dilemma of what is the mind and what is the brain. One is conscious of the other, a total mystery in total flux. Good art touches on that stuff. I think that the brain/mind connect is every heavier than life/death. Free will, behavior, culture, memory, hopes, all based on this big crux on the connection of the brain and the mind. And music plays on this too..."