MAKING TRACKS - By Joe Currie (Davin's Den)
Thu, Sep 6 2018 08:49
Since I was a kid, I would always dream of being in a recording studio making an album. For the past thirty years I have been, two albums and several EP’s and endless demo tapes. The first time I went into a recording studio was back in nineteen eighty eight, with Joe and Anthony Cumia , our bass player Mike and our drummer Lou. I was so nervous and it was such a nerve wracking experience. The saving grace was we all never were in a recording studio before so it was a learning process for all of us. Several years later our band Finster, different name same line up would be heading into Paris studio. The studio owner Brian Unger was a great guy and a very good engineer and Paris would be our home for many years. These sessions at Paris were very good and we put out our demos. If you were an Opie and Anthony fan, the song “Dara” came out of those sessions as well as some other great tunes. Several years later in 1992 Rot Gut went into Paris to record the “Live at the Apollo” album. I just fought my way back into the band as the recording progressed and played on one track. At that time sampling was a big thing and Joe Cumia utilized it as much as he could so much so the final song on the album was a song called “whatwuzthatthing” a five minute song with fourteen different samples. Even though I did not gather or record the samples I had to cover it live and I was able to thanks to my Trusty ASR-10, and SO-1 samplers. That was a memorable summer as we lived in that studio to get the project done. It is an amazing process that you would watch these tracks progress week by week. It is essentially like painting a picture as you are consistently adding something to move something from a sketch to this beautiful painting. At this time we were rehearsing two nights a week and I was practicing every night, we did a recording session we won from a competition. The session was for a compilation album of Beatles cover tunes featuring all Long island bands. The project was called “Across the Universe” and the song we picked was “I wanna be your man”. The version we did was not like the Beatles version, we were Rotgut and it had to have our own stamp on it which it did. The song went from grunge, to punk, to reggae, back to punk again in three minutes. We had four hours to do it and the keyboards in the song were very demanding as I had to cover a horn section, a calypso section, and samples as well. I was able nail everything, and the studio was not that much of a big deal any more. In 1996 we had an all day recording session at my house recording the preproduction for our next project which we called “butts in the ashtray”. Getting ready for it was grueling, the reason why is Joe Cumia is very demanding and not afraid to sink his fangs into me and he did a lot. But he put a work ethic in me that I have never forgotten and that work ethic carried over into comedy when I got back into that in 1997.
Soon after we went back into Paris to turn the Preproduction of “Butts in the Ashtray” into the EP ‘Slack & Wack”. We were so well rehearsed that the sessions were fun and stress free. Again for you O & A fans the song “Marcia Brady” came from these sessions. I was covering horn parts, piano and I wrote, edited and triggered all the samples, we actually had a live horn section and I wrote some of the parts for them. I never sat at the control console or had much of a say in the mixing or production. I was told to sit in the back of the studio and keep out of the way. And I sat there, but I did not realize what I picked up until my next recording session.
My next recording Session was with Race Odyssey with Rock and Roll Johnny Race who I still play with in my ohter band Sexy Suzn. John was married to Anthony and Joe Cumia’s Sister Dawn at the time. As Anthony left to do radio Rotgut went on the shelf and I joined up with Johnny. We entered a studio owned by Don Cassel, Don was noted for being the engineer for the classic rock song Inagodadavida by Iron Butter fly. We had a great time making the album and I actually was at the consol helping mix the album. While I was mixing with Don and John I was wondering how I knew what to do instinctively. I attribute that to listening to Joe Cumia and our Engineer Brian back at Paris Studios and subconsciously picking up all the knowledge of what to do. People commented that album had a wall of sound feel to it and that’s exactly what I wanted. My next time in the studio was a monstrosity back in 2012. I was in the band McClinton and we were doing the remake of Phil Collin’s “In the Air Tonight” it was done ass backwards and the session was never completed. When you record you want everything to be perfect because if it is not when you listen for years to come any imperfection will grate on you, with this in mind, I prepare for a recording session like Eisenhower prepared for D day. Our band Fragile Sky is now in the studio cutting four tracks for distribution, downloads, and to sell at shows. The day of the album is gone. When you record, the drums and the bass go first, then the guitars. With either the vocals or keyboards going next. In these sessions the vocals went next. This is a big help to me as I like to get a copy of the actual working studio tracks as I can work with them at home so when I go to the studio I know the songs in and out. Every musician has an idea what you want things to sound like in your head. The trick is to get what you want in your head on to the song. I had all sorts of sounds I wanted for the project and I used four keyboards for the sessions to get them. To leave no stone unturned I sat with each keyboard and went through each one, played the studio track against it and see if it would work. I then would make notes and compile a list. This process took eight hours and to complicate matters one the keyboards that most of these songs were written on fried at a show and could not be repaired. Once this list was compiled each song was played and each keyboard went against the other to see which one would be the one that would be used for the track. This process took one weekend. With the keyboards picked I would go through each track again, again, and again to know each song in and out not to waste any minute of studio time. I then would go to rehearsal and play along to the studio track for the band to listen to, and then do the song live. Back home I would then make notes and then sit for hours again to make sure everything was perfect. There is no better process than this as I arrived at the studio for my session prepared which was handy because I had only a certain amount of time before our harmonica player showed up and I had to be done. The tracks went pretty smooth. I also picked up some interesting recording tricks from Mike from my band and our engineer Frank. You do hear about disagreements in the studio and it did happen as Mike had an idea for a sound and I had my mine. The great thing is I joined the band because Mike’s theory on sounds and song construction are along the lines of mine so we combined our ideas and the songs came out great. My tracks got done on schedule and Filipe our harmonica player came in and ripped the place apart. Stay tuned for the release date and come on out to a show.