The indie-prog, Jamie Henkensiefken powered band
H is for Hellgate have a new album coming out in November called Come for the Peaks, Stay for the Valleys. The band is named after a canyon in Missoula, MT and some have called their music tricky. Tricky as in quirky, maybe. Sincere as in full rock action, definitely. Their next shows are 10/30 at the Hawthorne Theatre in Portland, and 12/5 at the High Dive here for the CD release show.
Jamie spoke about making the new album:
What gear got you the most excited during the recording?
Jamie: The gear that got me the most excited was some of the crazy older gear at the studios where the album was recorded and mixed. The engineer, Mark Mercer, and I did a lot of guitar overdubs at Click and Pop in Ballard where they have an Echoplex tape delay. We got all Led Zeppelin on a few of the guitar tracks which were treated lightly with the Echoplex. We mixed at Avast! Classic, and used both of the plate reverbs they have, but the most exciting plate was the old German one that's the size of a ping-pong table.
We stuck mostly with the instruments that we play live: two guitars, bass and drums, with the exception of some synth pad tracks on a few songs and the Wurlitzer on the song "Blood." I did have fun finally utilizing the pitch shift feature on my Boss PS-5 on the song "Copernicus and Me." I usually just use that pedal octave harmonization. Also on that song, I made some string noise with a brass slide in the intro and mid-song breakdown.
H Is For Hellgate - "Copernicus and Me"
Any weirdness during the sessions? Break down some sort of weird technique or occurrence.
I did some guitar overdubs at Avast with just Mark and I late one night through an old Fender Champ that sounded sweet, but had a loose tube. So, Mark had to hit record in the control room, run out to the amp and, with his sweater sleeve over his hand, hold the tube in place while I played the overdubs. It was a little fun extra pressure to nail the lines because I didn't want him to fry his fingers off.
Mark also had a contact mic that he stuck on the back of my guitar headstock to pick up the percussive string noises. Those tracks were blended in a few times throughout the album.
What was your process?
We recorded drums, bass, and guitars live with the drums in the enormous Studio A room at Avast!. We did some guitar overdubs, vocals, and keys at Click and Pop. We mixed at Avast! Classic in Wallingford because they have a board with automation. Plus, Sleater-Kinney recorded The Hot Rock at Avast! Classic, so I was able to dork out over being in the studio where one of my favorite albums was made.
How did the sessions go? What was the biggest challenge?
It went well. None of us in the band were that experienced in a "professional" recording environment and it was awesome to show up, play, and not worry too much about having to do my own engineering. I home-recorded our first album and, of course, there's the trade off of having a ton of time to record a lot of extra tracks and spend a lot of time on production versus showing up to a studio you're paying and trying to record as much as you can in your allotted time. But the quality of gear we were able to use totally made that trade off worthwhile. The production is really straightforward, but it sounds like our band. And, there were no emotional meltdowns or fights, so hooray for us.
The biggest challenge was staying awake and focused because, at about hour ten during our recording day, we would get tired, but Mark would just be waking up and getting really into things, so we ended up pulling a few twenty to twenty-four hour recording days. Seriously.