The music producer is a strange human being, landing somewhere on the authority scale between band counselor and drill sergeant. Producers have to prod a band into delivering a "good take," but also be firm and efficient when one of the label suits swings by just to "check on how things are going." For the general public, though, The Stranger found that some producers are pretty good at telling stories about the bands they've worked with, and we've got three good ones for you here.
Barrett Jones vs. Pussy GaloreSure, it's great listening to a noisy garage band chew up your stereo and spit it out, but how'd you like to be the one recording them? Barrett Jones, producer and owner of the Laundry Room studio in Greenwood--who's worked on records by Foo Fighters and Nirvana--remembers when he had the thankless job of committing Pussy Galore (one of Jon Spencer's early punk incarnations) to vinyl.
When he agreed to record Galore, Jones had just moved out of his parents' house and was still getting settled into his new home, which also doubled as a studio. In among broken mic stands, old tape machines, and piles of cassettes and cords, five people lived and slept in the house. Jones didn't know his roommates well, but they were all young, and he hoped recording bands wouldn't be that much of an issue. Then Pussy Galore showed up.
When the band's beat-up van pulled up to the curb sputtering and spewing thick gray smoke, and three guys and a girl wearing black leather spilled out, Jones was a little unsure of what he had gotten himself into. He'd only recorded a few times before, and as a result, offered extremely cheap rates--in this case, $150 for four complete songs. Those four songs ended up taking four hellish days.
First, Spencer was never happy with the takes. "He'd say, 'That sounds too good--make it sound worse,'" Jones remembers. Then there was Julia Cafritz, the other singer at the time. She bragged about smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, and filled the house with a dense cloud of smoke. And Pussy Galore loved noise--loud, obnoxious noise. "God, I hated them for that," admits Jones.
To the chagrin of Jones' roommates, the band had a seemingly endless supply of noisemaking tools. They'd power up a rusty chainsaw for one song and hammer a steel oil drum on another. They broke glass and banged on sheet metal for hours. They also liked guitar feedback, and would spend forever perfecting just the right squeal. Finally, four days later, his ears assaulted to the point of bleeding and his legs cramped from crouching in the control-room closet, Jones was finished with Pussy Galore's album, called Groovy Hate Fuck. Needless to say, Jones and his home studio soon found another location.
Phil Ek vs. the Bad Metal BandThe singer looked like a New York roadie or an estranged member of the Ramones. Actually, the whole band made the same fashion misstatement: black jeans, frizzy, unkempt hair, holey T-shirts, and white high-tops. It was 1992 and the band, their name now a distant memory to producer Phil Ek (Built To Spill, 764-HERO, Les Savy Fav), were holed up in a tiny, rundown studio in Ballard that doubled as a warm hideaway for rats.
Ek remembers the singer being hot to get the recording process started, commanding that they get things rolling because "the girls are going to be here any minute!" Ek was tired and wanted a smoke, but instead cued up the tape on the 16-track recorder. The singer then took a brown paper bag and ducked into the bathroom.
Meanwhile, the band's girlfriends arrived and quickly squeezed into the studio's small control room with Ek. Just then, the bathroom door flew open. NY roadie/singer dude had transformed himself into the fifth member of Poison. His hair was teased up and he was wearing black-and-pink zebra-striped Spandex, white leather boots, and a frilly black Pirate shirt. He wanted to look good for the ladies, but had missed 1982 by a decade. He stepped up to the microphone, looking dead serious as he asked if he could take his shirt off. Ek was speechless, but pushed record and the song started.
"HOW'S MY LAAAAAAAAAADDDDDDDIEEEEESSS," the singer yowled, pulling his shirt off. "YEEEEAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!" Ek lost it, laughing uncontrollably. The other band members weren't as amused. "This is what we do, Ek," he remembers the guitarist scowling.
Stuart Hallerman vs. Zeke"Goddamn, it was hard to get anything done with those guys," says Stuart Hallerman about the band Zeke. Hallerman (producer for Tight Bros from Way Back When and Soundgarden, and owner of Avast Recording Co. in Wallingford) was in charge of helping the noisy, energetic punk band record Dirty Sanchez.
After dealing with an act that he says was more interested in riding motorcycles and eating sushi than in making a record, Hallerman took a break from having his patience tried to step outside his studio. He remembers it was a beautiful summer day, with no clouds in sight--except for one small, black, ominous formation directly above him. He was so amazed at the sight of this dark cloud, he called for the band to check it out. They looked at it but were unimpressed. The singer, a haggard-looking gent named Blind Marky Felchtone, looked up in sky and shrugged his shoulders. "Oh yeah, that's just our dark cloud," Hallerman remembers Felchtone saying. "It follows us wherever we go."