Thursday, February 16, 2006

Blinkin' Lights, episode i

So today I'm introducing a new feature on JTMOU: a guest blogger. This'll give me a little extra time as I 1. deal with continuing delays on the new record (oh, so that's why these smaller CD manufacturing companies are so much cheaper), 2. continue to digitize (or, rather, Sibelius-ize) many of the scores from the first three IJG albums (building up the quintet book for some upcoming shows and possibly a local weekly gig), and 3. iron out little details for our upcoming trip to the Reno area.

Leo McClusky is, as will become apparent in a moment, an old friend from way back in my callow youth. I always considered him one of the more tasteful of my various heavy-metal oriented guitarist peers--he could bang his head with the best of them, and yet he had no problem making the transition to musical styles that required a bit more, er, subtlety. That was one of the reasons he was so well-suited to the Evelyn Situation. During that beautiful, all-too-brief moment (maybe it was beautiful because it was brief?) that he and Paul Badalamenti were in the band, I felt like we could do anything.

However, what follows is not about the Evelyn Situation (thank heavens). Rather, it's a lengthy piece (so long it will be broken up over several installments) Mr. McClusky penned to document his experience recording what turned out to be the most complicated show in the IJG's debut East coast tour last spring. As you will see, the guy went pretty goddamm far above the call of duty with this project. I can do little in response except remain flabbergasted. That and thank him again publicly and profusely.

Oh, and I suppose the completion of this memoir means two things: first, I've got to "release" the disc all this work was destined for (it was, after all, intended as a special gift for people who came to see the show). And second, I've got to get my own writeup on the tour together. I've been promising it for months and months.

Anyway, enough prattle. Without further ado, I bring you episode i of:


a recording memoir by Leo McClusky and Gordon’s Gin

It is with abundant nerve, and a persistent deaf ignorance to all my varied and numerous shortcomings, that I call myself a recording engineer. That is what I love doing most of all – calling myself a recording engineer. The day may come when I can back up this audacity, but until then I am just a hack who points mics at things and scrambles the controls hoping to hell that a listenable piece of music is being committed to tape or hard drive. Playback is the proof, and I’d say maybe one-third of my attempts to date are at best not-too-embarrassing. The rest of it amounts to thousands of hours of squandered time and miles of wasted tape -- ear-fatiguing sonic waste that destroyed the very music it was supposed to reflect and/or flatter.

Success is a combination of… hold on- … aw shit I’ll be right back.

OK, I’m back. Where was I? Success? Good one. Moving on…

I understand that simple approaches often work best, and yet I invariably find a way to use every channel, every cable, every last shitty Ratty O’ Shoppe adapter (by the way, guys, what’s happening to your selection down there? and do you really need my Zip Code AGAIN AND PLEASE STOP ASKING ME IF I NEED HELP JUST LET ME STARE AT THE ADAPTER WALL LIKE A CATATONIC TRUST ME EVERYTHING IS FINE!!!!).

If you stopped reading at this point I wouldn’t blame you. You get the point. I’m an unfocussed mess. On with the story then?

Anyway, I know Andrew Durkin from high school. We really didn’t do much together musically, but if he did in fact write and perform a full-length rock opera for his senior year Independent Study project, then I in fact played guitar for the show and sang one of the tunes. If it really happened, then he really got an “A.” Might have been an A-, just to keep him humble. Cause everyone knows what an arrogant, loud guy Andy is.

I made a laughable attempt at forming a jazz band sometime around then. Andrew politely obliged, as did a few other kind people. We would be jazz, I reasoned, because we would have a cool name like “The Mellotones,” and because I had just discovered minor seventh chords. Mercifully we only had one practice and it was never spoken of again.

Paul Badalamenti and I joined Andy’s group The Evelyn Situation in 1994. That was a blast. Andy wrote these great songs with great lyrics, arranged wild three-part vocals for Jill, Donna, and Danielle, and played acoustic guitar or piano. As for me and Paul, Andy gave us carte blanche. The weirder our guitar parts, the more he seemed to like them. Did we step all over those beautiful vocals? Maybe.

Donna quit and was replaced. I wigged out, quit and wasn’t replaced. Not too long after that, Andy and a couple of the chicks split for the west coast and that was pretty much it for the Evelyn Situation. I don’t need to repeat their whole story at this point. Mainly because I don’t know what happened. Paul is still around.

Scrub forward to 2005. The IJG is coming East, man. Andy’s dragging the whole shootin’ match out here for gigs. One of em’s at a theater co-managed by Bob Carr (another HS alum) and it’s six miles from my house in New Jersey. Hmm…

I could just buy a ticket and enjoy the show, but that’s not me. It had to be recorded. No question. I suggested it to Andy and he was all in favor.

I would spend the two months leading up to the show thinking of nothing but. I also began to hound Ron at every cigarette break.

Now’s a good time to introduce Ron Strebel. I’ve known Ron ever since we played in Joyseed together. Joyseed, despite the goofy name, was yet another good band that spun its wheels in a rut until the motor died and everybody got out and walked home. But this is not the time for that story. Suffice to say, I wigged out and quit. Ron and I remained friends and developed a mutual interest in recording. We’ve also been playing together in the Fakers for around seven years now. The Fakers story, thankfully, is not over. Nor is it printable here…

So yeah, to know me and Ron is to know a smoky garage and an endless conversation about getting music on tape the best way possible. Not having the funds to secure a regular space, i.e., studio- for ourselves, we have to jump on whatever live or basement recording project we can find. We’re much happier when there’s a mission. Remember Martin Sheen in the beginning of “Apocalypse Now?” That’s me when I don’t have a project to occupy myself with. Thankfully I haven’t punched any mirrors yet. As for the drinking and hysterical crying….

[to be continued...]

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