Hi and welcome to newsletter 2.5. I'm going to just be chatty this time and resume the technical stuff in newsletter 3.0.
With Soundgarden's retirement and the continued (for the foreseeable future) incapacitation of Alice in Chains and the Screaming Trees, the breakup of the Presidents of the USA, vanishing from the radar screen of Candlebox (phew!) and the end of Nirvana, Pearl Jam is seemingly the sole Seattle survivor -- except for, ironically enough, good old Mudhoney themselves who are about to make another album! (Mustn't forget the Fastbacks though; 16 years and counting...) Strange to think that the whole chart-topping Seattle wave is so thoroughly OVER. (Thankfully most of my work in the past 4 years has been elsewhere!) Speaking of which...
Been listening to the new Pearl Jam record (meaning the one from a year ago) and though my initial impression was that it blew some serious chunks, I have finally taken it off my "to sell" pile. Dammit, they're still trying. Even though when they get all quiet and sensitive and vulnerable it's kind of dull (and judging by the advance press on their upcoming album, the band has figured this out too), there are enough good cuts for me to finally go, OK, its still them, might as well keep this and see what they do next. (Great packaging, though!) With a band like this sometimes you have to take the whole body of work rather than any one album; the overall context can add more meaning to any part. The next album may make this one make more sense. Heck, it could have sucked in so many far, far worse ways. At least it's not overproduced!
Recently cut an album with a band from Vancouver BC, Canada, called CrushGroove, very chunky heavy rock. They came down to Seattle because I was able to find a better deal on studio time than we could get in Vancouver, despite the exchange rate. Like I said, come to Seattle and record (relatively) cheap...
Now in the studio with The Day I Fell Down for an up-and-coming "big indy" called Gold Circle. The A & R man is a certain Michael Shrieve, ex-drummer from 70's Santana, who lives in Seattle. We are cutting drums at Ironwood studio where Barrett & Co. cut the Tuatara record.
Some of you may have heard about the documentary movie HYPE! last year. It was a years-in-the-making documentary about the plundering of the Seattle music scene which got two thumbs up from Siskel & Ebert (!), and was called "the funniest rock film since Spinal Tap". It actually is pretty funny, and even though I'm all over the damn thing and may be slightly biased, I have to say it's a pretty good job and pretty accurate too. Initially everyone here was very skeptical about the filmmakers when first approached but these guys did their homework and did the job right; I was pretty much the last one they got to and by then enough of my friends told me they were OK that I (grudgingly) said, OK, I'll talk. Most everyone I know who was involved thinks it came out pretty decent. (Just imagine the horrible job typical TV producers would have done with a story like this.) It's kind of a "last word" in a way. A good decision thay made early on was to film live gigs with full multitrack sound, so the live segments in the movie sound great. Later Sub Pop hired me to remix the live stuff for the soundtrack album, and I have to modestly say that the live stuff sounds even better on the CD.
My point here in bringing this up is that Republic Pictures is finally releasing HYPE! on Videocassette for only 20 bucks. So now all you poor people in Peoria, Ill. and Logan, Ut. and Burns, Or. who didn't get a chance to see it in a theater (too bad!) will have a chance to buy/rent it. Check it out, and remember, your town is next!
I'll close with an anecdote. A few weeks ago, I heard from the good folks at Mazur PR about Bruce Dickinson, ex-Iron Maiden singer, bringing his band to my area for a show. Some of you may not know that I did a Bruce Dickinson album, "Skunkworks", two years ago; one of the unlikelier things I've done in my career, but how could I say no to Bruce? I mean, Maiden! My high school! And it turned out Bruce was a lovely guy (as they say in England) who has a great sense of humor about his past (and no regrets at all) and we had a great time recording at Great Linford Manor out in the UK countryside. What the heck, if Rick Rubin can do AC/DC, I can work with Bruce! (And now Albini's doing Page/Plant, I hear.) Anyway, Bruce called me on his way up the coast and invited me to the show which was way out of town, in Everett, Wa., at a place called Jimmy Z's, sort of the suburban metal capital of the Seattle area even though its 30 miles north of here. Great room and PA, at least, but because of various things Bruce couldn't get a gig in Seattle proper this time around. No matter, it was packed with a surprisingly young crowd! A few old geezers lurking around the bus waiting for autographs, but mostly younger kids who you might see at a Pantera show.
Opening the gig was Puller, a midwest band on Seattle's own Tooth and Nail records, who determinedly played their loud alternativish-rock for the very polite, patient crowd of headbangers. Then, speaking of geezers, we had Geezer Butler (ex-Sabbath bassist!) himself and his band, chunking and chugging with depraved abandon. He looked fine and the band rocked though I could mostly hear just the bass. Finally Bruce came on with a crack band of LA musicians who on their own time have a band called Tribe of Gypsies. This was not the band I had recorded, but in fact they were lots more "professional" (as typifies LA musicians -- if you're NOT from LA, you know what I mean; I'm not entirely criticizing though) and way more Maidenesque than the Skunkworks band. Bruce looks about 20 and still has The Voice. Helping the Maiden factor was Adrian Smith, the guitarist who left Maiden a couple years before Bruce, who was in fine form. Only a couple Maiden tunes were in the set, the rest being drawn from Bruce's five solo albums, mostly from his new one, Accident of Birth (10 points if you get that lyrical reference). Still, it was sort of the best Maiden show I've ever seen...
I felt somewhat amused at the whole picture; I didn't know the whole suburban metal thing still existed, guess I need to get out of Seattle more. The crowd ate it up though, and there was even some very Seattle-ish crowd-surfing and stage-diving. But... before the show, Bruce took me out and showed me the band bus, a very plush Greyhound-sized thing with bunk beds, satellite TV and a little lounge in back. (Skin Yard certainly never had anything like this.) I met their road manager, an older Englishman who, it turned out, is MARRIED to one of my favorite obscure 70's prog-rock icons, singer DAGMAR KRAUSE of Slapp Happy/Henry Cow/Art Bears. I was in awe, and he was most amused by this. Adrian Smith was low-key but quite a pleasant fellow. And I'll leave you with this -- guess what movie they happened to be watching on the bus before the gig, and laughing uproariously in all the right places? I'll give you one guess.
It was (of course) "This is Spinal Tap".
'Till next time,
(P.S. Slapp Happy is recording a new album.)