Sunday, August 30, 2009

Yayhoos gigs...Chip's record & a food shot

Hey Friends,

the Yayhoos are coming out of our dormant state next weekend for a couple gigs.
One in NYC at the Mercury Lounge Sept 5 at 11pm and another at the big the next day Sept 6th Bloodshot
Records Blowout
in Philly at World Cafe Live with the Bottle Rockets, Ha Ha Tonka, Robbie Fulks,
Waco Brothers and more.

I've written a few times here about playing and recording with Chip Robinson. Most of the recording
for his new record "Mylow" was done right here in the living room studio "Lily's Terrace" over coffee and sandwiches. The record
was mixed at the Cowboy Technical by Tim Hatfield and myself. Chip
has signed a deal with Kasey Anderson's label Red River Records.
Chip has a few special advance copies available if you act quickly. I'm excited about people getting to hear Chip's first solo record.
Kasey is going to put it out on vinyl also.


The other day I was out on the bike and stopped at Neighburrito for some lunch and veered away from my usual
pork jag discovering this thing called the Steak Fajiat-rito.
It was good. And that is all I have to say about that.


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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How I got produced by Jim Dickinson and other ramblings

In 1990 I was summoned to Memphis, Tennessee to play on Mojo Nixon's first solo record to be titled "Otis". Mojo and his manager Bullethead told me about the record. Mojo had put together his dream band of roots rock guys. John Doe on bass, The late great Country Dick Montana on drums, Bill Davis and myself on guitars. The record would be done at a studio that used to belong to Chips Moman that had been built in a big old purple old firehouse just off of Beale Street downtown.

This was all pretty darned exciting. I knew John Doe from my pre Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Hollywood days and the Del-Lords had done a bunch of shows with Country Dick's Beat Farmers. I'd also seen Dash Rip Rock but hadn't really met Bill Davis. I had been producing some bands in NYC and I was really excited about playing guitar on this record for Mojo. I got a call asking about gear for the sessions. I told 'em I'd bring a Les Paul and my Parsons-White equipped Telecaster. They asked me about amps and I said that if we had a '62 Bassman, a '65 Deluxe Reverb and a 50 Plexi Marshall we should have the basic food groups of the rock and roll amplification very well covered.

The first time I ever saw Mojo he was the guy in the local band when the Del Lords played in San Diego. We had a little tv in our van and we had convinced ourselves the Miami Vice was a fantastic thing. I got out of the van a little into the show and walked into the club to see a possesed rock and roll madman holding court frenetically on stage in a full bunny suit. That was in '84.

Back to the Mojo record. They explained I'd be flown to Memphis and met at the airport. I'd have my own room and I'd be making more money than I'd ever made playing guitar in my life. That and the record would be produced by The Jim Dickinson.

Back then it took a little more work to be a rock and roll fan than it does at this point with 'teh internets' and all, but I was pretty acquainted with a fair amount of the Dickinson cannon (and I mean Cannon) of work but I got filled in on the fine points by my upstairs buddy "The Hound" who was a rock writin', record colectin' DJ. (you can read an amazing piece on Mr. Jim Dickenson written by the hound here). I got the music and the history down and some Dickinson likes and dislikes too and prepared to go to Memphis.

I got there and went straight to the studio. The rest of the band had already been there for a day and had cut a song already. Dickinson told me to have a seat in the control room with him and the engineer Bob "Cruiser" Krusen. I had a guitar in there and started to take some notes on the songs then I got the drift from Dickinson that that wouldn't be needed. I heard that Jim liked to smoke a little weed so before I flew down there I had sourced out 2 bags of the 2 best varieties that I could find in New York City. Jim and the engineer had been nursing a joint so when that one was done I offered to roll one of mine. Turns out my 2 new best friends were the only other guys on the session that liked that stuff so things were pretty comfortable in the control room. I could see that they had the band going pretty good so I continued listening from my position on the couch..... for days. I mean days.

I watched Dickinson (lot of people called Jim "Dickinson" it wasn't a sports thing, it was a name) work the band. He had a blackboard out there in the studio and they'd work up the arrangement of the songs with the map on the big blackboard. They'd keep the first track that didn't have any huge fuck ups and maybe do one more. We'd stop and have a break, stories would be told (relevant ones weather you knew it at the time or not) then it was back to work. I'd heard stuff about Dickinson's producing usually including his one Shakespearian "Freakout" but there was no freakout on this one.

I sure as hell got to hear some good rants and raves in the control room. One in particular was his rant on "Co-Production". Jim was going off about what fucking egotistical insult and waste of time it was for an artist to "Co-Produce" their own record. He said it was never a good idea and that whenever anybody asked he just told 'em "Your name goes on the front, My name goes on the back"

A couple years later I was at my parents house in Illinois visiting for Christmas talking to Nils Lofgren on the phone about producing his next record that would become "Crooked Line" when he asked me what I though about co-producing. I remembered Dickinson's rant and calmly said "Look Nils, you are gonna write the songs, sing them and play lead guitar. I'm gonna help you make a great record. Your name goes on the front and mine goes on the back". I sorta held my breath until I heard "Ok" come from the other end of the phone.

Ok, so I've been in Memphis for days making the most money ever, sitting in the control room smoking pot and watching this amazing guy make this record come together.

And on the seventh day........ there was a gig. A gig at the Omni New Daisy just a couple blocks away. Jim had me go into the studio with the band and rehearse. In addition to the rest of the guys I was on guitar and Jim was playing keys. We went over and did the soundcheck. Jim and I were on the same side of the stage. A couple hours later we did the gig. It was a blast. Memphis was always good for Mojo and this night was really good.

After the gig Dickinson gave everybody the next 2 days off but told me to be at the studio the day after next. I got there and
we ran through all the songs. All the songs that I'd been listening to all the week before from the control room. At the gig playing next to me Jim recognized that I'd heard what everybody else was doing and had pretty much naturally come up with my own part that fit in with what everybody had done.

There was some whacky stuff. At one point they were talking about the harmonies for this song "Big Foot Trucks". Mojo was there and said "Roscoe can sing the high stuff". I went in there and sang my idea which was pretty darn high and I saw Dickinson's face light up. He hit the talkback button and his cracking laugh kept him from speaking for a minute then he was like "That is fucking Great! I haven't heard anything like that since Danny & The Juniors! Can you double it?"

At one point he asked me to do a Hendrix-like fill in the middle of Don Henley Must Die and I really couldn't get it. Just couldn't get it. I'm just not a Hendrix guy. A little later Jim introduced me to his boy Luther who came down to do the Hendrix part. He played it cool. It came out cool.

The day after my overdubs I went back to the couch as some other overdubs were going down. The day after that Dickinson came to the studio with a couple little Supro amps and told us we were gonna be "Blues" today. He showed up with the tiny amps and we were "Blues". After that I was done with all of my stuff but I was invited to stay till the tracking was done, hanging out, making the most dough ever so far for me.

It was a great couple weeks. When I got back to NYC I knew I had been "Produced by Jim Dickinson".
Jim Dickinson got the best out of me.

I kept in touch with Jim Dickinson. Never had the opportunity to work on another record with him but after the Hound and I had opened our bar the Lakeside Lounge in the East Village he called to tell me that his kids had a band and if it was cool he'd like to have them come to NYC to play. He wanted them to play at my place. They had a band called the North Mississippi All Stars. They played at the Lakeside as a duo that first time. Their bass player Chris Chew couldn't make it up to NY. It was a fantastic gig with a great crowd. Cody and Luther played great together then and that was in '96.

Few years later when Jim was putting out his first solo record in a long time he called to see if he could come up and play a gig at the Lakeside with my band as his. That was ridiculously fun. Keith Christopher, Steve Holly and I backed Jim who was playing Wurlitzer and some guitar. I'd heard him refer to both tuning and rehearsal as "Decadent European Concepts" before. We did rehearse the night before but I don't think we played any songs that we played the next night at the gig which turned out to be Jim Dickinson's NYC debut. It was mostly some musical messing around and some stories.

Jim told great stories. After he had been invited to come and play on the Bob Dylan's "Time Out of Mind" he had a few good ones. That record was the first time Bob Dylan had gone back to working with Daniel Lanios after Oh Mercy which was recorded 8 years earlier. Legend has it Bob had gotten into a few rubs with Daniel when the Producer asked him to 'redo' things. Jim and Bob were the same age but had never really met. They'd been on different long, musical roads for years but they had never met and for some reason Bob picked Jim to be part of this particular record. Anyway, they get down to Criteria in Miami with this big band. 2 drummers, 2 bass players, guitar players, keys including Jim. Everybody is getting ready to get it going.

So a Daniel Lanios, the Producer, comes over to Bob to say hello and starts talking to Bob, the artist, about the "plan" for the album. When Daniel stops talking Bob says simply, "You'll have to talk to my friend Jim"

I sure am thankful I got "Produced" by Jim Dickinson.
My heart goes out to his boys Cody and Luther and his lovely wife Mary Lindsay.
Jim Dickinson RIP

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Les Paul

Well today we all found out that at age 94 Les Paul had died. The Les Paul, The guy. I like to put a "The" at the front of stuff for extra respect from time to time so when I say today "The Les Paul" I'm not talking about that fine '54 historic gold top reissue over there. You know where to go to get all the official info so I wont repeat most of it. Les Paul gets credited for the first electric solidbody guitar. That one is a bit hard to prove. Other guys, Paul Bigsby for one, were doing it at around the same time. Les Paul did bring a presence to the Electric Guitar that hadn't really been there before. The Les Paul model guitar built by Gibson was probably the first signature model guitar. It's still around with rich guys who don't play 'em enough paying over $250,000 for ones in great shape from the 50's. I always wonder why they are in such great shape? Maybe 'cause that particular one wasn't so hot?

Anyway, to The Les Paul. A pal of mine who has also left the building named Rick Rosen interviewed Les Paul around 10 years ago for Stereophile Magazine. I couldn't find it on the internets but it was a fun read. Mostly about Les's home playback equipment including his favorite top loader cassette clock radio. At the end of the long audiogeek centric interview Rick thanks Les for his time and asks one more question.

Les, if you had one tip for guitar players out there what would it be?
"Don't keep your guitar in the case"
Why's that?
"You can't play the guitar in the case"

A few years back I went to a recording conference down in Tucson that was associated with Tape Op Magazine. One of the guys, Mark Rubel, had recently interviewed Les Paul at his home. During the largest panel of the conference full of recording geeks both young and not so young Mark called Les at home and put him on speakerphone and we all sang happy birthday to Les Paul on his 90th Birthday. Everybody sang.

Now this is the guy who after a near fatal car accident in 1948 was being told by doctors that after they reset his broken arm he'd never be able to bend his right elbow again. Les Paul told them to set his arm at a 40 degree angle so he could keep playing the guitar.

I never got to see The Les Paul play but a friend of mine did go and get The Les Paul to sign a pickguard for me one time. I just had an Andy Rooney moment while I was looking for the pickgaurd. I know it's here somewhere. I did find a couple other things I had been looking for while I was looking so thanks again Les Paul.

Les Paul was a dreamer and a tinkerer for sure. He kept messing with the guitar and other electronics. He dreamt about recording himself then being able to record himself again. A practice now referred to as overdubbing. Les did invent the first multitrack recording machine that most assuredly changed the lives of all those geeks that were at the Tape Op Convention with me in Tucson and music as we all know it today. A big part of that machine was the dream.
Like the song he recorded with his wife Mary Ford in their garage "How High The Moon". The moon was just a dream then.
The song is a still a dream now.

Hard to imagine music like that without a dream.
RIP to The Les Paul.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bottle Rockets -Aug 11 Lean Forward

I'm pretty damned excited that today is August 11 and that marks the release of the new
Bottle Rockets record "Lean Forward". The Bottle Rockets are one of the best Band's I've
ever had the pleasure of working with as a producer. I've done 3 LP's and an EP with them over the
years. (Lean Forward makes it 4)
First was Brooklyn Side, recorded at the fondly remembered Coyote Studios on N 6th
Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Coyote is gone now due to the former meat market street turning
into a different type of Meat Market resulting in many bars and an American Apparel store.

Next was 24 Hours A Day which we tracked at the 'Coug's guitar player Mike Wanchic's joint in Bloomington,
Indiana. We all got our own rooms at the Motel 6 and we were greeted every morning by a young
girl who wanted badly to leave Bloomington for more hipster digs like NYC who we affectionately
refered to as "Eyebrows". We did some overdubs in NYC and mixed with the fabulously English Mr
Richard "Dick" Dodd in the Berry Hill section of Nashville.

We had some leftover tracks from 24 Hours A Day that became known, oddly enough, as "Leftovers"
Then we went to Lou's The Studio in Springfield, MO to record "Brand New Year" in 1999.

It had been quite a while since we worked together but we had always stayed in touch. I was
never as excited as I was the morning I opened up my e-mail to find that the Bottle Rockets
wanted to make a record with me again.

The record we made with Tim Hatfield engineering last summer at the old Cowboy Technical Services
basement location on Hope Street in Williamsburg is released today on Bloodshot Records.
You can get it through iTunes or from the Band's Webstore or Bloodshot's Webstore or your local record shop.
The record is available on CD and Limited Edition Vinyl.

I hope you'll dig it as much as I do.


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Friday, August 07, 2009

under the hood of the fun machine


Still serving up the entertainment. Built in 1957.

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