election night, 1992

We spent a few weeks chasing around Digital Audio Tape masters of the ten songs we had chosen for the compilation.  We also sent out a questionnaire to all the bands – first, getting all the details straight for the liner notes (band member names, record companies, contact addresses, that sort of thing), second, soliciting ideas for album titles, and third, gauging people’s interest in doing another project.

Some of the bands mailed us their DAT masters.  Some dropped them off at our apartment.  In the case of Ya-Ne-Zniyoo, Steve came over and dropped off the DAT, and also brought another demo for us to listen to.  In the case of Melting Hopefuls, Ray invited me to the house he shared with Renee, and took me downstairs to show me his basement studio, which he called the WOMB.  He showed me some of the techniques he used to get various sounds on their demo tape.  Played me some songs they were working on.

By that point, Ray and I were talking on the phone a few times a week.  He’d ask about the progress of the record, I’d ask how things were going with the band.  Ray was a hard worker, constantly networking and always thinking of ways to promote the band.

In the years I worked with various bands, that was always the main problem most bands had – they were perfectly good at writing and recording, but when it came to actually promoting, bands were just lazy.  They’d have a flurry of activity, maybe two or three weeks of hard work, but as soon as they’d start to build momentum, they’d relax.

Not Ray.  Ray never stopped.  Even when we were chit-chatting, he was thinking, bouncing ideas off me, sharing names of people that could help us with the record.  He made suggestions about song order, made suggestions about how we could make the release party work, made suggestions about the artwork.  Some of his suggestions, I took.  Some, I didn’t.  All were appreciated.

As expected, getting the masters from some bands was a chore.  Rosary, the first band we agreed to work with, was in the studio.  Their singer, who was a friend and a nice guy, suggested that we come down to the studio where they were recording – they’d be able to hand me a DAT of the song “Asylum,” the latest version of which we had yet to hear.

So, on Election Night of 1992, Rich and I drove to a tiny recording studio in the middle of an industrial park in Saddle Brook, New Jersey.  It was nighttime, and the park was completely cleared out.  The industrial park was a shithole, and the studio was not much better.

The entire band was there, and Rich and I were expecting to just go in, get a copy of the tape, and go back to my place to drink beers and watch the election returns on television.  When we got there, the band were huddled in a back room, watching the news.  They introduced us to the engineer, and then sat down.  We waited.  They watched television and joked around.

We waited some more.  It was cold.

Eventually we wandered into the control room and Rich watched the engineer work for a while.  Rich had worked in a studio, and had a pretty solid working knowledge of studio equipment.  This particular studio was small, with very basic equipment, a small control room and one small live music room.  If there was another room for the bands to play in, I certainly didn’t see one.

Gary was working on a layered vocal part that would become the end of “Asylum,” the track that we had chosen for the record.  He was singing it over and over, and it was getting later and later.  The engineer kept going outside to smoke.  Rich and I were getting angrier and angrier – we expected that we would be stopping by to pick up a tape, and we had been there for hours.

Just as we were as irritated as we could be, the drummer looked at us and said – and I quote – “So, have you boys ever been in a real recording studio before?”  With the emphasis on the word “real.”

“Umm, yeah.” Rich said.  I could tell just by looking at his face that he took the comment as a personal insult.  Rich and I had gotten to the point where we could read each other’s body language pretty well.  Rich’s body language gave away what came next.  “Have you?” he asked.

The drummer didn’t get it – he responded “Sure, we’ve been coming here for a long time.”  Rich was trying to make the point that this was not a real recording studio.

And you know what?  I hate when men refer to other men as “boys.”  It’s stupid, it’s condescending, and it’s hokey-sounding.  It’s almost as bad as “fellas.”

Gary came out with the tape, which was great, because I was ready to start laying bets that Rich was going to hit someone in the next five minutes.  He asked us if we wanted to hear it.  Of course we had been there for what seemed like weeks, but I had no way to listen to a DAT at home, so I said yes.

I had to admit, it sounded great.  Crisp as hell, all sorts of great effects on the guitar, really punchy drums.  The song has a really ominous-sounding intro, where the guitar and drums are gearing up, getting ready to kick in, and then everything sort of rolls together at the same time, punctuated by this snarl from Gary.

Rich and I were looking at each other, both thinking the same thing, and then we both heard it at the same time: one sour note.

This wasn’t just any sour note, it was painfully sour, clearly a mistake.  The guitar simply missed the note by a half step, and then slid up to the right note as if to try and correct the mistake.  With all the effects on the guitar, the mistake was magnified.

It was like looking at a beautiful woman with a giant booger in her nose.  Or watching someone accidentally drool on a birthday cake while blowing out the candles.  You just couldn’t miss it – it was gargantuan.

The song ended, and Rich and I just looked at each other.  “What do you think?” someone asked.

I don’t even know what I said.  I do know that I asked for a cassette copy of the song.  I needed to be able to play it for Sandy and Frank, to see what they thought.

When we got back to our apartment, Sandy was pissed.  We had left her there, stepped out for what we thought was going to be just a little while, and were gone for hours.  We had spent our entire college career railing against George Bush – a guy who I despised with everything I had – and here he was, finally going to be voted out, and I’m with Rich and a goth band, hanging out in an industrial park in Saddle Brook.

It would not be the last time that Sandy was left sitting alone because of some bullshit with Dromedary Records.  Not by a long shot.

I put on the tape and played it for her.  When it got to “the part,” she looked at me and asked “Was that just, like, a massive fuck-up?  Or is something wrong with the tape?”

“Shit,” I thought.  “What are we gonna do about this?” I asked.

We had pulled together almost all the master tapes.  We were looking at places where we could master the CD.  We had already said no to a lot of bands, and Rosary was one of the first bands we talked to about the record.  Gary was my friend, and for as long as I’d known him, he was a perfectionist.  I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.  I knew he was very proud of his work.

At the same time, here was this obvious clunker, right in the middle of a song that we thought was pretty strong.

Rich, once again, voice of wisdom.  “They can’t fix that in the mix,” he said.  “That’s an error in the performance.  I don’t know why they left it in – maybe they don’t think you can hear it.  But there’s no way to fix it without re-recording it.  You need to either go with it, or get another song.”

So here it is, recorded in a real recording studio, Rosary’s “Asylum” – with a big booger at about 1:07.  I still think it’s a great song, by the way.

~ by Al on January 18, 2009.

4 Responses to “election night, 1992”

  1. YEEEESH

    First off man *I’m sorry*! I sort of don’t remember all of this happening; but then again, I don’t remember much, and I can’t even blame it on any drug use…

    The sad thing is – I don’t even *like* this version. Even the vox were sloppy. What sucks for me is all the *real* tracks we did were in my basement, using platic radio shack mics on the drums, with spliced shit cables blah blah blah — where I had to mix the multiple drum mics down to 2 tracks in the same room as the drums were so we could do bounces of the guitars!

    There was a fuck up of one of Rob’s riffs – and remember, this is tape, right? Well I had me a Korg DSS1 sampler (woohoo! 80s fun. At least better than my Ensoniq Mirage where you had to set loop points in hexidecimal and had a really biting 8 bit sound ala Skinny Puppy) — anyway, I sampled Rob playing the riff, and had to hit the key at the exact same time as his shit riff, and then bounce down both tracks to a new stereo mix. Fun times. And honestly, couldn’t hear it. Not like this. Maybe partially cause all the tracks were muddy from bouncing.

    I have DA88 multitracks from the original Fostex 1/4 reels that I now have as DVD backup. I’ve thought about trying to clean them up in Ableton, but .. sometimes I think why even bother for stuff that’s 20 years old and .. well even in my mind some of it was chhhheeeesy.

  2. I figured sooner or later you’d stumble upon this entry. 🙂

    First of all, no need to apologize for anything AT ALL, you were holed up in another room working on vocals when all this tension happened between Rich and your drummer, and I don’t even think the drummer realized there WAS tension. Rich was funny that way.

    Second, the other day when I was on your website listening to your tracks, I listened to “Asylum” (which really is a great song) and noticed that it was the version that I have on cassette – NOT the version from the compilation – which led me to believe that you weren’t happy with this recording.

    What I thought was peculiar about it was that for as long as I’d known you – probably since I was fourteen years old – even your basement cassette recordings were PERFECT.

    Either way, this internet thingy has been great in that I’ve reconnected with a LOT of people from this period of my life – of all of them, you’re right up there among those people I”m happiest about.

    In hindsight, when I go back and read this blog, I think I was harsh on the metal bands, and harsh on goth in general. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to explain the twee phase we ultimately went through in the later 90s, which made the goth and metal stuff on the compilation stick out like a sore thumb, I don’t know. Either way, I always thought that Rosary were a great band, and that you were always sort of the man behind the curtain, directing everything that went on, but still somehow having to manage these other dynamic personalities – couldn’t have been easy.

  3. Hey – don’t get me wrong, I *totally* understand your assessment of ‘goth’ music per se. I mean we were never Empire Hideous, but we were up there — sadly, not as far as I’d *like* to have gone – I was definitely more interested in the weirder stuff, more into Skinny Puppy (which Paulie went with me in 1987 where we saw NIN open up and thought it was pretty cheesy) — when I met the guys they were more into Talking Heads than Killing Joke or Nick Cave, which they were after we met — but I always considered the stuff we did to be more on the Bon Jovi spectrum rather than the Damned. It was later that we started to get a more Tool-ish sound that I was getting hopeful — but then we broke up. Figures.

    Again Al, you know me, so maybe in the past I’d have a thinner skin, so PLEASE don’t think I ‘care’ — it’s your opinion dude and rightfully so! Of course looking back in our late teens/early 20s years, who WASN’T pretentious?! Well, maybe we/me more so than most.. as far as the religious undertones.. well, sadly I’d have to say that’s a lot of me; you gotta understand I was totally basted in it — Dad a minister, uncle a minister, went to Eastern Christian, etc etc – I mean there really was NO way I couldn’t have some sort of god complex one way or another.. hell I wasn’t even allowed to play town football because it was on a Sunday; if I had I probably wouldn’t have been so awkward around people, made friends within my town (Oradell to EC was an hour bus ride and so I didn’t really see my school friends on the weekends, instead spending them at the library reading books about the occult — seriously – and hiding that from my parents).

    Last – about the name thing – totally get that too, and *laughed* when I read it; I would say that as a psychology thing – I *hate* my name. Garry is a .. well, gay name. I only learned from the girlfriend that if I was in england I could’ve been a Gaz. That’s cool, I woulda done that (like Jaz Coleman from KJ is Jeremy, or Darren, her brother, is Daz). Garry was a family name (uncle and cousin) and I just hated it. On top of which, being adopted I knew from a young age from the adoption papers that I had originally been born and named prior, but the name was obfuscated in the adoption papers — so, knowing you’re not what you were originally given when you were born, and hating the name — the ‘Grimm’ came from a friend’s nickname (Sean Casey? You probably ran into him at shows) – so I used it — and the Skinny Puppy interest (with Nivek Ogre and Cevin Key — the duo were both named Kevin, so 2 Kevins would’ve been 10 years before 2 Skinny J’s — well, nuff said.

    Sorry dude; this is YOUR blog and I’m sort of writing it a tad bit more ego centric; so seriously feel free to delete the post if you want; this was more just two buddies talking.

  4. Don’t apologize for the comments; I think the comments from the actual bands are the best part of the blog.

    As far as pretentious is concerned, you won’t find anyone more so than me. Even now. I’m a total snob, and I know it – I try and rein it in, but it usually doesn’t work.

    And I think Garry is a nice name.

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