ray @ the womb.

I don’t remember much about the Womb (the name of Ray’s recording studio), other than it was in the basement of the Melting Hopefuls’ house in Belleville.  It was kind of dank and dingy, but Ray had tricked it out pretty nicely with a lot of equipment I didn’t understand.  I remember him showing me his mixing board (I believe it was a 24-track board), and explaining to me why he had splurged to get larger tape, rather than quarter-inch tape.

He may as well have been explaining to me how his spaceship generated enough thrust to slingshot out of orbit.

He told me some stories about how he got some of the sounds on the Melting Hopefuls demo tape. “In ‘Rise’,” he explained, “there’s a part of the song where I wanted Renee to sound like she was singing really loud, from really far away. She went up into the kitchen – that room has great acoustics – and sang up there; I ran a microphone all the way through the walls.”

Or something like that, anyway. Maybe it was the bathroom.

That conversation led to me complimenting Ray on how great a job he did with production (and he really did; those early Melting Hopefuls cassettes sounded fantastic). I could tell he took it seriously and I could tell he really enjoyed it.

“I really want to record other bands,” he said. “Not just my own band, but other bands.”

“Have you ever spoken with anyone?” I asked. “I’d bet that if you charged less than the bigger studios around here, a lot of people would love to work with you.”

“Oh, sure,” he said. “I’m planning on working with Ditch Croaker. Have you heard them?”

I hadn’t.

“They’re a pretty new band from Hoboken that put out a 7″ on their own label,” he explained. He started fishing around in a pile of stuff, and pulled out a 7″ that he handed me. “I really like them. Wanna listen?”

“Sure.”

He brought me up into their living room and I sat down on the couch. He popped on the 7″:

“I think they have a great sound,” he said as the 7″ began playing. “The recording is really thin and tinny-sounding.”

And while it did sound tinny as hell, it also sounded great.

“Who are these guys?” I asked.

“They’re pretty new,” he said. “I really like them. Check this one out.”

He flipped over the 7″ and put on the other side. This song, “Mr. Bluefish,” came on.

I was blown away. At first listen, I liked them better than Melting Hopefuls. I thought they were fantastic. “Are you friends with these guys?” I asked.

“Well, yeah,” he said. “We play with them sometimes.” I didn’t understand how I could have been to so many Melting Hopefuls shows and completely missed this band.

“Do they have a label?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “I think they’re kind of into the idea of doing it themselves.”

“Do you think they’d be interested in putting out a 7″ on Dromedary?”

Ray was quiet for a split second. “I would love to produce a 7″ that came out on Dromedary,” he said.

I beamed.

“After all the stuff you’ve done for us, it’s the least I could do,” he said. “And it would be a good resume-builder for me.”

“But do you think they’d do it?” I asked.

“I think they would,” he said. “I think they don’t want to sign with a label, but I think they’d be interested in putting out 7″s with anyone who will put one out for them. They’re really into the indie rock thing. Do you want me to talk to them?”

“Hell, yeah,” I said. “They’re great. I want to put out their record.”

There was something weird in Ray’s expression when I said that. Our friendship had grown to the point where I felt we were friends first and everything else second, but there was something about this discussion that wasn’t sitting right. I wondered if maybe he was remembering the way I once reacted to hearing Melting Hopefuls’ music when I first heard it, and so I added “Assuming Melting Hopefuls won’t be available.”

Melting Hopefuls were, at the time, talking to a Chicago-based indie called March Records. March was an up-and-coming young pop label that had released one of those pay-to-play compilations that included Melting Hopefuls, and now they were talking about potentially putting out a CD EP. To me, at the time, it was very unlikely that I’d be working with the band again, so I didn’t push it. I didn’t even discuss the possibility. I simply never brought it up.

But a Ditch Croaker 7″, that would be a nice followup to “Suck My Heart,” and a perfect example of what we wanted to do musically.

~ by Al on February 7, 2009.

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