From The Desk Of Doug Gillard: Speak Kindly Of Your Lifeguards (Ad-Hoc Recording Spaces, Part 1)

Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. Gillard will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new Q&A with him.

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Gillard: The house where I lived in Cleveland had a walk-in attic space with a small six-by-seven carpeted room at the end. For five years this was my space to record and get ideas onto tape.

After joining Guided By Voices in late 1996, this was also where I would put guitar and other ideas onto Robert Pollard’s acoustic demos he gave band members to learn for the upcoming albums. (Some of these treatments ended up on the GBV Suitcase series of releases and also the Human Amusements collection.) Around 1999, he gave me a set of songs to work up any way I liked for a collaboration record wherein I recorded all the music and he wrote and sang all the vocals

This became Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department. His demos were acoustic guitar and vocals, as a guide to work from. Bob wrote both music and lyrics for most of the songs, and I wrote the complete music bed for four of the songs (“Pop Zeus,” “Messiahs,” “Port Authority” and “Larger Massachusetts”) with Bob handling the vocals and lyrics.

This music was all recorded on a Tascam four-track cassette, with lots of track bouncing going on to fit everything in.

I put a metronome as click down on one track first (and ran all tapes at the highest speed), then usually an acoustic or electric guitar track. I had a five-piece drum kit in the tiny room (a Mapex with five-lug drums, old heads and cracked cymbals. Nice!) and miked it with three mics running through a cheap four-channel Boss mixer I found for 10 bucks somewhere, then into one track of the Tascam. When that was done, I think I usually combined the basic guitar track with the drum track, bouncing both down to one track.

None of the electric guitars on Speak Kindly went through an amplifier, all going through a small Korg AXG1 multi-effects pedal. I don’t think I ever used that pedal for anything after that at all, but I was able to do some nifty things with it for that record.

I had three mics in my possession at that time. Two were from Radio Shack: a dynamic and an old metal PZM I bought used, and one was a long condenser mic that I usually used for the snare. A variety of things laying around the room were used on that record; there was a plastic Magnus air-pump chord organ I remember using on the “Slick As Snails” intro, and a small kid’s Casio was used on “Messiahs.” An instrumental I had done a couple years prior to that was submitted but not used on Speak Kindly was done with three tracks of piano, Crumar-made synth pedals (Moog Taurus style) and tapping of pens on a cabasa, along with some guitars and drums. This was later resubmitted for the second Lifeguards album and became “You’re Gonna Need A Mountain.” The piano was an old upright from the late 1800s, and we kept it in the dining room. For Speak Kindly, that was used on “And My Unit Moves,” and I utilized it a lot on the first Lifeguards album and my first two solo LPs. During the course of recording, Bob had agreed to sing on the four music beds I had given him, (“Pop Zeus,” et al.), so I finished those up and had my master cassettes ready to mix to a DAT. (True, a DAT. Ney, get it?) I went to my engineer friend Mike McDonald’s place and mixed the four-track masters to the DAT tape, running it through his expansive graphic EQ unit on the way to the tape.

People sometimes marvel that the record was done on a four-track, but it was really only the music, and Bob then sang over the mixes onto ADAT at a studio in Dayton.

It was fun to do, and I still have Bob’s cassette demos of that record and most albums we did as GBV. I sold the Portastudio that the record was recorded on back in 2005 or so.

Another photo after the jump.

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Q&A With Doug Gillard

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Doug Gillard is known (rightly so) for his guitar wizardry in bands such as Guided By Voices, Cobra Verde, Death Of Samantha and, for the last few years, Nada Surf, but that notoriety sometimes overshadows the fact that he’s an accomplished solo singer/songwriter. With his third LP, Parade On (Nine Mile), Gillard continues to show off his virtuosity—solos like the one on “On Target” are just ridiculous—as well as his knack for catchy, folk-inflected power pop. During some down time in Spain while Nada Surf records new material, Gillard talked about his guitar beginnings, recently joining Guided By Voices onstage and his Nada Surf status. He will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week.

MAGNET: You posted a photo on Facebook of yourself playing guitar at age 13 at your brother’s wedding reception. Was that your first public performance? How did it go?
Gillard: No, it wasn’t. When I was seven, I played snare drum at a talent show in the small town of Norwalk, Ohio. I was taking drum lessons, and my instructor’s wife played piano while I performed this recital piece for solo snare drum. It was simple but incorporated some rudiments and rolls. I won second place. A couple years on, I would play guitar at various school events. One time, a sixth-grade reading class held a classroom talent show. I made a backing track at home for a cover of Kiss’ “Calling Dr. Love,” primitively overdubbing rhythm guitar and drums onto two tracks. Unfortunately, what happened was I played the melody live on guitar instead of singing at all. I didn’t win that competition, either.

When did you start playing guitar? When did you realize you were good?
I was about six and had a Sears Fireball plastic guitar. It came with a guitar-tuning Flexi Disc, and I did tune it by ear to standard, but I had no idea how to form regular chords. So I would just open-tune the strings to chords that sounded good or play one-note lines. There will be an entry on these songs in this guest-editor series coming up. I started taking proper lessons in third grade, for about three years.

By the way, my upcoming guest-editor stories are mostly typically indulgent memories of band and touring life. Not a lot of personal interaction stories, but I also don’t believe in the sort of kiss-and-tell writing style, so any personal tales will be positive. Especially lately, I’ve come to realize how incredibly important friendship is, and to have a friend, you have to be a friend. Maybe the stories aren’t very interesting, either, but music is really all I know anything about. I tried to incorporate the ridiculous together with the sublime. I’m not much of a writer, so don’t expect sentences to be constructed in the best way.

I’m sure we’re all going to enjoy them, so don’t worry. Not to make this all about Facebook, but you also recently posted about meeting the late Tommy Ramone a couple of years ago. What was that like?
He appeared at a screening of End Of The Century for a Q&A. I saw Jon Wurster there, and we sat together. Later, I saw Tommy in the lobby, and he was happy to chat a bit. He was a gracious and humble man and was the one who really put that band together. A revelation to me was that he wrote some of those complex song intros with the math-y timing.

You’re busy playing with bands in addition to creating solo material. How difficult is it for you to balance it all? Do you sometimes feel unable to devote enough time to promoting your own efforts? I ask because you’ve put out these really solid solo LPs that deserve more attention.
It’s getting more difficult. Yes, I do feel unable to devote enough time to promote my solo things at times, but I enjoy all of the projects I’m involved in. Thanks for your compliment, and I agree with you.

Parade On‘s first song is the jaunty, catchy yet lyrically dark “Ready For Death.” Are you OK, Doug?
[Laughs] Yes, I’m OK, but that’s a phrase I tend to think at times when I’m feeling fatigued, ill or foggy. I have some thyroid/adrenal issues that give way to a bit of depression at times, but I’m able to work through it. In fact, working gets me through it; then again, the condition makes me procrastinate the work. It’s a vicious cycle. Basically, I took the phrase and juxtaposed it with happy music. “Ready for death” was the starting theme, but as lyrics developed, I found the song isn’t so much about how I’m feeling physically as it is questioning a belief in deity. I thought it would be fun to create a Harrison-esque sound that instead begs the question, “My sweet lord, do you really exist?”

I interviewed Slim Dunlap years ago, and about Bob Stinson’s guitar skills, he said, “He was capable of things that were just not normal.” I thought of that when I heard the solos on “No Perspective” and “On Target” I don’t really have a question there, just wanted to offer that compliment.
Well, thanks, Matt. Death Of Samantha opened for the Replacements in ’84, and I got to see Bob live. He told me later he liked my playing, too, so I was elated. I think it’s true he did some wild stuff. I’ve always had a thing for taking chances like he and, for instance, Robert Quine did. I try do it in live situations all the time. You shoot for something and you may fail, but you have to try to be chancy. I love seeing others do that, and I think improvisation in rock or punk/indie has all but disappeared. Not so much with drummers, but in the guitar realm for sure.

You recently played a couple of songs with Guided By Voices in New York. How did that go?
It went wonderfully, thanks. I opened for them a few years ago as well. This time I joined them for “Teenage FBI” and “Fair Touching.” The week before, our reunited Death Of Samantha opened two shows for them as well, and that was a blast, too. Cobra Verde and my band Gem opened for GBV in the early ’90s, so we’ve all always been friends through the years with Tobin (Sprout) and Mitch (Mitchell). I was in GBV with Greg Demos as bassist in 1998-99 as well.

How did the Death Of Samantha reunion happen? What are your thoughts on how it went?
We reunited about three years ago now. John (Petkovic) ran into original bassist David James in Cleveland, and they discussed doing the band again. John already knew I was into doing the same. The first reunion show went amazingly well, and we all have so much fun playing as a band. Our double album (If Memory Serves Us Well) came out last year, and we’ve played several shows to support it, with more touring happening sometime in the future.

You’re very active with Nada Surf at this point. In my opinion, you’ve made a fantastic band even better. What has the experience been like?
It’s been really great. I enjoy being in the band because I love being with those guys. We’re all around the same ages, the mood and outlook is always bright, and we share similar influences musically. The touring takes us to some great places, and we have a crew of people who work closely with us in different countries who are now all very close friends of the band. Hell, knowing Ira Elliot got me into Bambi Kino, probably the most fun band I’ve ever been a part of. Plus, I get to be in two bands with Ira on drums—what’s not to like about that?

Is your involvement open-ended? Has there been any discussion of a more permanent role?
Well, no one seems to really be aware of this, but I am an actual member of the band. Whether that means I’ll start to be included in the promo photos now, I have no idea, but I hope so. We’ve started writing and recording a new LP, and it’s very much a collective effort.

—Matt Hickey

 

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From The Desk Of Orenda Fink: Kurt Vonnegut

Orenda Fink is known for her quiet, introspective songs and her unobtrusive approach to singing. Her music, both on her own solo albums and with Azure Ray (the band she fronts with longtime friend Maria Taylor), tends to be forlorn and unsettling, albeit imbued with an underlying belief in the ultimate goodness of existence. The songs on her new album, Blue Dream were inspired by the death of her dog, as well as general meditations on the limitations of existence on the material plane. On the LP, Fink goes deep into the primal questions of death and the meaning of life. The lyrics are dark, but the music is bright and buoyant, although still played at the laid-back tempos that are her forte. Fink will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

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Fink: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
“And if I die—God forbid—I would like to go to heaven to ask somebody in charge up there, “Hey, what was the good news and what was the bad news?”
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
“So it goes.”

Vonnegut should be required reading to enter the human race.

Video after the jump.

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In The News: Sarah Silverman, M83, Raveonettes, Johnny Marr, ABBA, Paul Weller And More

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We Are Miracles, the recording of Sarah Silverman’s Emmy-nominated first headlining special for HBO, will be available from Sub Pop on CD, LP and digital formats on September 23 … Stevie Nicks will release a new solo album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault, on October 7 via Warner Bros. Containing songs mostly written between 1969 and 1987, the package will also include never-before-seen Polaroid photos taken by Nicks throughout her career … On August 25, the first three out-of-print albums by M83M83; Dead Cities, Red Seas, And Lost Ghosts and Before The Dawn Heals Us—will be reissued by Mute. Two digital EPs featuring remixes and b-sides will be available September 9 … The new album from the Raveonettes, Pe’ahi, is out now as a surprise release via The Beat Dies. The duo will hit the road for a U.S. tour on September 22 … Warner Music Group will issue Johnny Marr’s second solo effort, Playland, on October 7 … Memoirs Of A Madman is an audio and video collection celebrating the career of Ozzy Osbourne, due out October 7 in multiple formats from Epic/Legacy … Bloc Party’s Kele has announced the October 14 release of his second solo record, Trick, on the Lilac label … ABBA’s landmark 1979 concert at Wembley Arena will be available in its entirety on ABBA: Live At Wembley Arena on September 30 … September 8 marks the release of a five-album boxed set, Paul Weller: Classic Album Selection Vol 1, featuring the first five solo albums from Paul Weller … Schnitzel Records will release Leave Me Alone, the new album from Nick Oliveri, in late September.

—Emily Costantino

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From The Desk Of Orenda Fink: Todd Fink

Orenda Fink is known for her quiet, introspective songs and her unobtrusive approach to singing. Her music, both on her own solo albums and with Azure Ray (the band she fronts with longtime friend Maria Taylor), tends to be forlorn and unsettling, albeit imbued with an underlying belief in the ultimate goodness of existence. The songs on her new album, Blue Dream were inspired by the death of her dog, as well as general meditations on the limitations of existence on the material plane. On the LP, Fink goes deep into the primal questions of death and the meaning of life. The lyrics are dark, but the music is bright and buoyant, although still played at the laid-back tempos that are her forte. Fink will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

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Fink: Is this weird? I don’t care. I’m a big fan of this guy. He has an amazing band (the Faint), he is a great producer, artist, designer, songwriter—and most importantly he puts up with me! He also just co-produced my new record, Blue Dream, solidifying that we can make records together after being married for almost 10 years, which is, in itself, a miracle. I’m looking forward to collaborating more with him ’til death do us part.

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From The Desk Of Orenda Fink: Meals With Friends

Orenda Fink is known for her quiet, introspective songs and her unobtrusive approach to singing. Her music, both on her own solo albums and with Azure Ray (the band she fronts with longtime friend Maria Taylor), tends to be forlorn and unsettling, albeit imbued with an underlying belief in the ultimate goodness of existence. The songs on her new album, Blue Dream were inspired by the death of her dog, as well as general meditations on the limitations of existence on the material plane. On the LP, Fink goes deep into the primal questions of death and the meaning of life. The lyrics are dark, but the music is bright and buoyant, although still played at the laid-back tempos that are her forte. Fink will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

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Fink: This is one of my favorite things to do. There is nothing like connecting with your friends over a nice meal and bottle of wine. It’s much more intimate than hanging out at a bar or a party and you get to share the sensory pleasures of eating and drinking. Over meals with friends, you can have inspiring ideas, work out problems, express your feelings of gratitude or just catch up on the not-so-trivial aspects of everyone’s lives that we yearn to share with others. Home cooked or at your favorite restaurant, the absolute best meals are the ones in which you completely lose track of time. The wine helps with that …

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Normal History Vol. 279: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

[continued from last week]

It is expected that women should take care of men’s egos and make it all OK for them to get rejected and if, as a woman, you decide not to provide this service for a man, you are opening yourself up to having some jerk come and stand over you at the gym complaining about how you decided to let him know you aren’t interested in him.

His big point (while saying it was “fine, just fine, Jean“) was that he didn’t like how I’d handled things. I hadn’t attempted to soothe his ego.

I stayed calm, but really—what an asshole—and this guy taught teenagers. Oh, and he’s self-publishing a book of poems and he plays in a Celtic band, and I hate self-publishing and Celtic bands just a little bit more now. I may even like poets a bit less.

I actually saw him on the street an hour after all this. He waved. I smiled just enough and kept walking.

I have been very careful letting men down in the past so that they don’t turn into psychotic freaks who then stalk me, harass me, phone me endlessly, ring my buzzer for hours or whatever other idiotic shit they do that they then blame on me for rejecting them.

Jesus H. Christ.

Does this shit with men never end?

“Sha La La La La” from Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!, 1986; re-released by K, 1995) (download):

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From The Desk Of Orenda Fink: Carl Jung

Orenda Fink is known for her quiet, introspective songs and her unobtrusive approach to singing. Her music, both on her own solo albums and with Azure Ray (the band she fronts with longtime friend Maria Taylor), tends to be forlorn and unsettling, albeit imbued with an underlying belief in the ultimate goodness of existence. The songs on her new album, Blue Dream were inspired by the death of her dog, as well as general meditations on the limitations of existence on the material plane. On the LP, Fink goes deep into the primal questions of death and the meaning of life. The lyrics are dark, but the music is bright and buoyant, although still played at the laid-back tempos that are her forte. Fink will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

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Fink: Carl Jung is my adopted spiritual mentor. He was a scientist with a brilliant mind, but he was also a reluctant mystic. I think this combination of viewpoints allowed him to tap into discoveries of the mind and soul that no other modern thinker has achieved. He coined and redefined terms that permeate spiritual and therapeutic practice today: the collective unconscious, synchronicity, persona, anima and animus, the self and the shadow, archetypes, and extrovert and introvert, to name a few. But it’s his theory of dreams that is the most fascinating to me. He assigns great importance to them as symbolic representations of our deep conscious and unconscious minds. Through dreams we can not only access knowledge that resides in our hidden mind, but that of the entire collective unconscious. Glorious.

Video after the jump.

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Film At 11: Jenny Lewis

California singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis‘ video for new single “Just One Of The Guys,” from new album The Voyager, features Anne Hathaway, Brie Larson, Kristen Stewart and Tennessee Thomas as her band, and also as crazy-looking dudes. The clip also has an abundance of Adidas track suits, fake mustaches and awful dancing. Just enough to suck you into the track that accompanies it all. Check out the video below.

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From The Desk Of Orenda Fink: Chris Lawson

Orenda Fink is known for her quiet, introspective songs and her unobtrusive approach to singing. Her music, both on her own solo albums and with Azure Ray (the band she fronts with longtime friend Maria Taylor), tends to be forlorn and unsettling, albeit imbued with an underlying belief in the ultimate goodness of existence. The songs on her new album, Blue Dream were inspired by the death of her dog, as well as general meditations on the limitations of existence on the material plane. On the LP, Fink goes deep into the primal questions of death and the meaning of life. The lyrics are dark, but the music is bright and buoyant, although still played at the laid-back tempos that are her forte. Fink will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on her.

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Fink: Mixed-media artist, surrealist, writer, actor, world traveler, best friend: Chris Lawson is one of my favorite visual artists. He has been called an “ethnographic surrealist,” and I feel this best sums up his body of work. He has done cover art for Azure Ray, Art In Manila and my solo record Ask The Night, to which he also contributed lyrics. His mixed-media pieces range from the macabre to the ethereal, but generally you will find a dose of Chris’ quirky sense of humor; an ability to find light in darkness and poke fun at the monsters (real or imagined) of society. His work is really amazing.

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