The songs on our new album, Northern Aggression, range from dense, driving, psychedelic prog rock—complete with massive Hammond B3—to sparse and dark cautionary tales. The whole of this record was recorded with very little preparation of our band, in fact, the recording of the swingin’ Doors-like tune “Consider The Source” was the first time Steve ever played it for us. He made the lyrics up on the spot as he played Wurlitzer organ, and that’s the vocal you hear on the record. “The Death Of Donny B.” is also an entirely live performance with no overdubs, and it was also the only time the band ever played the song. The tension of these performances just crackles in my headphones when I listen to it.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear me say that one of the more unique aspects of recording with Steve Wynn is his fierce insistence on spontaneity, first impulses, gut reactions, and happy accidents. This strain of spiritually lofty and sometimes physically rough-hewn music can only truly be achieved if you’re all willing to walk into a studio essentially unrehearsed. The experience can be a little like going into a sauna with friends—only in this case you have to be brave enough to strip down in front of the entire listening audience and let the world see your scars and that one ugly toenail before you jump into the snow bank.
This method of making records is not for the weak of heart or those insecure in their talents. We track as a four-piece and rarely replace basic tracks. One exception is my performance of “On The Mend.” I didn’t like my groove on the verses, so I went back out and replayed my entire drum track to the band’s performance.
As a player, you’re bound to come up with parts well after the session has been released and as you begin playing the songs live. The small losses you sometimes feel from a misplaced cymbal hit or awkward fill often times end up becoming the moment that gives the recording its character. Most classic Stones tunes are littered with sloppy fills, missed entrances to choruses, and tempos that gather steam and gallop toward the finish line, but Charlie Watts is considered the quintessential rock drummer. His pocket is somewhat suspect, it’s true, and Keith might be in an entirely different time zone, but in return we hear and feel the elasticity of their soul in that room at that moment—never to be recreated, only mimicked.
During the recording session for Northern Aggression we rarely did more than two or three takes of a song. Steve expects you to check your head at the door and bring the magic. The beauty and the frustration of this methodology is that the recording will not be a representation of your best ideas, but rather a snapshot of an unplanned moment—sometimes blurry, but always in motion.
For more with Linda visit www.myspace.com/lindapitmon.
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