David Robinson

There are a lot of things I want to accomplish as a drummer. There are a lot of things I want to work out and put down on tape where my ideas can take some real form,” says David Robinson of the Cars. “I’m rolling with ideas.” On the surface, Robinson’s statement isn’t what one might consider profound, or even unusual. Most drummers who are serious about their craft, industrious, and a bit creative could easily claim those exact words. But when they run out of Robinson’s mouth, it’s almost as if they are slipping on ice, or worse, shackled in chains.

Robinson’s work as the Cars’ one and only drummer speaks for itself. Beginning in 1978 with the richly received self-titled debut album, on to the equally acclaimed follow-up, Candy-O in 1979, then Panorama in 1980, Shake It Up in 1981, and finally last year’s excellent Heartbeat City, Robinson’s precise, terse drumming represents some of the most consistent playing in all of rock.

And therein might very well lie the problem. By his own admission, Robinson possesses a drum style that is remarkably simple and succinct. More important, however, is the fact that it is unflinchingly on the mark. When you’re the right person for the job (as Robinson obviously is) and you’re all too efficient at it, well, people sometimes tend to treat your talent as something more or less routine.

But that is only part of it. Add this to the fact that being the Cars’ drummer doesn’t allow much in the way of significant artistic expression anyway, and you have a working environment that can become downright frustrating, especially for an ambitious drummer like Robinson.

In spite of all this, David Robinson is undoubtedly a loyal member of the Cars. He’s also one who certainly knows where his bread gets buttered. Nevertheless, Robinson does speak out and, in the process, vents much of his frustration about his limited role in the band, like very few drummers ever do in print. In doing so, not only does he explain how he copes with his situation, but he also reveals a vastly interesting glimpse into the inner structure of the Cars, one ofAmerica’s most successful pop-rock groups.

I had never spoken to David Robinson prior to our conversation over the telephone. Yet, for some reason, I expected different answers to the questions I posed to him. I must also say that, when I suspected a hint of uneasiness, I probed as deep as I could in order to bring out Robin- son’s true feelings on the subject at hand. Robinson, the gentleman and professional that he is, answered all my questions with- out complaint.

RS: So many groups that began in the late ’70s with the Cars have since disbanded or else are long forgotten. Has the huge success of the Cars surprised you?

DR: Actually, it’s been so long since we started that it’s difficult to remember what kind of impression I first had about the group, and if I thought we were going to amount to anything. I do remember that we packed a lot of confidence when we began the Cars. We probably would have been surprised if it hadn’t worked. We thought we finally hit the right combination of people for it to be a sure thing. I don’t think we dwelled too much on how successful we’d be in terms of records and record sales. I can say this: I don’t know what I would have done if things hadn’t worked out the way they did. I mean, every piece of the puzzle was completed, musically. The only thing we weren’t sure of was whether or not people were going to like the stuff we were coming up with.

RS: You were the last piece of that puzzle, right?

DR: In a way, yeah. The other guys in the group had all played together in the past, at one time or another.

RS: It seems that, whenever one reads or hears about the Cars, it’s Ric Ocasek’s name that automatically jumps to the forefront. How do you personally relate to that? Is it frustrating not to see your name mentioned as well?

DR: Well, that’s been happening kind of steadily for about the last three years. I’m not sure how the whole thing started, either. It was probably because he’s the frontman for the group and writes most of our songs. But also, for a time, it just seemed easier for the people who set up interviews and things like that to just use one person. Now, it’s just gotten out of hand.

RS: You don’t sound too happy with the arrangement. Would you rather it be another way?

DR: I can only speak for myself, but I’d rather have it be more of a group thing. I feel that way not only for the public’s sake, so they could hear what other members of the Cars have to say in interviews and such, but also because it affects the music. It’s not always the situation where everybody gets to contribute their fifth, which is the way it really used to be before.

RS: And that bothers you.

DR: To some extent, yes. But it’s been going on for quite a while, so I’m used to it.

RS: Is there any hope for a change in the future, or is it to the point where it can’t be changed because of the public’s perception of the band, with Ocasek out in front of everyone else in the band?

DR: Well, I think it can be changed, especially the perception of the band in the public’s eye. But I don’t know about the other aspects changing. I hope, however, that they do change.

RS: What would you say is your role in the Cars, aside, of course, from that of drummer? Do you have any other specific responsibilities?

DR: Gee, at this point, not too much. I just play drums pretty much. You know, I also do the work that we all do together with arrangements and things.

RS: But didn’t you also have a hand in designing the LP cover for Heartbeat City?

DR: Yeah, well I started to design the whole cover at one point. But that somehow sort of got lost in the shuffle of working on the record and trying to be the art director for the cover at the same time.

RS: So the final artwork that appears on Heartbeat City isn’t really yours?

DR: Well, not really. To work with a whole group of people is hard, especially in a situation where everybody has some sort of censorship over it, and that was really how it got lost. Too many got involved with it. The only part of it that came out right was the painting on the cover and the lettering on the front. But those were both laid out wrong anyway, so it was pretty much totally lost. The inside was supposed to be a collage of photographs and images, and that just didn’t happen. I’ll just save that idea for another cover.

RS: Are you actively interested in graphic art and album-cover design?

DR: Yeah, you might say that. I do that on the side. I do layouts and different things, and have been working with photographers doing some ads for magazines here in Boston.

RS: Are you formally trained in this sort of thing?

DR: No, not really. I started to do it out of necessity to help the bands that I was in. I had a lot of ideas, so I kept them all throughout my band years. Now I can apply some of them to other things.

RS: Before you joined the Cars, which was in 1976, you’d been a member of the Modern Lovers, the Pop, and DMZ. How did you go from these groups to the Cars?

DR: Well, I was in DMZ, and Ric used to come to see the group perform quite a bit. He knew who 1 was from my days with the Modern Lovers. The Modern Lovers and Ric’s old band used to play in the same club all the time. Ric was into the Modern Lovers and knew my drumming style.

RS: Did he ask you to join the band, or did you confront him with the idea?

DR: He approached me. 1 guess you could say that I was scouted out.

RS: What sort of band was DMZ?

DR: DMZ was sort of a punk band out of Boston. I don’t know how to describe the band, except to say that we were really wild. Back then, people would have called the group a punk group; now people would probably consider DMZ as possessing the wrong sort of political attitudes. DMZ was totally wild—really fast songs, falling off the stage, screaming, yelling, bleeding, dressing crazy, that sort of thing. I joined DMZ because I couldn’t find a band that looked like it would be long-lasting. So, at the time, DMZ was the band that had the most fun. I used to see all of its shows before 1 joined and just loved the group. Those shows were great. Then someone in the band asked me to join one day, and so I said, “Yeah, I might as well be a part of it.” So I did that for a while—maybe not even a year. And from DMZ I joined the Cars.

RS: What group—the Modern Lovers, the Pop, or DMZ—was most rewarding in terms of playing drums?

DR: With DMZ it was mostly fun. It wasn’t all that rewarding as far as drumming goes. I mean, half the time you couldn’t even hear me. It was real physical; all I tried to do was play fast, which I must confess, I really wasn’t very good at. But it was fun. As for playing with the Modern Lovers, it was during that gig that I realized I had a certain drum style. And that was really forced on me, because the music was so simple. We were really influenced by the Velvet Underground. We wanted the drums in our group to be in the same vein that the Underground used them in— very primitive and simple, not fancy, but still emotional. That’s really where I pulled back and played as little as I could play. I played only two drums when that was all it took.

RS: Would you say that your drum playing today still follows those ideas of simplicity and minimalism?

DR: Philosophically speaking, it’s definitely the same. Whenever I work on a part for a Cars’ song, say, I go as far as I think I can go, and then cut it in half. I try to bring it down so that every bar is sort of packed with whatever it is that I want to accomplish in the song. I won’t feel like the song is done unless I really strip it down as far as it can go.

RS: In essence then, what you do is build up, and then break down the drum part for each song you record.

DR: Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

RS: When did you begin playing the drums?

DR: Let’s see, when I was 15 or 16—the pre-Beatles era.

RS: Why did you choose the drums?

DR: Well, actually, I wanted to play the guitar. There were a couple of drummers in my neighborhood in Boston. Like all my friends, I wanted to be in a band. I wanted to take up the guitar and take guitar lessons; it was a hip thing to take lessons back then, even though we all wound up teach- ing ourselves to play. Still, it was something I wanted to do. But lessons were too expensive, and my parents didn’t want to pay for them. I was really depressed about it, so, to cheer me up, they found a friend who was a 65-year-old wedding drummer. He was a good drummer, but he was old. So my parents asked me if I would like to play drums instead of guitar, and I said, “Okay, I’ll play the drums.” At the same time, I think I would have said yes to any instrument. If they had known a sax player rather than a drummer, I think I would have taken up the saxophone. The thing was to play an instrument and join a band.

RS: Who were some of your early influences on the drums?

DR: Well, the way this man taught me to play drums was to insist that I play along with records at home. The only records I could find, in which I could hear the drums clearly, pick out what the drummer was playing, and pick out different beats, were records from my parents’ record collection.

RS: Big band records?

DR: No, totally commercial background music. It was so simple that it was idiotic. I also, however, listened to Ventures records. All my rock records had the same drumbeats, so to find 3/4, I had to go through my parents’ collection.

RS: Did you ever consider a career outside of music?

DR: Not really, no. It was the kind of thing where people treated the drums like it was my hobby, but I thought it was going to be my vocation. Since I wasn’t all that successful early on, I tried to sort of go both ways with it. If people said to me, “Drums are great, but you should get a serious job,” I’d say, “Oh yeah. Well, I’ll do that.” But then I’d talk to my musician friends and it was another story altogether. I had jobs other than those playing drums, but none of them meant anything. The only jobs I had were right after high school, and they were in the music business—working in record stores and with record distributors, that sort of thing. Actually, looking back, the experience I got working there was good for me; I learned a lot about that end of the business during the three years I did that.

RS: Was there ever a time where you nearly gave up playing the drums?

DR: Oh yeah, lots of times.

RS: And the reason or reasons?

DR: Money.

RS: That’s a good enough reason. On record you come across as being a very controlled drummer. It’s as if your role behind the kit is very well-defined and tailored for you. Would that be somewhat of an accurate description?

DR: Yeah, I’d say so. In the Cars’ music, the drums are always important, up front, and loud. But many Cars’ tunes are not what you might call rhythm songs. The impression they make, at least to my ear, is caused by a lot of things going on at once, not like, say, a dance record that you hear these days, and that’s all drums or 90% drums. I mean, if you didn’t have the drums, there’d be no song. Hardly any of our music is like that. I think the music sort of requires my style of drumming.

RS: While doing research for this interview, I read a rather interesting quote along these lines. I believe the writer claimed that much of the Cars’ music is fairly simple pop, with different shades and degrees of avant-garde ideas thrown in. If that’s true, then your philosophy concerning the drums does indeed fit right in with what Ric Ocasek has in mind when writing Cars’ songs. But do you ever want to be more ambitious and do more on the drums?

DR: Yeah, that happens. On the last album [Heartbeat City], for instance, we worked on the drums and recorded them last. So there was some frustration over the fact that I couldn’t really place the importance on some of the drum parts that I would have had we done things a little dif- ferently, or if I had more input at the beginning, before we recorded the songs. There are also lots of things I want to get out to people, but the ideas are totally out of context with the Cars’ music.

RS: What do you do to satisfy those creative urges?

DR: Well, I let them out by working with other people, or on my own, or on a drum machine. I recorded about six minutes of an African drumbeat for a movie soundtrack that a local filmmaker put together recently. My drum machine is full of dance rap drumbeats, some of which I intend to put into songs. Some ideas I could use with the Cars, but they have to be changed to fit the style of the Cars’ songs. I’ve taken things that I thought were really inappropriate—beats that I had planned for other projects—and took the straightest part of the beat, and used that in a Cars’ song.

RS: All the Cars’ LPs prior to Heartbeat City were produced by Roy Thomas Baker. Heartbeat City, however, was produced by Mutt Lange. In terms of drumming and drum sounds and styles, did Lange’s approach and ideas differ from Baker’s in a significant fashion?

DR: Yeah, I think so. Roy would just about always let me play whatever I wanted to play, and I never expected, because of that, for things to be any other way. But Mutt has real definite ideas about what he expects to hear. And he’s not very compromising.

RS: So you were the one who did the compromising?

DR: Yeah, I think that’s basically what it was. I’m sure his opinion is that he compromised a lot. Maybe compromise isn’t even the right word. I think Roy really just had a little more respect for my abilities to create my own drum parts than Mutt did.

RS: And how did you respond to that?

DR: Well, it was a problem. It got ironed out and everything turned out okay. But I was used to just going into the studio and putting down drum parts. Don’t get me wrong; I want to hear other people’s opinions. But I don’t want to hear someone saying, “You can’t play this.”

RS: Is that ultimately what it boiled down to? I mean, if you compare your drumming on Heartbeat City with things you recorded in the past, there is a fairly noticeable difference.

DR: Well, people who know how I play can hear the difference. You’re right. Other people just say, “Oh yeah, this is great. It’s just like the way he played on the other records.” But if you listen closely, some of the songs have drum parts that are very, very unlike what I would play on my own—lots of kick drum parts that I would never touch, and a lot more playing that sounds like less, if you know what I mean. It has less of an impression, at least in my own opinion. That’s really the best way to put it. There’s more playing that makes less of an impression. Of course, to some other people’s ears it all sounds like it always did—simple. But I could go through the record from song to song and pick things out, like “Here’s a really bad kick drum beat that never should have been there, doesn’t really help, and I never would have played on my own.”

RS: What does this mean for the future?

DR: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know when we’re going to do another album. Everybody has solo projects in motion. And it’s mostly up to when Ric wants to do it.

RS: When you say everyone in the group is doing a solo record, does that include yourself, too?

DR: It means everyone but me. I’m working on things, but I don’t have a record deal and haven’t even looked for one yet. I’m trying to get music together for movie soundtracks.

RS: Why soundtracks? Is that the way you wish to go, artistically speaking? Or does it offer the best opportunities for you at the present?

DR: I think I would rather spend two months on a good, pretty high-budgeted movie, than on an album that maybe nobody’s going to hear and that I get carried away with, but one that won’t be commercial, that I sing on, and that I can write words for. I want to do that, but later on in my career. Right now, I have a million movie themes in my head. I go to the movies all the time and say to myself, “Jeez, I can do this!” These people get paid a lot of money, too. So I want to try that.

RS: When you look at the number of successful solo albums put out by drummers—other than Phil Collins, of course —soundtracks do offer a pretty viable alternative.

DR: That’s true. And that’s why I’m trying to get into it as soon as I can.

RS: Describe your musical relationship with Cars’ bass player Ben Orr. Is it a traditional drummer-bass relationship?

DR: Yeah, pretty much. Usually when we begin work on a new song, we start off in pretty much the same place. We listen to each other and try to see where each other plans to go. Sometimes at rehearsal, especially when it’s kind of noisy, I’ll just stop playing and ask Ben to play a few bars to the verse of the song in question. I’ll listen and then react. It’s a pretty simple working relationship.

RS: How do you personally approach a new Cars tune when it’s presented to you?

DR: Ric usually brings in a tape that he’s recorded at home where he has an eight-track studio.

RS: Are there usually drum tracks on it?

DR: Yeah, he usually has a drum machine on it. When he got a Linn, he began putting a lot of drums on the tapes. Before that, it would be a real non sophisticated drum part—4/4 throughout the whole song or something. When he first started to put drum tracks on the demos for us, it kind of restricted things. People would want to hear the song the way it was on the demo, and we couldn’t change the signature or anything. But now that he has a Linn and he can do more things as far as drum parts go, we’ve more or less gotten away from that restriction.

RS: Can you recall your very first recording experience with the Cars?

DR: Sure. It was doing some demos, only a month or two after we started the band. I don’t think we’d even played any gigs yet. We had no record deal. We learned ten songs, went in and recorded them all in, I don’t know, two or three days. Maybe it took just one day. All I know is that we were well-rehearsed, like we usually are before we record anything. So it was easy.

RS: Two of the Cars’ best noted songs off LPs other than Heartbeat City—“Just What I Needed” and “Let’s Go”—are generally considered classics by Cars’ fans. What are your recollections of the recording of those songs?

DR: I remember first hearing “Just What I Needed” as a Roxy Music kind of tune. We wanted it to sound like pop, but corky, too. All I did drum-wise that was out of the ordinary was to turn the beat around at the end. As for “Let’s Go,” I threw in one LinnDrum part, but aside from that, it was pretty routine drumming for me.

RS: What Cars tracks are you most proud of, as far as your drumming goes?

DR: Gee, I don’t really know. There are lots of them. It would be easier to find one I didn’t like, to be honest. I don’t want to name them, but the reason why I didn’t like some of the tracks would always be the same: I didn’t spend enough time on them.

RS: Would that be your fault?

DR: Yeah, mostly my fault. Maybe in one song, it wasn’t really finished, and we just threw it down.

RS: Would you consider yourself a disciplined drummer? Do you practice quite often when not out on the road or in the studio?

DR: No, I’m a spontaneous type of player. I rehearse just to stay in shape. If there’s something I hear in my head that’s a little complicated, I’ll sit down and play it for just as long as it takes to feel comfortable with it and feel like I know it.

RS: Are there any Cars’ tunes you particularly enjoy playing live?

DR: I like to play them all. Some people get tired of their own music; I could play any of the songs. I really enjoy playing all of them.

RS: When the Cars are off the road and not in the studio, do you find yourself sitting in with local bands in Boston clubs?

DR: No, never. I don’t enjoy doing that. I’m not the kind of drummer who would jump up on the stage and play a bunch of Chuck Berry songs. That would be like a nightmare for me!

RS: Why is that?

DR: Well, I think I’ve gotten to the point where I really only enjoy playing my own music. Anything outside of that, someone else should jump up on stage and play, as far as I’m concerned. If I’m really getting carried away with something that’s fun, I might get up and play with some other people, but I’d do a Cars song or maybe a Velvet Underground number. But I never really enjoyed that jam sort of thing even before the Cars.

RS: Do you do session work? What about producing?

DR: I produced an album for a group called Vinny, which was a Boston bar band. Unfortunately, they’ve since broken up, but one of its members, Ralph Fatello, is an old friend of mine, and we have plans to do some work together in the near future.

RS: What drummers do you particularly enjoy listening to these days?

DR: When people ask me that question, I’ll usually say nobody. I mean, I don’t consciously say to myself, “Wow, I think I’m going to sit down for an hour or so, and listen to this person play drums.” Then later on, after the question has been asked, I realize there are drummers who I love to listen to, and drummers I enjoy hearing play. But basically, I like beats more than drummers. If I hear a great beat, I don’t care who it is or what group the drummer is with, I’ll listen.

RS: You mentioned something earlier about laying down some African beats for a movie soundtrack. How did you become interested in African beats?

DR: I worked on the project with another drummer, who is a friend from Boston. Somebody who had been to Africa taught him this drumbeat. It has a name, but of course, he couldn’t remember it, and he couldn’t remember what part of Africa it originated in. I don’t know enough about it to even tell you what kind of beat it is. But it’s seven separate parts and we put them all down. We played all the parts, overdubbed them, and did everything very quickly. Then, we sang the African vocals that went along with it. We got a group of people to sing—sort of like a tribe—and we then put it out of phase. It sounds like you’re actually at the village. It sounds great. It fits in with the theme of the movie really well,

RS: What is the name of the movie?

DR: It’s called Chapter X. It’s about 30 minutes long and is kind of what used to be called an “underground” movie. It was done by a guy who now does rock videos, Luis Aira. He’s done Ric’s videos, Greg’s videos [Greg Hawkes, keyboards player for the Cars] and a few other things.

RS: Speaking of videos, what are your feelings on them? Since you have an interest in film, does that carry over into videos, too?

DR: I’ve always been interested in the band having an input into our videos. But for the last album, I really had nothing to do with any of the videos we did.

RS: By choice?

DR: No, not by choice. Ric and our manager would pretty much pick the directors, and before any of us knew it, we would be shooting the video. Sometimes they would give us the story board when we arrived to shoot. You couldn’t do anything. All you could say was, “I don’t want to do this,” or “I’ll look stupid doing that.” But there was so little input and so little understanding of the process by which the director sought to get his ideas across that we had no choice but to get our makeup on and do it. I think all the members should have had an input and something to say as to the creation of the videos. Some people you could trust to do a good job; others you don’t know or perhaps don’t like what they did before. But we didn’t have much choice.

RS: It doesn’t seem like the Cars are, shall we say, a democratic band. Would you agree with that?

DR: Yeah, without putting anybody down, it’s just like a company. That’s the way it works in this case.

RS: Could you give a quick rundown of your current drumkit?

DR: I can tell you what I used on the Heartbeat City tour: my same Slingerland chrome set that I’ve had for years, with a Ludwig snare drum and a lot of Ludwig parts, including stands. As for electronics, I had a Simmons SDS7, one triggered Clap Trap, and one Syndrum, with just one pad going into one channel. The snare drum triggered the Clap Trap. And that was about it. It was actually the least amount of equipment that I ever used.

RS: And what about cymbals?

DR: I used all Zildjian cymbals: 16″, 17″, and 18″ crash cymbals. The 18″ is rather thin; the others are sort of just medium weight. I wanted to get one of those upside down China cymbals, but I didn’t find a good one in time. So I used one of those with the rivets in them—a China with rivets. What I wanted was a real trashcan sounding one. I got by without it; it wasn’t a problem or anything. But the cymbal with the rivets is 18″, and I used a 22″ medium-heavy ride cymbal, which I put tape on the bottom of because it rang. And I used Zildjian hi-hats.

RS: How do you go about shopping for drums when you’re looking for something new? What is it that you look for in particular?

DR: Well, I have to say that I really like the way my Slingerland set sounds. Not on this tour, but on the last one—the Shake It Up tour—I thought I would look around for some new drums. I figured I’d see what all the other drums sounded like. So I got about eight different brands of floor tom-toms, different sizes and thickness. And I tried them all out. I liked a couple of them. I think the best of the bunch were Ludwig and Yamaha. But after I thought about it none of them were really better than what I already had. So I stuck with my Slingerland set. I like Slingerland drums, because they’re deep and they’re loud. There are things about the set that maybe aren’t made in such a precision-like manner, such as is the case with some German sets. But for just a big, sloppy “posh,” I just couldn’t beat them. I have thin, three-ply shells, instead of five-ply. Maybe that has something to do with the kind of sound I like to get out of my drums, too.

RS: And what about cymbals? What do you look for and listen for in a cymbal?

DR: Usually something that sounds good with the ones I already have. I’ll bring a new cymbal to practice, and if it doesn’t fit in with what I already have, I’ll take it back. On the small cymbals I like a thin, short decay. On the large cymbals, I just like something really loud that cuts through the sound—the volume. I really need to hear them. I’m not the kind of drummer who could play art 8″ splash cymbal in my set. The way we work, I would never hear it.

RS: Is there considerable difference in the way you play live as compared to your studio work?

DR: I try to play the same way, both in the studio and out on the road. But I usually find myself holding back a bit too much when we record. When there are so few things happening, I tend to want to keep things real simple. But sometimes I overdo it; I hold back where I should have played a little more. So I end up playing more and usually better when we play live than when we record.

RS: You prefer playing live then?

DR: Actually, I love playing both. I love to play live a little more because it’s totally different than recording. It’s much more exciting to play in front of people. You also feel much more powerful with a P.A. behind you.

RS: What about the other aspects of being on the road—the hotels, the fast meals, fatigue. Do these things bother you?

DR: No, because the way that we tour is like a luxury vacation compared to the way lots of other groups tour. It’s easy. It’s like falling out of bed. We go around first- class, and stay in good hotels. We don’t have a care in the world. Someone says, “Okay, we’re going to drive you down to the gig at 7:30,” and we go or we don’t go. Those are the only decisions we have to make. I never do interviews on the road, so it’s not like the first tour where we had to get up early and rush off to radio stations, shake hands, visit record stores, and sign autographs. We never do that, so it’s really simple. I haven’t done an interview of any length or any substance in two years.

RS: Again, is that by choice?

DR: No, not by choice. [laughs]

RS: Do you still live in Boston?

DR: Oh yeah.

RS: Do you have a studio or practice room at your house?

DR: Yeah, I do. Actually, I’m just putting it together now. In the past, I never really had any room for one. It’s really just a corner of a room where I do my artwork. I have a mixer, my drum machines, a little amp, although I usually just play with headphones, and I’m going to get a Teac eight-track unit. I don’t play every day; for me, it’s easiest to grab my timbales, go over to our recording studio, and use an isolation booth. There I can play for an hour, take a break, and play for a couple of hours more. The studio is real close to my house, so it’s not a big inconvenience to go there. But this usually keeps me physically in shape to play. At home, I usually just fool around with my drum machines.

RS: The Cars have a recording studio, Syncro Sound, but the group doesn’t use it to record its albums. Why not?

DR: Well, the studio does have some restrictions in terms of equipment. But I think we could have somehow done the last LP in it and saved something like a half-million dollars. It’s easy enough to bring in other equipment when we need it. I don’t know. I think you feel better when you do things for yourself in your own studio. If you do it yourself in your own studio, you’ll really be proud of it, in addition to saving money. As for me, I want to get things set up in my house so I can work on ideas there, and then take whatever I’ve come up with over to the studio to transfer it, overdub it, and put down parts with other instruments.

RS: It sounds as if you’ve got some pretty structured plans for the future.

DR: Well, I hope so. I hope I can do things that will make money for me, because it’s real important to keep up on the technology of what you’re doing. And that costs money. If I ran out of money today, I couldn’t even conceive of not being able to buy the latest drum machine or whatever. To be stuck with what I have—although I have a lot of sophisticated things now—in five years, it will be considered Neanderthal. I won’t be able to use it; it will be obsolete equipment. For the kind of work I want to do by myself, as well as the work I want to do with the Cars, I’ve got to have the best equipment. I want to do everything myself. To do that, I must have the best in terms of technology.