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Jay’s Music Exchange: Up to Eleven with RedShadeBlue

December 21, 2009

In this, Part the Second of a two-part session with RedShadeBlue (read Part the First here), we get down to brass tacks about creating their new album, tour plans, recording gear, and music-industry parodies. And, this time, it’s (more) personal.

Hello, gentlemen! Thanks for setting aside some more o’ that precious time to chat with us here at the Exchange. Let’s cut to the chase. Roll call! Please tell me and the fine readers of TBTS a litle bit about your backgrounds. And foregrounds. And in 140 characters or less. Get Twitter on its arse.

Greg—I have been playing the drums while three different presidents have sat in office. Although the third one hasn’t been there long. I have been in a band of one kind or another for about as long as I can remember. I have played everything from country to punk. I do prefer the punkish stuff though. I am a Scorpio, I enjoy walks in the park and talks in front of a fire… oh wait, you probably weren’t asking for that kind of background.

Mark—I love singing and banging on electric guitars, but I am afraid of stomp boxes. The three of us met when we were teenagers, but this is our first band together. Dave once fronted a band called Merit, and Greg sang for one D. Scully. Greg and I were once in a band called Mos Eisley, which toured the Elizabethtown/Fort Knox Basement Circuit.

Dave —I played my first chord on guitar when I was 13, while the Berlin Wall was still standing. I then rotted my brain for the next 15 years playing punk rock (the fast food of music). I do still love punk and related musical forms. But still I’m glad I’ve expanded my musical landscape. Somewhere in there, I gained an appreciation for everything from Hank Sr. to Vangelis. I met Mark and Greg while we were all living in E-town. It’s amazing we didn’t play together in a band sooner. About eight years ago, I switched from guitar to bass. Next thing you know, Mark wanted to get something together and needed a bass player. I have to say that I have truly embraced the bass.

Q: So, even though this isn’t the first beat I’ve walked, I’ll go ahead and risk making what looks like a rookie mistake by asking: how did you decide on a band name? In my experience, that’s one of the hardest things to come up with and agree on. I, at least, have agonized over it. Even more than song titles. Where’d you get yours? It’s enigmatic, but evocative. I like it, for whatever that’s worth.

A: (M) I’m glad you like it; we agonized over it for months! I wanted to be The Mad Rabbits, but now I’m glad Dave talked me out of it since a whole litter of “Rabbit” bands have been born. I think it’s hard for any creative collective to try to pin down what they do under a single word or phrase. It’s troublesome because the music changes all the time. Dave should explain the origins of RedShadeBlue. Be careful not to shatter the enigma, Dave!

(G) The name was Dave’s idea. I wanted to be called Snidely Whiplash or Sweep the Leg Johnny but both of those names were taken. We all agreed on the name, but it is a story that Dave should tell. The story does involve some ninjas and an ascent up a very steep and unforgiving mountain but I don’t want to ruin it for Dave.

(D) Imagine crickets chirping in the distant middle space between the grass beneath your bare feet and the yellow orange horizon of an early summer evening. A can of soup then opens abruptly in your mind.

Q: Dave, I’m sure I speak for many readers out there when I admit: You just blew my mind right there. Speaking of mind-blowing, how would you describe your experiences making your new album Communicator? Did you try anything new or different in comparison to other recording experiences? Just tracking a song can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience, never mind tracking, mixing, and mastering a whole album. How do you manage the workflow (if I may steal some useful–if jargony–corp-speak) to keep things productive and creativity-inspiring? Have you found workarounds for any problems that may arise due to being based in Louisville and Frankfort, KY? Any imminent plans to tour around the new release? What if I palm this fiver to ya? Will that change a wrong answer?

A: (M) Recording is a gas, gas, gas. Our friend Nate was kind enough to take his mics and Pro-Tools rig to Dave’s house, set up mics everywhere, and sit with his computer in his monitoring booth (Dave’s garage) in sub-zero temperature. We had amps in various rooms, and a snake that ran all the way through the back yard to the board in the garage. After tracking, we went wild with overdubs, and we’re now whittling those down to what is essential to each song.

(G) Recording was fun–except for at first when I was terrified that I was going to screw up when we were 7/8 done with a song. That was always lame to mess up at the very end so that Mark and Dave would give me evil looks. Once I got over the nerves, though, it was good stuff. I didn’t envy Nate though because we really did record in temperatures that wouldn’t be out of place on Hoth. Nate was stoic about the whole thing, though. If I had been out there, I would have been whining too much to get any actual recording done.

(D) Man, it was cold! I have to give Nate props! He literally sat on a heating pad to keep warm. The heating pad is long gone, but Nate survived! Thanks Nate! Recording was great. We recorded all the inital songs in one whole take each. I think that gives songs more continuity and a more “live” feel. As far as touring goes, no imminent plans as of yet but we are always looking for opportunites. Also, we are looking for bands/musicians to play out with. So anyone looking for the same, feel free to contact us.

Q: Do you write songs individually or communally? Both? Neither?

A: (M) Usually I bring in a mess of chords and words, and we sort it out together. Dave is good at figuring out song structures, then remembering them so we don’t stray too far from week to week. Greg makes sure that we stay nice and loud.

(G) The song writing process goes something like this: Mark has a song mostly written, we play it a few times to get the feel for it, Dave and I crack a few mom jokes because Mark abstains from this juvenile pastime of ours, eventually we do hammer it out and Dave and I contribute our ideas to the song. Mark does write the majority of any particular song though since he writes the melody that Dave and I follow. Well, Dave follows; I just hit the drums as hard as I can and make an attempt to stay in time.

(M) Yes, I know that these guys can get behind a song when they can somehow incorporate the words “your mom.”

[This segment of the interview has been omitted out of respect for your mom. Treat your mother right.]

Q: I’m liking this punk-inspired guitar-rock very much. Very tuneful and melodic, but with plenty of attitude. Mark, knowing some of your excellent previous solo work and its indie-folk feel, it surprises–and delights–me to hear this new direction. What motivated this change?

A: (M) Well, I think all of these songs could be played quietly or loudly. Together, though, the three of us lean toward loud. That affects way I sing, both in loudness and range. I have to hear if I’m close to pitch, so I sing loud. To sing loud, I have to sing high because it’s impossible for me to push the lower range.

Playing music alone is fine, because you don’t have to worry about rehearsing and synching up with other players. But if you can find someone who is musically compatible, especially if you enjoy hanging out with them, it’s worth all the effort to play together.

(D) I think that one of the things that Greg and I have had a bit of an influence on, as far as song structure goes, is our need for the feel of a song to be louder and faster.

Q: Mark got me hip to some of the equipment he uses for home recording in the first part of this feature. Dave, Greg, would you mind sharing some info about recording gear and/or ther instruments with the rest of the gear-heads in the room? A beloved item you want to gush about, your voice steadily rising in pitch as you quote specs at us, chapter and verse? It’s okay: you are in good company here at the Exchange. Don’t be afraid to let it all out.

(G) On the recording, I used a Mapex drum kit. I used Evans heads and I think I used Dave Weckl sticks at the time. I am looking forward to recording again, though, because I got a PDP kit with an absolutely incredible-sounding kick drum. I would like to gush about my snare a bit. It is a Tama swingstar maple snare which isn’t the fanciest snare in the world, but it can absolutely makes your ears bleed when I am in the mood.

(D) As far as actual recording gear, we trusted Nate and his experience. My rig includes my absolute favorite find in my Yorkville 150 Bloc amp combo. It’s impossibly loud for its small 150 watts. It has a 15 inch speaker, so it moves the air around alot and it breaks up nicely. I picked it up for $150 bucks used. It works great in any setting, live or recording. I also have a SWR 200 watt Workman, which has a very clean sound, and a Fender 410 Pro Bass Cab. I usually run both amps parallel. My bass took me about a year-and-a-half to find. I was playing on Mark’s Ibanez untill I did. But now I play a Fender Jazz Passive/Active bass. It has a one-of-a-kind sound. Even though it’s a reproduction, it has great tone, I think anyway.

Q: (Warning: this question was posed in Part the First of this feature and contains no new content.) How do you approach distributing your music once it’s recorded and mixed (and probably obsessed over, as with anything I do)? Where have you seen success? What could be better about your business or marketing model, if anything? The industry? Will collecting payment for online sales improve and become more equitable in the future? Too large a worm-can?

A: (G) We will sell them on CD Baby and at shows, I imagine. I am not really sure we have a business model. So having one would probably be an improvement. I don’t know that online sales will improve a ton just because it is so easy for someone to get your music from a source that won’t charge any money. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since that means that people like your stuff and would be more likely to come to a show you were playing. So, I guess that any money received from mp3’s etc. is nice but more like a bonus.

(M) Greg wants to do a vinyl press at some point, too.

(D) Yeah, that is a can of worms. I will give some away to close friends and family, and hope to sell more at shows. As for a business model, I guess we really never nailed this one down. Something to work on in the future.

Q: What’s your favorite music industry parody? Or, favorites? Do any of your experiences compare with any you’ve seen? What can you relate to? Favorite quotes?

A: (G) It is a bit obscure of a reference, and I don’t know that it is a parody, but the scene in Sling Blade where Doyle’s band was practicing, which meant drinking and asking when they are going to get a paying gig is a pretty good representation of being in a band at times. Not the band I am in now, but still.

(M) Yeah, the guy who says “What we need is a payin’ gig” is Mickey Jones, who played drums on Bob Dylan tours in the 1960s. I wonder if it was difficult for him and Dwight Yoakam (Doyle) to make crappy-sounding music in that scene. I like that bit, too, because I feel sorry for them or embarassed for them, yet I laugh at the same time. Schadenfreude, perhaps?

Of course This is Spinal Tap deserves mention. I enjoy the exchange between Nigel and David’s girlfriend about “Dobly” noise reduction. Recently I watched Anvil: The Story of Anvil. It is easy to say that they are a real-life Spinal Tap, but it’s mind-bending to think that the Anvil documentary probably would not have been made in a world without the Spinal Tap mockumentary. The Anvil director is very intentional about aluding to it throughout, with a “Hello Cleveland!” here and a “gain to 11” there.

A: (D) “I’ve got a fever, and the only known cure is more cowbell.”

* * *

I’d like to thank RedShadeBlue for their thoughtful responses, their humor, their edgy–and catchy–songs, and for pulling the curtain back and letting us see the wizard(s) at the controls. Be sure to check out their tracks on cdbaby and myspace.

Give us an e-holler and let us know what you think (or who you might like to see interviewed in the future) here at Jay’s Music Exchange. We love talking music with people, anytime. We occasionally annoy strangers on the bus. Like the irascibly charming and violent 87-year-old Russian lady. She’s lived in this country for 50 years and still hasn’t lost one iota of her accent. She can go on all freakin’ morning about how she was “a rrrrich forrrmer seamstress” for “beeg, cohm-punee with Rrrrrrussian mohb ties” but I can’t say word one about the relative merits of the 13th Floor Elevators’ last album before–BAM–out come the sharpened knitting needles.

Where was I….? Ah, yes.

Until the next episode….

  1. Nice Pete permalink
    December 21, 2009 4:00 pm

    You guys are definitely the greatest band to arise from the Elizabethtown/Fort Knox Basement Circuit. No question about it.

  2. Mad Dog Marko permalink
    December 21, 2009 8:37 pm

    His names is spelled Greg “Keeton” not Keaton. I should know I own every pornographic movie he ever appeared in.

  3. Jay St. Orts permalink
    December 21, 2009 10:52 pm

    Thanks for the eagle-eye, Mad Dog. The lowly copy editor who committed this oversight has been dangled out of the highest JME office window by his smart, two-tone oxfords.

    Apologies to Greg as well. Keeton, though, not Keaton. It seems that Mr. Keaton’s oeuvre has at least one die-hard devotee. Or am I confused as to which Greg has the illustrious illicit career?

    J St O

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