So we made this record in Clearwater Florida once

I know there were two major debates this week. One was particularly contentious and the other quite conviviial. What. Ever. Sorry. What follows is what I felt like writing about.

BITCHES:

The Gotohells, minus Gene Gene the Dancing Machine and Timmy the worlds happiest bass player, picked us up at the airport in Tampa.

The humid South engulfed my head the second we stepped outside.

Edo and Hunter.

Edo: Guitar and lead vocals.
Hunter: Drums, backup vocals and one lead vocal. Last song. Good song. Shitty vocal.

I think I’d met Edo, but Hunter and I were old friends at that point. Hunter played drums, sang and was a human holiday on the very first record Al & I ever produced, recorded and mixed. “Punkrockacademyfightsong” – Down By Law -Epitaph.

Hunter, maybe a buck twenty five soaking wet, played so hard, he took chunks out of cymbals. It wasn’t unusual for us to change snare heads after just two or three takes. Jacked up grill and losing his hair at twenty one. He could drink and he could hold his liquor. He did an hysterical impersonation of Johnny Thunders. Brutally funny, painfully bright and consistently, unapologetically, honest. Character and integrity for weeks.

I fucking loved him. Whenever he was in town he’d leave a message with the receptionist at the studio. Always the same. “Plate of Shrimp” and a number where he could be reached.

Then we’d go drinking.

There was a twelve pack of cold Bud Talls on the floorboard of the backseat. I had a couple.

They took us straight to the original Hooters. Then to a nice little motel off the highway for the first few days of our stay and rehearsals. It was a very magnanimous gesture on the part of four broke ass cracker redneck musician punks.

Rehearsals were rainy, dark and smelly.

Al and I would couch surf after that ’til the record was done.

At first, we were accomodated by Edo and a guy named Sticky, who Hunter confessed he’d take a bullet for. I had some really stupid shoes on and Sticky asked me through a nicotine stained smile if I’d made them in wood shop. I kinda liked Sticky but I don’t think he liked me.

Given his fragile constitution, Al was pretty much sick the whole time.

Picture Al, Alex, as a young and thin Dustin Hoffman.

In retrospect it’s kinda comical, but I was concerned. Al had some form of bronchitis and Sticky and Edo were content to chainsmoke Marlboros in the same room he was desperately trying to sleep in.

We also stayed with Timmy and his unbelievably happy family. We came and went at very odd hours, often drunk. We preferred Timmy’s house to that of Edo and Sticky because there were no chainsmokers and there were teenage girls, sometimes food and coffee, if you got up in time.

Hunter shared with me that it was a bad day indeed if Timmy wasn’t smiling.

There were other reasons we liked staying with Timmy’s family better.

Timmy had an excellent selection of movies along with a shit hot media setup for the time. There was the beautiful saltwater aquarium that lent tranquility to our slumber after long days in the studio and long nights drinking. Someone always had pot, Edo I think.

Timmy was a big boy, wore thick glasses and chewed tobacco. He was a terrible bass player.

We made the record in a studio called Panda. George, the owner was spindly, tall and angular. Very gracious and accommodating. He had that eighties ponytail through the back of the baseball cap thing going on and long fingers in perpetual motion. Very funny, very helpful and completely unselfconscious with his intrigue at our recording techniques and methodology.

George spent most of his time on a beat to shit couch in the back of the control room reading a book by George Carlin. He’d spew laughter and read out loud.

One of the first things that is consciously forced down your throat in life is the concept of not throwing things, especially at other people. I have to tell you, I threw a lot of things, mostly those fat Sharpies, at a lot of people back then. Sorry about that Sam.

Anyway, was his sidekick named Charlie? I think so. Charlie kept the band awash in beer and they consumed it in copious amounts. The record brought to you as much by Budweiser as by me & Al and the band.

Funny when I think about it. The band would drink all day. Al and I rarely touched more than caffeine while in a control room. The brisk clip of an eight hour day was foreign to all of us. Making records is ponderous, repetetive, intensley creative and often maddening.

Recording, documenting and then rendering music actually, is typically a twelve to fifteen hour day. It just is what it is.

At one point, consensus was reached to start the sessions earlier; reason being to get enough done to allow an hour or two before closing time to get our drink on.

I recall it being a bit of a challenge.

On the way to the studio every morning I gawked at the clusterfuck that accompanied the latest Virgin Mary phenomena. About a year before, the redneck faithful of Clearwater Florida had discovered what they believed to be the divine image of her in the reflective glass of an office building just off the interstate. The bleachers and folding chairs were filled by the hundreds every morning to stare in awe at what looked to me to be a warped window with an oilslick on it.

It was an unspoken rule that wherever and whenever Lynyrd Skynyrd could be heard, all four members of the band would remove their hats in a maneuver that struck me as not unlike synchronized swimming.

Tampa/Orlando is the lightning capital of the entire planet and we were there for the season. Late spring. Crazy. Power outages and just plain fear of electrocution forced us out of the studio a handful of times. We hung out in the parking lot, smoking and drinking beer in the warm rain.

One morning in Madison Wisconsin, me and a band called Everclear watched the clouds rotate in the sky over the studio like in some Bradbury novel. Smart Studios. Butch Vig.

Marie Osmond caught an eyeful of our roadie’s penis that day and then bounced off a glass door, but that’s another story.

We knocked off early that night.

I had a suite overlooking the state capitol building. I turned off the lights, cracked open a beer from the mini bar and watched the most spectacular light show I might ever see. Huge bolts. Not just white, but pink and blue, as they hammered the golden dome of the state capitol building.

Next morning we discovered a pair of Neve 1073’s with all the knobs melted into a puddle. Kinda sucked because one was for the vocal and the other for rhythm guitar.

Recording studios are magnets for any atmospheric discharge.

There’s no Waffle Houses in LA. I coveted cheese eggs, raisin toast and grits when I studied engineering in Atlanta. Waffle House is where I ate when I had money. Not often.

I told Hunter and he made sure we ate there a handful of times, including the morning after the last mix before they took us to the airport and after working all night. He pointed out various oddities of Waffle House protocol. The specific spot the middle aged rubenesque waitress stood to shout orders to the kitchen, for example.

Still a vegetarian back then, I loved it when the matronly woman taking my order would inevitably ask, “Honey, you don’t want any meat with that?”.

Hunter stole laminated menus for me that morning. Stuffed them under his shirt. I still have them.

Nothing mattered that day. We’d finished a record and the sun was shining. I could have punched the sky.

There was even time for a nap.

I called The Fish from a pay phone in the airport to tell her when I was landing in LA. Angry and in tears, she’d been all over LAX the night before looking for me. I had given her the wrong date. There was a schedule adjustment half way through the record because we knew we’d need an extra day. I’d forgotten to tell her.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that kind of bad. At the time I was furiously in love with this woman and I had just made the worst mistake a man can make. I had, however briefly, forgotten about her. I’d crawled into my head in the company of men while making a record, and forgotten about home completely.

I was still in that head when dialing the phone.

After that conversation, despite the damage I had wrought, I couldn’t wait to come home.

We made a very good record. I’m proud of it. No samples or technological fuckery. What you hear is what they played. I’ve been listening to it lately and it makes me smile. It rocks.

The band is The Gotohells. The record is Burning Bridges. The label is Vagrant.

Drinks for my friends.

7 Responses to “So we made this record in Clearwater Florida once”

  • Kym Rain:

    No clue; I’m eatmywordsup@yahoo, Admin who R you, Michael Incognito? I inserted brainspank.org to Google search thats how I found you. I’m choking on little pieces of Joseph Stalin, as I speak. Sorry I feel like a spy, or a private eye, on the super information hiway. Investigate, investing in membership with AAA to avoid a hiway robery breakdown when you travel, to escape L. A. on you well stocked motorcate vacation. I rap You rock’n roll, I’m reiyalight1, your no, no, Michaelangelo, I don’t think so but, what the hell do I know?

  • al reed:

    Dude, if I were the King of Austria or something, I would commission you to blog about every recording session we did together.
    That was a good read, thanks MD.

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