Painting Trees: Damo Suzuki on Being Content at Home

by admin  10th May 2022 Comments [0]

By Bill Furbee

 

Paintings and the outdoors have taken the place of a tour van and stages for improvisational icon Damo Suzuki. Spring is here and, today, Damo can probably be found in a nearby park, painting trees.

Damo and I first spoke in February of 2020-an interview to promote a scheduled performance at Chicago’s Empty Bottle. Shortly after, however, venues around the world shuttered their doors in response to the spread of COVID-19. With his schedule suddenly silent, Damo happily agreed to a follow-up call just a month later. Thankfully, his amiable nature was still on tap.

“I don’t have a job at the moment,” he told me, then. “It’s not possible to do anything. I canceled my US tour, I canceled my Italian tour … I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he reported from his home in Cologne, Germany.

He paused to pour himself a Kölsch beer.

“But it’s okay,” he told me. “Maybe (this is) an opportunity to make something else.” He reflected for a moment, then beamed a wide smile. “Cheers!” he said, lifting a frothy glass of beer to the camera on his computer monitor.

And now, we’ve spoken for the third time. Damo’s still at home, and in no hurry to get back on the road. If it was a decade ago, Damo might have been looking for picnic blankets and hiking gear. But, times have changed. There is a pandemic at large. Vaccine requirements and contract tracing-measures that are helping to bring the virus under control, allowing concerts to take place again-aren’t exactly conditions that Damo can get behind.

“At the moment, it’s so much difficulty traveling,” he says. “I don’t like to make a test at the airport; I don’t like to make anything that the system wants to have. Every country has its own directions-like if you eat or drink in a cafe, you sometimes have to have a vaccine passport, you must be vaccinated or you must have a test,” he says.

“For me, it’s a good time to have a break. So I treat it as my vacation, at the moment-for three years,” Damo admits, with a chuckle.

“It’s okay,” he reasons. “I’ve traveled quite a lot already before.”

Damo also has a lot of books at home-nearly 10,000, in fact. He’s eager to share titles and authors that he’s preoccupied with, while admitting, “fiction I can make with myself … my life is sometimes like fiction! Nonfiction is much more interesting at the moment.”

Meanwhile, a number of his recorded performances are still being issued. While Damo would much rather perform than release recordings, he acknowledges that many of his collaborators are interested in releasing those performances. So, he mostly leaves that decision to them.

“I’m not so particular about making an LP or album,” he stresses. “It’s not (been my job) for a long time. I just like the live concert, and not always documenting. But some people who have performed with me, they like to release it. It’s okay, they can make it. I don’t say many things. Because they also have the right to make something as documentation. So I cannot say, ‘oh it was not very good’ or anything-it’s not my task, it’s not freedom. They just ask me, (and) 99% of the time I say ‘okay.’ But, if they have something like on the front cover I wouldn’t like, if it’s demonic or satanic, or something like that, then I really don’t like to have it.”

Worth noting that Damo’s most celebrated band-psych-rock progenitors Can-has also been issuing a steady stream of reissues and rediscovered concert recordings of late. Damo, however, assures me that he’s had no communication with management or any surviving members.

“No, no (input) at all, I don’t have any contact with them,” he says. “That was already a half century before, you know? So it’s not that much things to talk about. I don’t take too much time to think about things, past.”

He adds: “I like to make music for the people who like this kind of music; I have never been interested in having a huge audience. It’s not my thing.”

Where does this leave Damo?

“I feel good!” Damo laughs, quick to point out that he now has time to exercise and observe nature. “If you’re outside, you can get vitamin D, the sun,” he says, “and it’s not been so cold this winter.”

As spring heralds in a season of new beginnings, Damo is happy to stay where he’s at for the time being.

“I like to go outside with a sketchbook,” he says, as our call wraps up. “And I like to paint trees. Spring,” he says with a beaming smile, “is always good!”


Confinement and Escape: The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street at age 50; Interview with Engineer Andy Johns

by admin  2nd Apr 2022 Comments [0]

by Harvey Kubernik

 

“I think people make the mistake of putting too much information on a CD because you can afford to, time-wise. But Exile was a slow, slow thing. It wasn’t as immediate as albums characteristically were in those days, ’cause there were two albums. I think another thing with Exile—now that I think about it. Yeah… It was a very ‘Keith-spirited-by-Keith’ album.” – Chrissie Hynde to Harvey Kubernik 2004 interview.

I remember in June 1972 receiving an advance test pressing long LP player of the Jimmy Miller-produced Exile on Main Street from an Atlantic Records publicist at their Sunset Boulevard office. The Los Angeles-centric Exile on Main Street album package artwork and design were created by John Van Hamersveld who collaborated with photographer Norman Seef on the product graphics.

Earlier in ’72, the Rolling Stones, record producer Jimmy Miller and engineer Andy Johns relocated to Hollywood after cutting the basic tracks for Exile on Main Street in the 16-room Villa Nelcotte in the South of France. Overdubbing and mixing sessions were subsequently done in Hollywood at the landmark Sunset Sound studios and mastered at Artisian Sound Recorders on the same street.

Sunset Sound was built by Alan Emig, who had come from Columbia Records. He was a well-known mixer there and designed a custom built console for Sunset Sound. Salvador “Tutti” Camarata, a trumpet player originally and an arranger, and did big band stuff in the 1940s and ‘50s had a friendship with Disney Studios and decided to build a recording studio to produce the Disney/Buena Vista records by Hayley Mills and Annette Funicello.

“The Sunset Sound room was very unique,” volunteered Bruce Botnick engineer and co-producer of the Doors during 1966-1971 in a 2009 interview we conducted. “Tuti Camarata did something that nobody had done in this country. He built an isolation booth for the vocals. And later on I convinced him to take the mono disc mastering system and move it into the back behind what became Studio 2. And we turned that into a very large isolation booth which we used to put stings in. With the stings being in the large isolation booth the drums didn’t suffer so we were able to make tighter and punchier rhythm tracks than any of the other studios in town were able to do. ‘Cause everybody did everything live in those days. You did your vocals live. You did your strings and your brass live. And the rhythm section. And this was a big deal.

And then add to it the amazing echo chamber that Alan Emig designed. There was a good selection of microphones at Sunset Sound. It was all tubes, except for some Ribbon, RCA’s and a few Dynamics, they were all tube microphones. U-47’s, Sony.”

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The Monkees. From One Who Was There…

by admin  6th Jan 2022 Comments [0]

By Harvey Kubernik

 

MICKY DOLENZ, who is now booking himself as “The Voice of the Monkees,” and Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals are scheduled for live shows in 2022. Their tour begins January 22nd at The Palladium in New York City.

It was just announced that Dolenz’s re-imagined recording of Michael Nesmith’s “Circle Sky” was voted Little Steven’s Underground Garage’s Coolest Song of the Year. The track is from Dolenz’s solo album Dolenz Sings Nesmith on 7a Records; a tribute to the songs of Mike Nesmith.

I have my own bio-regional relationship with the Monkees that began in Hollywood during late 1965.

My mother Hilda was employed at Columbia Pictures on Sunset Blvd from 1962-1972, and primarily during 1965-1968 for Raybert Productions, helmed by producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, overseeing The Monkees at the studio in Gower Gulch. Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker had developed it for TV adaptation.

Hilda helped type the television scripts for The Monkees, was in the stenography pool on the lot, and did dictation for author and screenwriter Lillian Hellman. Previously, watching these shows was a solid experience.

It used to be a big deal to have televisions and cable to watch such shows. But now it is so simple to access all of the channels. People simply need to purchase Directv packages that are linked to their televisions in order to watch their favorite shows in the comfort of their own homes.

Anyway, I first encountered the four members of the Monkees when they held their first press conference in 1966 before the series was broadcast. I remember two events introducing The Monkees, one in Hollywood at the Columbia Pictures studio and in Burbank at the Columbia Pictures ranch.

During 1966 my brother Kenny and I along with our mom assembled the first-ever yellow colored press kits introducing The Monkees on our 5th Street kitchen table that unit publicist Howard Brandy created. Howard had worked on the Beatles’ movies Hard Day’s Night and Help! Artist Nick LoBianco designed the guitar logo of the Monkees.

Long before it was fashionable, I acknowledged and touted the Monkees’ recorded catalog in a few multi-voice articles and three dozen books. Last century I never found outlets for my own real-to-reel memories of The Monkees. Now I’m asked about them on a regular basis.

What a devoted and ever-growing following they have. And, this commercial and critically-acclaimed outfit isn’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It’s a shonda.

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