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luckyPRICK 2nd Interview With Andy Kubiszewski
By Todd Millenacker
Transcribed by Todd Millenacker
Our resident interviewer Todd got a chance to interview Andy Kubiszewski for a second time. This time around, Andy speaks a bit on the process of recording the "( sic )" material, how he got that drum sound, and what he's up to these days.
Todd Millenacker: (Sic) is obviously a much looser collaborative project with Kevin. Can you tell me a little bit about how the project/band came together?
Andy Kubiszewski: At the end of the last PRICK tour I returned to Los Angeles, but I was flying back to Cleveland on a regular basis to play sessions for various local artists. Every time I returned I would either see or speak to Kevin, and eventually the idea was formulated that during one of my upcoming return trips we should book a few days at Metrosync Studios and attempt to do something a bit different from Kevin's recent recordings, focusing on a short window of time and making it "live" and spontaneous, instead of Kevin's usual habit of tweaking and manipulating tracks for months and months. Greg Zydyk, who was the guitarist on the last PRICK tour volunteered his numerous guitar skills, and since this was not going to be a PRICK record we knew we were in need of a different bass player, and both Greg and I had worked with Mark Gamiere on several projects and thought he had the perfect vibe for what Kevin was trying to accomplish. One other factor was that Metrosync had this awesome live room and we all agreed that in order to pull off what we were intending it would require the perfect live space.
Todd: I agree with you about the killer live room sound. In fact, the first thing that grabbed me about the (sic) EP was the drum sound (really all the tones on the EP are excellent... the bass sounds massive). Any secrets in getting that drum sound or was it strictly a combination of good miking and an excellent live room?
Andy: The drum sound is a combination of several factors:
1) Well tuned drums. The kit I used was the same kit I used on the last PRICK tour. It's an older PEARL BMX kit. 24 inch Kick, 10, 14 and 18 inch toms. The snare was an older PEARL brass snare, the exact model escapes me right now. The cymbals were all SABIAN. Those old Pearl drums sound great.
2) Good mic placement and a nice room. I like big, loose John Bonham sounding drums. The way to get that kind of drum sound depends not only on the size of the drums but the size of the room and the distance between the kit and the room mics, and the placement of the close mics as well. The live room at Metrosync was massive. There was a bit of trial and error involved, because all the guitar and bass amps were in the room as well, so all those factors had to be dealt with.
3) Another factor is that I play LOUD. I use the biggest, heaviest sticks I can and I PLAY LOUD. The room at Metrosync used to be an on-air studio for an old radio station. The Beatles played in that room when they first visited the states. Lots of old Big Band radio shows were recorded in that room. It was big and live and still had all the old vintage acoustic surfaces on it.
Todd: Was this project always called (sic)?
Andy: I'm not really sure at what point Kevin told us the name of the project. It may have been some time later after the tracks were mixed.
Todd: How did you decide on the 5 songs to be recorded for the debut EP? Where demos circulated amongst the 4 of you or did you sort of just wing it and played what felt right?
Andy: No demos were circulated if I remember correctly. The night before we began tracking, we were setting up and getting drum sounds and Kevin arrives at the studio with a shoebox full of cassette tapes of various finished songs and ideas. (Yes...cassette tapes. Kevin loves recording demos on cassette tapes). We probably listened to about 25 or 30 tracks. As we listened it became obvious which one's were the favorites, but many of them were originally demoed in Kevin's usual noisy/manipulated way, so they would need to be finessed and re-arranged in order to fit into the tonal palette of a 4 piece live band scenario. Mark, Greg and myself had not heard anything prior to this, so it was all very spontaneous. We recorded the 5 songs over 2 days. We'd choose a song, rehearse it for 3 or 4 hours and record several takes, and then move on to the next one. I think there may have been one or two that we began to work on but stopped, because it was obvious after an hour or so that those particular tracks just weren't working. There was a point after we'd recorded the first track where we all looked at Kevin for his approval.....this was a bit of a departure for most of these songs. He was totally into it and after that is was quite a bit of fun.
Todd: What was the process like to lay down these tracks? Kevin mentioned the idea of 4 guys together in a room hammering it out without a click track. Could you walk us through the recording of a track?
Andy: The process was almost identical for each track. We'd listen to Kevin's original demo, everyone making notes about the song structure, etc. Sometimes Kevin would grab an acoustic guitar and begin to deconstruct the track if there were any questions. We'd all go back into the live room and begin running it over and over, finessing and experimenting with parts, key, tempo, feel....whatever. Jason Lustig, who was engineering the session would make occasional comments from the control room since he was actually able to listen with some perspective. Sometimes a track sounds great in a room full of amps and drums, but sounds like shit in the control room. When issues were raised we'd all retreat into the control room, listen and correct whatever wasn't working, be it drum sounds or guitar parts or live effects, the usual stuff. Once Kevin was happy we'd hit record and go for it, usually recording 3 or 4 takes of each song.
On a personal note, I had spent the previous 15 years touring and recording while listening to a click track. I must say that it did take a little while for me to adjust to the no click track rule. It was a bit like jumping from a plane with no parachute...but it was Kevin's mandate so I had to deal with it.....In the end it was all quite exciting!!! Most all the records I've played on in my career have used very isolated and time consuming modern recording techniques. With the (sic) EP we tried to use as few as possible, and I think you can really tell that these are performances. 5 unpolished noisy gems from the mind of Kevin McMahon.
Todd: Have any plans been discussed for either a follow-up (sic) recording or live performances? Kevin mentioned a desire to keep (sic) rolling whenever you two find yourself in the same town.
Andy: My touring days are over. As for new (sic) material we'll have to wait and see. Kevin has lots of projects in the works, but I have no idea of any plans for more (sic) recordings....but you just never know. Unfortunately, Metrosync studios has closed its doors for good, so the magic of that room is lost forever.
Todd: Moving on to some other Lucky Pierre Music projects you’re involved with… "Beginning" is one of my favorite songs on ThinKing. From the credits and the sound of the track, it seems like one of those "endlessly tweaked" Kevin McMahon compositions. At what point did you become involved with the track and what exactly does your job of "co-producer" consist of when working with Kevin?
Andy: I'm pretty sure that "Beginning" was a track that Kevin had done some pre-production on for the follow up to the first PRICK album. The initial production was done by Fred Mayer probably in the mid to late 90's. When I was in Cleveland rehearsing for the PRICK tour Kevin and I did some additional production on the track. I played drums, added some synth and guitar bits, and did a bit of re-arranging. We used a few bits from the original Fred Mayer production, I believe it was some vocal bits and some synth bits. Greg Zydyk also played a bit of guitar, as well as taking a shot at the final mix. Once we thought we had a finished track we shipped it off to Garrett Hammond, who added some vocals as well as taking a crack at a final mix. In the end I think the mix used on the CD is actually a combination of Garret's and Greg Zydyk's mixes.
Todd: A pleasant surprise that came with the new Lucky Pierre Music package is a live recording of Prick from the Wreckard tour. Regarding the Wreckard tour - how did this live incarnation of Prick come together? From a performance standpoint - was much thought given to bringing the sonic qualities of The Wreckard into a live format (i.e. Humanerace and Wetcat) or did you basically deconstruct the songs and rebuild them from ground up?
Andy: About a year after I quit Stabbing Westward I was in LA with no gigs and no prospects. I actually moved back to Cleveland to escape for a while. On my drive back to the Midwest I phoned Kevin and let him know that I was returning and that we should perhaps do something musical together. It didn't take long before a PRICK tour was in the works. I think we rehearsed for about 5 or 6 weeks before playing our first gig at the ODEON in Cleveland. As far as the songs were concerned we tried our best to capture the vibe of both albums, but added a more "live" vibe to a few tracks since so much of the production on those discs was hard to recreate live. There was a bit of sequencing on the tracks that required it, while others did take on a life of their own. “Wet Cat” was especially challenging. On record it's the perfect example of Kevin's manipulation/mangling technique. Trying to play that track live was like performing a giant math equation, because the track has no symmetry and no obvious traditional repeating musical structure. That track took a toll on everyone's brain for weeks until we finally wrapped our heads around it.
Todd: Any good anecdotes/stories to share from the Prick tour?
Andy: Unfortunately the tour itself was a bit on the budget side, and some of the venues were........well........shitholes. We did the best we could do given the restraints of each venue. We did have a few good shows...the ODEON in Cleveland, the gig in Boston at the Middle East, and a few others. I remember we were on our way to play the final stop in Buffalo, NY. On the drive a massive Ice/Snowstorm hit and the gig was cancelled because the city lost power. For some reason Kevin was traveling on his own, and whoever he was traveling with had turned off their cell phone. The tour van returned to Cleveland, but unfortunately Kevin never got the info on the cancelled gig and arrived to a frozen, powerless locked up venue in Buffalo.
Todd: Finally, what have you been keeping busy with on a musical front?
Andy: These days I'm still doing quite a bit of TV. I compose music for a show that is currently airing on the Discovery Channel called THE COLONY. I'm also about to start production on season 3 of the History Channel show AXE MEN. I've written the title track to the upcoming TATU film called YOU AND I starring Mischa Barton. I'm partners in a music production/library company called MESSY MUSIC. Two of my partners in the company are Kevin Haskins, former drummer for BAUHAUS and LOVE AND ROCKETS, and Doug Beck, former EXOTIC BIRDS keyboard player.
Todd: Thank you so much for your time we really do appreciate it!