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luckyPRICK Interview w/Kevin McMahon (Part 2)
By Todd Millenacker
Transcribed by Todd Millenacker
Finally, the long overdue Part 2 of our interview with Kevin McMahon is here! The amazing Todd was, of course, at the helm of the interview. In this segment, Kevin shines a little light on Fear Of Blue, as well as his home recording studio setup.
Todd: You've alluded to various other projects and your hope to release them at some point (Fear of Blue, Master Cherry, Broken Man, and The Struggles). Any updates on these projects?
Kevin: The update is yes to FEAR OF BLUE (that's stuff I did with Rae in 1990). He had recorded the outline tracks for a couple songs, grooves at that point, and asked me to make up melody and lyrics. So after that initial 2 song experiment we just went ahead with an additional 12 songs, but never released any of it because we both were picked up for our solo stuff. I told Rae a couple years ago that I was going to reproduce and edit that stuff for release and he was all for it… I'd like to do another CD with him. You'll notice that although Rae used a lot of stock sounds from that era, the totality of the recording becomes custom through the marriage of our very different styles. That's why when I found the tape (yes, tape) in my stuff when I was moving, I threw it on thinking it would be interesting to hear these old demos and that would be it, but I heard a very unique Form within the obvious Other.
Todd: In a previous LuckyPierre/Peppermen interview you mentioned recording at home (http://luckyprick.net/interview.php?band=The+Peppermen&interview=10) - Would you mind telling us a little bit about your set-up?
Kevin: The wonderful world of the home studio? Well, when it's working it's great… However, I seem to experience a highly unusual number of studio/computer malfunctions… Let me clarify something before we continue: As much as one might think that I propagate the whereabouts of my particular "case" as being irrevocably domiciled in "space", I am in fact highly skeptical of statements such as, "Dude, you got a fuckin' negative field of energy that's freakin' this equipment out… Don't know, maybe it's positive, but dude you got some shit comin' off you that's fuckin' wack, man!"
Now I have heard this same statement expressed in many languages, colorful to technical, from musicians, engineers, producers, even "genius" (their word, not mine) Mac geeks who up until probing into my Morass Of The Inexplicable have never stooped so low (or high) as "Cosmic Sapient Interference" as cause AND explanation… Hey, I'm just repeating what they've said to me for 25 years (My first encounter with the computer engineer was in 1984, San Francisco).
My current set up is pretty minimal for a full-time musician… a Mac G5 Quad with Pro Tools M-Audio, project mix i/o interface... Alesis power amp and monitors... Sampletank... an old Pearl drum kit... Fender Telecasters... Vox and Marshall amps... '52 Gibson', Yamaha and Epiphone acoustic guitars..... [Roland] SP555 drum machine… M-Audio ProKeys 88... a few pedals (such as a Cry Baby wah, etc)… Fender Precision bass... baby grand acoustic piano... Oh yeah, and I just bought a ukulele for eight measures of a song and ended up nylon stringing the old Gibson instead, but I will definitely get into that uke… I never thought I'd say the words, "Get into that uke"... and with such conviction and high hopes! Now maybe my mates, the "yobs", would recognize the irony of "Tough" upon hearing the ukulele rendition!
Just an aside, the reason "yob" is fitting so prominently into my disclosure this fine morning is because when I was in England mixing "Tough" with Alan Moulder at RAK Studios we stayed out rather late one night and when dropping me off at my "hotel" Alan warned me about the aftermath of the football/soccer game, turning to me from the sanctuary of that cab into that wet night with the words that have obviously been etched in my mind… "WATCH OUT FOR THE YOBS!"… For some reason, I required no definition of term and upon entering my "hotel" elevator was PLASTERED onto its walls by said "yobs"… (Not all blackouts are self-inflicted).
You know, I figure if I just ramble on in this interview I'm set for the next five years… I'll just give the interested parties (if interest there be) this URL and "Voila!"… a multitude of nouns and verbs there for the choosing.
Todd: Any advice for home recording enthusiast?
Kevin: Well, I'm not much on giving advice, not because I don't wish to help someone, but I'm not sure my advice would advance anyone's dream… Well, I suppose it depends on what their dream IS. If it's to become a success in the music industry or a celebrity of any kind, it would behoove you to pay no mind to ANYTHING I have to say… However, if you have an interest in music, and yes "passion" is an appropriate word in rare cases, as is mine, then I would suggest that instead of trying to reproduce or emulate the "sound" of big studios that you try to develop your own sound... Exploit those challenges presented by the limitations of your equipment and resource the unconventional... and, of course, do not fix the "mistake" without hearing its side of the story.
Todd: How do you decide between recording at a studio vs. recording at home?
Kevin: If I think that the main consideration of the recording is the most professional tracking of instruments and vocals then I would pursue the commercial and rely on a good engineer who is practiced at the craft and familiar with vintage and state of art recording equipment. If I think the main consideration is the organic development of the recording itself, then I stay home. Of course, money, unfortunately, comes into play... but rather than allowing it (or more accurately allowing the lack of it) to dictate whether a song will receive the preferred production or not I simply hold off on recording those songs which call out for a commercial studio until I get the dough.
Also, a lot of my songs I like to record as demos, even release them as such, and like for someone else to pick-up and cover (e.g. "Birdman", my San Francisco version is NOT a definitive work and I have so many arrangements of that song that even if I had unlimited funds and players, I don't believe at this point in time that I could consummate its development… and "Birdman" is far from being an anomaly). I may just change the name of my site from luckypierremusic.com to songstocover.com… Damn, I better get that domain!).
Todd: Would you considered working with an outside producer again or is it strictly collaborators at this point?
Kevin: I would like to work with an outside producer again if that situation presents itself, although that producer WOULD BE a collaborator, as was always the case in the tragicomedy "Hey, Let's Make a Record". Unfortunately, one of the concessions I realize in not seeking out a record deal and not having a record deal, is not having the budget for a good producer.
(To be continued... yet again...)