I first heard that phrase back in 1994, compliments of my pal and engineer-in-a-pinch Dusty Whitaker. I’d recently purchased some recording gear – the mighty and ever-faithful Ubermensch Rekorders Mobile 8-track, which I still use, by the way – and had run into one of the pitfalls that go along with having your own recording studio: you suddenly have multiple tracks of recording space (a total of 15 in my case, with a bit of legerdemain) and, well, you just can’t let them sit there, can you? All that empty tape (my gear is analog)?
Well, yeah, you can. Actually, I’d learned that lessons six years earlier in the wilds of Flower Mound, Texas at Dave Love’s Heads Up recording studio thanks to my engineer Young Steve Browne (and later, Terry Slemmons). During those long evenings and nights I also picked up a lot about mixing (thanks again, Steverino), where you really learn the meaning and value of the “less is more” approach to multi-track recording. Somewhere along the way, I’d lost sight of that axiom, but Dusty got me back on the beam and I haven’t strayed since.
“Bill’s a minimalist kind of guy.” – Fred Keith
That’s pretty much true, even when I’m recording a song that requires me to break out of the Lonesome Cowboy Mode. Granted, that doesn’t happen as much as it used to, as I no longer have access to the musicians I would prefer to work with (Brent Ball, my piano/organ guy, had a debilitating heart attack and my drummer of choice – John Horvath – lives in Indiana). Unless you’re dealing with an orchestra or a jazzy big band, the official BP line on recording is “if you can’t make a record with 8 tracks, you shouldn’t be making records.” Simple as that. Check this out:
Aretha Franklin, “Chain of Fools”, done on 8 tracks, baby. Doesn’t that sound great? “Yes, but that’s Aretha Franklin and . . .” But nothing. Sorry kids, that doesn’t obviate the truth of my contention. The simple fact is, digital recording hasn’t always been with us, nor have huge recording consoles. And just like with your car or smart phone, the more technical advancements you stuff into something, the more there is to go wrong, either on its own or due to – in the immortal words of Dr Strangelove – “human meddling”. So don’t make yourself crazy. Keep it simple, stupid, both in and out of the studio. (By Gawd, but I do love pontificating.)
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The new album, My Brother Calls Me Ace, is still “in progress”. Due to what can most politely be described as “distractions”, I had to step away from it for a couple weeks, but as soon as I post this bit of deathless prose, it’s back into the studio. Hurrah and huzzah!
Next year’s European excursion – currently dubbed “The Chinese Fire Drill Tour” because it resembles that late-50s to late-60s bit of teenager hijinks far more than a real tour at this point – is still in search of more dates both within and on either side of its proposed 22 May to 2 July time frame. Some dates have been discussed but not confirmed, as they have to wait until the venues in question set their calendars for next year. Fingers crossed for these and more to come through. Many thanks to those who have already said “Yes, Bill, you can play here” and to those who are willing to provide an opportunity for yours truly, but have to wait a bit longer before committing to a date.
Those of you who enjoyed previously-posted excerpts from last November’s tour diary, can look forward to “Where The Kibbeling Roam: On the Road in The Netherlands” which will contain last year’s diary in its entirety as well as the complete – yes, complete – scribblings from next year’s romp, all written in my inimitable style. There will also be some “connective tissue” to tie it all together. With any luck, it will be ready by this time next year.
There are other ideas floating about, but we’ll get to them later . . . Happy October. Be seeing you, bp