March 5, 2006 at 4:07 pm #48825
Dave Sweetapple talking about the recording process for the upcoming Witch Album..
Witch are J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. fame, his long time friend Dave Sweetapple and Kyle Thomas and Asa Irons, both members of New England avant-folk outfit Feathers. On their stunning debut album, Witch harkens back to the classic [hard]rock sounds of the heavy 70’s while still sounding modern in it’s assault [the stonerrock tag doesn’t apply Witch].
In Witch Mascis returns to his first love, drums, playing with an unbridled passion that recalls his work with Deep Wound [his early 80’s hardcore band] but also the likes of Sir Lord Baltimore and vintage Pentagram.
Witch S/T debut full-length is due out on TeePee Records on March 7.
Words | Dave Sweetapple
When we decided that it was time to record it’s debut full length back in May, we knew two things going into it: 1) It would be recorded at J’s Bisquiteen Studio. 2) We would have John Agnello record it. The challenging part was finding a time that didn’t conflict with everyone’s schedule. Kyle and Asa had been doing much summer touring with their psych-folk band, Feathers, and J had endured three solid summer months of intense world wide touring with his band, Dinosaur Jr.
When we were asked to play 2005’s CMJ, which happened in September in New York City, we had barely learned the songs that would become the album. Getting time to practice was hard enough, let alone finding time for recording. At CMJ we did a show supporting the Brian Jonestown Massacre at North 6 in Brooklyn.
We invited Agnello out to that show so that he could get a feel for the tunes. Besides the band’s commitments, Agnello is always booked to capacity, so fitting us in was tough, but after that night he was sold on the idea of working with us.
After two months of schedule juggling we nailed down the time for two separate five day sessions in October and November of 2005. J has a deluxe studio called Bisquiteen in his house in Amherst, Massachusetts, so every morning Kyle, Asa and I would drive down from the mountains of Brattleboro, Vermont, drinking thick coffee from Mocha Joe’s.
The drive isn’t too bad unless itÂ¹s snowing, as Brattleboro is only 45 minutes from Amherst. Agnello stayed at J’s because his house is in New Jersey and commuting that distance every day would have destroyed the poor man. Each day when we got there, he would already have everything set up so we could immediately start working on whatever part was being recorded.
That first day, we met with Agnello to discuss the sounds we wanted to capture and what process we’d use to do it. John had worked with J in the past and I knew him from the days when I worked for an artist management company. John has worked with the likes of Screaming Trees, Son Volt, Early Man, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, etc. He is a great guy and very professional in the studio, which was evident in how smoothly everything went that first week.
We seemed to go into town for pizza, Thai food, or coffee every three hours or so, yet John would stay behind the desk for the full ten to twelve hour day, only emerging for the occasional meal that we brought back for him.
We recorded the basic tracks in the first week session and used the November session to record the overdubs and do the mixing. Bisquiteen studio is set up on the entire third floor of J’s house, which has a main room where the board is located and multiple smaller rooms off of that for isolation recording. Our record was recorded using Pro Tools and then bounced to half inch tape during the mixing.
As disdainful as most of us are towards digital recording, it made things so easy. We weren’t too concerned about the tones because the studio has a lot of vintage equipment, from the amps and rack units all the way up to the old 32 channel API board, which came out of a defunct studio in Hawaii.
The recording process started with Kyle and J laying down basic guitar and drum tracks for all seven songs. That was completed by the end of the second day and then I laid the bass tracks on the third day, followed by KyleÂ¹s initial vocal tracks. Asa came in on the end of the fourth day and played his parts and continued to do so on the fifth and final day of the first session. John did a very rough mix on the last day, which he left us to mull over and to make suggestions for the final mixes. We took a two week break, as John had prior studio work booked and we commenced the second session during the first week of November.
After listening to the roughs many times in the space between the sessions, we were able to make suggestions to what John had already put together and went into the studio prepared with ideas on how to flesh out the tunes. The first two days were spent laying down guitar lead overdubs, backing vocals and various sounds such as the gongs, chimes, and enhanced effects. We only had one outside musician contribute to the whole recording process and that was Kurt Weisman of the band Feathers playing Vox organ on the intro to Isadora. The remaining three days were dedicated to mixing.
During the mixing process, John would prepare a mix as we hung out downstairs. He’d call us all into the main room to listen and ask for specific suggestions. We would make whatever recommendations we had individually, like "Bring the snare up in that bit" or "Add more reverb to that part." John would make the changes and then bounce the final mix to tape. The mastering was done a month later by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound in New York.March 10, 2006 at 2:17 pm #115084
The new studio sounds pretty pleasing…Quote:J has a deluxe studio called Bisquiteen in his house, Bisquiteen studio is set up on the entire third floor of J’s house, which has a main room where the board is located and multiple smaller rooms off of that for isolation recording. As disdainful as most of us are towards digital recording, it made things so easy. We weren’t too concerned about the tones because the studio has a lot of vintage equipment, from the amps and rack units all the way up to the old 32 channel API board, which came out of a defunct studio in Hawaii.
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