Material - 'Don't Lose Control,' 'Take a Chance' etc.
I've been DJing for a long time, and always come back to 'Don't Lose Control' by Material. The track is from another planet. Well, planet Beinhorn/Laswell I suppose. Also, I've always loved 'Take a Chance' and wondered if you had heard the italo version by Mr. Flagio, which is a cult favorite.
I find these records to be inspiring to this day, in terms of sonics and mood. If you'd care to share any memories of making these tracks and the vibe in NYC in general at that time, I'd quite appreciate it.
I know it's the craftsman, not the tools, but still curious as to what kit you would have been using at the time for the sounds on D.L.C.
If you'd care to share any memories of making these tracks and the vibe in NYC in general at that time, I'd quite appreciate it.
I'll second that emotion. Even though you're known for your major label rock productions, it's your history up to the 1990's that's also pretty fascinating.
I'd be interested to hear anything you might add about falling in with Giorgio Gomelsky, being in the Zu Club house band, temporarily being a part of Gong, and also how you, Bill, Martin Bisi and Fred Maher all came to be in that situation. When you were only 17. Funny stories surely ..
By the mid 1980's you'd already worked around : Herbie Hancock, John Lydon, Afrika Bambaata, Fred Frith, Ronnie Drayton, Nile Rodgers, Bernard Fowler, Nona Hendryx and others. A pretty eclectic list really. New York obviously was a great place to be back then.
Can you pinpoint what made you and Bill Laswell so effective as a team, working together ??
Lastly, the version of "Memories" (off Materials "One Down") still blows me away years later. Do any memories stand out from your experiences of working with Whitney Houston (still so young at the time), and with Archie Shepp?
I'll cap the questions there. Thanks for your reply's so far.
I still have a lot of those records from that period back in the 1980's : World Destruction 12" - (Afrika Bambaata and John Lydon), The Grandmaster DST 12", The Herbie album, and of course the "Memory Serves" & "One Down" albums by Material.
Wow- I'm shocked that there are people who are familiar with those records still around. I didn't know of any versions of "Take a Chance" but would love to hear them.
As for kit- back then, all I had was a Prophet 5. At one point, there was an Oberheim sequencer (the kind that looked like a breadmaker and had no way to quantize notes, so whatever you played in is whatever came out. A lot of the sequenced stuff was played by hand. I'm hardly a good player, so you can imagine how frustrating that was. For vocoder stuff, I was using a Roland SVC350- the vocoder of electro. Someone loaned me a Roland TR808 which I used on "Don't Loose Control", "I'm the One", etc. Apart from the tape collage, that was about it.
The vibe in NYC at that time was extraordinary- there was never a time like it before and I doubt there will be again. Actually, it seemed like the climax of a post-war/late-fifties boom of art, poetry, music, theatre that had been flourishing for decades. The cross-pollination of ideas and media was wonderful- it was like a great big Petri dish full of creative people with no restraints being as expressive as they wanted and being encouraged to do so.
AT the same time, everyone was very childish- it was like a big popularity contest- who was the coolest, who had the most people come to their show, who hung out with Brian Eno at the Mudd Club or shot heroin with Johnny Thunders in some squat on Second Ave. People were scathing, there was a lot of back biting and if you weren't cool, you'd get publicly dog piled in the blink of an eye. NYC was a tough room back then.
I suppose Bill and I worked together well because we had a similar sensitivity to music and we each brought something to the table the other didn't have. He was also a terrific networker and knew how to chat people up to get them to come and play on our records. I operated better behind the scenes but had instincts for sound construction and gradually, arrangement. Rather than working together, we mainly worked off one another.
The stories from this period are endless and could fill a book. Regarding "Memories", it was quite an experience. We wanted Fontella Bass who sang "Rescue Me", but her manager (Lester Bowie from the AACM/Art Ensemble Chicago and her ex-husband) wanted $50,000 for her time, which would have killed our entire recording budget.
Bruce Lundvall the president of Elektra/Musician pointed us in the direction of Whitney Houston who had just started singing professionally. We were very skeptical, as we wanted someone who sounded older and had more experience. In the long run, we were clearly wrong- Whitney was more appropriate- especially her youth and naivete.
When we started recording, everything was going great until Whitney hit the 4th line of the song. At that point, she sang the line exactly a half step out of tune.*
It was unbelievable to not only hear her do this once, but to do it several more times. I went into the recording area to show her the melody, then play it for her on the piano. Nothing changed.
She sang that same line for about 2 hours and became more and more frustrated because she coudn't hear it any other way. Suddenly, out of the blue, she began singing the line in key with the song. That was a very interesting day.