Ghetto Recorders' Jim Diamond Interview!
Master at work, Jim at Ghetto Recorders photo: Theresa Kereakes
By: Rich Tupica
Preferring tape over the computer, Jim Diamond and his Detroit recording studio Ghetto Recorders has turned-out countless records from great garage and rock-n-roll bands since 1997. Diamond is responsible for recording my favorite album, 'Crystal, Gazing, Luck, Amazing,' by The Compulsive Gamblers, the sound he captured on that record was the Gamblers sounding their best, not over or under produced, it seemed to be just perfect, much like many of his other projects. After spending a few years with Mick Collins and The Dirtbombs touring the world as a bassist, Diamond is now solely recording music, and with offers from bands all over the world, why not? Diamond has put his mark on the Motor City sound, a sound he helped create.
Where did you grow up as a child? And when did you first start to play instruments and seriously get into music?
"Trenton High School in Trenton, Michigan. I started playing saxophone and classical guitar at around 10 years-old. I started playing bass in a rock band at 13."
What band or album started to shape your taste in music back in your teen years?
"I would practice the bass along to Beatles, Rush and Jefferson Airplane records back then."
Jim's first big gig!
Did you play in any bands back in high school? And what bands would you go to see at local shows or big concerts?
"My first band in junior high was called Inferno, we would play KISS, Aerosmith and Ted Nugent covers. Oh yeah, and 'Free Bird,' the long version, I was 13 then. I had a band with a friend named Francis Deck when I was 17 called the Neo Plastics, we would combine hardcore, music verite', tape manipulation and various noises and tones from his mom's Commodore 64 computer and mess around like that. I remember seeing the Moody Blues when I was 16 and then I got into hardcore at 17, saw Black Flag, Negative Approach, The Necros, The Stray Cats who are not hardcore, I loved Minor Threat so it was mostly small shows."
Jim in the studio photo:Theresa Kereakes
When did you first decide that you wanted to record bands? And what was the first equipment that you bought to do so?
"When I was in the Neo Plastics we stole this old reel to reel we found in the closet in the band room at high school, we took it to Francis' basement and would try and record ourselves on that. Then I would experiment making recordings on a cassette deck. I was always messing around with microphones and cassette decks, trying to figure out how to make a good sound. I didn't start buying real recording gear until about 1997!"
Do you have any producers like Joe Meek or whoever, that you look up to? Or do you just do your own thing?
“I listen to things, curious what other people's approach would be, I love most Joe Meek stuff, what I really learn from is listening to songs and the bands approach to songwriting and playing. Songs will have a vibe and that can direct your approach in the recording and mixing process I find.”
How long have you been hanging with Tom from Bantam Rooster? Wasn’t that the first Ghetto Recorders band?
"I knew Tom back in '94-'95, he had a band in Lansing, Michigan where we both lived at the time. It was called Kill Devil Hill a three-piece. I recorded them at this studio I worked at back then called Harvest Productions. Bantam Rooster was the first official release from Ghetto Recorders. Back at the studio in Lansing I did a lot of car commercials and Christian metal."
The Ghetto Recorders Board.
What do you think of the new "Chrome Spiders" tracks you just recorded? Does this stuff sound like classic (Bantam-like) Potter?
“I'd like to think the new stuff is more Alice Cooper like, it's not as frantic as the Bantam stuff, I'd like to get those guys back in here!”
How and why did you make your way to Detroit back in the day? How did Ghetto Recorders come to be?
"I was at Harvest in 1995, and I think I was about to turn 30 and said 'What the hell are you doing here, there’s got to be something more' so I quit and moved in with my parents at age 30, they live in a suburb of Detroit, and started calling studios in the area trying to get my foot in the door to do some freelance engineering. An old friend from Trenton, John Linardos, lived downtown and had a huge loft, apartment space and a little 8-track recording setup. I ended up moving in with him after over a year with my parents and that's where Ghetto Recorders is today."
Keepin' it Reel at Ghetto Recorders!
What type of neighborhood is Ghetto Recorders in? And how much time do you spend there?
"The neighborhood was a ghost town back in '96 when I moved in. Now there are two sports stadiums right across the street. I spend a lot of time here, I live here as well."
What album that you recorded is your favorite?
"There are so many records. I think it may be by a group called The Witches, a record called 'Universal Mall.'"
Guitars on deck at Ghetto Recorders photo: Theresa Kereakes
You recorded my favorite album of all time, The Compulsive Gamblers “Crystal, Gazing, Luck, Amazing,” can you tell me what you remember about recording with those Memphis cats?
"I loved making that record. Most of it was done live, Greg sang through this crappy PA system I had and was such a good singer. It was a lot of fun and I think we did it in four or five days."
Is Detroit still stocked with great bands, or do you feel that it is starting to calm down?
"I think the wave of bands that I grew up with have mostly gone now and there are many young kids who are out there now. Some are good but it will be a couple years until we have a lot of great bands again."
How many bands or artist do you have contacting you about wanting to record? Is that a daily thing for you nowadays?
“I get approached often enough to stay busy and earn a living. I get probably 50/50 local and out of town people.”
While touring with The Dirtbombs, do you have any crazy stories that you remember, either at or on the way to a gig?
"Hmmm, there are so many stories, most of them fun. I remember playing in Valencia, Spain and we show up and see these three little amplifiers, tiny little practice amps that don't come up to our knees. We're looking for our amps for the show and they say 'oh, here is your back line!' and we had to do the show through the tiny amps! Another time we were in Australia and it was time to go to the airport cause we were leaving for the States and we can't find Tom Potter! I told the driver to leave without him but at the last second he shows up as we were driving away."
Dirtbombs lookin' young! Pat, Jim, Tom, Ben & Mick
What inspired you to write the song "I'm through with White Girls"?! Were you really sick of them?
“I wrote that in 10 minutes as a joke cause we needed an original track for this comp. It was divine inspiration.”
How was it recording Detroit-soul legend Andre Williams?
"I always had fun with Andre, I recorded a lot of things with him. I remember one time recording him with the Compulsive Gamblers and he is walking around the studio without his shirt on looking out the window. He sees a woman outside on her lunch break and says, 'Jim, I’m going to go over there and pick up this woman'. I had to convince him that we had to finish the recording first. He'd always want Bacardi light rum. He'd say, ' I like my women like I like my rum, white!' Another time I had arranged a band to play with him, me on guitar, saxophone and organ, Pat Pantano on drums, Jeff Meier on guitar and Troy Gregory on bass. Andre shows up at 11:00 in the morning with this 20 year-old girl and says,'Jim, meet your new lead guitarist, Kelly!' He brought this little white girl along with him to play this show and says she's playing lead! It was messed up."
What was the Detroit music scene blow-up really like? Did you see this NME shit coming, or were you guys surprised?
"No one really cared about it to be honest. It was the British who made it a big deal, not us. We were just bands playing music that we liked. I think the British music scene is very fad oriented, we were the fad for a couple of years."
What equipment is being used in the Ghetto Recorders right now?
"I use equipment that is at least 20 years old pretty much. I make records on 2" tape, which most people don't do anymore. Today it is all computers and everything is made to sound technically perfect that way. I have an old school approach where I like to see musicians interacting with each other and actually making music together. I have a 2" 24 track tape machine and mixing board, microphones, and the usual stuff, big boxes with flashing lights and dial, not just a little computer screen. I find it interesting that today most people make records while staring at a computer screen. I make records while listening to the sound coming out of the speakers."
Diamond and with the "Rockin' Grandma", Cordell Jackson!
So, does Ghetto Recorders have its own personality?
"Oh, we definitely have a personality. It's like a big practice space on the second floor of this building downtown and there are amps and organs and guitars all over the place. I think most recording studios are like the doctors office, very sterile. I like people to feel comfortable and have a good time. This studio used to be a chicken processing factory way back in the 1920s and 30s. The control room where all the equipment is used to be the freezer where they stored the chickens!"
Jim's car-oven in Ghetto Recorders, doesn't work!
What has been your proudest moment since 1996?
"Standing up for myself against Jack White."
What are you working on right now? And what can we expect in the future?
"I just finished a record by a great and interesting band called The High Strung that will be out in May, 2007 on Park the Van Records. I have a group called The Charms coming in tomorrow. I'm talking to a band in Sydney right now about producing them. I've done a couple records down in Australia and it’s time to get back there."
Is recording something you want to continue to do for a long time? Or do you see yourself finding something else to do someday?
"I love recording and producing bands. I get such a thrill to take the individual parts and turn them into a whole song that is interesting and has character. I will always be involved with music in some way all of my life."
What is one band or artist that you want to record but haven't yet?
"My dream would have been to record Buck Owens but he passed away last year! I'll find a new dream soon..."
Ghetto Recorders website
Ghetto Recorders on Myspace
Jim Diamond's MUSICAL HIT-STORY!
CHECK THIS OUT!!! PUNK PHOTOS! By Theresa Kereakes!
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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
Thanks to Jim Diamond for his time, and Theresa Kereakes for her great pics!!!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.