Monday, March 26, 2007

Eddie Gillis of TIN KNOCKER Interview

Lager House! Eddie Gillis of Tin Knocker photo: Roxxan

By: Rich Tupica

Not much is known about the lo-fi Detroit band Tin Knocker. Shit, you couldn't even buy their first record because it was deliberately hidden in various parts of the world by their label Cass Records, and they never played any shows.
The future of the band seemed like a mystery to me, so I asked Cass Records owner Ben Blackwell his thoughts, “I really don't know where Tin Knocker is headed as a band,” said Blackwell. “I guess it's all up to Brian and Eddie. It's almost like a fake band, you know? Never really play live, a bunch of recordings in garages and basements across the Metro Detroit area, a terribly limited debut single that was only ever available for purchase from select record stores in Japan and Australia. In the end, all anyone needs to know is that Tin Knocker is bad ass,” said Blackwell.
One thing for sure is that the band has at least one more record on the way. Cass Records is releasing their second 7-inch single and it looks like this time people will actually be able to buy it. “The new Tin Knocker single on Cass will certainly be easier to find,” said Blackwell. “I'm wondering how long it will take to sell-out of them. I think I'm only going to let people order one copy each. Plus, we're going to charge more because of the CD we're including with the record, the hand-lacquered covers and the interesting inserts. Maybe we should put it all together for a limited lathe-cut Tin Knocker LP, that'd be worth it,” said Blackwell.
Originally the band was a duo, Gillis on vocals and guitar, Muldoon on the backbeat. However, recently Hunter Muldoon (bass) and Brandon Habermas (guitar) were added to the line-up, which has filled-out their primal sound just a touch. Could this be a new beginning for Detroit’s rawest band? I asked Mr. Gillis to fill me in on the history of their creation.

Hey Eddie, how long have you been married with children for?
"I have been married for 17-years and have a daughter who is 14 and a son who's 11 years-old. Life is good."

I heard you and Brian Muldoon grew up next door to each other as children, how old were you when you met? What area or neighborhood of Detroit was this in?
"Our first documented meeting came between me and Brian’s bike. I was two and he was nine years-old. Neither of us remembers doing the running over or being run over, but accidents happen and we survived. They were good neighbors and we watched out for each other. We grew up about a mile south of the Ambassador Bridge in southwest Detroit. There were a lot of big families like ours, a fairly close-knit community that was mainly Catholic but at the same time pretty diverse by today’s standards, definitely a melting pot. A lot factories, heavy industry and churches that would eventually decline. It was a fun atmosphere but you still needed to acquire, and keep a certain sense of toughness about yourself as you wandered around."

What were the first bands or artists that really got you into music when you were a teen?
"I had been exposed to a wide range of music early on mainly because of my dad being an amateur audiophile. He built his own speaker cabinets, fixed radios and in addition to lots of records, had reel-to-reel tapes of every va
riety of big band and Broadway artists you could think of. As I grew, I mostly listened to all my older siblings stuff, whatever was lying around, all the classic groups from the 60s and early 70s. My first record purchase was either Dylan, Foghat or KISS, maybe all three, but I didn’t continually buy records or even try to own a stereo since there always seemed to be one around. I wanted a drum set really bad and I got to be a great air drummer to a lot of those songs. Deep Purple was top of the list for me for a while."

Eddie Gillis back in the day!

When did you first start playing the guitar? Were you writing songs back then?

"I was about 13 when I st
arted noodling around on a guitar. I picked up a horrid acoustic on sale and taught myself from there, this would have been around 1979. I think I had a page from a music book that taught me the first basic chords. I didn’t consider the thought of writing anything of my own right off the bat or composing anything. I wanted to imitate and learn my favorite songs and solos and learn how to get the sounds I liked out of the thing, the jamming and riffing came later. The first time I actually composed something original was in probably the summer of ’89, I had a trio that did all blues covers and an original came out of that. We played all summer and did a backyard gig once. Shortly after that I had taken a job in another town. The next time I came up with a song of my own was about six years ago."

Did you have a band back in High School and did you and Brian ever officially have a band before Tin Knocker?
"I jammed with a variety of guitarists and frie
nds in the neighborhood who were either already in a band or just wanted to play, and we all learned from each other. Being in a band wasn’t really a priority to me. My cousin came by one day, he was into Jethro Tull quite a bit and could play flute and guitar very well, and I had an older brother who had been playing keyboards and another brother who had been writing poetry, he eventually took over vocals and playing bass. I did a little drumming at first until we ran into this drummer from down the street and we put together a prog-rock/jam band named Catalyst. We did some demo recording on our own and played out on a fairly regular basis for a couple years, but didn’t try to release anything at that time. I think our first show was in ’84."

I heard that Brian helped you get into some bands by giving you a box of old cassette tapes. What kind of music was on those tapes and why did he give them to you?
"A little bit after the turn of the century, Brian and I had found some time to get together and jam. We didn’t focus on trying to cover any songs, just played whatever riffs came out. Eventually, he would give me tapes to listen to that his brother was mailing him from New York of Bill Kelly’s show on W
FMU. We would play and I would do something on guitar and Brian would be like 'oh that has a such and such sound to it', or 'that is similar to this band or that band'. He lent me the Nuggets CDs and lots of stuff I never heard, mainly because at this point I never really had what you would call a record collection. Brian was so knowledgeable and into so many different bands, I just immersed myself in all of it and backtracked through his collection. A lot of the music really clicked with what my style had become and, needless to say, it was very inspiring and very encouraging on Brian’s part."

Tin Knocker T-Shirt! Buy one dudes! art: Dan Muldoon

What bands do you feel have directly influenced Tin Knocker?
"Any noisy, lo-fi, unmarketable band you can name, most likely."

What made you and Brian decide to start Tin Knocker? Tell the history of how it started.
"As we rehearsed frequently and worked out ideas in late 2001 and early 2002, we recorded what we did and ideas became more cohesive as we went along, yet we were obviously not in any hurry to play out, or tour either. I would just make stuff up on the spot and work it out from there. I don’t think I have ever come to jam with Brian with a pre-conceived idea to 'work on.' We invested in an eight track reel-to-reel and a small mixer to get a better sound and put some stuff on tape. I didn’t have much experience about any of the technical part of achieving good recordings, but I had some basic knowledge and some rough material from rehearsals to work with, so I started with that and built up tracks and focused on that for a while. I think I learned a lot on my own and felt a little more comfortable with capturing the sound we liked. Mostly all the earliest stuff was recorded in Brian’s upholstery shop. The idea for the second single was there early on as well, with the background theme being associated with the old Detroit Dragway, as you will see with the artwork."

Analog! Eddie Gillis in the studio

Who writes the songs? Is it a group effort? How do the songs come together?
"Brian helped with lyrics on the first
single, but for the most part I’ve put ideas together after sketching them out with Brian at rehearsal and put lyrics to them after that. All along the way it's been mainly me coming up with a riff or progression out of nowhere and working out the melody and words later."

Eddie's guitars hanging with the reel-to-reel

Why the double guitar? Do you still play using that bad-boy!? Also, can you give me a quick list of the equipment that you use?
"I received the double Danelectro as a gift and even
though it looks like something way over the top, it is really a great sounding guitar and extremely useful, I use it quite a bit. It is a baritone on top and a regular guitar on the bottom, which I leave in an open E tuning. I also play a ’72 Tele Thinline that I have had since ’84, and a ’65 Jaguar through a Fender Vibrolux amp. It has a great punchy, bright sound that is a little thinner than a Twin."

How did the first Cass Records 7” come to be? And did you like the idea of making the vinyl super-rare by (basically) not selling it, or did you wish more people could have owned it?
"We hoped we could get it put out by Dave Buick on Italy Records at first, but he was either not interested or didn’t have adequate funding at the time to get it done, maybe both. I don’t think he cared much for the artwork either. Ben Blackwell had just started the Cass label around that time and offere
d to put it out. Our first idea was to 'hide' a bunch of the records in and around Detroit at various landmarks, overpasses, Louis Cass’ gravestone, fast food drive thrus, homeless shelters and give out encrypted clues on his site so people could go find them. The idea of listing it as sold-out was sort of a joke at first because we weren’t really selling them anyway, just giving them away randomly. It turned into a marketing ploy on its own, you know, people that can’t complete a collection or are told they can’t have it just want it all the more. Ben offered it in trades and often would go out with The Dirtbombs, take a bunch with him and plant them in record stores in Europe, Australia, Japan and around America. Surprisingly, they began showing up and there have been a few on Ebay naturally. Maybe we can get Ben to repress it. These kinds of things are extremely humorous to us."

Tin Knocker's "rare" debut on Cass Records art: Dan Muldoon

Tin Knocker has now grown from a two-piece to a four-piece, why did you guys decide to add to the line up? Who are the new members? How did this come together?
"I think we always knew that when it got to the point where we would play out that we would at least have a bassist or two guitars, no point in duplicating the two piece idea. You can put ideas together rather quic
kly with just two people at first, which in turn makes it easier to add to later. The sound is obviously bigger and warmer for sure and Brian's son Hunter is on bass and Brandon Habermas is on the second guitar. Brandon met up with Brian checking out some shows and made a recording of one of our songs that sounded really good. I was flattered so we got together soon after to play and really clicked. Hunter took to bass rather easily, learns quickly and doesn’t forget what you show him. Besides I think it is great having that youthfulness to back us up."

Tin Knocker! Brian, Eddie, Hunter & Brandon

Why was there a three to four year wait in between Tin Knocker 7”s? Will there ever be a full length in the works?
"It wasn’t really intentional, but like I said, we haven’t been in a hurry to do anything. That said you don’t want your stuff just lying around not being heard. Over that span of time though, I was learning a lot about recording and doing a lot of writing too. I also worked with some bands, recorded a few of them and intend to do more of that. During that same time Brian had put together The Muldoons with his two sons and it has been a real treat to see how well they have done so far. They are really good and very tale
nted kids. After this release we will probably do another 7 inch on our own and definitely record a full length this year. We have enough material and the proper equipment to do it, so we’ll put together some stuff a little quicker now."

Tin Knocker's "Drag"7-inch on Cass Records! art:Gordon Newton

Can you tell me about the new Cass Records single? Did Cass approach you guys, or did Tin Knocker decide it was time for another record?
"We wanted to do two singles with Cass and Ben (Blackwell) wa
s willing to put them both out, I'm glad he was patient. The idea for this one came from conversations Brian had with another artist, Gordon Newton about the old Detroit Dragway south of the city, at Sibley and Dix. They used to go there and were into all the different cars and drivers. If I remember correctly, I think you could bring your own car to race if you wanted to. Well, Gordy has some art that’s really cool and designed a cover for our 45 called 'Drag'. It will be a hand-lacquered print of his work, a unique piece of work that fits the theme of the music, dirty and grimy stuff... like Detroit. Included will be old pit passes and a CD comp of some of the other demos from that early period, as well as the songs that are on the 45s. It’s a cool package."

Tin Knocker's "Drag" 7-ich (back of sleeve)

Tin Knocker has only played a few live shows so far, will this change anytime soon? Ever any out of town shows maybe? A tour?
"Maybe we’ll get invited to play around a little, that would be fine, maybe no one will like it so who knows? It’s tough out there for so many bands, you hear a lot of stories and it makes you think twice about taking risks financially and going across country. We’re family guys, essentially, who just started late."

Do you feel that Tin Knocker will still be a band in five-years?
"Sure, I will never stop playing and writing. I have some catching up to do and I think Brian would agree. I got his back in anything he wants to be a part of."

Tin Knocker! Live in Detroit!

What is one thing you want to accomplish in life, that you haven’t yet?
"I think I would like to put out some stuff I wrote on my own. I have let some people hear bits of it and they seem to like it, it's some real mellow stuff. I trust Brian’s opinion about this sort of thing and he thinks I should put it together, so I’ll work on that too. I’d say he knows a good thing when he hears it, don’t you think?"


Tin Knocker on Myspace:
Cass Records on Myspace
Cass Official Webpage

Tin Kncoker on YouTube

Live March 31st 2007 at the Lager House in Detroit
Live in 2002

Eddie "Flour Power" Gillis article

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Tough & Lovely! Andrew Robertson! Interview!

Lara & Andy of the Tough & Lovely photo: Rochelle Beres

By:Rich Tupica

Andy Robertson of The Tough & Lovely just wasn't made for these times. His songwriting is brilliant, authentic and stays true to a style of music that most kids don’t care about anymore, good music. Robertson may be influenced by 50s and 60s soul and rock, but that should not deter you from recognizing the craft and catchiness that he puts into the songs he pens for his band. Their debut album “Born of the Stars” is filled with melodramatic tunes, which I appreciate. It's nice to hear a record that can paint a picture of heart break, a style that has all but vanished from popular music today. Robertson’s songwriting is topped-off nicely with Lara Yazvac, a talented lead singer who knows how to put on a show. Brett Ruland, owner of Spoonful Records released their debut 7-inch single and full length album, soon he'll release their second album. “Every song they play is different from the next. Not just the tempo or volume, but rather the beats, rhythms, and arrangements,” said Ruland. “Lara's voice can go from a whisper to a scream and do it in a dozen different ways that never get old or boring,” said Ruland. Robertson also recently had one of his original tunes recorded by Mary Weiss of The Shangri-Las, not a bad seal of approval if you ask me.

I hear The Tough & Lovely are about 3/4 of the way done with a new LP! How long have you guys been working on this record?
"All the songs are recorded and most are mixed. I just have three more songs to mix so with mastering and cover art and those kinds of finishing touches still to go, I am hoping to have the record out by June or July 2007. We started recording spring of 2006, but then extensive touring and a much needed hiatus put our recording on hold for a bit.”

Where did you guys record this new album?
"With this album, the entire recording was done here in Columbus with some local friends. We’ve had some line-up shuffles this year and that makes it a bit more difficult to get everyone who is involved to travel out of town for recording like we have often done in the past. The various member changes, however, proved to be a blessing in disguise since it made available a nice variety of musicians to invite into the recording process and perform various parts that best fit each song with each musician’s abilities and styles. We are definitely looking forward to the album being in our hands, and I can’t wait to continue moving forward with newer songs.”

All of the songs on your first LP "Born of the Stars" are original tunes, is it the same deal with the new one?
“The new album will be all originals too. When I first started the band back in 2002, it was primarily because I wanted to have an outlet for the type of songs I’d been writing that did not match the style of my previous band that I was in. I started out with the desire to have a dynamic featured vocalist who could take a good song and make it even better, and I certainly found that with Lara. This album will feature a couple co-written numbers, and once again there are no covers.”

Preach it! Lara & Andy on stage photo: Jay Brown

What is the song-writing process within The Tough & Lovely?
“With the song-writing process, I am the starting point, either on the guitar or bass. Sometimes I’ll present my new songs first to our drummer Chris in order to arrange the beat and the structure that I am looking for before I put all the finishing touches on it. Often I’ll bring the songs to the band with all the arrangements and lyrics ready to go. Other times I may present the basic chords and ideas and then look to the band to lay their parts over them to see what happens.”

Geraldo? Nope, it's Andy! photo: Ezra Thobabben

You guys have some old R&B influences, is there an era that you dig the most?
“The 50s and 60s are my favorite decades. I am an avid record collector, especially of 45s, and I do love old 50s R&B, rock-a-billy and country. The Everly Brothers are one of my absolute favorites, and they have a solid stretch of recordings from the late 50s to the early 70s, there is so much great stuff out there. Even in our region alone with record labels such as Cincinnati’s King Records and Detroit’s Fortune Records and those are just the tip of the iceberg. 60s garage, psyche, pop, bubblegum, soul, British, Dutch Beat- all those genres are at the top of my list. There are endless amounts of records out there to be rediscovered from those eras.”

Flat, Black & Circular! I bet that record doesn't suck

Do those old records influence your songwriting?
“I’m certain that a lot of what I do come across has a tremendous influence on my song writing. I can’t speak for other members’ tastes, but I know that Chris and Lara like a lot of older stuff as well. I know Chris has been big into The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers lately, all great stuff."

Backing up a little bit, when did you start playing guitar, and when did you start writing songs?
“I started playing guitar when I was 19, and I didn’t really start writing until I was 23 years-old. That was with my first and only other band, Them Wranch. That band was more straight-ahead rock-n-roll and a bit more high energy. The drummer and I shared the singing duties, and while I wrote most of my own songs, many others songs were co-written and worked out more spontaneously. Our music was a bit different from The Tough and Lovely, but not off the map. Towards the end of Them Wranch I found myself writing more melodic and pop based songs that didn’t really work with that band, or with my voice for that matter. And being a huge fan of artists like the Shocking Blue, The Shangri-Las, Evie Sands, Irma Thomas and other 60s girl groups, my newer songs were beginning to reflect those influences, becoming geared more towards a female lead vocalist and someone who would sing without any distraction of playing an instrument. I became very excited about stepping back from lead singing and putting more of my focus into song writing.”

What town were you born & raised in? And what was it like?
“I was born and raised just outside of Swanton, Ohio. It's a small railroad town just west of Toledo. There really wasn't much to do except stuff like exploring the woods behind my house, riding bikes into town to throw rocks at trains. Swimming at our neighbor’s pond, I guess that's normal stuff kids do in the country. I had some good friends and I'm the youngest of five siblings, so there was always stuff do. I commuted to Toledo for high school and work, so I didn't hang out much in my town in my teens like everyone else. I was an outsider there because of this, and I was an outsider in high school because I was a kid from the boonies. It kind of sucked really, boo-hoo for me. Needless to say, I really wanted out of the Toledo area by the time I went to college.”

Debut 7" on Spoonful Records

How is it living in Columbus, Ohio?
"Cheap. Ohio is cheap. That fact alone can make it hard to move to cities with higher costs of living. But I love Ohio. And I like Columbus’ proximity to other cities. Cleveland, Cincinnati, Athens, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Akron, Ann Arbor are all just one to three-hours away and Chicago, Memphis, NYC, Atlanta are all within a days drive. It makes for good regional touring. When I was 18 I moved to Columbus from Toledo to go to college. Really colleges are the reason a lot of people end up in Columbus. It’s an easy town to live in. There are some cool record stores, venues, and a lot of friendly people.”

Enthused! Tough & Lovely photo:Brett Ruland

What are some other great bands in Ohio that you think everyone should hear?
“Columbus has a fairly fragmented music scene now, but there are a lot of bands here. A newer band called Magic City has been sounding good, they have a female singer/guitarist with a really nice, warm voice. And for me, good vocals are hard to come by anymore. Just southeast of Columbus is Athens, Ohio, a cool little college town with some really great rock and roll outfits. We always like playing with The Dropdead Sons, Dragline Brothers, and Wheels on Fire.”

What is the most interesting or crazy experience you have had while on tour with your band?
“We like human pyramids. Are those mildly crazy?"

A few too many? It's T&L human pyramid time!

How did the Tough & Lovely come together as a band?
"In late 2001 my old band began to wind down and I was looking to start a new project. I had in mind some musicians here and there from around town, and I was playing with various people every now and then just to get things going. I still didn’t have a clue as to who I could get for a singer, but I was frequenting some karaoke nights and continually asking around and mentioning to friends and acquaintances what I was looking for. I was almost to the point of trying out various girls who were interested in singing, Lara being one of them, when I was fortunate enough to catch her a couple times at some karaoke nights. Lara and I had known each other for some time and I always thought she had a decent voice, but then I saw her karaoke one night at a local rock club and I almost fell off my barstool. I remember she did Sweet’s 'Ballroom Blitz' and she laid it down! It didn’t hurt that song starts with ‘ready…Andy?’ I was sold. After that the musicians for the band started falling into place.”

Lara Yazvac rules! photo:bulletmedia

Since then the band has experienced a few line up changes, can you recall the history?
"First came our original bass player Carol Schumacher and one of my previous band mates agreed to fill in on drums until we found the proper drummer. That turned out to be Chris who I’d wanted to play with since the first time I saw him play a couple years before and, fortunately for us, he became available when he had a falling out with the band he was with at the time. Once Chris joined, we had the core line-up. Mark Sims, our first organ and additional guitarist, came almost a year later. He actually joined to fill in for Carol on bass after she had broken her leg one night after a gig. Once she was better Mark jumped over to organ and guitar and by summer 2003 the full line-up was complete. In the summer of 2005 Mark and Carol both left the band during a couple month hiatus. Mark has married and is raising a child, and Carol went on to join the Reigning Sound. Since then we have had those positions change a bit, though Mark will appear on most of our new album. Considering everyone who has been in and out of, and sometimes back in the band, we have been graced with some extraordinarily talented people.”

Andy in a Psychedelic-Freak out! photo: dotdashnyc

When you go to a record store to look for some vinyl, what are you usually digging for?
"Anymore I am mostly digging through 45s randomly looking for anything good. I still have specific records I want to find, but most of the time I am just kind of digging and hunting for striking titles, labels and band names. As I said before, I love old R&B, garage, soul, country and so on. Occasionally, I might get on-line to see if I can find some affordable deals overseas. There is so much amazing foreign stuff that just doesn’t turn up over here.”

Under the lights, Lara & Andy

Reviews are always comparing The Tough & Lovely to various great old bands and artists. Do you feel that some writers are quick to compare you guys to 'any old group' without noting what sets you apart?
“I think that will always be something a lot writers do no matter who they are writing about. I think most critics will use older bands or genres to describe a new band’s sound, and they may not know enough about the older music they are referencing to to explain why they are making that comparison and so they don’t go into detail. For me, the word 'garage' is a great example. Since the rise of The White Stripes and Little Stephen’s Underground Garage everybody uses ‘garage rock’ to describe all kinds of bands, and considering the sound of the original genre that ‘garage’ used to describe, it is almost never accurate anymore. In fact, for the most part the word has taken on a different meaning then it once had up to six or seven years ago. Occasionally a music critic will give a review that not only compares, but also explains and contrasts very knowledgeably. All this doesn’t surprise me though, because like any trade or talent there are usually far more people who are o.k. at what they do then there are people who are truly great at it.”

Tambourines rule! T&L being loud photo:dotdashnyc

On the first LP, there are a lot of the heart-breaker type songs. Will the new one show a happier side of The Tough & Lovely? And can you describe the sound of the new material?
“Oh man, I think the new album probably has even more heartaches and troubles! This newer material is a natural progression from the first album in the fact that it definitely stands on its own, but it is by no means worlds apart. I feel the songs on this album show more variety than 'Born of the Stars', but I guess that is what one might expect from a band’s sophomore effort. The production on this record isn’t as rough around the edges as our first album, and I didn’t want it to be. That’s not to say that the recordings are ‘slick,’ but more that each song was honed a little more to fit its specific vibe. I am very excited about this album and I hope our fans will be too. Lord knows it’s been a long time coming!”

"Born of the Stars" Debut Full-Length on Spoonful Records

What was the first band that really got you into loving music?
"I've loved music since I can remember. I wish I could say it was some band like The Ramones or The Beatles, but my mom tells me that as a baby I would flip whenever I heard John Denver. A big factor I am certain was a carrying case of beat up 45s that had been handed down from sibling to sibling until it was my turn to scratch them up more. We had an old portable record player that I would use to play radio station DJ. Most of the 45s were crap, but I do remember there were a couple gems, my favorites being The Zombies ‘She's Not There/You Make Feel So Good’ and Georgie Fame's ‘Yeh Yeh.’ Even as a kid that stuff just sounded so cool."

Would you ever do a solo record?
“I'm not sure. I am really self-conscious about my voice. I think I could be persuaded to do a solo record someday if someone really wanted me to do one and was willing to release it. But honestly I feel way more comfortable letting others sing my songs. I really love the 'behind-the-scenes' song writing that people like Felice & Boudleaux Bryant, Jackie DeShannon, Holland-Dozier-Holland, and Goffin-King did. I believe all these people released there own solo work at some point, but I by no means have the voice and talents of these legends. At this point in my life, I think I can say that I would be content even if I never released a solo record. Who knows how I'll feel in a couple years.”

Andy & Greg Cartwright at the Mary Weiss show

How did you get involved with contributing a song to the new Mary Weiss album? And did you write that song with her in mind, or did you already have that one arranged?
"Greg Cartwright asked me to contribute to the project. He, along with Billy and Miriam from Norton Records, were looking to accumulate some demos for Mary to comb through, aside from Greg's own originals. I think I sent four songs originally. Two were written for Mary specifically and one I'd had already and one was a Tough & Lovely song yet to be recorded. She ended up choosing one of the ones I'd written for her specifically called ‘I Just Missed You.’ They eventually recorded it and to my overwhelming pleasure it made the final cut. I am very grateful to Mary, Greg, and Norton for the opportunity."

What is the best and worst part of being in a touring band?
“For me the best part is getting out of your own daily routine to play music every night and see all the great geography, cities and people across the country. And record shopping in other cities is always great. The worst part is gas prices, being gone for so long, and usually being broke when you come home. Also, five people crammed into a stuffy van for a month can be taxing. I still love touring though, but it can be hard to find five people who all feel the same way when there isn't a bunch of money to go round.”

Travelin' band! Tough & Lovely kickin' it photo: Brett Ruland

(NEW! Tough & Lovely LP in June/July '07)

Tough & Lovely on Myspace

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!
photo:Theresa Kereakes

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-fied Links!

Ghetto Recorders website
Ghetto Recorders on Myspace

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!!!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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