Thursday, April 19, 2012

Call Me Pigtail 14/20

The Words of the Dumbshits Were Written on the Studio Walls --

Back home after our first real-life road trip, we realize it's time to get some of our genius onto wax. Most bands who are trying to succeed at this point in time are recording cd's, still a new technology, and everyone is all excited about how it's the digital wave of the future, blah blah blah, and how many songs a CD could hold, and on and on. Following our instincts, we decide to record a 7-inch, 33 and 1/3 rpm, limited-edition single on regular black vinyl.

The old band had recorded out in Hoffman Estates at a studio called Solid Sound, which was a pretty average not-cool suburban office-park studio that recorded bands with names like "Stryke Force" and "Rockerz." The reason the old band wound up at this place wasn't the slick sound board or the tasteful low lighting, or even the surprisingly low rates. It was because of a kindred spirit we found there, a truly sweet and twisted young man named Phil Bonnet (RIP, old friend). So THEE NDI return from our first ever tour, physically ill but creatively on fire, and the first thing we do -- maybe the second -- is call up old Phil, give him a new name, Christian Shoulders (Why? Really? Is anyone still asking that?) and book five hours of studio time.

We arrive at Solid Sound in our finest stage outfits, tux and hat ensembles, greet our new/old friend Christian Shoulders, and begin to load in. Gear? Yes. Stuffed animals? Yes. The string of used-car-lot flags we kind of found at a Chevy dealership next to the hotel at four in the morning in Slidell, Louisiana? Yes. We spend our first precious hour of time, $35 worth, setting up the recording room to look more or less exactly like our stage. After that we manage to actually record four songs, complete with twisted spoken intros, and stagger out with a pretty good representation of our artistic corruption. This becomes the "Feelin' Sexy"/"Pensacola 99"/"Hamhocks"/ whutta whutta EP. We cut-and-paste a few random images from our stack of girly magazines, hand-letter the thing, and start selling it at shows. To our surprise and delight, people line up to buy it. Did they listen to it? Hmm.

That first little recording experience primes us for a much more ambitious attempt. A few months later we return with 25 new "songs;" a little more cash; assorted sound-effect cd's, transistor radios, toy instruments, Skipper's dog, an economy-sized bottle of trucker speed, assorted Little Debbies, and enough liquid refreshments for several weeks. The "lock in," as we call it, is for 24 hours. Time to get busy with the real work of recording an album! So we immediately focus: Decorate the studio, get the car-lot flags up, get the good tuxes on, have a cocktail, and start telling jokes with Christian Shoulders. After awhile we turn on the amps and just start playing.

Recording with NDI, like everything else, means forgetting everything we used to know. Forget "separating" the sounds, and don't worry too much about the ragged solos and approximated cues. In fact, forget everything except maybe the lyrics, which anyway are basically just titles and a few improvised bits that have stuck over time. The main thing: turn the guitar way the fuck up, give Goodtime room to bash the shit out of his tiny little set, and try not to laugh. It's too easy. The only hard thing is remembering not to think. If we stop to consider re-doing a ludicrously botched backing vocal or lyric, the whole thing will fall apart like the house of cards it is. The hard part is remembering how easy it is. We basically play our set list, more or less in order, with the songs linked together by snatches of radio preachers and sound effects. There are too many in-jokes to count, or remember, but the bowling alley behind Skipper's "solo" is pretty choice, and I like the soap opera interludes. One bit that even our most obsessive fans will probably never catch is the big piano chord crash at the end of one song, can't remember which one, that we carefully time to be exactly one second longer than the previous world-record piano crash fade out, at the end of "A Day in the Life" on Abbey Road. We spend way more time on this single joke, including stop-watch timing and adding the barely-audible cows mooing in the background, than we do on any one of the actual songs on the album. Way more. It Don't Matter.

The result of our cheerful assault on recording integrity is the first NDI full-length album, Hanky Panky Parley Voo, which title is lifted, right, from a weird story in one of our more obscure and dog-eared men's magazine -- something about a con artist/spy/big game hunter who bangs a harem of chicks in Paris. It's 23 songs worth of concentrated trash-rock glory, and we are proud of it, and there we are on the cover, in tuxes and hats, holding junk food and fake cigars, and the main thing you see is not how good these guys must be, or how bad-ass, or even how attractive and creatively dressed they are. What you notice is how fucking happy these guys are. Whatever else this album has going for it, the cover is just a big sloppy wet kiss from your old best pal, a drunken wrestling match on the lawn of the party house, a full-out singalong to stupid old rock songs. Don't know us? It Don't Matter! We're coming over to your house, or your table, handing you a piece of broccoli and a sparkler, and singing you a song about whacking off and driving at the same time.

So. Now what. Do we release it on Edison cylinder? Eight-track tape? Many theories are discussed, but in the end we decide to put it out on cassette tape and, yes, compact disk. Modern and marketable. Hmm. Why, if It Don't Matter, are we doing that? Ah. In the Rock and Roll Eden of our innocent naked newborn bliss, we have nibbled on the chocolate-frosted Ding Dong of knowledge. How many more days in the Garden do we have?

1 comment:

  1. Don't be modest. NDI never nibbled the Ding Dong -- they gorged on the MFs.


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