Luminous City: false starts and false hopes

It wasn’t long afterward that the jazz-influenced guitarist with whom I had recently begun to work had managed to convince me that I was being held back by the drummer’s attitude. Internally, I reasoned that she had always had carte blanche before; but in the same breath, that I was doing a disservice to the music and to everything I thought Fulcrum could be if I didn’t stand firm myself in my quest to move into something more orchestrated.

The drummers that my new guitar-playing friend had in mind were not terribly compelling substitutes for the finesse she had brought to the gig, however, and the guitarist himself was as occupied with his own music as I was with mine. Things looked rather bleak– no band, no prospects for a band, and I was about to lose my day job.

But my guitarist friend had one last ace up his sleeve: he had done quite a few sessions with a local studio owner who sought to become a label entrepreneur, and the guy was looking for new artists. Moreover, the would-be Berry Gordy seemed to like what I was doing.

The paradigm for his label was that no one start to profit till everyone started to profit together. Of course there’d be the usual overhead associated with running USDA Grade A electricity through the various DA-88s, the LA2A, and the Neve; and he was still working out the details of getting all the music distributed; but the recording and engineering, to be done in his well-appointed basement studio, would cost nothing.

My jazz-happy guitarist friend would be happy to backslide into something more visceral for the occasion, and I managed to convince my old bassist and drummer to revisit the material for the session (over the mild protestations of the guitarist). About the only person unhappy with the way things were about to go down was: the wife of the studio owner, who complained relentlessly to her husband (and within earshot of the musicians in the studio) about the lack of money coming in from the studio. It was a good thing the vocal booth was well-isolated and the recording room was floated, because the control room wasn’t terribly well insulated and the sounds of a crying child– terrible twos, it sounded like– managed to filter down from time to time.

Two sessions later, wearing my producer’s hat, I was pretty much at everybody else’s throat, and they at mine; and to show for it I was no more happy with the sound of what we were doing than I had been two Januarys before. I couldn’t understand it. I had heard music that had come out of the studio, and the unprocessed DA-88s sounded rich and robust even before any processing. What was it that I was missing?

Money to pay for the sessions. The wife had finally won out, and the engineer was forced to abandon his pie-in-the-sky business model. He wound up keeping the session tapes, and as far as I know still has them, maybe, that is if his studio still exists.

I went off to live in Binghamton NY to work for IBM and thought at the time that I was abandoning music once and for all.


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