There I was at 2 AM, in my chonies, glass of whiskey in hand, watching Sound City when it hit me. It came like a bolt from above … a moment of complete certainty … I had to make an analog record. Was it a higher power? Was it the pure encouraging positive energy of Dave Grohl? Was it the Jack? I’ll likely never know, but as the line “this is how real bands make records” came wafting from my TV, I saw the light. I had a bonafide “the band Elwood …. the BAND!” moment, but instead of flipping down a church isle, I texted our guitar player, Jed Ojeda, announcing that we were going to make a completely analog record, the way that God and Dave Grohl intended.
When I awoke the next day, that feeling of certainty remained, and I began to make plans to shanghai the only person I knew who could help us pull it off, renowned engineer/producer, Lenise Bent.
It all made perfect sense … the universe had placed Lenise in our path for a reason. Why else would this engineer/producer who had credits on records like Aja, Breakfast in America, Tusk, and Autoamerican show up to our show at the Mint and declare her love of the band?
Although we hit it off like gangbusters the night we met, Lenise was little more than an acquaintance at the time. So, I thought I’d have to concoct a reason to meet. I’m not sure why I didn’t just call, but somehow it felt like a face to face thing. I hit up her Facebook to look for a smooth way to make the connection, and immediately saw a post on her page promoting a seminar on, get this, “Treating your Music like a Business” for LA Women in Music, that weekend. I figured I’d try go and see if I could get her to meet with me, but she beat me to the punch. As soon as I asked about the seminar, she immediately invited to me to attend and to join her for lunch. At this point, I felt like I was just along for the ride … the universe seemed to have made up its mind.
I’ll never forget the look in Lenise’s face as we sat across the table at the Hard Rock in Hollywood (it was Oscar weekend, and we thought we’d pick a cliche spot in the thick of things). She had been jonesing to do a real record on tape again, and looking for the opportunity … and there I was asking if I could hire her to help me record a band she loved, to 24 track tape. The universe is always right on track, and we had both arrived at the right station at the right time.
Suddenly, I was living out the dream that I’ve had since the first time I sang in front of an audience in elementary school. Sure, it wasn’t exactly what I had imagined in my youth … the “rock star” element had certainly faded. After years as a single dad, maintaining a business management career, the dream was simply to make records that would hold up next to the records that have inspired me along the way, and maybe … just maybe … to make my living as a musician.
I was lucky to be working with my absolute favorite musicians at the time, incendiary guitarist, Jed Ojeda, thunderous primal drummer Paul Cassarino, and infinitely inventive bassist extraordinaire, Roger Upchurch. Our band then known as the Barrelhouse Kings had been ripping it up in LA clubs, and these guys were making my songs sound better than I ever imagined that they could.
After a false start delayed the session, and some new songs were penned (that’s a good story … maybe I’ll tell it in a later blog post), it was this band of heavy hitters that descended on Entourage studios for two and a half days to cut the main tracks. We put the rhythm tracks and most of the guitar solos down live, on day one. We were on a budget, so we came rehearsed and ready for action.
It seemed like there was nothing to slow us down! So why did it take 5 years to get to get to the point of having masters? Why are those masters digital? Well, turns out making an independent, fully analog, LP on a tight budget isn’t for the feint of heart.
We still had overdubs to do, and needed to mix the thing, but we were out of money, and analog studio rental ain’t cheap. But, somehow I knew that the universe would provide, and provide it did, in the form of my long time friend and song writing/performing partner, Scott Pontius. Turns out, he had cut his teeth on analog recording, and had a line on finding the gear that we needed. So, by hook and crook, we set about cobbling together what would become Elsewhere studios. We even went so far as to construct our own plate reverbs with the help of my friend Dennis who is a welder and fabricator (a story for another blog post), and though it took years, and band members were lost along the way, Roger, Scott, Lenise and I finally got the thing mixed to half inch.
Nearly out of funds, and needing to raise the money for vinyl mastering and production, we finally decided to master digital versions that we could use to raise the needed capital, and that would give us something to show to labels, music supervisors etc. We were lucky enough to work with Warren Sokol at United mastering, who was able to master from our 1/2 inch, and who gave us warm lush masters that we love. It ain’t vinyl yet, but it’s as close as you can get, and since most people will likely experience our music digitally, we couldn’t be happier with how they sound.
So, the journey continues, but as I’ve discovered, the journey really is the reward. Scott has taken over on guitar, and with Drummer Mike Beas, we’re ready to hit the stage again, and we’re selling downloads to raise the money to finish the vinyl. We’re now Primal Kings, and Scott, Roger, Lenise, and I have become a dedicated team. My kids are grown, and I’ve left my management gig, to pursue music full time.
So, it might not be the “jukebox hero” version that I held when I was a kid … but I am sure as hell livin’ the dream.
Chris Wilson/Primal Kings