|June 26, 2012 | Recent Events Dictate
WE MAKE RECORDS ANYWHERE. We do what we have to do. Through the generosity of a comrade, I am making a record in an old photography studio in New Orleans. I got the band to help me bring a bunch of stuff over there, and we strung a few cables and hung a couple of blankets, and now we’re in business. The vocal mic is in the back room, where they store the chemicals and paper they barely use anymore, where they cut mattes and frame prints. We’ll cut guitar overdubs back there too, but after-hours, because I can hear the attorneys on the next floor muttering between takes. We Do It Ourselves, and we’d rather you didn’t knew we were here.
It smells back there, a little, but I worked in a commercial photo studio not totally unlike this one when I was 19 years old ~
( A nightmare of a swing / graveyard-shift job. I was often the only person in the whole building, sweating, turning off the lights, slamming the transparency holder into the giant Hammerite-grey enlarger, switching on the vacuum pump, feeding the dupes I shot into the E-6 machine, all night long sometimes – I haven’t thought about this since then, but I’d heard that the building had been a draft induction center during the Vietnam war, and sometimes, in the pitch dark, wired on burnt coffee-sludge at 3AM, I would imagine the ghosts of the Chicago boys who didn’t come back looking over my shoulder, saying, man, you’ve got a terrible job. I was a nightmare kid, too, a not-good employee, and it’s a wonder to me now that I lasted sufficiently long at that place to save what seemed like enough money to move to NYC. ) ( it’s never enough )
~ so I don’t notice the odor of developer, much. I like it here, for the same reason that I live in a town as unlikely and inconvenient ( I was going to say ridiculous, but then I didn’t say that ) as New Orleans : I’m most comfortable when I’m surrounded by old things. There are stacks of Mardi Gras photographs from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and product shots for newspaper ads of the grand old department stores of Canal Street. The guy who used to own the business lets us go to the top floor and look around, and there are thousands of negatives, antique plate-glass ones even, and vintage Sears catalogs, and record albums ( I say unto you, N•O•L•A people, Chris Owens! ), and typewriters, and cameras. I could live up there.
I once had the privilege of being allowed into the archives of the National World War II Museum, where they store uniforms, trench art, field gear. Everything there is made of wood and brass and bakelite, and I was like, so, can I make a cot in the corner? I won’t get in the way, I promise.
What was I saying? Recording. It’s peaceful. The woman who runs the place is sitting behind me, and she’s glowing in the light coming through a big window which was certainly made before the 1920s. She’s editing headshots and passport photos, and I’ve got headphones on as so to not disturb her, and I’m recording the singer of the band, who is in the back room, behind a closed door, screaming into my expensive microphone about murder, and witches, and digging graves.
I do my thing, which is, at this stage of the process, knowing how to set the compressor ( all buttons in! ), knowing when to step in and help, knowing when to let it roll. To the woman sitting in the pool of sunlight, I say that this is some strange job I have, huh – by which I mean assisting this howling guy with the meter and tone of his misanthropic poetry – and she agrees that it is.
I’m wrapping it up, at least for a while. I shut down The Graveyard, my cool little spot in Mid-City ( which is the reason I find myself recording in a photo studio ), and I’m looking at spending at least part of another Summer in New Orleans ( Looking down the barrel of. Everyone who can go, goes. It’s not the nicest time of year to be here, okay, it’s the worst, although the magnolia trees are in bloom this week and this is a striking, stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of thing ) because I have to finish all this music I’ve committed to. Some interesting projects, all different. Almost done. I should make a list of these things and note stages of completion. And then I should go.