Yeah, where you realize you want to make the most of it and be in the moment every moment that passes.
That's exactly right.
So as the album evolved from just being a project with Puddleduck how did the various musicians like Bill Payne become involved in it? Did you call them, did they hear about you working and go "hey can I contribute?"
I reached out to pretty much everybody that was on there. I don't think there was anybody that reached out to me because I don't think too many people knew that I was doing it. And it was somewhat random, the process was kind of along the lines of "OK we have to start with these tunes, where do I want to go, what's the sound and the feel that I'm looking for and who might give me that that I know?" And I've been lucky, playing with RatDog as long as I have. We've done shows with Little Feat and I've wound up sitting in with them at several of their own shows and stuff like that, so we've gotten to be good friends. So as it turned out, Billy was in the San Francisco area working on a record with the Doobie Brothers and I called him up and said "Hey, you're in town, is there any way I can get you to come over to the house and bang one out on my Wurly?" And he said "no sweat." So he just came over to my house, visited for a little bit, came down to my studio in the basement and knocked it out in about twenty minutes and went on his merry way. [laughs]
How nice is that? I was just watching a DVD I got recently of a Little Feat show from 1977, back when Lowell George was still alive. It was recorded for a German TV show called Rock Palace. It's a complete show of theirs and I guess it's the very first show of that whole series.
I gotta check that out, is it a boot or is it buyable?
No, it's buyable; it just came out on Eagle Vision DVD.
Oh I'll definitely be picking that up, that's what I spend all my DVD money on is great music DVDs.
It's called Skin it Back and it's got the full show plus about a half hour of the band warming up and rehearsing before the show that's absolutely priceless. You'll absolutely love it if you love Little Feat.
As I listened to the album and noticed Bill was on it, I thought he brought some of the jaunty feel of Little Feat to that particular track, but it wasn't a feel that didn't appear elsewhere on the album and that's what I liked about the album the most. There's a sort of relaxed spontaneity to it as if all these people wandered in and wandered out and you played it all in one fell swoop rather than recorded it over four years.
Well, you know, the stuff that really moves me musically, given my age and what I grew up on, is stuff that was recorded a lot like that. The recording process has changed a lot through the years; it's gotten a lot more technical and there's a lot more stacking of parts. But the music that always really moved me the most was the honest music of the '60s and '70s, before there were all the gimmicks to even play with. If you wanted to make an odd sound, you had to actually figure out how to make it and then record it. So when I think of a great album that you can just put on and listen to, just let it play out and then flip it over and play the other side, I think of The Band's second album, I think of Déjà Vu [CSN&Y],I think of Sgt. Pepper's [The Beatles], I think of classic albums like that, that just sort of pour off the turntable. And that's what I tried to do with this record. I even refer to it as either an album or a record, I won't call it a CD.
CD really increasingly becomes a sort of artificial name for that configuration. You need to call it an album. Especially with Walk Through The Fire which really hangs together from start to finish as a complete piece of work.
Well thanks for that. That was my intent. I've noted several things in the modern world of making records that I don't like and just didn't want to participate in. One is the sense that now what people do is lead off with their strongest song. They lead off with the hit single and then put each successively weaker track on the album. So if you're listening to it from the top down instead of jumping around track to track it's a less and less rewarding experience as time goes on.
I've noticed that too, to my dismay. You should be thinking "how do these 12 or 15 songs really work together best as a sequence?"
Exactly, what makes them layout so I can sit down and have an experience when I listen to it? The other thing that's happened--and I don't want to get too technical--but with the mastering process, after the records are recorded these days, they pump up the bass, they pump up the high end and they use a process called compression, and you can't hear any of the dynamics. The loud parts are just as loud as the softest parts and the soft parts are just as loud as the loud parts, so it becomes a much less emotionally involved experience to listen to music and you miss a lot of the subtle parts because you're just getting assaulted. Music as an assault is just not something I'm interested in.
Music works a lot better when it insinuates itself inside you and then all of sudden lights up like a fire gets going, rather than sensory overstimulation, the likes of which you're talking about where there's no dynamics.
In fact, one of the things that's been mentioned to us several times about this record is that people refer to it as what they call a sleeper because it doesn't punch you in the side of the head when you first put it on. It sounds nice, but it doesn't necessarily kick you in the teeth, but you put it on a couple more times and it starts to grow on you.
I would totally agree with that, only insofar as today is the first time that I really sat down and listened. I was always playing it before while doing other things, and that gave me the positive first impression and made me want to play it more. Today I really listened and it did insinuate itself in me. It's fascinating that you mention the mastering aspect of it because at one point I was hearing the music as if I was right in the middle of it. I thought, Wow, the sound here is so warm and clear. And I was looking at the credits and I noticed Gavin Lurssen's name as the person who mastered it, and I've seen his name on a lot of great sounding recordings, so you really made a good choice.
Well, he did Slumdog Millionaire, which won a bunch of academy awards for the sound and mastering, and he also did O Brother Where Art Thou which is where most people know him from. For my record, when I decided I wanted to use him, a dear friend of mine who actually had the same kind of cancer that I had and sort of paved the way for me when I was going into treatment because he had already been through it, was a man named Steven Bruton.