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Steve Kimock & Billy Goodman live

A Conversation with Steve Kimock (continued)

PM: Well, let's talk a little bit about the record that sprung up during the proceedings, Big Red Barn Sessions. How did the record come about? How'd it get laid down and seen through?

SK: Oh, boy. Sort of like the layers of an onion. [laughs]

PM: Right.

SK: It was one of those. Just a little stinker where you show up with two acoustic guitars and you play for a minute, and somebody shows up with a microphone.

PM: [laughs] Right.

SK: You listen back and you go, oh, that would sound good with drums. Oh, there's some drums over there. Okay, we need another microphone. [laughs] You know what I mean? It kind of went like that. I've got a room in my barn which is a beautiful room. It's basically where the instruments live, faithful servants that they are. Servant's quarters. It's a pile of guitars and amps and drums and a nice Hammond organ and a dressed up Fender Rhodes and some little stuff to play music through. It's like that. It's not a recording facility at all.

PM: Right.

SK: We're trying to get that together, but that's another bazillion dollars.

PM: Absolutely.

SK: So all the production just sort of had to be imported on a catch-as-catch-can basis. We called up Dave Morrison, the guy that does the digital soundboard thing--does my download service--and he brought over a little computer and a couple toys and we started recording. He hung out for a while, and then he had to get back to work and left gear here, so we kept working.

PM: So he had kind of a ProTools setup and some preamps or something?

SK: It was some weird--I don't even wanna get into doing any kind of review of the software because it was bizarre how much stuff didn't work and how oddly it didn't work. You'd record a track and you'd go to play it back, and it would play back in another key--stuff like that.

PM: Yeah, right.

SK: We couldn't figure out how to do an overdub. [laughs] We couldn't figure out how to get any effect on the thing. If you used any of the little plug-ins or something like that, then the thing would continue to crash or glitch or play stuff back in different keys, which was its favorite thing to do.

PM: Wow.

SK: It's modulatory software, and it was just like jumping around between the sampling rate. It was weird. So the record was made with no EQ--no reverb on anything. [laughs]

PM: Right. Flat, no effects.

SK: I don't even think we panned anything. It was like mono for all I know.

PM: Flat and down the middle. [laughs]

SK: So the room sounds good.

PM: Right. We left it all alone.

SK: Whatever sounds we could manage to make, we managed to make. You sort of hang a mike over by the drums and you sort of hang a mike over by the organ and you kind of hang some mikes over by the guitars. So it was really a lot of fun. It does sound really good for that very minimal set-up. It was encouraging.

PM: Although there's plenty of beautiful guitar on the record from both you guys, there's little of what you would call guitar solos on the record. Did that happen organically, or was that just kind of how you envisioned your approach from the outset?

SK: I never thought that much about it beyond my own take on the thing as being--these were sort of song demos.

PM: You were playing songs, right.

SK: Yeah. We're just gonna--here, let's play these tunes. It didn't wanna get too into anything other than just sort of having the right hat on for the general vibe, you know what I mean?

PM: Sure, absolutely.

SK: It was in kind of a--well, I could play a bunch of stuff on here, but it would sort of be a misdirection or something like that.

PM: Yeah. I didn't think it was wanting for any of that. I thought it was interesting that there was very little of that, and it was just kind of very song-y--very guitaristic without being kind of solo-ey. I liked that.

SK: Yeah. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. If I did it again, maybe I'd do something differently. To balance that out, while we were hanging around, we were both trying to pick up Elvis, basically, and bust out some of the early Goodman Brothers stuff on each other, and we found some early tracks from--I don't know where the hell they were from. I think I've got the CD sitting right here, although I don't think my CD plays all the way through, unfortunately. From the Lantern Inn, 11/5/77.

PM: Oh, yeah. I've heard some of that Lantern '77 stuff.

SK: Not bad.

PM: There's some good stuff there.

SK: It's so cool. It's a fucking great band, it really is.

PM: It's remarkably sophisticated and naive simultaneously. [laughs]

SK: We were all barely old enough to drink, but experts nevertheless. It was really neat stuff. I listened to that and I was like, oh, yeah--the lead guitar thing. That's right. That's what you were talking about--the lead guitar thing.

PM: [laughs]

SK: It's like I've more or less given up on playing lead guitar.

PM: Well, you've done a lot of it already, you know. It's no wonder.

SK: There's a listening kind of period that I know we all went through where just the idea of playing guitar in general because it was so song-based in our formative listening--here's a cool tune--that's a cool tune--it's got a beat, it's got a vibe, you know--it's got some chords. Eventually you go, oh, man. Listen to that sound. That's a cool sound. Then there's some little space in between there and you whatever--this George Harrison, whatever--plays for three seconds in between the thing and you think that sounds cool, and you try and do that. Gradually you get to the place where you're listening to pop music where there's a guitar solo, right? So there's a verse and a chorus and then maybe a bridge or a half a verse or some instrumental interlude or something like that, and there's that thing there. But it's kind of like not really part of the tune.

PM: Right.

SK: When it's really well done, it's integrated in a way that it's the right connecting material or plot development or whatever that takes the tune down to the last verse or out or whatever, but it's not the same thing as--the more rootsy music was blues or bluegrass or something like that where you never feel as if--the solo voice of many instruments is discontinuous or not part of the tune. You listen to BB King or something--the guitar's not added onto that, you know what I mean? It's baked in.

PM: [laughs]

SK: You can't get the egg back out of the cake once you bake it. You can't get that guitar out of there. It's part of the tune. You wouldn't have different guitar with that vocal. That's what that was. The same thing with bluegrass. Basically, the blues and country blues stuff when there was the extra little bit, it was just sort of an extension of the rest of the song.

PM: Exactly.

SK: Anyway, the stuff that we were doing back then had that 'oh, here's your guitar solo' thing.

PM: Right.

SK: Post-Goodman Brothers, when I was doing music, occasionally there would be a call for me to do a guitar solo, but gradually it turned into that the instrumental space itself was a space. And then you could no longer have this idea that you could just sort of dropped some miscellaneous eight bars of whoo, whoo, whoo--some blazing shit onto the thing--who is that, you know? So that whole lead guitar concept has kind of vanished from my vocabulary. I'd spent all that time playing instrumental music, really trying to figure out a way to just play some guitar that wasn't that, that still sounded like some guitar.

PM: Play guitar music, right.

SK: That sounded like a song or whatever. I don't know exactly if I had any success with that or not, and I think a lot of the sounds and approaches that I'm reusing either went over people's heads on some level, or under them--or were either too minimalistic or too noisy or too something. I'm trying to make a point here that it was nice to get to do this stuff with Billy 'cause it simultaneously allowed me to play some tunes and just play some guitar, which I dug, on the record. It put some focus back on that idea that--oh, you can do that guitar solo thing too if you want to in this format. Although I didn't.

PM: Right. And still played.

SK: I think I figured out what it was that I didn't do.

PM: [laughs]

SK: I understood why I didn't do it, so that was important. The upshot to that is that I said, "Oh, okay, hell. I can do that. Or I could do that." So I put a set of nines back on the Explorer and got out the Boogie, right? [Set of nines refers to a gauge of strings, beginning with .009, that is much lighter than Steve usually uses, and is often favored by "lead" guitarists.]

PM: Wow.

SK: It just sort of like recreated the whole production and spent some time with it and went--oh, yeah. Okay, Okay, I got it. Okay, right.

PM: [laughs] The nines back on the Explorer and pulled out the Boogie. That's too much.

SK: I knew you'd get a kick out of it.

PM: Hell, yeah.

SK: That Boogie sounds like a million bucks. [Referring to a CA amp called a Mesa/Boogie, where Steve and I once both worked. Kimock has a very special one, customized by Steve and Mike Bendinelli, who's been the instrumental tech since the company's inception.]

PM: Yours was very special. You spent a lot of time getting that right.


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