A Conversation with Pierce Pettis (continued)
PM: I was a huge Pentangle fan back in the day, so I'm really interested in what Danny Thompson was like to work with.
PP: Absolutely great. Well, first of all, he's a real gentlemen, and just very, very down-to-earth. Very easy going, and also very serious about the music. In fact, it was particularly nice to watch him and Kenny work together, because we did this album mostly live. We tracked, I would say, eighty percent of what you hear on the track was done at the same time. And so it was fun to be out on the floor and watch these two connect. Because they'd work together so much it's like they could read each other's minds. And Kenny would do something cool, and Danny would go, "Oh, okay." And then he'd do something, and then--I think when you record live, you get a lot of nice moments that you couldn't just cut and paste. Do you know what I mean?
PM: You can't do it any other way and get that magic.
PP: Exactly, exactly. And what's great is that when you lay that down as your basic track, then when you do come and add something--like we did add a lot of tracks after that--the guy who's coming in to play immediately knows what's going on, and he just becomes part of that.
PP: And he doesn't have to really guess what he's doing.
PM: So who tracked live? Was it you, Kenny, Danny and Tom Britt, or just the three of you?
PP: Well, on one day it was Tom, and on another day it was with Stuart Duncan.
PM: Oh, yeah.
PP: We would have pretty much a full rhythm section. And I played guitar and sang at the same time. I didn't separate those at all.
PM: So how did you separate them sonically, on the track, baffles, or?
PP: Well, actually, there wasn't that much. I don't think there was really any baffling or anything. I think he just sort of had a couple of AKGs, I think, on my guitar. He might have taken a line out of it, but I can't remember. I'm sorry.
PM: But still, there's tons of bleed going on. [Guitar being recorded on to the vocal track, in other words, and vice versa.]
PM: That's very brave, because if the vocals aren't keepers, then they're all over the guitar tracks.
PP: You got to do the whole thing over.
PP: That's right. But sometimes that little bit of fear makes you play better. It's like being live. It's like being on stage. People always say your best shows are live, so we got a little bit of that energy. But also it was just a little awkward to do something--like every now and then, you're in the song and your string is buzzing, you know? You have to go back--when you punch that, and your vocal is there, you just have to do the vocal too.
PP: It's kind of strange. But we made it work. We had a great engineer, too, in Erick Jaskowiak. So it all worked out.
PM: And then Dave Sinko, putting it all to bed in the mix.
PP: Sinko is an absolute genius. Of course, he's got a bunch of Grammys to prove it.
PM: [Guitarist] Tom Britt is a close and old friend of mine. He played some great stuff on the record.
PP: Yes, he did. Tom, I must say, I don't know real well. I only really saw him for a day or so, but he's just a real nice guy.
PM: Yeah. He's very dry witted.
PP: I've worked with [violinist] Stuart Duncan before, that's always a pleasure.
PM: He was in characteristic amazing form on your record.
PP: Oh, he really was. Stuart's a great guy, too. He worked for a couple days with us. And I think it was after the first or second day, we went out and had a couple Guinnesses. That was kind of nice. I think he really liked it. It's a great compliment when guys come in and like your stuff, because these are guys that play on everything. And I mean, if it were me, I'd be just so sick of music I wouldn't want to hear anymore. But when they come in and like what you're doing, that's pretty cool.
PM: Yeah. And I think it's nice for them, too, being guys that play on everything, every day, to come in and be able to say, "Oh some great songs. Cool."
PP: Yeah, yeah. I guess so.
PM: I thought that it was very cool that on the title track that you wrote with David Wilcox, you had both he and his wife Nance Pettit singing on the track. That was special.
PP: It was. And it was kind of amazing the way we did it. I mean, we tracked the song, like I said, live, and then basically we flew it to David. I don't know where David was, it was either Maryland or Hawaii or somewhere. And he went in the studio with Nance and just nailed the vocals, and then sent it back to us. [laughs]
PM: Was it one of those phone line things, or a wav file thing or--
PP: No, we burned a CD, and expressed mailed it, I think. But it was like a 32 bit one, or something. I don't know. I left that up to the engineers, I don't know what they're doing.
PM: Yeah, right.
PP: But they sent it out to David. David has a real nice sort of a Protools studio, and has access to a lot stuff, too, so...
PM: He's a very techy dude.
PP: He is. David is cool, though, because he's a great mix of high-tech and low tech. David likes things very, very simple. Like when he's cutting demos at home, he never adds a lot of tracks, but he has just exquisite microphones. He has all these old Neumanns, just amazing mics. And he's really, really good at mic placement. He's really into that. David's like--I don't know, he's been an authority, really, on acoustic music, and on miking acoustic sounds. He'd actually be a good engineer himself, if he ever wanted to be.
PM: Oh, yeah. He's a kind of an old school audiophile kind of a guy.
PP: Exactly, exactly.
PM: Even with his live guitar rig, he's very hi-fi in his approach. [see our interview with David Wilcox]
PP: And he's all about trying to get the natural sound. You don't hear a lot of effects with David. Like I say, he puts his money into the mics, to get the best reproduction of an actual sound and not trying to manipulate the sound in some way. continue