3/4s of Radio Underground did a special holiday show Sunday night at the Monkey House. The occasion (besides Boxing Day) was that Zak LaVigne was in town from the West Coast for the holidays and a show just seemed like the right thing to do. Luckily we had a rather large audience that agreed.
Zak opened the show with a handful of solo tunes on guitar, voice and harmonica. Very nice stuff. Next up was a variation of the Radio Underground with Arty, Chris and me plus Zak on drums and Mike Scott on sax and harmonica. It was pretty much a family reunion as Zak is Arty’s son and Mike is Arty’s cousin.
After a brief break the band returned minus Mike Scott but with John Tower Group co-frontman Mike Colbourn on guitar and vocals. The first time we had rocked together in a lo-o-o-o-ng time. And rock we did.
Spent a couple days in Brooklynn at Kevlar’s working with him and Karl on the forthcoming Ghost Ghost holiday singles. The original plan was to do a full album but that turned out to be a bit over-optimistic so 2 singles were decided on instead.
First song tackled was Kevin’s Please Stay for Christmas Eve. He already had Karl’s drums, some keys and vocals and it sounded unlike anything else Ghost Ghost had ever done. So, naturally the thing to do was to put me to work and push it further. Can you say “potential alienation of fanbase” ? Can you hear them pulling their hair and screaming “Tim leaves and you get this guy?!” There was a 30 second ambient intro so I decided to add a live loop to that. Pretty straightforward (and kinda monotonous) so we opened up a couple more tracks, kept the loop running and ran through the song again but this time through I kept changing distortion presets on the Line 6 M9 (the looper that day) on downbeats to weird things up. That part is to be mixed pretty low but hopefully you will still be able to hear it on headphones.
Then we got our hands on Karl and made him do a guitar solo on the outro (another long ambient passage). We coaxed a David Gilmourish solo out of him in a handful of takes and it was perfect for the song.
Then it was time to work on Karl’s song Christmas Comes Whenever You Come Home. Drums, acoustic guitar, vocals and bass (just a guide track I think) were already done and sounding good. This is a very catchy song and a pretty straightforward arrangement (a yin to Please Stay for Christmas Eve’s yang). My first whack at it was putting down a slide electric guitar solo. Then we did the hook at the beginning tracking my guitar a couple times in harmony.
One of the touchstones for the direction on this one was the Traveling Willburys so we then had to start piling on the vocals. My singing voice has been crap for a while now thanks to allergies and asthma but even I got put in front of the mic for the “crowd” vocals on the chorus. Hopefully mixed low on the final master.
This was some of the most fun I have had making music in a long time and it was really nice getting to hang with Kev, Karl, Margaret, Ellie and the visiting hero Mike Delbois (with whom I collaborated on another piece Christmas in the Shins – more details on that adventure later).
Postscript – I found this book on Margaret and Kevin’s bookshelf (M is an architect) and was highly amused by the title. King Crimson fans will get the reference. Ask one to explain it.