This is the sixth in the series discussing the addition of guitarist Greg Koch’s parts to the project, Organ and flying out to California for the recording of Roger Powell’s third solo release Fossil Poets.
Fresh Cream a la Greg
The Fossil Poets record features lots from the guitarist Greg Koch. On Crème Fraiche Greg had free reign. His musicality, intuition and technical prowess (in dialing up the appropriate tasteful tone) for a particular style were on target. A big challenge all along was that the project was being constructed in serial fashion without everyone in the same room at the same time. So when I started working with Greg, just the two of us, we decided to have him play parts all throughout the arrangements. This was to make sure we had a rich set of guitar material to pick from when finalizing the production.
Crème Fraiche would have to be considered Greg’s tribute to guitar legend Eric Clapton. His guitar is featured (solo and multi-tracked) throughout much of the arrangement. But, at the end of the song Roger comes in with a stirring organ solo, a la Steve Winwood. Roger literally bloodied his fingers on that piece. He cut his fingertips on the keyboard repeating the intro slide up on multiple takes. But we finally got it!
Making Vintage Scream
Greg Fender guitars throughout the recording. A Custom Shop Strat was used on 90% of the record along with a number of Telecasters. Greg played a ’55 Epiphone Emperor Zephyr Regent arch top for the solos in Osmosis. A ’58 Gibson Les Paul Reissue was played on both Test Drive and Crème Fraiche. Greg also added Fender Jazz Bass lines on both Test Drive and Osmosis.
Most of the textural guitar effects were recorded with a Fender Cyber Twin SE amplifier. I plugged the direct outputs of the amp into the Digi-002R pre-amps. In some places I ran the Cyber Twin’s direct output through a pair of custom modified Presonus Bluetube preamps (which have hand selected NOS 12AX7’s). Greg’s Fender Custom Vibrolux (as seen in the photo) was driven by a Gristle King pedal (which Mr. Koch himself helped design) made by T.C. Jauernig Electronics. (see pedal board photo).
In my overdub room (12’Lx 10’Wx 8’H), a space with ¾” solid pine paneled walls and “A” frame ceiling; I placed Greg’s Fender Custom Vibrolux. A single SM57 pointing at a spot a few inches in front of the speaker grille, off center to the right of the voice coil was all I used to mic his amp. Mic positioning is important, but not nearly as critical as the tone created by the guitarist himself. Greg’s Gristle King pedal’s organic, girthsome overdrive (which sounds creamy and non-abrasive to my ears) allowed the tracks to sit nicely in the mix, regardless of any additional processing.
Is it Real or Faux?
The organ solo I talked about on Crème Fraiche sounds pretty close to a real organ. It was in fact created on a Roland D50 synth which was meticulously tweaked and processed. I used a Leslie simulator on a modified organ patch from one of my libraries (Valhala Vol. Organs). This was recorded during Roger’s final visit to GTLabs. He told me later that this part of the project was probably the most fun. The hard work of building the songs and getting the guitar parts was done, so he could just focus on playing his finishing touches on the recording.
In the summer of 2005 I flew out to Roger’s Bay Area studio for overdubs over a long weekend. After I got back to Milwaukee, I worked on the tracks some more. Finally, Roger came back to Wisconsin for another long weekend of overdubs and final editing & pre-mixing. We were anxious to get to the final mixing and mastering stages. An interesting part of the process at the end was that we were actually taking many things out of the mix, reducing the density so the remaining parts would be more out front.
There was a real desire to maintain the virtue of minimalism on this project. Roger wanted ambience, sonic textures and grooves to carry the record. We deliberately avoided typical verse/chorus song structures for much of the album. We still wanted solo parts from Roger and Greg, but we placed these strategically where we thought they would have the most impact, not necessarily in predictable order. In the end, we had produced 17 finished tracks, three of which we put aside prior to final mixdown.
Originally posted 2009-01-31 00:46:51.