“Real Animal”

Dirty Work In Lexington

Over the course of the last year, Alejandro Escovedo and I wrote an albums worth of material. 

A concept album emerged with songs like Sensitive Boys, Golden Bear is Burning Down, Real as an Animal, Swallows of San Juan, Nuns Song etc. all chronicling a life in music through life, death, loss and the promise of Rock and Roll deliverance. 

We had a powerful script for an audio movie.

Al and I spent four days at a French Château doing so called "pre-production" with Glyn Johns. After some trans-Atlantic shouting, the Glyn Johns scenario "went away" as they say in Hollywood.

Back to the drawing board.

Tony Visconti (T Rex, Bowie etc.) was brought on board to produce. Hell yes. Visconti who's rap sheet goes from T Rex's Bang a Gong (Get it On), to Bowie's classic album Low, straight through to Morrisey's recent comeback album was a natural choice. Visconti's ability to weave strings into the rock and roll mix are un paralleled.

Locations were thrown around. 

St. Claire Studio in Lexington, Kentucky was settled on.

Alejandro, his band (including string section), myself and Visconti descended on Lexington a couple weeks before Christmas.

Lexington provided the bourbon, the bluegrass landscape and the sentimental value. Fact: Lexington was one of the first places either Alejandro or myself could command more than $500.00 outside of our hometowns. 

Alejandro with his $800.00 shoes and near encyclopedic knowledge of the Stooges, brought the perfect marriage of the regal and the street.

Visconti brought disorder of the highest order. 

Whatever else there was to bring, the others brought it.

I took some pic's with my digi camera to document the scene of the crime. 

Hector Munoz, the ageless Benicio Del Toros look-alike was on drums. Susan Voeltz on violin, Brian Standefer -- cello, David Pulkingham shared the guitar duty. Josh Gravelin played bass and proved to be more than capable on key's. 

And Mario McNulty was the chairman of the board. 


Day 1. Fly in to Louisville, rent car, drive to Lexington. Check in/crash. Passion (her real name) the night clerk at the Residence Inn gives me a free log for the fireplace in my room.

Day 2. Al wakes me up at 6 AM. Which after some quick calculations I make to be about 3 AM my time. Yesterday when we spoke he said he was beat. Not THAT beat I reckon. I manage to go back to sleep. 

The studio has a gate. A fucking tall ass gate. You need to get buzzed in. 

We set up all day and cut one song. It gets late. 

The first day is always weird. Everyone standing around with their tools, staring down that big block of marble trying to imagine a record in it's place. But I'm feeling good—like anything is possible; rested, clean shaven and armed with a white Stratocaster (a gift from Angelo).

Day 3. Cut Real Animal today. Started out gooey and ramped up from there. Tony feared it was getting "too polite"—had become less a song and more a series of parts... (not good)... we learned it, unlearned it, and killed it... then moved on to our next victims.

Day 4. Winter is here. There's ice on the road. Chuck and Al take field trip. Stock up on DVD's at Book Peoples (Lexington's epicenter of culture). Season 4 of the Wire. I've already seen it. But I want to soak in it more. We chat up Bobby Ray and Rachael. Supplies from Whole Foods. Cut three tracks today. 

Day (unknown)

Really cold this AM. I might have to do like Hendrix did and light that white Strat on fire. We're cutting the slow songs at night and people tend to just want to get a take. Cut 3 or 4 "rockers" by day. Note to self: to make the monkey dance, play don't think. Thinking people talk themselves out of just playing. Although some people can afford to put in more thought. Mixed up confusion.

Day (unknown)

From the kitchen window, I watch in awe as Tony Visconti works his tai chi. Replete with a gold lion head fucking sword. A graceful dude.

Day (unknown)

There's tension in the air. The difficult songs are asserting themselves. We elect to go out on the town as band en masse in attempt to revive the camaraderie. To "bond". There's a band on at Lynagh's. A Grateful Dead cover band. When asked what I thought, I said I was impressed—had to be one of the top five Grateful Dead cover bands I've ever seen.

Day 10. Tony is genius. You can tell by how he massages the faders. I'm amazed—hands on the faders, effortlessly turning a mediocre track into a record. Like a master painter at work.

13 Days fly by. And the first part is over.

How we managed to get a Mix Magazine worthy group shot together I don't recall but there was a ladder involved. Thanks Roscoe!

I don't miss tape hiss all that much, but I do miss photo negatives. I miss holding them up to the light trying to make sense of them. Anyways, as you can see, pomegranate juice and Whole Foods cheese took the place of alcohol and nausea in the Frigidaire. The vaporizer (not pictured) was always within reach though. The studio has a factory new smell to it, but fear not, we got dirty. 

To be continued...

[ Check It Out: Real Animal ]

May I Have A Biscuit?

A few days ago in London, we recorded one of the last sessions at the world renown Maida Vale BBC studios. This is "the Beeb" as in "Bowie at the Beeb", Stravinsky recorded some classics here. Not to mention Nirvana and many lesser knowns. Also, this is the last place Bing Crosby ever recorded.

The BBC is selling off this studio amidst great protest. But for now, in the words of ELO, it's a living thing.

Although Green On Red taped many a BBC session. (In fact, there's a CD available of our sessions out now), I've never been in this room. Kind of a thrill I reckon. I made sure to take a picture of the microphone locker for those vintage audio gear fetishists out there. (I would have stolen a mike but my hands were shaking so bad!).

This is where the world is translated into music across the wires onto tape, out into the airwaves, through radio speakers into the fragile psyche of the British public. Pretty cool.

Could I have a biscuit please? Of course sir. How about a music stand? Yes, that would be lovely.

“Real Animal”

Mineshaft Music

Me and Alejandro raise up the antenna and get down to the business of pulling songs out of the air. First, I had to buy a coach for the space. Writing songs is like honking your horn in a tunnel. You pound on the horn. Really lay into it. And then you listen to it reverberate around, see if it does anything for you. Vaporizer aid is optional.

[ Check It Out: Real Animal ]

“Soap And Water”

Soap and Water…

Diary entry 5/17/07


What can I say? It rained a lot the last couple weeks. We got it in our face and on our hair. We holed up. We ordered out. We gave it up for the songs, for each other. We prayed for our mayor, let the rain wash him clean. We exhausted our nine volt battery supply... Soap and Water is the title. It floated to the top and now it's stuck.


[ Check It Out: Soap And Water ]

“Soap And Water”

Soap & Water pt2

Dateline: Nashville.

Pissed away the last year doing everything and nothing...

Dan Stuart called it: "the year of living stupidly."

Sometime's people ask me questions: Will I make another record? Have you written any new songs? Who killed Al Jackson? My answer is: I don't know. To be honest, I'm not sure my bitches were feeling it.

"Never let anyone make you feel bad about what you're doing." Jim Dickinson told me that years ago. 

It turns out I have some dark need to do this. To write songs and make records. John Cassevetes said: "I have a one-track mind. That's all I'm interested in: love - and the lack of it." Makes perfect sense.

Lovers lane hasn't been this unsafe in years. Tammy Faye Bakker and Elvis, and Anna Nicole Smith all find there way into this record.

Particularly on "Would You Love Me". 

The thing is: Elvis didn't buy his mother any ol' Cadillac, he bought her a pink Cadillac. Speaking of pimpin' rides... Most days I can't remember where I parked my car. That's when I'm know I'm in the middle of a new record. I wrote most of these songs at like 5 AM. I would come back from Europe and resist adjusting my body clock. Hey, it works for the monks! Behind bars they call it "jailin". When you adjust your body clock so that you're up all night and only get up during the day for meals.

Going off your medication has its advantages. The upside to being diagnosed bipolar is that you can get a lot done when you're raging. Yep, all the good stuff just flows through you. It's easy. Of course, the all too brief highs are followed by pounding Maverick's sized waves of fear. Not that I'd know.

Musicians want to make records that flatter them. We want a kind of simulated passion. Maybe we're all guilty of that somehow. But, I don't want it. I'm getting to where I feel like I've got nothing to lose. And when I'm at the crossroads, I ask myself, WWAD? What would Alex Chilton do? Way back when, Alex opened a Green On Red show in Atlanta. He pulled up in a 74 Buick blowing blue exhaust in the gravel parking lot. He and his rhythm section (Rene' Coman, Doug Garrison) spilled out of it in a Purple "sess bud" haze. Alex put his amp on stage and pulled a clean shirt out of the back, tuned to his harmonica and click his heals four times. Wham!

Always store your gig clothes in the back of your amp. You'll always be ready for showtime.

Lx was like an instant hero to me. I've found and discarded many hero's since then, but Alex is still IT. We had a few friends drop by on this record. The core of it is Todd Roper on drums (from Cake) and me on guitar. Stephie has been singing too. And well... lotsa Nashville trash have shown up too. We had the Spinto band in there making noise. All 6 of em.

I've learned a few things out here. Like Brad Jones is a tireless bad-ass for example. Never hurts to make time for a BBQ and a friendly game of Roof-ball. (Angelo pictured demonstrates the proper technique) Can't work all the time. 

As soon as you realize that it's all insane; It all makes sense.

—Mark Twain

[ Check It Out: Soap And Water ]

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