“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 ]