It was shortly after New Year’s day in 2008, that my wife, Landry, and I started considering the possibility of acquiring a second recording studio. The room that we’d bought a couple of years before was overbooked. Chessvolt Studios in beautiful Panorama City was constantly full. It was a quality problem to have.
We looked at a house in Woodland hills that boasted two SSL studios. We looked at a huge property in Agoura Hills, owned by Nikki Sixx, that had to be sold due to his divorce. We looked at another property in Malibu owned by one of Goldie Hawn’s ex-husbands. We were doing that L.A. thing, and feeling pretty good about it all.
We actually came very, very close to closing a deal, and would have had the seller not gone sort of crazy at the last minute. The year progressed, though, and we had no success in finding our newly expanded recording space.
Then, like a canary in a coal mine, all of our business ended. Our one location was frighteningly empty, save for a handful of crickets that took up residence in our storage room. Of course this foreshadowed the Great Recession that was soon to hit, but that, my friends, is another story.
Enter The People.
Landry and I decided to invite some indie bands into the studio. We literally had zero bookings, and so we started checking out some of the L.A. scene with the intention of offering studio time and production to a band we loved. We ended up discovering and inviting The Henry Clay People into the studio. The production relationship did not develop as I would have hoped, but a curious thing did happen.
At the time, I was discovering new music through two podcasts that I’d subscribed to: the KEXP Song of The Day from Seattle, and WFUV’s take 5 from New York City. Guitarist Andy Siara, of Henry Clay People, wrote me out a list of music blogs. I was still unfamiliar with the blogosphere, and eagerly explored the list. I instantly became a fan of what Daytrotter was doing, as well as another live music blog called HearYa.
Landry and I had an auspicious thought: “What if we did Daytrotter with video?”
And what if we pressed vinyl?
Simultaneously, we’d been entertaining producing a compilation album that would be released exclusively on vinyl. What would we call our new vinyl specialty label? The discussion was in full bloom one afternoon as we scanned the shelves of our neighborhood 99 Cents Only store. We both noticed a cylindrical can of “Luxury Wafers”, stopped in our tracks, and stared at each other. A new record label had been born.
While the vinyl label stayed as a wishlist project, when we began our “Daytrotter with Video” blog in the summer of 2008, we named it Luxury Wafers. Of course.
We took Luxury Wafers on the road to The Hanger Studio in Sacramento, as well as Jackpot! Studio in Portland. Tape-Op editor Larry Crane, and publisher John Baccigalupe were kind enough to donate their rooms to feature local acts they cared about.
When our Chessvolt Studio was taken by the Los Angeles Unified School District in late 2009 to make way for an elementary school, Dave Trumfio at Kingsize Soundlabs in Eagle Rock stepped up and welcomed Luxury Wafers when his studio was available. The Kingsize sessions featured Adam Green, J. Tillman (Father John Misty), as well as L.A. favorites Dengue Fever, and others.
In early 2010 Landry and I decided to put the blog on hold as we discovered that a new Malick was on the way. Uma Mae Malick was born July 27th in 2010. The blog had been dormant for 6 months when our Uma was born.
In July of 2013, Uma was about to have her 3rd birthday, and we decided to revise our Luxury Wafers brand. I personally had some releases that had never been made available digitally. Butch Norton and I also had an instrumental album that was unreleased. Further, we negotiated the release of two very special projects that I’d produced: Courtney Jones’ “All The Things That Fall”, and Spencer Livingston’s “Grow”.
We decided that Luxury Wafers was to be reborn as a record label, and that we’d launch the label with a tour of the Northeast that we titled, amazingly, Luxury Wafers Goes East.
Since the tour, we have released German singer/songwriter Johna’s EP “Miles”, and Mexico rockers Volagio’s EP “Hollywood”, both projects that I produced.
We released a duets EP that I did with Fitz and The Tantrums drummer John Wicks, as well as a wonderful compilation for The Everywoman Festival, titled “Be Yourself”. Proceeds for the Everywoman compilation are going to support Embracing The World, humanitarian Amma’s charity, that the entire Malick family feels passionately about.
This post is more about one of my favorite music blogs, than it is a gear review. I must admit that I geek out over new technology, and even though 90% of the recording I do is organic instruments and sounds, I love playing around with that other 10%. So, fellow travelers, here’s a picture of my newest wish-list toy, Arturia SparkLE: However, the real story is the source of this story. Peter Kirn writes a blog called CreateDigitalMusic, from his home in Berlin, Germany. While Create Digital Music is by no means the only source of information on new music technology, it is the best. Peter’s stories dig deep. Not only into the features of the gear, but into trends and direction. The shifts and progression of this fast changing landscape that we love. Here’s Peter’s review of Spark 2. Check it out, and you’ll be back for more.
I had the pleasure of recording and playing on “Weird Kid Blues” by Nashville songstress Julie Christensen. We were joined by the consistently amazing Greg Leisz. The project has a rather impressive lineup!
01 Nobody’s City – Iggy Pop with Nick Cave (feat. Thurston Moore)
02 Kisses For My President – The Amber Lights with Debbie Harry
03 Mexican Love – Black Moth
04 Weird Kid Blues – Julie Christensen
05 Ain’t My Problem Baby – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
06 Constant Limbo (Constant Rain) – Crippled Black Phoenix and Cypress Grove (feat. Mark Lanegan & Bertrand Cantat)
07 Into The Fire – Nick Cave And Debbie Harry
08 Thunderhead – Kris Needs Presents…Honey
09 Desire By Blue River – Mark Lanegan and Bertrand Cantat
10 Kitty In The Moonlight – The Amber Lights with Xanthe Waite
11 Secret Fires – Ruby Throat
12 Kisses For My President – Andrea Schroeder
13 Body And Soul – James Johnston
14 Goodbye Johnny (Andrew Weatherall’s Nyabinghi Noir Mix) – Primal Scream
15 Break ‘Em Down – Hugo Race
16 My Cadillac – Cypress Grove
17 The Journey Is Long – Lydia Lunch and Jeffrey Lee Pierce
18 Shame And Pain – Mark Stewart And Jeffrey Lee Pierce (feat. Thurston Moore)
A few months ago, I added the skill “Mastering” to my profile on a couple of my social media pages. Like a number of my friends and colleagues, I’m good at mastering a mix of mine, or a mix of yours. Like a number of other mix engineers, I offer a lower priced alternative to a dedicated mastering studio, where rates start at $100.00 a track, minimum.
Personally, I started thinking about offering Mastering after hearing the work of a few bargain priced online Mastering sites. Often the finished product sounded as if the ‘Mastering Engineer’ simply ran the track through a preset mastering plugin, and moved on to the next track. I was not impressed. I spoke to my friend & insanely talented mixer, Ducky Carlisle, and he told me that he’d started offering mastering to his clients. I’d been mastering tracks for clients who were on a budget already, and decided to put it out there. Hang it on my shingle, so to speak.
Today, I get a pretty steady stream of inquiries.
I think it’s important to be totally forthcoming: there are a lot of projects that I send to an outside mastering engineer. At the end of the day, my work is not going to be the same as a Mastering Engineer who:
Exclusively does mastering, and does it on a daily basis.
Works out of a studio with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of dedicated mastering gear.
I’d love to tell you that my work is that good, but I can’t.
Now, with digital technology, there’s a tendency to take the attitude “I’ll fix it in the mix”. It’s not a smart way to work, but many of us do it. I’ve been guilty on an occasion or two…
The trend I’ve been noticing from my potential mastering clients has taken the “I’ll fix it in the Mix” paradigm to a new level, which is “Please fix it in Mastering”.
One problem: I can’t, and nobody else can, either.
Mixing is a skill, and there’s a whole lot to it. It’s one of those things where the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. I love it for that, and that very dynamic is the thing that drives me to get into the studio in the morning.
My theory is that while mastering a track is a service that’s affordable to almost everyone, mixing is not. A great mix takes time, often lots of time, and a good mix engineer charges appropriately for his/her work. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut, and a mix that has issues will end up as a Master that has issues. Those issues will likely be even more pronounced in the completed master.
My feeling is that I cannot master a song that has major mix issues. Believe me, you won’t be happy with the results, and neither will I. I’m happy to discuss mixing it, I’m happy to give you some feedback. I won’t master it as is, though, and I hope you understand why.
This short post is basically a link to Lou Reed’s review of Kanye West’s new album “Yeezus”.
One night in 1996, shortly after Lou Reed’s “Set The Twilight Reeling” was released, I watched and taped his performance on The Tonight Show. As I watched him sing “New York City Man”, I thought “Wow, I guess Lou just doesn’t have it anymore”. Hmm.
Over the the following days, I found myself inexplicably returning to the videotaped performance. A week later I ordered the CD, it is an album that remains an all time favorite to this day.
Lou had burrowed his way into my subconscious, something that he evidently does very well. The experience was a profound one for me, and led to an immersion in great songwriters’ work… which led to my becoming a songwriter.
I think that the most important thing I have learned about the music business in the past couple of years is that change is not only inevitable, it is happening right now! We are constantly negotiating, and re-negotiating, as we move into an unprecedented new age where none of the old rules apply.
On the bright side:
This is Cubasis! A recording studio on your iPad? Well, not yet. But this is no joke, and I take the shrinking of technology seriously. You should, too.
You know what I love? I love plugging in some headphones, and sketching out a song idea on my iPad with my 2 year old daughter asleep and laying next to me undisturbed. I love having a reliable recording rig that I can take on a hike in Joshua Tree, and capture inspiration when it knocks.
…and the scary side
The independent artist could be in a difficult position with major labels once again controlling the music business. No, they no longer control the distribution network, but they might become the only entities with enough clout to demand fair payment from the new distribution network.
And so, honoring the wisdom of the sages of old, I plan to “pick up my guitar and play”.
I’ll be writing more, later, but for now here’s the condensed version:
I posted news of our new label Luxury Wafers Fresh yesterday. To elaborate on the re-invention theme, I decided that the best way I could support the record releases of two young and super talented artists, was to take them on the road. A new brilliant model for DIY? Nah, probably not. A one-off quirk? I hope not.
Luxury Wafers Fresh is the home for artists that I’ve produced and/or mixed. That is, those artists who are looking for a home:-)
July 16th, 2013 is the official label launch. Featured full length releases include Courtney Jones – All The Things That Fall, and Spencer Livingston – Grow. In addition a great record that I produced in 2007 Josh Blackburn – Starting Ground, will be released digitally for the first time.
EP releases include Mexican rockers Volagio, and Mexican Psychedelic Rockers The Risin Sun. The Risin Sun EP was produced by my friend, MC5 founder, and certified legend, Wayne Kramer.
The second release wave on Luxury Wafers Fresh features Soul Rocker Valerie Winters, and Samba Saturated Singer Songwriter JOYA. More info with links coming soon.
Synopses: Casino magnate Steve Wynn bought Le Reve by Picasso for $15 million. He stuck his elbow through it, had it repaired, and sold it to hedge fund Quadzullianaire Steve Cohen for $155 million. Hey, we live in the land of opportunity.
But wait, there’s more. Steve Cohen’s company, SAC Capital, just settled with the federal government for $616,000,000.00 (yup, 616 million dollars), for doing something funky, so Steve, I guess, just thought he’d go out and buy himself something nice to celebrate.
Which got me to thinking, it’s a great thing to support the arts.
It’s also a “thing” to support the ego, and buying a famous piece of artwork for $155 mil, and putting it in your private collection… well, a person could make a case for claiming that was ego driven.
My little corner of the arts revolves mainly around independent musicians. These musicians, not unlike a young Pablo Picasso, struggle to create beautiful work, and hopefully get paid for that work.
I thought about how that $155 million might support the arts in my neighborhood, so I took a look at a very generous budget of $20,000.00 for a young band’s first EP, promotion, and tour. Here’s how the dream budget might break down:
Record, produce, mix, and master a 4-6 song EP $10,000.00
20 grand, right? And there’s plenty of bands and solo artists who could do it in style for a lot less.
Seven Thousand Seven Hundred Fifty endowments of $20,000.00 in that $155 mil. Yup.
Something like that would support the arts in a substantial, ground breaking. paradigm shifting way. Maybe hire back a few laid off music teachers, too… just thinking out loud here.
You know, Mr. Cohen can do whatever he wants with his money (and evidently does just that), that’s his choice to make. Still I’d like to dream about a world where we help each other out, which is truly the ultimate selfish act, because… we’ll all be the better for it.