Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Alive, But For the Living

I have no idea what that means.  It was on my lips as I woke up this morning and I've spent all day trying to figure out where it came from.  Probably a Smiths song.

We're in L.A., and frankly, it feels magical.  The effect of driving through L.A. for the first time has got to be akin to when people first visit New York and the iconography almost overwhelms you.  Everything is famous!  There's the Sunset Strip!  And Rodeo Drive!  Holy shit - are we in Beverly Hills?!  And there's the Chateau Marmot, where if I squint hard enough I can actually see Gram Parsons debauching half of Laurel Canyon.  And the mountains, and the taco trucks...and the palm trees!  Again, maybe this is the movies talking, but they just make everything feel right as they stand there tall and looming, most groomed better than the people walking under them.  L.A. is a scene.

The flights out here were my first times in an airplane, and I loved it.  I think because of all the hours we spend in the van where my life is in the hands of someone else - someone's who's probably not slept right in three weeks - I could relax enough to enjoy most everything, even the slight turbulence.  (What did suck was being in the window-less last row of the plane by the bathrooms for the flight from D.C. to Atlanta - that part can fuck off.)  Dove had told me how gorgeous it is flying into L.A. at night and he was right on - it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.  As we approached, it was just a sea of lights that rolled all the way from Anaheim to the horizon, and washed over the mountains.  It was incredible...the world became luminescent.  

But I didn't come here for the sights, or the best Mexican/sushi/thai food I've ever had, or to see the drummer from No Doubt walking his dog the other day.  We've been recording relatively non-stop since we touched down on Thursday night.  On Saturday we knocked out five live backing tracks in a marathon 16-hour session at Ocean Way studios, a big shot L.A. address that was the scene of the "We Are The World" sessions, most of the Mamas and the Papas catalogue, a bunch of 80's Stones stuff, and all of Sinatra's 60's output (there's a fabulous picture of he and Nancy singing together there, posted outside the control room) along with many, many other things.  It looked amazing in there, with the original parquet floor and old muffling panels hung on the ceiling.  When I was going to bed the night before I had an attack of the nerves, but once we got rolling it went surprisingly easy...we're all knocked out by how good the finished tracks sound.  The only casualty is my 70's-era Zildjian ride cymbal, which was mortally wounded on the Murder by Death tour with a growing crack around it's belly, but remained playable until about the eighth take of "Full Growin' Man," when it finally became so shredded that it now sounds like a china cymbal.  I grew personally attached to that cymbal, as other ones came and cracked and were replaced by new models, but it withstood the abuse seemingly gladly, singing better and louder the harder it was hit, almost goading me on.  I don't know what I'm going to do without it.  They just don't make them like they used to.

Since Saturday, my part in the recording is essentially done, with the exception of scream-along backing vocals later in the week.  This is giving me plenty of time to delve into L.A., which I am plotting with relish.  We're staying in North Hollywood and I just discovered the unheralded L.A. metro system, which stops right across the street from our loft.  It doesn't have many stops, but one is at Hollywood and Vine, one is in Los Feliz, and one is two blocks from the Chinese Theatre, and those are all good ass-hoofing HQs.  Zach and I walked around Sunset this afternoon and hit Amoeba Records (you have to have a shopping list in here or you will lose your damn mind) and then, for perverse kicks, we went into the "Psychiatry: The Science of Death" museum, run by the Scientologists.  It was as fucking nuts as you can imagine, portraying modern psychiatry as an updated version of Dr. Mengele...literally.  The Scientologists are all over this place...I just want my thetan levels read while I'm here.  I NEED TO BE THETAN CLEAR DAMMIT!

All right, that's enough for now.  They're tracking vocals downstairs and I think I heard someone talking about enchiladas.

Be well...


GF said...

If you don't get to watch the sun go down over the Pacific (Santa Monica works quite nicely), then you might as well have not even gone.

Jackie said...

If you are around on Sunday, the Upright Citizen's Brigade (right across from the big Scientology compound) has a free show that is completely worth catching. The one I saw was my favorite part of my LA trip. Laughed so hard I cried.

Also, if you get back to Amoeba, I recommend challenging their "we have everything" reputation. Of my list of 10 or so albums, I was unable to find 4. Some sort of satisfaction arises from knowing that Soundgarden would have the album.

Jackie said...

...also, Ian Gary is still over there and doing comedy with the Groundlings. Would be worth tracking him down as well.