last wednesday, adam and i flew to LA, CA, to meet with our two soon-to-be producers about the album we hope to record this may.
firstly, allow me to introduce two of the most interesting people i’ve ever been in the same room with.
at a stout 5’4’’, sporting a wavy, black almost-mullet, Steve Thoma, proud father of two, president of the PTA (he’s getting his school to build a professional-grade recording studio and performance hall), famous keyboardist for Glenn Frey (of the Eagles), Andy Gibb (BeeGees brother), and Fleetwood Mac, drinks only Arnold Palmers, smokes Cuban cigars, lives in a big yellow house, and rides a Harley. he picks us up at LAX at midnight in his white surf-wagon and we crank the Stevie Wonder all the way to Calabasas.
the next morning we meet Steve’s friend for breakfast at this café-turned-bowling-alley. towering over his counterpart at 6’something’’, with piercing yellowish eyes, a big face like a genie’s, and no perceivable neck, Ross Hogarth reminds me of Beast from X-Men. brilliant and a little scary.. and a little funny. his son is a black belt and his home studio is decked out with Tim Burton paraphernalia and framed photos of Ross with Marley, Mellencamp, and Melissa Etheridge. and he’s been screwing with his schedule to fit WALK THE MOON in between Doobie Brothers sessions.
and they both have wives, and the wives are both really hot.
so the plan for the long weekend is to 1: begin to narrow down 50 songs to the 12 that would eventually make it on the album, and 2: tear those songs apart and rebuild them from the bottom up. we also need to see how well we are going to get along with these guys, and whether it makes any sense to work with them. in the end, we decide we’d be balls crazy not to.
before thursday morning, and especially after we spend the night at our generous hosts’ enormous house overlooking the valley (a college friend’s parents put us up), a part of me expects our producers’ homes to be very glam. however i find myself thinking it’s much cooler that, as they show us in their front doors, kiss their kids’ foreheads and offer us pizza, Ross and Steve are just real dudes/dads living in their lovely cozy homes. just real dudes that, you know, hang around famous people all the time.
over the course of first two days, i play/sing every last song i ever wrote, often more than once, for these guys, and eventually the four of us come to a consensus on the 16 or so that were the real gems. it’s a big challenge, physically and artistically. singing 50 songs is a marathon, but stripping the songs to their bare bones, ignoring whatever vision i have for what they should sound like, just singing melodies over block chords, is like walking around naked. uncomfortable at first, but then… liberating?
their whole philosophy is to let the songs speak for themselves, to let them breathe – to let the soul in my voice and in the melodies out, set it free. to not clutter the songs with too many ideas, and let the band support the songs rather than just play them. does that make sense? it’s the best i can describe it. the gist is that we had been doing some good work, but we that have a lot more work to do to get as good as we can be.
in any case, when you hear WALK THE MOON next, it may be a simpler, revamped, more soulful us, but it’s still gonna be us.
so it’s 2ish on friday afternoon and we’re sitting at the table with Ross, Steve, and Steve’s amazing chili. Adam and I shut up for awhile and Ross and Steve start talking to each other about the craziness of the last 30 years. the two of them had worked with many of the same people over the years, even knew about each other, but never met until last summer when they found they lived across the street from one another. so there’re still a wealth of stories to tell, especially about Fleetwood Mac, and Adam and I listen to one after the other: Steve enduring Mic Fleetwood’s insane parties on the road, Ross guarding the keys to the F. Mac warehouse in the valley, the both of them getting their feet wet in the 70’s, rocking OUT in the 80’s, making records, touring, touring, touring. dropping a thousand names and each being like, “oh yeah, he and i were really close, til he quit/got married/overdosed”.
our last night is perhaps… the most colourful. 9:00pm saturday we visit our zany web designer’s place, which miraculously happens to be ten minutes away, work on the new website which should be up within the week, and plan to see Steve’s show with his band The Heaters at Mo’z Buddha Lounge at 10. so it takes us an hour and a half, two different cab companies, and a soviet cab-driver but we finally get to the Lounge, where The Heaters are SMOKIN. bunch of fifty-year-old dudes = badasses. the crowd at the bar is a bunch of couples in their 20’s to couples in their 60’s and we catch most of them making out at least once throughout the night. there is one like 65-year-old lady gettin DOWN on her man, and it’s beautiful. late in the night Steve calls me up on stage, i sing “Use Me” and “Sunshine of Your Love”, a creepy latino dude gives me his card, the band finishes, and Adam, Steve, and I end up smokin huge cigars and talkin some seriously deep shit outside his surf-wagon at the Buddha Lounge. Adam and I get back and watch Donnie Darko until 5am and take the plane home to Cinci in the morning after a farewell business breakfast with Steve.
now i’m back at school writing blogs instead of doing my thesis. man i really wanna be in a band, and not in class.
hope this minute finds you healthy and happy.
Nicholas the 1st
if you want to check out Ross Hogarth's incredible discography, go to http://www.hoaxproductions.com/discography/