Paul's sister got married, and Paul and I sang at the wedding. This song was just sort of starting to take shape at that time. The wedding sort of kicked it into high gear. Writing for an occasion is always preferable. That's always good. But the occasion to write a song for someone is pretty rare. Gord Sinclair brought the music in for this and we were performing it often on Roadside last year.
Long Term Membership. It's like, eventually you have to affiliate with something it seems, right? There are always these forces drawing you to affiliation and allegiance. [The river], that's a valid allegiance. It's not like the Kiwanis but it's got its restorative effects for you. It's got its powerful, cool aspects and people are drawn to rivers. Everyone can relate to this theme. I hope it conjures a location for people.
Chagrin Falls is one that Paul brought in, a classic 'Paul-y' kind of vibe. We've never performed this one live, although there have been moments where we would jam the main riff and kind of goof around with it. Once we do start performing CF live it should be a show standout. The arrangement is really, really tight, a really logical kind of thing, and it's another of our heavy jams in E. It should be pretty funky.
Steve played clavinet and Mark did some funky low-end synthesizer vibes that really add to the overall effect.
Chagrin Falls is a wealthy community near Cleveland. The song deals with a wandering spirit and the setting is really effective to emphasis how low you can sink, as low as the Antarctic or Chagrin. Gord Sinclair
Etymology: French, from chagrin sad
Date: circa 1681: disquietude or distress of mind caused by humiliation, disappointment, or failure
It was January. We had been delayed a few days by the massive Ice Storm that hit Eastern Ontario, Quebec and some of the Northern States. We had no power, no heat, no phones at our houses or the studio. Every place around Kingston was covered in ice.
Anyhow, we had this jam from the November sessions that had some good things in it but we never had the time to work on it. Gord Downie was really interested in attempting to salvage it. Some of us maybe weren't as into it, but he was right. In January there was this energy that was really good, and it was great for us because it took our minds off of all the stuff that was happening back at our individual houses and with our families. Some of the lyrics speak of that storm.
For me Something's On is like Little Bones, I can't remember the way I played it. It just happened. I do that with Little Bones when we play it live, even now. I'm like 'how the hell did I do that.' Don Smith suggested something to me on Little Bones and I did it, and then I've never been able to play it that way again. The same thing happened with Something On, and that's where having an outside influence tell you something really helps. After working on Something On for a while, Steve said "you're playing it too straight. You should do something different, throw some shots in there." And I did, but now, I look back to it and I can't remember how I played it.
We ended up recording "TG" in the kitchen. It was a complete set-up in the kitchen, which we hadn't done before, and it was a bit of a pain for those trying to work in there.
It started as Johnny's guitar idea and it's close to the way it's played on the record. The main difference is Johnny had a relatively heavy version, not so acoustic but very similar. So the band jumped on it and we all liked it. Gord seemed to come up with the lyrics pretty quickly. My guess is he was inspired directly by the music.
Our early takes came out with a lot of energy, but we felt that it was treading the same ground of a couple of other songs were. Of all the songs, TG would suit a touch more of an intimate treatment. Gord Downie, I think, suggested that we try a more stripped down version. Robby had an acoustic, I had one and Gord Sinclair played an acoustic bass, and Johnny had a strange but very cool drum set-up. So we just tried it a couple of times. We didn't make any real arrangement change but the change of venue (kitchen) and equipment got us a version we're quite pleased with.
The title comes from the name of a species of penguin.
Emperor Penguin is arguably the hardiest of all Earth's dwellers. You see them on nature shows. Basically, around the time that they have the egg, the female does this intricate transfer in subzero temperatures, and the male puts it on the top of his feet, under a sack of fat to keep it warm. The mother takes off, for I think four, five or six months, travels the oceans, feeding, stocking up--feed, feed, feed, feed, feed--makes her way back, treks across land, and then feeds the now ready-to-hatch egg what she got.
In the meantime, the males-only males-congregate and form this massive mass against ridiculous temperatures and conditions, not a living thing except them, and basically they form this mass where they kind of rotate from the centre of the mass to the outside. So you have to do your time and you're always moving in a kind of circle, and you have to do your time out against the elements, but then eventually you get to move in and get warm, and that way they survive. The Mom shows up, takes the egg, it hatches--she feeds it, and then it goes on. Gord Downie
For more information on the Emperor Penguin please see Wild Sanctuary. Douglas Quin who took the picture on the left, travelled to Antarctica to record penguins. For links to his journal and other pictures go to the people section of the Wild Sanctuary.
This is the first song on the record and the first single.
We played Poets a lot during Hundredth Meridian on our last tour. Some nights Gord would sing Poets for ten minutes and some nights just a snippet and then it would disappear from the setlist for a while but it always returned. What we were playing musically was usually changing. We never really fixed the music behind Poets while we were on the road but we all knew there was a good lyrical germ to work from.
Last September, during our early writing sessions for this record we would get together for a few days and introduce ideas to the each other we had recorded at our home studios. During one these sessions I introduced this riff and chorus chord progression and quite soon after that we had a sound everyone liked. When Gord started singing the lyrics to Poets over the music we knew the song was coming together.
The Rules was a riff that Gord [Sinclair] presented us. Everyone copped to the idea really quickly and Gord [Downie] had these great lyrics that fit so well, "legs scream at bikes and bikes scream at trucks and motorists curse their lousy luck."
From the time that Gord brought the idea in to the time that we got it on tape was not long at all. I think the beauty of this song is its simplicity. This is another song that Bob Egan plays on. We knew there were some songs on this record that would benefit from his excellent pedal steel so we invited him up in January. We met Bob last summer on ARA. He was playing pedal steel with Wilco so everyone, including Steve knew Bob.
Escape is at Hand for the Travelling Man is a tune that people who follow us live will have heard, but not like it is on the record.
The story is great. You meet these people that are in exactly the same boat and you have a natural kinship. You say "Oh man, we gotta get together," you really hit it off, and then at end of the night you go your separate ways and continue doing your thing and probably never see them again. It's strange. But it's quite a common event, meeting people that you feel like you've known all your life, and then you really only know them for half an hour.
When we worked on Escape in the studio, I was never really satisfied with what I was doing on the song. I decided I'd try something completely different and do a sort of atmospheric guitar part, sort of 'whale sounds' or whatever you want to call them. So I set up a delay unit and did numerous takes on different speeds. I'll never ever be able to play it like that. In the space of two or three seconds you'll hear three different delay speeds, which you just can't really do.
We all have our little home studios where we exchange tapes and pass around ideas. Around February 97, Planet was one of the little ideas that I had on mine. It's just a dropped D [alternate guitar tuning] situation if anyone cares. Just sort of very simple, it seemed like a relatively easy process to begin playing it. Everyone copped to it very well.
Planet is one of the older songs for sure - we played it a lot last summer on Roadside. So by the time we went to record it with Steve, we had a pretty decent arrangement, but there was something lacking that's for sure. Steve suggested solving it by making the bridge the chorus, and the chorus the bridge. It worked. What now sounds like the bridge used to be the chorus. Then there's the backup part that I do on it. A couple of people told me it sounds kind of Arabic, in its weirdness melody-wise.
Until we recorded the final version of Poets, Save The Planet was usually track one on our listening tapes. It's a song that's fun to play live.
When did they first contact you about helping produce this record?
I believe the first mention was at the Roadside in Calgary- Jake Gold (Hip Manager) pulled me aside as I was on my way to go sit in with Sheryl Crow and frankly I was so intrigued and amazed as we sat there talking that I missed my cue with Sheryl and she had the entire audience shout my name. Ouch. From then on we all talked some more and I spent more and more time hanging out with the guys as the tour ensued, and I particularly remember the show in Winnipeg as the first time I really got to check out the new songs. That happened to be a special night as anyone who was there would testify-there was heat lightning going on above the stage throughout the show and the band was on fire too. I'd say from then on I was in way deep.
Had you heard any of the rough demos before coming to the Bathouse?
Yeah, they had spent quite a bit of time working on new songs from I believe March 97 so the first tape had 17 or so ideas and on that was Membership, Escape, Vapour Trails, the beginnings of Poets, and quite a bit of what we then used on some other songs. I was in Ft. Worth when I first heard the tape, and I was just knocked out. They rocked so hard on everything I knew right away we had the makings of a great record. Then a few weeks later the second tape had Save The Planet, The Rules and Emperor Penguin, so by that point...forget about it.
What did you think of the Bathouse? Is it a good recording studio?
What makes a great studio in my estimation is how comfortable those working in it are, and the guys were completely at ease there, as well they should be, and I think you can hear it in the tracks- they just let it rip. And thatÃ?ï¿½Ã¯Â¿Â½?Ã?ï¿½Ã?Â¯Ã?ï¿½Ã?Â¿Ã?ï¿½Ã?Â½?Ã?ï¿½Ã¯Â¿Â½?Ã?ï¿½Ã?Â¯Ã?ï¿½Ã?Â¿Ã?ï¿½Ã?Â½Ã?ï¿½Ã¯Â¿Â½?Ã?ï¿½Ã¯Â¿Â½Ã?ï¿½Ã?Â¹s before even mentioning Miss Gillian and her amazing cooking.
Are the Hip's studio methods different from other bands you have worked with?
For some reason it seems I've done predominately a lot of bands' first records- (Crash Test Dummies, Faith No More, Citizen's Utilities, Los Lobos and more), so this one was different in that respect right away. The telepathy a band develops over many records into a career is really hard to top. As far as methodology, it wasn't dramatically different from others I've done, but all I ever ask for is serious dedication to the task at hand and a willingness to experiment and they supplied me with that and then some. It was simply a great experience from top to bottom. Some of the reviews have mentioned you may be responsible for the expanded vocal range of Gord Downie? Is this true?
Gee, it would be great to take credit for that but the truth is he wrote great lyrics and then he sung the living crap out of them. We would talk about various lines a bit but I have to say I have never seen anybody ever work as hard as he does on the lyrics- just reams and reams of notes and revisions for every single song and he never stopped until the last song on the last day. Sonically, Mark Vreeken and I would experiment with different mics and signal paths but a great vocal usually sounds great no matter what. I think Gord has a unique and wonderful instrument so I just tried to emphasize it as much as I could.
What song was most improved song from the early demos you heard?
It would probably be "Poets." The demo had the chords and the basic lyric ideas but they sort of occurred in what I thought were a haphazard way- that is the "Don't tell me..." line would fall in a different place every verse. I simply suggested refining the ideas so that they occured with some regularity, and the song came together really quickly after that - I believe the take was # 2 or #3. It was really exciting to watch it take shape and it sounded finished almost immediately, not that it stopped us from working on it extensively thereafter.
When you called in to the radio show, you said Los Lobos was recording in Quebec City that day. When the next album due? How far along are the sessions?
The track we were working on in Quebec City was for the soundtrack album to "Buffy The Vampire Slayer". It's us and a woman named Janette Jurado singing a Malo song called "Suavecito" from the early 70's. Our album meanwhile is about 80% done and we hope to have it out early 1999.
Can we expect a Los Lobos/Hip double bill sometime/somewhere this year?
That would be amazing but at this moment we are touring with Santana thru September and then we go back in the studio to finish our record so it may have to wait till next year. We have talked a bit about me joining them as an auxilliary player for the Canadian tour late this year so if that happens maybe I can bring the rest of the Lobos along too.