Moist Howlette (kkg) Thu 5 Aug 99 09:59
Woops, I got interrupted...specifically, it would be fun to do something with Bill and Hilary (we DID mix a no-harmonica version of "Chain Gang" in case a presidential sax opportunity appeared.)...E.L. Doctorow plays the banjo - I'd love to record him with his daughter, who is a talented singer/songwriter. Martin Amis supposedly plays guitar and he's a big dqydj fan. Toni Morrison, just cause I'm a big fan, maybe doing a Patience & Prudence-type duet with Dolly Parton. Arthur Golden singing "I'm Turning Japanese." I'd also like to expand the spoken word series. But nobody, absolutely nobody buys that stuff. Even though it's REALLY good.
Moist Howlette (kkg) Thu 5 Aug 99 11:52
Or - (thanks for the idea, pk) - how about a duet featuring both Mayors Brown? Mayer Browns? -you know what I mean.
Mary Mackey (mm) Thu 5 Aug 99 14:43
Bill and Hilary--now that would be a coup. I don't think our President has much of a singing voice, but I could be wrong. I'm curious: what have the critics said about "Stranger Than Fiction" so far? Can we have some quotes?
Moist Howlette (kkg) Thu 5 Aug 99 15:32
Some "get it" and some don't. A couple of publications have assigned actual music critics to review it, and they tend to take their jobs a little too seriously. Plus, it always amazes me how bizarre reactions can be. One critic thought that Norman Mailer's vocal resembled Johnny Cash. (I actually think Stephen King has a couple of Johnny Cash moments but Norman Mailer????) One very nice reviewer said that "Amy Tan managed to be both sexy and hilarious" on Boots, which is true. Most of the reviews are pretty predictable. They all mention the super-star authors and don't mention the rest of us, just like in the Remainders. Many have noticed the heavy use of kazoos. Several have mentioned Walter Mayes' wonderful gender-bending version of "Johnny Get Angry." Reviews of Steve's vocals have been kinder since his accident. To my chagrin, not a soul has mentioned the production values with which we took such loving care. One of the nicest reviews came from "Today's Librarian": "Truly, this collection of songs gives a literary fan an expanded appreciation of the talents behind the words, if not for the beauty of their voices, than for the courage it takes to apply your voice to a medium not typically emplayed...perfect for any library that wants to expand its reach beyond the traditional." One snarky guy at the Oxford American raved about all the Southern women on the CD and slammed everyone else. Then the magazine started calling me every day to sell ad space, which I might have been able to afford with a better review although I know that the editorial and the commercial must remain separate entities. Plus in general I love the magazine. The same reviewer also thought Tananarive Due's name was made up! But mostly the reviews borrow heavily from our press kit and end with the suggestion that we all keep our day jobs. Predictable enough, and just fine with me.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 6 Aug 99 10:54
> To my chagrin, not a soul has > mentioned the production values with which we took such loving care. When you cut these tracks, did everybody on the track play together or did everybody record his or her piece separately and let it all get mixe together later?
David Gans (tnf) Fri 6 Aug 99 17:05
From: "Danny" <email@example.com> Subject: Stranger Than Fiction Date: Sat, 31 Jul 1999 17:56:22 -0700 Dear Kathi: The only reason I write is so I could play in a band like your project. <http://dannymcbride.com> http://dannymcbride.com Music AND Words. Click on. Danny
Mary Mackey (mm) Fri 6 Aug 99 22:27
Southern women? How did they know who was southern, I ask you. Some of us are secretly southern. So how about telling us what charities the CD benefits. I know all the authors and musicians donated the profits to charity.
Daphne Merkin's spanking piece (chuck) Fri 6 Aug 99 22:31
You can't be Southern unless you have read *Southern Ladies and Gentlemen* by Florence King.
Moist Howlette (kkg) Sat 7 Aug 99 01:10
I'll answer Cynthia's question first. Ideally, I like to record the rhythm tracks (bass, drums, guitar or keyboard rhythm parts) first, then add the vocal, then the overdubs - solos, fills, background vocals etc. - till it feels finished. This project was done every way you can think of. Norman Mailer's song was sung a capella into a mic. in NY, then the band had to construct a song underneath his vocal, back in San Francisco... probably the most challenging, but also the most fun to work on because of the learning curve. The closest to live -everyone playing together- we got were the songs recorded in Austin (everything but the lead vocal done all at the same time) and maybe Chain Gang. One of my favorite instrumental tracks is "Book By Its Cover" because it has a raucously live sound...for good reason. It's the last song we recorded in Austin, after Molly and JJ were done, and it was a race against time cause we were all afraid the studio was gonna catch fire again! But most of the songs were done piece by piece, some in as many as four studios all together. Charities that benefit from proceeds are primarily the Special Fund of the PEN Writers Fund. This is a pet charity of Amy Tan's, and I let her pick because she participated in more songs, and more supportively and whole heartedly, than anyone else. The PEN special fund exists in order to help out writers who are forced into financial crisis by health problems. People can apply to the fund for grants to help them through times of medical crisis. Another charity is the one chosen by Jessica Mitford: her son Ben Treuhaft's "Send A Piana to Havana" campaign. Although I'm supposed to wait until break-even to start writing checks to the charities, I usually do so before we even get close - as soon as everyone who worked for free (and who isn't a featured writer) gets paid something. We give a hefty 25% royalty (about double the standard amount) to the charities. It's important to me that the authors feel their contribution is for the benefit of an important cause, even though we all REALLY know that everyone does it mainly for fun.
Moist Howlette (kkg) Sat 7 Aug 99 09:46
The other 75% (assuming we ever break even and there are actual proceeds to worry about) goes into new project development.
Mary Mackey (mm) Sat 7 Aug 99 15:08
I like to think of a bunch of writers croaking away valiently to provide talented young music students in Havana with well-tuned pianos. Do the Remainders sound anything like the CD when they play live? When I recorded "Busted" it was magic. The guy who was mixing the tracks took my best bits (and somtimes they were very tiny bits) and put them together so seamlessly that I now have a mostly undeserved reputation for being able to sing Country Western.
Moist Howlette (kkg) Sat 7 Aug 99 23:03
The process by which we "put vocals together" involved a computer program called Pro-Tools. And actually, Mary, as I remember you only did a couple of takes - so your vocal wasn't as processed as you imply. We take all the vocal takes, put them into the magic computer, and listen to each take of each line, grabbing the best of each. So every line in your song, you really sang. (There was no pitch-fixing or tempo fixing required for your song, and there were both required for some, and no I'm not saying whose.) The Rock Bottom Remainders sound similar vocally to the songs on the CD - but I have to say not as good instrumentally. We had real pros playing the back-up tracks on the CD, so it would be easier to listen to, and less time-consuming to produce. What the Remainders have going is a genuinely spirited and funny rock & roll SHOW, which is really different from musical chops. And the band -the Remainders- works best when people don't take themselves too seriously. The best critique I ever had of the Remainders was from none other than Bruce Springsteen, after he played "Gloria" with us at the Hollywood Bowl. "Your band's not too bad," he said. "Aw c'mon Bruce, it's pretty ba -" "It's not too good either. Don't let it get any bettor or it'll ruin the whole thing." Words of wisdom from the Boss, and I've taken them to heart.
Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 8 Aug 99 10:28
Great advice from the Master! Besides producing CDs, you've put out a joke book about musicians. Tell us how that came about and share a few of the jokes with us (I found them hilarious!).
Moist Howlette (kkg) Sun 8 Aug 99 12:59
The Great Rock & Roll Joke Book (by Dave Marsh and Kathi Kamen Goldmark, with a forward by Roy Blount Jr. and illustrations by Gretchen Schields)... published by St. Martins Press in '97, it is hard to find but still available on Amazon.com and other online book selling services. Warning: This is not literature !!!! But it does contain some of the classic rock & roll musician jokes such as: What's the difference between an accordion and a trampoline? -You take your shoes off before jumping on a trampoline. How many feminist singer-songwriters does it take to change a lightbulb? -One. And it's NOT FUNNY. What do you say to a Deadhead in a three piece suit? -"Will the Defendant please rise?" What does a guitar player use for birth control? -His personality. ...you get the idea. It was a lot of fun to do, and would probably have sold a lot more copies on the counter of Guitar Center than it did in bookstores. My favorite part is Roy's intro.
Mary Mackey (mm) Sun 8 Aug 99 16:15
Buy this book before it gets impossible to find. It is one of the funniest collection of jokes I have ever read! (unless, of course, you're a drummer . . . .) Given Kathi's wonderful sense of humor, I think the joke book makes a good place to call a halt to the formal part of this interview. Kathi, I've loved having a chance to ask you all those questions I've been storing up for years. Thank you for be so articulate so easy to interview, and so entertaining. This topic will stay open so readers can keep up the conversation with Kathi for a while if they wish.
Moist Howlette (kkg) Sun 8 Aug 99 18:00
Thanks, Mary. It's been fun! How about one final chorus of "Busted..."
Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 9 Aug 99 10:00
"The bills are all due, and the babies need shoes. I'm busted. Cotton is down to a quarter a pound and . . .
Moist Howlette (kkg) Mon 9 Aug 99 10:09
I'M BUSTED...Come on everybody...kazoo solo!
Katherine Branstetter (kathbran) Mon 9 Aug 99 18:34
Brrrzzzzz, brrrrzzzzzz, brrrrrrzzzz...
Mary Mackey (mm) Mon 9 Aug 99 22:45
Brrrzzz, brrzzzzzz, brzzzz, brzzzzzzzz
poorly-contained perioxide accident waiting to happen (castle) Thu 12 Aug 99 22:41
Moist Howlette (kkg) Wed 1 Sep 99 19:20
This just in: If anyone would like to see how my musician pals and I try to put our beliefs into action, or even join us on the bandstand, we are officially reviving the monthly San Francisco jams starting September 26th. KATHI'S ALL-STAR JAM on the 4th Sunday of the month at the CoCo Club, 139 8th Street, San FRancisco (between Mission & Howard) 7-11 PM September 26 October 24 November 28 No cover, but we REALLY need your support to keep these going, so come on by and sing/play/listen with us!
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 2 Sep 99 14:05
Yum! The All-Star Jam is reputed to be a wonderful thang, folks.
Katherine Branstetter (kathbran) Thu 2 Sep 99 15:58
It's always been wonderful when I've been there!
John Henry, the (steeldrv) Thu 2 Sep 99 19:53
Wow! I maight actually be able to make it. Wednesday night was always (and still is) impossible for me.
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