Photo by Calvin Engel
Without Marty, this record would likely not have happened like it did.
Marty and I met our freshman year in high school where we were both out of place meatheads. Our friendship really started later on when we started playing in a band together, although I can't remember the exact circumstances of how that came about to be honest. Marty knew about music, he knew something about theory and harmony, he came from a musical family and had what I considered at the time to be far more refined taste than most of us High School kids. Marty introduced me to Radiohead at a time when some of musical choices were, well, questionable, and helped me become a far more discerning listener. I like to think that some of my better choices rubbed off on him as well, being a flag bearer for the burgeoning garage rock scene of the late 90's and early 00's.
It was the encouragement that I received from Marty that led me to make Ilsa on my own. By this time it seemed like we were both listening to a lot of artists that kind of opted for a sound that didn't sound like it costed a lot of money and were DIYing it themselves. The Mac Demarco’s and Ty Segall's of the world. When I showed him the demos I remember him telling me to just do it. "These are a lot better than your other stuff." Part of what I value about our friendship is his honesty. "Just do it yourself. Get the drums to sound like drums," he said. It was with his help that I bought and borrowed a little equipment and we set up mics and started recording drums.
Two channels was all we had, taking a fair amount of time and care to get a sound that we liked and making sure it didn't feel like a two mic set up. Recording drums this way presented some pretty serious challenges but beauty in the limitations. I'm a limited drummer to begin with so forcing me underplay and to let the drums be the backbone, rather than a focal point turned out to be pretty key. I think it's possible that I would have really tried a lot harder to do things that I'm not capable of had we had more resources and this probably would have led to scraping it all from the jump. I'm not sure if this was part of Marty's genius or just the way things unfolded but either way, it worked. We spent two days on drums for Ilsa in which Marty served as the engineer. After that, Marty exited, allowing me to do my thing on everything else. I'd have him listen in from time to time to make sure I was on the right path and once we were finished, Marty was back to work on the mixes, undoubtedly shaping the record.
It’s a pretty rare thing that people make music together over a long period of time. It’s really hard. People have a lot of differing opinions, tastes and agendas. Bands come and go and often friendships are made and broken in that time. It should be said that Marty has played a role, in every one of my records, either playing, helping write, engineering and/or mixing. For me, it’s important to have someone with an opinion I trust to bounce things off of. Someone who I am on the same wavelength as but also thing totally different than. For me, that person is Marty. Beyond being a collaborator and a contributor, he’s a true friend, and that, beyond anything else, helped to shape Ilsa into what it became.