Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Effect Pedals Used on Early SP Recordings


'My first mental recognition of the 'power' of the Big Muff came one night when i just happened to drop by a Catherine band practice. Catherine was Kerry's band in the 90's, and we used to share the same rehearsal space (they were the only band we trusted not to steal our shit and vice-versa). So i walked in and i just heard this tremendous ROAR and i thought to myself 'how are they making that sound?'. Each of the 3 guitarists had Big Muffs and the sounds was very Sabbath-like, just throwing this tremendous low drone buzz into the room. I knew that the band Mudhoney used Big Muffs but honestly they weren't using them like Catherine did. So i owe a debt of gratitude to Catherine for showing me the purple fuzz light. We used to try to use the pedals live but it was impossible for there wasn't enough clarity. We did use other Electro-Harmonix pedals live, like the Electric Mistress. We only had one of these in the beginning and James and I used to take turns over who would use it on a given night. Since we were mostly playing clubs we were looking for anything to take your head off and separate the sound of the guitar from the incessant din. The Big Muff pictured is 'the' one from Siamese Dream, the fuzz that launched a 1,000 other dreams i suppose. Almost all the heavy tracks were recorded thru this, solos included. Many songs would have as many as 8 fuzz guitars going at once. It was very difficult to record the tracks with this sound, but once it went right it was BLAMMO, a huge, huge sound. The settings you see in the picture are the exact settings for if you look close enough you can still see the pencil marks on the volume and tone. I had all sorts of theories of how to best use this pedal, including the idea that it only sounded its 'best' when used with a battery (as opposed to a power supply). I'm not much for going backwards but it is tempting to crack out all the old gear sometime and give it one more go. Maybe somewhere in amongst the 44 songs of Teargaden by Kaleidyscope I can find one such moment to do so. The sound of the combo of the Bat Strat, the Big Muff, and the Soul head with Mars cabinet is still unmistakable.
One quick funny story: I used to shop at this music store in San Francisco, and in the early 90's they were selling these pedals back then for about 40 bucks because nobody wanted them. About a year after Siamese came out, '94 i guess, I went to the same store to see if they still had any. The guy behind the counter knew me from before, and told me, 'yeah, i got a couple.' I said 'ok, how much?' '200 bucks' he said casually (which at that time was A LOT for a vintage pedal. '200 bucks!!!! Why are they so much?? Are they rare or unusual?' He said, 'no, but ever since you talked about using them we've sold about 75 vintage muffs. Sorry man, they're all looking for your sound!'. What he didn't know was they were really looking for the Catherine sound.

I am laughing as I watch this video for many reasons. I remember asking Billy if he had some clothes I could borrow to wear for the video. So that would be Billy's heavy, furry coat I'm wearing, not sure where the Hershey's Kiss hat came from!
Love, K.B.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Billy talks about one of the first S.P. guitars

Billy talks about one of the first S.P. guitars

I bought this guitar around 1989 or 1990 because I needed a spare for playing live, and wanted an almost identical sound to go with my main one at the time which was an early 70's Strat (yellow that I hand painted). THAT guitar was the featured guitar on Gish and was probably my favourite guitar ever. It was stolen in 1992 out the back door of St. Andrews Hall in Detroit and has never resurfaced. I would still pay good $ to get that guitar back, no questions asked. So THIS guitar is the last remnant of that period of my life, and I really cherish it. It was painted ala Eric Clapton's cream era guitar by my friend crazy Nick. As you can see it's taken a bit of a beating back from a time when I used to throw my guitars around like candy. The history of this guitar is its a 1978 'bullet' Strat with the flat pickups (as opposed to the staggered pole pieces). I preferred these pickups at that time because it allowed for maximum gain by running the pickups up really close to the strings. This guitar does have some recording history of note, as it was the guitar I would use for solos as it seemed to just have more cut than the main one. So all the solos on Gish were done with this guitar. It has a vicious attack as you can hear on songs like 'Tristessa', 'I Am One', 'Rhinocerous', and 'Siva'. I'm fixing this guitar up now and I hope to use it again soon. I've started using more old-school amplification, like my 1969 Marshall Super Tremolo head (currently ailing) so guitars with this kind of cut are what I'm looking for. It makes me laugh that I'm sort of back to where I started when it comes to gain and attack. I see the BC Dimarzio pickups as more the modern application of gain, and the older type pickups as a more vintage approach to the use of gain.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Behind the Guitar Sounds of Gish & Siamese Dream

THE BODY AND SOUL BEHIND THE GUITAR SOUNDS OF GISH AND SIAMESE DREAM. This is the guitar amp and cabinet used on The Smashing Pumpkins debut album Gish recorded December 1990-March 1991 at Smart Studios, Madison, Wisconsin and the quadruple platinum Siamese Dream recorded December 1992- March 1993 at Triclops Sound Studios in Marietta, Georgia.

We fired up the old SOUL yesterday and it was amazing how instantly, without EQ "that" guitar sound just filled the control room.

I talked with long time friend and technician Mike Rubano about the magic combination of this amp and cabinet.

KB: What kind of amp is this?

Mike: Marshall JCM 800 100 watt head. James also used a JCM 800 but his was the 50 watt model.

KB: I asked Billy how he came about this combo and he said you would have the scoop?

Mike: Billy had a Roland Jazz Chorus amp he wanted to find something that would push more air to fill bigger rooms and cut through Jimmy's powerful drum sound. He was looking for a more aggressive sound. So he found an ad for a used JCM 800 and Marshall slant cab in town and asked me to go with him to take a look at it. We went to the sellers apartment where we found an empty room with just the amp, the cabinet and the seller. There wasn't a bit of furniture in the room. It was a bit creepy. As Billy worked out a deal with the seller I took the amp apart and checked it out. It looked great, we tried it out and is was decent sounding. So he cut a deal and we took it home.

KB: So I heard from Billy that changing the tubes really added to the punch of this amp?

Mike: To get it ready for the road I wanted to make sure the tubes would hold up and I had no idea how old the current tubes were, so I ordered new ones. We didn't have much money back in the day but I was able to find a good deal on KT88s at Antique Electronic Supply and ordered a set. When they arrived I tossed the old tubes, installed the new ones, biased the amp and I gave it back to Billy. He just loved the way it sounded. In fact over the years as the band had more money to spend on gear we tried "better" more expensive tubes and he always had me go back to the KT88s from china.

KB to Billy: What are your memories about the amp?

Billy: When I first bought the amp in 1989 from this stoner guy, I thought it sounded ok but I think I was more excited to just be playing thru a Marshall. I realized after a time that I wasn't that crazy about the sound so I asked Mike to look at it and see what he could do. After he changed the tubes to the KT88s the amp just sprang to life, and it was the body of the amp that I used to drive insane amounts of distortion into to get 'that sound'. Butch Vig and I were so sold on the sound of the amp that outside of a few select parts, I would say that 98pct of all guitar parts on the first two albums were done thru this amp/speaker combo. In order to change the sound, the Stratocaster parts would be recorded through a shure 57 on the bottom right speaker, and the Les Paul parts would be recorded through a Sennheiser 421 on the top left speaker. This subtle difference between what speaker we would use created the sense of playing thru a different amp set-up even though obviously I wasn't.

Love KB

Monday, October 12, 2009

Digging Deep Into Song #4

Good Monday Morning, after some very long days last week we finished song number 3 and I am very excited about the direction it took. Yesterday we were able to catch up on some well deserved sleep. Today we are digging deep into song number 4. Mike just finish a slamming drum take and we are setting up to start recording Billy's parts. As we move forward toward the light at the end of the tunnel time seems to be accelerating. I have not had the time to update the blog as much as would like. I hope you enjoy the video and photos. The amazing photos posted today were taken by Kristin Burns please visit her website at www.kristinburns.com Have a great day. xo K.B.

Friday, October 9, 2009

For your viewing pleasure...

@thezomb made this for our listening and viewing pleasure.
Thank You Love K.B.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This is how today went in the studio.
Love K.B.

Scary Monsters and Super Freaks!
Someone out there in internut land made this video of a few of the Spirits In The Sky members doing a song and dance number. In this video you will find Mark Tulin, Dave Navarro, Billy Corgan, Linda Strawbery and myself as monsters. Enjoy and thanks to the person that made this. I got a good laugh.
Love K.B.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Deep into song 3
Today Billy finished the vocals and sitar parts for the song and we are currently tracking the violin. It is looking like the song will be in the can by tonight or by midday tomorrow. I am very happy with the outcome and excited for you to hear it. It seems to me that we have found that place where sound is vision. @sunflowerdagger asked me today on twitter "sound. how would you define such a word?" Without thinking about it I replied "colorful continuous vibrations" and this song is a magic pulsing rainbow.

We had a special surprise today when the beautiful Lisa Harriton stopped by the studio to say hello and took a moment to try out Billy's Mellon Collie piano. This is the piano he wrote many of the songs for Mellon Collie, Adore and Machina on.

We have been so busy that I haven't had time to finish the Q&A but, I will as time allows and I am going to answer all the questions... most likely this will happen when we have time between breaking down from song 3 and setting up for song 4. So, hang with me, I will get to the rest of your questions and I will get to "tech Tuesday" hopefully before next Tuesday.

Love K.B.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Music Monday for sure.

It looks like we are pulling a late one tonight. We spent most of the day tracking mandolin and it seems we are making some real progress on song number 3. A few minutes ago Ysanne Spevack picked up her Metal String Machine and was getting ready to lay down some space symphony tones when out of nowhere a 12 string banjo appeared in the control room and Billy started jamming on it. So, it looks like we are going to be here for a long, long time tonight especially if these crazy instrument keep popping out of thin air but, you gotta love the magic! My guess is we will be getting back to Q&A tomorrow on Tech Tuesday. Mr. Mark Tulin A.K.A. Professor Psychedelic will be asking the fan generated questions via web cam from Los Angeles, CA. This should be fun and technical too. Sooooo, sleep tight and I'll find you tomorrow morning with coffee in hand.
Love K.B.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Good morning fans and "lostfan"

I woke up this morning, grabbed my coffee and started reading over the "comments." I want to thank ALL of you for the interesting and emotional remarks left on this blog. It is starting to feel like we have a family here. It may be dysfunctional at times but, family is family. The energy in the studio that Billy and the rest of us are feeling is... well... just beyond words, except for "breathtaking, awe-inspiring, magnificent, wonderful, amazing, stunning, staggering, imposing, stirring, impressive, mind-boggling, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, excellent, marvelous and wondrous!"

Here is a video of my good friends R.E.M. jamming with puppets.

An interesting side note: My wife and I met while she was filming the movie Man on the Moon. While very pregnant with our daughter we went to see R.E.M. at the Hollywood Bowl. Before the show Michael touched her pregnant belly and sure enough, the next day she was born listening to their song Man on the Moon!

OK, I'm off to my Maggie's 6th birthday party.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Here are a few photos Billy sent me from the studio today.

When the cat is away the rat in a cage will play.

I am in L.A. for my daughters 6th birthday and will be back in Chicago this Sunday night. Just wanted to give you a quick update on what is going on in the studio. The word from Billy is "yesterday was an awesome day" he tracked lead guitar, piano, and organ on song number 2. Today he recorded the vocals. So it looks like when I get back to Chicago we start tracking song number 3!
Have a great weekend.