PW's Tara Murtha puts together a band -- and awesomeness results.
I was curious. What would happen if I pulled six local session players -- the handsome crew featured in this week’s Music Issue -- together in a studio, tossed in a guy I met at a wedding the night before who claimed to be a musician, and instructed them to create a new song from scratch in record time?
The answer? Skull-shattering mindblowingness.
The project started on shaky ground, when I zipped out a message that requested that a motley group of seven local session musicians to get out of bed for a 10 am studio call the next day at MilkBoy Studios in Ardmore, who graciously agreed to host our shenanigans. For free. After getting a little flak from one Jay Davidson (“What are we, fishermen? We’re musicians!”), everyone managed to get there on time, with Jen Brodzik bringing up the caboose at 10:23am. Even Kevin Hanson, with a squeaky-new baby who must have been only about 30 hours old, made it -- albeit a little shot out from double diaper doody duty.
The chill lounge area of the studio immediately lit abuzz as the musicians introduced themselves to one another, some recalling a shared gig back when. Hanson and Ross Bellenoit, in some kind of guitarist greeting ritual, immediately started strumming Beatles songs together. It was a little chaotic. I introduced everyone to the guy I met at a wedding party the night before, who agreed, at some questionable hour of the night, to cruise by and compose a song. Frankly, I couldn’t believe he arrived.
But once again I was correct to rely so heavily on the enthusiasm of drunk strangers. It turns out dude is one Mike Guggino, known in these parts for his work with now-defunct This Radiant Boy and in Brooklyn as front man for stoner-metal pioneers Mt. Olympus. (He moved to Brooklyn now, but we still like him).
Next, everyone shuffled into the recording room when MilkBoy engineer Cody Cichowski saddles up behind the 70s-era Neve recording console. I’m like, "Oh shit, I have no idea what to tell them to do." No matter! They started right in, with Mike G. running down some riffs and Chuck Treece banging his way around said riffs. In about ten minutes, they collectively worked through their plans for the PW All-Star Session Jammers Amazing Experimental MilkBoy Mix Song.
Then BLAM, drums were banging and the guitars were whirring and the bass was thumping and Jay Davidson’s fingers are flying behind the sax. The experiment was complete and the epic “Dudes of the Night” (aka “Eulogy Screwlogy”) was recorded. (Mike ripped the vocals later on in one take.) After “Dudes” was done, the PW Session All-Stars spontaneously careened into a forty-minute session, later declared to have launched the genre of “Avant Yard Way-Out BBQ Jamz."
Seriously. These pros put a song together in mere minutes. Listen, enjoy. Re-assemble skull. Repeat.
PW recently sat down with legendary sound engineer Joe Tarsia to chat with him about session players, the subject of our Music Issue, and how ludicrous-speed changes in recording technology is transforming how records are made.
This is a story about the unsung heroes of the record business, the workhorses who tighten, rave up and otherwise trick out countless records with no expectations of fame or glory. And Philly's got some of the best.