Frodus: Studio Journal - Jonathan Kreinik
- Boombox Magnetica
(courtesy of Boombox Magnetica website)
1. Explosions 7"
2. Roadside Monument/Frodus split 7"/CDep
3. Flexi 7"
Explosions 7" 1997
If you can believe it, this all started with
a trip to the food co-op. I was helping out /hanging out at Lumberjack Distro/Art
Monk Construction, where Shelby and Jason from the band Frodus spent a lot of
time. Shelby was about to give Rich Kramer a ride to (I think) his job at the
food co-op, so I tagged along to get some food. I had a tape of the Juniper
recording and some solo stuff on me, and I popped it in the tape deck to see
what those guys thought. Shelby was really into it and as it happened, was looking
for somewhere cheap to record his side project Travellers of Tyme. I recorded
the Travellers and maintained ties with Shelby throughout the year.
Frodus' music has been described as Spazcore . To me, they were starting to sound like frenetic guitars, muddled bass, and insane vocals over drums that were alternately Sepultura-velocity speed metal and Led Zep's Bonzo. Those aren't entirely bad traits, but in retrospect they went a long way during the band's final years of existance (that's if they are truly over).
In February 1997, Frodus wanted to record
what was to be their last recording with bassist Howard Pyle. It was a cover
of Devo's Explosions from the Duty Now for the Future LP (I think). Happily,
I had just realigned my 8 track Otari w/ the help of Ken Schubert at Cue Recording.
At the time I didn't have any decent mics. I was working as a "sound assistant"
or something at my old piano teacher's restaurant/live music venue in Falls
Church, VA and was able to borrow some SM-58's. The bass cabinet -- a dual 15"
I think -- was mic'd with a single 58 with the cabinet behind a mattress (I
had brought the mattresses out of the Juniper space when they moved out). The
drums probably had my beat up Audio Technica 58-style mic with the gaff-taped
on grille, in the kick, a 57 on the snare and a crown pzm taped on Jason's bare
chest for toms/overheads. The guitar was a 57 on the Marshall cabinet, and a
Crown PZM underneath. We blended 2 takes of guitar for what I think was the
best guitar sound I've recorded. Marshall and Ampeg, mic on the cabinet and
mic underneath. It was also in the laundry room. Vocals were done with an SM58
mic, with either Shelby isolated on one track and Jason's backups and keyboard
on another track, or all the vocals on one track, both with reasonable use on
compression and Effectron Delay. Once again, the Midiverb2 makes its way on
the track as well, on the drums a little tiny bit, and maybe on some other things,
just for, ya know, fake ambience. Incidentally I had to borrow a DAT machine
to mix this.
This turned out to be one of my favorite recordings to work on. The results were beyond expectation from my pieced-together 8 track studio. The first realignment of my machine, recording a really revved up performance and everyone's equipement was sounding tip-top. I think I would've liked to get the bass guitar better, but that, then as now, is something I'm never satisfied with.
Howard wasn't in the band much longer and they recruited Mason, who I believe was in Enemy Soil. He was a pretty serious and quiet one, but screamed like a maniac. I found this out working on the Frodus/Roadside Monument split single for Tooth and Nail.
2. Frodus/Roadside Monument split 7"/CDep
So we left Frodus with a new bass player
Mason, a new label, the Christian-trying-not-to-be Tooth and Nail, and their
first 7" for them: a split with Roadside Monument. Frodus elisted
my services to record 2 songs for a split single with a band called Roadside
Monument. It was to be an odd beginning in their relationship with TandN, considering
prior to this release the label had only put out Christian bands, and Frodus,
though comprised of young Christian men (though I can't tell you how this applied
to new bassist R.Mason), sang mostly of science, conspiracy, and some sort of
Frodian proto-humanism. Ahem... So Jason Hamacher booked a couple of days at
WGNS studios and we got crackin'.
We were only going to record 2 songs: Lights on for Safety and 45 Revolutions. Since Roadside had recorded with Bob Weston, I wanted Frodus to be the total antithesis of what I thought to be his approach: make a very live, ambient, austere and modest recorded document. I wanted Frodus to sound gnarley, produced, manufactured, abrasive...we all thought it should be more like Guns-n-Roses, but I think we missed that and kept going into raining nails studio sound.
It was a very crash-n-burn recording, on August 5th 1997. I think it was my third time on my own at WGNS, which at this point had its new larger control room on the other side of the building, with high ceilings and API mic pre's and some other neat hi-end stuff. We did the two songs in about a half day, and mixed the three days later.
WGNS had a really big cement and brick room. That's good for flying-around-all-over-the-place ambience, but as far as loading the room with sound and getting back that resounding woompf, it wasn't happening. Drums and bass cabinet were in the big room, Shelby's amp was in the dead room. We tried to employ the same techniques for these songs as we did for Explosions, but it wasn't really possible to get the same results. Different studio, different, better mic pre amps, just different everything.
I think mic-wise I was getting into Geoff's collection of stuff rescued from a radio station which included Neumann SM69, Telefunken Tube mics, Gefell who-knows-what, and KM84's and of course the wonderful API's. I remember everything being pretty straightforward as far as the drums and guitar were concerned. Jason and Shelby had been doing this enough as Frodus to get their sounds and equipment together easily. I think Mason was still trying to settle in, although I think he'd already gone to Europe with them. At any rate, the bass kinda sucked sound-wise. I don't think any of us really knew what it was supposed to be doing and at that time I was pretty adamant about not using a DI on the bass. My how things have changed...
We went for a big room sound on the drums, but I remember supplimenting or even replacing that with fake reverb from the SPX90. The ubiquitous quick delay on the vocals is there from the Effectron, or something else if that wasn't there. I think there may have been some flange effect applied to some guitars, but I really don't remember. Unfortunately I don't remember much else about this session just because it all happened so fast. The biggest thing I remember is how everything looked all set up in the big room and that I used API eq's on the buss when we mixed to make it all even brighter. And that Shelby played the bass on one of the songs. There. Maybe they remember it better than I do.
The end result is a bright, rock recording with some pretty aggro guitar and vocals, an illdefined, but maybe menacing bass sound, and some really bright drums featuring the click of the kick drum. There are simultaneously aweful and kick-ass qualities about this recording. I really wish I gotteb a better bass sound, and made the drums a little less edgy. No...that's how everything turned out that day. It's perfect.
3. Flexi 7"
So we join Frodus once again, the late summer
of 1997, with new bassist and old friend Nathan Burke on the team, ready to
record some demos for their upcoming full length on Tooth and Nail, which will
eventually yield two songs for a flexi-disc in Muddle Fanzine. Nate's parents
have a nice detached garage at their house in McLean, VA and, happily, neighbors
who seem to have lived around Nate's music career for some time. He has neighborhood
I brought the Boombox out to the garage. Music like the Juniper record but much more refined at this point. So it looked like this: the Otari MX-5050, the Tannoy PBM6.5s, the Behringer Composer Compressor, the Crown Amp, maybe the Effectron and Midiverb2, but I somehow doubt that, and of course the Mackie 1604VLZ. Mic selection was the basic set: the 57, the 58, the 58 copy, Crown PZMs, the Audio Technica Lecturn mic, and probably some borrowed things like more 57s and 58s. We did everything, unbaffled in that garage. Sound was totally flying all over the place. Big wash. Bass in the corner, Marshall in another corner, drums on the other side of the room. I think the PZMs were on the floor in front of the drums and I probably close mic'd the kick and snare and stuck the lecturn mic above Jason's head. Maybe. The sound was an untamed beast.
Everything was straightforward. The only problem was the monitoring, which obviously had to be done on headphones. Even with nearfields, the room was so reflective that playback was totally reverbed out. Should've set up outside but I liked being in there and I don't think I had long enough cables anyway. Once it got dark we put the V4 and 4x12 cabinet, covered in the Frodus covered with a blanket as well for isolation, since it was after 10pm. The V4 totally overheated in there, I think, but it worked. Vocals were also done in there. I think we mixed in the garage, but may have had to mix it elsewhere due to the aforementioned garage reverb problem.
The songs that appear on this flexi are the Misaligned Men of Flomaton (spelled Flomation on the flexi) and Invisible Time Lines. Some aspects of both turned out better on the flexi than on Conglomerate International LP. There's something about these recordings, partly because I recorded them rather than Bruce, but also all the factors that went into it: the garage, the van, the summer weather, being practically outside, and just being stoked to be doing it. Nate hated the bass sound, but I kinda hated his bass sound and really didn't know what to do with it. Knowing how little we had to work with in that space, I really like this. Enough already.