"Just For The Record" is a brand new section at the RockUnited site where 'DJ Urban' has a look at some old(er) records/albums in the great history of hard rock and metal. It could be some "obscure" minor record label release that simply didn't get the attention it so rightly deserved the first time around. It could also be a what you would call a "classic" album or sort of a best-seller. They all have one thing in common though. They all ROCK and and they all have at least one classy enough band member to answer our q's.
JIMMY HOTZ: "Beyond The Crystal Sea"
JIMMY HOTZ and his debut album "Beyond The Crystal Sea" from the year of 1980. This clearly files under 'obscure', extremely underrated, and overall mega cult record. It's something as "rare" as experimental Prog-Rock by a christian musician in the year of 1980. It's layers and layers of synthesizers and art-rock in the vein of Styx, Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, etc. Jimmy is indeed the inventor of the 'Hotz Box' - and Translator, the ultimate midi controller and instrument. Some of the major companies that have sought Jimmy's technical advice include Microsoft, Intel, Electronic Arts, Atari and JBL. He's worked with many famous artists over the years including: Fleetwood Mac, NSYNC, B.B. King, Dave Mason, Leon Russell, Yes, Jon Anderson, Kitaro, Steve Winwood, Chicago, Bonnie Rait, Gary Wright, Paul Haslinger, Phoebe Snow, Kim Basinger, Dan Aykroyd, Patty Loveless, ArkAngel, Petra, etc, etc. Here to answer our questions about the 1980 album, the multi-talanted producer, musician, computer wizard, Mr. JIMMY HOTZ...
How long did this album take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
Over a year because I was producing and engineering multiple other projects at the same time and had to do "Beyond the Crystal Sea" with what little time I could find between other sessions.
What kind of initial budget are we talking about here?
There was not really a budget. I was the Main Studio Designer of Rivendell where I recorded "Beyond the Crystal Sea" and I served as the Chief Engineer for the first year or two after it opened. Most of the time I had to work on my own recordings was very late after I had burnt out all day on recording others.
How much of the budget did you actually spend on useless equipment and other nonsense?
In the Designing of Rivendell we had a very limited budget to build an entire recording studio with, so I ended up taking the shell of an existing console and essentially redesigning and rebuilding it in my living room for many months before we started construction on the main studio. The console was the most expensive part of a studio in those days and this made it possible for us to get the other critical items we needed. So really, every penny was made to count for something useful and important.
What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
I had always loved the early King Crimson recordings when Gregg Lake was the singer, but I was also into heavy Guitar like Jimmy Hendrix and Jeff Beck. Two other bands that influenced me at the time were the Moody Blues and Yes. I definitely wanted to combine soaring rock guitar with orchestral rock like the Moody Blues, Yes and King Crimson.
What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
LOL - the Producer had Major input in all phases of the Recording :).
And were you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
Given the circumstances under which I had to record it - Yes.
Did the producer (you) use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?
This was before the days of sampling so many times we would go to great lengths just to get some unusual sound at precise moments in a track. During the end of "Beyond the Blues" I wanted a big percussive attack sound with a giant natural echo and it just so happened that Rivendell was in what use to be a shopping mall. So we ran microphone cables a few hundred feet down the mall as well as having a few microphones right by where we were doing the effect to capture the natural sound of a Giant wooden door falling over and hitting the cement floor in this mall. It took many tries to get the timing just right so that when the falling door hit the ground it was on time with the track.
How much time did you spend on overdubs?
Well over 2/3's of the record was overdubbed.
Which band member spent most of his days in the studio and why?
That would be me :) As I played all of the Guitars, some of the keyboards, bass on a few tracks, sang the vocals, engineered and produced the record, etc..
Which band member hardly spent any time at all in the studio and why?
The other bass players. I had a few friends that also played bass on a some tracks and it always took less time to set up the bass sound than it did the Drums and keyboard rigs.
Let's talk about the lyrics. Are you just as fond of them today or are they typical of its time?
I am still happy with them today but they were definitely from a special chapter in my life. I would not write them exactly the same way today. The general message would be the same but I have grown and gone through alot since then and that would be reflected in my music.
How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound', or perhaps you didn't?
I have always been inventive and was more likely to make my live sound similar to what I could achieve in the studio, rather than make my studio recordings sound like my live performances. I really tried to push the envelope in the studio and I would build giant Quad Amped Guitar Rigs with racks of gear for my live shows to help achieve the kind of sounds I would get in the studio.
Did the record company interfere anything on your "sound" and "songs", considering what's 'hot and not' at the time?
In my case I was the Record Company and I did "Beyond the Crystal Sea" more as a musical expression than trying to achieve commercial success with a formula.
Your favourite songs off the album and why?
"From Love Life Did Begin" and "Vision Ships" Those two songs caught more of the Magical quality I was reaching for and expressed the Love of God to me personally. Even though I was the artist those songs affected and touched me in a major way and still do to this day. Of my newer recordings "Long Long Ago" would be my favorite for very similar reasons.
Any 'oh-I-wish-we-had-never-recorded' song on this album?
"Night Passage" sounded amazing in the Studio where I recorded it with the Big Studio Monitors I had custom built. However the experience did not translate on that grand scale when played on less awesome systems and the extremely broad and intense spectrum did not fare as well as most of the other songs, when converted to digital.
Were there any other tracks recorded during those studio sessions that didn't make the cut?
There were a few other tracks I was working on at the time, which I had planed releasing shortly after "Beyond the Crystal Sea" but I got really busy with other projects immediately. I would not say these did not make the cut, they were just unfinished and the record was already at the desired length per side. In the days of Vinyl you could get a hotter cut master if you kept the sides closer to 15 minutes a side and I was really pushing the envelope on that front.
What's your honest opinion about the songs and the production today? Dated, fresh, a mess?
They were of their time but some of the tracks have stood the test of time well. "Life Did Begin" still holds magic for me.
Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?
Perhaps the one thing that was the both the funniest and saddest thing about making "Beyond the Crystal Sea" would have been to come into the studio very, very late at night and find me punching in my guitar solos with a back scratchier. Most of the over dubs were done when I had crumbs of time between other sessions. After burning out all day long and night on other projects I might finally have a few moments at 3 or 4 AM. Time to be all fresh and perky and do an "Inspired Guitar Solo" !!! Sigh........... Well anyway Brian Tankersley, my assistant engineer, who helped record my vocals also helped rig up a "back scratchier with a plastic hand" to reach into the "Physically Protected Record Button" (those were common on large multi-tracks of the day - so that someone could not accidentally hit record and erase something valuable ). This was rigged so that I could sort of kick it with my knee and do the punc h in, then I had to manage a punch out the best I could. Very sad - but I did get the record done and I am sure it looked quite funny to anyone who saw it. What a long way recording technology has come.
Were you ever a "priority" case or merely just another release at your record label?
As I had said previously I had to find little crumbs of time to record. But I am very thankful I had the inspiration and made the effort, to finally get it done.
Did you ever feel like the record label supported you guys enough afterwards? (promotion-wise, tours, etc.).
I released it on my own label and had some level of success but would have really liked to have had much more promotional support.
Any regrets whatsoever? (regarding the album of course)
Regret would not be the right word but I would say that I wished I would have had more time to do my vocals. As it was I hardly had a moment to sing for over a year while I was building Rivendell and then when it was opened it was non-stop session work for others, so I feel my vocals suffered. I am much happier with the vocals on my later recording such as "Long Long Ago" and "The Gates of Time".
If there's anything you'd like to add, say, or promote, please do:
"The Gates of Time" is my next major solo project and I have released an EP that has 4 of the songs from the Gates of time project. I have also written a book called "The Gates of Time", which I hope provides a glimpse into the Larger Reality of the Spirit World, all around us and helps reveal the amazing adventures that await us beyond our time on this planet. These are all currently available online from the Hotz Store.
http://www.hotzstore.com/ You can also read about some of my inventions such as "The Hotz Box" and "The Hotz Translator" software which I used in the making of "The Gates of Time" at my website, which is
www.jimmyhotz.com . I would also like to let people know of the release of the "BEYOND THE CRYSTAL SEA" 30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION available from Brutal Planet Distribution, here is a link to one of their sites
Interview by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,