"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.
GLEN BURTNICK: "Heroes & Zeros"
GLEN BURTNICK and his second solo album "Heroes & Zeros" from the year of 1987 (co-produced by David Prater of Dream Theater fame, etc). New Jersey's cult/legend rocker - mostly(?) known to average joe as a band member of Styx. He's actually been a 'Styx' member, not once, but twice, as he first took on lead vocals in the late eighties (when Tommy Shaw had the 'Damn Yankees'), and recently in the 2000's. He was a member of LaBamba and The Hubcaps led by New Jersey shore favorite Richie 'LaBamba' Rosenberg, the Jan Hammer Band, Helmet Boy, etc. as well as provided material to other bands/artists over the years (including the U.S. #1 hit "Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough" for Patty Smyth and Don Henley). He has also put together an annual Xmas Xtravaganza in New Jeresy (since 1989) and the spelling of his name has changed quite a few times over the years to lots of confusion (three times actually). It's Burtnik nowdays, at the time of the release of "Heroes & Zeros", Glen spelled Burtnick with 'ck' though. This is actually a rather Poppy album and not too far away from the style of Rick Springfield, Don Henley, Styx, etc. Anton Fig, Bruce Hornsby, Neal Schon, are some of the guest musicians. Here to tell us everything about this mighty fine Hi-Tech, Rock/Pop/AOR album from 1987, the one and only, Mr. GLEN BURTNIK...
How long did this album take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
Not counting the demos (some of which we used on the album) I'm gonna guess 2 or 3 months.
What kind of initial budget are we talking about here?
Somewhere between like one hundred – one hundred fifty thousand is what I recall.
How much of the budget did you actually spend on useless equipment and other nonsense?
We were fairly careful. I recall being yelled by the Executive Producer for the food ordering bills.
What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
I"Heroes & Zeros" was my reaction to my previous A&M release, "Talking In Code". For that first album, I had gone out west, met with a number of prospective Producers, and ultimately came up with an album that sounded synthetic. There were drum machines and synthesizers all over that first album – which is understandable considering the era. I thought that by going along and playing the big L.A. game, I'd be rewarded. When that album went nowhere, I felt like it had been a waste of time. I had already felt better about the work I had been doing back east with my own team – Alan Douches, David Prater, Plink Giglio. For this, second album, I figured let's do it my way and see what happens. Most of my songs come from the acoustic guitar. Heroes & Zeros reflected that. A lot more guitar oriented than the previous album. You wouldn't have been able to tell what instrument I played on my first A&M album. On the second, it was easy to figure out. Also, we cut with real drums and cheap little synthesizers.
What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
David Prater and I produced the album together. David is brilliant, though rather heavy handed. By doing it with him, I felt I could pull the project where I wanted, and not go through what I had gone through with my previous album.
And were you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
Sure, I was then, at least
Did the producer (you) use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?
We did crazy stuff. David was a doubling freak – hell a lot of people were back then. It was a mentality that anything that sounded good on one track would sound better on 2 or more. It is the only project I've ever seen where the bass guitar tracks were doubled and, in some cases, tripled. We used a lot of cheap audio. I remember vocals going through 9 volt operated stomp boxes and stuff. Crazy. But David felt comfortable with those tools, and I was pleased with the sounds he was coming up with. We started in a lovely professional recording facility called House Of Music, which is now defunct. We didn't get along with the engineer though, so after cutting 3 tracks we split and set up in the dusty basement of the rented house David was living in, believe it or not...
How much time did you spend on overdubs?
Geez, I dunno. It was ALL overdubs. We rarely, if ever, recorded more than one instrument at a time – including drums.
Which band member spent most of his days in the studio and why?
David Prater. The guy puts all of himself into his work. He gets obsessive. I had to take breaks to clear my head and live life. David had to create a masterpiece.
Which band member hardly spent any time at all in the studio and why?
It wasn't a band. We went through a number of drummers, so I guess each one spent no more than a day or two on the record. Of which I need to address something. It's been pointed out to me that Chuck Burgi may not have been credited as having played on the album, which makes me feel really shitty. Chuck came in and killed on a couple of tracks. Great drummer. I'll take blame for any crediting screw ups. I’m a dick. Okay, and since I brought THAT up, I screwed something else up on the credits. I forgot to list my Manager. Now, this was a very big winded guy who had had much success and thought much of himself. He was greatly offended to find he was left off the credits. This is understandable. But he created the biggest stir I saw regarding "Heroes & Zeros" over this mistake. He cost the company a boatload of money to reprint. I never saw him work that hard again. When the album wasn't getting anywhere, his efforts paled in comparison to the stink he created over his own name. Oh well.
Let's talk about the lyrics. Are you just as fond of them today or are they typical of its time?
I think I'm okay with them. The one that comes to mind as no longer applicable would be from a song called "Stupid Boys (Sucker for love)" where I sang "The Soviets are trying to abolish it". There is no longer a Soviet Union. And now that I think of it, that song is pretty goofy in retrospect. So that one sucks.
How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound', or perhaps you didn't?
You mean touring-wise? Hell, we toured a tiny bit and it was over within months.
Did the record company interfere anything on your "sound" and "songs", considering what's 'hot and not' at the time?
Huge topic. Here's my side of the story. I was signed by one A&R guy who told me stuff like I sounded "too New Jersey". After my first album came out he left the company and I was assigned a new A&R guy. Who was he? He was a kid who grew up in a fancy neighborhood across the street from an A&M big shot. He had big opinions, so he got the job of telling musicians what records they should be making. He pushed his friends to write songs with me. He came to the studio once, tried suggesting we interject some energy into the project. How did he do this? By trying to dance and sing along with the tracks. David and I watched in horror as this kid spazzed out and sang out of tune. We were watching a tone deaf guy dancing like the worst white guy dance you could ever imagine. He was my A&R guy for Heroes & Zeros.
Your favourite songs off the album and why?
I like "Love Goes On", cuz it's different. I like "The Day Your Ship Gets Thru", cuz I am into vocal arrangements.
Any 'oh-I-wish-we-had-never-recorded' song on this album?
"Stupid Boys" seems a bit silly now.
Were there any other tracks recorded during those studio sessions that didn't make the cut?
Yes, two. "Brooklyn Lullabye" and "Palm Of My Hand", the latter of which I get requests for almost every time I perform. It’s a leaked-underground-internet kinda tune, a ballad.
What's your honest opinion about the songs and the production today? Dated, fresh, a mess?
A bit dated. Anything with gang vocals, power chords and sampled/non-dynamic snare drums sounds obviously from the 80s. It is a fairly muscular disc, as I recall (I listen to it about once per decade, if that), and I credit David Prater with the album's punch. David's a very talented guy.
Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?
Recording in a basement in Verona NJ is kinda kooky. Beyond that, I remember nothing especially zany. Oh wait, I liked banging on pots and pans for the instrumental section of "Stupid Boys", so maybe that song doesn't suck so much after all.
Were you ever a "priority" case or merely just another release at your record label?
They tried, I guess. But no, I wasn't a priority. And my management sucked.
Did you ever feel like the record label supported you guys enough afterwards? (promotion-wise, tours, etc.).
They were sweet, hard working people. I'm sure they wanted me to be a hit. I suppose I just wasn’t what America wanted at the time.
Any regrets whatsoever? (regarding the album of course)
Nope, not really.
If there's anything you'd like to add, say, or promote, please do:
Interview by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,