"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.
T-RIDE and their one and only album from the year of 1992 (Hollywood Records). "Unique", "original" and "masterpiece", words I hardly ever use in the same sentence. It's really difficult to pin down the sound of T-RIDE though and especially in a short intro. It's funky, close to industrial beats with lovely arrangements and layers and layers of Def Leppard-ish kind of vocal harmonies. On top of this - stunning guitar playing 'ala Van Halen and groovy yet highly catchy material. I guess the music itself is somehow ecclectically structured, however, it's clearly based upon hard rock and it's one of my all-time favourite albums. In short - it's some kind of wild mixture of massive beats from the school of Michael/Janet Jackson, funk 'ala Extreme, Faith No More, Prince, and classic kikk-azz hardrock in the vein of Van Halen, Queen, and Def Leppard. Yes, it's a hybrid! unique! and should have been a smash-hit album all over the world. But then again, if Kate Bush were a man, she... ehem, he??? would have been just as praised by any old fart magazine as Bob Dylan [unique voice, music, arrangements, great songs, stunning videos, etc, etc. surely it can't be that she's a woman, huh?]. The band consisting of Dan Arlie (vocals/bass), Geoff Tyson (guitars), and Eric Valentine (drums). The latter produced this great sounding record in 1992 and has since become a famed producer for the likes of Lostprophets, Taking Back Sunday, Third Eye Blind, Smash Mouth, Good Charlotte, etc. Where's Dan Arlie? T-Ride's wicked string-bender Geoff Tyson was one of the only students of Joe Satriani to have 'graduated' from his teachings. He's been up to everything from bands such as Snake River Conspiracy and Stimulator (read our 'Stimulator' interview here) to write and produce countless TV commercials, video games, and movie soundtracks. He's got his own band, owns and operates a recording studio in Prague. Here to give us his insight on the T-RIDE album, the one and only, Mr. GEOFF TYSON...
How long did this album take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
I met Dan and Eric in 1985. They asked me to play on their demos from the very beginning. They were still learning how to write songs and produce professionally so it was a long process that ended with the CD release you know from 1992. Some performances from those early days actually made it onto the final release.
What kind of initial budget are we talking about here?
A good part of the album was already recorded before the $750,000 advance came from Hollywood Records. The original tracks and recording studio were all financed by the recording studio business that Eric ran.
How much of the budget did you actually spend on useless equipment and other nonsense?
I didn't have access to that money so I didn't spend anything frivolously. I got paid by the week and I lived in a small room in San Francisco with no luxuries whatsoever. Eric spent a lot of money on recording studio gear that he later used to continue his record producer career. It was a good investment that paid for itself many times over so I would hardly call those purchases frivolous. I don't know all the details but i know that there were a lot of accusations of financial extravagances and mismanagement after we came back from tour and that these issues were a big part of the bands eventual failure and break up. All i know is that i was broke when i started and was broke when i finished.
What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
The sound was entirely dictated by Dan and Eric. Aside from the solos, 100% of the arrangements and instrument tones were a product of Dan and Eric's wild vision. They were inspired by Led Zeppelin drums and vocals, Def Leppard vocal harmonies, Van Halen guitar tone, Tom Waits, Prince, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and anything that was hard heavy and fat.
What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
Eric was the producer so he was the quality gatekeeper. He chose the instrument tones, monitored the performances, chose mics and drums and amps. He frequently invented new and crazy performance techniques and recording processes (Urban's note: the record label originally wanted Eddie Kramer from KISS fame to produce the album, but he turned down the offer after hearing the demos, since he thought the record was already 'done' by Valentine).
And were you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
I wanted to hear more guitars in the mix. Many people echoed that sentiment. When I heard T-Ride on the radio next to Stone Temple Pilots or Metallica, I thought it sounded muddy. But emotionally I think it was a winner. Very exciting album.
Did the producer (you) use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?
The entire process was one big experiment. Everything was rethought and no convention was used. For example, we had a hex pickup made for the guitar - a pickup with six individual outputs so we could put each string into its own amplifier. That gave us a lot of flexibility with strange chord voicings. Bass and guitar were sometimes played with violin bows, drum sticks, with strange tunings... not a single instrument was recorded without an original production and arrangement concept. They were trying to re-invent the rock recording. It made the process a lot of fun but it took a long time.
How much time did you spend on overdubs?
The entire album was pieced together meticulously, part by part. Some songs had performances that were recorded 7 years earlier than the final instrumentation was approved. So i guess it was all overdubs.
Which band member spent most of his days in the studio and why?
Eric. He's a brilliant guy and the recording studio was his passion. He had a bedroom in the studio for many years and aside from the occasional pizzeria trip, work was non-stop.
Which band member hardly spent any time at all in the studio and why?
That would probably be me. I was not a big part of the song writing and arrangement process. I came in when they needed me and played what I was asked to play.
Let's talk about the lyrics. Are you just as fond of them today or are they typical of its time?
I always though "Zombies From Hell" was a little silly. It wasn't until we toured with White Zombie that I realized that the fans were thinking the same thing. The song "You And Your Friend" is truly brilliant, however. It was a different time. People in heavy music didn't sing about their feelings, per se. It was all about aggression and chest beating.
How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound', or perhaps you didn't?
That was the difficult part. We took the band to the stage during the time that glam and hair metal was dying around us. We could not go out with the over-produced sound and wild 1980's image we had originally conceived because that style was becoming laughable at the time. For the recordings, we had 48 layered harmony vocals for each three-person vocal part. For the stage, we had 3 guys singing those 3 parts. Hardly the same impart. We did simplified versions of the vocal arrangements because it wasn't realistic to perform live with all the studio tricks we employed on the recordings. We were a different band live but eventually we found our groove and got it to work pretty well. You can see a video I cut together from live footage on this page (the youtube videos at the right border of this very page). I think Dan and Eric were expecting the album to go multi-platinum and when they realized it would not, it made their attitudes a bit fatalistic. I had a great time regardless although it would have been cool to have a hit.
Did the record company interfere anything on your "sound" and "songs", considering what's 'hot and not' at the time?
They tried but in the end their input was generally ignored.
Your favourite songs off the album and why?
"Backdoor Romeo" is a winner. The ending is amazing. No one has done anything like it before or since. I like "Luxury Cruiser" too. Interesting rhythm and arrangement - it just worked really well even though it was quite odd.
Any 'oh-I-wish-we-had-never-recorded' song on this album?
There was something I liked about every song on the album but i really hated playing the song "Ride" live. I can't think of one audience that responded well to it and the guitar/vocal syncopation was a mind-fuck for me. A whole lot of effort for no payoff.
Were there any other tracks recorded during those studio sessions that didn't make the cut?
Many. I have them. If you look carefully you will find them on the Internet somewhere :)
Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?
There was a constant stream of craziness. I think it is just the product of the genius plus the excitement of the opportunity. The lifestyle was 100% music 100% of the time at the expense of other important things (like hygene). Dan and Eric approached life like warriors going to battle and sometimes it just wasn't appropriate or they would chose the wrong battle to fight. I have 1000 ridiculous, funny and embarrassing stories (and videos!) but I don't think they'd appreciate reading about them on the internet. If you see me at a party someday, ask me then...
Were you ever a "priority" case or merely just another release at your record label?
AI think we were a priority. But at the time, Hollywood Records was not staffed by the best people in the industry. Our management was top-notch and they definitely made a big, positive difference for us but we frequently felt that being a Hollywood Records priority was actually to our detriment. They spent a lot of money on things that were either stupid and
useless, or on things that we could have done ourselves for much less money.
Did you ever feel like the record label supported you guys enough afterwards? (promotion-wise, tours, etc.).
I think they were fantastic at sending us money. They believed in us and were not afraid to take chances. Compared to other record deals I had, I think they were amazing, however strategically misguided. They had deeper pockets than most labels because of their affiliation with the Disney company. We insisted that they hire independent PR and booking agents throughout the process, but there was something seriously lacking in their business model and their process. We'd go to record stores all over the world while we were on tour, and frequently find the album was not available. Just an empty slot where the CD once sat. If a record company can't get CDs into the stores for sale while the band is in town playing shows and getting radio play, then what good are they?
Any regrets whatsoever? (regarding the album of course)
I had a blast and have no regrets. If i had been in charge of the business or the production process, I would have done some things differently. I would have finished the second album and released it independently, but that idea did not appeal to Dan and Eric. They wanted the deluxe, rock-star treatment and would not pursue anything that might not result in potential multi-platinum successes. Once they lost the record deal, they stopped writing T-Ride music altogether. I just wanted to play and perform an would have sacrificed everything to let it continue. After it was all over, adjusting to civilian life was quite tumultuous for me and I made a lot of missteps. Burning bridges, drug use, investing my time in loser musical projects, accidents and injuries a whole lot of shit-luck made for a lot of hard lessons learned. I suppose you can't become wise until you fuck up royally once or twice. By that metric, I am a fucking genius. But whatever...
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Interview by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,