"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.
GUARDIAN: "First Watch"
GUARDIAN and their debut album "First Watch" from the year of 1989. It was produced by Oz Fox of Stryper and sold 30,000 copies in its first month of release in June '89. Not bad for a little Christian Metal band from Orange County! They were signed to Enigma Records in the states and thought of as the "next" Stryper, well, that's probably what the record label thought anyhow. It's excellent guitar driven hard rock of its time and perhaps closer to the sound of 'Mass' than Stryper. The band continuted to release fun records in the early 90's and especially 'Fire And Love' must also be considered as a 'must have' in your collection. Here's Guardian's bassist, DAVID BACH, with his insight on the "First Watch".
How long did this album take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
Two months from start to finish but we did not work every day. This was our debut album so we all still had day jobs. We squeezed in recording on nights and weekends.
What kind of initial budget are we talking about here?
"First Watch" had a recording budget of $10k. Oz Fox did a really good job of calling in favors and stretching that budget as far as it could go.
How much of the budget did you actually spend on useless equipment and other nonsense?
On that record... none of it. We wasted plenty of money later in our career (haha!)
What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
We had unrealistic expectations. We thought we were making Van Halen 1 with Ted Templeman but in reality we were an inexperienced studio band with a first-time producer.
What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
A lot! Oz was like a fifth member of the band. In retrospect, he was right about everything he pushed us on
And were you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
Yes and no. Today, it sounds dated. In has too much of that obnoxious digital reverb that was in vogue on rock records in the 80's. It is what it is.
Did the producer use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?
Just too much reverb in spots - especially the vocal effects. I don't care for the lead vocal processing at all on this record. The background vocals sound good and are HUGE. But then again, Oz was in Stryper.
How much time did you spend on overdubs?
Not enough. In retrospect, the lead vocals could have been given more time.
Which band member spent most of his days in the studio and why?
Vocalist Paul Cawley - studio vocals are a whole different vibe if you are not use to it. Like being under a microscope
Which band member hardly spent any time at all in the studio and why?
Me (David Bach) I cut my bass parts for the whole album in one night (5 hours) - I hung out after that but my work was done except for some background shouts.
Let's talk about the lyrics. Are you just as fond of them today or are they typical of its time?
Definitely dated 80's Christian metal anthem lyrics. They are a bit shallow in retrospect but they were pretty overt. I am not ashamed of that.
How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound', or perhaps you didn't?
We used sampled background vocals live on that album tour... like all the other bands did in that era to get those huge background vocals live but we eventually dumped those.
Did the record company interfere anything on your "sound" and "songs", considering what's 'hot and not' at the time?
Enigma was actually cool about that when it came time to record. They just wanted us to be more seasoned as a band... thus they sat on us for a few years after signing us... until we'd built up a decent following in SoCal. Then, they let us make the album unmolested. A good move in retrospect.
Your favourite songs off the album and why?
Probably "Kingdom of Rock" and "Rock In Victory" - those were us just playing our style of rock and not trying to pander to radio. The solo breakdown and outro in Rock In Victory could probably be the anthem for that era of Guardian.
Any 'oh-I-wish-we-had-never-recorded' song on this album?
There's a lot about this record that I don't like but I accept it for what it is... warts and all. I'm just glad we got better as players and songwriters on later albums.
Were there any other tracks recorded during those studio sessions that didn't make the cut?
A few things but nothing of merit. There was actually a really cool dance mix of 'Good Life' that Oz did... that I would love to have just for fun.
What's your honest opinion about the songs and the production today? Dated, fresh, a mess?
Production is dated. Songs are OK for that era. Tony Palacios plays some ripping 80's guitar all over this... that is the high point of this album. He even admits that he probably cant do all those guitar gymnastics anymore. Tendonitis! He used to play so much back then that he had to ice down his arms... true story!
Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?
We cut basic tracks at Sound City in the Valley (LA) - which is a famous studio. Rikk Hart and I went creeping about late one night and stumbled into the tape vault. The original 2" 24-track masters for Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors" were there plus some other classic albums. That was kinda cool. Some other fun times were had eating at Denny's at 3AM... then being to work by 7AM. Even routine things are funny when you are sleep deprived.
Were you ever a "priority" case or merely just another release at your record label?
Thats a tale unto itself. We were not a priority at Enigma. I say that without animosity. But if you ain't the lead sled dog... the scenery never changes.
Did you ever feel like the record label supported you guys enough afterwards? (promotion-wise, tours, etc.).
Not really - but in retrospect, I have no hard feelings. Enigma had a huge roster and only a handful of acts got a push. Stryper was one of them...we were not. I would have done the same if I were them.
Any regrets whatsoever? (regarding the album of course)
None - most bands never get signed. I am thankful for the opportunity and fortunately our career grew after that. Paying dues is a lost concept these days but it was healthy for us.
If there's anything you'd like to add, say, or promote, please do:
Thank you RockUnited for being interested in this album. I haven't discussed it in years. Thanks to Matthew Hunt at Retroactive for reviving it and for taking chances on old dinosaur bands like us. We are grateful to anyone who has ever supported Guardian. Peace!
Interview by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,