The Making of “Questions”
(This interview with David and Producer Godfrey Diamond was originally printed in Performer Magazine. It is re-published here with permission.)
What was your pre-production like on this project?
Godfrey Diamond: We basically did miniature demos first, which I strongly, strongly believe in. Guitar and vocal and click. It’s always good to lay down the record once before you lay down the record, know what I mean? So I feed them to the band (Robbie “Seahag” Mangano on bass, Lautaro Burgos on drums), in advance of the rehearsal. And let them all learn the changes. And then we go in there and work out the parts and get a good feel, bring it up to a place where everybody looks at each other and goes.. “yeah, we’re ready to go in, let’s hit this.” Pre-production is one of the most important and often overlooked steps of making a record. If you blow it there, it’s gonna be a long road.
How did you choose the studio?
David Bronson: Godfrey has a handful of drum rooms he likes to use around town, so we knew we’d do basics at one of those. He’s a drum master, so I just left that decision to him, and we ended up at Mission, which was great. And there was no question we’d be doing all the vocals, overdubs, and mixing at his room, Perfect Mixes. It’s one of my favorite places on Earth.
What kind of sound were you looking for and how did you achieve it?
David Bronson: I can’t really be more specific than to say I wanted the most beautiful sounding, soul-infused, warm and full rock record possible. The way I achieved it was to make sure I was working alongside a master producer/engineer, who only uses the greatest musicians, approaches, recording techniques, and gear. And I knew early on the background vocals were going to be a major element in shaping the sound, so when it all came together with The Alomars (Carlos Alomar, Robin Clark, Lea-Lórien Alomar) and Gordon Grody, it was pretty unbelievable.
How does it compare to your last release in terms of style and the creative process?
David Bronson: I would say it’s a much more evolved record on all levels. The content, of course, is extremely different, being separated by a decade from the last one in terms of writing. Stylistically, it’s much cleaner I think. The large emotion that I think has always been there in my writing is still there. I also seem to always hear a certain largeness of sound. There’s definitely nothing “lo-fi” about this record. As far as the creative process goes, the writing process was basically the same (me and a guitar, for the most part). The huge difference came in the collaborations and the ways everybody’s individual talents and abilities came together to produce what you hear.
Did you use any special gear or recording techniques on this one?
Godfrey Diamond: Everything on the record is special. Fantastic gear, tube gear, beautiful V72s that the Beatles used back in the day, and a lovely Neve board and all this great stuff, the best gear you can get, but you know what? It’s all secondary. What you gotta do is get that performance. That’s the most important thing. Get that performance.
What was your philosophy on live, full-band takes versus individual tracking?
Godfrey Diamond: I pretty much insist on doing drums and bass together, at minimum. You can’t beat a full band going in and cutting their stuff together, everybody feeling it together. But these days it’s kind of hard for a variety of reasons. On this record we did a combination of the two things. We rehearsed drums, bass, and guitar together. And Robbie and Lautaro got very familiar with Dave’s tracks. And he actually played live too. So we got those three at the same time. We went for the old school approach, and everybody was well rehearsed. And I think it shows on the record. It sounds that way.
Any special guests?
David Bronson: It’s funny – I guess you could technically consider The Alomars as such, but they really became band members for the record. It very quickly became such a close-knit, family kind of vibe, and they really gave everything to me and Godfrey, to the music. Between that and the fact that Robin, Gordon, and Godfrey had all worked together so many times back in the day, in the NY session world, it really transcended a “special guest” kind of thing. Not to mention they’re on the entire record.
What did you try to accomplish in the studio that you’re not able to do live?
David Bronson: Actually, nothing, on this one. We basically went for a very “live” type of overall sound, which includes all the arrangements. Most of them, at their largest, are acoustic, one or two electrics, drums, bass, keys, and backing vocals. So with a healthy size band I could in theory reproduce the arrangements pretty easily live. Not that I have any real interest in reproduction per se.
What were the toughest challenges you faced?
David Bronson: The most difficult step was figuring out who was going to sing the backgrounds, as we knew it was going to be such a crucial element. But then I said “Young Americans” to Godfrey, and he said, “I’ll call Gordon Grody. We’ll get the real thing.” And that was it. The minute The Alomars and Gordon entered the picture, it was done. Made in heaven.
How did you handle final mixing and mastering?
David Bronson: The record was mixed by Godfrey, as we knew it would be from the start. It’s a thing of magic to watch his process of mixing. Old school, and second nature from his decades of living behind the board. But he’s always excited to try new things as well, which resulted in a few really beautiful sonic surprises throughout the album. And the gear.. From the Neve to the Beatle Pre’s to the Manleys to the 1176 to the original Pultec and on and on. Every single track gets its own special, beautiful little chain, and each one just sounds amazing. I always get a little sad whenever I think about the fact that no one ever gets to hear these gorgeous sounds isolated.
And it was mastered by Joe Gastwirt (Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty). Like on the last record, he ran the whole thing through analog tape. He just had a feeling it would really lend itself to it. And it just came out beautifully. I can’t thank him enough.
What are your release plans?
David Bronson: We’ll be doing a special show at Rockwood’s Stage 2 here in NY on the Friday before Thanksgiving (Nov 21), where I’ll be previewing the material from the new album for my NY people. And there’ll be a tour around release time in January-February.
Any special packaging?
David Bronson: I use Oasis Green packaging, because, at this point, it really just shocks me that anyone – indie, major, anyone – uses plastic or non-recyclable stuff. It just seems like a blatant no-brainer. And I put in a pretty nice fold out poster / lyric sheet. Mainly because I’ve always been a sucker for liner notes. One of the most heartbreaking things to me about the shift to digital has been the loss of liner notes. And I like looking at nice things, so I figure everyone else should too.
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