Hog Heaven Studio 1998-2005
The following is brought over from an earlier version of this site, that once had pictures embedded. I have since put the pictures into a gallery where much of this text appears as captions. You'll find that the writing here doesn't make a lot of sense without the pictures!
Hog Heaven Studio was my little patch of heaven for about seven years. Film can’t really capture the magic, but here is a bit to help illustrate the gear, a few people, and memories that made it my favorite place on earth for that time. Getting it built was a story that was already about four years in the works. It was at my grandparent’s house in a mostly empty area (after their lifetime of accumulated stuff was consolidated elsewhere!). In 1994, I had been given permission to use the space but my father, in a preview of his future role in my life, was obstructionist and the idea fell flat. But after my grandfather died, and much family drama ensued, somehow, a miracle happened in early 1998 and my father actually got on board and built it for the most part. Though, he always told me its continued existence would be dependent on that of my grandmother, who at the time was in her late 80s. So, you will see that I never really did anything that made it more than a glorified box in a garage…it was something I was told to never commit to, though in retrospect, it did last at least twice as long as I had reasonably expected.
But it was more than a bedroom sized box with crappy acoustics; it was a special place where dreams came true, where creativity was fostered and allowed to flourish uninhibited.
This picture is from June 10th, 1998. It was the night before I first used the place, having just brought stuff over from my apartment that day. The next day, coincident with my high school graduation day (seven years on), Tom Griesgraber came over to play some bass and guitar on The End of the Road for Missy the Cow. The electric sitar was on loan from Bob Tedde of Rockola (with whom I used to work). It played a role on a number of tracks from Receiving, which was actually a project that spanned 1999-2000, rather later than this pic, anyway. Seeing this picture now reminds me of how we used to joke that Bob borrowed his gear from me when he needed it! The drums here represent the first time I had set up my kit since something like eight months before when I was in an apartment, and if I was able to play at all, it was at someone else’s house or in a parking garage at night. The bass was my lusted-after Ibanez Soundgear (just one of many Ibanezes I had on a revolving door basis). A sliver of my Strat is visible, but that will be discussed later. There are no amps here because I was still relatively new to guitar and bass playing, and the VS-880 had sufficient amp modeling patches that I used only those.
The Control Center, such as it was. Hah! A VS-880, Mackie 1202, Alesis 3630 or two, Digitech Studio Quad, and a Panasonic DAT recorder, all played back through my aging Panasonic boom box which used to record Rhythmic Catharsis in 1993! This is taken about the same time as the first picture, if not the same day. Modest beginnings, these. That would change a lot.
You gotta remember that HHS was always my sandbox, so I did with it what I wanted. But eventually it got pretty porky as people contributed to my pig “thing.” You can see the pig calendar, some pigs from an earlier calendar that someone donated, and the pig toys that were used as models for Hog Heaven, the CD from 1998 (see the Listening Room). Then there is also the “Swine Line” of light up pigs that serve as a visual phone ringer.
Now, the pigs are obvious, but let me draw your attention to a little sign that appears off to the right. It says, “NO BLUES PLAYED HERE” and was enforceable! Actually, I have always hated the blues, even if I intellectually know why that style exists. And the Hog Heaven years were particularly intolerant of blues.
As far as the gear goes, this was pretty much the [Girl Singer] rig, give or take a little. It was around this time when I started adding compressors to my rig. Eventually I had ten channels of the stuff. I was pretty sorry about the DBX stuff though. Way too harsh and nasty.
This is during the early part of 1999, about March or so when Todd Larowe and I worked on the project by [Girl Singer]. He and I worked hard on her stuff, but for a month or two before we even knew her name, Todd was extremely helpful in helping bring a bunch of life to songs of mine that I was working on. He was a quick learner and a great player who could deliver good stuff fast and better stuff on the second take. [Girl Singer] was introduced to me by Mike Keneally, and supposedly she and Mike and I would do several songs for a demo of hers. But MK was mostly off the job before he even came over, and it ended up that I was confident Todd could do this project in Mike’s place. He and I did a couple weeks of work with [Girl Singer] but soon realized we could be more fluid if we worked as a band instead of instrument hopping, so we got Mike McMahon in on bass.
By this time, the studio had gotten a coat of paint in at least a cursory attempt to cover the bare walls. But I ran out of the blue paint as I went, and poured two other cans into the roller pan–one was white and the other was a different, greener tint of blue! So I just painted and painted, and no attempt was made to make the walls a uniform color. Anyhow, in this picture, you can see Bob Tedde’s acoustic guitar and electric sitar, my Strat, the Ibanez bass, Todd’s black Strat and Silhouette, and [Girl Singer's] unknown Ibanez. Also lurking is Bob Tedde’s JP8000 synth which was great fun. The amp actually belonged to [Girl Singer] and was the first amp I routinely got to record, since part of her work was based on three of us playing at once. The blue chorus pedal was ubiquitous on her stuff. She brought it in and didn’t have a clue what to do with it. Go figure. She stiffed me hard for the time I put in to her project so I kept the pedal. The black box over on the left is my early bass rig that I bought off soundman buddy Phil Cole. It consisted of the homemade box and a rack space that held an Ampeg preamp with a power amp section too. The cabinet later served as the top to my new Ampeg rig (2001 and on). The walls of the room had some burlap with batting mounted so to at least take some of the splash out of the room’s acoustics. Later on, that stuff came down because there was so much stuff in the place that the splash was no issue.
Mike McMahon, a well known Sandy Eggo bass player who recorded with Todd and I as part of [Girl Singer's] band, left this bit of graffiti on the wall in “bass station.” People were encouraged to write on the wall above the door, but Mike chose to write just where he stood usually. It routinely amazed me at how many people I snookered into the studio for a few tracks. But Mike was there for a whole project to benefit someone that neither of us knew particularly well. He ended up playing a mean fretless bass and supplying some vocal tracks as well. The best track that illustrates the overall band sound is Blindside. It also happens to be a favorite recording of mine, still. The other songs listed on the Listening Room page are mostly Todd and me playing the instruments, though Running is based on a trio performance.
Bryan “Nucci” Cantrell also graced Hog Heaven with eccentric and refreshing humor. Nucci played drums on Bad Cop, No Donut in 1997, but appears to have come back to HH at least once to leave his fine bit of legal counsel on the wall (“Ed, if the Pink Floyd guys find out about the Pig Thing, they’ll sue the living shit out of you”) and to mug like Steve Vai on the guitar.
In mid 1998, long before I married her, Kelli gave me the Wurlitzer electric piano that was in her living room for years. She had gotten it from Mesa College some years before when they blew out their Wurlys to make way for new digital Yamahas. It was odd that she would have this; I never knew her to play piano. Anyhow, when it came to me, it was in bad shape, electronically. It hummed and buzzed, scranked and squonked. But the tone was nice if I could get it on a good day. In the end, I got four recordings of it: one track called “Shoulders Enough” for [Girl Singer], one that ends “Zehdihm’s Flight” (on my Receiving CD), and two tracks for Mike Keneally: a demo of “Joe” and the actual released version of “Hum” on Nonkertompf. The synthesizer is a JP 8000, which was great fun for me, but more fun for Mike Keneally, who had a resurgence of interest in analog style interfaces on keyboards in part because of this same instrument. This synth appears on Nonkertompf as well. And it isn’t even mine!
As for the amp, after [Girl Singer] was done recording at HHS, Todd brought his rig in and left it there for a good while. 1999 was the year when Todd and I got a lot done on two of my projects and ten songs with [Girl Singer]. As you can see, the carpet was not really the finest that money could buy. I actually picked it up on the way back from Tom Griesgraber’s house in Encinitas. Or maybe I could say that the steam driven Wurly sprang an oil leak!
Just a reminder that you are visiting Hog Heaven Studio.
Tom Griesgraber in a later session at Hog Heaven. This time, the we were cutting his solos and textural parts for a track on Receiving called “8th Grade Report Card.” Tom had played guitar and bass for me before, and when we had first met, he had barely played the Stick but for about four months. Now he is playing among the King Crimson offshoots–California Guitar Trio, Jerry Marotta, Pat Mastelotto, and Tony Levin! Ah, but he still remembers his Hog Heaven days and to this day provides a link to me from his website.
As far as the gear goes, by this time in late 1999, I got my first amp, and didn’t mess around. When a local guitarist I worked with on corporate stages had a divorce sale, he called me up and asked if I was interested in this Mesa Dual Rectifier he had. I bought it that day for $900. That amp became the Hog Heaven sound for a good long while. In fact, I traded it away for a Heartbreaker just about the time that Hog Heaven was shut down for good in 2005. The pedalboard atop the amp was supplied by Phil Cole who sold me the first bass rig. I still use the pedalboard platform, and the velcro that covers it is there for life. Some pedals are stuck so well I can’t fight them off!
Speaking the pedalboard and guitar stuff, I’ll just get a little out of order here. The board has remained fairly consistent, though things have come and gone. But it always seems to be anchored around the Line 6 Modelers and the Ernie Ball pedal. In this pic, there is an SIB Varidrive and a RAT. There is also a channel switch for the amp. The Varidrive is actually a prototype which Todd Larowe got his hands onto. Then we traded–this in exchange for a P/J bass and some cash. I don’t know how to characterize the sound, but its enormously satisfying, and has the genuine tube sound that other shit just imitates. Todd later regretted getting rid of this piece and later went and bought another for himself.
The carpeted baffle came into the picture sometime in 1999, and I have it still. It is a good help to isolate drums from guitar amps in a small room, or to just cut the sheer volume when tracking in the middle of the night, all while being able to pump the amp pretty well. It was a badge of honor that I happened into a setting where I could crank my amp just as the entire amp modeling industry took off like a rocket in the wake of the Pod and other popular models. Its a bummer that the most perfected use for this baffle came when Glenn and I recorded in the few months before the old HHS room was demolished.
This is sometime in 1999 or so, possibly on the same day as the picture of Tom above. After all, watching Tom play my shit better than me is always a treat that brings a smile to my face. You can see the mixer that replaced my Mackie 1202. The Allen and Heath was a lifesaver for a guy who recorded 5 or 6 channels of drums to stereo, and all the sound that I wanted to capture pretty much had to be mixed and EQed and compressed about right. And, in those days, if I wanted any effects on drums, that too got to be part of the recorded sound as it happened. I bought the mixer off Mitch Grant, with whom I worked extensively during that period. I miss that mixer. It just really had a good sound, and great EQ which made my little operation even more happening. All I ever wished for that it could not do was to have any subgroups, but it allowed me to really extend what the 880 could do.
Rebecca Vaughan of Loaf was always fun to work with. The first time Loaf came to Hog Heaven was in late 1999 when they did five songs. They were a weekend warrior band who played occasional gigs and let me jam with them sometimes on drums. Eventually they came in and recorded, and in an odd twist of fate and trust on their part, they let me record guitars and keyboards on a few songs as I deemed it necessary. It was all the more weird since they already had two guitarists and a keyboardist and they were all songs that Rebecca had written. But I had more time to fine tune things as I tinkered with the arrangements and mixes, and occasionally knocked out one or two whole instruments and played them in a way that oddly worked better than what they had come up with. Weird, I say. Anyhow, Rebecca was a joy to work with, and is a great singer and songwriter. Loaf kept me in touch with an organic recording and mixing style, and by the third session they did at HHS in 2002, I had improved my approach a lot, more confidently ready to record their 7-piece band in one shot to separate tracks.
And the paper sign? Matt Zuniga was here… that’s all I can really say. His “cock” graffiti showed up in all sorts of places in the Hog Heaven years…on drumheads, tape boxes, the assigned graffiti wall, and more.
In May 2000, just across town from Hog Heaven, Mike Keneally was cutting his Dancing record at Signature Sound. Keyboardist Marc Ziegenhagen flew in for a couple weeks to do the Keneally album. I had a minor role in that project, and that had to do with me gathering and moving some keyboards that he used to make the record. It was an odd thing, because none of the keyboards were actually mine. For one, the Rhodes piano here is not mine (though a few months later I got a comparable one). No, this particular piano belonged to a certain Ron Sada who was a slightly eccentric guitar player in town. Since he didn’t have much use for the keyboard, he let me have it for a while. Then on the sly, I sublet it out to Marc for a week or so. I also provided Marc a keyboard of Bob Tedde’s that I had been using. This one was okay with Bob. In exchange for getting these things together for him, between sessions at Signature, Marc played on a couple tracks bound for Receiving, and ended up on the epic track Zehdihm’s Flight. On both Dancing and Receiving, Marc used his classic MiniMoog synthesizer and Ron Sada’s Rhodes. It was a gamble of time that paid off nicely for me. I had asked Marc to play here back in March or so, and it took over a month to get it done, which in the creative streak that was Receiving, that was a long time to shelf a track that had already been played in two distinctly different ways and was now on its third incarnation, one of which was left on the virtual cutting room floor, even though Mike Keneally himself had played on it. So I was getting impatient with Zehdihm’s Flight. But it turned out really good at last, reflecting a good while of refinement.
The Spector five string bass off to the left was one that got a decent few tracks in on Receiving. Local bassist Rick Nash indulged me with it for a few months in early 2000 before I jumped for the Fender Jazz. On one track I played identical bass parts using each instrument to create a fretless effect, well before I ever got the balls to try playing fretless, or even owning one!
In 2000, I found myself in a growing burnout after the busy-ness that was 1999. By the summer time in 2000, I was jamming with Brandon Arnieri (next to me) and Mike Thaxton (right side) on something like a weekly basis. Mike came down from Orange County to do this. Now the thing was that Brandon was a guitar player. So we put him on bass. And I had pretty much completed my CD and was a little more ready to jam on bass, but I used a guitar. And Mike. Well, he played CDs and mp3s best. So he got the drum chair. We were looking for some quintessential rock band gimmick to have fun with so we named each other according to this formula: first name is an Old Testament name, and the last name is the name of a famous rock drummer. That made me Leviticus Mitchell, Brandon into Ezekiel Bonham, and Thax into Ham Rockett (he didn’t mind the phallic reference). Thax’s friend Steve Young occasionally played sax with us so we gave him the name Deutoronomy Carr. I know we threw out some other names for other honorary MagMeaters, but they escape me now. I shall improvise some to illustrate the point further: Nebuchadnezzar Bozzio; Solomon Peart; Shem Bruford…
Actually, the Magnificent Meatsticks were a way to just hang out, but we did some great rude recordings which you can find on the music page. On this particular occasion, we had a guest from Finland named Jukka Pieterinen. Jukka had come in to see the Mike Keneally show called the Nonkerstock, which was a fan-funded show. Jukka was one of the foreigners who appeared in town to that show. Another fellow, Gary Cox, also came by, as did another couple Keneally fans. We had this nightmarishly horrendous jam (by design) that featured all sorts of people overdubbing whatever they did over whatever the last dude did. There is a recording of that somewhere, I’m afraid. Let me apologize for this expression on my face. Hell, let me apologize for this whole damned picture.
Anyhow, this picture also illustrates a few things the others won’t. The small size of the studio meant that hardly anything touched the floor if it didn’t do multiple jobs. Most of the cabling for inputs and headphones ran along the beam near the ceiling. The devil horns above Brandon’s head are actually overhead mics for the drums. By this time, I had a few snare drums, and put them on a rack that made them easy to get. I had no secure spaces outside the studio walls, so if I didn’t want to risk losing something, it had to stay inside.
The Magnificent Meatsticks did rock and roll right. We weren’t content to just play badly. We had to destroy the drum kit too in a way that would put Keith Moon to shame! The MagMeat was sort of like a modern version of Rhythmic Catharsis for me, and a day like this one is probably the most clear example of that. Rebecca Vaughan of Loaf had given me a beat up old drum kit that I thought maybe would be fun for doing some real trashy recording or something. I didn’t really anticipate actually trashing it for real. But the MagMeat were an “in the moment” force of nature fueled by Santana’s (aka Satan’s) California burritos and Stone India Pale Ale (or Arrogant Bastard Ale). After utterly molesting my Carvin guitar in what comparison was a tame bit of music making, the next thing to do was to take out a little stress on these drums. In addition, the entire bunch of lockers that lined one wall of the carport outside the studio door were fair game. In fact, the drums were on the top shelf, and with nowhere to put the drums, why keep them at all? So we put a mic up and recorded the whole affair, heaving drums up into the air so they would crash to the concrete or asphalt! Then we took an axe, a sledgehammer, and a mic stand with a big base and pummeled the things to an even more dead state! We ended up losing the head to the hammer and the base to the stand. Then it was time for a photo. I can’t even remember what I had to do with the mess.
Meet the Strat, c. late 2000. Even this picture is an early one, sort of. The Strat has gone through so many changes that it literally is not the same guitar as when I got it from my girlfriend in 1995. By this time, it had been stripped and repainted with new pickups installed. Now, the weird thing is how I have a humbucker in the middle position. Don’t ask. I was new at all the guitar tone stuff. But this is from late 2000, so it means that everything on Receiving would have had that goofy configuration. And there are some great Strat tones on there… heh. This is also before the neck itself got replaced with an all maple neck for a bit more top end (a further attempt to emulate MK’s Clapton Strat). And the pickguard here is so influenced by Mike Keneally its not even funny. He actually played this guitar on Nonkertompf…Hum has this guitar somewhere in the background. MK also played it on stage once when I brought it to him to use. He said it was sort of like an SG meets Strat. I still have this Strat as my only electric 6 string.
This was the day when I did goofy pictures with guitars partially eclipsing my face. Early in 2000, on the advice of Bad Jesus (Mike McMahon), I bought this Fender Jazz bass. I traded in the blue Ibanez because somehow I didn’t understand that I could afford this $400 Fender and keep the other bass too! Or what I think was really at work was that I was tired of all the fiddly controls on the Ibanez, and based on Mike’s urging, decided to forgo all that in favor of the straight and universally appealing Fender tone. I later replaced the pickups with some from a local maker, Aero Instrument. My retention of this bass for the nearly eight years I’ve had it has proven Bad Jesus right. I’ve owned many basses in the years since I bought this one, but have settled only on one other–a Music Man–to be my primary instruments. All the others have been unique enough to not be versatile. Except for maybe the fretless Warwick which I could never hope to master anyway, and which I let go of in a low point of musical activity after years of enjoying it a great deal but never getting to really use it.
A bit less goofy… Note the color-coordinated strap on the guitar. It matches the sparkly pickguard. This was definitely in the Keneally era. Though you might also say it was still during the Tool era…
This is a silly illustration of how my collection had developed. This was taken in July 2001, shortly after the $10,000 trip to Guitar Center, and another one or two which were smaller in total, but kept the spending spree going. New to the collection was the Warwick fretless bass, the Geddy Lee Jazz bass (which got exchanged a few weeks later for a P/J bass which itself didn’t last too long and was traded to Todd Larowe for the Varidrive pedal and some cash), the Paiste ride cymbal, the Handsonic percussion pad, and the Pearl snare drum. Not so clear is that the 5 string Fender bass and the Carvin guitar had their pickups replaced. But by far the biggest additions were the things you don’t see in this picture: a full Ampeg bass rig, a VS-2480 recorder, a KORG Triton synthesizer/sampler/sequencer, monitors, some mics, more rack processors, a Mackie 1604… and the list went on and on.
Here is a regular day in the life of the room after about two or three years of inhabiting the space and constantly making it smaller by buying and borrowing more stuff. Remember, the place is less than eleven feet in both dimensions. Extremely rare were the times that I used any floor stands. I had claws to hold mics on drums which themselves were almost always on the Pearl rack, and rigged half stands to hang from the ceiling for overhead mics, or just a vocal mic that would be isolated from the floor. The guitar amp usually sat on top of the baffle if I had no reason to really need to bury it. That helped enliven the high gain settings I favored in those days, hovering near feedback (which I would start by touching the headstock to the cabinet between the speakers). As a place for one guy to work it was fantastic for me to be able to spin around and jump from one station to another, but whenever more than me and another person were in there, with the door closed, it was quite an ordeal. And eventually (particularly after the giant shopping spree of 2001), it got to be too much, so it was time to come up with a new plan…
The turn of the millennium (properly counted from 2001 onward) was an interesting period in the history of Hog Heaven Studio. While the music for Receiving was actually finished in September 2000, the CD was not actually finished and delivered for a year after that while I dealt with some nasty life situations and tried to get on with my life. In the mean time, I went to school for digital arts and stuff, which led to me doing all this website stuff in the first place. The year between the end of recording for Receiving and its completion had a big change in the way I did music, and that started me off on an endless attempt to get the studio environment to meet that need. And, in a bittersweet exchange, the death of my grandmother also led to an inheritance which promptly got spent on an amazing amount of gear which now has largely been parted with after a slow realization that I bit off way more than I planned to chew.
The musical shift was in part due to my growing confidence to actually play an instrument in a band again, after the five years of solo tinkering had let me get some creative ya-yahs out. After completing Receiving, I reflected on the fact that I played all the bass parts on that CD and that maybe my first band efforts should be made with me on bass. So, in late 2000, that started to happen as Brandon and Todd and I played some things with Ryan, a drummer friend of Brandon’s. It was quite interesting hosting a quartet in the tiny room that started me off. There had been other instances when a few of us would play together, but the future of Hog Heaven pretty much relied on live interaction, and attempts to retain the clean sounds I got from the years of multitracking and overdubbing.
In the morning hours of the first of January, 2002 I started to poke around on a riff that turned into Return to Zero. Whit Harrington (center) and Dom Piscopo (right) were the first play it a couple weeks later. Dom and Whit were on the scene for a few months in early 2002, with Todd playing as well when his schedule allowed. I played bass exclusively in this combo, though few of my ideas came from my guitar dabblings. Whit was far more of a straight ahead rock player than Ryan, and Dom was also into more of a garage/experimental rock thing than I was used to but we could all agree on ripping off a few King Crimsonesque moves. Part of what pushed me into the idea of splitting the studio was that Dom showed up with his amp and a few guitars, and a dizzying array of pedals, and a guitar synth too! I had pretty much backed off my bass configuration to having enough to grind with. I used the Fender 5 string primarily because it could get dirty. In the end, we have two tracks that we played in pretty successfully and got reasonable recordings of: Return to Zero and All Things Frippy. It is a shame that Todd is not on these recordings because I remember some of the stuff we did as a two guitar quartet was quite exciting. For a very short while, we hooked up with a certain Jeremy Robinson who took Todd’s place once Todd’s perennially demanding schedule took him from us. Jeremy was a good substitute for Todd as a player who could play fantastic things and generally make sense of odd ideas, but was not really into the garage band activity. Don’t forget his name though; he appears a couple more times.
In summer of 2002, I experimented with moving certain things into the neighboring room where my grandmother once lived. The new idea was to accomplish two things: create a rehearsal room in the old more-or-less soundproofed room, and to make it so that the control area was ready to be more useful in that function alone. The onslaught of gear from the previous year made the studio more attractive as a place for people to take a tad more seriously. What it now had was a far more comfortable place to record and monitor.
Loaf came back in mid-2002 to help me try out some of these new studio ideas in the early transitional period. By this third session at Hog Heaven, they had a new keyboardist who was far better suited to them than the last guy who I ended up filling in for on the first recordings. I was able to get a good natural sound from them, with the entire band and a guide vocal done in one take. The guitars were in the large room, each with a baffle of some sort (one amp got the sofa turned on its edge), and Rebecca’s percussion and lead vocal which was kept for the final mix. The drums were in the old room, with bass and keys played there and being fed directly to the recorder. I was in there too; this last Loaf session was the thing that made it clear I needed to get the drums and control area separated. Afterwards, a bit of Rhodes piano was added, and true to form, the entire rhythm guitar part of one song was ditched to make way for some additional stuff that I did, and even more stuff that Jeremy Robinson did in the name of juicing up harmonies. I also added some small percussion; the only time I was credited as playing “sandpaper.” Better Half.
The original switchover configuration was centered around a VS 2480 for a few months. I had that machine for about a year and a couple months but really didn’t like it, and eventually got rid of it in favor of a Pro Tools LE/Digi001 rig on my computer. I had long dreaded the idea of recording music on my computer, but the 2480 drove me mad for a number of reasons, and I happen to be at least one of the first people, if not the first, to find a nasty preamp distortion issue that later on became a scandal in the 2480 users community. Anyhow, I started using Pro Tools to record the various endless jams that were happening at that time. Not a lot of them turned up much of anything worth hearing, so it didn’t really matter what machine I used.
In this picture, taken a bit after the changeover, you can see the far more reasonable layout of things. There are all my guitars and basses in one convenient place: the Fender acoustic; the Warwick fretless; the Fender 5 string Jazz; the Brawley 5 string; the Carvin; the Strat. The Rhodes piano was with me at this point for about two years. I got it in time to do the last song on Receiving, though as said in the first page, Ron Sada’s piano is on a track, and a couple other places use a Wurlitzer or an Alesis QS7 to do the other electric piano sounds. Also seen here is my first “real” set of monitors–Mackie 824s, which I had long lusted after but had always turned down in favor of another instrument or processor or whatever. The Mac is here running Pro Tools LE. The rack has a slightly scaled back version of the full 2001 shopping spree configuration. There is an ART compressor; Presonus 8 channel compressor; MPX 1; Mackie 1604; two ART Pro Channels with preamp/compressor/EQ stuff (which kicked ass on bass and Rhodes); Presonus VXP vocal channel; Digi001 interface; headphone amp; VS880 sitting atop the Panasonic DAT recorder. On the table, there is some consumer shit on the left but the keyboard is the KORG Triton sitting just in front of the Dual Recto amp.
This illustrates the amp wall which existed in the old room after the control center left to nicer quarters. The bass rig is on the lower left, though I tended to favor having the funky homemade cabinet on top of the 4×10 because of the growl the whole system gives. The Blues Jr. went between rooms at various times. It was easy to keep in the control room because it was small and could be baffled easily, and run close to full out that way. Sometimes, I ran it with the extension cabinet in the lower right. But usually, the idea was to run that off the Dual Rectifier as an iso cabinet. When using it this way, I’d just swap out the speaker jacks to go from “rehearsal” with the combo speakers to “live recording” where the amp would feed the extension that is miced and baffled. Various times and needs put the Dual Recto in control room or loud room. For shit and giggles, I would put both cabinets on at once for some extra balls, or to spread the sound around the room a bit more.
The bass rig is pretty straightforward. By 2002 or so, approaching things as a performer and not as a guy who makes recordings, I found that I liked a slightly dirty tone with passive pickups. So the midrange had to be there. The Ampeg cabinet alone was sort of smooth, but the Phil Cole cabinet (which is actually cut as a floor wedge) adds a certain kick. I have no idea what it is loaded with, or if it survived its tenure during the onslaught of the Magnificent Meatsticks. But it works for me. The taller rig also places the audible midrange frequencies a bit closer to my head, and I liked it for that reason too. The head itself is an SVT3 Pro. It has some nice options that make it work for me both in live and recording settings, and with various basses. Occasionally, I would front the amp with an octaver, chorus, or some distortion, but most of that was confined to some stuff in the Magmeat era or during the November 2000 TAPKAE Quartet period.
All the period from the late part of 2000 was a more or less continuous time of change in gear and personnel. One of the longer lasting combos that congregated here was Brandon Arnieri and Paul Horn. In September of 2002, Paul came in to play drums on a session for his friend George Farres, who himself was a friend of Loaf’s (they rented his rehearsal room for years). After the session with George, Paul was sufficiently pleased with the overall vibe that he could be talked into playing some stuff that Brandon and I were hacking away at. So we met several times in the months to follow, in part because each of them lived less than a mile from me in different directions. Usually I was on bass, and Brandon on guitar, but occasionally we changed up. I always thought that Paul was too hyped for what we were doing, and took it as a chance to blow off steam. As a result, I never really liked anything we ever recorded but the jamming was always interesting and demanding. Brandon and I had our differences and went our ways for a while, but Paul remained dedicated to seeing me develop. Eventually, he and I did cut a track that delights me still, Race to Judge.
Oh…there also happened to be the somewhat unnerving fact that Paul is indeed brother in law to the late, great Jaco Pastorius. And what instrument should I presume to know anything about playing in his presence? Bass! Nonetheless, Paul has always been gracious and has become a good friend and supporter, even if only about five minutes of finished material has ever come of our playing together.
The big room clearly afforded more space to put stuff without so much overlap. For once, the guitars made a nice line along one wall. Left to right: the Carvin with all the odd pickup switching combinations and Floyd Rose; the Strat, revamped with a maple neck and chrome pickguard; the Warwick fretless bass; the Brawley 5 string bass (that had a short run with me till I got the Music Man, then took it back then got a MM ripoff then took it back finally to get the Music Man that I had earlier. I still have it at least); then the Fender acoustic. Missing is the Fender Jazz that is the staple around here.
In 2003 after a critical depressive time which led me to shut the door on Hog Heaven for a few months, I dared try my hand at recording again, and in doing so, gave up on band related activity. The problem was, having the big room was nice when I needed more control room space or drum isolation but it was no good for solo artist work, jumping from one station to another. Drums were in the other room but that walk was through several more rooms and to the outside. So, to suit my need for a computer indoors and the desire to record to ProTools from the smaller older room, I used the mousehole I cut between rooms and ran an extra mouse, keyboard, and monitor cable through and had dual controls on one computer. In this picture there is the 880 looking for a place to play alongside the Mac. There never really has been a reason to link them in any way except a hypothetical connection to bounce old 880 material to PT or other Mac applications. Still, this setup, both with the computer able to record from the small room, and the instrumental reorganization, was a good shakeup.
In this picture is a small rack of front end processing for ProTools: 8 channel Presounus preamps, 8 channel Presonus compressor/gates, Digi001 interface, Motor Mix MIDI mix surface, etc. Sitting idle is the VS-880, feeling like a dissed girlfriend, no doubt. The basses include my Fender 5 string Jazz and a new (but the second one I bought, this time with the intention to keep) Music Man SUB bass which was the tone all over the CheekeyMonkeyFunkers stuff. The semihollow guitar with its back turned to us is an Epiphone Dot, a guitar I liked a lot, and a nice counter to the Strat, but one that, due to cheap Korean manufacturing practices, had a bridge that was just out of place enough to not be able to intonate it right. I sold it after a few months, even after having installed and removed some nice Seymour Duncan pickups, and then months later, the party that bought it from me wrote to me and had a Craigslist ad saying it was stolen and did I have any serial number info for it.
Here is the last prominent setup in the old room before it got demolished. Yes, demolished. This is when the shit started to hit the fan at home and Hog Heaven was one of the first casualties. This is the room as Glenn and I used it in early 2005; the CheekyMonkeyFunkers stuff was originally being done with guitar and drums. We enjoyed playing full tilt rocking levels but to record, I had to use my carpeted baffle with mounds of blankets and some couch cushions over it to isolate the drums from the guitar, and vice versa.
Okay… this next part hurts, so cover your eyes…
From the earliest days of Hog Heaven’s design and planning (such as it was), I was always told that any space I got to use at my grandparents’ house was provisional and revocable upon their deaths. The thing was, my grandmother didn’t say this. My old man did. He always had designs on the house and plans for how to use it to his advantage when one of his parents was left. What he didn’t plan for was that I would be living there already for nearly three years before the second of his parents died. I think this threw off his plans.
But literally three days after his mother died, he came over and began to enclose the carport where Hog Heaven was situated. HHS was a nook of space that was bisected by what used to be the front wall of the garage where the door would be. When I talk about the “big” room of HHS (2002-2003, 2005 mainly), I am talking about the garage space that was converted a long time ago. But the smaller HHS, the main space I used, was half in the boundary of the garage, and half out, with the outer half being an add-on decades before, and being extended with a carport. This smaller space was further cut down to separate my activities from a laundry space. The beam that is wrapped in carpet on the studio side is the old front of the garage, and the point to which all these mods had to be taken down. The yellow front fascia is about 6′ from that point.
Legally, we came to find that the extension was not legal, but that no one seemed to notice for all the time when it was in the family. My old man found out that it was illegal when he was looking to offload the house with me unawares. So, we had his illegal carport-to-garage conversion heaped upon a prior illegal extension. When the city got on his ass as part of my calling them about his illegal work, he not only had to answer to the carport job at HHS, but the prior extension, AND a comparable bit of lame work he did on the back patio. And, if that wasn’t enough, he got popped in a similar way for his own house having a bunch of illegal sheds and a place that was used as a room. So he was looking to offload this house to cut his losses, and to make a point about my meddling, not to mention some bad family politics and skeletons in the closet. So he pulled the plug on HHS, and in April 2005, with Glenn and I enjoying a creative streak for a couple months, Hog Heaven was cleared out and set into the remodeled version of the big room.
This is what Hog Heaven looks like with no wall to the street.
The graffiti wall above the door. Outside of that is the legal carport with a remnant of his illegal work, a bit of fascia seen here in the lower left/front of his version of the garage. The large yellow beam was the foundation for a wall he built and had to remove. In effect, he not only had to remove his own work, he had to remove the extension that was there for decades, probably before his parents got the house.
Now, before I knew that all that was going to result in an eviction by a property management company my old man hired, I took the time to set up the new Hog Heaven in the remodeled (not dressed in blue painted wainscoting and bare linoleum floor) room where Kelli and I kept our office spaces. Things got odd at the house when my old man didn’t seem to push me to rent a room that went vacant. He didn’t seem to mind when we just put Kelli’s office in that room. So I got the biggest room for a nice, luxurious space to play. Glenn and I cut a few hours of stuff in there, and then it was doom all over again. This time the house was not going to be ours anymore.
For the first time, I had enough space to actually experiment with mic placement. This was the first time I ever tried to make “spaced pair” work on drums. I didn’t really like it, but I liked actually having room to walk around and get things situated with form and function in mind. The guitar wall returned, this time on the opposite wall.The control area was in the same space as before, but this time the luxury of having the drums in there was splendid. The Rhodes piano is blocked by the right most cymbal in this picture, but that too was nice to have in a good place, within reach of the recording gear. You can’t see the walls here that were painted in a deep green and another that was a dark lavender. Nor does the french door appear here, but this room, post remodel, was quite nice. The surprise to me (especially after toiling in the small room) was that this room held sound damn well. My god, if I knew that, I would have set up there years before! It also helps that the remodel project of early 2004 included laying sheetrock over all the walls, and insulating a couple places where there was none, and then installing cabinets on one of the outer walls.
One of the last pictures of me in a happy state at that house. After this, it was hell.
As Mike McMahon said, “I’ve spent some of the most meaningful and fulfilling moments in my life at Hog Heaven.” All hogs go to heaven, I hope.