Capturing Creativity: The Story of ‘Amputechture’ Recording Sessions

Helping engineer The Mars Volta’s “Amputechture” record was an exciting endeavor. In late fall 2005, I received a call from Mars Volta’s management, asking for assistance in giving Jon Debaun long time engineer some time off from the band, as they had just finished coming off a lengthy tour. In December, I met up with Jon in Silverlake at The Paramour Estate, where the band planned to stay and work on their record at their leisure.

Jon and I set up multiple combo amps and cabinets in what used to be the stable house, now transformed into a carpeted living space. Carefully, we mic’d everything up to explore various flavor options and ran all sorts of cables into the makeshift control room. The control room comprised of the mobile protools rig, a rack of high-quality compressors, and atop that rack, a small Neve console. While I’m certain it was not a Neve BCM 10, it certainly resembled a Neve Kelso, boasting exceptional pres for tracking guitars, bass, or any instrument, really.

All of Jon Theodore’s drums appeared to have already been tracked at Sage and Sound. I spent about a week with Omar and Cedric, focusing on angular guitar parts and creating sections for other instruments in the band, and then capturing vocal ideas. I distinctly recall a memorable field trip to the Virgin Record store in Hollywood with Henry Trejo in his Mini Cooper—a delightful journey accompanied by Omar. After some shopping, we returned to Silverlake to wrap up the day’s work.

As New Year’s Eve approached, Omar and the crew arranged an impromptu party with a DJ. It was a fantastic way to conclude the week in the makeshift studio, indulging in tequila and welcoming 2006 with enthusiasm! The Record was Amputechture.

My Time with Stone Sour on Audio Secrecy

It all began with a call from Nick Raskulinecz that set the stage for an unforgettable journey into the heart of music-making. “Hey,” he said, “we’re going to do a new Stone Sour record at Blackbird Studios in Nashville.” The excitement in his voice was evident, and I knew I was about to embark on something special.

Nick was already knee-deep in pre-production with the band when I joined the fray. The decision to rent a sprawling house in Heritage near Mt Juliet for our rehearsal space was a smart move. It provided the perfect backdrop for the band to dive deep into their music, allowing them to explore every nook and cranny of their song ideas. The band and Nick were compiling more options for the label, ensuring they had a solid foundation to build upon.

This would be my first time recording at Blackbird, and Blackbird Studios was a haven for music enthusiasts, thanks to owner John McBride’s impressive collection of vintage gear. Nick and I were like kids in a candy store, raiding the gear locker for treasures like the Neve Racks of 1073’s, Vintage API, Helios, and even my first encounter with the Shadow Hills mic pres. It was a playground of sonic possibilities, and we were determined to make the most of it. Nick was adamant about having U67s on all of Roy Mayorga’s toms!

Our setup in Studio D was nothing short of epic, boasting the largest API Legacy built with a whopping 96 channels. As the band loaded in, we dove headfirst into the intricacies of our setup, ensuring every piece of equipment was in perfect working order.

Taking the luxury of time, we meticulously listened to and experimented with every microphone and preamp combination available. This allowed us to finely tune the guitar and bass sounds in collaboration with Jim Root, Josh Rand, and Shawn Economaki. Each day was a testament to our dedication, filled with long hours of hard work. But more importantly, it was an invaluable opportunity to not only explore all the sonic possibilities but also to deepen our understanding of each band member’s preferences and style.

One moment that stands out vividly in my memory is when Roy Mayorga was tracking drums. In the midst of a particularly intense take, his drumstick slipped from his hand and ended up lodged in the grooves of the room treatment, all the way across from his drum set. We couldn’t help but burst into laughter at the absurdity of it all. We took it as a sign of good fortune and left the stick in place for the rest of the recording, a quirky reminder of the magic that happens when creativity and spontaneity collide.

Amidst the whirlwind of recording sessions, troubleshooting, and late-night backups, I found a true companion in Nathan Yarborough, our dependable assistant. His steadfast support and camaraderie added an extra layer of warmth to our journey. Additionally, a standout presence was Jim Root’s guitar tech, Martin Conner, whose mastery in keeping all guitars in perfect intonation, tuning guitars or basses, and occasional comic relief, made a significant difference.

Working with Stone Sour on “Audio Secrecy” was more than just a job – it was a labor of love, a reuniting with touring mates, and a testament to the power of music to inspire.

Music from the Hole: Crafting Holloys “Nowhere is Now Here”

Once upon a time in the vibrant music scene of Los Angeles, there existed a band called Bluebird, known for their organic sound and amazing live shows. After seven years of playing with the intense energy of Amen, I found myself joining this eclectic group. Bluebird took me on a journey unlike anything I had experienced before – no tour buses, but a van we all took turns driving all over the US.

We traveled the world with our DIY attitude, playing alongside amazing bands and soaking in the diverse musical landscapes. But as life tends to do, our paths eventually diverged, leading me to focus on my time at Sound City.

However, the story of music is one of constant evolution and collaboration. As I ventured into freelance work, my brothers in Bluebird, Jim and Bryan Brown, embarked on a new musical project called Holloys.

The project took shape in a compound nestled in Echo Park, where the Browns had their rehearsal space affectionately dubbed “The Hole.” It was a humble setting, but within those walls, magic was created.

Holloys was Jim’s vision, a project that begged to be fleshed out and brought to life. When they reached out to me for help with the recordings, I couldn’t resist joining them on this musical adventure.

With limited resources but boundless creativity, we pieced together a makeshift recording setup. My trusty editing rig, a powerful Mac Pro, along with a Digi 002 and an Alesis AI3 became our tools for capturing the raw energy of Holloys.

This was a magical time, the lineup consisting of Derek Wood handling synth duties, and the extremely talented late Alvin Deguzman (The Icarus Line) on additional bass. We put a lot of work into this record called “Nowhere is Now Here.” Eventually Jon Gonelli (The Rye Coalition) would send his guitar parts form the UK, the final touches to this amazing record. Jim just recently created a video for “We are Powers,” an exciting visual interpretation of our music.

Jim continues to create, and if you get a chance, check out his new musical venture ‘Coyotes on Peyote’. The spirit of Holloys lives on, forever echoing through the halls of time.

Brand new amazing video from Holloys