In early 2001, I wrapped up construction on the expansion to our first studio, The Ether Lounge. The studio encompassed the full basement of our Jonesboro, GA home and we had just closed in the attached garage to use as a tracking room. Blake came to me just as I wrapped up construction to discuss making his first solo record. We ended up recording it spurts throughout 2001.
We tracked using the analog/digital hybrid method I had developed over the years. I simultaneously recorded live through multiple wide format tape machines directly from the repro heads into ProTools. Each machine was set up for a different tape formulation. My Ampex 1/2″ 440B 4-track was set up with BASF 911, a +6 tape with similar characteristic to the famous old Scotch 250. The other machine, an Ampex 1/4″ 440(A) 2-track, was set to use Quantegy 456. Both machines were using CCIR/IEC1 equalization, providing greater headroom in the low frequencies with a more gradual roll off in the highs as compared to IEC2.
The 911 tape was always a favorite of mine for drums, bass and pretty much general purpose recording. For these sessions, I was primarily tracking Blake’s acoustic and vocal live while also augmenting with some ambient mics to capture the room. Often it would be a Blumlein pair of Shure 300 Ribbons for a stereo ambient pair. The vocals were mostly tracked with an early MXL V77 tube mic (sounded great while it held up… not much longevity on those suckers). I likely used a Shure SM7 on a few of the more volatile vocal tracks. I think all the acoustic parts were with a Shure SM-81.
The cool thing about 456 tape is that, when the signal is absolutely slammed into it, it exhibits this really gritty brick-wall compression, but without dulling the overall tone. I use the heck out of this for electric guitars… basically stealing Roy Thomas Baker’s trick he used on the Queen and Cars records. There weren’t a ton of electric guitars on Blake’s record though, so I used this machine to get a distinctly hard percussion sound using unconventional instruments. For the self-titled opening track, “Appetizer Sickness”, I slammed the foot pedals on an old spinet piano while miking the strings and overloading the tape.
To fill out the tracks, we recorded several groups of musicians in live overdub sessions. Diana Obscura (of Lynda Stipe’s Oh OK) and her friend Carol were our string duo. Drew and Terri of No River City came in on accordion and cello. And, our friend Lisa Hayes and her coherts from the Atlanta Scared Chorale knocked out the gospel vocals on the final track.
From Blake’s Press Bio:
A drink from a broken glass. A howl for your sweetie. A starry still life staggering with the moon. Daydream fields. A hat for a scarf. Funeral walks and sleeping trees. A boy with a thorn from the head of our savior. Feelings go south. A bottle of whiskey and me on the other side.
The songs of Blake Rainey are haunted; God, ghosts, dreams, and the natural scene all play a major role in Appetizer Sickness, Rainey’s debut solo album. The tunes on Appetizer Sickness are marked by the outcast characters embedded within the remnants of an old world: mill homes and broken sidewalks, bridges abandoned and burned factories all rot along with their inhabitants searching for truth under moon and lamp lit scenery. They struggle each with their own sense of desires and purpose, yet never able to completely lose all hope, transcending in the end with surreal celebration.
Rainey grew up near Esom Hill and the Alabama border in Cedartown, Georgia, some 70 years after Sterling Holloway was born there. Though he currently resides in Atlanta, the rustic roots of a rural town forgotten by time are still at the core of Rainey’s music.
As Rainey is now hard at work promoting his new solo release, he carries on a parallel universe as the frontman of the loud rock band The Young Antiques. The ‘Tiques’ most recent release, 2003′s Clockworker, was also released by Two Sheds. The ‘Tiques’ post-punk blare and energy sharply contrast the muted introspection of Appetizer Sickness, yet the literary overtones are ties that bind.
Guest musicians include:
- Jimmy Ether – guitars, percussion, piano
- Faith Kleppinger – vocals
- Diana Obscura – cello
- Carol Statella – viola
- Judson Henry – vocals
- Drew de Man (of No River City) – accordion
- Terri Onstad (of No River City) – cello
- Pam Burton – vocals
- Sarah Ruska – vocals
- Lisa Hayes – vocals
- Laurie Beck – vocals