Classic Tracks: Mudhoney "Touch Me I'm Sick"

Nov 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Sarah Benzuly


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Jack Endino has been in the press an awful lot in the past few months. With the 20th-anniversary celebration of Nirvana’s Nevermind, everyone wants to find out just how he recorded their debut album, Bleach. But before he handled that project, Endino was jump-starting his producing career with EPs for Soundgarden, Green River and Mudhoney, whose debut single, “Touch Me I’m Sick,” gets this month’s “Classic Tracks” treatment. Interestingly, this song was a case of both artist and producer beginning their careers and putting out a piece of work that would not only put them on the map, but would also fire the powder keg that became known as “Seattle grunge.”


"Touch Me I'm Sick" MP3

Tracking for “Touch Me I’m Sick” took place at Reciprocal Recording (Seattle), which Chris Hanzsek and Endino opened in 1986. Endino describes the space: “The control room, triangular, was at the narrowest corner of the building, with an entry door right behind the console chair. At the other two points of the triangle were the load-in door and the bathroom, with one small iso room in front of the bathroom. The bathroom had the building’s only window. There were some baseboard heaters, but no A/C or ventilation. In the summer, we would leave the door open at the back of the control room with a floor fan in the doorway. Every time a big truck went by outside, you’d get a dose of exhaust.

“The control room was really tiny, we had terrible monitors and the acoustics of the whole studio were completely dead,” Endino continues. “It was a horrible place to record, but since it was the only studio we knew at the time, Chris and I didn’t realize it! The totally dead acoustics worked to my advantage with bands that liked to record live, like Mudhoney. The room was big and dead enough that you could have a super-loud band all play together, nose-to-nose, but if you close-miked everything, used gobos and were really careful of where the amps and the mics were pointing, the bleed was negligible. Not being isolated from each other, the bands felt like they were still in their rehearsal room.”

The tonality of the room helped in creating that “grunge” atmosphere, especially for a band like Mudhoney, with whom Endino had previously worked, albeit individually: with vocalist Mark Arm in his former band, Green River; with Arm and guitarist Steve Turner in The Thrown-Ups; and with drummer Dan Peters in Bundle of Hiss.

Inside Reciprocal, the band gathered to work on their “Touch Me” demo. Playing “together” live, Endino set up the drums on a small riser at one end of the room, the bass in the iso room in front of the bathroom and guitar amps at the other end of the room from the drums, pointing away, “with gobos also isolating them a bit more,” Endino says. “I tried to minimize bleed with careful placement of mics and instruments because the bleed in that room—what there was of it—wasn’t too sonically useful.” On the placement of the bassist, Endino says, “I hated DI bass, and to this day I rarely use it in a mix. I prefer the sound of a 15- or an 18-inch speaker, close-miked, driven hard with a burly tube amp.”

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