Music: Jim Campilongo

Mar 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Barbara Schultz



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Anton and your engineer, Yohei Goto, told me you were insistent about not using headphones during basic tracking for this album. Tell me your feelings about that.
One thing I really get a little frustrated with is, when I’m recording, the end result is sometimes I will hear from people that, “It’s nothing like seeing you guys live.” And generally with the past couple of records, it did seem that for some reason I didn’t really articulate what I really wanted. We’d get to the studio and it would be a nice room, but sometimes somebody would talk me into putting my amp in another room or using headphones because it’ll track a lot better. But as a musician, it’s not just the Jim show. You don’t want your amp pointed at the drummer’s head and go, “Well, suffer, this makes me sound cool.” But there were always these compromises, and in the end, I just didn’t enjoy it. It was almost like I would have to try to remember what I would play if I was really and truly inspired.

Some of that has to do with the fact that I think I’m more a performer. If there’s people watching and listening and connecting, I feel that energy and that human spirit. I feel inspired when people are listening. But in the studio, it’s almost like you have this conversation with yourself, which can be effective, but sometimes it’s a conversation that’s really negative: “You could do better,” or “That was good, don’t blow it now.” There’s all this dialog you’re having that isn’t just about listening. So I really put my foot down on this record and said, “Look, I want to play some tunes really loud. I really want to be next to the drummer. I want to hear and feel the drummer. I want to have eye contact with everybody, and I don’t want any bleed.” And so Anton, to his credit, really tried, and Yohei really tried to make that happen, and to some degree I think it did.

I just don’t like to wear headphones when I play. I like to hear the overtones and I like to hear the cymbals, and I feel like it’s such a different sound. I can wear headphones if I’m overdubbing or I’m at [someone else’s] session, but when I’m doing my thing… We play live every Monday. We have a residency at The Living Room, and I don’t want to re-create this thing we’ve done at 12:30 at night with a great, sexy audience watching us, and we’re playing, and it feels like we’re all in it together, and then go into a studio at two in the afternoon and put on headphones and try to get the same kind of performance. It’s a tough thing to do.

Yohei also mentioned that you used a different amp from your usual Princeton on one song. What was it, and what did you get from it that you needed to be different from the rest of the album?
We recorded this tune Backburner, the first tune on the record, and during the first series of recording sessions, I felt like we just couldn’t get it. I think it was me. I was screwing it up.

The most amount of takes we had on one song on Orange was “I’ve Got Blisters on my Fingers,” but we did that because it was fun, and each one was different. That particular song, I think we had at least nine of them that were all really good, really open, and all different from the others. There was this Jimi Hendrix record that Alan Douglas put out five or six years ago, and it was all these different versions of “Red House”; the whole record was just one song in different versions. If I ever become a bigger celebrity, then perhaps I would put out a record some day that’s all “I’ve Got Blisters on my Fingers,” because we’ve got nine versions and they’re all pretty good. But I would definitely not want a record of all “Backburner,” because I was messing it up and not getting it.

Anton really wanted it on the record, and sometimes I get—even though I’ve made a lot of records, and I’m no spring chicken and I have a good attitude—I can get a little disillusioned. I said, “Oh, screw ‘Backburner,’” and he said, “We really have to get it.” And I kept listening to what we did, and I thought we really didn’t have one we could use.

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