Producer's Desk: Tucker Martine

Jun 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson



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Wayne Horvitz’s 4 + 1 Ensemble: From a Window (Avant Records, 2002)

I imagine Seattle was a good place to be poor in those days.
It was, and I landed a pretty decent job bartending and I met a lot of folks that way.

What was it about Wayne Horvitz that appealed to you?
Well, I knew Wayne had been a big part of the Downtown Scene and was part of Naked City, which was a project of John Zorn’s, and also Wayne was starting to produce records more. A friend of mine who had a studio in Seattle told me Wayne was going to do a project there, so I offered to be an assistant, which I’d never done—I’d really just recorded people at home, pretty much, on my 4-track and my 8-track. So I was kind of a gofer on that. Wayne and I hit it off and I helped him put together his home studio and then Bill Frisell wanted to record a project there, so I engineered that.

So as you were getting established in Seattle, did the word spread about your skills? And how did you build your first studio?
As soon as I got to Seattle and got that bartending job, I started saving every dollar I could and started buying little pieces. I bought a half-inch Otari MX5050 8-track machine, and I literally had a jar that I was saving money up for buying a Mackie [console]. They had just been announced but weren’t available yet. I was messing around on my own and recording friends, and every once in a while one of them would turn out okay and they’d tell their friends and they’d call me. So I’d buy one more SM57 or a 421.

Each of those people had friends, and I was meeting people going out to shows and what have you, and I was basically working for nothing for a while because I was trying to learn and get experience. I was much more interested in figuring out how to make something great than I was in making money.

What was your studio like?
It was in my house, in my basement. I’ve had a number of basement studios. [Laughs] Eventually I got up the nerve to start asking for $5 an hour, then $7. All these things were happening simultaneously. I got to record things for Bill Frisell, and Wayne Horvitz started a band where he wanted me to do live processing for what was essentially this chamber group of his.

Is that the 4 Plus One ensemble?
Yes. I was the “Plus One.” [Laughs]

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