Kerry Brown. If you know your 90s rock history well, the name will ring a bell. If not, here’s a first clue: he was in a band called Catherine (maybe a Spotify or Video might jolt your memory?).
If not, well, you might now him from his presence in the history of Smashing Pumpkins. Drumming (‘Blew away’!), recording (Zeitgeist, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, G.L.O.W./SuperChrist), producing (Teargarden by Kaleidyscope), mixing (If all goes wrong) and bongo playing, of course!
With his very busy schedule, torn between a label (Starry/Startone Records), a recording studio (Coldwater Studio) and a very active Twitter account (@studiodog), Kerry Brown was kind enough to answer a few questions from our resident grunge-a-holics, Tonan and Sam.
Hi Kerry, thanks very much for answering these questions for us. Tonan and me (Sam) are big fans of your work and we thank you for sparing from your time to answer to our stuff.
1) As a producer, do you prefer working with analogue or digital? Why?
It is case-by-case and song-by-song for me. It all depends on the project and of course there is budget to consider. I recently recorded Damien Youth with David J on bass and Ysanne Spevack playing various strings. The song was captured on a 2 inch 24 track tape machine. There wasn’t much debate if we should record analogue or digital. We all knew that analogue was the right way to document the song. We recorded at 15ips on the same machine that The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was recorded on. The recording sounds very warm and has a definite analogue appearance. The tape hiss and machine compression add to the romantic feel of the song (here’s a cell phone video from the session).
Other projects call for the bells and whistles that come with DAW’s – With all the crazy editing and plug-in special effect wackiness that the digital format affords you can do some cool shit.
2) We’ve asked quite a few artists about albums and quite a few mention that we’re are in an age where albums are not the best choice and singles/EPs is the way to go, what are your thoughts?
I love listening to whole albums but it seems that I don’t have the time anymore to devote to the full listening of albums unless I am on a road trip. With time speeding up and the massive amount of information available via the internet, there is just too much information to digest. In the not so distant future we will have the technology to download albums into our brains and that will change everything.
3) When we listen to a song produced by Kerry Brown we found a main feature: there are several layers of sound, that is, there’s always small new sounds that we’d discover whenever we listen again to a track. Any special reason for such number of details?
Oh, that’s cool. I always love when I discover new sounds in a song that I love. I don’t know why I am drawn to many layers in recorded music, I just am. I guess I love good soundscapes as much as I love good songs.
4) Multitrack (digital or analogue) of each instrument or live recordings with all members in studio, doing all in one take. Which one do you like best and why?
I love recording as many people as possible at the same time. Unfortunately very few bands can really pull it off and there are usually sonic issues to figure out. It also takes a good amount of time to deal with the set up. So most of the time it is just not an option.
5) When writing / producing a song, is there any initial purpose, idea for it, does it flow only? If so, do you think it might have changed when listening to the final output?
When I write usually the idea comes first, I am not a riff guy. A person or situation will pop in my mind, I will think “that’s a song” then record the idea on my phone or make a quick demo. I’m not one who remembers well so, I need to capture the idea when it happens and revisit later. With producing every song is a different experience and approach.
6) What’s the one thing, aspect that inspires you to produce a song? What’s the one thing that unfolds the process?
I don’t know. The only thing I know is when it is right I get goose bumps.
7) You’ve had your experience behind the console and behind instruments. Which one have you enjoyed best?
I love playing drums live. I don’t really love playing drums in the studio. When I’m in the studio I go into geek mode. I really enjoy both, just not at the same time.
8) We’ve read your post about ‘Hit so hard: the life & near death story of Patty Schemel’. How did you get involved in this project? (it sounds like a great project too!)
I have known Patty for a long time, Catherine and Hole toured together in the early 90’s. Patty has always been one of my favourite drummers. When I heard this film was getting made I wanted to help in anyway I could. It is a great film, make sure you see it.
9) On that subject, we’ve noticed the Kickstarter project went ahead of expectations. What’s your thoughts about sites like Kickstarter?
Kickstarter is lifesaver, great company, I wish I would have invented Kickstarter.
10) You’re recently released a limited run of white vinyls for Fancy Space People. What was the general response to this? Do you think the format is getting a resurgence?
I <3 vinyl records. I’m not a huge fan of the CD. There are more people buying vinyl now then the 90’s so I guess that is a resurgence.
11) What’s the plans for 2011 for Starry and Startone Records?
On StarTone Records, Billy and I hope to put out some new recordings of the Electric Prunes and The Strawberry Alarm Clock.
With Starry records we currently have the Fancy Space People EP out. It is super spaceglam opera radness that is scientifically proven to make your life better. You can buy it here (link). I am also trying to put together a compilation of bands that have recorded at my studio. There are 3 others projects in the works that I can’t mention yet.
These questions are a little more about your stuff as a drummer and about Catherine too. Tonan, one of our writers (who helped me out with these questions) is a real fan of yours.
Well, Tonan is cool!
12) A little bit of memory jogging: Hot Saki and Bedtime Stories happens to be one of my favourite albums, what was your main influence in terms of sound for the making of that album? It’s pretty psychedelic.
Late 60’s psychedelic rock through the eyes of Harry Houdini.
13) Classic question: Who are your influences for your drumming?
Clem Burke, Pete Thomas, Patty Schemel, Gina Schock, Don Bolles and Hal Blaine.
14) Many songs produced by you include a rather interesting touch of bongos. Why bongos?
Not many people know this but the Bongo drums represent both the male and female. The larger drum is called in Spanish the hembra (female) and the smaller the macho (male).
We’d like to thank Kerry Brown for his time with this interview. Thank you very much!
Words: Sam J. Valdés López (additional questions by Tonan)
Twitter. Website. Blog. Fancy Space People Bandcamp.
Photographs from Kerry Brown’s Facebook, Kristin Burns (site) and Sarah Morrison (site)
6 thoughts on “Interview – Kerry Brown”
nicely done :) I learned a lot x
Yes! It has changed my view on recording!
Kerrys the man!
What’s with the pentagram?