Sue Garner has been a member of many New York based bands over the years, Fish and Roses, The Shams, and currently, Run On. Generally she can be found playing bass and singing. After all those years in bands, Sue's first solo record, To Run More Smoothly, has finally appeared on the fine Thrill Jockey imprint. Recordings for the album were done in her apartment (which she shares with husband Rick Brown, drummer for Run On and ? of Les Batteries), her band's rehearsal space and at Chris Stamey's Modern Recording in Chapel Hill, NC. Chris used to be a member of the legendary DB's (see the Don Dixon interviews) and was the one responsible for nearly naming Sue's album, Two ADATs and a Microphone. I met up with Sue during her soundcheck in Portland for a swank gig opening for Mark Eitzel and we had a fun chat. By the way, the show was great too.
Had you been working on solo recordings before or did Thrill Jockey approach you with the idea of doing one?
No, I had been working on some stuff and over the last couple of years I had made a 4 track tape that sat around the house for a year and then I made some copies and they sat around the house for about 6 months. Finally I got them out to a couple of places and Bettina (Thrill Jockey owner) said, "Yeah".
I thought Matador would jump on it first....
They didn't. It does help any sort of conflict of interest that might arise.
So did some of the stuff from that 4 track tape appear on the album?
Were these songs that Run On didn't use?
Just songs that didn't really seem to fit the band. Or I'd even brought them in but no one was interested. You don't want to push it.
The album was all done on ADAT, right?
A single ADAT?
I have one but I would get copies made so I could add more tracks. Not that everything has that many tracks to it but that way I could try something else. I made three copies, A, B and C. I would try different things. Sometimes it wasn't til we mixed that I realized if it worked or not because I'd never heard them all together!
Were you tracking everything at home?
I tried. There were 4 or 5 songs that the vocals and basic guitars were done at Chris Stamey's house. Then I did all the other stuff at home. Then, when I was mixing, there were a couple of tracks where I was like, "It'd sound good with this here."
So you did a lot of the work on this record with Chris Stamey?
He has a lot of really good tube compressors, ProTools for editing... he's got the business going down there. It was great working with him.
So he does a lot of commercial work? What's his studio called?
Modern Recording. I highly recommend it. It was a really nice experience working with him. He's a great musician, really tireless and has good ears. That's important. I would be, "That's fine, let's stop." He would say, "Let's get it perfect."
Oh yeah. I know how that goes. So I assume you live in an apartment, especially from that song, "Box and You". Do you record in a corner of the place or something?
We have a room, a recording room, and we have a rehearsal room...
In your apartment?
No! Not in our apartment! For loud guitar and drums I'd go down there. Take my ADAT to the rehearsal room.
What kind of stuff do you use for preamps or a mixer?
I have that one, actually I'm using it as a preamp for my guitar tonight. It's an Art MP. I use that and we have a little Mackie board.
The 1202? Does it have faders or little round knobs instead?
Little round knobs. I use those preamps too. When I just need one preamp I use the Art but if I need more than one I just use the mixer.
What do you listen back to the ADAT on?
The Mackie. I'm always having to re-patch stuff. We're gonna try and get a little bit clearer setup. You know how the ADATs have the Elco cables? Well, I didn't buy them 'cause they were an extra $150. I think I will get those.
I've hardly ever worked with ADATs.
I like my little ADAT. It's like a really souped-up 4 track. It's portable.
Do you ever do that stuff where you can set up punch in points?
Yeah, but I don't do a lot of that. I'll just track the whole thing. I have a hard time with punch-ins anyway. One thing I had was time, so I would tend to do it over.
I used to do that when I was 4 tracking. I you messed up a vocal you just do it all over.
I never did one vocal. One of the tapes was just for vocals and I just sang it...