For many years loyal readers have asked us to interview Brendan Benson, an artist who has tracked his records in a variety of settings, from full-blown studios to home setups. In 2005, Brendan became a member, along with pal Jack White III, of The Raconteurs and their two albums achieved a nice degree of success. But Brendan's solo albums are truly special as well, with clever songwriting and full, interesting arrangements. I met up with Brendan before a show of his in Phoenix, Arizona.

You first popped up on the radar with your One Mississippi record in 1996. Did that start as sessions with you and Jason Falkner [Tape Op #35]?

Yeah.

What was going on before that with you?

I played in a couple bands in high school - mainly punk and hardcore. I think we came up with enough money to go into a real studio and record a couple of songs. Those bands kind of fizzled. I was left with just an acoustic guitar, so I started writing. I can't remember what I was listening to at the time, all I know is that it wasn't punk anymore. The acoustic guitar was dictating to me how to sing. I met a girl and moved to California. Her roommate started dating Jason; we literally met sitting on opposite ends of the couch at her apartment. I had this cassette tape that I carried around with all the things I'd recorded, but I don't think I played him any of my stuff then. He was in Jellyfish at the time and I think he was shocked to even learn that I played guitar. He turned me onto some cool stuff, like The Zombies and Todd Rundgren. I broke up with the girl, moved back home [to Detroit] and met another girl. This time I moved to San Francisco. Jason and I kept in touch. I gave him a call and told him I wanted to see him and he invited me down to L.A. This time I had a cassette tape and I gave it to him. A week later he called me up and said, "Dude, this is cool stuff. Let's do some arrangements and fill it out some more." I was so happy. We holed up in his apartment, drank a ton of coffee and started recording.

He's always buzzing with energy!

He brought out the 4-track - a Tascam Porta One or Two. We recorded six songs like that. Then I gave it to some friends who knew people at record labels. I got signed amidst a bidding war with Virgin, Columbia and Atlantic. I hadn't even played these songs live!

That was a different time for the music industry.

Yeah, money flying back and forth and they were signing everybody!

I heard that they rejected the first version of the record. Is that true?

I kind of did, more so than the record label. I don't know that "rejected" is the right word. I was insistent that Jason was going to produce the record, because it made sense. We went down to [Daniel Lanois'] Kingsway [in New Orleans] to do it and we spent a ton of money. It just turned out to sound more like Jason than it did me. I didn't know what my sound was then and he was a league above me. At the time I just didn't have the confidence to express what I needed from my album. All I knew was that I couldn't play it. He'd done some guitar parts on the album that I didn't even think I could replicate on stage! [laughter] I didn't know the chords! He was really upset about that, and rightfully so - he worked hard on it. But I couldn't let it come out because it didn't represent me.

Was it pretty amazing working at Kingsway?

It was so cool! That was such an experience. It was just a big old house and they did nothing to soundproof it or anything. They put the console in a spot that worked and that's where it stayed! There were drums set up in the sunroom with French doors. How in the hell did they make that sound good? Daniel Lanois was there for some of it and he was elusive - he would vanish up into his room. We got up the nerve to ask him if he would produce a track. He was so stoked to do it. Man, that was the weirdest experience. It sounded nothing like the other stuff! Jason and I were looking at each other thinking, "Oh, my god. I'm not going to say anything! Let's just finish this." [laughter] It kind of turned into a homoerotic vibe - it was real sexy! The way he was coaching me on vocals, "More breath." He's intense! At one point he played bass on a song. He was sitting at the console playing and I heard something I thought was so cool. I went over and tapped him on the shoulder. He looked up at me and there was a string of drool - he was just in another dimension and I totally startled him!

You later worked with ...

 

The rest of this article is only available to our subscribers!

Tape Op is a free magazine devoted exclusively to recording music.

Read It Digital!

Log in or subscribe to purchase download and/or viewing access for this and all our issues.

Buy Tape Op magazine!
 

Current and back issues of Tape Op can be ordered online through our distributor, Hal Leonard.

Buy Tape Op magazine!
 

We've been publishing articles about creative music recording since 1996. Check out all of our issues here.

 
 More Interviews 
Peter Nyboer · Nov. 15, 2004
I first met Xopher Davidson in the late nineties at the Bloody Angle Compound studio, located in a corner of San Francisco that feels like nowhere. It is, literally, where the sidewalk ends, and, like...
Donald Bell · May 15, 2001
If I told you Matmos made audio cut-up, experimental, electronic music that closely parallels conceptual art, you'd probably write them off as some snobby, avant garde, artsy-fartsy, black turtleneck...
Pam Nicholas · Nov. 15, 2002
I was driving along a sunny strip of highway in the middle of nowhere, fighting off road trip hypnosis and the potential disaster that goes with it, when the mix tape supplied by a friend suddenly...
Kevin Jones · Jan. 15, 2007
Unlike other musicians, Jamie Laboz doesn't need to be in the spotlight. It's not like he hasn't had the opportunity to be in the public eye - in the early '90s, his "post-industrial hardcore" band...

Zea

Larry Crane · March 15, 2006
Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities in the world - plus some great music comes from there, like The Ex and Solex. While visiting there a while back, I asked Elisabeth of Solex who was doing...
Larry Crane · May 15, 2002
In the intro for the Tape Op book you mention how you used to battle the old analog tape machines to get good sounds. You seem to like both now though.Well, everyone is saying digital is getting...
Larry Crane · March 15, 2002
Jimmy LaValle is a member of San Diego's Tristeza, an instrumental band, who have several fine albums out. He also puts out solo records under the name The Album Leaf, which he records on the cheap in...
Vijith Assar · Nov. 15, 2007
Where do recordists build their studios? Bedrooms? Garages? Basements? Attics? All of the above, of course. The luckiest ones, however, are able to find a dedicated space - and, Lord willing, book...
Monte Vallier · March 15, 2006
Tommy Guerrero may be best known as one of the members of the infamous Bones Brigade skate team from the '80s. A lot less people know that he has been playing music for as long as he's been skating....
  • Start A Discussion

Mon, Nov 24, 2014 - 7:14PM
Get a dialogue going below:
:
:
:
:
: