In 2000, Eric Valentine invited us to come down to his now-former studio just south of San Francisco to listen to some music and talk about maybe making a record together. We arrived at the studio not really knowing what to expect. The place was mysteriously named HOS Recording, which we later found out was an acronym for 'House Of Shit'. Eric answered the door in bare feet and cut-off Ben Davis shorts, with a grin and a genuinely friendly and humble demeanor. He ushered us in and we listened to the Glyn Johns mix of Let It Be, plus the demos we brought along. In contrast to the black-lacquer/oak-veneer/retro- modern posh studio you'd expect of a **Multi-Platinum** producer, HOS was, well, a house of shit — more like a cavernous version of our own rehearsal space than, say, the Record Plant. Every corner was crammed full of rare synths, modified Playskool drum machines, amazing little amps and crazy half-finished science experiments. Suffice to say, we felt right at home.

We spent the next two months and a great deal of major-label cash making a pretty cool record that we're still proud of today. Along the way, we ate a lot of Thai takeout, watched old-school Star Trek and made a few bad jokes at the expense of Third Eye Blind. Good times.

Fast forward to 2004: the major label and its cash have dried up, we own the aforementioned record, but really have very little else to our name except a self-produced EP and a bunch of demos recorded at our little studio/practice space. We send the demos to Eric, who has a sweet new space in Hollywood called (appropriately enough) Barefoot Recording. EV says, "Hey, I really like these songs — I've got this EMI desk from Abbey Road and a Scully tape deck — let's make another record and see what happens." Bear in mind, the band has no record deal, no label, this is just a friend who likes our music and wants to make an album with us. Cool! "Uh, when do we load in?!?"

So, we've spent about three weeks recording the new album. As I sit behind the amazing EMI TG 12345 console peeking over Eric's shoulder and listening to the way he wrangles these great performances out of us, I find myself learning even more this time around than the last. As an engineer and studio geek, I tend to gravitate toward the technical and sometimes lose sight of what's really going on in the studio, of the true reasons we (musicians/engineers/ producers/etc) are in the studio. Clearly, it's the relationships that we form and the friendships we develop that are most important aspects of the music-making and recording process and the sole elements that should define "success". Eric, who is always quick to share his studio savvy and insights, has helped me understand that more than anyone else I've met. Simply put, his shaolin is superior.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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