So many of the people we talk to have had a similar story to tell. You know, they were in a band, built a studio, started recording local artists and made a few records people noticed. The story of Todd Perlmutter might start out in a similar way, drumming in bands in Boston, but somehow he ended up the Creative Director of Music and Sound for Blue Man Productions, Inc., the company behind the worldwide "creative organization" known as the Blue Man Group. BMG is known mostly for their theatrical performances featuring music, comedy and multimedia playback, but the company has also recorded scores for television and film, albums of their own music, DVDs of their shows and even designed a children's museum exhibit. I had visited Todd before at BMG's Third Street warehouse location in New York City, but when I returned for this interview the Music and Sound division had just purchased and moved into the former LoHo Studios space. Eddie and Victor Luke's former studio had a rich history of artists working there, but now the space will be devoted to the work of Blue Man Group. I sat down with Todd in April of 2008, days after they'd moved in and tried to figure out how the heck he ended up with such unusual employment.
When did the idea for a label germinate?
Chris Dyas (from The Lingering Doubts) was working on some music very slowly and he was kinda getting bummed out because members of his band were having kids and he couldn't hold them together. The material he was writing was unbelievable. I saw him play a few times and told him, "This is the best stuff you've ever written."
You'd played with him years ago?
I played with him 20 years ago in Orangutang. He was like, "Yeah, I know. I just can't get anyone motivated" and I said, "I'll come over and help you make your record." We picked a couple of nights a week; I went to his house and then he continued working on it. Sometime after that, I started playing with Greg Garing. My thing is that I always want to have a gig on New Year's. In New York it's really hard to get around that night — you have ten people with you and you can't get a cab. So I will find a gig. I will even put a band together in order to have a gig!
It was already Christmas and a friend of mine said, "What are you doing on New Year's? I've got a gig and we need a drummer." I said, "Send me a song list and let me know." He said, "I don't think so... Just show up." I go to this club and I set up — the bass player's there, there's a horn player and then eventually, right before the set time, the singer [Greg Garing] sits down at the piano, doesn't even look at me, and just starts playing. We do three sets and Greg doesn't even talk to me. Not even a count-off.
Oh my god...
But it was awesome — his voice was great and he could play like crazy. The next week my friend said, "Hey, Greg wants to play with you again." And I said, "Really? Okay." I went and did another thing; this time it was a burlesque show. After three more sets we actually had a conversation. I finally realized it was the same guy that used to have a country show in the East Village ten years ago that I used to go to. So I started doing this show with him twice a month and, after a few months, we decided to finally have a rehearsal.
I had the studio set up for a recording session.
Matt Werden: I was here and it was 4 or 5 p.m. and Todd said, "Hey, what are you doing tonight? I need you to do a recording session." I asked, "What is it?" He said, "I'm not really sure."
See what happens.
We actually had a cool setup — I had the drums in the booth, a mic in the bigger booth and the upright bass player and the sax player out in the main room. I was like, "Let's be ready for anything." Greg showed us a song on the piano, a minute of it. Then he's checking the mic; I've got my headphones on and he counts it off. We start playing and he sings WAY loud. I realize, "I've got two choices: I can either stop and have him start again or I can just roll with it because it sounds awesome." We were going to tape, so I wasn't worried about the level. We'll get something out of it. That vocal ended up his final take and my drum take was the final. We started talking about making a record and I said, "I'll put a label together." He said to me, "I've had a lot of deals go bad and I'll never do a major label deal again, but if you put out my record I'll give you everything I've got." At that point I pushed it along and decided on doing the rest of Chris' record here. It took a while; it was piecemeal, but for Greg's record every first vocal was his final vocal.
Greg's record feels so "live."
There's one, "All About You," where we recorded drums, vocals...