Fugazi is probably one of the best rock bands on the planet at this point in time. Really. Their new album, End Hits is one of their best, proving that a band can grow over 10 years without becoming a bloated parody of itself. Part of what makes this a great record is the band becoming more familiar with the studio and the recording process, as they talk about below. Brendan (drums) and Guy (vocals/ guitar) also have been involved in a lot of extracurricular recording activities, many revolving around the Pirate House, which is now being manned by Juan Carrera. Anyway, Dewey and I met up with Brendan and Guy at Portland's Crystal Ballroom before the Need, the Ex and Fugazi blew the roof off the place. Dewey asked the real specific questions regarding records they'd worked on, I talked about gear, and we had a great time.
Larry: So what's the Pirate House?
Well, it's kinda just gone through a transition period right now, but I'll tell you how it started. For 10 years, up until last year, it was the group house that I lived in and about four or five years ago, Fugazi had invested in a SoundCraft board, a reel-to- reel and some mics. Our soundman helped us buy some stuff because we really didn't know what we were getting...
Dewey: It was an 8-track?
Yeah, it was an 8-track. That was original set-up, an 8-track and we had it set up in our practice space. We then kept moving into an impasse so it just kept sitting there not getting a lot of use. I just started offering it up to bands in the neighborhood if they wanted to record, because in D.C., things have kind of changed where there really wasn't a cheap recording facility like Inner Ear was in the early days. Things have gotten more expensive, so for a lot of the young bands that didn't really have any money and were just starting out, we were like, "Well, we've got this equipment and we'll let you use it." So for about five years we've ran it as an 8-track at a house and it's called Pirate Studios and a bunch of records actually came out of tapes that were made there. It's surprising because it was really just a row house and we were running a snake upstairs and recording in the living room. Something set up in the basement, but when I moved out last year, Juan Carrera who runs Slowdime...
Yeah, I know Juan. I met Juan when he was out with the Spinanes and we talked about what you guys had been doing.
BC: He bumped it up to a 16-track and he got a new board. It was kind of half and half, it was 16 track but we still used our old board. And most of all outboard gear but now at the Pirate House everything from this point on is all Juan's basic setup. And Guy is actually recording a new Make Up record there with Juan's gear but it is a new era. He's done some building, my old bedroom has become the control room. He's really expanded.
So Juan's taken it on now?
BC: Yeah, it's his set up now. And our 8-track stuff is at Joe's house and we're all recording bands there.
I kind of seemed like from just like the earlier Make Up record... you guys are getting more equipment and it's progressing and you can really hear that in the recording.
BC: We're still learning. When we started recording bands we had no idea what the fuck we were doing. The Make Up stuff, I was scrambling to record like 14 songs with 7 people living in the house, trying to move all of their furniture around and record really quickly then try not get into anyone's hair — it was pretty hectic. With neighbors on either side. The neighbors were actually pretty cool. Amazingly, you can still pull it off after this many years.
What kind of equipment were you guys using? Those earlier singles have a really overdriven garagey sound.
BC: It's a lot of a mishmash. Most of the Fugazi mics we bought all at one time — we decided to get a bunch of stuff to record. Fugazi went out — at our house we've got a Tascam 58, 8 track reel-to-reel a SoundCraft Spirit board, 16 channels with and then our mics were just standard [SM] 57's, some SM 81's that we've used pretty liberally for the overhead drums. I love those mics. They really well for making the kick and other drums sound great. We also have a [AKG] D112 and a bunch of those little bullet mics and those little Yamaha mics that look like little claws- they work alright.
GP: When we first started, like in the early Make Up recordings, we just set up mics on each record in a different configuration. "Yeah, we'll put mics on the ground or up high on the ceiling," and it was...