Upstate New York is an odd place, with its mix of old Dutch Farmers, economically depressed towns, and a slew of aging hippies. This is especially true in the town of Woodstock, nestled in the Catskill Mountains; a quaint country town two hours north of New York City, with under six thousand residents and no traffic lights. I spent my pivotal years in Woodstock, and I've always had a love/hate relationship with the struggle and balance between the touristy rural Americana and ‘60s nostalgia. The multidimensional blend of creativity and salt of the earth people has always been in flux since the town's early history. A ton of musicians and studios have tucked themselves away as a refuge from the overcrowded rat race of New York City. It's also where Daniel James Goodwin decided to create his own music-making retreat. I sat down with Daniel in his studio, The Isokon, to talk about the environmental impact of working to tape, working with artists such as Bob Weir, Kaki King, Heather Woods Broderick, and working with ECM Records, as well as his life and what he says, "F*ck you" to.
How did you end up here?
I grew up upstate, and then met Paul Antonell at the Clubhouse Recording Studios when they were in Germantown. I started assisting there. I was always the guy in the band with the 4-track in my dad's basement. I did a Murder by Death record [Who Will Survive, and What Will Be Left of Them?] and thought, "Well, I guess I'm good at this, so I'll keep doing it." This is all I've ever done for my life.
So, Clubhouse and then...
My ex-wife and I bought a house outside of Woodstock, and I built a mixing room in there. I started mixing [there], but tracking at the Clubhouse, Brooklyn Recording, or wherever. After a couple years of that, I decided that I wanted to have a place to track and mix. I found this place in 2010. I hated the feeling of being in a proper studio. That's why I wanted to find a house and make it a studio.
How do you usually track in here?
It depends. For instance, Kevin Morby's last record [Oh My God], we tracked mostly live – drums, bass, guitar, and Kevin's vocals live in the room. Trying to track 80% live is the way I like to roll, and then adorn it as necessary. But if I ever need to isolate somebody, I throw them in one of the other rooms. I did a record [Invitation] with Heather Woods Broderick. Heather would be on piano with vocals, the drums behind her, and then the other instruments isolated when necessary.
She came in with most of the song structured?
My input as a producer on that record was the adornment of it – like a film director, basically. I want her to write the script, but I'll direct it. It's a really brilliant record. I played a bunch of pedal steel, guitar, and keyboards.
I love pedal steel on anything.
Me too. I got that pedal steel from Kaki King, actually. I produced and recorded Glow and the record after that, The Neck is a Bridge to the Body, which she did a touring show with – with projections on the guitar. We did some work on the Everybody Glows: B-Sides & Rarities record in between those two.
How did you go about mic'ing her?
I had a core setup, which might have been two [Neumann U] 87s out front of her and then a mono Lomo [Russian-made mic] somewhere. Sometimes there was a contact mic in the guitar, a contact mic on her chest, or even behind-the-ear mics. We ran amps on a ton of sounds. She brought huge suitcases with shakers; we spent three days doing shakers. She's masterful at it.
Are you a big fan of those Lomo mics?
I'll use a Lomo 19A13 a lot of times on acoustic guitar, which is a somewhat rare mic. The 19A19 would also get used. I use them on everything. My mother's family is Russian, so I think I had some strange desire to feel connected to the homeland. I ended up buying Lomo mics back in the ‘90s because they were really inexpensive. I loved the way they sound. And now I love them even more than anything else. I also have my huge Lenin and Marx library in the back here!
You can get into political and ethical debates when it comes down to recording?
I used to consider myself pretty far left on most days, but there are some things where my main goal...