When Bill Putnam, Jr. mentioned to me that his brother Jim was in the Radar Brothers, it didn't really sink in 'till a few minutes later. When it finally did, I rudely interrupted him and Eric with a loud, "Oh, that Radar Brothers!!" and screwed up the interview for a few minutes over my enthusiasm for the band. Their last CD, The Singing Hatchet, was one of my favorite discs the year it was released. When I heard it was done in a home studio, I was impressed yet not surprised, as it made perfect sense that the laid-back vibe of the CD could only come from a home studio or a humungous recording budget, which didn't seem likely. Think of the best, more melodic moments of early Pink Floyd and you're not too far from the Radar Bros. sound. Later, I had a chance to talk to Jim about his band, studio and Universal Audio.
What is your role in Universal Audio?
I suppose as a founder, although my dad is really the founder, but as a rekindler maybe. My brother and I came up with concept a few years ago when we were going through a lot of my dad's stuff, and it dawned on us that it would be nice to make these things again. Bill just kind of took it from there and built the company. Pretty quickly actually — I was amazed.
So you're the primary singer/ songwriter in the Radar Bros?
Yeah, pretty much. I write the lyrics and play the guitar, piano and whatever else. Senon Williams plays bass, Steve Goodfriend is the drummer, and then lately we've added Eddie Ruchet who plays keyboards and lap steel, and Sean Fallon plays keyboards.
Where's your studio?
It's in the garage; a one-car garage from the '20s — pretty small. I doubt you could put a Cadillac or anything in it, and that was the original control room. The guy who lived here before me built another room onto it and that was the studio. We did our first EP and first record that way. Then last summer, I built a new control room onto the existing two rooms. Now it's like a submarine, you go from one narrow room to another. It's called Phase Three now.
Do you record other bands besides the Radar Bros?
It's mostly the Radar Bros, but I record other bands too. I did a record a couple of years ago for a band called Half Film. Mostly just friends' bands 'cause it's better when you like the people your record.
What are you recording to?
I just got a 2" machine. All of our previous records were done on an [Otari] MX-70 1" [16-track].
I would assume that you've got some UA gear in your studio?
Yeah, I've got the LA-2A and the 2-610. I can't stop using the 2-610 — it's really nice. I've got some V-72s as well, but they haven't been getting as much use since I got the 2-610s. I've got an API 1604 sidecar console too, which has pretty much been the centerpiece of the studio. I have a Neotek Series II that I monitor off of. I go to tape with the API. I track with a mixture of the API and the preamps. But the API was kinda fucked up for a while, but finally on this record it's working perfectly which is really nice. I actually recapped it myself a while back, but it turned out I only recapped about half the caps. There were these really old brown plastic caps that I think were original, and I didn't think they were capacitors 'cause they looked so far off from what capacitors look like today.
So you've got a pretty solid electronics background as well?
No, I don't.
But you know enough to recap the board?
Well, I can solder things, but when it gets down to resistance values and mathematical stuff, I get lost. But my dad used to get these old Heathkit kits and he'd sit me down and make me put 'em together. It was really fun.
Do you have another album coming out soon?
Yeah, we're working on it right now. It's about half- done right now, but I'm going out of town for about a month, so it's on hold for a bit. I'm going to Belgium to produce a band called Moxie. I'm going to be working in a studio that's all Pro Tools which is kind of terrifying to me 'cause I've never worked with any of the newer digital stuff. I think it's gonna be really good though. I've been kind of dogging the whole thing for a long time, but this was beyond my control and I think it will be a good experience.
Tell me about your recording process. The albums have this beautifully relaxed feel and if I had to guess, I'd think you guys just wandered in when you felt like it and hit record and then bag it if it doesn't feel right.
Yeah, that's pretty much it. That's the thing about having your...