Doug Martsch is the main force behind Built to Spill, with his songwriting skills, excellent lead guitar playing, and fragile voice. He lives with his wife and family in Boise, where he has built a small studio behind his house that he uses for tracking demos, doing overdubs, and recording an (as yet) unreleased solo record. Ancient Melodies of the Future is the most recent album by Built to Spill.
E: Something we both noticed on the record is the drums sound bigger to us and we're assuming we're supposed to notice the difference.
Yeah, we recorded in the biggest room we've ever recorded the drums in and, hopefully Phil will address this stuff in his own interview, but I don't know what kind of compressors and stuff we used but the Neve [Trident, actually] board that we used has made everything sound tough and cool.
D: In listening I feel like I'm slightly distanced from the source, as opposed to the other records.
Yeah, well that's sort of been a gradual thing, not on purpose in any way but it seems like each of our recordings becomes a little more ambient. I don't know if rock music can be ambient. Things I've been listening to lately are old soul records and stuff. Of course those are ambient, but I think, too, with Built to Spill, the first things we did were really dry. I don't think there's any reverb at all on There's Nothing Wrong With Love.
E: Let's talk about your home studio.
Well, we moved into this house about six years ago and about a year after we were here we just decided to build a studio in the back. It's probably like 9' x 12' or something, not very big, it's two stories and the ceilings are high, like 10', and there's a little upstairs storage area. I went and got a Tascam Syncassette because I really wanted to demo out stuff. I had just signed to Warner Brothers so I felt like I could splurge and get something like that just to demo out the songs. So I got a little cassette 8-track thing and I loved that. Then, two years ago, I bought a 1/2" 16-track, another Tascam, and a bigger board — a Mackie, one of those 24 x 8 things.
E: So what are you putting on those 16 tracks? Presumably it's not just you and your guitar.
Well I got it because I wanted to make a sort of a solo record at home, and it's mostly acoustic stuff, but I just thought that it would be nicer quality to get a reel-to-reel machine, and then I decided to get the 16-track, which might've sounded a little nicer because I thought it would be more fun to have 16 tracks in case I decided I wanted to do more with more sorts of recording.
E: And have you done more recording yet?
Not really, but on the solo record I ended up using all the tracks on a few songs. Actually I used all the tracks on all the songs even though it was acoustic. Well, this is a good example of how bad an engineer I am. I was trying to figure out how to mic my acoustic guitar and I was trying to figure out what mic was the best, so I kind of lined up six microphones and just started playing and then I couldn't tell at all which ones were the best, so I just left them all. So I ended up doing that and then doubling it so it's like twelve tracks of two guitars really.
E: I think that sounds great.
It turned out pretty nice, but I couldn't recreate it. I tried to and wasn't able. We've done our last few records on 24-track and this last one, I did a little bit of recording for the album at home on an ADAT — to work on tracks here at home and not have to do it on studio time. I did a little bit of singing and little bit of overdubbing stuff. I thought buying the ADAT would save me money.
E: So you're doing drums at home?
Yeah, y'know, for demo'ing things. And also on the records I made. There's also drums on half of it. It's a friend of mine, Darren playing the kit for the most part. I do a little bit of crappy drumming.
E: Is that record coming out anytime soon.
D: How did you and Phil [see interview this issue] come to meet each other...
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