Umm, Steve Fisk has been playing and recording music longer that some of you have been out of diapers. It's a bit of a tale but we'll trudge through some of it here. Lately, he's been a producer for many of the fine bands in that "alternative" scene, like Low, Wedding Present, Geraldine Fibbers, Boss Hog, Unwound and Three Mile Pilot. His earlier productions for the Screaming Trees, Beat Happening, Girl Trouble and even Nirvana set the stage for his adeptness at recording different styles of music and a sure grasp of "capturing" a band to sound like themselves. We chatted on the phone for over two hours while Steve was in San Francisco working with Pell Mell on a soundtrack to a documentary. Really!
You went to Evergreen, in Olympia, WA, and studied recording there, didn't you?
Was that where you first got into recording?
No, I was playing with synthesizers and things that required tape decks way before then. An older friend of mine used to smuggle me into the Moog studio at USC when I was 17. Once and a while we had an 8 track in there but the rest of the time we had a Teac 3340. I remember that it was bigger than a regular 4 track; I had friends that had 4 tracks when I was a kid. I did a science-fiction-y kind of sample and hold thing on a 4 track when I was 16 with this other friend of mine that had another older friend that had a connection with somebody that had a 3D fish-eye lens that would make 3D films and stuff. We were making a mock-up for the porno sequence in this 3D porno movie--the space/porno scene in this 3D porno film. I was doing that in the garage when I was real young. I had this other friend that was a lot older that had two Sony 1/4 inch deck semipro machines and when I first got my synthesizer we would go over to his place and just do sound-on-sound going back and forth between the decks making this hideous, useless, noisy Todd Rundgren synthesizer shit. So synthesizers first got me into recording. Evergreen was the first time I got into using microphones. Everything else was just 1/4 inch plugs.
Were you thinking of a career in recording when you went to Evergreen?
I wasn't thinking of a career as much as I wanted to be a composer. Once again, synthesizers were the main point and then it was; we have quad and 8 track and 16 track here. My friend Peter Randlin, sort of my entry into all that. He played on a bunch of it and helped me write songs. It wasn't really songs, it was more like 6/8 quadraphonic salsa/fugue jam that was sort of my thesis piece, (if there ever was such a thing at Evergreen.) I worked on it for about a year and it was set up for quadraphonic tape playback that was on 16 track so it had things flying around the room. Congas and tympany set up in a serialized pattern. It was very intellectual. Then there was live shit that me and Peter did on top of it. I did tons and tons of Fripp and Eno kind of tape loop shit; got that all out of my system. Never had to deal with that in my real life. Like a lot of other people are stuck doing! It's a cool trick and it's nice. Have you ever listened to Wonderwall Music, the George Harrison record?
I've never heard that.
He does the Fripp and Eno thing way early. He does the Eno ambient synthesizer with too much echo way early in the game. It was all stuff he'd offered the Beatles and they didn't want to have anything to do with it. He was the smart Beatle. He was a lame singer so everyone just sort of wrote him off. The Wonderwall album...I have to say it loud now 'cause there's so many people who think that "Wonderwall" is a song by Oasis...the Wonderwall album is like a Beatles instrumental record. Ringo plays all over it and what bass playing there is, is George or Klaus Voorman who played like Paul McCartney back then so it was sort of the Beatles instrumental album with Paul and John out of the way. It's on CD now and it sounds great. It was recorded when all the great Beatles' stuff was recorded but nobody gave a shit 'cause it was George's side project. So he's doing all kinds of abstract stuff with wonderful Indian musicians and putting it through flanger and phaser and compressing the living crap out of it. Plus the most blown up Ringo drum sounds ever and Eric Clapton, right out of Disralie Gears, doing really groovy backwards guitar solos. When Eric Clapton was good. Back when all these...