The mighty Ish Marquez

While looking through old photos for this website I came across this poster for a tour I organized in 2008.

Ish Marquez/Stanley Brinks Poster

This tour was one of the craziest, funnest, most amazing musical experiences of my life. It was a dream come true. These are two of my favorite musicians and songwriters ever. They are both just fountains of creativity, and each so unique to themselves, inimitable. We were all already friends and fans of each other so it was really fun, and the chemistry between us on stage was electric. It was just raw power unleashed. Everyone knew exactly what to do to support and spur each other on. I have had the very good fortune to be playing drums for many an ecstatic musical epiphany, more times than I can count, but this entire tour remains one of the most memorable high points of creativity.

It is absolutely insane that these guys are not both widely hailed as great legends. They are in some small circles but only amongst a few hundred people scattered here and there around the world. In my reckoning they are both up there with the greatest singer-songwriter-musicians in rock n roll history.

Ish Marquez grew up in the Bronx like myself. I first met him hanging out Manhattan’s Central Park when I was in high school. He was in an amazing acoustic trio of latino stoner punks called Hallucination Station. They played music I have never heard the likes of anywhere else, before or since. Ish’s propulsive guitar was the engine that drove it.

He’s got a relentless strumming style and some rare and fierce mojo that takes over when he plays, like he’s possessed. He loves Sam Cooke and old soul and doo-wop records, and that informs his choice of such sweet and melancholy chords, but then he plays them so furiously, he makes a guitar sound so fat and full. And his voice is amazing. He howls and cackles and moans and sings beautifully. It’s haunting. Here is a great classic example.

Some years after those days in Central Park, Ish found his way to a scene that revolved around the “Anti-folk” open mic at the Sidewalk Cafe in the East Village. Countless amazing acts were gathered around this scene at the time, including my future bandmate Jeffrey Lewis, and the Moldy Peaches who both got signed to Rough Trade Records. Adam Green and Kimya Dawson compiled a collection of music documenting the scene which was released on Rough Trade under the name Antifolk Vol. 1. and Gin is not my Friend was Ish’s contribution. That track stood out as very memorable to anyone who’s ever heard that album, I’ve heard that reported from numerous people around the world.

When word got around my musician friends about the whole Sixto Rodriguez thing, a few years before the Sugarman movie came out, and we heard the album Cold Fact for the first time, we all had the same reaction, “Thats great, he’s kinda got that Ish rhythm!” Really he’s the only one I know of who has something like Ish’s sensibilities. And it’s a similar story. Ish is just out there, living in France now, an absolute legend still mostly undiscovered to the world.

He has travelled around and lived in a number of different places all these years, but he’s never really got his music career off the ground. He’s recorded many amazing tracks but never put together a really great album. He’s done the occasional tour support slot but not kept a band together for a long time. He and I talk about it occasionally, us both being expats in Europe now. I hope we will get it together again someday soon. And actually something may be brewing now. I’ll be sure to let you know more soon.

And Stanley Brinks… oh man, he’s a whole ‘nother story. That’s going to have to wait again for another time. “Our generation’s Dylan” I once heard my friend David Deery say. I will say be on the lookout in the UK for his upcoming album with the Wave Pictures titled, Gin. It’s awesome.

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Studio Geekery : Glyn Johns Mic setup

I recorded my drum tracks for Johnny Flynn‘s album Country Mile in May, 2012 at Soup Studios in Limehouse, East London. We wanted to try something different this time so at our bassist/producer Adam Beach’s suggestion we went for the legendary Glyn Johns three mic setup. In this case it involved two Coles 4038 ribbon microphones in very specific relational distances from the snare, and a third mic way out in front of the kick. Soup’s engineer Giles Barrett described it in more detail in a post here and put some audio samples up on soundcloud to illustrate. They also had just wired in their new reverb chamber which sounded fantastic. Listen:

I think I want to record all of my drum tracks this way from now on. This is an excerpt from the song Bottom of the Sea Blues. I was literally just inventing the drum part on the spot. I swear it makes sense in the context of the whole song. In fact it is by far one of my favorite songs to play live at our shows now. It always lifts the crowd up a bit.

Oh yeah, one more aside, the famous recording publication Tape Op re-tweeted Giles’ post so I had a few kilobits of fame there for a second.

If you are looking for a studio in London I highly recommend Soup. They used to be located in a tiny room underneath the old Duke of Uke store by Brick Lane, but moved further east a couple of years ago to a bigger space and set it up really nice. It’s a great room, great equipment, great sound, great engineers, just great. My friends The Wave Pictures also record there all the time. I can’t wait to get back there again sometime soon. Check them out!