Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Eric in the Basement

This may be the greatest piece of music I am ever associated with, and I can't remember how we did it. We never practiced for it, played it once, and never played it again. I'll never be able to play like that again, either. My neighbors at the time this was recorded are probably very grateful for that.

I can remember the dented cymbal, tied to the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. I can remember the tambourine around my ankle and the poor cracking maraca leaking beans rhythmically. We found the bass drum on one of our many late-night alleyway odysseys through Richmond, always started too late and after too much, too much, waaay too much.

I remember seeing Eric across the tiny room, teeth glowing yellow in the swinging bulb-light, grimacing and alternately bugging his eyes out and squinching them up tight as he ground the guitar line out.

I don't know who played the bass. There were only two of us in the room, pushing the skin of our faces back with blinding, rattling repetitive sound.

Willie leaned up against the screen door downstairs and offered his critique: "Y'all SUUuuck! Y'all ain't got no rhythm!" He might have been homeless and insane, but he probably had a point.

I think I had hooked Jeff Gordon's busted-up rattletrap homemade theremin up to a delay pedal. At crucial points in the song, I'd lean over and manipulate the electromagnetic field around the theremin with my hand, madly twiddling the knobs on the pedal to create that bubbling whoop you hear during the breakdowns. My leg never stopped moving that tambourine and the leaky maraca never left my hand.

I like that phrase: leaky maraca.

The key, as I recall, to getting the theremin to do that thing was to envision its antenna as a staff of elastic taffy. My hand pulled long strings from it, and by keeping the strings exactly the same length, I could semi-predictably create the same sounds.

A Theremin

I think. It's all pretty hazy.

Sometimes Eric crashed the cymbal by bashing it with the head of his guitar as he played...other times I sprayed beans all over the studio and whacked it with a maraca.

He leaned over the four-track and twiddled knobs with one hand while playing the guitar going with the other. The four track would only work if it was leaned sideways at a certain angle. We didn't have the money to fix it. He'd have to doctor his amp, too, which would occasionally puke massive shrieks out the window and nearly deafen us.

There was only one take, one recording, of two people out of their minds on sound and vision. We played this riff, this semi-song for close to two hours. What you hear is the best part of the jam, where everything came together, edited out into three minutes and thirty or so seconds.

We were underpaid, overlooked, furious at work, great and terrible at our instruments all at once. We hadn't met the third member yet, the woman whose presence made us a band. We were just nice guys, too creative for our town, drunk and angry and not even sure how to express it all.

Shit, I miss those days.

Here's the track:

Mushroom, by Eric Browne, Jeff Simmermon, and God knows what all else.


At 7:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Link does not compute. Please update with sound file. I want to compare notes with the mushroom experiments I've been doing.
Long live the memory of something real,


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