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Published: 2000/09/15
by Barry Smolin

Creatures From the Mutant Lagoon: The Re-Emergence of the Ominous Seapods

BS: Let’s talk about this great new record of yours. Did you go into “The Super Man Curse” sessions with a particular sound and feel in mind?

TOM: Basically we just wanted to make a great rock-and-roll record. Rock-and-roll is culturally and aesthetically at a low point right now, and we want to be one of the bands that helps to bring it back around again. We knew that no matter what we did it would sound like the Ominous Seapods. We can’t really help that even if we try.

TODD: We wanted a rock album, plain and simple. We wanted a sound that was real, not polished, not glossy, not slick. We played live. The five of us, all in the room. All of the solos are the take, no overdubs. We just played the songs and that was it. Yeah, we overdubbed vocals and extra parts and shit. But all the basics were it. It really helped capture the energy and emotion of the tune because we all had to step up, be in the moment with each other, as a band, and make it happen.

TED: We did the pre-production at Todd’s house last summer. We just spent the summer recording on Dana’s four track. A lot of stuff we would start by just recording drums and an acoustic guitar and then would layer stuff on that. The recordings were super low-fi but they sounded great, and in general we wanted the album to sound like that: gritty rock sounds but with a nice shine to it. The important thing was the energy, and we wanted to have fun with the studio and use it as a tool. We added some classic sounds like the Mellotron to a couple of songs. Dana played trombone on a tune. I played Marimba. We got to play like kids in a music store.

DANA: When we made “The Super Man Curse” we lived in downtown Woodstock NY for 5 weeks in an apartment that had once been the summer home for the Piels Brothers of Piels Brewery fame. Tom discovered that all the hippies in Woodstock actually worked for Disney and went home at 10:00 PM. A bus would pick them up, and the town would be deserted until the next day, when the first tourists arrive bright and early to experience the thrills of Woodstock and all the craft stores selling candles and overpriced jewelry and burritos. We ate at the sushi place “Wok and Roll” every night.

TOM: We had made plans to sublet this very rustic house/cabin up in the back hills of Woodstock. When we got there it was not only rustic but had no electricity, no heat, and no hot water. It was late fall at this point and getting pretty chilly in the night. We were prepared for rustic but not THAT rustic! So for the first 3 or 4 days of recording we would come home at night and stumble around with candles and matches in the dark and then huddle under any sleeping bags or blankets we had around, and if we dared take a shower we knew for damn sure it was going to be a cold one. When we tracked down the landlord, he didn’t even know we were staying there, and he wasn’t too happy about it because the guy we were subletting from owed him money. We ended up spending like the first two weeks of any spare time we had trying to straighten the whole mess out. And that was for a place we were only staying in for at the most 5 weeks. But who knows, maybe being forced back to the basics kept us hungry enough to give us just that edge we needed. Although, on second thought, I think I would have preferred the Hyatt!

TED: The first day we got to the studio there was a big tree branch hanging from a power line blocking the driveway. The studio had no power, and we had no idea when it was going to be back on. The studio owner had a killer Rotweiller that we lived in fear of the whole time we recorded, it spent most of its time in the lounge where we were supposed to hang out when we weren’t working. We didn’t go in there much.

BS: What was it like working with (producer) Glenn Rosenstein? What did he bring to the project?

TED: Sobriety! One night, after a long day of tracking, the band went back to the house and drank a bunch of beer. The next day we were not performing up to snuff, and Glenn had some harsh words for us. He was right, we learned our lesson.We had a good working relationship, and he knew how to get us to play better, He’s also a very funny guy, and we spent a lot of time laughing. But he did demand a high level of professionalism and performance. So we weren’t allowed to goof off as much as we probably would have.

TODD: Glenn was very cool to work with. He taught us how to hear which take was an “album” take and which was just a good bootleg. You’d be surprised, but when we heard it, we all knew that was the take. He also kept the pace of recording smooth and fun. I’d love to work with him again. He’s a funny motherfucker!

TOM: Glenn was a freak just like us. I think the best thing he did was to get us each to play at the very top of our game. He just had this way of bringing the maximum potential out in us. I listen to “The Super Man Curse” now and am very happy with my own playing.

DANA: Glenn is also a totally sick mutant.

BS: What makes someone a “totally sick mutant?”

TED: The totally sick mutants are the ones who are blissfully unaware of their own mutation, as well as anyone who can be easily impersonated or caricaturized because their personalities are that distinct and memorable.

TOM: Some of our hardcore fans choose to call themselves mutants. It kind of goes along with the whole Seapod Sci-Fi theme. Originally, though, we used the term mutant to describe any freak we came across on the road that was just so out there that they made US look normal! “Left of the bell-shaped curve,” our old tour manager Bob Kelly called these people. Not the left side of the curve, mind you, but left of the whole damn curve altogether. These people don’t even register as a part of the curve. One of the joys of being on the road in a traveling rock band is that these people seem to pop up constantly in one form or another. Whether it’s a fan , the drunken local at the end of the night with vomit-breath who wants to sit in on harmonica, the alcoholic club owner, the escaped mental-patient merch woman, or just some weirdo who happens to be in line in front of us at a quickie-mart in, say, Boise, Idaho.

TED: We used to play a game called “Mutants of the Road.” Somebody would do an impression of a mutant, and we would have to guess who it was and where we encountered him or her. Being on the road as long as we have, you get to meet some of the strangest people on earth, and, like I said; the less they know they’re strange, the more of a mutant they are.

TOM: I think this game came up on stage during a song once at The Monopole (a club in Plattsburgh NY), and we had different fans come up on stage while someone was singing about them and describing them as “mutants of the road.” It was talked about on Pod-Net and adopted by our most mutated of fans. One of our oldest mutant fans, the Bourbon Cowboy, even has a web site dedicated to the band and its fans called Mothra , an acronym for Mutants Of The Road Atlas.

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