Taking Percolator’s Pulse with Jim Weider
BR: “Squirrels In Paris” is the leadoff track on Pulse. I know John Holbrook is listed as co-writer on that song. He’s all over this album: engineer, mixer, co-producer with you …
JW: John and I have worked together for years and we’ve been friends for a long time. I’ve known him since 1970, when he was working with Todd Rundgren at Bearsville Studios. John’s a brilliant guy in the studio – he’s done some great work for a lot of people over the years.
BR: I always like to hear about friendships in this business that have lasted. That’s a tough thing in the music world sometimes: egos get in the way; money; whatever … it’s neat to see you guys still getting a kick out of working together after almost 40 years.
JW: Well, he’s just a great guy. On “Squirrels”, John wrote that loop at the beginning. When I first heard what he’d come up with, I said, “Wow – that’s cool. It’s like a drum loop, but it’s really just a loop of sounds.” And I tried some chords, which fit – and then John added a riff and I came up with the middle part … that’s how we work together.
BR: The song feels like a series of movements, each hinting at the one to come. How much of the basic arrangement did you have worked out ahead of time?
JW: The fact of the matter is, we rarely ever rehearsed – I’d send the guys the basic song ahead of time or show it to them at soundcheck and we’d run it down. That’s another great thing about the way we did Pulse: except for a couple of cuts, we’d pretty much worked everything out on the road and were comfortable with the songs. There’s something really cool about being ready to just go into the studio and play, you know? The basic recording of the album took just three days.
BR: And the solo that Mitch rips into at the end of “Squirrels”?
JW: (laughs) Stand back and watch him go. I just love watching the interaction among Mitch and Rodney and Steve – it’s such a great chemistry.
BR: The title track is one that you co-wrote with Mitch.
JW: Yes – and it’s typical of how the songs come together. We started with this cool drum loop and from there I came up with the main riff. Once Mitch heard that, he said, “Hey -how about we try this descending line …” One thing led to another – we wrote that tune in one afternoon.
BR: You tear into a fierce wah pedal solo at one point on “Pulse”. Again, for all the doubters out there …
JW: Yeah, it’s a Telecaster. (laughter) That’s a ‘52 maple-necked Tele through a Fargen JW40 – my signature head – and a 4×12 cabinet.
BR: Remember all you kids out there: practice! (laughter) Next up is a Mitch song: “No Exit Strategy”.
JW: That’s one that Mitch had written a while back for the Hermanators and we started playing it live with Percolator – a real fun song to play.
BR: You mentioned creating visuals in the listener’s head earlier – I definitely had one the first time I listened to that song. After the opening crunchy, driving rhythm that Mitch lays down – and that totally nasty solo he rips off – you come in and take it to that real wistful break. That moment feels like a scene from a movie where you’re standing on a lone bluff looking out over the ocean, you know? Waiting for the credits to roll or something … (laughter)
JW: I like that image! (laughs) But, yeah – my intention was to take it to a gentler spot and give people a breath after that strong opening from Mitch. Take it way down … play with the volumes and tone controls a little … try to give people a breath and bring them in closer. From there, we take it back out and Rodney carries us home.