Talking Rubber Soulive with Eric Krasno
BR: That’s absolutely cool – to have the feeling that’s driving the process be “We’re enjoying this” and wanting to keep it going, rather than churning out more product simply to fill out an album.
EK: And that’s the whole thing about having our own label now – there’s no one telling us what to do. You know that if we do something, it’s because we wanted to – not because we had to. It really is a nice place to be, I have to say.
In this case, it was a matter of “Let’s record this many tunes and see how it goes.” By three in the morning, we were six tunes deep and ready to keep going. I think it ended up being four days straight of just recording and listening and recording some more.
BR: And this was all in Alan’s studio, right?
EK: Right – with just the three of us. Alan’s place was originally an old barn that he’s converted into a studio. It’s really nice – a big, open space that just feels good, you know? And Alan is a great engineer; he did all the recording and mixing on this album himself. It was a great experience to work in there – and Al has it dialed in perfectly.
BR: Well, we’ve talked about the process – want to talk about the music?
EK: Cool! (laughter)
BR: “Drive My Car” leads things off – that’s a good example of one of the cuts that sticks pretty close to the original groove. I like how the keys punch out the syllables to the melody while the guitar is there, tucking in all these little accents.
EK: That’s what we’d do on each song: go back and forth and each try the melody. Whatever felt the best is what we’d go with. On that one, Neal took the melody line, looking for that old school, breakbeat, boogaloo kind of feel.
BR: On this cut – and throughout the album – it sounds like you guys made a conscious effort to keep the solos reigned in for the most part.
EK: Definitely. In a live setting, you know, we’ll take it out and improvise, for sure. But on the album, we really wanted to keep it to that Beatles flavor of three- to four-minute tunes. Some of them go a little bit more …
BR: Oh, I’m gonna ask you about those …
EK: Yeah, we’ll get to that! (laughter)
BR: Now I don’t mean to be a wise guy here, but –
EK: (very serious) Okay.
BR: The next song, “Taxman”, is in the same key as “Drive My Car”, right?
EK: (laughing) Yeah, it is actually.
BR: Because I can see one jamming into the other …
EK: Absolutely – we’ve played them live that way.
BR: That’s another one where Neal drives home the melody – but then you do an interesting thing on your break later in the song where you modulate up and then back down to the original key.
EK: That’s neat you pointed that out. We were in the middle of recording “Taxman” and I thought, “You know, it might be really cool if we shifted this up.” It was just something we threw in to change it up and give the drums a cool little break to hit.
BR: Then we have “In My Life”. That’s one of those songs that you really don’t want to mess with a whole lot, isn’t it?
EK: That one could be my favorite, actually. I love playing that song live – the melody is just so strong.
“In My Life” is one of those Beatles tunes where you say, “Okay: compositionally, melodically, and harmonically, this is one of the greatest songs ever written.” Plus, you can read the lyrics without the music and they’re amazing all by themselves, too.
BR: It’s great poetry.
EK: It is – it really is. So that’s just one of the best songs ever. There are so many great Beatles tunes, but I just had to do that one: “Please, can we do ‘My Life’?” (laughs)
BR: Total sweetness – including that baroque-flavored organ break.
EK: Oh, listen – we learned so many interesting things while we were doing the album, because we were researching how they got all the sounds and how they were recording it, okay? And one of the things we learned was that George Martin played that keyboard line on the original and it was recorded at half speed.
BR: Their producer, George Martin?
EK: That’s what Neal told me.
BR: Oh well, then – if it’s wrong –
EK: We’ll blame it on Neal. (laughter) But, yeah, they slowed the tape halfway down, recorded it, and then sped it back up to regular speed. If you listen to the original, there’s a little part right at the very end (sings “diddleladiddleladum”) which is almost impossible to play live.
So on our version, you hear Neal not only playing that part with his right hand, but laying down the bass line at the same time with his left. I mean, I was watching him practice it for ten minutes before we recorded it and I was saying “It’s not possible – he can’t do it.” But he pulled it off, man – he killed it.
BR: Cool – great story. Let’s see here … next up is “Eleanor Rigby”, which feels like one of the riskier cuts on the album.
EK: Yeah, absolutely.
BR: Alan has that powerhouse start/stop drum thing going on that’s just totally challenging the melody line.
EK: It’s true – it’s true. And when we play it live, I’ve got Alan on one side of me going absolutely nuts and Neal on the other side doing the same – and the melody is just holding everything together by a string. (laughs)