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Published: 2013/01/05
by Mike Greenhaus

Dr. Dog: From a Void to a Wild Race

In the article that ran in Relix earlier this year, you mention that you guys recorded you current album at your Meth Studios. Before that, you tried making a big-budget album out of town. Are any of the songs from the EP from those sessions?

Those songs haven’t seen the light of day in any way, shape or form. Initially, we went down into the studio in Atlanta and the mission wasn’t really to walk away with music but rather to put ourselves there and see what it felt like before making any big decisions. The fact that we walked out of there with two pretty much completed songs was almost secondary to “Hey, did that feel good?” And it did! It felt great! We were all real pumped and I think for like two or three months after that we all had it in our heads that we were going to go back there and do it all there. Slowly over time, the ideas shifted and the focus shifted and we end up changing our minds. Now, the songs are just floating around. Both those songs, different versions of them, wound up on the record. “Do the Trick” and “Get Away.” Initially, we were thinking we’ll get those tracks and we’ll continue to work on those same tracks.

That proved more complicated. It was just easier to set-up and re-record them then to have to call Ben Allen and ask for the files. He’s a pretty legit producer so we were worried it would be complicated with crediting him and maybe open a can or worms, because it was just as easy for us to set up the mics and bang it out again. In the end, just to keep it simple, we ended up not even getting those tracks back and just starting over. Both of those songs are recorded in about a day. Those two in particular went really fast because we had already done those versions of them where we had already put the thought into the parts and all. They went particularly fast. I doubt that those first versions of them were really…maybe some fan or something would find it interesting to hear.

I don’t really see the point in putting them out or making them available: (A) They are kind of incomplete, (B) They were never really mixed, (C) We weren’t totally stoked on the sound we got with Ben. We were there for such a short period of time and we didn’t mix the songs, so we weren’t too wrapped up in that. The fact of the matter is that those mixes, as they stand, we weren’t like “Oh! This is the sound we want, so we have to go back here.” The way the songs sounded was the least satisfying part of the experience. What we were more enthralled by was the challenges he brought to the table and the ways in which he was able to push everybody. We’ve been working together for so long, we were very much settled into these roles as friends, as musicians, just psychologically and everything, like every good producer, he had a way of shaking that up, and in a way that didn’t make anyone feel threatened or volatile or vulnerable or anything like that. We were able to recognize that and see the difference in our collaborative efforts with one another while working with him, and that was the part that felt the best.

The songs themselves, they didn’t sound like us at all, we would have never put those on a record. Like I said, it was all happening so fast. We did so much in such a short period of time there was a lot of leniency given to the sound knowing that, “Well, if we were actually going to make a record with you we’d sort out all these issues with the sound of it. We’d develop a language together.” Really, it was with him capturing the sound, more or less going on the Ben Allen autopilot, ways in which he’s accustomed to getting sound, which weren’t horrible, but not what we were looking for. I think we always thought we would work that out hypothetically down the road if we decided to work with him. It is kind of funny though, because his sound is more compressed and a radio friendly type of thing, and it is funny to hear us sound like that. Those two versions are real, traditional sounding hi-fi things. We sort of stray away from that, straddle that line as much as possible, and these two songs in particular way, way on the other side of that. It’s kind of funny to hear, but I don’t think we’ll be doing anything with those.

Earlier you said that as soon as you’re done with an album your sort of already thinking about how that goes into the next one. At this point, are you writing some songs for the next project?

Yeah, yeah for sure. I think that the whole kind of notion of the next record has really been escalated into the forefront of people’s minds because we’re going to move our studio. That kind of gets the fire under everybody for thinking about the next record pretty early, because we want to get out of our studio and get somewhere remote, somewhere basically in the country. We’ve been sort of in industrial ghetto zone for so long, and it’s an awesome place, but just looking for a different feel and somewhere where you can just stay there over
night, have a fire at night and cook food, and enjoy a kind of peaceful lifestyle for a while, while making a record. There are so many places around Philly—you can drive twenty minutes or something and be in the middle of nowhere real easy. There are a lot of spots, so we’re trying to do that. Since that’s going on there’s been a lot of talk about the next album. I’ve been writing a lot and Toby has too. There’s also a bunch more songs just from the past that are still very much contenders. I think there’s a strong desire to maybe go into the record with less emphasis on the songs that are already written and allow us as a band to come up with songs together rather than just Toby and I showing up with songs.

That’s just all born out of the fact that the band is definitely at an all time high in its cohesiveness as a group of musicians and also in our ability to collaborate together and the joy that we all get from that. It seems like a good and very logical thing to see what this band, as one entity, would come up, groove wise and musically. Just kind of start out by saying “What does this band want to sound like?” As opposed to just saying, “Here’s all the songs we’re going to do.” I’m sure that the next record will be a healthy mix, as always, of brand new songs and older songs and hopefully a reflection of a new direction in that process as well. There are two songs on Be the Void that were written by the band together in the studio, and there is one song that was written in the demo process as a complete improvisation. Those two methods are new as far as turning up on a record. Those two methods are really exciting now days for us, so I think there will be more of that kind of thing too.

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