|Date:||May 3rd, 2011|
|Format:||Over the phone|
|Length:||Half an hour|
The following is an interview that I had with Jason Finkel, the producer for Matt Duke's 2011 album One Day Die as well as his EP Acoustic Kingdom Underground. In this interview I ask about his experience working with Duke on the two albums.
Evan Amos: When I talked to Matt [Duke] about his recording experience with Acoustic Kingdom Underground, he said that you were a producer that Ryko recommended to him. How did you come to have a relationship with Ryko?
- Jason Finkel: I knew a band called Jupiter One, who was signed with Rykodisc at the time. They had recorded the album Sunshower but didn't like the way that it turned out, so they asked Ryko if I could do a new mix for it. Ryko liked the work that I had done for it, so they tried to find me projects for me to do, and gave me a list of their artists to listen to. Matt, I believe, was the first work that I did for them. It was a small acoustic project that was basically already laid out, and so it gave me a chance to do work for them without being thrown into the deep end.
Amos: Where did you record Acoustic Kingdom Underground?
- Finkel: At Pyramid Studios in New York.
Amos: When did the recording actually take place?
- Finkel: It was in February 28th of 2009, and it took just two days to record.
Amos: Did you meet with Matt before actually getting into the studio?
- Finkel: Yeah. When the project first came up, I wasn't sure exactly what my place in it was going to be after listening to the Kingdom Underground album. It was only when Matt Duke came to New York and played an acoustic show at Joe's Pub that I went to, did I really get a sense of what the album was going to be. His live show blew me away. I told him, "I'm interested in working with you if you're doing something like you just did." He was like, "Yeah, definitely." And that was it.
Amos: Was the idea going into the recording studio that it would be a mirror to the live version of the song?
- Finkel: It would be in the vein of the way that he was performing it live. But not so exactly, because if you watch him, he'll change his delivery and the melodies, sometimes, from show to show. If you see him one month, and then two months later, he'll be singing that song in a slightly different way. I wouldn't call it a mirror, but for all intensive purposes that was what it was.
Amos: When I had talked to Matt previously, he mentioned that the recording session with you went very well, and from then on he basically kept you in mind as a producer for his next album. Did that conversation ever come up between the two of you during the recording of Acoustic Kingdom Underground?
- Finkel: I don't think it ever came up at the time, but I can't really remember. I think that once I started working with him that I began to have ideas of what a full-length album with the two of us could sound like. But I think that the two of us had a good time together. We had a lot of similar interests, and I was able to draw some things out of him as a producer.
Amos: When would you guys meet up again?
- Finkel: We started actually doing work for his next record in September of 2009. I got the call from Ruby [Marchand] that Matt had wanted me to produce his second full-length album, which was cool, and I was excited to work again. Matt and I had actually gotten pretty far in pre-production when the things with his hand happened.
Amos: How much work were you able to get done before it ended up being pushed back indefinitely?
- Finkel: He would come into my mix studio and he would play the songs acoustically, and I was recording it with just one mic. We would discuss form, melody; the fundamentals. It was all standard pre-production.
Amos: When Matt was going through his rehab for his hand, did the two of you keep a back and forth about the album?
- Finkel: Not a whole lot. There wasn't much Matt could do at the time, because he couldn't play.
Amos: During my interview with him, Matt talked about how, after sitting and thinking about it for months, that he didn't necessarily like a lot of the material that he had before the accident. Was most of the pre-production worked scrapped when you guys got back into the studio?
- Finkel: Let me check my notes. "Seriously, Indulge Me" we had originally been working on. "Needle and Thread." "The Hour." "Abandoned." I should note that any of those, especially "Needle and Thread," the final version is completely different than what we started with. But even then, during the recording a lot of songs get changed around arrangement-wise, get chopped down, but that's typical stuff.
Amos: So there was a lot of material that was changed, rather than having stuff being completely thrown out and started anew?
- Finkel: Yeah. "Seriously, Indulge Me" was the very first song for LP 2 that seemed like it was going to work, and that was kinda the template. He was playing it live. He was playing "Needle and Thread." But "Seriously, Indulge Me" I think was were he really wanted to go with the record. But I think that the whole concept of the album really crystallized for him after the hand injury.
Amos: When did production for the album pick up again? When did you learn that Matt would be able to come into the studio again?
- Finkel: It was around February of 2010.
Amos: How did you handle your studio time? I know that when Matt was recording Kingdom Underground, that all of that studio work was done in 30 days because the studio was in California and he had flown out there to do it, but with you in New York, he'd be able to drive to the studio and come in. Was it something like a week on and a week off?
- Finkel: We would work in big chunks. A couple days straight of recording, some days off, then like two weeks, a few days off, and then days on again.
Amos: There were ten tracks that made it onto the record. How many tracks were actually recorded?
- Finkel: 14
Amos: What were the songs that didn't make it?
- Finkel: "Slip and Fall" got cut. "Dead Meat." We did a Nine Inch Nails cover, but that got cut.
Amos: The two original songs that were cut, were they fully formed songs that just couldn't find a work together with the album?
- Finkel: Yeah, "Slip and Fall" especially. "Dead Meat" would have worked on a Kid Rock record, but it was a rock blues songs. We just weren't able to get it to sound authentic enough, but if we had, it probably would have sounded really bizarre on the record.
Amos: Was it a lot different than the other songs?
- Finkel: Not necessarily, it was just very on this slide blues type of thing. But we couldn't get it to be real, and we didn't want Matt to sound like some puppet guy.
Amos: As far as artists go, is it more of Matt's style to go into the recording studio with a shorter list of songs. Have you ever worked with artists who had a ton of songs they record and cut those down?
- Finkel: I think it's more of a function of the time that we live in. I don't see a place for 14-track records. I think it's a waste of resources. I advocate for a lot of artists out there who aren't signed to do a three to five song EP. Don't even worry about the LP. I've read that the human capacity for focus in music is forty minutes, and that some of the greatest pieces of music in human history are around 38 to 42 minutes long. I find that 8 to 10 songs is good, but there's some consideration that if you don't have at least 10 songs, that that isn't an album that they'd want to promote. I know that iTunes has issues with CDs that are less than 10 songs. But from my perspective, 10 tracks is perfect.
Amos: What studios was the album recorded at?
- Finkel: Mission Studios, Secret Garden, one day at Pyramid Studios. It was mixed in my own Studio 4A. The album was mastered at Sterling Sound.
Amos: That should about cover it. I want to thank you for your time, and thank you for talking to me about recording with Matt.
- Finkel: No problem.