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Sunday, June 06, 2010


Pat Mastelotto remembers "Oranges and Lemons"

Drummer of the Week -- Pat Mastelotto

We've got a special guest star this week -- drummer extraordinaire and all-around Nice Guy Pat Mastelotto, who agreed to talk with Todd Bernhardt before a recent show supporting Stick Men's hot-n-delicious Soup CD, about his experiences recording the seminal Oranges and Lemons album with XTC.

Pat's drumming is fine across the entire album, so we have lots of choices of which song to post, but we're going to go with the album closer, "Chalkhills and Children," because it's a beautiful song, beautifully played. Andy talked about it back in October 2007, in case you're interested in reading his thoughts about the song. As you'll see in reading the interview below, Pat's full of good memories about recording the album, and was really enthusiastic in talking about it, offering up a wide range of reminiscences without much prompting from Todd. (If only all interviews were this easy!)

We hope to be back soon with more Andyviews once life calms down a bit. In the meantime, please buy a can or two of that tasty Soup, and update your psonic itinerary to include Tunisia, an amazing tripgroove album by Pat and theremin player Pamelia Kurstin that will take you places you'd never thought you'd visit (but that you'll be glad you did).

TB: Can you tell me a little bit about your background with the band, and how you got to know them? Andy has told me that the producer, Paul Fox, introduced you to the band.

PM: I knew the band -- not personally, but I was a long-time fan. I'd seen them at The Whiskey -- that was after Drums and Wires -- and then I saw them on the Black Sea tour a few years later at the Santa Monica Civic Center. I remember that they had this scribble effect going on as a backdrop, which I asked Andy about later -- I said, "How did you get that effect?", and he said, "Well, we didn't haven't money, so we took old film from the library and scratched it up with a paper clip and projected it out."

I also saw the infamous English Settlement show that he didn't play -- I was friends with the production people, so I was a guest at that show at the Palladium. Had a VIP spot with a great view of the stage. The stage was all set, the opener had finished, and my buddies who were presenting the show were running by. I said, "What's taking so long?" He said, "I know you love these guys, but they're fucking us! This asshole won't get out of bed, and I don't know what to do!" Sure enough, that was the day that Andy didn't get out of bed, and the last show they didn't play. The stage was completely set, and the backdrop was up, and it was about an hour of a wait after the opening act before the announcement was made that they were not going to play that night.

And I think I might have even originally turned Paul Fox on to XTC. Paul and I did a lot of sessions together, different things, and we'd hang a lot together, and turn each other on to music. I got turned on to XTC by my ex-wife, Connie. She was a huge fan -- "Meccanik Dancing" was her theme song when we met. So, I "met" them through Go 2 and then bought White Music.

So, one day I get a phone call from Paul, who says, "I've got another gig for you." We were side men in bands together, before he became a producer and all that, so it was a pretty level playing field between the two of us. I said, "Okay, who is it, when is it?" He said, "Well, it's XTC." I'm going, "You're shitting me, dude. Are you jerking me around?" He goes, "No, no, really -- it's going to happen in about three or four weeks, so you've got a lot of homework to do." I said, "C'mon, don't bullshit me." He says, "Go check your mailbox, I've already left some tapes, and you have a lot of stuff to learn."

I went out there, and there were three cassettes out there in my mailbox. He or a messenger had already dropped them by. I called him back, and say, "What the fuck? You're serious." And he goes, "Yeah, absolutely. I want to work up everything on those tapes. We're going to rehearse for two weeks." It turned out to be about two-and-a-half weeks, at Leeds.

I had about a month to prep. I started to digest those tunes, and make LinnDrum patterns. But I also noticed that Andy's drum programming was great. He's really got a head for rhythm. He had a little Korg drum machine that he used in those days, so I went out and found one, so I could mimic his parts -- program those.

TB: Did you mimic his programming so you could kind of get in his head a little bit?

PM: Yeah, and to learn the part -- get to know the songs better. I'm kind of self-taught, so I learn a song just by memory, by repetition, or I write myself little scribble notes that mean almost nothing. Sometimes programming the parts helps me define what the part is, or makes me listen more closely. "Is it 'boom-ba-boom,' or is it 'boom-ba-boomboom'?" or, "Oh look, this variation happened one time, in the eighth bar of the second verse, and it must have been intentional, because it happens again during the eighth bar of the third verse, but no place else." So, little details pop out.

That might not have been exactly the case with some of these songs. Some of these demos were done only on acoustic guitar, recorded through a boom box or something, while some were more fleshed out, with keyboard overdubs and things like that.

Another reason I was doing this was because Paul wanted me to help him pick him songs. There were so many -- I think there were 30-plus songs. It pains me to think about how later, when I was doing a record with Dennis Herring and Susanna Hoffs, they needed material, and I said, "Hey, I've got some great songs of Andy Partridge's that maybe you'd like to hear." I shared one of the cassettes with them, and never got it back.

Anyway, I met the band at the Leeds Rehearsal Facility -- they came in with their little bag lunches, peanut-butter sandwiches and bananas or something, since they were on kind of a tight budget. For a while, I was going to go to England to make the record, but then they decided to do it over here.

I noticed right away that the span of material was pretty wide-ranging. I said to Paul, "It's almost like you have Dukes of Stratosphear and XTC here, you know? Are you going to guide them in a particular direction?" And he said, "No, I want to give them wide-open choices -- they had such a miserable time with Todd, they had so many dreadful things to say about the process of making Skylarking, that I don't want that to be the case here. I want them to really be happy with everything. So, wherever they want to go, we want to go."

So, at rehearsal, we worked up a few more songs than we actually cut. I know we did "My Train Is Coming."

TB: Yeah, there's a version out there of you playing that with Mike Keneally, right?

PM: Yep, Keneally came in and Andy just sang. We might have worked up a few others that aren't on the record, but I can't think of the exact songs right now.

This is kind of funny -- I remember that Van Halen was also rehearsing while we were there. There were three rooms at Leeds -- we were in the medium room, and Van Halen was in the bigger room. I ran into my friend Dave, who was mixing Van Halen, in the hallway -- he mixed Mr. Mister, too. I said, "What are you doing?", and he said, "Oh, we're just down here -- come on down." So I got to go over and check out Alex Van Halen's drums, which was intriguing, and then Andy walked in, since I'd asked him to come along, and he said, "Oh my god, they've wallpapered the room with Marshalls!" [laughs] Eddie only used one, and it was usually off in another room, but there were stacks of them lining the walls.

We got along pretty well rehearsing, working up those tunes. I lived really close to the rehearsal place, so I had the guys over for dinner sometimes, especially since their wives and children were with them. We had a pool, and they were dying of the heat -- I think it was summer when we did the record. I know we took them to the Rose Bowl swap meet one day, and Andy got a horrible sunburn. He was wearing a hat, but his face got really red. Holly and Harry would hang with my wife a lot. They were staying at a kind of condominium-type hotel called Oakwood, and I think it kind of scared them -- it wasn't gangsterland, but coming from where they come from, it was intense.

TB: I heard there were fleas, too.

PM: Maybe! I don't know. I know that, after a while, Colin's wife, Carol, and his kids went home. Then Marianne and the kids went home -- nobody lasted the distance.

We started tracking at Ocean Way after a setup day. We were in the big room at Ocean Way -- it was a room I'd worked in a lot. Very famous studio, historically -- it was called the United Western for a long time.

TB: The Beach Boys used to record there, right?

PM: Yep, tons of famous stuff was recorded there. I think we started by tracking "Merely a Man" as the first song. That was a song that I remember Andy was kind of iffy about, as far as being on the record. But it was one that Paul and I definitely liked.

It was interesting for Colin -- Colin's pick for his favorite song was "Cynical Days." I think Paul kind of had to twist his arm about doing "King for a Day" -- he said, "That's the one that I think we can really make a radio song from." So, it was kind of a trade-off -- Colin said, "Okay, I'll do 'King for a Day' for you if you'll spend time on 'Cynical Days' for me." So we spent a lot of time rehearsing "Cynical Days."

Likewise, the lynchpin for Andy was "Scarecrow People." That, I remember, was a really important song for him.

TB: Interesting. We've talked about that song, and I know he likes is, but I would have thought that "Mayor" was the song for him.

PM: "Mayor" was certainly important, but maybe the reason Andy fought for "Scarecrow" was because when Paul made his list, it was in danger of being dropped from the album, so Andy fought for it. And it was just the opposite for "Merely a Man." I know that was one that he didn't seem to care about so much, so we did that one first.

We tracked it live -- spent the whole day tracking it. We were at Ocean Way for two-and-a-half weeks, I think, and then they moved to Summa [pronounced "sooma"] Studios to do overdubs and stuff. I came by Summa a few weeks after they'd been working there, and "Merely a Man" had changed. The track didn't hold up, so they cut two or three loops of me on the drums -- it's not the performance I actually did, but it was cut-and-pasted together, a couple of chunks. And then I did overdubs -- I did some hi-hats and cowbells and things, at Summa. I remember doing another hi-hat on the opposite side of the stereo mix, to make it a bit more full.

Another one of the early songs we cut was "The Loving." We cut a version of that with a beat box playing the kick drum, and me playing top kit over it. It was a little bit faster, almost like a Madonna feel -- kind of a rock beat, very tight-sounding. That one, maybe a week later, we were having dinner one night in the studio, and a bunch of people were there -- Chris Squire, Tony Kaye, and a duo -- a Russian woman and a Chilean guitar player who'd come and played with Chris Cornell a few years ago -- I think the duo was called Eleven -- anyway, there were a lot of people in the studio.

I thought we were done for the night, and Andy said, "Hey, let's go do 'The Loving' again." So we went out, and did a few more takes of that, completely live -- the opposite of what we'd done earlier. I was kind of cringing at the take -- I remember thinking, "It's not very good time," but Andy was saying, "I love this, I love this." I remember him saying to me, "You sound like Mick Avory" -- the drummer from The Kinks. So, it was like, "Oh, okay -- if you like it, then we're good. I'll do whatever you want." I wanted to go do another one, but he said, "No, this one feels really good."

When I used to work with Mike Chapman, if he got a really sloppy track, he would put applause on it, and make it sound live. So I said to Paul, "Maybe you want to throw some crowd noise on there, like it's at a party or something." And then, when I heard the record, and those cheers go up, I realized what was there was not what I meant at all! [laughs] But I think that was what prompted Paul to put the applause on there.

"King for a Day" was built over machine loops -- if you open up the lid on a LinnDrum, you can tune all the shit a lot higher. There are a couple hi-hats, I think, and the snare drum was a stacked thing -- I'd done that with the Misters, too, where I would take a snare drum and stack a timbale on top of it. It makes the drum too big to use in a kit, of course, but for overdubbing you can make the sucker five feet tall. Plus, you can put it wherever you want in the room, move things around to see where you can get the best sound, and you can mic it from many spots and blend the tones. We did the tom-toms as an overdub, too.

TB: I wanted to ask about that approach. I read a while ago that on some songs you had recorded different parts of the drums separately, and that you'd done that to get better separation between the sounds, and that it was something you were comfortable with.

PM: Yep, that's right. There were probably three or four distinctly different approaches on Oranges and Lemons. There were about four songs that were built with beat boxes. Then, there were about four songs that were just played live, where I don't think we even used a click, like on "The Loving." We just played. "One of the Millions" was another that was just played straight-up. I put a tambourine, with gaffer tape, where the hi-hat was, so it would be in the basic track.

TB: Really? That's a cool pattern, and not easy to play.

PM: For me, it was like an instant take. It was one of the last ones we did, and I think it was a matter of one or two quick takes. "Cynical Days" was done live, and took a long time -- I think that one was without a click, too. We did spend a lot of time on the tambourines -- it was me, Dave, Parthenon Huxley -- playing tambourines in unison, just to get a wider, sloppier slosh.

When I worked with Mike Chapman, he liked to double-, triple-, multi-track everything. The whole drum kit. So, you'd have a bunch of snares all flaming. In contrast to that, when I worked with Paul DeVilliers on Welcome to the Real World, he had just worked with Yes, on "Owner of a Lonely Heart," which they had done in pieces. So, when we started to work on that Mr. Mister record with Paul, he said, "Hey, I don't want to you play anything but the snare drum." "What are you talking about?" "I can get a better sound if I move the snare out into the middle of the room and you play it by itself." So, you do things like that. "Now, we're just going to do the cymbals, so I can turn the compression up like crazy." You don't have the hi-hat slamming...

TB: Right. No bleed or anything like that.

PM: Exactly. You get the snare away from the full kit, with all the resonating toms and cymbals sparking the mic's. Or sometimes I'll play the hi-hats in the vocal booth, so they can be super-dry and in your face, while the snare has lots of "room" to it. So, I was pretty familiar with all those approaches, and Paul was pretty trusting of me. He'd say, "Tell me how we can best do this. How would you do this thing, that thing," etc.

TB: It's interesting -- it's like the difference between making a movie and doing a play. The movie is done in little chunks, out of order, then assembled.

PM: Yeah, that's right. We did "King for a Day" in pieces like that...

TB: Did you do "Mayor" like that as well?

PM: Yep, we did "Mayor" like that, too. It's a machine foot. Originally, there was a sequenced bass line, from a keyboard. The way I would have done it would be to get the kick down, get the bass down, and get some guide parts from the other guys. They'd lay down quick guitar, vocals, so we'd have the basic arrangement on tape, and then I would go back out and work on the snare drum and the sound for a while.

Andy was really into having the drums be in tune with the song, so I remember we went through this whole process where there was a grand piano to my right, where usually it would be Andy and Paul at the piano, while I had a drum tech, Paul Mitchell, helping me, and [engineer] Ed Thacker was in the control room, probably with Colin and Dave. Then everyone would debate when the pitch was right! [laughs] Because I'd be like, "I don't know, it sounds okay to me," but they'd be like, "No, it's flat," "No, it's sharp," and they'd go back and forth on this stuff.

Then, somewhere in that process, he said, "You know, I love it when snares bend. Is there any way we could bend to the note?" That led me to my Akai sampler -- there's a thing there that's called Warp, where it will bend, so I found a sample that I had done when I first got the Akai. I had had a 57 in the room, and held a snare drum between my legs and just hit the drum. On the waveform that was created, there was no attack -- it was all ring. I didn't even catch the front of the sample -- and Andy loved it so much that it turned out to be almost on the entire record. We'd painstakingly tune the snare drum to the pitch, and then get this sample to the pitch, and then we'd lock 'em in together. That's on a lot of the songs. I know it's on "Mayor" and on "King for a Day."

TB: Ah, so that's how you got that big, ringing snare? For example, if you listen to "President Kill," the snare in the verse is very dry, but snare in the chorus and bridge has lots of ring.

PM: Yep. Exactly. That also came from Andy. When we were making the record, he was really specific -- "I want a real '60s, clangy, open drum sound." Except for certain places -- I remember, in "Scarecrow People," he wanted, like, a dead knock for the bass drum. I had an old Rogers 20-inch drum, so when we did that song, we set that up in a whole other part of the room, and I just played brush-snare and that foot, and we panned them hard left-right.

On that song, he said, "It should sound like a dust storm in Minnesota," or something like that [chuckles], and I said, "I think you probably mean something like Kansas or Oklahoma?" He laughed and said, "Yes, of course. Like a lot of stuff clanging on the back of a wagon as it's going across the prairie." We'd taken a lunch break, and I ran home and got all of my pots and pans out of the kitchen, threw them in a box, and brought them down to the studio, where I set them up on a big table. We might have even done that in rehearsal one day.

TB: What was the mix was between actual hardware you were playing, and samples? I know that was early days when it comes to sampling, and obviously your rig now is more advanced. I know there was sampling and things like that back then, but were your triggering stuff, or were you programming instead?

PM: Both. I had a bug on the snare that I could use if I needed to trigger the sample. I set my drums up on a small riser -- maybe a one-foot-tall drum riser, off the main drum pit. I had my gray Yamahas -- probably an 8[-inch], 10, 12, 14 and 16 [toms], with a 22-inch foot. I traded snares all the time, including one I'd just gotten from Yamaha -- I had to go get it from Rick Marotta, actually -- it was the first Yamaha piccolo snare. That's on "Pink Thing" -- I think it's on about four tracks, that snare drum. It was a metal, three-inch piccolo.

And then I had my electronic rig behind me, which in those days was a side-by-side refrigerator rack full of Casio FZ1's. I sequenced up in a Yamaha QX-1, so I'd make these floppy-disc samples. I'm getting all out of order on the songs, but on a track like "Garden of Earthly Delights," I programmed the kind of giddy-up stuff -- like doumbeks or talking drums or whatever -- similar to what Andy had done on his demo -- in the Casio, and used that to fire off that sequencer. And then, I played the whole kit, at one time, on top of that.

On that one we also sequenced the foot. It'd worked fine in rehearsal quantized, and then, when we got in the studio, Andy wasn't comfortable with the way it felt, so I think I re-quantized it to 32nd notes rather than 16ths or something, but it still didn't feel right to him. So I said, "Come over here and play it." He tapped one in until he was happy with it, and then I think I tapped one in, and we might have ended up with three or four versions, and did the blindfold test.

I think we called each one a different name -- "Fred," "Irma," whatever. Every time, Andy knew exactly which was the one he did. I was like, "I can't tell the difference, they all sound fine to me," and pretty soon you realized that half of us couldn't tell which one we were listening to, but Andy -- there was a nuance about that one. He knew exactly what he wanted.

TB: It's funny about that, isn't it? He does know exactly what he wants.

PM: Oh yeah. He's very fine-tuned to detail. And in an obscure way.

On "Chalkhills and Children," I put up a Yamaha RX drum machine to get that ding-ding-ding-ding cymbal pattern, and we just played on top of it. We overdubbed the jingle bells and all that later.

You know, I wasn't originally supposed to play on that song. When Paul originally called me, he said, "You'll probably play on most of the record, but there are a few other guys, too. They want to get Tony Williams" -- they were going to use him on "Chalkhills" -- "and also Vinnie Colaiuta."

TB: Wow.

PM: Yeah. Paul knew Vinnie, and they were thinking of him for "Miniature Sun." But we got ahead of schedule, cutting tracks, so when we had extra days, they were like, "We've cut all the stuff Pat was supposed to cut in 10 days, and we have four more days, so let's have a go at this one or that one."

Looking back at my date book, if it's right, it looks like we tracked those the middle of second week and both the same day. Maybe that was they day they held for Tony or Vinnie!

Anyway, on "Garden of Earthly Delights," we played that together as a band. I'd had this idea, from way back, to try and put a coda on the song, so I threw it at the guys -- we got to the end of a pretty good take, I turned around to my Yamaha QX, spun the dial to slow down the tempo, hit "go" again, and we ended up with that slowed-down coda. The guys all just started jamming with me, and we kind of just got lucky!

I originally thought about doing this when we were rehearsing the song. There was another song I did with the Misters, called "Welcome to the Real World," where there's a coda that's the same sort of thing, but in our case we did a thousand takes of it. With XTC, we did it pretty quick.

With "Mayor of Simpleton," the bass was sequenced at first. I played those drums with nobody else around -- the guys were all in the control room. I'd get done with the snare drum, then I'd do the hi-hat, then I'd do the cymbal crashes, then maybe cowbell or whatever -- that kind of routine.

I remember that somewhere in that process, they were going to take a dinner break, and there was some guy in the studio who looked like the janitor -- he had this weird hat on. They said something like, "It's pretty good! Vern likes it." And I thought, "Vern? Who cares what Vern thinks, and who is Vern? He must be that guy who looks like a gardener or something, with his funny cap on." They said, "We're going to go out to dinner," and I said, "I'll stay here and get set up for the next song we're going to do." I found out the next day that it was David Byrne. [laughs] I missed my chance! I'd never met him, and he was the guy who was there while I was overdubbing for an hour or so.

TB: [laughing] And of course they used to tour together, so they knew him well.

PM: I didn't know that!

TB: Yeah, back in the early days they opened for Talking Heads. So, you had this mix of equipment then...

PM: Yeah. It was a big room at Ocean Way, and I had my drums in one place, then the table with all the pots and pans, and my little red bass drum. For "President Kill," I had a big parade drum and a marching snare for the [mimics verse pattern], and then used the real kit in the later parts of that song.

The guys were gone, actually, when I added the real drum kit for "President Kill." They'd gone home to dinner, I think -- Dave's diabetic, so he can't mess around with his meal schedule, plus Andy and Colin had their families, so we kind of fell into pattern where they would get guide parts on tape, and I would stay later with Paul and Ed, and get drum sounds. Sometimes, if we got drum sounds fast, we'd go for a take. Then, they would come in the next morning, and we'd pick up where I had left off. Usually, we'd just re-cut -- you know, "Change this, change that, now let's cut the track again," or fine-tune something.

TB: But you always had backing tracks to work with?

PM: Just about, except on the songs where we all played together, like "One of the Millions," "The Loving," and a couple more that we played live on the floor like that. But there were several, like "President Kill," where they laid down guide parts. They were there when I did the military pattern, and then we probably started tweaking, getting the timbre of the snare right, and getting the pitch right, and all that, and then somewhere later, after all that, they would have left. And then it was just a matter of, "Hey, let's roll tape and just put a couple down, then I'll come in and listen." So, I remember coming in and thinking, "This feels pretty good! This could actually be a take -- maybe I'll just leave this for the guys."

The only problem was, there was a big clam somewhere -- I can't remember exactly where, but someplace I played something really bad. So I said, "Let's just drop in there -- I'll fix that bar," or whatever it was. And the kid made a bad punch -- Clark Germain was the secondary engineer. He's great, he's an ex-horn player, and really good at punches -- little quick punches -- but he missed it on this one. So now the hole got bigger. So at first I'm fixing, like, maybe a bar, and then I'm fixing two bars, and then I'm fixing four bars, and I'm going, "Fucking hell." [laughs] Because the cymbal might be hanging over or something -- you had to really match things up in those days. I remember thinking, "Fuck, I'm going to have to do this whole song again, and lose everything that was groovy!" But eventually we got through it -- I don't even remember where the punch was, but that was "the cringe" the next day -- playing it for the guys, and wondering, will they like it, were they going to notice that we punched in?

TB: Did they?

PM: No! It all worked out. There was good scrutiny, too.

Did Andy ever tell you about the Colonel? I don't know if I want to reveal that story.

TB: [laughing] The Colonel Cunt hat?

PM: Yeah. [laughing]

TB: Did you ever end up wearing it?

PM: No, I don't think so!

TB: Good!

PM: That was pretty early on -- maybe in the first couple days of tracking, when we were trying to decide if something was a take, you know? Everybody pretty much deferred to Andy's position, but we had Ed and Paul going, "That feels good. I think that's good." And Andy would be saying, "Oh, I'm not sure," or whatever. After a while, he said, "Give me a second." He stepped out of the room -- we'd thought he'd come right back in, like he was going to get a glass of water or something. But he was gone, like, an hour. We were sitting there, going, "Shit, do we move ahead? We can't move ahead -- he hasn't signed off on it yet."

There was this weird store across the street with really nasty porn stuff, and he made this hat with a strategically placed part of the female anatomy, if you get my drift, along with a Hitler mustache. He'd also made braids and stuck them here [motions to shoulders], and a riding crop, and he came back into the studio, after all this time, and goes [cod Nazi voice], "Ze Colonel is ready! Ze Colonel vill decide now vot is the take!" [laughs]

Somewhere around that time he also made a spin-the-wheel thing. On the wheel, there were labels, like, "Great -- best take ever, better than the Beatles. Pretty Good. Okay. Not So Good. Possibly Acceptable. Pretty Bad. Weak. Horrible. Dreadful. The Worst Shit I've Ever Heard."

So, sometimes you'd spin the thing, and the arrow would be slowing down near "The Worst Shit I've Ever Heard," but then it'd make it to "Great," and it'd be like, "Yay, we're get to keep it!" [laughs] There are seriously a couple of spots on that record where the spin determined whether or not we kept a take.

I remember what I wanted to add about "Mayor" -- while I was doing all those overdubs on "Mayor of Simpleton," Colin was in the other room. And once I got done, he came in to replace his bass part, and he'd rewritten that whole ending -- the coda where he does that weird bass cycle. He never had that at rehearsal, or even when we tracked the drums. He was sitting in that little vocal booth, messing around while I'm overdubbing drums for an hour or two, and then when he comes into play, it was like, "Fuck! He's written this whole new thing that's brilliant!"

Plus, I was pretty familiar, as you might guess, with all their records, so we were able to jam at rehearsals. I would just start a "Nigel" beat, and the guys would be stunned, and start playing along. But it was more than that -- "Meccanik Dancing," or "It's Nearly Africa" or whatever -- lots of songs. Things where there was enough drumming that when I would do it, they would recognize it and might start to play. Of course, a couple of chords in, they might not remember anymore! [laughs] But I was in the same boat.

TB: Yeah, he had mentioned you would do that, and the other thing that he and Colin have both mentioned is that you had a really good work ethic.

PM: I'm the first in, and the last out.

TB: Have you done that with all your bands?

PM: Yeah. I think most drummers do. At least, until you go on heroin or something! [laughs]

When I first met the guys, within a few days, once it felt comfortable, I asked what some of their favorite records were, so that I could maybe get a little further inside their head. I remember, from Colin, it was Sly and Robbie. So I went out and bought every Sly and Robbie record I could, and was listening to them all night. And from Andy, it was The Blue Nile, A Walk Across the Rooftops, which I'd never heard, and which I ran right out and bought. And Adolescent Sex by Japan. And that's David Sylvian...

TB: Who you ended up playing with!

PM: Exactly! When I heard that record, then Go 2 and White Music made more sense to me. It was like, "Holy shit, they were actually competing with Japan" -- when you hear those jagged guitar riffs, and things.

TB: Did Dave give you any records that spring to mind?

PM: No, but he obviously is the most schooled of the three, and is a real audiophile, record collector, nuance guy. Dave just sort of writes everything out. I remember coming to Summa, the first night I heard what they'd done with "Merely a Man," Dave was doing his wah-wah guitar solo. He had, like, a six-page chart on the floor, to play wah-wah guitar! The guy rehearsed the song with us for weeks, he knows it as well or better than me, but he's got a chart laid out -- and he's written everybody's parts, not just his own! He's seeing how the interaction works, how all the harmonies lay out.

TB: I think that's one of the reasons that he and Andy were such a good pair for such a long time.

PM: Yeah, Andy just blows.

TB: Exactly! He just plays, and stumbles into things, and embraces mistakes. He sees that as a source of his creativity. But Dave provides that balance -- the schooling and the formal theory and everything else behind it.

PM: I remember, at rehearsal, Andy came in late or early on something, and he loved it. I remember him saying, in his British voice, "That's the funk. We've found the funk." The two parts weren't in unison -- there was a "g-gah" between the two guitar parts, kind of like what happens in "Wake Up."

Another song that people ask me about a lot is "Poor Skeleton Steps Out." I think that one was built up in pieces. There's a weird little cymbal on there that's actually a broken piece of a cymbal -- oh, this leads into a whole cymbal issue, actually.

We were starting to get drum sounds the first day, before we could start tracking, and Andy kept saying, "Do you have another cymbal?" I'd put up another cymbal, and he'd ask, "Do you have another? It just doesn't sound right to me." I put up another cymbal, and then the light bulb went off -- Andy played with Terry, who used Paiste cymbals, and he'd played with Prairie [Prince], who played Paiste cymbals, and I was a Sabian endorser. I had a lot of Sabians and Zildjians, and just a few Paistes. I pulled out a Paiste Rude 2002 ride, and I crashed it, and he said, "That's it! That's the sound."

So, I called Paiste right then, and got the artist's rep, Rich Mangicaro and said, "Hi, I'm this guy Pat," and he said, "Oh, I know you!" I said, "I'm working with this band XTC," and he said, "Oh, I love those guys!" I said, "Can you help me out? Can I get a box of cymbals up here, like, tonight?" He said, "I'll be right there." Brought up a big box of cymbals, I used them for the whole record, and then gave them back to him.

So, about two weeks later, I started the next record, whatever it was, and I thought, "Holy shit, this sounds like I'm under a sheet of fabric!" I called Rich, and asked, "Can I be an endorser?" And then had to call Sabian, and said, "I got to leave. I'm sorry, I love your stuff, but some of the stuff..."

TB: Paistes are brighter.

PM: They're way brighter. So I ended up using a real mish-mash of cymbals throughout the whole record. I had these little Sabian 6- and 8-inch splashes...

TB: I was going to ask you about that, because there's a lot of really fast-decay stuff that you do.

PM: Yeah. Andy liked little spurts instead of big crashes. Sometimes he'd want a big crash, but a lot of time, he just wanted a little splash.

TB: Like punctuation.

PM: Yeah, exactly. So, I was constantly switching things out. The basic kit stayed the same, but I might switch out a few drums. Paul had an old Gretsch kit. On some things, we used his bass drum and rack tom -- he had one tom-tom, with no bottom head. We traded out the cymbals a lot, and then started using these micro hi-hats -- I probably had two hi-hats -- fixed closed hi-hats, those real heavy, 10-inch cymbals they used to make. Then I started to use those little 6-inch cymbals -- that's what's on "Garden of Earthly Delights." Andy said, "I like that they're just these little coughing sounds."

TB: Those cymbals are all spread out across the stereo field -- it sounds to me as if you had to multi-track that.

PM: No, I played the kit, all at one time. I'm playing along with a bass drum that's programmed, and some of the other percussion stuff that I'd already programmed -- the doumbek, talking drum and other things.

TB: But all the high-end cymbal stuff is you playing live?

PM: Oh yeah. I think the band even played with me -- I think we were all tracking live. The machine stuff I'm describing is basically a loop that ran top to bottom, and then maybe, after we were done, I probably went back in and said to Paul, "Hey, why don't we double the kick right there," or something like that.

TB: When you do something like that, and you're playing along with a kick that exists already, what do you do with your right foot?

PM: I just pound on the floor. Or, quite often, I can take advantage of it and just tap quarter notes with my foot on the floor, which makes it much easier for me to do things with my arms. I can do accents that I wouldn't otherwise be able to do.

TB: Sure, it's like using your right foot as a click or something.

PM: Yeah. "Pink Thing" was played on the whole kit live, I'm pretty sure. But we probably had a click -- whereas, like I say, "The Loving," "One of the Millions" and "Cynical Days" were done with no click. They wanted the lilt.

So, like I say, I think there are about four of each. "Garden" is that machine thing, with a live kit played over it. "Mayor" was done in pieces. "King for a Day" was done in pieces, for me. "President Kill," I built the front and then played the rest as a kit, and put the tambourine on immediately -- the tambourine was a big part of that. "The Loving" was played live, "Skeleton Steps Out" -- I can't actually remember. That's probably more machine. Probably like the machine played the kick.

TB: So, the tablas on that song are programmed?

PM: Yeah. Those might have come from Paul -- he had a Linn 9000. I had a Linn-LM1. I know on "Antheap" that we were really picky about those cowbells. It took a while to find three cowbells that had the pitches that everybody liked, and then we sampled those into Paul's Linn 9000, and drove them from there. And then I tracked live, playing a flat Paiste cymbal, side-stick on the snare, and kick drum.

When we finished tracking "Antheap," either later that night or maybe the next day, I asked Ed and Paul, "Can you buss me and the whole kit down to mono?" We put everything down to mono, and I just started in the middle of the song and played until the end. I didn't worry about it being exactly right, or if it was flaming -- I just wanted to find a way to bring it up toward the end, so you get a bit more excitement. So, if you listen closely, there are all these things crossing and morphing -- the psychedelia of it all! It was just on one fader, and you could pan it and move across the stereo field -- you don't even notice it as a separate thing so much. I was just being trashy and as loud as I could.

Going back to the list of songs in order, "One of the Millions" was played all of us live. "Scarecrow People" -- I don't know exactly how we did it, but I remember playing the red kick drum stuffed full of shit, and using brushes, and the table of pots and pans.

"Cynical Days" I know we played together, because it's not with a click. I think we played "Antheap" together. "Hold Me My Daddy" we played together, and then I used that Yamaha RX drum machine for the coda -- you know, that little African thing that's there. Plus, I wanted a dry sound on that song, so I remember putting towels on the drums.

TB: So, the drum machine was playing what part?

PM: The song is mostly drum kit, but during the coda the machine comes in. I think there's a four-on-the-floor pattern, and a really muffly-sounding kick drum -- to me, it sounds like a kick sound I couldn't get. There's a fast hi-hat pattern, too. Then I probably played something on top of that.

"Pink Thing" was the whole drum kit played live. "Miniature Sun" we played together.

TB: Tell me about that song -- that's a really tough pattern.

PM: Really tough.

TB: You're doing the hi-hat on the "and's," and you're doing quarters on the cymbal, and that tom pattern against it.

PM: I couldn't do it. That was Andy's drum part -- you've got the two feet shuffling. I couldn't play it at rehearsal, so to get through rehearsal at least, I used a bug on my kick drum to trigger a signal to my Akai. I used this thing called MX8 -- it was a MIDI patch bay -- and I could set delays, MIDI delays, in there. I found a delay time that worked, and told it, every time the kick drum hit, send out a MIDI note, so it became automatic. You get that boom-chap-boom-chap-boom-chap pattern. And that's how we tracked it -- that's how we rehearsed it and tracked it. So, all I had to do was play four-on-the-floor at the right tempo...

TB: And you didn't have to involve your left foot at all.

PM: Right. Because I couldn't. To be honest. I still work on that beat!

TB: [laughing] I don't feel so bad now! It's one of the songs that I'll woodshed with, and it's hard to play!

PM: Yeah. There's something like that on a Crimson song called "Matte Kudasai," where Bill [Bruford] does that kind of thing with his feet. It's standard repertoire in that kind of Jazz head, but I didn't come from that world, so I used that thing, and later we replaced it.

I think Andy and I did it together -- we played shakers in the room, facing each other. We might have even sang them, actually. I don't think we used it, but you know how he sings percussion parts sometimes -- on Black Sea and other albums. But playing off-beat shakers was actually really hard. Now I have some shakers that are hard on one side and soft on the other, so you can play an isolated 16th note, but in those days I was using maracas or little salt cans, or whatever I made, so everything had a backbeat. But, you know, sometimes you didn't want "chi-chunk" -- you just wanted "chunk." Really hard to do.

There's a really interesting part in this that you'd probably never notice -- it was Andy's idea. The pivotal line in the song is when the "other man doffs his hat." He said, "That's the pivotal point in the story, and then everything goes sour." So at that point I start to mix the pattern up. The toms don't stay in the sequence that they did. Same rhythm, but a different order. That was very much Andy's suggestion.

TB: So, tell me about "Chalkhills." For example, you say that Bill was able to play that Jazz-based pattern and you couldn't, but there are a couple songs toward the end of this album that get pretty Jazzy, and you do fine on them. "Cynical Days" and "Chalkhills and Children" come immediately to mind. Was that another example of where you guys had some extra time, so you said, "Let me go on in and track it"?

PM: No, they offered. I was too shy. I knew that they were talking about another guy...

TB: And Tony Williams at that!

PM: Paul was going to bring him down after a few weeks, just like from the very beginning he wanted to bring Mark Isham in. Isham's an old friend of his; I knew him a little bit. Paul had already said, "I'm going to bring Mark in later to play trumpet on this album." He had also talked about using someone like Luis Conte, who was very popular then, on percussion, but as we did the record it was much more kind of Beatle white-boy tambourine stuff, you know, so we didn't really need that. And the other stuff we did with machines.

With Chalkhills, I'm pretty sure we just played together. I'm not sure that Andy played guitar -- he might have played keyboards or even just sang.

TB: How many takes did you guys do of "Chalkhills"?

PM: I don't think very many. I can't be sure, but once we got the sounds, I think maybe just two or three or five takes. It wasn't like a beat-it-into-the-ground type of thing.

TB: And they just wanted you to stretch out on the end like that?

PM: Well, it just seemed appropriate. I don't remember anyone asking me to or not to. But I do remember that I said to Paul, "I'm pretty dodgy with some of the things at the end -- you're going to fade this, right?" And he said, "Yep, it'll fade." And then, maybe the next day, I was listening to the track, and I said, "Paul, just make sure you're out by five minutes," or something like that -- I don't know what it was exactly -- "because there's a really dodgy fill there." And he didn't get out in time! The two last things you hear as it fades away are things that make me cringe.

TB: Oh, I don't know about that -- I know the fills you're talking about, and they sound fine to me. The song is so loose by then, that I think it's okay.

PM: I guess. But I remember cringing when I heard the record, and I thought, "Oh, the fucker! I told him to fade by then and he said he would!" [laughs]

TB: Andy talks about how Paul created a really positive atmosphere, which is what Andy always looks for in a producer. He wants them to be a good mid-wife.

PM: Yeah, he was great. Totally indulgent. Andy was describing the record at the beginning, and said something like, "I want a dragster with all the chrome. Everything. I want lights, and stripes and anything else we can think of." And so, we did lots of overdubs. Sometimes I could hear Ed Thacker saying, behind their back, "Jesus Christ! What's going on in the mix? I don't even have any tracks left! I have to make more tracks so I can put more shit on top of it. Who's going to mix this thing?" "Well, you are, Ed!" [laughs]

When it did get time to mix, Andy had to leave, and then Dave left. They were all gone when the mixing happened. So, one of them called me, and said, "Be sure you drop in on the mixes, and check in for us." So I came once or twice to the mixing, like maybe the first or second day, and maybe a week later. The one thing I remember was, Ed was going, "Fucking tambourines! They've got tambourines on everything! I never know what to do with the tambourine -- where do I put it, Pat, to the right or the left?" I think he probably put it on the other side of the stereo field from the hi-hat. I never know how loud these things should be, but I remember Andy had given instructions...

TB: Yeah, he told me he left them with very detailed instructions.

PM: Oh, I'm sure he did. I know that, with the tambourine, he told me, "It's the loudest thing."

TB: On which song?

PM: I think in general, actually. In general, the rule was, vocals, tambourine, band. He said, "Listen to any of your Tamla records. It's vocal, tambourine, band -- in that order."

TB: Anything else you remember about the experience?

PM: I'd use a cassette to record the rehearsals. I had a boombox that I would record things on. I remember driving all the way out past Pasadena, two or three hours in my car, and back -- about five hours -- to listen and make notes. Like, "Okay, that's working, that's not working. That thing I did one time on Wednesday was good," or, "Don't ever do that again -- that was a bad idea."

I do that kind of homework with everything, really. Anybody I'm going to work with -- if I have time, I try to figure out what they were raised on. When I work with Robert Fripp, I'm going to find out what he's about. "Well, he's into Gurdjieff, who's Gurdjieff?" I'm going to buy some books and read about his philosophy. "Who's his favorite guitar player? It's Hank Marvin", from The Shadows." So, I'm going to go buy some Shadows records and figure out what he likes about him, and why.

When I worked with Bruford, I found out that he's not into any of the Rock drummers -- with him, it's Joe Morello, Max Roach and Elvin Jones. I had never listened many of those records, but I went out and bought them, and listened over and over.

With XTC, after I got to know them and their preferences and the songs, in some ways, I didn't have to do a lot of work, because they had great arrangements and great songwriting. Whenever someone compliments me on the record, I'm like, "Dude, with songs like that, as long as I didn't do something stupid, it's bound to be good."

7:29 PM

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