I could go on forever…
Salem’s Bend are a new signing to Ripple Music and their debut gets a vinyl release in early-October. Atom Heart Mutha I spoke with guitarist/vocalist Robert ‘Bobby’ Parker and asked about the album, the technical processes of recording, and experiences playing live.
What can you tell me about the background of recording the album?
We recorded it during 2014 and finished mid-2015. Initially, it started as an experiment with recording. I did all the engineering and mixing and each song was sort of an experiment with different miking techniques that I learned over the past six years of recording. When I’d learn about a new technique, I’d want to try it out and so I would record a song that I’d written in the past couple years to test it out. We converted our garage into a recording/practice room, with soundproofing and acoustic treatments that we built ourselves, so it was easy to get in there and record any time.
So I’d try out different mics on the drums, like the Glyn Johns method with four mics, or using eight mics with close mics on all the drums, or miking up the drum kit with only two mics out in the room. For most of them, the drums were recorded on my four-track tape machine, a Teac 3440, except for one or two songs where I used more than four mics. I’d then play back from the tape into ProTools to record the rest of the instruments.
Several of the songs started as a mic test, and if it sounded cool then it would turn into a full song. I’d try different miking methods for my guitars and for bass as well, and I used a different amp or pedal for each song, just to experiment with different tones and to try to capture unique sounds for each track. I’ve become obsessed with collecting amps over in the past couple years and have way too many, a bunch of weird amps, too!
After recording several songs, I realized that they sounded pretty decent, so I figured why not record a few more and have an album’s worth of songs. Some of the songs started as riffs I wrote as far back as 2009 and a couple were written in the studio and created during the recording process.
Once I had the instruments sounding good, I then added vocals. I usually do vocals last and I’d also try weird effects like running my vocal track into a guitar amp with spring reverb and overdrive or whatever, just to try different stuff out.
Final step was getting it mastered by a guy here in LA named Tom Rogers, and he was really helpful – we went back and forth to get the CD master. Then Tony Reed did the master for vinyl and he’s a well-known bad-ass, a heavy hitter in this scene.
Sounds like it was something you wanted to get right technically, how does that affect the amount of time you get to play live? Is there a balance or as a band do you take things head-on?
It started out as just recording, so all the time was spent in the studio. Then once the songs were written and put out there on Bandcamp and got some attention, it was time to take them live. Kevin was down for bass and I met Zach and he was a great fit for the drums, so we’ve been spending all this year since the spring working on the live show and adjusting the songs for the stage. The songs were written to be able to be reproduced live, and Kevin and Zach have really come through as a fantastic rhythm section and integral players for our three-piece.
What were you listening to throughout the recording process?
Throughout the recording processing I was listening to all sorts of songs, new and old. Lots of classic ‘70s bands were inspirations for tones and song structure. I had found a bunch of more obscure ‘70s acts that really gave me great ideas, bands like Dust, Lucifer’s Friend, Cozy Powell’s solo stuff, Dirty Tricks, Buffalo, and especially Toad – man, I love Toad! And, of course, the classics like Sabbath, Priest, Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, Motörhead, Deep Purple, Pentagram, etc. But also newer rock groups like Witch, Kadavar, Uncle Acid, Red Fang, Mountain Witch, Mamont, Radio Moscow, Blues Pills, Graveyard, etc. I could go on forever. I’m constantly listening to all kinds of music!
The album sleeve is very bold, how did you come up with the concept?
I came up with the album art idea a couple years ago. It’s based on the wall of dire wolf skulls at the La Brea Tarpits. I thought it captured the heavy aesthetics of the music and also subtly referencing the song concepts, which are based around ancient stories, retro sci-fi/fantasy books, and classic ‘70s heavy rock.
You’ve signed to Ripple Music. How did that come about?
We got hooked up with Ripple through Bandcamp, basically. We posted the album up in late-December last year and a guy named Bucky heard it and liked it and sent it to Todd at Ripple. Todd contacted me in January to talk about it and I was also contacted by another small label, but Todd and Ripple seemed like a great fit so I ended up signing the album with them and it was a great choice. So many excellent bands on Ripple and everyone is really nice and helpful. They got us hooked up with a West Coast tour with KIND in June and that was awesome, so I’m quite happy with the choice.
How about plans to tour outside the United States?
We would love to tour outside the US, one of the KIND guys told us that touring in Europe was a little better since the venues and promoters are a bit more generous, mostly, or have more of a budget for bands, so they pay a little a better and hook you up with free booze and food a lot of the time, which sounds great to us! We are just looking for any good opportunities and would jump at the chance to tour outside the US.
How does it feel knowing the release is imminent? Does it make you want to get back into the studio?
We are excited for the release and to hear the album on vinyl, and I am definitely ready to hit the studio again for another album. I’ve got tons of new riffs and we’ve jammed out some cool ideas together during practice, so I hope to put out a second album next year.
Thanks for catching up Bobby. Are there any up-and-coming bands people should be on the lookout for?
Yes, there are a couple great bands to keep your eye out for who are coming up in LA. One is The Rare Breed – we played with these guys at our LA stop during the tour and they are radical! They just dropped their full-length album, ‘Looking for Today’ (2016), and it’s fuckin awesome! Super-solid grooves and riffs. They are a great doom rock group to definitely keep your eye on. Another great local band who has been around for a couple years and should definitely be on your radar is Electric Parlor. Excellent classic rock ‘n roll band, definitely a must-hear, and our drummer Zach plays with them, as well – he started the band with the other guys a few years ago.
Salem’s Bend new album gets a vinyl release via Ripple Music on 6 October 2016