INTERVIEW : 2016-02-27 "Acts" story (by Richard Stuverud)

Just awesome.

Richard Stuverud
27 février, 10:24 ·

THE SESSION: story #12...(story of a random gong)

In between takes of an experimental jam with Joseph Arthur on the mellotron and Jeff Ament on the piano and me on Taos drums, we all decided to chill and take in the view of the surrounding mountains of missoula montana.
Joseph told us a story about when he was traveling in upstate new york, he had met a guy who had a shop full of gongs.
gongs of all shapes and sizes. Joseph continued to describe this scene using the word random....as in "this guy had all these random gongs."
all three of us laughed and thought it'd be an interesting name for a band...ladies and gentlemen, and zen meditation instructors, please welcome... random gong.
it became the working title throughout the rest of the 5 day session which took place in early spring of 2012.

the winter before, Jeff had mentioned that he really wanted to do a record with Joseph and had asked what i thought.
i was like, that's the best god damn idea you've had in years!...are you kidding me?...this will be great!
Jeff had a good laugh.
the idea we both agreed on was that we would be going in as a rhythm section, just see if we could back Joseph, who i am convinced can write and record a whole friggin album while dreaming in his sleep!...and then to wake up and write a new song while doing a painting at the same time!

we felt that this would be a good starting point and then see where it would take us.

the first time i saw Joseph perform was when he was on tour as support with Three Fish back in 99'.
it was at wetlands in n.y. and i was completely mesmerized by the way he was looping his guitar and vocals.
i have been a fan of his ever since. (over the sun, can't exist, top pics btw).
i think i can speak for Jeff on this as well.
this made for some really great energy going into the session.

the first song we starting rolling with was "what you can't control".
i remember thinking, when Jo started in with the intro on guitar, and that beautifully haunting vocal melody... what is my move here?
i stayed out to let that first verse breath and then when he repeated a few lines, that was the cue, but instead of coming in with the full beat straight away, i felt like setting it up with some quarter notes on the kick, and then, boom, we're in.
Joseph and Jeff threw some big fat smiles my way, and i knew we were about to make a really cool record.

the one realization i've been able to make since making this record, is that there really is a time and place for arrangement ideas which also applies to bringing full on songs in, etc.
i feel that on one level, since i'm pretty passionate about my own songwriting, that passion has put me in a paculiar place.
on the one hand, to be a tasteful drummer and to play for the song, one has to partake in that songwriting. the touchy spot is also knowing when to let the song be, and just focus on your own instrument.
and when you're in the room with an amazing songwriter, that is a good time to give that space to the writer.
it was actually quite liberating to dive into just playing drums.

next up: "dissappearing ones". it's one of my personal favs on Acts.
when Jo started rocking this one, i dove in thinking , what would it sound like if keith moon played drums for elvis costello?
this tune is just hands down so much fun to play!

3 days in, we were on fire!
we had something like 10 complete songs after day 4.
day 5, lets call it 15 killer song considerations!

the other amazing thing that made this session so intriguing and full of surprises, is that there were moments where some serious magic was floating around.
every particle in the room had this creative energy.
the subjective and objective morphing into one truth.
the observer and the observed.
i could do both when it came to the more collaborative aspects of the session, which was now apparent that we were making a record.
Jeff and i had some old jams with just drums, bass and guitar with no vocals.
very stripped down.
we were now in the phase of experimenting.
we put up a rocker, which would become "throw you to the pack" and the same drums, bass, guitar configuration for the tune that would become "letting go of will".
Joseph nailed the vocals for both tunes in less than an hour! it was so crazy good.
and as i recall, Jo only heard about 1 minute of the music for "letting go of will", he went back into the main room from the control room and literally laid the vocals down in 2 takes!
Jo had learned a valuable trick from the great Lou Reed, who had essentially told him, put up a mic and go with your gut reaction to what you think the vocals should be, especially if your'e not familiar with what you are singing to.
that raw impulse is what is essential for the energy and vibe, which is what makes for some great songs.
it was incredible to watch Jo dig in.

and to bring it all around, what Jeff and i were doing as a rhythm section on some of Jo's songs, he was now doing on these old jams from Jeff and I.

at this point, we decided to drop the gong off of random gong. (sorry zen master's)
it then morphed into random, and then over lots of late night coffee, it became RNDM.
this part of the session gets even more rad as Jeff brings out his orange gretsch bigsby guitar.
Jo's artist side started to shine here as he had mentioned, "what if we all had orange instruments?"
Jeff smiled and came back with, "we're pretty much there, i have a DW kit with a day glo orange finish. (hunter orange is the official finish).

it's funny to think that just 6 months later we would be rehearsing for the tour for this record with the full on orange gear!

and the thing i love the most about this session is that the whole thing just flowed in that same spirit of Lou Reed's vocal approach philosophy, with going with your gut and first instinct.
Jeff, Joseph and i for lack of a better description, really were all becoming one in this process.
the magic and chemistry here was something to behold.

on our final day of tracking Joseph started playing "cherries in the snow".
there was some unspoken emotional energy happening on this one. i felt it from across the room from Jo.
i didn't yet know what the song was about, but the melancholic nature captivated me.
i began to feel the goose bumps on the back of the neck. it's one of the best feelings in the world when you are a musician and this feeling comes on.
it can be rare, so when it does happen, you gotta take ahold of it.

after we finished this tune in one take, Jo had shared what the song was about
it was about his dying aunt, and that he had sung it from her perspective.
thats when a few tears started to flow.

i walked over to Jo and gave him a hug and told him that i loved him.
he returned the love.
Jeff was wearing a smile bigger than the big sky state!

we finished the basic tracks for the album in one week.

i never felt more alive in a recording session.

this one is etched onto the super soul.

in honor of my RNDM brothers, Jeff and Joseph.

i love you dudes,
now lets go make some history!

(this wraps up the SESSION series).

onto that big wide Road stories next!

over and out.


2016-02-03 - The Bowery Ballroom, New York

On Stage :

Joseph opened for Greg Dulli.

Setlist :

pledge of allegiance
maybe you
in the sun
travel as equal
come back when you're poor
i miss the zoo

Recording :

Sadly, there's no audio recording of this event. 
If I am wrong, thank you to inform me by email.