Nakia - Electronic side project of Tony Hajjar (Sparta, At The Drive In)

Our story begins at Indigo Ranch in Malibu, were we both ended up after engineering school and worked a bunch with engineer Chuck Johnson and producer Ross Robinson on stuff like Glassjaw, At The Drive In, and others too numerous to name (Wasp is in there somewhere…Heee Hee)….

Nakia was the first real recording we did together. Tony wrote the spine of  each song on a few different samplers & drum machines. The basics were tracked on 2-inch Tape at Indigo Ranch and Clearlake Audio, and overdubs and editing continued at tony’s place In Pro-Tools. Mixed at Mama Jo’s. We had both worked on At The Drive In’s “Relationship Of Command” LP at Indigo Ranch, and had become good friends with Tony. He was very gracious to give us a chance to work with him on his side project. We were very excited about the opportunity. This recording will always be a favorite, Not just because Tony’s music was so cool, but also because it was such an exciting time, when we were getting started on recording some projects from the driver’s seat…

400 Blows - "Black Rainbow" LP

It was suggested to us by our friend Manny Nieto (“Francis Miranda”), proprietor of Wet and Dry studio and Now Manny Nieto Estudio, that we check out 400 Blows. Manny said they were probably the best punk band in Los Angeles. Probably? They were ABSOLUTELY The best. We were totally floored when we saw them play. Their music is a totally elemental Punk/Metal hybrid that is played with such precision and honesty, and is so creatively fresh despite It’s blunt, elemental nature…Just indescribably awesome. We immediately started hounding them to let us do their next record. We finally broke them down, and tracked almost the entire record’s worth of basics live in one day at indigo ranch on 2-inch tape. some overdubs and mixing over the next couple of days, and the bulk of it was done. The result was their Black Rainbow LP. Richard Kaplan, owner of indigo ranch mixed this with us. some additional songs were recorded later together with James Hale at Big Scary Tree in downtown Los Angeles. Mastered by John Golden.

Next up were Bluebottle Kiss. A three-piece band  from Australia. We saw them play at a dive bar behind a liquor store in a strip mall off Hollywood Blvd on a Monday night. There were 6 people in the bar as they dominated the  dark corner they were stuffed into, like it was the biggest show they ever played. They sounded like Neil Young with Crazy Horse mixed with Nick Cave at his most gentle and literate. So we simply explained to them that they were not getting off the continent without recording with us. Thankfully, they acquiesced. Drums for Gangsterland were tracked at Royaltone in North Hollywood with assistance from James Hale. and Ounce Of  Your Cruelty and the rest of Gangsterland were recorded at Indigo. Thanks to Tony Hajjar for the sweet Vistalite kit loaner. Ounce Of Your Cruelty also appears on BBK’s Revenge Is Slow LP.

Bluebottle Kiss - Ounce of Your Cruelty & Gangsterland singles, Revenge is Slow LP.

We met Toby Burke in Los Angeles. He gave us a copy of his first Horse Stories record, and we loved it. We started talking about recording horse stories and decided to have a test run. The result was their Amber lights EP which included a cover of Nick Cave’s “Nobody’s Baby Now”.  All appreciated the outcome of that first effort, so we moved on to the LP.

Horse Stories "Amber Lights" Ep

“One Hundred Waves” was recorded at Indigo Ranch on 2-inch Tape in 3 days. In addition to Toby, Clint Stapleton played drums, Beth Balmer played Piano, Accordion, Violin & Cello, and did some singing as well. Jeff Holmes played guitar and lap steel. We were also blessed to have the great Eric Haywood of Son Volt sit in on 2 songs on pedal steel. Dude was amazing.

We had a wonderful time tracking this one. Indigo was a great place to dig in to this kind of a record. It was meant to be very intimate and recording, and Indigo, which was basically a little house down a dirt road in the hills seemed just right. We had a little group sing along on “Shanty for a Drowning Sinner”, drank some rum and made a pretty great record. We’re pretty proud of it.

We mixed in 2 days at Mama Jo’s in North Hollywood with assistance from Dean Nelson. Mastered by John Golden.

Horse Stories "100 Waves" LP

After Horse Stories, we took a little bit of a break, while Zak moved to Santa Cruz to help open a new restaurant and Kevin continued working as an engineer at Indigo Ranch and then at the Document Room, Where he helped build the studio from the bottom up, and worked as house engineer on numerous projects such as Gogol Bordello, Weezer, The Avett Brothers, Citizen Cope, and yes, even Pink, as well as with producers such as Butch walker and Rick Rubin.

Buster Blue's album "When The Silver's Gone"

Zak is now in Reno, Nevada, again helping run a business with a friend, and the break ends with Buster Blue’s album “when the Silver’s Gone” Which was recorded in an old opera house in Virginia City, Nevada…

Indigo Ranch closed, and sadly the house it had been in burned to the ground in the Malibu Corral Canyon fire a few years ago. The document room has since closed as well, and we got to thinking… Why not focus on location recordings? Pipers Opera House was an ideal location. Having been built in the days before amplified sound, the room was designed so that every seat in the house from the front row to the balcony could hear what was going on on stage. Pipers also had a wonderfully smooth and subtle natural reverberation to it, and was a magical place to spend a week tracking an album that has its roots so firmly planted in classic American music and Americana. The instrumentation was mostly acoustic, with piano, accordion, banjo, guitar, trombone, bass clarinet, baritone sax, drums, and upright as well as electric bass. We used no artificial reverb, choosing instead to let the sound of the room give the album it’s unique character. There were hot toddys and ghost hunts as well, and a fine time was had by all. In addition, Zak was resposible for the photography, design and layout of the album. The cover shot was taken on the stage at Piper’s and features some of the folks we met in Virginia City, including “Uncle” John Curran who provided us with the outro to the album in the form of an expertly performed version of Irving Berlin’s “kiss me my honey, kiss me” played on an old saloon piano. Mastered by Mike Major.

My Flag Is On Fire's album "Europa Song"

Next up, was My Flag Is On Fire’s epic album “Europa Song”. This one was tracked in the basement of a huge warehouse in downtown Reno. It was freezing and dusty down there, but the room was so good, we did it anyway. The album called for almost a concert hall room sound, and after a bit of a search we found it in that warehouse. We approached this one like a 50’s Jazz recording, using only 3 mics on the drums, and capturing most of the instrumentation live.  This recording is one of our favorites to date. We tracked vocals and did percussion and trumpet overdubs at a beautiful old rustic cabin at Lake Tahoe, with a roaring fire going 24/7, and mixing took place at Krevis’s home studio, Old Bosley Road. This one was mastered by Kramer, who handled our baby with care, and did a fantstic job on it.


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