Carsey Interviews Gordon

A sharp young gentleman named Carson Tacker wrote me an email asking for some info for a school project. I knew this guy from when he was about 2 years old, and I remember he was outrageously funny and shall we say…”very bold!” even then. I really enjoyed his questions and tried to be as thorough as possible with my answers. Cheers Carsey!
Every time I thought I’d given him quite enough micro-details (I do like to blab!), he’d fire back about 10 more excellent questions. Thus a perfect game of mental ping-pong was born.

Carson: I need some info on your music, recording processes, etc.
if you can get back to me anytime soon that’d be awesome.

Gordon (after considering Carson’s very extensive list of questions….):
I’m going to give you some quick thoughts off the top of my head.
1) Growing up in Bellevue I took piano lessons starting at age 8, and pretty much did not enjoy them, for I was very confused by the “reading music” part! I stuck with piano tho, and learned to improvise.
2) Was very inspired by The Beatles,  and the experience of hearing new records as they came out, noticing that I was drawn to alot of rock music for the feelings and pictures the songs painted for me.

3) I had, and still have great love for music of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Johann Sebastian Bach(especially his Organ music, Inventions and Fugues) The Doors, Yes (1971-1977), and many of the Progressive Rock bands including Genesis, when Peter Gabriel was the singer, and the Italian band called PFM, (Premiata Forneria Marconi) Gentle Giant, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Jethro Tull. Most of the progressive bands “lost their magic” somehow in 1976, and started making, in my opinion–terrible records!! This taught me something too, though– and I never want to make music suck, no matter how old I get!! or how many years I continue to play and record.

4) I started playing organ in bands when I was 13. And played lots of school dances in Seattle and the East Side. I worked with a genius guitarist named Steve Kirk, who at age 13 could already play every Jimi Hendrix song note-for-note, and was already writing his own music by the boxfull! I was struggling to play well, and had still, a hard time with music tho I felt it was one of the most important pleasures in my life.

5) My love of Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention records as well as my taking German in High School and studying Communism, made other kids think I was weird!  I completely agreed with them,for I was indeed, a weird child.

6) I joined band after band, and right after graduating from Sammamish High School, I joined Seattle’s most popular band -The Sorceror’s Apprentice. This set me up to be a rather spoiled rock star (ego star!) by the age of 18. I bought a Hammond Organ, Fender Rhodes electric piano, a Solina String Ensemble, and the instrument that would change my life– The Arp Odyssey synthesizer. I became fascinated with synthesizers when I saw A Clockwork Orange (film) and noticed that the composer Wendy Carlos had made her synthesizers sing in German!!! the music of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Now that was truly a “sound and music” milestone in history…”

7) I finally started writing my own songs when i was 19, and began to learn to record them  on a Teac 3340-s reel to reel 4-track tape recorder. I used my Arp Odyssey alot, and a very fuzzed out, loud guitar, then started jotting down lyrics and singing. I used alot of Phase Shifer and EchoPlex effects on every song, and often on every channel within the song too!

8) I generally became an unemployed person who wrote songs all day and made strange noises on my synthesizer. I stayed at friend’s houses and ate their food, and used their modest recording equipment when they were away, hard at work at their jobs. This made me pile up about 1000 songs, but also very unpopular with the friends I so “utilized”! (I considered them lucky to have a creative guy with a great sense of humor like me around, ha!- the “ego star” part??)

9) I became influenced by PUNK music, and New Wave Rock– Sex Pistols, Psychedelic Furs, Siouxsie and the Banshees. David Bowie and Iggy Pop were my favorites, and they all taught me how to do new things with music, like have no fear, and play rather intensely.My own bands in Seattle were called Mental Mannequin (1980) and Colour Twigs (late 1981). I was leader, keyboardist, co-writer and singer and for both.

10) I’m going to skip the part about (1986) starting my record company Ars Divina Network  in a church in Ballard that burned down, moving to New york in 1987 and getting “hooked on bad drugs”, going to rehab in Port Angeles and then moving to Hollywood to escape my past and become a star again…

11) Moved back to Seattle in 1991 and joined Sky Cries Mary–  for 6 years, toured USA, Canada and Japan. Made records that actually got released and played!! (big breakthrough, cuz up til then, (age 33) I had never released any of my own songs. Fun times, and Seattle was world headquarters for music in those years- it was amazing. (And that’s around the time when I met you, Carson!)

12) 1998- Moved back to New York and became a producer of “other people’s music”, not just my own anymore. I was a partner in a studio called Chateau Relaxo with Scott Clark. He taught me how to use Logic, and Apple Mac computers for recording up to 8 channels at once. Scott owned some great microphones, excellent pre-amps and compressors and for the first time I learned how to record live musicians properly. Most of my own songs were recorded by me playing all the parts and usually with all electronic sounds, so this was a big breakthrough.

13) I then started another studio in New York called Transporterraum NYC. Most nights I would go to clubs and try to hustle bands to come let me record them. NYC was an extraodinarily expensive place to live, compared to my previous lifestyle in Seattle! I did really enjoy meeting new bands and recording stunningly talented people who played highly original songs, and thy certainly didn’t need to copy other people’s sounds. I specialized in recording the musicians all playing at once in a medium sized room, with all their sounds blending in the air, instead of separating each person to control the sound better. People responded well to my “production work”, and it was fun. I even began to make some money at it, and was able to further enjoy Manhattan life.

14) One of the many bands I met was called The Strokes, and I recorded 3 songs for a demo with them. They liked it, and got signed to Rough Trade in London. They also invited me to record their next 2 records. We collaborated on a kind of sound that was pretty raw, rough and a bit over-drivey– but it worked out great, and many people started loving these records: Is This It and Room On Fire.

15) I moved to London, cuz thats where they loved The Strokes most, and where alot of the music I enjoyed had been created. The Strokes had put a big photo of me on their first album, so everyone recognized me. I was invited to many parties and shows, and also offered many jobs producing bands there. That was an amazing time for me 2001- 2002.

16) Started my own band there in London, called Black Light. Ir was awesome and we had a fabulous time playing together. I recorded an album of that music, AND got to have my own record label called Shoplifter Records.

17) I met, recorded and produced Regina Spektor’s Soviet Kitsch album. One of the sweetest records I was ever involved with in my whole life of this music thing. Its an amazing set of songs and we recorded all the parts live except for some violins and cellos, and one song (Your Honor) we added singing and piano to a highly aggressive rock band I was working with called Kill Kenada.

18) Moved to Berlin, and am now recording many bands from Madrid, London, Copenhagen, Paris, Sweden… and they all usually contact me on Myspace/ Facebook and ask for some help making their sounds.

19) Let me know if there is more specific information about anything I have touched on here….