Talk Rock To Me InnerView #1


Emails from a real, live record producer: Gordon Raphael

by Talk Rock To Me on Mar 22, 2012 • 8:30 AM

Analog Poodle Studio, Berlin Neukölln


Gordon Raphael is a former music-loving kid from Seattle, Washington, who grew up to be in some bands (including Grunge rockers Sky Cries Mary), and then moved to New York to produce great records for some very  influential bands. His most renowned works are the first three releases from American rockers, The Strokes, specifically debut EP Modern Age and LP’s Is This It and Room On Fire.

Currently residing in Berlin after a stint of living and working in London, Raphael continues to produce albums for a slew of international recording artists. He is a producer driven by a genuine passion for creation, throwing himself into each and every project — be it recording, producing, writing, painting, drawing or deejaying — with a palpable and visceral enthusiasm.

I’m used to 20-minute phone interviews, but with Raphael’s first brief but immediately warm email, I knew 20 minutes wasn’t going to even begin to cover the stories he could tell.

The following is the beginnings of a string of ongoing correspondence between Gordon and myself. Friendly, open, and seemingly up for anything, I’m eager to see where our conversation leads.

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From: Gordon Raphael
Date: Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 2:47 AM
Subject: Gordon Raphael saying hi from Berlin!

Jim passed me an email from you, so I thought I’d write you today. Please do let me know if you want to do some kind of interview or story that I could be a part of. I do have some experience with that angel/beast called Rock and Roll!

x Gordon

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Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2012 11:34:00 AM
Subject: Re: Gordon Raphael saying hi from Berlin!
To: Gordon Raphael

Hi Gordon! I’m so glad you got in touch. I’ve been listening to your radio station on Gordotronic this morning and it’s blowing my mind a little bit…I’m jotting down band names left and right. Are these all bands you’ve produced?

Let me tell you a little about me: I’ve been a music fan ever since I can remember and my fondest memories are tied to music. I dreamed of making it a career in some way – whether that meant working at a label representing artists or being a creative who designed album covers all day – and lucky me, it actually came to pass (well, sort of).

I got my start working in a few record stores (when they were still viable, bustling hubs of feverish, gleeful activity and the staff were hired based on actual musical knowledge). I went on to organize in-store performances and autograph sessions for HMV, then became a Product Manager at a record label – and I even got to design a record cover once! Now I’m a freelance music writer and it absolutely gets my juices flowing to be able to talk rock and discover new music.

My site is called Talk Rock To Me and it’s primarily interviews-based: a space dedicated to the chats I’ve been lucky enough to have on rock and roll, and a space where musicians can comment on what they do and their reasons for wanting to do it. I speak with those who make music that  interests me, or those who have a unique chapter in their story. I’ve been wanting to branch out and talk to others in the industry – who aren’t necessarily the ‘rock stars’ – but had no idea where to begin. When the press release for Gordotronic landed in my inbox, I immediately perked up: it reminded me of the exact moment that I first heard a The Strokes album (I was in Arizona spending a lazy day in font of my old Mac G4 perusing music blogs) and how excited I was about their music. I happily realized this was an opportunity to talk with someone who has a history with rock and roll and would have some interesting stories to tell.

I have to add, when you wrote, “I do have some experience with that angel/beast called Rock and Roll!,  you not only told me you were approachable and funny, but also immensely passionate about what you do. Admittedly, my inner 15-year-old jumped up and down that an “actual record producer” had wrote me an email.

With all this being said, I have an idea for how we might work together and it would be a sort of experiment for me: I was thinking that instead of a one-off 15 or 20 minute phone interview, that we might be able to do this by email. Understand that I don’t typically like email interviews as they’re hopelessly stiff and my questions are presented all at once so there’s no natural flow to the conversation… But, what if the questions were sent one at a time, or a few at a time? Maybe it would be a quick note or thought that you could respond to? Basically, I’m thinking correspondence. I would publish our emails each time they were exchanged and instead of one interview piece, I would present it as a series: Letters from Gordon Raphael or some such thing…But I would hopefully come up with a far more creative title than that…

I completely understand if you’re unwilling, but I do think it’s a unique approach to a music conversation and I’d like to try it and see how it works. My goal is always to get the most out of these music conversations and perhaps this approach could allow us both to feel relaxed with one another and allow ourselves to truly muse about the wonderful subject at hand.

If you’re at all interested in what I’ve suggested, let’s go ahead and flesh this out and see where it goes. If you’d like to have a conversation so that we can get better acquainted with one other, I’m happy to schedule that too.

Hope to hear from you soon.


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From: Gordon Raphael
Date: Sun, Mar 4, 2012 at 3:44 AM
Subject: RE: Gordon Raphael saying hi from Berlin!

I’m going to be honest with you. When you told me that you were somewhat getting into my Silhouette Shack Radio Show on Gordotronic, I got so excited that I could barely absorb the rest of your email. I did that ‘broadcast’ this summer way up in the Tehachapi mountains of California, and it was something I have been wanting to do for years. Most of the music in that thing is my own stuff, in various nom de plume, and the others songs are from some of my favorite bands that I produced and wanted to showcase.

I am totally into your ideas! Gordotronic is intended to be a Peaches Record Store of the future: a salute to how it was when I used to have my Mom take me to record stores to gaze at the new, big shiny vinyls; I’d get excited about the one’s I hadn’t seen before and the ones I knew I had to take home and listen to.

Once I can get momentum and interest generated in Gordotronic (that currently only has my music on it!) then I can pester all the zillions of bands that I’ve recorded – who never had a proper release or promotion for their records – to permit me to push their music as well.

Some of the other bands I like are shown on my old ‘concept” which was at one time funded by Sony in London; our big achievement was releasing Regina Spektor’s Soviet Kitsch.

Okay…so, back to you! I will check out your site and await further correspondence from ya.