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Charlie Peacock: Accepting the Gift of Freedom

By Published: December 26, 2005
AAJ: Composition by editing.

CP: Exactly. That's exactly what it is. It's responding to these long improvisations and saying, "if only or "what if.

AAJ: That's very interesting, because the first thing that struck me about "When Diana Dances once I started listening intently to it was how perfectly concise it was. It's only about six minutes long, and it packs a lot of content in a very enjoyably structured way.

CP: See, this is what I do every day. When we get off the phone, I'll walk out to the studio. I've got a band in there that I'm working with, developing—they're working on their first record. And I'll listen to what they do, and just as I did yesterday, there's a good chance that I'll end up editing quite a bit of it. We'll talk through it, and wrestle through parts. It's much easier to do that with a band that's already spent time constructing their parts. But if I were to attempt to do that in a session with the world's greatest improvisers? Number one, some of them would be insulted by it. But secondly, it would take away from the aesthetic that's already been established and agreed upon. So it's almost better to do it after the fact; then it becomes a new surprise for people and they can say, "gosh, yeah. Now I see—that's great how you took that theme of mine and developed that further. But if I stopped the session a hundred times to say, "hey, you should do this and you should do this, it would completely cause the session to fall apart.

AAJ: Besides, if you did that, there's the danger that if you stop because you love that one trumpet phrase, then you're going to miss the other good one he plays ten minutes on.

CP: Absolutely. So this is how I've fallen into this methodology.

AAJ: "When Diana Dances has something I notice all over the CD, which is a really interesting and satisfying tension between organic drummer's time and more programmed, looping drum patterns. There's always a balance between them. Jim White's the drummer on "Diana. Were his parts cut up, looped, rearranged at all after the fact?

CP: Not on "When Diana Dances. It might be a composite of a couple of performances, but I don't think there's any looping or moving him around.

AAJ: I like how, on this tune, the time gets a little more abstract in the middle, then you have a breakdown with a repeating vamp just before Jim sort of pulls it into a straighter time with some great cymbal work just before the theme returns. You do something similar in "Super Jet Service, where the rhythm again breaks down into a programmed drum part. Any perspectives on this?

CP: Yeah. I think Jim seemed more conscious of keeping his own thing together over the course of playing with the electronica and looped sections. And that was fine for me. I just let him do that; I captured his performances and made a composite of them. With Joey, just because of the way he's wired as a musician—he would actually drop out sometimes and give me some space to work with. And I really loved that, and I loved the surprises of some of his fills, how incredibly reckless and crazy they are. That's great, to have that much tension between the static loop-type percussion and somebody playing things that would be dangerous to try to transcribe.

AAJ: Tunes like "Diana and "Super Jet Service have lots of layered keyboard parts. They're dense; instruments appear and disappear and rise and fall in prominence. "Bucketachicken might be the most layered of all. I think the record's mixed very well; it sounds great. If, say, "Bucketachicken hadn't been perfectly mixed, it would just be confusing. Do you have a sonic philosophy of mixing?

CP: Well, Richie Biggs, an engineer here in Nashville, actually worked on the final mixes. Shane Wilson did some as well, but there wasn't a hair out of place when these songs were turned in to mix. I had already kind of cast my vision for balances and all of that, gone through and wrestled over sections—going, "does it really need that texture? It's full enough and saying "no, it's adding just a little bit of top, I want to keep it as long as it's buried behind this other instrument. It's going to be the right mix. I had given all of those things quite a bit of thought already when I turned it in for mix.

AAJ: So your levels were going to completely set the tone.

CP: Yeah, this was not material that was worked on a lot with engineers. This was material that was cut with engineers and then I worked on it—so I was very personal with it. Everything had had a lot of questions asked about it before it got to the mix stage.

AAJ: I've listened to this record at home, in my car—and I think it's especially enjoyable on headphones. This is my headphone album of the year.

CP: That's great. You know, [guitarist] Jerry McPherson, who plays on a lot of country and pop records, is just a giant at that kind of ear candy thing. And he and I have worked on records for fifteen years, and we've always tried to sneak a little bit of this kind of stuff in on everything we work on. But I just think that Jerry can play anything, and it's one of the great secrets about musicans in Nashville—that they have these skill levels that are, well, not dormant, since they're using them in some way, whether working on them at home or just experimenting. But certainly not used to the degree that they could be.

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