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Jimmy Herring: The Lifeboat Sessions and More

Phil DiPietro By

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AAJ: You do an unbelievable job of making it sound like you're in the same room.

JH: Before it got mixed I was really concerned about that. I think a lot of the credit goes to the guys who mixed it, Jeff Bakos and Rush Anderson. I was there giving them my nickel's worth but they're the ones that made it sound right. Getting the right sound on everyone goes a long way to making it sound like we're at least in the same time zone.

AAJ: And everything you do, almost every phrase, has your stamp on it. It's that same southern feel that's not unlike the ARU stuff and Oteil's stuff.

JH: Yeah, Oteil—what about his solo on the record,on 'Transients?"

AAJ: Ridiculously great. That quick little chord solo at the beginning, especially.

JH: But that triplet thing that follows it is—I was standing next to him when he did that and I remember saying "Okay, that's it!"

AAJ: Yeah, that's become an Oteil signature.

JH: There's only one guy that can do that.

AAJ: Agreed. He got only one solo on the record, which shows how little room you had for all the great things on there. The record is crammed with so many great moments.

JH: I wanted to give him more solos. For instance, "Gray Day" was a tune where I wanted him to take a solo but it sometimes it came down to time and logistics. He was on the road with Kreutzmann and the Allmans.

AAJ: That tune has a great progression—the kind of oblique harmony fusion fans have heard before, but haven't. That's a great title, 'Transients." What is going on with that tune?

JH: I was really intrigued with melodic and harmonic minor.

AAJ: Is this the thing Oteil's talking about on the web?

JH: I haven't seen it. I'm somewhat computer illiterate. It's basically just an E minor, E harmonic minor and E melodic minor. I started looking at mapping out chord scales for all those modes and looking at what chords were common to all three of those scales and looking at which ones were different from each other. Looking at those I was able to hone in on a couple of things that distinguish them from each other. It's real basic, man. Allan Holdsworth would fall over laughing because for him it'd be like reciting the alphabet. It's kind of scratching the surface of what's possible, but it worked for me.

AAJ: For me, that's the real monster fusion tune on there.

JH: That's one that I think is so different that it could be weak in a sense. But the solos by Oteil, Osby and Kofi are great and the way they interact near the end really makes it.

AAJ: This is the other tune where you go more legato.

JH: Those changes really call for it.

AAJ: The first tune, "Scapegoat Blues," is more like what we could see coming, a southern shuffle with a crazy head.

JH: Yeah, a blues with a twist.

AAJ: Is that's out of that Dregs influence?

JH: Very much, yes.

AAJ: On Kofi' s "Only When it's Light" there's some beautiful flute counterpoint with you where he takes a couple of one bar flute solos before taking a full piano solo.

JH: Yeah, plus he splits the longer solos on there. Instead of taking a piano or flute solo all the way through, he takes one of each. On "Splash" he does it again. I take two choruses, then he takes one chorus on piano, then one on flute; finally, Greg Osby takes the last two choruses. I was a little concerned that it might make it off balance but Kofi convinced me to stick with his approach, and it works.

This record sounds better than anything I've done. There's basically never been any fix-ups on previous records in terms of sound. With ARU the first album was live and the second was done in the studio but I barely got to do any overdubbing. Bruce was not into any overdubbing. He was a firm believer of not doing more than a few takes. As a result, I always thought the Mirrors of Embarrassment (Capricorn, 1993) record could have been a much better recording. It never felt like it sounded really good and the guitar sounded... I guess I was too close to it. We were in a big beautiful studio, but I'll never forget it—to keep my guitar from bleeding into the drums, they actually stuck my guitar amp in a utility closet.

AAJ: That doesn't sound like very modern recording approach.

Jimmy Herring l:r: Kofi Burbridge, Jimmy Herring, Oteil Burbridge, Jeff Sipe

JH: So you see why I always thought it could have sounded so much better. But it was what it was.

AAJ: Yeah, merely one of the touchstone albums of the Jamband era. For me it's actually the number one example of that time when the genre was taking off, during the time of the HORDE Festival and all.

JH: During that time we saw what he studio was. None of us had recorded that much—not for anything major, anyway. I wanted to use the studio the way it could be used. It's different than live—you can craft the recording more. Live you don't get a second chance. You can't add other tracks. I was hoping to craft a record with these people I had played with for so long, knowing what everyone was capable of, but that just wasn't the philosophy at the time.

The bass, the drums and the piano were done pretty fast but I had to redo the guitars because in the studio, when we cut live, I was playing through a little Fender Deluxe amp and the speaker had this thing going on with it where certain notes I would hit would sound like something was wrong with the speaker. There was some stuff worth keeping from the original session but I had to redo the entire thing because everything would be grooving and there would be this one note that would sound awful. It's a phenomenon called 'cone cry.' Do you know what that is?


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