the making of…
in mid-1995 walrus won a battle of the bands in santa rosa, the prize was two days at prairie sun studios, soon to be a tom waits favorite. with three full-length demo releases under our belts (‘odobenus’ in 1993, ‘gas & gristle’ in 1994, ‘legless’ in 1995), we were ready to make a fully produced album and we enlisted our friend chris arvan to produce. he had recently done work on the grotus major-label debut, ‘mass,’ and he seemed a perfect fit: a super-intelligent guy with a penchant for super-heavy music. we got along famously.
when we arrived at prairie sun, the mics they promised weren’t there and there was a huge dust up between chris and the engineer running the session. we tracked for a full day, spent the night in a bunk-bed cabin they have, and were halfway through the second day when the owner called: to this day, the angriest person i’ve spoken to on the phone. i somehow convinced him to let us finish tracking, but it was clear we weren’t welcome back.
we recorded all the overdubs in chris’ studio at hyde street in s.f. christian went in on some nights laying down guitars, i went on other nights laying down vocals. this was my first experience with pro tools, the software i use to this day. a couple years later, i downloaded a free eight-track version, and the hours i spent with chris came back. it was instantly familiar.
originally we were going to shop the songs around, and we sent out a cassette called ‘scrimshaw extract’ that had ‘ether’ and ‘fade away’ on side 1, and ‘beforewards’ and ‘lummox’ on side 2. nothing came of it, apart from the fact that i met scott schorr, who became a friend and would later produce ‘monday songs.’ in the end, i borrowed some money from my mom, and we put out the album. if you listen carefully, you can tell that the four songs on the sampler got a little extra love in the mixing process, but the entire product is seamless, energetic, and good fun, and really shows off the work we had put in over the years, honing every detail through hours upon hours of practice and repetition.
this remains the first recorded product, demo or album, that i’m entirely satisfied with, even years later. though inspired by helmet, soundgarden, kings x, and other ’90s bands, it feels timeless to me. when we got back together this summer to play again, the tunes felt fresh and seemed like they could have been written today.
though the styles seem quite divergent, the work i did with walrus was hugely instrumental in writing and recording my subsequent music: the relentless attention to structure, the balance of vocal and band, the harmony of words and music were all inspired by and inherited from the hard work done when i was in this band, and the incredible musicianship of my bandmates, christian riley and joaquin spengemann. though my solo work operates at a much lower volume, the dark vision and attention to detail remain important elements of my work.
andy liotta vocals, bass
christian riley guitars
joaquin spengemann drums
produced by chris arvan
basics recorded at prairie sun studios, cotati, ca
engineered by bernd burgdorf
all other recording was done at decibel worship, san francisco, ca
engineered by chris arvan
mixed by chris arvan and bernd burgdorf
at hyde street studios, san francisco, ca
assistant engineer lars savage
mastered by john golden, newbury park, ca
released january 1997
all songs written by walrus
lyrics by andy liotta
walrus photos by oscar matatquin
cover photos by ben shoes
designed and built by john yates at stealworks
thanks to chris, bernd, oscar, m.i.r.v, enormous, high gain,
diesel onion, victim’s family, feed, god squad, kai kln, grampa,
slombis/ninewood, chill factor, mason lane, hetch hetchy,
kristin beck, kaela matranga, christy lee smith, our families
and friends, fleshkite, joe lee, shosh, eddie j, tony, tom harvey,
curtis and the petalumas, money, scotty poo and the sacto crushers,
mr. hornick and the chico madmen, david immergluck and polymorph
studios, soundwave, all the folks at the paradise/transmission,
the nevada club, mark olier, koryo korean bbq, scott schorr,
michael bloom, neil sussman, jonathin fine, eric hoppe,
aaron duncan, danny beher, steve white, phil milner,
michael kane and pacific woodworks, the guys at dean markley,
and last, but not least, the bluchunks and smokin’ rhythm prawns
special thanks to patricia liotta, without whom
this album would not exist.