Categories
blog

OCD Recording & Production

If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll see the inside of his studio on album covers and inserts for many bands throughout the state. And that’s because for fourteen years, Duane Simoneaux has dedicated his life to producing some of the best music to come out of Louisiana. Before this interview, I hadn’t seen Duane in years. Sitting before him that day, my mind kept going back to middle school where we met. With hair descending languidly onto a stone-washed jean jacket that hung off his shoulders, he slid down hallways through a sea of kids. In a world where children our age were often pre-concerned with a quest to be different, Duane was only concerned with being himself. Back then, there was a comfort I took in being around someone where individuality was not contrived. And this day, I sat in a building that might as well have been a shrine to that sentiment. Guitars, customized hardware, OCD produced albums and self-built acoustic treatments ornamented the walls of a building that he basically resurrected from the dead.

Back in 2008, the location that now houses OCD Recording and Production was described in a word by Duane as a dump. He likened the place to a World-War II barracks, complete with ceilings and beams at full tilt. He saw potential in the place and began to design his vision. Next, he gutted the whole place; walls were moved, and ceilings and overhead beams were stripped of their ability to threaten human life. And eventually the place actually became something of use. With news of his intentions, bands were already anxious to rehearse there. So, he was able to enlist the help of several bands’ members to assist in the construction. In just three months’ time, OCD was up and running. Now, when you walk through those doors, the walls, ceilings, sound treatments, even the desk console in the control room was built by Duane. 

At first, his business didn’t make any money. But over time he was able to build up a clientele. And slowly but surely, he began to see a profit. He also gave credit to Kirk Windstein for his initial success. Kirk took a chance on Duane and OCD years ago, before Duane had really been able to make a name for himself. And he’s stuck with Duane ever since; even in his solo efforts. Not only was Duane accredited with producing, engineering, mixing and mastering Kirk’s solo album, Dream In Motion. But he played keys and drums on it as well. (And another solo album is currently in the works) His meticulous nature can be contributed to, in-part, his obsessive compulsivity. As you’ve probably realized by now, the studio name wasn’t just pulled out of thin air. The OCD in him always wants to start a project and see it through to completion in one sitting. But because of the nature of the process, that never seems to happen. And he finds it especially challenging to stop mixing one track to start mixing on another. Differing schedules amongst the artists and himself tend to dictate Duane’s calendar. As he explained, a band member might come in to record drums one day. And then he has to put that away until the rest can be recorded. But summing up his overall work-flow, it seems as though he is able to adapt quite well. All things considered, one rule that we could both agree on was that you just can’t force creativity. It might be a two-day process to get into the mood and mix a track. And this is not out-of-scope for the jobs with which he is tasked. In speaking on what a “normal span of time” is for most projects, he’ll very quickly tell you there isn’t such a thing. Some projects progress quicker than others. Budget dictates as well as the purpose of the project. For instance, efforts toward a record label submission will usually take longer than a project going straight to press. And working with seasoned professionals doesn’t necessarily shorten the span of time needed to complete a project either. Duane explained, “I mean you’re working with artists. So, there’s moods, and whatever is going on that day (for them), or equipment failures. Or sometimes we’re writing the stuff in here. Like a Crowbar album… they’ll come in here and start recording. And nobody knows what the vocals are going to do while we’re recording it. And then, the day of, Kirk’s writing vocals and he comes in here. And we start banging it out. So, some of the creative process happens right here.” I couldn’t help but voice the idea that it must be inspiring to come into work and not know what great creative results you may find.

Kirk Windstein’s first solo album, Dream In Motion, produced at OCD Recording & Production with Duane co-writing, playing drums and keys.

In speaking on spans of time for different projects, he brought up the last Exhorder album, Mourn the Southern Skies. This was their first album in over 30 years. So, there’s no question why it became a labor intensive, four-month process. A month of pre-production was followed by three months of recording and editing. And as this venture unfolded, there were regular check-ins from Exhorder’s label, Nuclear Blast. One thing absent from this process was such a thing as a day off. In the end, Duane was ecstatic with the results, as was the band. Exhorder’s bassist, Vinnie La Bella, even ended up working with Duane to co-produce his next project, Blackwater Canal. This would be Vinnie’s first time wearing the producer’s hat, and a stark contrast to the time involved with his own project. This was to be a five-song EP debut by four guys from Louisiana with countless years of experience under their belt. And the whole project, from start to finish, was completed in three days. And honestly, after reviewing Exhorder’s album and Blackwater Canal’s EP myself, both are masterpieces in their own right. In form and in fashion, and as he illustrated, you really never could tell how long a project was going to take or what might be involved in its creation.

Something that remained the same throughout the years was that he never did advertise. Which I find surprising in today’s atmosphere. His jobs have always come by word of mouth. He does admit that there are nervous times when the current project he is working on is coming to a close and there’s nothing booked. With a smile and a shrug, he’ll tell you at random the phone will ring and then he’s booked solid. But don’t let him fool you. His work ethic and the results he delivers are what has made him the constant success he is today. And now “OCD Recording & Production” can be found on the back of a lot of albums.

Many of those albums can be found on display at OCD. Walking in the front door, you find yourself in the waiting area. Two couches line two walls under framed CD’s and records that he has produced. There’s a bathroom and a kitchenette across the room. One doorway leads into the recording area, and the other to private rehearsal and storage spaces. And more rooms are accessible from there. The other doorway leads to where the magic happens. Upon entry, you immediately pass a vocal booth and the room opens up into a dynasty of sound. Guitars and acoustic treatments line the walls. Colored lights accent amps and speakers. A mic’d drum kit sits at center with speakers and other hardware filling the corners. The control room sits in the rear with a couch across from the main console, and a window looking out into the room and in through another window to the vocal booth. The room is so, so quiet. I can only imagine what a glorious feeling it must be to come and audibly light it ablaze with guitars and drums and thrashing screams!   

OCD has a sponsorship through SE Microphones. And many of these weighted, powerful gems can be found throughout his studio. But there are also several modified mics that he is proud to own. One in particular is the microphone in his vocal booth. It’s a piece built by Chris Prutcher of Barbaric Amplification out in California. Duane and Chris began speaking online about what it was exactly Duane was searching for. Chris offered to build him a microphone. And Duane began scouring the internet for parts. He happened across someone in forums that was known as THE tube guy with the handle “Bowie”. Bowie pitched Duane on a special tube he had for sale. While Duane dismissed the seemingly sensational claim, he purchased the tube and had it shipped to Chris out in California. The next thing he heard from Chris was, “DUDE! Where did you get this TUBE?!” So, Chris combined his circuit design with the tube from Bowie. And both Chris and Duane couldn’t have been more pleased with the result. Chris even named the mic after Duane’s studio. And so, the mic became known as the OCD-BA51. Duane has always gravitated toward the type of equipment that can’t be found on a shelf, so-to-speak. And rightfully so. It has given his studio a proprietary sound that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. He also has some microphones that were custom built by Michael Joly, of OktavaMod in Massachusetts. Though this guy serviced over 20,000 clients in a span of 13 years, OktavaMod closed its doors in 2018. I’d say, at that point, Duane’s equipment transitioned from unique to rare, furthering OCD’s place in signature sound.

The sonic absolute does not stop there. The digital console shares space with some API pre-amps, a Neve clone, and several compressors modified by Jim Williams, who is well known for augmenting existing outboard equipment. Jim’s most notable clients were John Mclaughlin, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Zappa. And Jim was how Duane came to use the 90’s era Soundcraft Venue analog console that feeds his digital console. According to Jim, once modified, it’s as close as you can get to audio perfection. Duane had the console modified in Nashville, as per Jim’s specifications, and now he swears by it. I pointed out that there is a stage-full of gear out in the recording area and asked if the accumulation of all this was as a result of being in bands over the years. He nodded, saying yes, and paused. “Yeah, a lot of it. But then, anything really nice guitar-wise, a good friend of mine that I work with constantly; his name is Hugo Miranda. If you see a nice guitar, it’s Hugo’s.” Hugo Miranda is a producer, musician, and songwriter that played guitar and sang vocals for his band RetroElectro, and came to OCD over seven years ago to record an album. Since then, the two have worked on another project, Daphne Moon, as well as countless hours of his solo material. Hugo was actually a transplant from New York, and so valued Duane’s hospitality and willingness to not only work with him, but to introduce him to other musicians in the area and show him the production ropes so-to-speak. Upon completion of Duane’s home studio, the two plan to work together to keep both locations up and running. Above all else, Hugo exclaimed, “His Pro-Tools editing Kung-Fu is INCREDIBLE!”

Duane cited more family time, less overhead, and the convenience of better choosing his own hours as motivation for building OCD’s second location at his home. And true to his obsessive compulsions, the second location is architecturally modelled exactly after the first one. I guess it’s like they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” His building design, his collection of unique equipment, his drive, and his business acumen have all worked well for him over the years. Some of the clients he’s enjoyed working with have been, Crowbar, Exhorder, Down, Blackwater Canal, Ashes to Dust, We Are Wires, Spacemetal, Stereo Fire Empire, Uprising, Bad Grass, Runoft, Misled, Motoriot, Sun God Seven, Wicked River Rising, and Them Guys. And those are just the ones framed in the waiting room. At the time of this interview, he was working on an album for a ska-reggae band by the name of Firebrain as well as Kirk Windstein’s second solo album. And starting the following week, he would be working on a project for Adam Pierce, winner of The Voice.

I spoke with a band that recently recorded at OCD to get a feel for their experience with Duane. They talked about how well he knew his gear and how personable he was. They also spoke about his level of focus. He adapts to the band in its entirety; not just the time frame and budget, but their moods, their personalities, the different schedules of each member, and the intended target for the finished product. Whether it be straight to pressing and releasing or to a record label, he addresses needs that possibly even the band doesn’t know they have. And to me this speaks to not only skill in his craft, but an intuitive nature for the process of creation. Combined with custom built gear proprietary to his studio and the sheer amount of gear available to customers, one could argue that the level of service bands receive at OCD has, and always will be, second to none.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

Categories
blog

1016

I caught back up with Levi Clark (Misled, Southern Brutality, 1016) after hearing about several new developments with his new band, 1016. You may remember him from our previous interview earlier this year. As it turns out, what I had been hearing was true. Things were falling apart, things were being rebuilt, and the promise of his long-awaited EP was back under the microscope. In this visit, we took apart the constructs, the destructs, and the changes in scope that occurred as a result. And I think you’ll find the new developments intriguing and the ongoing project showing more promise. 

Now, I know Levi personally. And if I had to name him in a nutshell, I’d say he’s a beautiful tragedy. “Tragedy” in the cinematic sense, where the viewer follows the main character through several hardships, some of them self-imposed. He’s the kind of person that will give you the shirt off his back, and doesn’t conceal his own flaws. Which makes him beautiful in my eyes. And though at times in valleys, he is persistent in his pursuit of the mountain top. During the first interview earlier this year, I got to hear a demo of an exciting new single, Gettysburg. This song was inspired by time Levi spent cleaning and reconstructing the tomb of a soldier from the Civil War. Happening upon a small booklet inside the structure, he was able to craft a song from words on the pages of this long-since forgotten soldier’s diary. On that demo, Tiger Agnelly sang vocals and Brian Ardoyne (Dang Bruh Y?, Blackwater Canal) was on drums. Since that time, both were now out of the picture. A fact for which Levi took blame. “By this time my friends probably think they are looking at my delusion. But it’s not my delusion. But I’m going to go a little bit back in time. I fucked up. I had two of the greatest musicians I ever could’ve had the chance of working with. Tiger Agnelly and Brian Ordoyne. Brian was our drummer. Still my brother, still my best friend. Tiger, incredible singer. But yours truly, I’m human, and I have a pattern of fucking up. It is what it is. And I apologize for it. So, the band all but dissolved.”

Next on the chopping block came their singer, Ms. Jennifer Leech. Though they were revealed reluctantly, creative differences became obvious between her and Levi. And in the end, she too was out. Last came Trey Heflin (Genocide). Through a series of… we’ll just call them “mishaps” that occurred on a short tour with Southern Brutality among other things, Trey found himself on the other side of the stage from what was left of 1016. Jamie Clouatre (13 Below, Cut Throat), the bassist for 1016, is still on board and aside from Levi is the only remaining original member. And as if I had to say it, that about does it for the “destruct” portion of the tour.

Now, onto a more positive aspect of this business called show! The “construct” began with vocals. Levi wouldn’t name the new singer outright. Apparently, she has a sibling that is an accomplished singer, musician, and performing artist and wishes to remain anonymous until 1016’s EP release performance. But this person has a background in opera. And to hear Levi tell it, during practice she pulled a vocal range out of her diaphragm which resembled that of Ella Fitzgerald and stopped the drummer mid-stroke. Often times, when a director writes a part in a movie, they write the part with a certain actor in mind. Likewise, recognizing the sharp contrast between his previous singer and the new one, Levi has gone back over some of his songs and rewritten them in order to showcase the new singer’s style and capability. “She and I would converse over the phone and she would ask me to give her a backstory about the songs; about the mood. I know where she’s at, and she knows where I’m at. Now we’re working. But she says she’s not much of a lyricist. So, I’m going to draft out lyrics of what the song should be saying. And she can put it in her own words. We’ll just take it from there. And that’s called collaboration.”

Hailing from Kennabra (Kenner, La. to those out the loop) William Shiver slid into place as the new drummer for 1016. His past bands include Execution, and Suture. And he also did a little bit of work in projects for bands Guilt Trip and Gutter Sludge. He’s spent most of his music career dwelling in heavy, technical death metal bands, with a little bit of doom and sludge metal peppered in between. And he feels as though 1016’s southern blues emphasis will be a nice change. One thing about him that will definitely not go unnoticed is his mammoth drum set. I couldn’t begin to aptly describe this thing… no one could. I had to include a picture of it below to stand in for my lack of descriptives. Personally, I can’t wait to see this fella bang something out on this monstrosity! And for it, 1016 will become an interesting dynamic. Because Levi is currently the drummer for another band he is in, Southern Brutality. We should be hearing this thing smash and crash soon, as their single is slated for August of this year (2022). And Levi is aiming for an EP release after Mardi Gras the following year.

And now for the third and final leg of our tour kiddies, the changes in scope! Now you might ask, huh? What’s left? We broke the whole thing apart and rebuilt it. Well, in the process, we brought in a drastically differing vocal element. While all of this was occurring, Levi was still writing. A change in singers further changed the direction of this process as we discussed earlier. But Levi also added other tools to his box. One of which was Martin Felix. Now we have all seen several different versions of the band supporter. Someone wears your T-shirt. Someone else might help you sell tickets for your next show. And so on. But Martin is a bit of a music scene anomaly. You see, Martin is a 65-year-old staunch local heavy metal music scene supporter. And in his capacity as both a scene supporter and a personal friend, he upped the studio cash to get Levi and 1016 further down the road to EP success. When asked about Levi and this generous contribution, he had this to say. “Brother… I’ve enjoyed seeing him on drums. I’ve enjoyed seeing him with Southern Brutality, Misled, Cain, and jamming with Twelve Years Driven. I’ve enjoyed seeing him learn the guitar and seeing him bust his ass for the desire of his dream.” For Levi, the arrival of good fortune has been accompanied by the rigors of a prescribed deadline. To squander such opportunity, in his own eyes, is to do the unthinkable. So, through disagreements, differences, and fall-outs, he has pressed on.

We’ve all had these experiences in life. So, I realize some, at this point, may wonder what is so notable about his struggles; notable enough to base an article on. And I’ll confidently say it’s the result that lies in waiting. I heard the unreleased demo for one of his singles, Gettysburg. And I can’t help but praise him for not only the body of work, but for the article from which the concept was born; a dead man’s lament before days of battle. Levi is no stranger to the sentiment of historical piety. To the contrary, it’s in his veins. When speaking on the blues and its heritage, he frequently draws attention to Robert Johnson. If you don’t know who that is, it’s ok. It’ll be our little secret. Just tuck this in your back pocket. Robert Johnson was one of the most influential songwriters and blues musicians to have ever strummed six strings. Back in the 30’s, he sat for two recording sessions, producing twenty-nine songs. With only that and three known photographs, this title of “most influential” has been affirmed by countless blues and rock gods over the past seven decades. So, yeah, now you know who Robert Johnson is.

Levi paired his love for Robert Johnson with his own strange twist on the song Hell Hound. When asked about this particular song, Levi had this to say. “So, Robert says, ‘You gotta keep movin on. You gotta keep movin on’, right? The dog will be like, ‘so you thought you could keep moving on.’ I’m writing from the hound’s perspective.” For this and other tracks included on the EP, Levi chose Last Exit Studios in Hollygrove. It’s owned by Eric Reed, drummer for Dead Machine Theory. Levi added, “I know Duane Simoneaux (OCD Recordings) is probably reading this saying ‘you should have come to me!’ But Duane and Eric are two different breeds. When I’m doing my drums, I have to go to Duane. I have to. Duane knows my drumming style. But Duane as a producer, he wreaks havoc on guitars. And I’m not that guy. We’re bluesed out. He is a guitarist. And as a guitarist Duane would intimidate me more.” (Neworleansmusicians.com actually did an interview on Duane and OCD recently. You can get a feel for what Levi’s talking about in that article on our blog page.) Levi also cites the studio’s location as an inspiration in itself. “It’s right where it needs to be. It’s in a home in Hollygrove, one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. It’s in a neighborhood that just exudes the blues man’s energy. And that’s what I’m going for.” Ever the altruist, his quest to honor the forefathers of the blues has led him through some interesting doors. For one song, he implemented the use of what others might rightfully call junk. “It’s called 1016 the Blues Child. We set up the mics like cans; Like Robert Johnson singing through a can. And I literally went in there with a guitar with a cracked neck. You couldn’t tune it worth a shit. The strings were old. I drop tuned it and it just came out. It just had that guttural feel to it.” In knowing Levi, one could easily tell that he absolutely lives for music. Before being laid to rest in a pine box, Johnson’s final words were, “I pray that my redeemer will come and take me from my grave.” And though our old friend Martin Felix may not have changed the scope of this 1016 project, he may have changed Levi’s destination.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

Categories
blog

Blackwater Canal

“Spinning and turning and feeling alone. Understanding all the time. Forgetting things that are gone in the past. Facing the fate of time. Spinning and turning and feeling alone. Understanding all the time. Screaming and clawing and losing your soul. Digging a grave-less hole. Cause I, I stand alone, ashamed of this world. Now I’m feeding the wolf.”

Feeding the Wolf… Blackwater Canal
Resume of Blackwater Canal members

In the days of old you got together with a group of friends, worked out who was playing what instrument at the time, and started a band. The same holds true to this day. But now more than ever there is a thirst for new blood. The scene needs it, and the people want it. One of my favorite sayings has always been “stagnation is death”. And both lie right around the corner just waiting for things to go stale. You can pump as many bands as you want into a scene, but if they aren’t fresh; if they aren’t bringing anything new to the table, the rot starts to set in. What serves to complicate this concept is that there needs to be elements of the old within the new. Think single-malt scotch from a metal distillery called Louisiana. There’s always little bit of the last batch in the next. You down it, and exhale heritage. There’s a new band in the boot that aims to step up and man the still. And their name is Blackwater Canal. As Blake Lowery (vocals) pointed out in our interview, even to this day that old Fat City southern metal sound has never left the hearts and minds of the people that embraced it back then. But he feels as though it is dying. And combined with their fresh perspective, this band aims to breathe a little heritage back into the scene.

          Cemented in the tenets of the south has always been the blues. It is literally in every facet of our music culture and commands respect from all those intelligent enough to recognize its presence. Louisiana metal pays homage to, and draws inspiration from, the blues. I’m not saying metal in other places does not. I’m saying it is the mud in the waters for which we are famous. Another essential ingredient of this southern dish is the groove. As Jay Gracianette (guitar) puts it, “Groove is the biggest thing I found in all of the New Orleans (metal) bands. From Exhorder, to Crowbar, to Eyehategod, to Soilent. Everything has groove. And you can be heavy. You can be a ballet performer. It’s got to be memorable. It’s got to have some sort of groove…”

While the overall metal genre embraces multiple styles, many bands choose to remain in one lane and exploit the possibilities within to the fullest. Perhaps a little harder, maybe a little faster, but always remaining within bounds. The lesser common option is to use this multiplicate for a more comprehensive approach. Acid Bath was a gladiator in this arena. Take The Blue for example, one minute you heard blood curdling screams over what could best be described as the Amen Break (drum solo in Amen Brother by The Winstons), the next minute you heard harmonizing vocals over a simple 4/4 signature with rides and fills; back and forth with this, all in one song! And they exploded, sending shrapnel in every direction.

          The time has come to once again to embrace what’s on the other side of the dotted line. And as co-producer on this album Vinnie LaBella (Exhorder) put it, it’s a hard sell. But frankly the era of musicians “pushing the envelope” by using extreme violence or showing more ass on stage has me ready to vomit. Autotune, by now, has asphyxiated us all. And the majors long ago lost the audio-sizing chart to what we choose to wear. There’s a clear difference between demanding respect and commanding it. And all of the previously mentioned elements knocked themselves out the box in my opinion. Often times those who demand respect are undeserving. But by the way they have chosen to carry the torch, Blackwater Canal shall command repsect. Their torches are dipped in the fat of Sabbath, Crowbar, Pentagram and Eyehategod. You can smell the flesh of their predecessors burning through the speakers. Their style is evocative of the sweet southern blues, honed to a metal’s edge. And like my favorite black and white film noirs of the 50’s, their lyrics delve into the seedier side of life. Blake Lowery’s cavernous vocals deliver the message. And similar to Kirk Windstein’s (Crowbar) approach, harmonies lie within. Jay Gracianette (guitar) and Steven Sessum (bass) could change their names to Gritty and Domineering, respectively. And respectfully, they deliver the listener a remembrance of that southern metal sound we all grew to love, while forging ahead to inject their own brand of passion. All of this teetering on edge is balanced in good meter by the super solid foundation they have found in Brian Ordoyne (drums). Together, they form like Voltron to see what parts of space they can go f**k up.

          But these intergalactic pilots are far from teenagers. And this is where the roux gets thick. As we all know, nothing can substitute the knowledge gained from experience. For all the bands named before the start of this article, you’re looking at decades of just that, experience. By far, these words fail to convey the amount of time spent in the Louisiana metal scene by the members of Blackwater Canal. The realization of the proverbial 10,000 hours manifests itself in their design. In short, they’ve put in the work and it shows. But even considering how dope this sonic editorial has been, you need to go listen to these guys for yourself. Their album, titled Force Fed Lies, will be coming out on July 15th. It was produced by OCD Recordings and co-produced by Vinnie LaBella of Exhorder. Blackwater Canal will be performing live for the Album Release Party on July 15th at The Hideaway Den in Mandeville, at the foot of the Causeway Bridge on the North Shore. Thorn Prick and Gristnam will be there to fill the bill as well.

Listen to Shadows of Light by Blackwater Canal here.

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.