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Author Topic: The Stephen Desper Thread  (Read 298216 times)
Charles LePage @ ComicList
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« on: December 23, 2005, 09:06:48 PM »

Let's restart the discussion with and about Stephen Desper.

Please read the previous discussions before asking him a question:

http://surfermoon.com/essays/desperarchive.html

http://comiclist.com/smileysmile/viewtopic.php?t=8960
« Last Edit: December 23, 2005, 09:50:19 PM by Charles LePage » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2005, 09:38:42 AM »

Mr. Desper -- first, welcome to the new board. I've really enjoyed and appreciated your thread, and thought I'd start off the new one by finally asking you a question.

This isn't an attempt to get you to criticize anyone else's work, but is there a Beach Boys or Brian Wilson song that you didn't work on, but really wish you had? This might be for technical reasons, such as that you thought you could've gotten a different sound that particularly appeals to you, or for a more sentimental one, such as that you just love a particular song or record. Maybe you think some song deserved better or different treatment than it got.

And, if so, how might you have approached it?

Thanks in advance.
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« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2005, 10:28:29 AM »

Opening the topic up a bit, I wish Mr. Desper worked behind the board for Pacific Ocean Blue.
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2005, 10:34:47 AM »

Hello Charles LePage:

Thank you again for all you have done with this posting board.  I know it takes a lot of hard and long hours to make it happen. I'm certain I speak for all posters in expressing our gratitude for and apprecition of your efforts that continue the interest in Beach Boy history and bring to us the ability to express ideas about Beach Boy events of this day.

Good Listening to you,


~Stephen W. Desper
Merry Christmas   and HAPPY NEW YEAR's GREETINGS !!!
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2005, 11:37:05 AM »

OLD BUSINESS FROM THE PREVIOUS BOARD

Comment to aeijtzsche --

Hey Steve, check this out:




This photo reminds me of the time I had been recording and working with the group and Brian for over a year.  We had been in various studios around town and then built the house studio.  I guess we'd been recording in the house studio about six months.  During all that time I had seen and heard Brian play all manner of keyboard instruments and guitars.  He was very proficient at anything musical -- that goes without saying. Once in a while he'd pick up a tambourine or play the vibs. 

One day we were doing some demos or test tracks of songs (pre-tracking).  That is, recording stuff to see how it sounded in playback.  If they liked the way a particular song came off (in playback - hearing) they would consider tracking that song. Otherwise these tracks were discarded as were the songs.

Brian had recorded the piano part of a song he'd been working on.  But he wanted to hear it with a drum track. It was the weekend and Dennis was out sailing or surfing and not around.  Carl, Brian and myself were the only ones in the studio.  I don't play the drums. Carl said, I'll try to do it for you Brian and went out to do some basic licks but got all tangled up in himself trying to hit all the correct drums and cymbals.  So he came back up into the control room and sat down beside me at the console.  Brian was pacing in the studio when Carl pushed the talkback button and said, "Why don't you add the parts Brian . . ." 

Brian said, "I'll give it a try." 

He sat down on the drum throne and adjusted it lower.  Then he took the sticks in hand and proceed to blow us all away.  It was Hal Blaine at his best.  I looked at Carl and said, "Where the hell did that come from? I never knew he could play like that."

Carl said, "He doesn't like to play the drums because he can't hear them well enough, but he can do it."  I said, "That was Amazing!!"   

And I can't recall ever seeing Brian play the drums again. 

But it was Good Listening,


~Stephen W. Desper

((PS  don't remember the song and the track was wiped.))   




 

 
 
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the captain
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« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2005, 11:50:32 AM »

Great story! Thank you, Mr. Desper.
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« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2005, 06:06:37 PM »

Mr. Desper -- This isn't an attempt to get you to criticize anyone else's work, but is there a Beach Boys or Brian Wilson song that you didn't work on, but really wish you had? This might be for technical reasons, such as that you thought you could've gotten a different sound that particularly appeals to you, or for a more sentimental one, such as that you just love a particular song or record. Maybe you think some song deserved better or different treatment than it got. And, if so, how might you have approached it?

I'd have to say that I enjoy the work of other engineers just as you do.  ~swd
« Last Edit: December 25, 2005, 06:08:16 PM by Stephen W. Desper » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: December 25, 2005, 06:53:33 PM »

Fair enough. Thanks for answering my question.
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« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2005, 07:15:32 AM »

Stephen - a quick question for you about Sweet Mountain from the Spring LP - I love this song and the very weird and wonderful production. It's credited to Brian and David Sandler - do you know who wrote what? Also, who - other than Brian and the girls - is doing the vocals at the end? Is it all Brian? There are times when I think I can hear Mike Love doing bass vocals and other times I think it's Brian. Many thanks for your time (and a big thank you for your great work on all those great records!)
« Last Edit: December 27, 2005, 03:11:11 AM by alan brightmore » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2005, 07:33:33 AM »

Mr Desper wrote:

"((PS  don't remember the song and the track was wiped.))"

Can you elaborate on the reasons for wiping not-to-be-used songs? I assume one was economical in that the Beach Boys wanted to record over older tapes instead of buying new tapes.
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« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2005, 10:44:31 AM »

Mr Desper wrote:

"((PS  don't remember the song and the track was wiped.))"

Can you elaborate on the reasons for wiping not-to-be-used songs? I assume one was economical in that the Beach Boys wanted to record over older tapes instead of buying new tapes.

The author(s) of the songs did not want to move forward with their creation and wanted to remove any evidence of same.  Sort of like writing it down on paper, handing it to a musician to play, then upon hearing it played if you did not like what you heard you would rip up the paper along with the song. It's one thing to write a song and hear it in your head or hear it as you play it, but the song takes on a different perspective if you hear it without playing it.  Sometimes this seperation of the player to the listener in playback (even if the same person) gives a point of view that is different and allows for a more critical judgement to be made.

Ever compose a photo with your digital camera, but after you take it and view it on the screen, decide to erase the attempt and move on?

The recording studio can be used for production but also for experimentation (if you can afford it).  Indeed, if you do use it for experimentation, those things you try out and wish to discard must be destroyed or else the whole idea of author's security and control over their creation, is lost.  Good Grief!  If I could not erase or go over (edit) everything I write on this computer -- and somehow there was a record of everything I wrote that may someday come back to haunt me, I'd go back to a pencil and paper.
  ~swd
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« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2005, 10:54:02 AM »

Mr Desper wrote:

"((PS  don't remember the song and the track was wiped.))"

Can you elaborate on the reasons for wiping not-to-be-used songs? I assume one was economical in that the Beach Boys wanted to record over older tapes instead of buying new tapes.

The author(s) of the songs did not want to move forward with their creation and wanted to remove any evidence of same.  Sort of like writing it down on paper, handing it to a musician to play, then upon hearing it played if you did not like what you heard you would rip up the paper along with the song. It's one thing to write a song and hear it in your head or hear it as you play it, but the song takes on a different perspective if you hear it without playing it.  Sometimes this seperation of the player to the listener in playback (even if the same person) gives a point of view that is different and allows for a more critical judgement to be made.

Ever compose a photo with your digital camera, but after you take it and view it on the screen, decide to erase the attempt and move on?

The recording studio can be used for production but also for experimentation (if you can afford it).  Indeed, if you do use it for experimentation, those things you try out and wish to discard must be destroyed or else the whole idea of author's security and control over their creation, is lost.  Good Grief!  If I could not erase or go over (edit) everything I write on this computer -- and somehow there was a record of everything I wrote that may someday come back to haunt me, I'd go back to a pencil and paper.
  ~swd

FYI, this is why I have some serious issues with bootlegs. I am certainly no angel, and have my share of unauthorized recordings, outtakes, etc., but it isn't really fair of us as an audience to use unreleased items to judge an artist, be they for good or bad. Nobody dug through Picasso's trash bins to find scribbles on napkins (that I know of, anyway!), but we do the same thing all the time to say what a musician should or shouldn't have done, etc. A good example--we see the Battle Hymn or the recently posted "Can't Stop Talking About American Girls" to mock Mike Love (more than usual, anyway). The fact is, even if they were intentionally recorded with serious intentions, they weren't released. They are no different than a musician hitting a bad note in rehearsal. Thus we have no business with them, really.

I know that is hypocritical of me to say. I guess I'm as greedy as anyone, and want everything I can get my hands on-- even if I have no right to it.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2005, 10:56:17 AM by Luther » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: December 26, 2005, 02:18:10 PM »

Quote
The author(s) of the songs did not want to move forward with their creation and wanted to remove any evidence of same.  Sort of like writing it down on paper, handing it to a musician to play, then upon hearing it played if you did not like what you heard you would rip up the paper along with the song. It's one thing to write a song and hear it in your head or hear it as you play it, but the song takes on a different perspective if you hear it without playing it.  Sometimes this seperation of the player to the listener in playback (even if the same person) gives a point of view that is different and allows for a more critical judgement to be made.

That's an interesting answer, thanks. I've recorded music for ten years now and I've never deleted a recording that I didn't like. I have everything stored away. Sometimes, I remember a song I did years ago but can't remember how it went, so I can go back and listen to it, "Yeah, this song did have its merits." What's obvious in Brian's career is that sometimes a song doesn't feel right when it was first recorded, so it's discarded for years and years until the moment's right.
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« Reply #13 on: December 26, 2005, 02:48:47 PM »

FYI, this is why I have some serious issues with bootlegs.

I agree with you.  My problem with bootlegs is that the artist is misrepresented, either musically or financially.
As to test recordings, in this case the recordings would not have had the chance to be bootlegs.  We used one tape and just back it up over and over.  Record -- listen -- record again --  listen again -- then move on. Sometimes only a verse or a bridge, or even a fade was recorded and reviewed.  These were little work snippits or maybe the entire song, but no big production values here.  Maybe some vocal parts demo-ed or work out on tape -- just to see if it worked.

In a word, a rehearsal on tape.
  ~swd
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #14 on: December 26, 2005, 03:11:28 PM »


That's an interesting answer. I've recorded music for ten years now and I've never deleted a recording that I didn't like.

Well some of us are "pack rats" and never discard anything, then others are "minimalists " and never keep anything they don't use for more than a week. 
All the guys had a sense of their place in history.  In fact, they guarded their individual and collective output, wanting only the finsihed product to represent the work of the group.  Having a private studio was like having a lockable treasure room.  In fact with respect to the house studio, I had the only keys.  No one got into the studio unless I was there.  And I kept all tapes under my own lock in a closet.  That way, the trust was not with any one Beach Boy, but with someone in whom they all had a common connection.
Otherwise, tapes from outside studio gigs were controlled by Diane Rovell or Steve Korthof or the engineer in charge. A Beach Boy never took a tape home with them.
See previous post too.
 ~swd  
« Last Edit: December 26, 2005, 03:13:10 PM by Stephen W. Desper » Logged
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« Reply #15 on: December 26, 2005, 04:11:37 PM »

Mr. Desper, I apologize if this question was asked before (can't find it in the previous forum). Do you have any interesting Zappa stories?
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« Reply #16 on: December 27, 2005, 04:42:02 PM »

Mr. Desper, we were talking on the other board about the unreleased Denny song "I'm Going Your Way." You said you would know what song it was if you heard an mp3, so I went ahead and sent you a link to download an mp3 on a private message on that board. Did you by any chance get that link? If you didn't and you would still like to hear the song, I can send you a link again, but I don't think this message board is capable of doing private messages, so I would have to do it through email, in which case I'll have to have your email address. I would just post a link right here, but I don't think that's allowed.
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« Reply #17 on: December 27, 2005, 08:37:12 PM »

See the little IM bubble to the left? That's PM.
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« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2005, 02:21:53 AM »

Mr. Desper, have you seen that EPK-video on Brian´s site about the recording of the christmas-album or the video about the recording of SMiLE? What are your thoughts about it? How do you compare Brian´s working-style nowadays to how he worked back then with you?
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #19 on: December 28, 2005, 12:03:29 PM »

Quote
The author(s) of the songs did not want to move forward with their creation and wanted to remove any evidence of same. 
What's obvious in Brian's career is that sometimes a song doesn't feel right when it was first recorded, so it's discarded for years and years until the moment's right.
The song was not trashed, only the test recording of how it sounded in a playback was trashed.  In fact, the artist could work with the song on their own and make another test at a later date. These little tests or pre-demos were to determine if a song was good enough to even begin to work on.  It might be a guitar rendition or a piano representation.  In the case of Brian adding the drum parts, the song did not make any sense until he added beats.  You know, there were gaps. ~swd   
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #20 on: December 28, 2005, 12:05:56 PM »

Mr. Desper, I apologize if this question was asked before (can't find it in the previous forum). Do you have any interesting Zappa stories?
Yes a few, but a litttle busy right now.  Ask me again after the holidays.  ~swd
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« Reply #21 on: December 28, 2005, 12:09:13 PM »

I'll have to have your email address. I would just post a link right here, but I don't think that's allowed.
  Try askswd@webtv.net   If it's just an address you're sending I'll find it.  If you are sending a file to an email, we may need to try something else. But try that email address. ~swd
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« Reply #22 on: December 28, 2005, 12:10:37 PM »

See the little IM bubble to the left? That's PM.
Yes, clicking on that envelope will work too.  ~swd
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #23 on: December 28, 2005, 12:58:58 PM »

Mr. Desper, have you seen that EPK-video on Brian´s site about the recording of the christmas-album or the video about the recording of SMiLE? What are your thoughts about it? How do you compare Brian´s working-style nowadays to how he worked back then with you?
Yes, I watched The Recording of SMiLE.  Of course, that's an edited accounting, but it's obvious that the technology has influenced his technique.  In a word I'd say that now he comes to the studio with a laundry list of "to-do" items for the day.  Do this and check it off.  When he and I worked together it was more experimental.  He seemed to enjoy the freedom that came with NOT knowing exactly what you were doing from day to day.  There was more experimentation and it was just himself.  I tried to say out of his way and give him lots of creative space in which to work.  By keeping a low-key posture he was not (shall we say) embarrassed to let go -- to the point of being silly.  I think in today's world he is always under the lens of observation and expectation. (How else did they make The Recording of SMiLE?) Seems to me that that kind of recording enviorment tends to bias your actions.  In Brians case, the discipline may get the job done, but the final product suffers the from perils of conformity. I think he does best when there is little expected and even less regulated. I never took a camera into the studio and asked people to do the same. Ever try writing a letter or a story with someone peering over your sholder? What influence does that have on the final product? The best thing that could be done for Brian is to teach him protools and sampling.  I know this goes against my idea of ideal recording, being an analog guy, but think on it.  Brian grew up in the time of the studio when engineers were necessary to run the equipment on one side of the glass, while the performers played on the other side -- the studio / control room divide. So that's how he's continued to record to this day.  Now many of you reading this have never used an engineer, but yet make great recordings and do the performing too.  Just think what kinds of music Beetoven or Mozart or Brian Wilson would make given the knowledge of modern recording software.  What would Bach come up with programming a Moog Synthesizer rather than a Flintrop pipe organ. Brian should be his own engineer, performer and writer. What would this guy come up with if he knew how to run a virtual recording studio and have all the programs that are now available?  It makes the mind boggle.  Unfortunately, he's doing it the analog way in a digital world.  And what do you get?  SMiLE with every song in the same key. Yes, he's in the studio recording, but I think he's just coasting on the creative level. Brian needs to be challenged. The only person who can do that is Brian. ~swd   
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« Reply #24 on: December 28, 2005, 03:18:10 PM »

Okay, check your private messages.

By the way, you should definitely watch the recording thing for the Christmas album, which is up on Brian's website. It's a much more relaxed environment with more experimentation and everything like you were describing. I think it's much more interesting than the SMiLE one. I think Brian actually said in a recent interview that he wants to learn to use Pro Tools in the near future. Of course, who knows if he ever will. Someone (Darian or Mark Linett or someone) should just sit down with him and make him learn it.
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