I played on Ron Hawkins new album at a East Toronto recording studio today. I remember meeting him more than 20 years ago at the Free Times Cafe. The first thing out of his mouth was that is was great to fuck to (my album) In Her Dream. He meant that as a compliment and I took it that way but while we were gabbing today he told me as a youth he was in the Trotsky League. That alters my older memories, now I realize that years ago when he said those words it may have been because of the politics of the songs on In Her Dream and not just that he gets erotic pleasure from records that are unconcerned about vocal pitch.
It is stimulating to say the least when you love being a producer and an arranger to show up and let someone else have the final judgement about what you are doing. We started with a song I had wanted to do a broken chord pattern for, I thought it was killer. As soon as he and Joe Dunphy heard it I was asked to not play broken chords – oh the pain – but more amusing were the flashbacks to previous lives lived and the anger that might boil inside me to be told not to do what I think best.
The art of doing it well is not so simple and if I do it well I owe thanks to Graeme Kirkland. I hired Graeme to play on a couple songs for In Her Dream and it was a train wreck. I loved Graeme and he had beautiful compositions but when he came to that session he was obstinate. He would improvise to the tracks and then I would respond. I might say “Could you do that again without the ride cymbal?” or “Could you play brushes instead of sticks.” He got pissed off, like I had a lot of nerve to act like I knew what was best for my song ….and didn’t I realize he had never heard it before and didn’t really give a shit about singer songwriter stuff and didn’t I realize he was a genius? It hit me like a ton of bricks because I had done the same thing when King Apparatus hired me and when Lava Hay hired me. I resented it if they didn’t agree with my instincts.
Thanks to Graeme I acquired a new perspective and it goes like this. If someone hires you to play – your job is to be at their service. It’s nice to offer your ideas but you have to smile and move on if they want you to do something different than what your instincts tell you because it’s their record – that’s taking a pro pill. It’s like acting in a movie, the director might ask you to improvise but they might ask you to stick to the script or do it again without moving your arms or do it again backwards, or do it again with a French accent, whatever, they’re the director, they are trying to see the entire picture not just you’re part. It’s also fun not being in charge…for a little while.