Interview: Audio Learning Center

interview by pete soyer

When I first checked myself into the Audio Learning Center I knew I would come out a better person. I had struggled with my RATT and Quiet Riot addiction for years before my best friend (we’ll call him Greg) cornered me with an intervention. “You need help Pete. You are falling fast into a musical abyss that leads to mullets, beer bellies and trailer parks. You need help, whether you want it or not. Your head banging has got to stop!” At first I resisted. I loved this music and I could quit listening anytime I wanted. Anytime, man! But with my family and friends backing Greg’s charge I knew it was time to change. Who really wants their living room floor littered with empty PBR cans, numerous German RATT imports and back issues of Hit Parader? After checking into the ALC I was assigned a room with surround sound and a copy of Cope Park. It only took three months, but I am completely free from my ass-rock addiction with the Audio Learning Center to thank. Cope Park helped me cope with the withdrawals, night sweats, and loss of my favorite ripped red sweat pants. To thank the Audio Learning Center (Vagrant Records), I contacted one of their founding members, Christopher Brady (bass & vocals) to inquire how “Cope Park” came about. This is what they had to say.

How has your sound evolved from your past bands to ALC’s current sound?
Chris: I’ve always strove not to make the same sounding song over and over again. So with that in mind, I have continued down the road. But to where? I don’t know. I’m always painfully too close to my music to be a good judge of it. In this band, I wear a lot more hats than I did in Pond. My studio is in my house (much to my wife’s dismay) so I can spend a lot of time on how a song is played or sung rather than just trying to get the notes right.

Recording Cope Park at home, did you keep deadlines for yourselves or work without a schedule?
Well, we didn’t really have a schedule until Joe Chiccarelli signed on to mix the record. Up to that point, we were just pushing the paint around and trying to get the songs that were in our heads down to tape. I have done quite a bit of home recording before, but not to the extent that I did on this record. I am also armed with just enough information to be dangerous and compulsive enough to drive myself crazy. Once Joe was involved though, I had to kind of reign everything in and finish it up. It was like all of a sudden my thesis was due, and all I had down were the concepts. I suddenly was on a pretty harsh schedule but I find I do my best work when I’m under the gun.

Are you going to record future releases at home? I think Cope Park sounds extremely strong. No love lost here for recording at home instead of at “insert expensive studio here.”
I think I would like to approach the next album like this: Go into a pro studio and record most of the drums. Bring the drum tracks home and record everything else. Then take the recordings back into a pro studio for a bit of final overdub frosting and mixing.

How were costs with recording at home compared to a studio?
A chunk of the budget went into supplementing our already existing studio. The rest of the money went to a pro studio for 10 days of mixing with Joe Chiccarelli. Cope Park wasn’t exactly a cheap record to make but it was way under what most major label records cost.

How did you meet up with Joe Chiccarelli?
Our manager, Trevor Solomon, ran into him here in Portland and told him we were looking for someone to mix our home recorded album. Joe, having heard our first record, was interested so we went to coffee with him and gave him a basic mix of 4 of the songs.

Will you go to him as a producer again?
If we had the budget and the material was appropriate, sure I would love to do another record with him. It would have been nice to see how this record would of turned out if he was on it from day one instead of joining up at the end for mixing.

The art for Cope Park is great. Where did the concept for the crows, flowers and plugged heart come from?
We bounced ideas back and forth as a band until it slowly evolved. First we had the heart and cords, then the flowers, and then finally the crows arrived and rounded out everything. Sean Tejaratchi and Steven Birch are the ones who took the ideas, put a face on them, and put the whole package together.

What is next for ALC?
Writing more songs and continue home recording. We are talking about creating more of a studio album and not worrying so much on how we are going to pull the songs off live. We would love to do some soundtrack work.

What is the best thing happening this summer?
It’s going to be hard to beat the birth of my daughter, Esmé Ila Dempsey, earlier this summer.

Best movie coming out?
Fahrenheit 9/11

Best CD being released?
Well, I haven’t heard it, but I’m looking forward to hearing Spoon’s “The Beast and Dragon Are Adored.”

Best concert coming up?
The best show we have coming up is playing with The Wrens, Crooked Fingers, Swords Project and Dolorean in Portland, OR, on September 11th. I love The Wrens’s last record, “The Meadowlands.” I’m also a big fan of Dolorean. The best show in general is Pixies in Bend, OR, September fourth with Death Cab For Cutie. We had an opportunity to open for the Pixies a few months ago in Eugene and they were amazing. I think they sound better now than they did when I saw them in the early 90’s.

Thank you ALC for all you’ve done. With your help I beat ass-rock and discovered a way to help others who are currently in my former predicament. While the early Seattle rock scene is the root of their success, their future lies in the hearts of millions who have yet to experience the healing powers of Cope Park.