BK. What led you
into music and who were your early influences and why.
AC. Well, It was around about 1963 and we had a show and tell in our classroom that day. I believe it was fifth or sixth grade. Anyway, at that time I was making monster movies with a Kodak Sound Eight projector, dubbing in classical music as the back ground from a Wollensack tape recorder. I loved classical music.
Anyway I was in the classroom for Show and Tell that day and some kid brought in the record"Runaway"by Del Shannon. I said I have to do that! I have to play that! Then of course, the Beatles came out and that did it for me! My sister bought me the first Beatles album and that was that! That's when I made the decision to be a musician. The Beatles did it!
BK. How did you come to join the Turtles?
AC. I was with Jimmy Carl Black in a group called "Geronimo Black". It was the first 'offshoot' of the "Mothers of Invention." Bunk Gardner, Tom Leavey, Denny Walley, Ian Underwood, and even Roy Estrada was in the band for awhile, but basically the nucleus of the band was Jimmy Carl Black, Bunk Gardner, Tjay Contrelli, (from.. the group "Love")
Around that same time, Frank Zappa was shooting the movie "200 Motels". Jimmy Carl Black was in the movie along with Flo and Eddie, Ringo Starr and many others. So I went to a couple of rehearsals to watch Jimmy Carl Black sing "Lonesome Cowboy Burt" with Flo and Eddie singing backgrounds. At the same time, Flo and Eddie were also doing a cartoon called "Dirty Duck" also know as "Cheep" at Cherokee Recording Studio located in Box Canyon. It had an eight track recording system. While Flo and Eddie were doing the overdubs, I introduced myself and said I was available for keyboards. The next day they called me in because at that time Bruce Rob was too busy being a recording engineer to play keyboards, so I got the job of keyboard player from that point on. Actually Craig Krampf the drummer, nailed it for me.....so thanks to Craig! All of this happened around 1972 or 1973.
BK. What and when was your first recording studio experience? Describe how it felt to you. Who was producing and what songs were you recording.
AC. It was a two track-recording studio in New Rochelle, New York in 1965 called "Bruno Dean". I had a band called "The Individuals" which I have mastered a CD titled, "Euphorian Railway". It's all the songs I recorded in 1965. Well we recorded four or five tunes in an hour. I believe it was thirty dollars for the session. The basic tracks were recorded in one take, rewound the master two track and used another two track so we could overdub the vocals. That was the early days of recording.
BK. Much is made out of labeling the different decades of music for a particular style, or trend of music. The 1980's, for instance was the "Techno Pop" era and the mid- sixties as the beat generation or the "Rock and Roll" explosion era. Or the late sixties as the "Free Love and Hard Rock era." Should music be labeled that way. After all, doesn't a great song or period of music have all the same ingredients whether it was written decades ago or now? Won't a good song or period of music always stand the test of time no matter when it was written and recorded?
AC. Yes it will, a good song will stand forever. However the only way people can relate to different songs is by eras. I love the sixties and the melodies of the sixties. I relate to an era as the kind and style of the music. I wish everything was all sixties. That's when there were real songs with real melodies and real hooks and you could sing along with. Now today its impossible, I mean there are exceptions like Jewel and Alanis Morissette and some other things out today that are melodic. But Rap music, No Way! Rap music is a style like Reggae. I mean it's a cult, it's a religion. It has nothing to do with melodic melodies. It's all about telling stories and a distinct style of expression.
BK. Discuss and compare the recording process of the early seventies.
AC. Well since I started in the sixties it was very basically simple. It was just two track or four track, but mostly two track. Then it branched out to eight track and so forth. In those days, you used to make sub mixes. George Martin called them "rehearsal takes." So take one you would have base and drums. Take two you would overdub keyboards, guitar, tambourine. Take three you would overdub lead vocals and take four you would overdub hand claps. So each time you did a different take it was another generation loss because you are bouncing back and forth from machine to machine. That's why in those days when you heard Beatle records, you heard the vocals on one side and the band on the other. Nowadays it's eight million tracks, digital (Laughing) I mean there is no limit to the amount of track you can overdub. However the techniques today are so in your face. My personal taste is I like to record the band like it is on stage. So on the left side you hear the guitar and on the right side you hear the base player and in the center you hear the entire drum kit. Like a live ambient sound. Sometimes, well most of the time, when people record drums the high hat is in your left ear, the symbols in your right ear. It's like your sitting there with your head forced into the drum set instead of sitting back in audience listening to the whole sound. So that's the difference in mixing today that I don't really like. I like to mix things as if your watching on stage. Also in those days they had ribbon microphones and tube amplifiers. When you would mike a drum kit, you would have one overhead mike and one on the kick drum. When you would sing vocals you were about an arms length away from the microphone. Those were were the old days like for Elvis and Sam Cooke. But today with all the technology, it's all right there in your face!
BK. Discuss the types of keyboards and amps you prefer and why?
AC. The Hammond B-3 is number one. Well actually it's tied with the grand piano and the old Wurlitzer 140-B. Also I used to have a Baldwin electric harpsichord which was stereo. I ran it through a Hammond Lesley and an Ampeg B-15N for the base. It sounded awesome! I also had a Farfesa compact keyboard. However give me a grand piano and a Hammond B-3 and I am the happiest camper in the world!
BK. Discuss the different recording studio's you have worked in and the type of consoles each had. Do any stand out and have what I've heard described as " a particularly good feel to them"?
AC. Ok, well there was a studio, which is now gone called the Annex. That was the where Lawrence Welk, Buddy Holly and Elvis used to record. They actually shot the movie The Buddy Holly Story there. That was the studio which had the ribbon microphones and tube amplifiers and that was awesome! I mean it was really simple. It was a mono recording and they had three speakers on the ceiling. One was for the first mix, one for the second, and the middle speaker for the final mix. On the console were these six black knobs the size of grapefruits and that was your volumes for each of the channels. When an engineer would solo an instrument he would take his forearm and roll back the other four knobs while he'd solo the one Instrument knob. It was all tube amplifiers and it was clean as a whistle! There was no hiss, no anything, it was great! After that I recorded at a lot of different studios. I recorded at The Record Plant in Sausalito with Flo And Eddie. We were working on "Moving Targets", which was engineered and co-produced by Ron Neveson. I also did the "Geronimo Black" album at Sound City recording studios located in Panorama City, Los Angeles which was engineered by Keith Olson. I did The "Illegal Immoral And Fattening" album with Flo And Eddie at Haji, which is now defunct. It was in a room in a place called the crossroads of the world. Well they parked a truck in the Alley with the console, and a camera in the tracking room.That's how we communicated with the control room. But basically I wasn't paying much attention to the consoles. I was too busy playing music, getting high and having fun! I just kind of got out there and played. I wasn't really technically following all the details of the console, I knew how to run it. I mean I knew what channels were and busses, imputs, outputs, and auxiliaries and all that stuff. That's basically the only studios that I can remember..(Laughing) The sounds that stand out as having a good feel to them were the Annex and Haji. They had a real natural good feel to them and it was real easy to record. But a studio is a studio, I mean you are sitting there with your head phones on and you overdub and play your parts. you're kind of concentrating on the music at least I am and not worrying about what is going on. So that's how that goes.
BK. What are your favorite touring experiences and why? Also, what type of atmosphere do you like playing in and why.(for example small clubs, or large music hall, etc.)
AC. Little Richard was fantastic because we used to play these gigantic venues with fifty or sixty thousand people, and it was very exciting. His energy level was the most incredible I've ever seen, I mean it was just awesome! He would start out on the grand piano and I'd be on the Hammond B3, then finally he would start hoping around the stage and I'd finish off on the grand piano. It was just incredible! The guy is totally the best singer I've ever seen in my life! Of course all the fun I've had with Flo and Eddie is just like endless, endless. I went Australia with Little Richard and also with Flo and Eddie. We were always treated like the Beatles. It was truly incredible! Also, touring around the United States and going to Europe as the "Two and 1/2 Man Show." It was Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan and myself doing sort of an eighties version of Vaudeville where we would have blow-up animals and we'd show slides and movies. We would do the whole history of Flo And Eddies and The Turtles starting from the Crossfires in the sixties to The Turtles, to Flo And Eddie, to Frank Zappa . As far as which atmosphere I like is large venues. For example I did the"National Anthem" at Anaheim stadium for the Rams / Vikings football game in 1983. I was in the middle of the football field with an organ playing the National Anthem in front of seventy thousand people and that was awesome! Then of course we did as Flo And Eddie, a Jefferson Starship tour and a Stephen Stills tour and a bunch of large venue tours. In fact today with The Turtles I'm doing large venue tours. Those are definitely the most fun for me. I mean you say something into the microphone and seventy thousand people respond! it's really chilling! Small nightclubs are cool, but I'm sort of burnt on nightclubs. I have been doing nightclubs for so long; it's gets old. Nightclubs are ok, but I definitely prefer the large venues.
BK. You both wrote and recorded songs with Harry Nilsson, truly a great musician. What was that like?
AC. Well that was like hanging out with the Beatles. I mean it was the most incredible experience. Because of Flo and Eddie I met Harry Nilsson back in 1989. It was Octoberfest at Universal City Studios where Clarence Clemmons and Alice Cooper had a special concert. They had thirty radio stations from across the country doing interviews with celebrities. At that time, Flo And Eddie were with a radio station in New York City called K-ROCK. They were on after Howard Stern's morning show. All of these thirty radio stations had their tents set up at Universal City Studios for a live satellite Broadcast, with these celebrities doing their interviews. So Flo And Eddie rented me A limousine and I would go pick up Mickey Dolenz, Eric Burdon, Kevin Meany , Harry Nilsson, Bobby Hatfield, Ray Manzerick and other celebrities. At the end of the interview, I would have my keyboard set up there in the tent and we would do the hit song of each artist or "Happy Together".
With Eric Burdon we did "Don't Bring Me Down", with Ray Manzerick we did "Light My Fire," with Bobby Hatfield we did "Unchained Melody", and of course I got to meet Harry Nilsson! I mean I was so nervous because I was such a huge Beatles Fan. When I went to pick him up, I opened the back door for him and he said screw that, I am going to sit up front with you and then we got stuck in and traffic and talked Beatles, Beatles and more Beatles. It was just totally awesome! With Harry , we didn't do a hit song. We did an obscure Dillards song which Harry nor I could remember the title, but anyway, Harry sang lead and Flo And Eddie sang harmonies and it was cool!. Then he invited me to his company called Hawkeye Productions. It was a company that submitted scripts to Production Companies for films. Harry invited me in for a glass of water. (Laughing) I asked him if he was still playing music. He said "no" and that he had sold his guitar and keyboard. I told him I have my own little studio and I'm called "Demo Doctor." I do demos for singer-songwriters. Do you want to get together? He said fine, bring your stuff out to my place, I'll make dinner and then we'll make some music.
Well about four years and thirty songs later, we became really good friends. He would hang out with me more than with his wife and six kids. He would come over at four in the morning and we would go for a ride in his Mercedes and listen to all of his tapes and all the tapes we recorded. It was just wonderful. He was a fantastic storyteller, a sweetheart, and a gentle warm person. He was a really, really close friend of mine and I miss him very much, but Harry was the King, the total King.
BK. Are there any particular songs that you like and are they available to the public?
AC. Harry did do a song I wrote called"Karen". However I have not put that out yet. The rest of the material that was recorded can be found on my Snarfel CD page on the net (http:home.earthlink.net/~snarfel/snarfel.html). The most exciting moment was recording a song Harry wrote with John Lennon called "You Are Here" The famous "You Are Here" thing with just the words "You Are Here". it's a song Yoko hasn't even heard yet. We also did a great version of the old song "Mother In Law." It was incredible working with Harry! None of these songs are available to the public because Una Nilsson has control of the masters. Whenever she feels like putting the songs out, she will. Until then they will stay on the shelf.
BK. Specifically what are you're favorite songs of all time and why? Was it a particular arrangement or production technique or the use and sound of a specific instrument?
AC. Well, I love "Good Vibrations". That was incredible. That entire album was incredible! "Strawberry Fields" is totally awesome too, especially the new anthology mix of just Ringo doing the percussion. That was just incredible! Most all of the Beatles songs I like really well. There is a Paul McCartney song which is the flip side of the single titled, "It's Just Another Day." The song is called "Oh Woman Oh Why," with Paul playing all the instruments. He screams his ass off on that song and I love it. The production was great on that song. I also love the Paul McCartney album "RAM," and there's a song on there called "Monkberry Moon Delight", which he also screams his ass off on. That's my favorite Paul McCartney vocal sound. As far as the era of recording, I would say Rubber Soul and Revolver were my totally favorites. Of course they used the old technique of bouncing rehearsal takes onto different tracks. Like the song "She Said She Said", that's a good example. But those are my two favorite Beatles albums of sound and recording processes used during that era.
BK. Which Turtle songs do particularly enjoy playing in concert and why?
AC. I love playing " "She'd Rather Be With Me"", and "Happy Together" is fun playing as well. Of course when I was doing the Flo And Eddie concerts between 1973 and 1983, we would do a song called "Keep It Warm" from the "Moving Targets" album released in 1976. This song was fantastic and should have been a hit. This was the time when we were playing those large fifty to sixty thousand seat venues and every time I'd start playing that opening piano part the place would go nuts! That was very exciting for me!
BK. Discuss your approach to song writing. Which usually comes first, the melody or the words? Do you work out arrangements before going into the studio? Also what other musicians have you worked with before and are working with now, that impress you?
AC. Usually I write the music first. I just sit down and start thinking of these cool licks, cool drum parts, cool base parts, guitar and keyboard parts and that inspires me to write the lyrics. I do have working titles you know, like a list of titles and concepts. Then I write the lyrics after I have written the music. I do all the arrangements before I go into the studio, so that everything is all prepared before record. I know exactly what goes on and at what time.
BK. What groups today impress you and why?
AC. Well, Edie Brickel is one. I love her voice! It reminds me of the sixties. There was a lady by the name of Norma Tankanika, and she did a song called "Walking With My Cat Named Dog" and it had this almost out pitch vocal sound. Edie Brickel had this same almost out of pitch vocal sound. Sound Garden and Pearl Jam are great too. I also like Celine Dion, and The Wallflowers. With The Wallflowers, it's like the sixties all over again with the straight ahead rock and roll beat and the Hammond B3 organ. They are definitely my favorites right now.
BK. Finally, what recordings of yours are available to the public?
AC. Well, my Snarfel CD is available and its also on my web site, (http://home.earthlink.net/~snarfel/snarfel.html) so you can check it out there. I have some other CD's that I'm in the midst of manufacturing currently. Its called "The Euphorian Railway". Its all the songs I recorded in 1965.