THE BRONX with HIGH ON FIRE , BURIED INSIDE and BIG BUSINESS at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Wednesday (February 8), 8 pm. $17.25. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
While their friends were off playing "hippy music festivals" this summer, roughneck Cali punks the Bronx were spending days and nights locked up in the recording studio. They were working on their Island/Universal debut proper, with the notoriously meticulous Michael Beinhorn producing the sessions.
Pairing the unruly members of the Bronx with a strict disciplinarian like Beinhorn, known for putting groups like KoRn and Soundgarden through the wringer to get exceptional performances, seems like a high-risk proposition that could've been a complete disaster or, conversely, resulted in the Bronx's career-best work. Singer Matt Caughthran, still smarting from the experience, insists it's the latter.
"I don't think Michael Beinhorn has ever worked with the same band twice, and there's probably good reason for that," chokes Caughthran over his cellphone. "It's a give-and-take relationship working with him, and he made us sound a thousand times better than we did when we walked into the studio, but by the end of the sessions you don't know whether you love the guy or you fucking hate his guts.
"He's a real smart motherfucker, and he pushed us to the point where shit was coming out of us that we couldn't believe. There were suggestions he'd make, like 'Try playing this part a bit longer' or 'Cut that out,' but it was a give-and-take situation.
"I'm really proud of what we got. It's very different from our first record. We made a great fast punk blast before, so we tried something different this time, and it sounds un-fucking-believable."
While Caughthran is obviously pleased with the results at this stage of the process, the tracks still need to be mixed, and for that job, Aussie mix maestro deluxe Mike Shipley is being brought in. That name might not be familiar, but you definitely know the handiwork of the talented Mr. Shipley, who made his rep with Def Leppard's Pyromania and went on to mix massive-selling records for Aerosmith, Shania Twain, Foreigner, Faith Hill, Queen, Green Day, Kelly Clarkson, Nickelback, Maroon 5 and, yes, even Michael Bolton.
"After working so hard on this recording, I'm very apprehensive about having to hand it over to some dude I've never met. And I wish I could be there when the songs are being mixed, but I guess that's not the best way to do it.
"Mike Shipley has done a lot of big records, so there's no doubt he knows what he's doing. The question is, does he know us? I mean, he's done Nickelback, so it could be like, 'Hmm, I think the vocals could use a little more Kroegerness here.' Hopefully, he gets where we're coming from and does an awesome job. I can't wait to hear it."
The album, which they once again plan to title The Bronx, is tentatively set for an early summer release, which may fortuitously coincide with the opening of the Darby Crash punk biopic What We Do Is Secret. Set in late-70s Los Angeles, the film focuses on the tragically short life of the late Germs frontman, who committed suicide on December 7, 1980, the day before John Lennon was killed.
The Bronx were originally hired by director Rodger Grossman to cover the Black Flag early classic Police Story (from 81's Damaged) for the soundtrack, but they wound up with an on-screen cameo portraying Black Flag onstage. The role of Darby is being played by Shane West, aka ER's Dr. Ray Barnett, opposite Bijou Phillips as Lorna Doom, and Joan Jett plays herself.
"We went to record Police Story for the soundtrack, and James [Tweedy], our bass player, was out of town, so [Germs guitarist] Pat Smear called up Kira [Roessler] from Black Flag and she tracked it live with us, which was kinda surreal. I don't look anything like (Black Flag singer) Chavo Pederast, but they asked us to play the song on camera.
"My tattoos were airbrushed off, they put a Ronald Reagan T-shirt on me and we were good to go. It took no more than 15 minutes to shoot the scene, but we had to sit around for eight hours waiting.
"They couldn't find enough real street punks to work as extras, so they had to hire all these Hollywood types and dress them up. It was was a really odd mix of homeless kids and out-of-work actors. I ran into a couple of dudes in the washroom all decked out like nasty gutter punks who were complaining about an upcoming scene: 'We're supposed to be moshing and I don't even know how to do it! Are we going to get hurt?' It was hilarious."