DEMON'S CLAWS with NO DYNAMICS and JEWISH LEGEND at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina), tonight (Thursday, February 15). $7. 416-763-9139. Rating: NNNNN
Knowing that the rock 'n' roll delinquents in Montreal's Demon's Claws lack the basic logistical skills to share a chocolate bar without it turning into a sticky five-way band brawl, how they ever managed to coordinate their schedule to record the sloppy-great new Satan's Little Pet Pig (In the Red) album on the most appropriate day of the millennium - June 6, 2006 (yes, that's 06/06/06) - requires some explanation.
Surely, it took some serious plotting, since the Demon's Claws were then on tour, terrorizing the West Coast with their aggressive brand of country & wasted punk. They would've had to book their shows so their day off fell within striking distance of the celebrated Distillery studio in Costa Mesa, California, to record their raunchy, revved-up tunes on the calendar date of the beast. At least you'd think there was some elaborate planning.
Nope, that's not how the Demon's Claws roll.
"It just worked out that way," laughs guitarist/growler Jeff Clarke. "That was the only day we could do it. The one weird thing that happened was that we got a call at the studio while recording and found out a good buddy of our guitarist, Pat Meteor, had killed himself. We dedicated the album to his memory.
"But I guess that whole tour was kind of weird. Fortunately, we had the psychedelic tiger - a stuffed toy tiger - that sat on our dashboard and guided us on our way. There's a picture of him in the CD booklet."
From the look of the busted windshield behind their tour mascot, it seems like the Demon's Claws needed more than the protective powers of a psychedelic tiger to keep them out of trouble.
"I put my foot through it one night during a temper tantrum. We assumed psychedelic tiger was taking care of us, so when things went wrong I kinda blamed him. I was trying to kick him in the head, and I swear the fuckin' thing moved so I wound up kicking out the van's windshield instead. Luckily, auto glass repairs are a little cheaper in the States. It only cost us $100 to replace. In Canada it would've been at least $500."
Evidently, they survived the trip to Costa Mesa, where they hooked up with producer to the sloppy-rockin' stars Mike McHugh to cut their hard-pounding hayseed opus, Satan's Little Pet Pig, at his Distillery operation. Before the end of their day-long ordeal, they'd learn all the secret studio techniques McHugh used to make his riotous recordings with the Black Lips, Jon Spencer, Black Top and the Hunches sound so unhinged.
"Mike was fun to work with, but it seemed like he didn't know what he was doing half the time. He'd just wander around poking at things, but it worked out well. We did almost everything live, because after a couple of takes you start to lose the feel."
McHugh also doubled as a vocal coach and had some useful suggestions for Clarke when it came time to record his sinister snarling.
"I was going to do the vocals in the morning, but he said, 'No, no, you gotta go out buy a bottle of whiskey, drink it, smoke a whole pack of cigarettes and then come back and do your vocals.' He was right. After all that whiskey and those cigarettes, I was ready."
That explains Clarke's husky howl, but why anyone who has heard what the Reatards' no-fi recordings sound like would want Jay Reatard to master their work is puzzling.
"Larry Hardy has Jay master a lot of the records he puts out on In the Red, so he got him to do ours. It wouldn't even have crossed my mind that we'd need to hire someone to master the record. Actually, I don't even know what the mastering process is all about.
"Larry just said, 'Jay's mastering the record,' and I'm like, 'Um, okay, is that anything like mixing?' No, apparently not. I haven't even listened to the CD since we got our copies so I can't really comment on how it sounds."