John Hiatt talks 'Mystic Pinball,' recording techniques

news - collection of online and print articles
Forum rules
share articles from any media, include the URL if available - only brief statements
Post Reply
User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 215
Joined: Thu 28. Jun 2007, 12:12
Location: Germany

John Hiatt talks 'Mystic Pinball,' recording techniques

Post: # 425Post Juergen » ... inbal.html

John Hiatt has always been known as one of America's most gifted songwriters, but it took a decade or two for him to gain stature as a performer.
Maybe it was because, as he says, he is hard to categorize. He first served mainly a writer, supplying material for others, then he dabbled in New Wave, before getting back to his roots as a bluesy rocker.
Of course his ballads aren't too shabby either, seeing as his "Have A Little Faith in Me" is probably his most beloved song. Hiatt will play the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on Oct. 6 in support of his new album, "Mystic Pinball." He took a few minutes from his schedule to answer some questions.

You worked again with producer Kevin Shirley on your new album, who you worked with on your last album ("Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns"). What was it about the relationship you guys nurtured that made you want to work with him again?
We had a really good musical understanding and we communicate really well. That's it, mostly. He gets what I do and and I get what he does. That's pretty much it (laughs). He works really fast which I love to do, and you don't even notice you're in the studio. He's very good at eliminating that instrument in the studio, and the studio is his instrument. I think it was Miles Davis or maybe it was James Brown who said you've got to get past your instrument. That's the first responsibility of being a musician: don't get hung up on your instrument. You need to get past it, and Kevin does that. He gets it out of our way so we can make some music.

That makes sense because you seem to choose musicians to work with are definitely past their instruments. They don't get hung up on showing off their chops but yet they played beautifully. Is that something you look for?
I definitely do. I'm interested in musicians who play themselves more than they play their instruments (laughs). I prefer that to a bunch of licks or a lot of technique. For me, it's more about the music you make it than where that comes from.

Getting back to Kevin Shirley, your producer, he's been known in the past work more with hard rock and metal acts. Do you think there's something special about having people coming from different points of view or backgrounds working together that makes things special?
You know it's a funny thing, how people get pigeonholed. People think if you've done this music or that music, that's who you are. I have the same problem. People are always trying to figure out where the hell I fit (laughs). But as Kevin told me, he said these were the bands that asked him to produce them and that's where he got work. He said he would always love to do a bunch of different stuff but those were the people that came looking for him. So you do what you do. But he loves all kinds of music, as do I.

How different is the John Hiatt who made "Mystic Pinball" different from the John Hiatt who made, say, "Slug Line back in 1979?
Wow (laughs). Well, I think "Mystic Pinball" has a little of that edge, especially in the lyrics, that's similar to the early days. But I'm different in that when I was young I was a pissed off kid. And I'm not a pissed off kid anymore (laughs).

I hear you use an iPad for a lot of you're writing now. How is it different for an old-school writer such as yourself? And what do you like about it?
A: It actually happened quite organically. I got this little app which was a voice recorder for taking notes or something. And the thing about it is that it cataloged every little bit that you did. You could name it and date it and so whatever little silly thing I was singing, I could just call it that, and then go back to it whenever I wanted, so it was like a miracle to me. Because I used to sing into those little cassette things and throw them in a box and never be able to find them again. And I already had a word-processing program which I was using to write out my set lists, so I just started writing my lyrics on the iPad too. So I don't know if it's changed my writing but I will say it's about 1000 times more efficient. And the thing with the legal pads is I could never read my writing because my penmanship is so terrible (laughs).

You should get GarageBand because it's great for making demos.
You know, I have it but I haven't even used it. Because for me just to be able to sing a little song into that other app with just a vocal and guitar, and be able to hear it back, that's just so magical. I haven't gotten past that yet.
Post Reply