Alejandro Escovedo has a number of acclaimed albums to his credit
and one of his best yet, his 10th album, Real Animal was released
in early 2008. To his credit, Escovedo has put together a stellar
band to assist his post-modern rock vision including ace producer
Tony Visconti, who streamlines Escovedos sound to make
it sound like a natural extension of his 60s and 70 productions
with Bowie and T. Rex. Escovedo and Visconti enlist a number of top
players here including guitarist Chuck Prophet (who also co-penned
the tracks), guitarist David Pulkingham and many more including
Visconti on backing vocals. Commenting on working with Escovedo, Tony
Visconti adds, 'It was one of the most enjoyable albums I've had the
privilege to produce in many years. We recorded the album live, the
same way I set up T. Rex and Bowie's bands in the 70s. Regarding
the guitarists on the album Visconti further adds, Chuck is
a solid rocker, a groove master. David Pulkingham is an amazing, versatile
soloist. He is a consummate jazz musician who plays rock better than
most guitars who specialize in the genre. He blew my mind daily in
the studio. Its just that good and with Real Animal
Escovedo has penned a number of high energy rockers making it
a perfect fit for Viscontis thrilling and legendary approach
to shiny, metallic sounding studio rock.
Tony Visconti speaks to Robert Silverstein of
RS: Hi Tony. Congratulations on your production of Alejandros
TV: It was one of the most enjoyable albums I've had the privilege
to produce in many years. After listening to the demos for the album
for many weeks I finally had the chance to see Alejandro and his band
live at a club in Chicago. I was floored by how tight they were and
how great a live performer Alejandro was that night. He was singing
punk songs in the sound check and I told him afterwards that we have
to get that spirit and sound in the studiothe truth is out!
I hadn't yet met Chuck Prophet, Alejandro's co-writer who would join
us at a rehearsal in Austin and in St. Claire studios in Lexington,
RS: The guitar sound on Real Animal has a vintage but modern
TV: I realized early on that I was blessed with too many great string
players. Chuck is a solid rocker, a groove master. David Pulkingham
is an amazing, versatile soloist. He is a consummate jazz musician
who plays rock better than most guitarists who specialize in the genre.
He also plays a particular busy Brazilian style on nylon strung guitar.
He blew my mind daily in the studio.
RS: How did you get that great studio sound on the Real Animal
TV: We recorded the album live, the same way I set up T. Rex and Bowie's
bands in the 70s. Everyone was in the same room with Alejandro sitting
in the middle singing live. I encouraged him to "perform"
because I intended to use any live vocals that he couldn't better
with overdubs. I'd say we used about 60% of Alejandro's vocals. But
in many cases there was no need to redo Chuck and David's parts, the
same with bassist Josh Gravelin. Their live playing was on the money
every time. Of course we overdubbed and reinforced some parts, but
it is essentially a live album. The two string players, Susan Voelz
& Brian Standefer also played live every take and much of what
they played live was kept. We spent some time adding more string parts
and revising some of their self-written parts. I couldn't help writing
new stuff for them based on the style of writing I'd developed with
my T.Rex strings. This was a very 70s album in the sense that
it was classic writing. The songs were crying out for this method
of recording. Of course, none of these great performances couldn't
be possible without the excellent beats provided by drummer Hector
Munoz. Hector told me that as a teenager he played my T. Rex records
loud and played drums along with them, learning the nuances of Glam
Rock drumming. He also attracted quite a fan base who would stand
outside his house when he was rehearsing. It was so great to make
a modern album with classic esthetics. Editing was minimal because
nothing beats great musicians who can really play their instruments.
If anyone made a mistake it would take far less time to ask them to
play it again instead of editing it around in Pro Tools.