News From The Woods - March, 1987


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published March, 1987

"Studio Notes: The Kidd Juan Sessions"

A lot of tape has passed by the heads since my last contribution to NIGHTFLYING. I received a surprising number of comments and support regarding the "Ocean" session notes I wrote a few months back. It's encouraging to get that kind of feedback, as opposed to the acoustic kind. Of course having a forum like NIGHTFLYING, that caters to the musical community, makes it all possible, along with dedicated people like Bob Boyd and Dick Renko, whose articles I always look forward to each issue. How do they find the time to do it all!?

That's my problem Not enough time. Not enough hours in the day or night. It goes with the territory. All of us in this business need to adhere to good time management practices. I maintain a list of priorities that I integrate into my daily work schedule, but occasionally something will come along and blow the whole schedule. Well this is an instance of one of "those" days! And so, here I am, sitting up in bed with a cold in my head, plenty of time on my hands, and a typewriter in my lap.

This time, I'd like to share my session notes taken back in July of 1986. The band was KIDD JUAN, from Poteau, Oklahoma, and they wanted to do an album of original material. When they initially contacted me to discuss the project, I requested a cassette recording of rehearsals so I could get an idea of what they were doing and where they were coming from musically. After discussing the marketing possibilities of album vs. cassettes with them, they later decided to distribute their music on cassettes. The entire project took two separate weekend sessions to record tracks and a full day to mix.

The first session started out in high-gear, as I had KROKUS booked for pre-production for a 15-day period, but they were playing a benefit performance in Mountain Home over the weekend that KIDD JUAN was booked. As a matter of fact, since KROKUS moved out Friday afternoon, I managed to squeeze ROGER CLINTON and band in (who needed to rehearse for the same benefit) Friday night until KIDD JUAN arrived.

We set up the band's gear that evening by 1 a.m., and quit so we could get at it early the next morning. By 11 on Saturday we were ready to start recording basic tracks. By the time we broke for lunch we had completed three rhythm tracks. We spent the rest of the day finishing up two more tracks, and even had a little time to spend on guitar overdubs before calling it a night.

KIDD JUAN's music is rock and roll with a twist of metal. Drums, bass, two guitars and up-front vocalist. Even though the band members were young and lacked a little playing experience - (called "chops" in the Grand Scheme of Things), they displayed a knack for writing songs with a good hook. Don't get me wrong these players were a little young, but they had an open and honest attitude and were eager to give it their best.

My overall production technique for KIDD JUAN was to keep solo's to a minimum, playing down the individual roles of the musicians, while emphasizing the arrangements of the songs themselves. In short, I felt that the songs took a higher priority than showcasing the playing talents of the musicians. This approach to a "formula" would also give them a better chance at attracting a major label's attention.

After spending all day Sunday laying guitar and vocal tracks on the 5 songs, the band headed back for Oklahoma, set to return the following weekend. I had just enough time to clean up the studio for KROKUS' last week. Fortunately, they spent most of the time rehearsing their stage set, as they were 2 weeks away from their U.S. tour. That gave me a little space after rehearsals to clean up the KIDD JUAN tracks and prepare things for the following weekend.

The band arrived on schedule Friday night to set up the gear. We also reviewed the previous week's work after had "cleaned up" the five tracks. The process revealed a few "holes" in the mix that needed some touch-up work. At 10 a.m. Saturday we were back to recording the basic tracks again, and finished the final three songs for the project at 2 p.m. At this point we were finished with the basic tracks that meant that drummer Donnie Wise and bassist Pat LeFevers were finished with their respective part in the recording process, so they packed up their gear as we set up to do guitar overdubs with Craig Kirksey and Kerry Plummer. We were finally finished with the guitars around 11 p.m.

We spent the remainder of the night cleaning up tracks and splicing the three songs onto the master reel. After playing "guest guitarist" and dubbing sound effects in a couple of spots I called it quits about 2 a.m. It was almost noon on Sunday before vocalist Dwayne Bishop and I started getting around to the vocal tracks. Several of the songs were right at the edge of Dwayne's range, so we spent the rest of the day shaping up the vocal tracks. I made a rough mix for the band to take back with them until I did the final mixes.

I very rarely do final mixes within a week of recording the tracks on any new project, as it's hard to be objective and free to try new approaches to a mix when you still have the "old" ideas/mixes in our head from the actual session. In KIDD JUAN's case, it was almost three weeks before I actually got around to doing the final mixes. I was expecting a new digital reverb and wanted to use it on the mixdown session, and the band didn't mind waiting, as they knew it would help that much more. The job itself took almost 8 hours to complete and edit in the proper song sequence for the cassette. The following weekend some of the band came back and we reviewed the finished project. They were satisfied with everything, so all that was left to do was send the master tape to the pressing plant, along with credits and information to be printed on the cassette labels. And oh, yes, the mandatory bottle of bubbly to signify another project well done.

The album, titled If You Want To Shake It, is on HYPE records #H 1002-86, and is available in the Ft. Smith area, or through KIDD JUAN, 1003 N. Broadway, Poteau, OK, 74953.


I understand there have been some personnel changes in the band since the session, but I'm happy to learn that the song-writing force within the group is still intact. So now it's up to the public and the perseverance of KIDD JUAN to hold out long enough until "the break" comes.

As for me, I've run out of tissue paper, cold tablets, and space here in NIGHTFLYING for this article.

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