From: "Radley D. Hirsch" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: opiv question
Date: June 27, 2016 at 2:50:17 PM PDT
I just read that interview with Matt & Tim. It didn't happen
quite how they remembered it. I told them I wanted to make a good
quality hi-fi record. They agreed. I didn't like the tinny records
that Kevin Army made, although we were friends. I drew a calendar up
and marked out the dates, basics at Gilman, overdubs at my place,
mixing and done. I made xeroxes and passed them out to everyone.
They did have really crappy amps so I did borrow a Marshall (that
was never used) and a SVT bass rig. We did everything quick on our
end, the band took longer. I had already done records in
professional studios, so I knew about time & budgets. We wrapped
up the basics at Gilman and started the overdubs at my house. We had
done "Hanging Out" and they wanted to put that out on "The Thing
That Ate Floyd". They were real happy with that. Then they announced
we had to go back to Gilman and re-do Freeze Up, Sound System and
add a couple more new songs. What? It'll blow the schedule but ok.
The schedule was for Lawrence and David Hayes to plan the release
and book time for pressing the records. So we do another session at
Gilman and that went great too. When the mixing date arrived, they
never showed up. I called them and they said we knew what we were
doing so go ahead without them. They said make it sound like The
Ramones. Mark Brooks and I mixed it and then they came over a week
later to listen to it. I had just gotten a new 27" Sony TV that had
stereo (!) speakers in it. I played the tape through the
tv, it sounded great. It was like hearing your stuff on the radio.
They were shocked. Tim said "every song sounds different". (Really?
Like Sgt. Pepper?) I honestly do think they were embarrassed
by how good it sounded and what their friends would think and call
them sell outs. I mean you listen to The Ramones and they had some
big sounding records.
All the extra time they took was on them. Dragged out months? They
kept adding more and more stuff. I ended up arranging half of the
songs because their songs weren't much more than rough drafts. So I
suggested stuff like having the drums open "The Crowd" and helped
Tim with a solo. They asked for horns so I got them real
professional musicians (paid them out of my pocket) and did the horn
They enjoyed coming over to my house because my wife and I would
always feed them. It was always fun, friendly and like family. I
stayed friends with them too. I turned Dave Mellow on to Brave Combo
and he would turn up to see them whenever they came to town. Tim
& Matt- I helped them a ton with Rancid at the beginning. I saw
Rancid once on tv years later and guess what amps they were using?
Marshalls and SVTs! Mark bought "Here Comes The Wolves" and
told me they used everything on Wolves that they hated on Energy.
By the way, Mark Brooks and I did "Turn It Around" live at
Gilman. David Hayes had wanted to put a record of the show so we did
it with a huge mic splitter. I ran the live sound and Mark did the
recording with another mixer in the Gilman office. That was a long
night. The problem was the bands played so crappy they had to go to
a studio and re-do all of it.
Mark Brooks at Giman with our house Yamaha PM1000-16 doing some sub
mixes into his Tascam board and a Tascam 8 track recorder.
Matt & Tim with baffles. Dave Mellow with earphones.
Lint overdubbing in my backyard. He showed up one night with his
guitar humming and buzzing so bad that the only way to get the noise
down was to actually move him away from his amp. We tried changing
guitar cords, lifting grounds, everything to try and get rid of the
god awful buzz. Ended up with his amp in the bathroom and him
outside. Finished one song and then I called it because it started
raining and I didn't want to electrocute Lint.
This is the boys doing backup vocals. They wanted that big English
sing along sound and we recorded them singing one pass then
overdubbed them singing again so 5 voices sounded like 10.
Hi there Radley!
Better late than never, eh?
At least I hope you'll see it that way! I don't think I ever
let an important letter go unanswered this long, but when I
realized that it was coming up on a year since you wrote to me, I
was deeply ashamed and thought, well, the only thing I can do at
this point is get off my ass and answer it, no matter how late it
I hope you know how much I
appreciate and admire you for everything that you contributed to
Gilman and the Bay Area scene in general, and how hard it was for
me when Op Ivy said I was going to have to be the one to tell you
that they didn't want to work with you anymore on the album.
I tried arguing that if that was their decision, they should be
strong enough in their convictions to give you the news
themselves, but I guess you know how those guys are. Lint
always quoted me as saying (I don't remember if I actually said
it, but this is how he remembered it), "You can tell Operation
Ivy, but you can't tell 'em much." They pretty much always
got their way in the end, whether or not it turned out to be in
their best interests.
I think part of the problem at
the time of the recording was that none of us (except you, of
course) had any real knowledge of recording technology or
techniques, and on top of that, because of the prevailing
punker-than-thou ethos, everybody was hypersensitive to anything
that seemed less than fully "authentic" or "real." As
Operation Ivy said at the time, they wanted to make a record that
sounded like them playing at Gilman Street, but what they
didn't/couldn't realize, given their lack of experience, was that
most of the magic of them playing at Gilman was created by the
interaction between them and the crowd, and that just sticking
them, their instruments, and some recording machines into an empty
warehouse, even if that empty warehouse was located at 934 Gilman
Street, was never going to replicate the intensity and connection
of a live show.
I remember having a similar
discussion in the studio with Kevin Army. I was criticizing
him for all the effects and devices he was using on the recording
and said, "Why can't you just record a simple guitar track like,
you know, the Ramones?" Kevin said, "I don't know if you
realize this, but that 'simple' Ramones guitar track is actually
about 20 tracks of guitar." The implication being, I guess,
is that sometimes it takes an awful lot of artificial devices to
make something sound "real."
I'm pretty sure it was David
Hayes that released the bootleg of the album. He walked away
from Lookout at the end of 1989 and said quite definitively that
he wanted nothing further to do with the label, even though I
tried like crazy, and offered him an even better deal than he had
(half of all profits, which was what he was already getting, but
for a lot less work) to get him to stay (I really didn't think I
could handle things on my own). But then when we started
issuing CDs and a lot of money began coming in, he started hinting
that he felt ripped off and seemed to get quite bitter about
But of course by then I was
paying the money David would have been getting (had he stayed at
the label) to other people who were doing the work David used to
do. I tried pointing this out, that you can't quit your job
and cash in your investments and then expect to still get paid if
your former company goes on to do well. Ironically,
something similar would happen to me a few years later when I
myself walked away from Lookout without thinking through the
implications very carefully.
Of course I wasn't expecting to
keep making money from Lookout after I left, but I did expect that
the new owners would carry on running Lookout in the same
tradition, being conscientious about paying bands and other people
who did work for them, and keeping alive the spirit of great music
that the East Bay had by then become famous for. Instead,
they used the large amount of money the label had accumulated to
put out a dreary succession of hipster-type bands that had little
or nothing to do with the East Bay or the Lookout sound, and spent
even more trying to promote those bands into popularity (a lost
cause from the beginning, if you ask me). On top of that,
they started operating more like a major label than an
independent, flying all over the world to attend bullshit music
"conferences," taking out ads in Spin, basically acting like the
same kind of over-consuming, under-thinking record industry execs
that I had never wanted to deal with and had started my own label
so I wouldn't have to.
People pointed out that once I
left, the new owners were free to run things however they wanted,
which is true, but if I'd known that was how things were going to
turn out, I wouldn't have left with a mere fraction of what my 51%
share of the label was worth (the other 49% had gone to my
employees as part of a profit-sharing plan). I literally
walked away from millions of dollars because I thought they would
use that money to keep Lookout strong and reputable, but within
seven years they were basically bankrupt and had stopped paying
nearly all the bands, which is why Green Day, Op Ivy, and most of
the others eventually pulled their records and went
elsewhere. I mean, those three records alone were worth
millions, and the new Lookout owners essentially threw them
away. More important, and more hurtfully from my
perspective, they defrauded my friends, people I had signed to
record deals based on those people's trust in me, of upward of a
million dollars in unpaid royalties. So not only did I throw
away a hell of a lot of money by leaving the way I did, but it
also meant that dozens of hard-working and deserving musicians
would also end up getting stiffed.
But as you say, water under the
bridge, right? At least the bands who lost by far the most
(Green Day and Op Ivy) had other resources to fall back on.
But still, a painful lesson for all concerned. I do think
it's fortunate that you didn't get involved with Chris Appelgren
when it came to releasing the Op Ivy tapes, as I'm pretty sure it
would have turned into an unpleasant fiasco. For one thing,
Op Ivy, or at least part of them, would have pulled out all the
stops to keep it from happening, and even if it had somehow come
out, the money would have almost certainly disappeared into the
black hole that is Lookout's finances these days.
Ha, I just noticed your remark
about making fun of David Hayes' drinking and it reminded me that
when I first knew him, he didn't drink at all, and in fact often
made fun of my drinking. I
wonder when he started drinking. Maybe around the time of
the Op Ivy tour? At any rate, he went on to make drinking a
large part of his life, and I don't think it did him many favors,
especially when it came to dealing with the bitterness and anger
he seemed to feel about the way things turned out for him. I
hope I don't sound too judgmental in saying that, but having had
quite a bit of experience with heavy drinking myself, I found that
it tends to amplify those kinds of feelings, even while promising
escape from them. Ironically, considering that we started
out with David making fun of my drinking, he went on to become a
heavy drinker himself while I haven't had a drink in nine years
(though to be fair, my own drinking definitely got worse before it
Ah well, if we only knew then
what we know now, right? I'm still doing my best to make
sense out of my life and not to be bitter or angry about my own
mistakes or those of others. I'm quite content to live
quietly in New York and do a bit of writing now and then (though
I'd definitely like to do more), and I still like to play some
music now and then. In fact, my old partner in both Lookout
and the Potatomen, Patrick Hynes, is coming out for his first
visit ever to New York City next month, and we're going to do a
one-off Potatomen reunion at a local club, a prospect which both
excites and terrifies me. I'm sure it'll be great to play
music together again, though; I just need to stop worrying about
what other people might say or think.
Anyway, Radley, once again I
apologize for taking 10 and a half months to reply to your very
interesting and enjoyable letter, and I promise not to let any
future letters languish in the unanswered bin. I hope all is
going well for you out there in San Francisco, and that if you're
going to this year's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, you enjoy the heck
out of it.
All the best,
Nov 11, 2009 at 1:52 PM, Radley Hirsch <email@example.com>
Just came across you on the web by happy accident. I wish Paula
& I had run into you at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. You chose
Marianne Faithful over Mavis Staples??? We saw Marty Stuart
close out Saturday's program and it was the best show I've ever
seen- really re-charged me.
I wish those guys would release the OpIv album Mark & I did.
Chris Applecore called me one day and came over and I played him
the digital masters and blew him away. I think he was going to
put it out and then all the bands started pulled their stuff? I
don't know, I stay out of that world.
I don't know who did the bootleg of it, no one ever talked to me
about it and I've never even seen it but I'd guess the fidelity
is pretty crappy?
It was funny reading your old interview with them. Lint &
Matt complain about using good amps- the same ones they use now!
Mark Brooks bought their "Wolves" cd and told me that everything
we did on their record (Energy.0) they used on Wolves, go
I don't know, I listen to our unreleased one about once a year
or so and I still think it's a damn good album. I didn't want to
make one of typical "tinny" records, no bass, lots of
They complained about overdubs (in your article) but we couldn't
get them to stop overdubbing. Good thing now it was only 8 track
tape, these days everything's digital and the tracks are pretty
much limit-less. Remember we even went back to Gilman a second
time for them to re-record more songs? I mean, they had a song
("Gonna Find You") that they said 'we want this one just plain-
no overdubs, no reverb' and then they overdubbed the hell out of
it. I remember counting Jessie had 17 punch-in's on his vocal
for "Freeze Up" because he couldn't sing it all the way through.
I think Mark & I were just in the wrong place at the wrong
time? I know they (and Green Day) went on to make polished
records and use good amps and not put out records that were out
of tune. I know I shouldn't have teased David Hayes so much
about his drinking, which pissed him off. The OpIv boys were
scared of what their friends were going to think when they heard
the record. Matt & Lint told me "every song sounds
different". Gee, really? Like Sgt. Pepper?
Oh well, it's all water under the bridge. Of course we all
remained friends afterwards. In fact I had Dave Mello come see
my favorite band "Brave Combo" because they had a phenomenal
drummer (this like 1988?) and Dave loved them and I've seen him
at their shows every time they come back, even now he makes the
trip from Lake Tahoe.
A couple of years ago, Jack Boulware got in touch with me about
his book. I refused to talk to him because I thought he was
trying to make money off Gilman and his co-author seemed proud
to have been 86'd for drinking at Gilman. Gee, thanks for
contributing to the scene.
Anyway just wanted to say "Hi" and also set the record straight
on a few things.
All my best,
Re: Mike Lucas vs. Lookout Records
« Reply #39 on: January 31, 2007, 05:58:20 PM »
Someone played Energy for me about a year after it came out and
I thought it sounded really weak. The production was all tinny
and it sounded terrible. I would hear it from time to time and
it was grating. It really is one of the worst recorded records
When we released the first Geeks 7" (the 70s/80s SF art punk
band, not the East Bay 90s band), we went to Radley Hirsh's
place to drop some off. Not only was Radley the drummer for the
Geeks, but he was the sound guy at Gilman for the first ten or
so years. He had a spiral notebook noting all the shows he had
done and what bands played AND he had reel to reel recordings of
every show he did. He also had shit like Neurosis sessions. One
of the tapes he brought out was the the first version of Energy,
which he had done. It had horns and the production was really
fucking great. It sounded closer to London Calling than the thin
shit that was released. I was really shocked because what he
played us was a pretty fucking good, if not great record. I
asked him what was up with that recording and why didn't it get
released. He said the band thought it sounded to commercial, too
polished. So they had someone else rerecord it to sound less
"slick." Thing is what Radley played didnt sound slick, just a
good loud, full recording. He said Lookout was thinking of
releasing his version, but it never happened. Too bad and too
bad it didn't come out instead of the shit version. They were
big but they would have been huge.