Count Down & The Blastoffs
As a staff engineer at Wally Heider Recording, Susie and other staff engineers were able to use studios when there wasn't a paying session to work on their own projects. The first sessions were in Studio D, doing basic tracks with "Sandy" JACK REINER on drums, STEVE DePRA on bass, myself on rhythm guitar, Susie engineering and me producing. We recorded "I've Got The Vibes", "Runnin' and Runnin' Away", "Brainwaves", and "Spaced, Man". For the first two songs, I overdubbed keys, lead guitar, and vocals, experimenting with arranging for 16 tracks, a huge step up from our previous 4 track limitation.
"Spaced, Man" would usher in another concept. The studio had a large sound effects library, and there were a lot of tapes in the tape vault from The GRATEFUL DEAD that beginning engineers were allowed to practice mixing with. With 16 tracks, I wanted to create a soundscape that would create the illusion of a giant concert, with rockets launching from the stage and into the crowd, spaceships flying, a band on stage driving the crowd wild. We used a number of crowd sounds from the Dead tapes, which, handily, were marked with notes like "raucous crowd" or "big applause", etc. The band would be COUNT DOWN and The BLAST-OFFS, the most popular band in the world. The frontman, Count Down would have a punk-like attitude, and the band fast and furious. The idea was to put on headphones, close your eyes, and you are in the stadium on stage with the band before a crowd of thousands. Considering this was one of Susie and my earliest productions, and so large in scope, I think we killed it.
"Brainwaves" was the same attitude, but this time it was experimenting with the Arp Odyssey synthesizer I had on loan from my friend ED PIBURN, and in the tradition of THE MAGIC MIND, delay effects. As with "Spaced, Man", the main theme was challenging society by advocating getting high and telling authority to fuck off.
A couple of years later, while Susie was still working at Heider's, I was hired by a guy in Mill Valley to produce a number of projects for friends of his that he wanted to support. He had built and installed a studio in his house.
The engineer was PETER KAUKENEN, brother of the famous JEFFERSON STARSHIP guitarist. Before starting on other projects, I wanted to test out the studio. I had a country song that I wanted to record for my friend TONY SEDITO, who was serving time for murder. BILL THOMPSON came in to play piano, with PAUL GRIFFIN on bass, JIM CARRINGTON on drums, myself on guitar, and a friend of the drummers, JOHN KANADY came in to sing.
After recording the slow country song, we recorded a new song I had written in the Count Down style called "Take Over The Airwaves", an up tempo rocker about "The People" taking back our airwaves. The concept was the same for this as with "Spaced, Man"; a soundscape with crowds forcibly taking over a station, throwing the DJ down a flight of stairs,
smashing records and led by a child (we used the 5 year old daughter of the studio owner). BILL THOMPSON had just bought one of the first Vocordors. This piece of gear can make an instrument or sound seem as though it's talking.
We took the project to Susie at Heider's, to add some synthesizer tracks, sound effects, and mix. Heider's had just built a "Media Studio" and we used their new cart system, where we could trigger sound effects with a button on cue.
Controlling the Vocorder was a big challenge as we ran static-y sound effects through it to say "Take Over The Airwaves". The studio owner was a little irked that we used his 5 year old daughter in a song with the line "Fuck the FCC!" The master tape of "Take Over The Airwaves" was somehow lost over the years. I found a cassette copy, however.