- 27 Mar 01
A shaggy dog story: Tom Waits shows up at a Northern Californian studio, prospecting for premises close to home so that he can ferry his kids to and from school while working.
A shaggy dog story: Tom Waits shows up at a Northern Californian studio, prospecting for premises close to home so that he can ferry his kids to and from school while working. The in-house engineer duly gives his guest a guided tour of the facility. "Here's where we record the drums," he says, indicating a carpeted cell. "Yeah, yeah, we'll try it for a while," the singer growls before disappearing out the back of the building. Twenty minutes later, the tech finds Waits crawling around in a chicken coop in the yard, belly up in bantam-shit, banging slats of wood together and cocking his head to gauge the acoustics.
Green On Red guitarist Chuck Prophet once related this tall tale to the present writer, and if it ain't true, it should be. See, Tom Waits, to paraphrase Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart, has a thing about chicken coops: Mule Variations, his first album in six years, was recorded in Prairie Sun Recording Studios, a converted fowl-house in Sebastapol.
But then, Waits hates conventional sonic configurations, the production-line furniture of rock 'n' roll; drumkits, Marshall stacks, wedges, lighting trusses and sterile studio set-ups. Here's a rock 'n' roll primitivist who won't think twice about replacing a thousand dollar bass drum sound with the slamming of a toilet lid, preferring his source noises not so much rare as raw and bloody. Accordingly, this new selection continues to uphold the credo William Burroughs croaked on The Black Rider in 1993: "It ain't no sin to take off your skin/And dance around in your bones".