Brave Noise: LIVE
by Tom Beaujour
Every scrappy junior high school rock band entertains dreams of superstardom, but few every make it out of the garage. The drummer has football practice, the bass player hot-wires a car, the singer decides to go solo after the first week...the pitfalls facing young bands are innumerable. But once in a while, a young band sticks together long enough to become good enough to actually get serious about making it. That's when life gets tricky.
"I think that when the band started, everyone thought it was cute," says Live guitarist Chad Taylor. "I mean, we started the band in '85, when I was 14 and the rest of the guys were 13. It was just like high school or a middle school activity.
"Of course. when the day came when we had to tell our parents. 'Gee, Mom and Dad, we're not going to college,' the shit really hit the fan. Then we got the real honest opinion from all our friends. It's amazing how many people told us, 'There's no way you can make it. You just can't do it.' Thank God for my Mom and Dad, because they didn't just throw me out of the house."
Raised on a steady diet of R.E.M. and other Eighties college rock bands, Live have succeeded beyond the limited imaginations of their nay-saying friends. After making a striking debut with Mental Jewelry (Radioactive, 1991), the band released an even more powerful follow-up. Throwing Copper (Radioactive, 1994) which has produced a string of ubiquitous hits. Meanwhile, the taut sheen of Chad Taylor's guitar work, coupled with Live's passionate, nearly spiritual delivery, has set a new standard of intensity for alternative rock bands of every age.
SPIRIT" Mental Jewelry
"'Operation Spirit' was written in our drummer's garage back in 1989. It was late at night and i was just playing two chords back and forth. Ed (Kowalczyk, Live's lead singer) cam over, heard the chords, came up with a lyrical idea, and we pretty much put the whole thing together right there on the spot. It's one of the very first songs where Ed and I really worked as a collaborative team. Our artistic relationship is very much like, I imagine, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger's is, or John Lennon and Paul McCartney's was, where we work off each other and push the songs farther and farther."
"When we wrote this song-which appears to refer to our hometown as 'shit'-we knew it was going to cause trouble, and I think that we were proud of that. When the album came out, I couldn't wait to see the local reaction. We ended up on the cover of the local newspaper for several days and the mayor and city council members were all speaking out against 'those foul-mouthed young men.' I think it was more of a distraction for my parents than it was for me, because I was away on tour.
"Ed actually plays the guitar solo on that song. It's the only guitar solo he's every played in his life. It was one of the most fun things that we did while recording the album. I momentarily took over as the producer and hooked him up to this old Morley pedal and all these amplifiers chained together and all this shit. Ed wasn't accustomed to the volume and gain levels, and the guitar was blowing up under him. We rolled the tape and told Ed that we were going to rehearse, but we actually recorded him instead. We wouldn't let him play it over again. So that was One Take Eddie."
"I ALONE" Throwing
"'I Alone' is one of the songs on the record that Ed came in with almost totally done: the verse, the chorus, the whole concept - all done. It's phenomenal when he comes in with ideas like that because it allows each of us to concentrate on perfecting our own little aspects of the tune without spending time hashing out the arrangement.
"When Ed comes in with a song finished like that, he usually has his guitar part already worked out, so I stand back and let him lay down the basic guitar track while he does his vocal. In those situations I often lay back and don't really do much in the verses. I find myself trying to play little fills, intimate things that accentuate the melody. Then we go into the choruses, it's like, 'Step aside. Let me do the work.'"
DRAMA" Throwing Copper
"Ed and I sat down and wrote that song together. I had the melody line and the two-chord progression that goes from G to E. Ed put the E, B and C together and, next thing you know, there was a chorus. We brought the song to the rest of the band and it just didn't seem to click, so we shelved it and moved on. When we finally came back to it, we all instantly came up with new parts that fit perfectly. It was just a magical five minutes and the song was completely done. Very effortless song like that are usually your best ones."
"THE DAM AT OTTER
CREEK" Throwing Copper
"That was the most difficult song on the album to record. We had tried to record it during the daytime and did two takes that just didn't cut it. We were all really tired and bitchy. So we decided to take a break and come back that night.
"There were gigantic windows in this studio, and when it started to rain and thunder we watched the lightening flash across the sky as we prepared to record. When we started, I made this weird noise on my guitar that kind of sounded like power lines. The engineer, who must have been spooked by the storm, was like, 'Oh no, there's some sort of ground loop or something! We're all going to be electrocuted!' I answered, 'No, no that's just me.' From then on, everyone insisted that I start the song that way.
"'Otter Creek' was also one of the break through songs in writing Throwing Copper. Ed and I were drinking and smoking tobacco and guzzling coffee, trying to get inspired to write. Ed went out to get a sandwich or something at two in the morning, and I started messing around with the Tremolo on this 1965 blackface Fender Super Reverb. I was just holding a chord as it was feeding back, and I move my fingers around in the one position and came up with this odd melody. I knew that I had something good, so I said to myself, 'I'm not going to stop playing this until Ed gets back.' I ended up sitting there for 15 minutes playing this. As it turned out, he'd been standing at the bottom of the stairs almost the whole time, listening and coming up with a melody. When Ed came back into the room, we got a microphone and plugged it into an amplifier through a Rotovibe and a wah-wah peddle. We thought that was like the most original thing in the world.
YOU" Throwing Copper
"Ed had the chorus of that song written, but when he showed it to me I thought it was the verse. We were sitting there facing each other with guitars, and I couldn't stop thinking, 'Man, that's a really weird verse. Well, let me try to write something that'll be the chorus.' I played the D and F# and Ed started singing this really quiet part. I was thinking, 'I thought this part was going to be the loud part.' Finally, I realized what was going on, and the two parts came together instantly."
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