VSM: So how do you approach the arranging process for each song?
BK: We try to come up with the concepts first. Like we'll have a song, let's say it was Don't Fear the Reaper, which we decided not to do. But we'll listen to it, listen to the chord changes and see what might be appropriate for it, will it work as a two-step country song, what about a jazz piece, what about a fast disco number, and then we'll try to fit it and see what fits.
We'll find something that's appropriate like on the Boston song [More Than a Feeling from the album The Moog Cookbook Plays the Classic Hits] when we heard the chord changes going over a modern techno kind of dance beat it worked really well. And then we said "That's it!" Or in the case of Hotel California when we conceptualized and said, "It's such a long song, let's take each section to a new style of music." A kind of theme-and-variations element. The arrangement itself. And it worked pretty good.
VSM: And I loved the "Old MacDonald" and all of that in Sweet Home Alabama, especially in you live show.
BK: That was another idea we had. Whenever you listen to Keith Emerson stuff or Rick Wakeman or a lot of people like that, almost every classic keyboard player would throw quotes into their piano solos. Whether they're playing "Popeye" or whatever, they like to throw a quote in there. So we think that's really funny, and stupid in a lot of ways. We like it, and it makes everyone perk their heads up and pay attention, so we decided to overdo that and just put quotes from all these really, really ridiculous Americana things, over and over, back to back until you just almost wanted to throw up. And it makes it work good. And when we found a way to do that live it was interesting, too. And all those kind of things take away from the fact that we can't play the album perfectly live. We do other things like the props and the arrangements and the different goofy things we'll come up with. And people don't notice that it doesn't sound just like the record.
VSM: You've put a lot of thought into your live show.
BK: Exactly. We're painfully aware of the situation where [sometimes] there's nothing for us to do. There's even a few moments where one guy just can't play for awhile, 'cause the other guy's doing something and there's no part to come in on, so you have to dance around or do a tap dance or something.
VSM: So, back to the arrangement process... after you get the concept, then what happens?
BK: Well, we actually try to fill the room up with keyboards so we'll have a lot of colors on the palette at that point. We can't ever get all the keyboards into one room. I don't know how many keyboards we have altogether, but it's too much and too big and too heavy and too likely to break if we move it. So we'll get one Polymoog out, you know, the basic keyboards that we always have, and we always have a Jupiter-8 around and we always have a Minimoog and we always have a couple of things we like to rely on...
VSM: Like the Moog Source in your live show?
BK: It doesn't necessarily sound that much better than the other ones so we don't use it that much studio-wise, we will pull it out 'cause it's got a good vibrato control on it, very basic stuff, and [we are] very used to playing that live. So for things like the solos in Hotel California [the Source] worked out great because you can use both those wheels pretty easily and it [has] a good, clear tone that really cuts through. We actually like a lot of one-oscillator instruments. Fatter is not always better, especially with things like bass tones. You'd be surprised. When you're not trying to fill up a huge space it's sometimes better to go with a single oscillator and go with something pure that really cuts. We like the Sonic-6. It has amazing routing capabilities. Of all the little synths like that it does some of the coolest stuff. It has two LFO's going to an oscillator. It's kind of neat. You can do a lot of good spacey effects with it and a lot of weird stuff. So we pile [synths] up in a room and we just grab things and try them out. We've also got to have a few basics, like an ARP String Ensemble, around. Because nothing else that will do that sound so you've got to have it in the room.
VSM: This second CD, did you have more of a budget?
BK: More of a budget but we can always do the same thing with no budget or more budget, depending how much time we want to put into it. It took more time, which ended up costing more money, but just because we had more money to spend, we got to spend more time on it. I don't think it sounds that different, we try to keep it the same, but sometimes we work very quickly, we'll be done in a couple of hours on certain soungs that are simple. We want a simple, Kraftwerk-y kind of sound, we'll stick with it and play it that way. Other times, like "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" by Van Halen, we built the track up. The [ARP] 2600 is almost the whole song. We did kick drum with an ARP sequencer and a 2600, "Boom, Boom-Boom." And we did the snare drum with an ARP sequencer and the 2600, and we did the toms with an ARP sequencer and the 2600. Even the high-hats in fact, so the whole [drum] track is built up one layer at a time, you know, and then Bass and then so forth. We went through it and put stuff together so it took a long time.
VSM: Did you find that the 2600 added some kind of cohesion to the song?
BK: It didn't sound better.. I really don't think it really sounds better, and I don't think most people would notice, but for us it was a good experiment to try to get a drum pattern that wasn't a preset from some 6-piece drum machine or a modern drum box. It was kind of nice. We added a new feel to it.
VSM: You even used live drums occasionally.
BK: Yeah, Roger plays very well, and we needed that for some tracks. "Whole Lotta Love" wouldn't sound right, I think, without it.
We don't work steadily, we don't have a schedule. We'll show up some day work for two hours, other days for 10. And then we'll take a week off and so forth.
VSM: Do you then talk about what's going to happen at each session?
BK: Oh yeah, but we don't fight about it, we just discuss it nicely until we get out our opinions... We'll try a hundred sounds in one setting. Roger tries sound #50. I laugh. At the same instant he [laughs] and we both realize that that's the sound. So we have pretty similar tastes in that. We can even trust each other. Like, I'll leave the studio and he'll do stuff on his own, and I won't censor it, you know, 'cause I know it's going to be good. And the same with me, he lets me alone and lets me do some things on it. And we work best together. That's for sure.
And Hotel California took the better part of two weeks because there were so many arrangement things to do. The "Switched on Bach" section, alone, took about 2 days. That was done the old way. We did that one on the Moog III modular and went crazy and patched in two notes at a time, or one note or five notes to make it work. And that's the only way to get it to sound right. Then again, most people wouldn't notice it, they just think it sounds funny. But people who know the Clockwork Orange soundtrack, for example, would definitely get a laugh out of it, appreciate it.
VSM: So as synthesists do you do much synth work or guest appearances?
BK: Yeah we both do. Roger gets called in for sessions a lot.
We just did some stuff for Aimee Mann's new record where they needed real spaceshippy kinds of sounds in a cartoon/Jetson's kind of way and Roger's been working on call for a couple of bands doing keyboard tracks. Usually they want The Moog Cookbook, kind of synthy stuff. Although, we're both capable of doing something more substantial and lose the eery and space stuff.
VSM: How did this pair-up with the David Grohl and Foofighters come about?
BK: Dave Grohl loved our version of [Smells Like] Teen Spirit when he heard it so we got him a tape of the first Moog Cookbook songs.
I was having lunch with him and Pat Smear one day and I mentioned I was going to Japan to play and he said, "What's your band?" and I mentioned it to him and he's like, "That's one of my favorite records! I have it in my car right now. I only have 10 CD's in my car and it's in my car!"
So he was already a big fan before I even met him. And then when they came to do their video, they just called up and said, "We're doing this video that needs a Muzak section and you guys are perfect for it. So can you have it done by tommorow?"
"As a matter of fact, we can," [we said]. So we popped it out. They only needed 15 seconds or 10 seconds to work with but we gave them a whole song. It wasn't that much harder for us to do the whole thing anyway. We put it together and it's going to be out as a B-side in Europe.
VSM: You also have an association with Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo).
BK: Mark's a nice guy. He's the busiest person I've ever met. But he always has time for us. He heard a demo tape we did before we had a record. It was like, Wow, Devo likes our stuff!
VSM: You have alot of people, guests apearing on the latest CD.
BK: We wanted that for the first one but aside from Mark Mothersbaugh, no one knew us that much. When the record got finished, that's when people paid attention to it. A lot of people were interested, like Wendy and Lisa were going to play on it and other people like Eddie Jobson were interested in it.
VSM: How'd you hook up with these people, from your studio experience?
BK: Yeah, some are friends, some are studio people.. Mark Mothersbaugh, we gave him a demo tape one day, we saw him walking down the street and we put it in his hand. And he came after us at one point, chasing us down, like "This is incredible!" We kept pushing him to get involved and he liked that idea and we finally got him involved on the Van Halen tracks ["Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love"]. And E from the Eels is a big fan of ours, Michael Penn and his fiancee, Aimee Mann, are good friends.
And Charlotte Caffey from the Go Go's is a good friend of ours and she's actually a great keyboard player in the pop context. She's been really good at that, so she fit right in when she played on 25 or 6 to 4 it actually sounded like the Moog Cookbook exactly. I mean she could have played half the tracks and it would have sounded like us. We have a few more chops but she has a melodic sensibility that works great for what we do.
We would have loved to incorporate more people like Chick Corea and Emerson and people like that, if we could find them, get in touch. And we'd like to have Eddie Jobson and some people we really look up to to this day, not because of what they used to do but [because] they're all great keyboard players. And they'll probably get what we do more than anything because they went through that period, but they might have bad memories, too, I don't know. I don't know how many of these people have a sense of humor and we definitely require that of everybody who steps in the door.
The Eels just hired us for their B-side that's coming up. We enjoyed doing that one alot and actually we wished we could have released that one, too. Although it's not a big song, "Novocaine for the
Soul" was a pretty good video single for MTV for a while, great tune to work with. And we're looking to do more of that. We really want to have people call us up and ask us to do songs of theirs if they're appropriate or songs people know. So it makes sense for us to do those kinds of things.
VSM: What else would you like to do?
BK:We would love to do tribute albums... Grateful Dead, Neil Young or anything, we could do anybody's cover and it would definitely be an interesting addition to a tribute album. And we'd really like to try branching off to... If Oscar Meyer wants a new version of their [Oscar Meyer Weiner] theme song, done in a cartoony movie kind of way, I think it could make a great commercial. We've actually been called asked if we want to go work in the new "Lost in Space" movie, they asked us to do some theme music for it. So we gave them two different things, one was very funny, one was very serious, soundtracky type things. There are possiblilites there, that we can use what we do to write original music and do serious stuff with it too...