5.10.2013

The Doctor is In! Rock n' Roll with Crazy Joe!


Hello everyone!
One thing you might now know about me is as much as I love vintage clothing, I LOVE vintage music ten times more. I enjoy the sound of vinyl over CDs and I appreciate the skill and technique used in vintage recordings (I'm a giant sound and recording nerd, so will not bore you with details).

Anyway, I caught up with my great friend and phenomenal musician Crazy Joe!  for an interview. He's the King of Nerdabilly, has a PHD in Electrical Engineering, a SWEET studio in his basement, OH! and plays guitar like it's nothin'! His new album "The Doctor is In" came out recently and I thought you guys might be interested in hearing about some real life rock n roll goodness!
 photo joe2_zpsa1759fd5.jpg

What was the first song you learned on guitar?
Wild Thing! My dad taught me A, D, and E. I'm pretty sure it was second grade sometime. This, of course, led to "Louie Louie," "Gloria," and so forth. I just realized that he must have taught me G as well, haha.

Did you alway know that you wanted to be a musician? Who are your top 3 influences musically?
In my Dr. Seuss "My Book About Me," I wrote that I wanted to be an electrical engineer; this is when I had just turned six. Very likely I just asked my dad what he did. I was obsessed with tape recording and music and banging on my little toy guitars pre-kindergarten, so I guess I didn't really have a choice. I suppose my biggest early influences are still the records my parents had around growing up; specific ones I remember were the Beach Boys, Four Seasons, CCR, Johnny Horton, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Jim Croce, Three Dog Night. There was always music playing. Later, of course, I got into Hendrix, Zeppelin, James Brown, and got very heavily into jazz, which is probably what I listen to more than anything.

What made you choose to release your new album, "the Doctor is In" on vinyl?
Because I apparently like investing thousands of dollars into ventures with guaranteed loss. Part of it is that I had never done an LP before; and part of it was that I had finally finished my all-analog studio and wanted to put out a record that was 100% analog from the microphone capsules to the disc cutter head. That's very rare today. My old man advised against it; therefore I had to do it, haha.

 photo joe1_zps93f5847c.jpg Tell us about your studio! Do you have any plans for it yet? Why did you want to build one?
Man, it's funny to hear the question, "why did you want to build one," because it has never occurred to me that I even had a choice! I started fooling around with home recording in the very beginning, like first or second grade, before I even played guitar. By the end of elementary school I was already making recordings where I layered myself playing multiple instruments, and by high school I was selling four-track recordings to my friends. But things really got serious when I got my Ampex AG440B one-inch eight-track when I was a junior in high school. A lawyer in Cleveland (who's now a judge from what I understand) just gave it to me; I had been asking around at the OMEA convention if anybody knew of an eight-track machine and some guy told me about him. I started building a console right then and there, even though I didn't really know that much about electronics. Well, believe it or not, I finished the damn thing - at age 30!....I totally didn't answer the question....

I wanted to build a studio that cut everything down to the absolute essentials; in fact, I specifically wanted the least amount of gear possible. My ultimate goal was to design and hand-build every single piece of equipment from scratch, and except for the eight-track, I did! I have five tube microphones, a few dynamics, my homemade console, my eight-track tape machine, my two-track tape machine, a stereo compressor, and that's it. That and my garage echo chamber.

The studio looks SWEET! Do you think about visual design when you're building all of your equipment or do they just turn out the way they turn out? 
Oh, I am obsessed with two-tone grey motifs, black Bakelite knobs on dial plates, jeweled pilot lights, mechanical VU meters; and have a basement full of that crap. Luckily I bought a lot of it in the 90's when it was still cheap. So yes, I still look at an Ampex tape machine and drool. Ain't gonna lie.
One thing that still kills me about my console is that I drilled the front panels during exam week my senior year of high school; and if you look down a row of knobs, a few are off by 10 or 20 thousandths of an inch. That drives me crazy!

Are you planning on recording other people at your studio or is it distinctly for you?
I don't know yet! I've been so busy with school since I finished the record I haven't touched the place. I've had a lot of inquiries about that. Folks might not like the price of tape these days; one-inch is up to 185 bucks a reel.

 photo 221736_101505guitar98406780055_6879334_n_zps07cb505c.jpg What's so special about your guitar? 
It's got my name on it! 
I only have three electric guitars; I sold everything else a few years ago. They were all made by one of my best buddies, Casey Simmons. He is a top-notch restoration guy at the Air Force Museum; does machining, painting, upholstery, everything on those old planes. I've been playing the "Crazy Joe" guitar for about eight years now. He made it when he still lived at his parents' house. He built a very similar guitar for himself at the same time, and I finally bought that from him about a year ago; it's equally lovely. In fact, it's a couple pounds lighter and has a 24-3/4" scale length instead of 25-1/2", so it doesn't cripple me to play it.

Did you do all of the electronics? 
Oh yeah, the guitar has all the same silver/Teflon audiophile wire, silver-contact swtiches, and sealed pots as my studio and hi-fi gear.

What inspires you to keep playing and creating music?
"Inspiration" and "why do you"; it's just not something I can control! I'm gonna make music - and for that matter build electronics - until I keel over, I suspect; I just do it. You asked about the inspiration behind the album; well, that question can go off on three or four different tangents, but if you want to know what inspired the songs, and I freely admit that several of them are incredibly cynical and negative, I can tell you that every single song conveys a sentiment that was genuine at the time of writing. And yeah, I had a few bad years.

Out of every song you’ve written, which one is your favorite?
Oh, I think they're all terrible. I liked "My Guitar" from the King of Nerdabilly. I think "Mary Ann" was a good rock & roll song. Actually, I'm proud of my songs, especially on the new album. Sometimes I cringe at how far I'm willing to be autobiographical, but it's also good to get them out of my system.

 photo TDII_zpsf577e59a.jpg What is most important to you in song writing and creating an album?
I don't know. I write songs when I'm compelled by some event or feeling. The last album, I felt like it had been a few years since I'd put one out and I needed product for the festivals and tours I had coming up. I was pretty much playing professionally at that point; touring with Deke, doing a lot of my own shows, although I was still teaching a little in-between. So I put some, what I thought were cool covers, made it a pretty well-put-together rockabilly/early rock & roll album, I felt. This album, I had crossed the give-a-damn threshold and was going to put it out when I felt like it. I definitely wanted to do it in my own studio, with my own console especially; that took time. At some point I realized I had a pretty good-sized pile of original songs so I decided to make it all original tunes. There's no other reason why there are 11 songs than that's how many I had. It worked out when it came time to compile the album, because the five-minute slow-blues-booty-jam rounded out the album sides to about 15 minutes each, which is perfect for vinyl cutting. I haven't heard one complaint that the album is too short; on the contrary, I've heard that 30 minutes is perfect.

So to actually answer your question - doing what I want when I feel like it. I didn't care if I sold five copies of this thing. I just wanted to make it the way I wanted to. I didn't even master it; just transferred the 1/4" mixes as-is because I liked the way they sounded. I went to a lot of trouble to have strictly Ohio musicians, artists, photographers, and so forth on the album; in fact, the LP was cut and pressed in Cleveland! It feels good to be able to say that.

For tour dates, and more info on Crazy Joe, visit http://www.crazyjoe.org/

Catch ya later!
~Steph @ Calamity Layne

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