Marble Mountain Hand of Gold/Ebb Tide Silver Tern
Marble Mountain Hand of Gold is a surf instrumental with an obvious debt to Dick Dale. I always liked how Dick Dale's music used some unique scales rather than standard major/minor scales, he throws in riffs off the Phrygian, Hungarian, and other more exotic scales. So Jon and I sat down to jam with that feel in mind and Jon came up with the cool main hook to the song. Once we started fleshing things out we went for triple solos. Jon takes the first one and once he got his sound, he just went for it with only a handful of takes. I love how he's playing a Telecaster with b-bender, but rather than going for country licks he takes the b-bender into the stratosphere with a ripping and progressive solo. I'm up next with a slide guitar solo. I was trying to over-bend the notes to give the solo a manic feel while also trying to stay in tune with the slide guitar. Slide guitar can be like violin where if you’re not spot on with intonation, things can go bad quickly. Stephanie jumps in last with a sax solo that starts off with a Boots Randolph feel and then moves into her patented trills.
Ebb Tide Silver Tern is a slower more atmospheric song with spoken word parts. The main rhythm track was recorded live with everyone playing in the room. Once we got foundation done, I overdubbed some lap steel on the A sections. Everyone was pointing me in the direction of David Gilmour on Breathe so I went with that. Then Jin came by to do spoken word parts using Jon’s lyrics. I wasn’t sure how the spoken word would fit into the song, but Jin gave great performances that fit the feel of the song.
Once the songs were done recording, the mixing and mastering for them was a very trying process. I ended up remixing and remastering the songs many times to get the sound I wanted. Marble Mountain was complicated because I wanted to make the sound very small and dark. I was thinking of a spaghetti western crossed with a surf song - something that would sound like coming out of an AM radio when driving through the California desert in 1961. The sound worked out, but I ended up with a ton of midrange which started getting harsh. I kept remixing and re-EQing to tamp down some of the harsh midrange.
The overall mix for Ebb Tide was easier, but the tricky part of this song was making the spoken word parts sit nicely in the mix. The first masters we did had the spoken word sitting too far on top of the mix. It’s a hard balance with spoken word because I think my tendency was to make the vocals as present as possible to hear the words. But making the vocals too loud gave the song a fake feeling and we kept remixing until we were able to get the spoken words to sit more in with the band rather than on top.